The Anonymous Widower

Would A Lumo-Style Service Work Between King’s Cross And Norfolk?

This is a bit of a fantasy and you’ll never know the real reason why I have written it!

With the upgrade of the East Coast Main Line to full digital signalling, there will be a problem South of Hitchin with 140 mph Azumas and Hitachi Class 802 trains and similar from Grand Central , Hull Trains and Lumo hogging the fast lines to and from King’s Cross. I first wrote about it in Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route.

One solution would be to replace the current Class 387 trains with a 140 mph train , such as a Hitachi Class 802 variant. This would enable these fast King’s Lynn and Cambridge trains to join the 140 mph trains on a fast run to and from King’s Cross.

The Future Of Cambridge

Cambridge is one of the UK’s four world cities, with its heritage and lately its high position in any technology league table.

The Current Rail Service Between London And Cambridge

Currently, it has a good service into King’s Cross, Liverpool Street and St. Pancras.

  • Great Northern – two tph to King’s Cross – A stopping train using Class 700 or Class 387 trains.
  • Great Northern – one tph between Ely and King’s Cross – A fast train using Class 387 trains.
  • Great Northern – one tph between King’s Lynn and King’s Cross – A fast train using Class 387 trains.
  • Thameslink  – two tph to Brighton – A semi-fast train using Class 700 trains.
  • Greater Anglia – two tph to Liverpool Street – A semi-fast train using Class 720 or Class 379 trains.

Note.

  1. tph means trains per hour.
  2. The similar Class 387 and Class 379 trains are both late-model Bombardier Electrostars with sensible seats and a large number of tables. Both train types can or could be modified to run at 110 mph.
  3. The Class 700 trains are unsuitable for the route, as they have ironing-board seats and no tables. These are only 100 mph trains.
  4. The Queen’s bottom doesn’t like the Class 700 trains.

A large proportion of the passengers and commuters between to and from Cambridge work in high-tech or information-rich businesses and I believe if the trains were more geared to this market they would attract passengers away from the roads.

The Cambridge Employment Problem

Fast-growing Cambridge is taking over the region and it is always looking for towns and villages to develop as places for dormitories and to build premises for the hundreds of high-tech businesses.

This is one of the reasons why Greater Anglia acquired new Stadler Class 755 trains to run services from Cambridge to Bury St. Edmunds, Ipswich, Norwich, Peterborough and Stansted Airport.

If you’re going to lure Cambridge’s well-paid high-tech commuters out of their cars, you must give them an equivalent seat to their car. The Class 379, 387 and 755 trains do this.

Living In Norfolk And Suffolk And Working In Cambridge

This has always been the choice of many who work in Cambridge, but using rail into Cambridge didn’t really take-off seriously until modern three-car Class 170 trains replaced the single-car Class 153 trains.

Greater Anglia have followed the upward trend in passenger numbers, by running hourly  four-car Class 755 trains from Cambridge to both Ipswich and Norwich.

Before the pandemic, it was starting to look like Norwich and Cambridge would soon need a second service, especially with the planned opening of the new Cambridge South station in 2025.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital And The Cambridge Biomedical Campus

Cambridge South station is being built to serve Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Cambridge Biomedical Campus, which intend to be create the foremost medical research cluster in the world.

Staycations And Holiday Homes In East Anglia

Life is changing because of the covids and more people are taking staycations or buying holiday homes.

And many are following the example of the Queen and going to Norfolk for their relaxation.

The Undoubted Need To Improve Rail Services Between London King’s Cross And Norfolk Via Cambridge

These factors convince me that there is a need for a new or repurposed rail service  between London King’s Cross and Norfolk via Cambridge.

  • The need to provide a high-class commuter service between London and Cambridge.
  • The need to bring workers into Cambridge from Norfolk.
  • The need to provide a fast high-class rail link to Cambridge South station with all its medical research.
  • The need to provide a comprehensive working environment on the trains.
  • The need to cater for all those people relaxing in Norfolk after a hard week in London.

It is my view, that a radical design of train is needed for this route.

  • It would need to have a high-class interior.
  • It would need at least a 125 mph capability, so that it can use the fast lines between Hitchin and King’s Cross.
  • The train may need the ability to split and join.
  • It would need an independent power capability for running on the Breckland Line between Ely and Norwich.
  • Because of Cambridge and because East Anglia is easy country for cycling, it would need a sensible capacity for cycles.

I also believe that because of the need to decarbonise, the train should be zero-carbon.

These are my thoughts.

Operating Speed

Because of running on the fast lines between Hitchin and King’s Cross with the 140 mph trains from the North, I suspect that an operating speed of at least 125 mph is needed. But if the Hitachi trains of LNER, Hull Trains, Lumo and in the future possibly other operators like Grand Central, will be capable of 140 mph, this speed could be desirable.

Speed limits once the trains have left the East Coast Main Line at Hitchin North junction are as follows.

  • Hitchin and Cambridge – 90 mph
  • Cambridge and King’s Lynn – 90 mph
  • Ely and Norwich – 75-90 mph

I can see Network Rail using their expertise to raise the speed limit on sections of these lines.

Flighting Of Trains On The East Coast Main Line

To increase capacity on the East Coast Main Line, I believe that at some point in the not too distant future that trains will be flighted. This will involve two or more trains leaving King’s Cross in a sequence and proceeding with all trains at a safe distance from each other.

I can envisage a flight like this from King’s Cross.

  • An Edinburgh train with York as the first stop – Leaves at XX.00
  • A Leeds train with Doncaster as the first stop – Leaves at XX.03
  • A Lincoln train with Peterborough as the first stop – Leaves at XX.06
  • A Cambridge train with Stevenage as the first stop – Leaves at XX.09

Note.

  1. The Edinburgh train would set the speed.
  2. Trains would maintain their time behind the lead train.
  3. Everything could be controlled by the digital signalling.
  4. Gaps between the trains would be sufficient for a safe stop.
  5. No train in the flight would make a station stop unless it was the last train in the flight.
  6. The last train in the flight would drop off and go to their destination.

As there are at least two tph to Edinburgh, Leeds and Cambridge, there would be two main flights per hour leaving King’s Cross, with the second flight perhaps incorporating a service to Hull.

Digital signalling and precise driving would enable the flights to be built in the opposite direction into King’s Cross.

The big advantage would be that instead of needing eight paths per hour on the East Coast Main Line, only two would be needed.

All trains would need to have similar performance, so this is another reason why the Cambridge trains need to be at least 125 mph trains.

Train Interiors

Lumo has broken new ground in train interiors.

  • It is one class.
  • Everybody gets a decent seat.
  • Everybody gets good legroom.
  • Everybody gets some form of table.
  • There are decent-sized overhead racks for hand-baggage and coats.
  • There is space for bicycles and heavy luggage appropriate to the route.

This can be built on to provide a good working and playing environment suited to the passengers who would use a fast King’s Cross and Norfolk service via Cambridge.

  • Lots of tables for four, as in the high-class Electrostars.
  • Better bicycle storage.
  • Better alignment of seats with windows.

Hitachi could obviously produce a train to this specification.

But what about other manufacturers.

Stadler’s Class 755 trains are surely a possibility.

  • A senior driver from Greater Anglia told me that the design speed for a Class 755 train is 200 kph or 125 mph.
  • They have good seats.
  • They have flat floors.
  • They have large windows.
  • They have step-free access between train and platform.
  • Like the Hitachi trains, they are in service.

I believe the closely-related Class 745 trains are probably the best commuter trains in the UK and are the only alternative to the Hitachi trains on a125 mph fully-electrified route.

Bridging The Electrification Gap Between Ely And Norwich

Between Norwich and Ely stations is 53.8 miles and this section is not electrified, although both stations have full electrification.

The line is not heavily used with typically only two passenger trains and the occasional freight trains in each direction in an hour.

This Hitachi infographic describes the Hitachi Regional Battery Train.

A 90 km. range could be sufficient to cover the gap between Norwich and Ely.

Could Hitachi build a Class 802 train or similar with a battery range of 90 km or 56 miles?

Certainly, a speed of 100 mph would probably be sufficient to bridge the gap in a decent time.

Improving The Breckland Line

The Breckland Line is the route between Cambridge and Norwich.

  • Cambridge and Norwich is 68.5 miles
  • Only the sixteen miles between Cambridge and Ely North junction is electrified.
  • There are thirteen stops between the two cities.
  • A typical time is 79 minutes
  • This is an average speed of just 52 mph.
  • The operating speed is 75-90 mph.

I am sure that Network Rail can squeeze a few minutes here and there to get the operating speed up to the 100 mph of the Great Eastern Main Line.

But the big problem at Norwich is the Trowse swing bridge.

It is only single track and it is likely that this bridge will be replaced soon.

This Google Map shows Trowse junction, a short distance South of the swing bridge.

Note.

  1. The electrified double-track of the Great Eastern Main Line goes across the map from North East to South West.
  2. The double-track railway to the East of the main line is the unelectrified Breckland Line to Cambridge, which turns West and goes under the main line.
  3. On the West of the main lines are the Victoria sidings that I wrote about in Greater Anglia Completes Directly-Managed Norwich Victoria Sidings Project.

As the replacement of the swing bridge will require some work to be done to the electrification, I wonder if at the same time Network Rail would electrify the Norwich end of the Breckland Line.

There must be a balance point adding electrification or batteries to the trains.

As the Breckland Line has few freight trains, electrification is not needed for freight.

Ticketing

A high-speed high-capacity service as I’m proposing must be easy to use.

It is a classic route, where nothing short of London-style contactless ticketing will do, as I’m certain this encourages people to use the trains.

As East Anglia is self-contained and has few services that don’t terminate in the area or in London, I am certain that this could be achieved.

If you remove First Class as Greater Anglia has done on many services, you actually simplify the ticketing, so a Lumo-style mid-class is ideal.

High Speed Train Services

Currently Great Northern run two tph from King’s Cross to Ely via Cambridge.

  • One service is extended to King’s Lynn.
  • I could see the second service extended to Norwich.

Both services would need to be run by 125 mph trains because of the speed of other trains on the East Coast Main Line.

Conclusion

I think duch a system would be possible.

November 21, 2021 Posted by | Health, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Defibrillators Installed At Every Southern And Thameslink Train Station

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

The title says it all!

It is obviously a good development.

I also think, that there should be instructions by the defibrillator, as to the quickest way to call medical help.

October 19, 2021 Posted by | Health, Transport/Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Using Hitachi ABB Power Grids Technology At Uckfield Station

This post describes how the ABB Power Grids technology could be used to allow battery-electric trains to run between London Bridge and Uckfield stations.

The London Bridge And Uckfield Route

The London Bridge And Uckfield route has these characteristics.

  • It is forty-six miles long
  • The Southern section between Heald Green junction and Uckfield station is 24.7 miles and is not electrified.
  • A service takes approximately eighty minutes.
  • Trains run at a frequency of one train per hour (tph)
  • The route has been upgraded to be able to handle twelve car trains.
  • The route is currently run by Class 171 diesel trains.
  • Govia Thameslink Railway is the operator.

It looks to me if you assume a ten minute turnround, then that gives a three-hour round trip.

This would mean the following.

  • Trains would have ten minutes charging time at Uckfield.
  • If twelve car trains were running on the branch then nine four-car trains would be required for an hourly service.
  • Two tph would require twice as many trains.

It looks to me, that Network Rail have arranged the route and the timetables for a fleet of battery-electric trains.

The Battery-Electric Trains

There have been several hints in the rail media, that battery-electric Bombardier Electrostars will be used for the London Bridge and Uckfield route.

I wrote Battery Electrostars And The Uckfield Branch in September 2019.

  • In the related post I suggested Class 377, Class 379 or Class 387 trains.
  • All are four-car Bombardier Electrostars.
  • All are 100 or 110 mph trains.
  • The Class 387 trains are already dual voltage, but I suspect all trains could be converted to third-rail or dual-voltage.
  • My choice would be Class 379 trains, as they are being made redundant by Greater Anglia and thirty quality trains are looking for a new home.

But all three types would be acceptable and Govia Thameslink Railway has both of the other types in its extensive fleet.

Charging The Battery-Electric Trains

This picture shows the single twelve-car platform at Uckfield station.

There would appear to be plenty of space on the side away from the platform.

There would appear to be two main methods of charging the trains.

A Length Of 750 VDC Third-Rail Electrification On The Side Away From The Platform

  • The electrification would be long enough to charge a twelve-car train.
  • It could even be made very safe, if an interlock were to be provided, that ensured that the third-rail were only to be live, when a train was in the station that needed charging.

This would be possible, but I suspect the Anti-Third-Rail Electrification Mafia will get this simple method stopped.

A Length Of 25 KVAC Overhead Electrification Powered By One Of Hitachi ABB Power Grids Containised Power Systems

The electrification would be long enough to charge a twelve-car train.

The driver or an automated system would raise the pantographs after the train stopped in the station.

Interlocks could be provided to increase safety.

The overhead electrification would be powered by one or more of Hitachi ABB Power Grids’s containerised power systems

Lightweight catenary could be used to reduce visual intrusion.

The curved beam at the top of this overhead electrification gantry is laminated wood.

Because of the higher voltage used, I suspect that the Hitachi ABB Power Grids could charge a twelve-car train in under ten minutes.

 

July 9, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GTR And Porterbrook Unveil £55 million Fleet Modernisation

The title of this article, is the same as that of this article on RailNews.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Trains built just five years ago are among those set to be upgraded at Selhurst Depot as part of a £55 million fleet modernisation programme announced by Govia Thameslink Railway and leasing company Porterbrook.

The updates to Class 377 and Class 387 trains, include.

  • On-board performance monitoring and  fault diagnosis
  • Passenger information screens
  • USB/power points
  • LED lighting
  • Passenger-counting technology
  • Forward-facing CCTV cameras

I wonder, if the forward-facing cameras will be setup, so that passengers can log in to the video. It would surely, be a way of keeping kids of all ages amused.

Trains are getting more and more like computers on wheels.

September 17, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 5 Comments

Trainspotting At Oakleigh Park Station

Around 1960, my friend; Richard Plumb and myself, used to go trainspotting on the East Coast Main Line through Barnet and Hadley Wood. One of the places, we used to go regularly was Oakleigh Park station, where we would stand on the pedestrian bridge to the North of the main part of the station.

These pictures show the station today.

It hasn’t really changed that much over the sixty years.

  • Wikipedia says it was remodelled for the electrification in 1975.
  • The steel bridge, where we used to stand i very much the same.
  • There are a lot of new houses on surplus railway land.
  • The whole area is a lot greener, due to an increase in tree cover of the sides of the railway.

The step-free access is as it was in 1960 and totally non-existent. Wikipedia doesn’t detail any plans for the future.

This Google Map shows the layout of the station.

Note.

  1. The two island platforms, with four faces.
  2. The North bridge, where we used to watch the trains.
  3. The South bridge, which is the station footbridge with steep steps down to the platforms.

It is a station that has most of the things it needs, except for that step-free access!

Could Oakleigh Park Station Be Made Step-Free?

I have to ask this question.

Before I answer it, the following should be considered.

  • The station doesn’t appear to have an open Booking Office or any ticket gates, but has ticket machines and Oyster readers on both platforms.
  • It also has coffee stalls on both platforms.
  • It might be possible to put a lift to Platforms 3-4, but because of the Booking Office, it might be difficult for Platforms 1-2.
  • The station has about a million passengers a year.

My personal view is that as more housing is developed between Kings Cross and Welwyn Garden City the train frequency will be increased.

One solution might be to replace the bridge, where Richard and myself, watched the trains, with a new step-free bridge that also bridged Netherlands Road alongside the station.

Did I See Any Trains?

I took this picture of LNER’s new Azuma returning on the first round trip to Leeds.

The Azuma or Class 801 train almost bears a front-end resemblance to Nigel Gresley‘s famous A4 Pacifics. Mallard is a member of this class and set the world speed record for steam locomotives at 126.4 mph.

Although, it is a bit like comparing apples with oranges, it should be noted that Mallard’s speed record  is actually faster than the current 125 mph operating speed of the new Class 801 train. But the electric train has another fifteen mph to come with full digital signalling.

But seeing the Azuma coming through Oakleigh Park station, reminded me of summers sixty years ago, when we watched streaks at speed on that same gentle curve.

May 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Should Some Thameslink Routes Be Transferred To Transport for London?

Some commentators and politicians advocate the transfer of some Thameslink services to Transport for London (TfL).

Thameslink has been designed as a single solution to multiple needs, with too much input from politicians worried about losing elections.

Split Fleets And Franchises

If you look at Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway and South Western Railway, who have a similar mix of services as do Thameslink, they have opted for split fleets with short-medium and long distance trains,designed for their tasks.

In the North of England, the short-medium routes are run by Northern and the long distance routes by TransPennine.

Transport for Wales has now split their fleet into three; South Wales Metro, North Wales Metro and long distance.

The Consequences Of Thameslink’s Single Fleet

Services with different needs are using one fleet of Class 700 trains.

Effectively, Thameslink are using a train more suitable for services between St. Albans and Wimbledon stations, on long distance services between Bedford, Cambridge and Peterborough, and destinations along the South Coast.

Going between Brighton and Cambridge stations on an ironing-board seat is not a pleasant experience, as I noted in Observations On Thameslink Between Brighton And Cambridge.

I believe that Thameslink could be split into two; short-medium and long distance routes.

Short-Medium Thameslink Routes

Currently of the twenty-four services planned in the Provisional Timetable, just four are short medium services that run all day.

If we apply the London Overground principle of four tph stopping at all stations, then the Sutton Loop services, are already working  to a version of this principle.

Could other services work to the Overground principle?

East Coast Main Line

On the East Coast Main Line, a terminal to the North of Welwyn Garden City station is probably impossible, due to the limited capacity of the Digswell Viaduct.

Welwyn Garden City also has a flyover, so that four tph services to London can reverse in a single platform.

Welwyn Garden City with small modifications should be able to handle four tph on both Moorgate and Thameslink services.

Hertford Loop Line

The Hertford Loop Line services have or could have excellent cross-platform interchanges with Thameslink services at Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace stations, although they could be improved.

The weak interchange is coming South at Alexandra Palace, which means using a bridge, but it is easy to use Finsbury Park instead.

The Hertford Loop Line also gives access to three terminal stations; Gordon Hill, Hertford North and Stevenage, which could handle four tph.

So could we see Thameslink services using the route?

It would probably need some new six-car trains, which could be shortened from Thameslink’s dreadful Class 700 trains.

Finsbury Park Station

These pictures were taken at Finsbury Park station.

Could a bay platform for Thameslink services by added here?

I suspect that one could, but would it be worthwhile?

Midland Main Line

On the Midland Main Line, in addition to St.Albans City, currently, short-medium distance services terminate at Kentish Town and Luton.

It is a pity, that the Midland Main Line doesn’t have a handy branch!

A Balanced Northern Service

I think for balance that both Northern branches will take an equal number of short-medium distance trains. Perhaps, four tph to two destinations on each branch.

I might choose.

  • St. Albans City on the Midland Main Line.
  • Luton on the Midland Main Line.
  • Welwyn Garden City on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Stevenage on the East Coast Main Line via the Hertford Loop.

All services would be four tph.

Southern Destinations

In the South, there are several stations, that could handle four tph.

Traffic will determine which, but I like the claims of Dartford, East Croydon, Orpington and Sutton on the Wimbledon Loop.

Transfer To London Overground

These short-medium distance routes should be transferred to the London Overground.

It should be noted how if the Moorgate services are also transferred to the London Overground, as I outlined in Should The Moorgate Lines Be Transferred To Transport for London?, then the following frequencies would apply.

  • 8 tph – Alexandra Palace to Welwyn Garden City
  • 12 tph – Alexandra Palace to Gordon Hill
  • 8 tph – Gordon Hill to Hertford North
  • 4 tph – Hertford North to Stevenage.

There would be 20 tph between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

With ETCS, I don’t think that last frequency would be unrealistic, as there are two separate lines in each direction between the two stations.

Long Thameslink Routes

Class 700 Trains

These are currently, a disaster for passengers, as travelling between say Brighton and Cambridge in the dreadful Class 700 trains, is possibly the worst train journey in the UK in new train. In some ways Pacers are better!

This article in the Express is entitled ‘One Is Not Amused’ The Queen Is Not Happy With Changes To Trains, Claims Rail Boss.

If the Royal Posterior finds them hard in First Class, the seats must be dreadful there too!

But it’s not just the passengers who don’t like them.

I came back to London recently with a group of East Midlands Trains drivers. Their professional view of the Class 700 trains, is that they are not fast enough with an operating speed of 100 mph, as against the 125 mph of the trains run by East Midlands Trains.

It should be noted that on the East and West Coast Main Lines, the semi-fast medium-distance services are generally run by 110 mph trains.

So I feel very strongly, that the Class 700 trains are not only bad from the customers point-of-view, but totally unsuitable to run services on the Midland and East Coast Main Lines, where all other trains can cruise happily at 125 mph.

They must be assigned to more suitable duties!

The Routes

Get some new trains on these routes designed by people with sense and style and the routes would be transformed.

I also think, that the destinations served South of the Thames should be simplified. Thameslink is trying to serve too main destinations in the South, compared to the North, where long distance routes only serve Bedford, Cambridge, Peterborough and the intermediate stations.

Perhaps, there should be more services linking from all along the South Coast to an improved rail station at Gatwick Airport.

An Airport Route

I have travelled to and from Gatwick Airport several times, since Thameslink reopened through London Bridge a few months ago.

Outside of the Peak, these trains may be busy between London Bridge and Gatwick stations, but in the Central Core, passengers are fairly thin on the uncomfortable seats.

Luton Airport have been campaigning for more services and I suspect Gatwick would like more too.

So why not run a four tph service between the two airports, using well-designed airport trains?

An Increased Frequency Through The Core

Thameslink is currently planning twenty-four tph through the core tunnel, but there are statements that thirty tph could be handled.

The destinations to handle the extra trains exist in the South, especially, if routes out of London Bridge are replaced by Thameslink services, but accommodating more services on the East Coast and Midland Main Lines could be tricky.

Conclusion

I believe it is possible to split Thameslink into two sections.

Long distance services with new trains would stay with National Rail, but short-medium services would go to the London Overground and probably be run by six and eight-car versions of the existing trains.

 

July 15, 2018 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Should The Moorgate Lines Be Transferred To Transport for London?

This article in Rail Magazine, is entitled TfL Targets Transfer Of Govia Thameslink Services.

One of the services, targeted by Transport for London (TfL) are the Great Northern services into Moorgate station from Hertford North, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City stations.

I know the line into Moorgate and the various branches well, as I’ve used them in different forms, since I was about eleven.

The section between Moorgate and Finsbury Park stations is often referred to as the Northern City Line.

I wrote about these lines in a series of posts linked to A North London Metro.

The biggest problem, I find with the lines, is the quality of the trains and the stations. But there are other issues that will also effect these services, which I detail in the following sections.

Trains

The current Class 313 trains are some of the oldest on the UK rail network, as they were built around 1976, which makes them only a couple of years older than London Overground’s Class 315 trains.

I ride in both fleets regularly and although both show their age, those on the Overground appear to have had a lot more TLC.

It’s almost as if GTR doesn’t care about the Northern reaches of their Network.

In some ways, when the Lea Valley Lines were managed by Greater Anglia from Norwich, it was the same Out-Of-Site-Out-Of Mind attitude.

Both operators are changing these elderly fleets by the end of next year.

My worry about moving the Moorgate services to the London Overground would be about the transfer of the new trains, although TfL do have some cards in their favour.

  • The Class 717 trains are designed for the rather unusual operating conditions of the Northern City Line.
  • Siemens have a contract to build and maintain the Class 717 trains.
  • TfL have recently signed a big deal with Siemens, for the New Tube for London.
  • The current Class 313 trains are single-manned.

I would hope that the trains and their crews would not be too difficult to transfer to the London Overground.

Stations

Many of the stations like Essex Road are tired and need serious work, which would start with a good deep clean. Is it the same Out-Of-Site-Out-Of Mind attitude?

Highbury & Islington Station

These pictures show Highbury & Islington station.

The decor needs a serious refresh.

If I want to go to say Hertford North or Welwyn Garden City, the easiest way is to go via Highbury & Islington station and get a direct train.

Until a few months ago, there used to be no way to buy a ticket at the station.

  • The destination is outside my Freedom Pass area.
  • I can’t use Oyster or contactless card at the destination.
  • There is no ticket machine to buy a ticket.
  • There is no ticket office.

However, the latest Underground ticket machines have solved the problem

When you consider that Highbury & Islington station is the fourteenth busiest station in the UK and that it handles more passengers in a year, than Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Edinburgh Waverley and Manchester Piccadilly, the station is a disgrace.

Are other stations as passenger unfriendly?

Crossrail

Crossrail will seriously affect the services into Moorgate station.

Consider the following.

  • Changing to and from Crossrail at Moorgate will become a preferred route for many passengers.
  • Moorgate is a short walk to much of the City of London.
  • Moorgate and Liverpool Street will be one massive interconnected station.
  • The new Class 717 trains will attract passengers, if they are better than Thameslink’s terrible Class 700 trains.
  • Between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace stations could have a frequency as high as twelve trains per hour (tph), that runs all day.
  • The Victoria Line doesn’t connect to Crossrail, but it does have a cross-platform interchange at Highbury & Islington station with the Northern City Line.
  • The Piccadilly Line doesn’t connect to Crossrail or serve the City of London, but it will soon have a much-improved connection to the Northern City Line at Finsbury Park station.

Predicting the number of passengers on the services into Moorgate will become one of those classic extremely-difficult multi-variable problems.

Journeys Will Change

As an example of a changed journey take the case of someone living in Walthamstow wanting to go to Heathrow.

Currently, the easy route is.

  • Victoria Line to Finsbury Park – 9 minutes
  • Piccadilly Line to Heathrow Central – 64 minutes.

This is a total time of 73 minutes.

After Crossrail opens the high-frequency route will be.

  • Victoria Line to Highbury & Islington – 12 minutes.
  • Northern City Line to Moorgate – 10 minutes.
  • Crossrail to Heathrow Central – 33 minutes

This is a total time of 55 minutes.

Thameslink

Thameslink hasn’t been designed with improving the local services on the East Coast Main Line in mind and GTR are hoping that the new trains to and from Moorgate, will provide enough capacity.

As it might be hoped that the new trains on the Moorgate services will be an improvement on the dreadful Thameslink Class 700 trains, with ironing board seats and no wifi, power sockets or tables, will passengers be swapping their London terminal to Moorgate with its better trains and connections?

Hertfordshire

Thirteen of the thirty-one stations served from Moorgate are in Hertsfordshire.

What will that County Council’s reaction be to a transfer of the Moorgate routes to the London Overground?

Relationship With The Underground And Overground

The route between Finsbury Park and Mootgate stations used to be part of the Underground and there are several interchanges between the route and the Underground and Overground.

  • Bowes Park station is an out-of-station interchange with Bounds Green station on the Piccadilly Line.
  • Harringay station is an out-of-station interchange with with Harringay Green Lanes station on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.
  • Finsbury Park station is an interchange with the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.
  • Highbury & Islington station is an interchange  with East London, North London and Victoria Lines.
  • Old Street is an interchange with the Northern Line.
  • Moorgate is an interchange with the Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan and Northern Lines, in addition to Crossrail from the end of this year.

When the new Class 717 trains, with their increased frequency of at least four tph,  start running, it will be a new high frequency Metro for the London boroughs of Barnet, Enfield, Haringey and Islington.

Future

I can see various changes adn additions to this line in the future.

ETCS On The East Coast Main Line

ETCS is being installed on the East Coast Main Line to increase capacity. It would appear that trains running to Welwyn Garden City station, will need to have ETCS installed.

As the new Class 717 trains are similar to the Class 700 trains, which use ETCS in the Thameslink core between St. Pancras and Blackfriars stations, fitting the system to the trains, shouldn’t be a problem.

But fitting ETCS to all the Class 717 trains, would mean that installing and using ETCS on the routes into Moorgate station would not be a difficult enterprise.

If this were to be done, would trains between Moorgate and Finsbury Park stations be able to attain the Thameslink frequency of twenty-four tph?

I can’t see why not!

Faster Running On The East Coast Main Line

In Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, I talked about an article in Edition 849 of Rail Magazine, with the same title, where I said this.

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

Faster limited-stop 125 mph trains from Cambridge, Kings Lynn and perhaps, Peterborough to King Cross would surely increase capacity and might even help with the double-track bottleneck of the Digswell Viaduct.

One of the problems is that Thameslink’s Class 700 trains are only capable of 100 mph.

They are just not fast enough.

With 125 mph running limited stop into Kings Cross or Thameslink, will this free up capacity on the slow line and perhaps allow extra services from London to Welwyn Garden City station. They can’t go further North because of the Digswell Viaduct, unless the trains use the Hertford Loop Line.

I’m pretty certain that introducing 125 mph trains to Cambridge, Kings Lynn and Peterborough could open up more csapacity for services on the Great Northern route.

Increased Capacity At Moorgate

Crossrail will connect to the routes into and through a rebuilt Moorgate station.

  • This connection will attract more passengers.
  • Crossrail provides connection to Canary Wharf, the West End, Paddington station and Heathrow.
  • The rebuilt station will also provide high-capacity step-free connections to the Central, Circle, Hammersith & City and Northern Lines.
  • There will hopefully be better access to walking routes through the City of London.

Looking at the plans for the massive double-ended Liverpool Street-Moorgate station on Crossrail, it would appear that, the station complex is being rebuilt for a large increase in passengers.

Currently, the frequency to and from Moorgate station is around ten tph, which is handled on two platforms.

Consider.

  • Brixton and Walthamstow Central stations on the Victoria Line, handle 36 tph with two platforms and Automatic Train Operation (ATO).
  • The East London Line will be handling twenty tph Between Dalston Junction and Surrey Quays stations, by the end of next year.
  • The Class 717 trains will have a better performance than the current Class 313 trains.
  • The signalling could probably be updated and ATO added as I indicated earlier

I would suspect that a frequency upwards of at least sixteen tph to and from Moorgate could be possible.

I’d like to know, what capacity was assumed in the design of the rebuilt Moorgate station, to make sure, the station was future-proofed for all possible services.

Increased Frequencies

All stations between Liverpool Street and Shenfield have had a frequency of ten tph, as long as I can remember and this frequency will be increased to twelve tph, when Crossrail opens.

Alongside this, the frequencies of four tph to and from Hertford North and Welwyn Garden City look measly!

The Hertford Loop Line has three possible terminals; Gordon Hill, Hertford North and Stevenage, all of which could handle four tph. If all were used, this would give these frequencies.

  • 12 tph – Finsbury Park to Gordon Hill
  • 8 tph – Gordon Hill to Hertford North
  • 4 tph – Hertford North to Stevenage.

If what I said earlier is correct and that sixteen tph is possible into Moorgate, then this would still allow the current frequency of four tph to Welwyn Garden City.

Twenty tph into Moorgate would allow an increased frequency of eight tph to Welwyn Garden City, which would match the frequency to Hertford North.

Park-And-Ride

There is a need for at least one parkway station on the Great Northern route.

GNER were intending to provide one at Hadley Wood station.

Parliament held a debate in January 2000 about this and you can read the debate here on the Parliament web site. Generally, MPs were not in favour.

Stevenage has also been proposed for a parkway station and I think this is much more likely.

Incorporation Into The Tube Map

There will soon be calls for the Southern part of the route to be shown on the Tube Map.

Conclusion

I can see serious investment will be needed at stations on the Great Northern route and especially on the deep-level Northern City Line.

It is also likely, that more trains could be needed. Especially, if twenty tph were run through to moorgate.

Do GTR have the will and the resources to invest in this line?

I doubt it, as it is probably seen as an irrelevant backwater, by GTR’s so-called management.

Given the close connection of this route to Crossrail and the Underground and that fifty-eight percent of the stations are in Greater London, then Transport for London would seem to be an ideal owner for this route.

July 14, 2018 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Gibb Report – Too Many Off Peak Services

The title of this post is a sub-title in the Gibb Report

The section starts like this.

Generally I do believe there are too many lightly loaded off peak services on the GTR network, and this means the system is unable to recover quickly from any incident. The system should be robust enough to mean that the service can recover fully from any concluded incident before 1400, to run a full and punctual service from 1600 onwards. This is impossible with the current timetable. It is clear to me that the three previously competing operators deliberately filled up every off peak path, to stop the other operators running additional services and receiving a larger income allocation through ORCATS. I can see no sign of any rationalisation of the contractual obligations occurring prior to the letting of the current franchise, so all the competing services were amalgamated into the new franchise obligations.

This is also said.

The timetable is based on the assumption that almost every station on the GTR network must have regular direct trains to London, at all times of the day. In addition to provide 12 car trains on the busiest sections, principally Horsham / Haywards Heath – London Bridge / Victoria, trains from the “country” couple up at places like Horsham, Haywards Heath and Redhill. This is fine in theory, but results in a complex timetable and plan, with multiple potential failure points. I have noted that stakeholders on each route are unwilling to lose any through services to London, irrespective of the benefits to the overall system. There is no easy short term solution.

Chris Gibb makes some suggestions including a “firebreak” in the middle of the day that enables services to recover for the evening peak.

Conclusion

It looks a bit of a mess.

July 13, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | 5 Comments

Gibb Report – Cambridge Depot

The Gibb Report, looks in detail at GTR’s depot capacity and especially the stabling for Thameslink.

The report indicates particular problems at Cambridge.

The facility is currently unsuitable for 12 car fixed formation trains and the current trains have to be uncoupled to be accommodated.

Greater Anglia will have the following trains at Cambridge in their open-air depot.

All trains are fixed-formation and I suspect that Greater Anglia have a well-planned train parking philosophy, which could include.

  • Parking two five-car Aventras in a long ten/twelve-car siding.
  • Remote wake-up for the Class 720 and Class 745 trains as I discussed in Do Bombardier Aventras Have Remote Wake-Up?
  • Parking the odd Class 755 train, that will work services to Ipswich in one of the bay platforms.
  • Parking the Class 755 trains, that will work Norwich to Stansted, at the ends of the route.
  • Having a remote toilet servicing team for their trains.

But it would be difficult to fit in the following two trains per hour (tph) Thameslink services.

  • Cambridge to Brighton – Twelve-car Class 700 train
  • Cambridge to Maidstone East – Eight-car Class 700 train

Both services would be run all day, with journey times in excess of two hours, which probably means each service would need nine or ten trains.

GTR will have a need for their own depot as mixing eight and twelve car trains will just fill up Greater Anglia’s depot and I doubt they will be pleased.

The problem can’t be eased by running twelve-car trains to Maidstone East, as the Thameslink platform at that station is too short.

Although Maidstone East station may be redeveloped in the future and a twelve-car platform 3 could be incorporated.

This Google Map shows the layout of Maidstone East station.

Could a twelve-car pltform be squeezed in?

Six-car as opposed to eight-car trains may offer an alternative solution here.

Cambridge would be served by a twelve-car train, that was formed of two six-car units coupled together.

At Bromley South or Swanley station, the two trains would split, with one portion going to Maidstone East station and the other to another convenient station.

Returning North the trains would join up again and travel to Cambridge as a twelve-car train.

The advantages of this are as follows.

  • Two eight-car tph in the core are replaced by twelve-car trains.
  • Two eight-car Cambridge to London tph are replaced by twelve-car trains.
  • Another destination South of London gets awo six-car tph to Cambridge.

The only loser is Maidstone East station, which sees the train length of its two trains per hour to Cambridge reduced from eight-cars to six.

July 9, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gibb Report – Hoo Junction Depot

The Gibb Report, looks in detail at GTR’s depot capacity and especially the stabling for Thameslink.

This is a paragraph, which suggests creating a new depot at Hoo Junction.

I recommend a different approach: I think a dedicated GTR Thameslink stabling facility should be built at Hoo Junction, near Gravesend. There is a large former freight yard there, on both sides of the railway, which now stables engineering trains for Network Rail. This should be rationalised and space created for stabling all the North Kent Thameslink Class 700s, in sidings with newly created servicing facilities.

The Wikipedia entry for Crossrail has a section entitled To Gravesend And Hoo Junction, where the following is said.

The route to Gravesend has been safeguarded by the Department for Transport, although it was made clear that as at February 2008 there was no plan to extend Crossrail beyond the then-current scheme. The following stations are on the protected route extension to Gravesend: Belvedere, Erith, Slade Green, Dartford, Stone Crossing, Greenhithe for Bluewater, Swanscombe, Northfleet, and Gravesend.

This area around Hoo Junction has also been suggested as a possible depot for Crossrail.

In addition, Southeastern are running short of space in Slade Green Depot.

This Google Map shows the Hoo Junction area, with the North Kent Line passing through from Gravesend station in the West to Higham station in the South East.

There looks to be space for multiple depots with a large number of sidings at Hoo Junction.

These pictures show the apace to the North of the North Kent Line.

And these show the space to the South.

There even used to be a Staff Halt at Hoo Junction.

But that’s just the railways.

This report on the BBC indicates that the new Lower Thames Crossing will cross North-South between Gravesend and Hoo Junction.

Perhaps the developments at Hoo Junction, should incorporate a Park-and-Ride station.

Conclusion

This is a good idea and I would go further than Chris Gibbs does in his report, which is mainly into the problems of GTR.

Crossrail, the Department of Transport, Kent County Council, Network Rail, Southeastern, Thameslink and all other stakeholders and residents should sit round a large table and agree a common long-term philosophy that is in all their best interests for the future.

July 9, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 5 Comments