The Anonymous Widower

Budget Trains To Get Rail Network Flying

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in The Times.

It outlines how open access operators like Grand Central and Hull Trains, are being encouraged by the Office and Rail and Road to set up new services.

I think that these companies are a welcome addition to the UK rail network.

I don’t always use them, when one is available, but if their train is at the right time for my trip, I usually do.

Sometimes I save money and sometimes I don’t!

March 24, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Grand Central Opts For Split And Join

An article in the April 2018 Edition of Modern Railways is entitled Grand Central Appies For Extra Services.

Grand Central wants to run the following services.

  • An extra daily round trip between Sunderland and Kings Cross.
  • An extra service from Bradford to Kings Cross.
  • An early morning service from Wakefield Kirkgate to Kings Cross.
  • A late evening service of two trains; one for Wakefield and one for York, whicj would split at Doncaster.

Cleethorpes would also be served by running West Riding services as two trains, which would split and join at Dncaster.

All this can be done with the current fleet of ten Class 180 trains, supplemented by four extra released by Hull Trains, on delivery of new Class 802 trains.

By running as pairs between Kings Cross and Doncaster, the operator cuts the number of paths needed, on a crowded East Coast Main Line.

Joining and splitting is not without problems.

  • Train timings need to be accurate.
  • Joining and splitting hasn’t been done on the East Coast Main Line before, so would need permission.
  • I suspect that, the process won’t be automatic, as on Hitachi’s trains.

But get it right and this would surely open up the possibility of extra destinations in the North, provided like Bradford, Cleethorpes, Sunderland, Wakefield and York, they are on railway routes North of Doncaster.

The Class 180 trains are 125 mph diesel trains, that are about fifteen years old.

All other operators on the East Coast Main Line in a few years will be running variants of Class 800 trains, which will be capable of running at 140 mph on large parts of the route, when in-cab signalling is up and running.

As these trains can split and join with ease, surely Grand Central will be looking for some suitable new trains.

Currently, the fastest trains take about around a hundred minutes between London and Doncaster.

A rough estimate says that savings of around ten minutes could result from all trains being 140 mph capable, which would benefit all services.

But all operators on the line would have joining and splitting, so expect some new destinations from Kings Cross.

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March 23, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Rather Ordinary Sunderland Station

The first impression given by a station when you arrive in a town or city is important.

Some like Cambridge, Kings Cross, Liverpool, London Bridge and Reading say you are arriving in a place that is important, but others fail to get over a positive message.

If you compare Sunderland station to those at Middlesbrough and Newcastle, it doesn’t score well.

This set of pictures shows the important Sunderland station, which serves a city of nearly 200,000 people.

it is very disappointing.

  • Passenger facilities are limited for a city, that is the size of Sunderland.
  • The lighting levels are not as high as the other Tyne and Wear Metro  stations, that are in tunnels.
  • It needs double escalators.
  • A coffee kiosk on the double platform would be welcome.

I get the impression that the station was designed down to a cost, rather than up to a passenger standard.

Station Capacity

The Metro currently runs five trains per hour (tph) between  NewcastleAirport and South Hylton stations. I suspect that the number of trains will increase when new trains run on this branch.

The Metro  has put forward proposals to run services on the Durham Coast Line to Seaham station. Four tph?

Northern will also be doubling the frequency of their hourly service between Middlesbrough and Newcastle.

These improvements could raise the train frequency from six to perhaps twelve tph.

Through trains will not be a problem, as with modern signalling and trains, the frequency of trains in both directions could be as high as the twenty tph, that will be running on the East London Line in a couple of years.

But would it be possible to turn Grand Central and Virgin services that terminate at Sunderland in the time available between Metro trains. The twelve minutes available at present with five Metro tph is obviously enough, but what if the Metro frequency were to be substantially increased?

As both Grand Central and Virgin would probably like to increase their frequencies to London, a solution will need to be found.

This diagram from Wikipedia, shows the track layout at Sunderland station.

This is the key to the diagram

  • Black lines: Track shared by Metro and mainline services, electrified at 1500 V DC overhead.
  • Green lines: Track used by Metro services only, electrified at 1500 V DC overhead.
  • Blue lines: Track used by mainline services only, not electrified.
  • Grey area: covered station shed.
  • Maroon area: Platforms.
  • Platform 1: Southbound mainline services.
  • Platform 2: Southbound Metro services.
  • Platform 3: Northbound Metro services.
  • Platform 4: Northbound mainline services.
  • A: Towards Newcastle
  • B: From Newcastle
  • C: From South Hylton
  • D: To South Hylton
  • E: Electrified siding
  • F: Non-electrified siding
  • G: From Middlesbrough
  • H: Towards Middlesbrough

I think an engineer named Baldrick has been at work and they’ve devised a cunning plan.

If you arrive from the South on the 16:38 Grand Central train, it appears that it returns at 17:31.

So does it use time profitably, by sitting in the non-electrified siding labelled F, where it is refuelled and restocked, whilst the crew get a well-needed rest?

Consider,

  • Let us suppose the frequency through Sunderland is twelve tph or a train every five minutes.
  • A train from London arrives in Platform 4 and would have five minutes to reverse into the siding.
  • When it leaves for London, it would a five minute window to move into Platform 1, pick up passengers and proceed South.
  • The current service is five trains per day.

It certainly looks possible, but as there are two sidings and twelve five minute slots in an hour, I suspect that theoretically at least four tph could be turned back South if required.

Note that if the trains had a degree of automation, this would make a higher frequency attaining a higher frequency a lot easier.

, I also suspect the capacity of the East Coast Main Line restricts services to Sunderland, more than the actual capacity at Sunderland station.

Conclusion

The track layout at Sunderland station seems to have been designed to handle many more through trains than it does now!

In addition, it has a large capacity to turn trains from the South.

Obviously, modern trains and signalling is required.

Sunderland station may appear to be rather ordinary, but the track layout can cope with a lot of trains.

February 6, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Across South Yorkshire On A Grand Central Train

If you take a Grand Central West Riding train between Kings Cross to Bradford Interchange stations, as I did, the route could be considered somewhat of a Cook’s Tour of the South of Yorkshire.

There are stops at Doncaster, Pontefract Monkhill, Wakefield Kirkgate, Mirfield, Brighouse, Halifax and Low Moor stations. I alighted at the last station, which only opened on the second of this month.

I took these pictures on the route between Doncaster and Low Moor

These are some notes on the journey.

Hambleton Junction

Hambleton Junction was created as part of the Selby Diversion, where the East Coast Main Line was diverted away from the possible subsidence, that could have been created by the giant Selby Coalfield.

This Google Map shows the layout of the junction.

The Grand Central train turned West at Hambleton Junction to take a South-Westerly route to Pontefract Monkhill station.

It should be noted, that the mistake of the 1980s, when the Selby Diversion was created off not electrifying the Leeds to Selby Line may be rectified in the near future, according to this section in Wikipedia. This is said.

In 2009 the Network Rail route utilisation strategy electrification paper identified the North Cross-Pennine route including the Leeds-Selby-Hull Line as a high ranking option for future electrification, in terms of benefits to passenger services.[70] In 2011 funding for the electrification in CP5 (see Network Rail Control Periods) of the section from Leeds to Micklefield was announced. Funding for the section of the line from Micklefield to Selby was added to the electrification schedule in 2013.

As with all electrification in the UK, I’ll believe it, when I see it.

Ferrybridge Power Stations

The power stations at Ferrybridge, have been a landmark on the A1 since the 1960s.

This Google Map shows the large site, surrounded by major roads.

There is now a Ferrybridge Multifuel power station, but at 68 MW compared to the 2034 MW of the 1960s-built Ferrybridge C., it isn’t very large.

For comparison, according to these statistics in Wikipedia, the UK had installed 11,562 MW of solar power, which generated 10,292 GwH or 3.4% of our total electricity consumption in 2016, which was a thirty-six percent increase on 2015.

Perhaps it was a better summer!

Pontefract Monkhill Station

Pontefract Monkhill station is a simple affair, with just two platforms and no permanent buildings or ticket machine.

This Google Map shows the location of the station.

Note in the North West corner of the map is Pontefract racecourse, where C and I once had a winner.

I think it is true to say, that passenger use of Pontefract Monkhill station would improve with a few more facilities.

The train took the line past the racecourse on the way to Wakefield Kirkgate station.

Wakefield Kirkgate Station

Wakefield Kirkgate station, has been refurbished recently and whether it will see increased usage, is something on which I can’t or won’t speculate.

This Google Map shows the relationship between Kirkgate and Wakefield Westgate station, which is served by electric trains to Leeds and London.

Grand Central probably have a marketing problem with Kirkgate station, as to tickets too and from London, as they have only four trains per day and they take around two and a quarter hours, as opposed to Virgin’s two trains per hour, which take around two hours.

Their major weapon must be price.

Mirfield Station

Mirfield station is another simple station, with minimal facilities.

Brighouse Station

Brighouse station is a station that closed in 1970 and reopened in 2000.

That explains, why when I had to go to Brighouse to see a client of mine in the early 1970s, in the town, I had to drive.

It was typical of the projects, I got involved in at the time, as I was helping Allied Mills to optimise what flours they used to make bread. I was using simple linear programming with an objective function.

I can’t leave Brighouse without a few stories.

  • All the Senior Management I dealt with had been bakers and didn’t eat the company product, preferring to bake their own.
  • Bread was sold on commission to the delivery van drivers. As you could get more square sliced loaves in a van, they ignored fancy loaves, as it dropped their income. Did this infuence the UK’s like of bad bread?
  • Bread was sold on sale or return. The returned bread was put to use in animal and pet food.
  • Harold Wilson thought this was waste and banned the practice, meaning the secondary uses dried up and a lot of products became more expensive.
  • One particular recycled bread, was supposedly very suitable for grewyhounds.
  • Dartmouth Naval College insisted that the bread they received was yesterday’s as it discouraged cadets fromj eating too much!

If I remember a few more, I’ll add them.

Halifax Station

Halifax station is probably one of the busiest on the route.

This Google Map shows the station and the nearby Nestle factory.

Halifax station has a four trains per hour service to Bradford Interchange and Leeds. This is also said in Wikipedia.

On Sundays there is an hourly service to Manchester Victoria and to Blackpool North and one train every two hours to Huddersfield. New Northern Rail franchisee Arriva Rail North plans to introduce additional services to Leeds & Manchester in 2017, many of which will run through to either Liverpool Lime Street or Chester.[16][17] Through services to Manchester Airport will also operate once the planned Ordsall Chord is built.

So it will be getting better and Halifax could be the station where you go to to the West.

These extra services and after a couple of visits to the station, suggest to me that the station needs a bay platform or even a third one, that can act as bay platforms looking both ways.

This is said in Wikipedia.

In October 2014 plans were submitted to bring an old platform back into use to create three platforms together with signalling improvements.

Perhaps my feelings are correct.

Conclusion

It is a well-thought out route, through some of the least developed parts of Yorkshire, where I suspect car ownership is not on the high side.

The route, which goes in a curve from Bradford to Doncaster, South of the cities of Bradford and Leeds, does a similar job to that of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line in London, as a compliment to the radial routes.

But four trains per day is not enough and the route has the sense of dereliction that Gospel Oak to Barking and North London Lines had in London.

Perhaps the solution, is to run one of the Class 319 Flex trains every hour between Bradford Interchange or Halifax and Doncaster in both directions to tie everything together.

Currently, Grand Central’s Class 180trains take the following times.

  • Doncaster to Bradford Exchange – 90 minutes
  • Doncaster to Halifax – 75 minutes

The Class 319 Flex trains could probably match these times if they ran on electric power between Doncaster and Hambleton Junction.

Even if they stopped more often, they might even be able to run between Halifax and Doncaster in under ninety minutes. This would mean that three trains could provide a stopping service between Halifax and Doncaster.

 

 

 

 

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment