The Anonymous Widower

Will It Be Third-Time Lucky For Grand Union Trains In Wales?

It is three years since I wrote Grand Union Seeks ’91s’ To Cardiff and their proposal has not been accepted and the third iteration has been announced.

This article on Wales Online is entitled Independent Rail Firm Bids To Launch As Rival To Great Western On The Mainline From South Wales To London.

These are the introductory paragraphs.

An independent rail firm is hoping to launch a rival train service in Wales which they say will slash journey times between Carmarthen and London. Grand Union Trains is making a fresh bid to introduce an initial service in both directions between Cardiff and London on the existing Great Western line.

The company believes the move will “create passenger choice” and increase the number of trains available, with the hope that the service can be extended west in South Wales towards Carmarthen.

Other points in the article include.

  • Swansea will be by-passed, which will speed up services to and from Llanelli and Carmarthen.
  • A new Park-and-Ride station will be built by Grand Union at Felindre, which is to the North of Swansea.
  • Services will stop at Llanelli, Cardiff Central, Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Bristol Parkway.
  • When Cardiff Parkway opens, this will be an extra stop.

An article in the June 2022 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Grand Union Bids For London To Carmarthen, gives extra details.

  • Three classes.
  • 2203 start for the service.
  • Five return trains per day.
  • Cycle provision.
  • Vanload freight will be carried.
  • Electric trains could start between London and Cardiff by 2023.
  • In 2025, trains could be nine-car bi-modes.
  • South Wales-based operation and maintenance.
  • 125 full-time jobs created.

It certainly seems to be a comprehensive and well-thought out plan.

These are my thoughts and observations.

Felindre Station

Felindre station is named in Wikipedia as the West Wales Parkway station, where it is introduced like this.

West Wales Parkway is a proposed railway station north of Swansea, near to the boundaries of the neighbouring principal area of Carmarthenshire, and the villages of Felindre and Llangyfelach. The station is proposed to be situated at the former Felindre steelworks, near Junction 46 of the M4 and A48, and near Felindre Business Park and Penllergaer Business Park. The project is in the planning stages, as part of a wider Department for Transport proposal to re-open the Swansea District line to passenger traffic.

This Google Map shows where, it appears the Felindre station will be built.

Note.

  1. The Felindre Business Park in the North-West corner of the map, with a Park-and-Ride.
  2. The M4 running across the bottom of the map.
  3. The Swansea District Line runs East-West between the motorway and the Business Park.

It looks that the new station could be located on the South side of the Business Park.

According to Wikipedia, the station would cost £20 million to build.

  • It would need a comprehensive rethinking of transport improvements in the Swansea area.
  • But it could result in time savings on services between Carmarthen and Cardiff.

The Modern Railways article says this.

GU proposes to build the Felindre station near Swansea and invest in Severn Tunnel Junction station, where it says it will increase parking, provide direct access from the M4 motorway and improve passenger and staff facilities, backing up plans being evaluated by the Welsh Government for the station.

Grand Union is not a charity and does this indicate that a bank or infrastructure company is prepared to fund parking and the extra passengers pay the charges.

Rolling Stock

Wikipedia says that the rolling stock could be nine-car InterCity 225s hauled by Class 91 or Class 93 locomotives.

As the Class 93 locomotives are bi-modes, these would handle the Carmarthen and Cardiff leg.

The Modern Railways article says this.

Trains could start between Cardiff and London Paddington as early as May 2023 if electric only, with services extended west around two years later with new bi-mode trains in up to nine-car formations.

Would a new Class 93 locomotive count as a new bi-mode train?

I suspect the new locomotive would be more affordable, than a new bi-mode train.

Vanload Freight

This is an interesting idea and it follows similar thinking to Royal Mail’s latest ideas, that I wrote about in Royal Mail Rolling Back The Years To Put More Post On Trains.

One coach could be a nice little earner, if it were modified to carry roller cages, that were loaded and unloaded at the end of the route.

One advantage of the InterCity 225s is that they are 125 mph trains, so that this will be high speed freight.

Timings

Consider.

  • A GWR Carmarthen and London service takes three hours and 47 minutes.
  • This includes a nine-minute reverse at Swansea.
  • GWR makes seven more stops than Grand Union will.
  • GWR does seven diesel stops, whereas Grand Union will only do two.

I would estimate that Grand Union will be under three hours and thirty minutes.

Carmarthen Station

This Google Map shows Carmarthen station.

Note.

  1. The station has two platforms.
  2. There are certainly pictures of the station with an InterCity 125 in the station.

These pictures show the station.

I suspect that the station will be upgraded to accommodate Grand Union.

Rrenewable Energy Developments In South West Wales

In Enter The Dragon, I talked about renewable energy developments in South West Wales.

I used information from this article on the Engineer, which is entitled Unlocking The Renewables Potential Of The Celtic Sea.

The article on the Engineer finishes with this conclusion.

For now, Wales may be lagging slightly behind its Celtic cousin to the north, but if the true potential of the Celtic Sea can be unleashed – FLOW, tidal stream, lagoon and wave – it looks set to play an even more prominent role in the net zero pursuit.

The Red Dragon is entering the battle to replace Vlad the Mad’s tainted energy.

South West Wales could see a massive renewable energy boom.

The Railways To The West Of Carmarthen

This map from OpenRailwayMap shows the rail lines to the West of Carmarthen.

There are three main branches to Fishguard, Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock.

I can see the railways becoming increasingly important in supporting the growing renewable energy in the area.

  • There would be more frequent services.
  • Services would tie in with London and Cardiff trains at Carmarthen.
  • Closed stations could be reopened and new ones built.

It may also be possible to bring in large components needed by the renewable energy industry.

Conclusion

I feel that Grand Union have seen the opportunities presented to a frequent Carmarthen and London service and have grabbed them with both hands.

 

 

May 29, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ORR Rejects Grand Union’s London Paddington To Cardiff Train Service Bid

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

I wrote about this service in Grand Union Seeks ’91s’ To Cardiff and this was my conclusion.

I like this proposal.

    • The important Paddington and Cardiff route gets a fifty percent increase in train frequency.
    • There could be genuine competition on the route.
    • Grand Union would be using five of the thirty InterCity225 sets, which are in good condition, judging by my recent journeys.
    • Could we see a customer service and catering war between the two operators?

If Grand Union Railway runs to Cardiff, I’ll give it a go.

I can see a revised proposal being successful.

February 11, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

RENFE To Launch Avlo Low-Cost High Speed Rail For Everyone

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

The title says it all and it looks like the Spanish are going the way of the French.

As High Speed Rail networks get larger,and able to handle more trains, it appears that the train operators, run out of premium passengers and turn to other markets.

SNCF have already launched a low-cost service called Ouigo, so it looks like the Spanish are following along similar lines.

In some ways is rail following air travel with low-cost companies offering a more affordable service.

On the whole, the UK, will find it more difficult to offer these services, as we don’t have the rail capacity. In part, this is due to the late development of high speed lines like High Speed Two.

But competitive services using a low-cost model are running or in development.

It should be noted that First East Coast Trains and Hull Trains will be running similar new Hitachi trains to the dominant operator on the route; LNER.

But then Ryanair and easyJet fly similar planes to British Airways and Air France!

Conclusion

It does appear that low-cost operators are providing competition, just as they have done with the airlines.

December 28, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Mysterious Scotsman

A couple of years ago, I was contacted by a Scot called Andrew, who wanted to talk to me about blogging and my blog in particular.

I said, on my next trip North, why don’t we meet at somewhere like Stirling, which I sometimes use as a base for trips. I wrote about the city as a base in this post called Stirling.

We met and had a pizza in the City and we talked about Stirling’s direct rail connections to London.

This morning, I was looking up Grand Union, who are a proposed open-access train company, who aim to be running a rail service between London Paddington and Wales, within the next few years using InterCity 225 trains.

And what did I find?

The company is also proposing to run a service between London and Scotland. In a London-Scotland section in the Wikipedia entry, this is said.

In August 2019, Grand Union lodged an application to operate three or four trains per day between London Euston and Stirling calling at Milton Keynes Central, Nuneaton, Crewe, Preston, Carlisle, Lockerbie, Motherwell, Whifflet, Greenfaulds and Larbert with InterCity 225s from May 2021.

As I said in my meeting, I feel that a direct London and Stirling service could be invaluable.

  • Stirling has good rail connections to the rest of Scotland.
  • Stirling will be served by Scotrail’s upmarket Inter7City services.
  • The route is fully-electrified between London and Stirling.

I doubt the good burghers of Stirling would object.

I have a few comments.

The Route

The route is interesting, as it gives some new connectivity, that I’m sure will be welcomed by customers.

Milton Keynes

Consider.

  • Milton Keynes Central is a well-connected station.
  • It will get even better when the East-West Rail Link is opened in a few years.
  • Some journeys will be easier with a change at Milton Keynes, rather than in London.

Current services between Milton Keynes and Scotland, go via Birmingham.

Nuneaton

Nuneaton is becoming a busy hub station between Birmingham, Coventry and Leicester and must improve services along the West Coast Main Line to and from the North and Scotland.

Crewe, Preston And Carlisle

The new service will add connectivity to these important hubs.

Lockerbie

Lockerbie station only gets three trains per day in both directions.

If Grand Union stopped all their services, this would double the number of services calling at Lockerbie.

Motherwell, , Whifflet, Greenfaulds And Larbert

These stations should give good connectivity in South-East Glasgow, with links to Ayr in the West and Edinburgh in the East.

Stiring Station

In addition to good rail connectivity, Stirling station is not  far from the City Centre and has good facilities.

The Trains

Wikipedia says the services will be run by InterCity 225 trains.

I would assume they will be shortened to perhaps five to seven cars.

The Timings

Currently, the fastest train between Euston and Motherwell is the 17:30, which takes fours and fifteen minutes, with six stops.

As the proposed service would also take six stops between Euston and Motherwell, I would assume that Grand Union would be aiming for a similar time.

Looking at individual timings on the route the train would take between Motherwell snd Stirling via Whifflet, Coatbridge Central, Greenfaulds, Cumbernauld, Carmuirs Junction and Larbert, I am fairly certain that a train running with three scheduled stops could do the trip in around 38-42 minutes.

This is the summary of the times.

  • London Euston and Motherwell – four hours and fifteen minutes.
  • Motherwell and Stirling – 38-42 minutes.

Which would give a time between Euston and Stirling of around five hours.

This compares with the current best timings.

  • London Kings Cross and Stirling – five hours and eighteen minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Edinburgh – four hours and twenty minutes
  • London Euston and Glasgow – four hours and thirty minutes

So the new service would appear to give the following advantages.

  • A faster service between London and Stirling.
  • Faster services between London and Whifflet, Greenfaulds and Larbert.

This is in addition to the big advantage of three or four new direct services per day.

Services Between The South And Inverness With A Change At Stirling

Could this be one of the markets that Grand Union are looking to exploit?

Currently, there are two direct services between London and Inverness.

  • The daily direct daytime service takes eight hours and runs once a day.
  • The Sleeper takes even longer, but you do get an overnight rest.

So could a service between London and Stirling provide extra services?

Consider.

  • Currently, Scotrail’s services between Stirling and Inverness take just under three hours and run roughly two-hourly.
  • Network Rail are improving the Highland Main Line with passing loops and longer platforms to increase capacity and operating speeds.
  • Scotrail are introducing new better quality Inter7City trains on the route.
  • The new December 2019 timetable looks like services could be a few minutes faster.

I suspect, if the trains were appropriately timetabled, there could be extra services between Inverness and London Euston.

  • There would be a change of train at Stirling.
  • Timing could be around seven and a half hours.
  • Both trains would be high-quality ones.

I suspect that three new services with times of less than eight hours could be created bertween London and Inverness

The Glasgow By-Pass

If you want to go between Carlisle and Stirling, you will be recommended to take the following route.

  • Carlisle to Glasgow Central – Up to four trains per hour (tph)
  • Glasgow Central to Glasgow Queen Street – Walk as I do or a bus.
  • Glasgow Queen Street to Stirling – three tph

The journey time is just over two and a half hours.

I estimate that Grand Union’s services could go between Carlisle and Stirling in around forty-five minutes less, without a change of train.

The route is also now fully-electrified between Stirling and Carlisle, so could this be used by other services.

High Speed Two

When High Speed Two is completed, there will be two tph to both Edinburgh and Glasgow, with I suspect the trains working as a pair South of Carstairs, where they will split and join.

I suspect that High Speed Two will take the lion’s share of passengers between London and Edinburgh and Glasgow, but the two services could work together.

  • It might be quicker to change at Preston to Grand Union, if you’re going to Stirling.
  • If Stirling to Aberdeen and/or Inverness were to be electrified, could classic-compatible High Speed Two trains go further North?
  • At the Southern end, places like Milton Keynes and Nuneaton will not be served by High Speed Two, but existing and Grand Union services could provide connections.
  • North of Crewe, it is planed that High Speed Two will run on an upgraded West Coast Main Line.

For reasons like this High Speed Two will need to be integrated with other services.

Conclusion

Grand Union will make services from London to Stirling and the Northern part of coitland netter and more competitive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grand Union Seeks ’91s’ To Cardiff

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the May 2019 Edition Of Modern Railways.

These are points fro the article.

  • Grand Union Railway is a new open access operator.
  • Trains will be formed of a Class 91 locomotive, nine Mark 4 coaches and a driving van trailer.
  • Trains will go between London and Cardiff, stopping at Bristol Parkway, Severn Tunnel Junction and Newport
  • Trains will leave Paddington hourly from 07:35 to 21:35
  • Trains will leave Cardiff hourly from 06:35 to 19:35
  • The journey time will be one hour and forty-five minutes.
  • To run this timetable would appear to need four trains. Grand Union will probably have a fifth train, to allow for one in maintenance.

The service is subject to regulatory approval.

Note that the company has been formed by Ian Yeowart, who was previously Managing Director of Grand Central.

Currently, Great Western Railway (GWR) runs the following trains to South Wales

  • Paddington and Cardiff via Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Bristol Parkway and Newport
  • Paddington and Swansea via Reading, Swindon, Bristol Parkway, Newport, Cardiff, Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway and Neath

Services will soon be run exclusively by Class 800 or Class 802 trains.

Note.

  1. Some of the Swansea services are extended to Carmarthen and Pembroke Dock.
  2. Paddington to Cardiff takes two hours and eight minutes.
  3. Paddington to Swansea takes just under three hours.
  4. These times will be improved when the the electrification is completed between Paddington and Cardiff

Paddington and Cardiff will be getting three trains per hour (tph) and two operators

Great Western Railway And Grand Union Services Compared

It is interesting to compare the two services.

Journey Times

Consider.

  • The Grand Union service at one hour forty-five minutes appears to be quicker than the GWR service at two hours eight minutes.
  • But are we comparing times after full electrification of the route to Cardiff, which the Class 91 locomotives will need to operate?
  • There is also the possibility of digital signalling being fitted to both sets of trains.
  • Both trains can run at 140 mph with in-cab signalling
  • The Grand Union service has less stops than the GWR service.

Will the trains settle for a draw and have the same journey times?

Capacity

The seating capacity of the two trains are as follows.

  • GWR Class 800/802 train – 655 seats
  • Grand Union – InterCity 225 – 535 seats

My only thought, is that is there enough space in the GWR train or all luggage.

Bicycles And Bulky Luggage

Tourists with cycles are increasing in number and Wales will become a destination.

Hitachi Class 800 trains do not have much space for bicycles and  bulky luggage.

On the other hand, the driving van trailer of an InterCity225 can swallow a lot.

Will There Be Sufficient Demand For An Extra Service between London and Cardiff?

A friend asked.

Is there actually a market/capacity for an extra hourly service?

I made these points in reply.

  • The South Wales Metro will be one of the best City metros in the world and will improve feeder services to Cardiff Central dramatically.
  • The M4 is getting busier between Bristol and Cardiff, partly due to the abolition of tolls on the Severn Bridge.
  • The Principality Stadium
  • Tourism to South Wales is growing.
  • Business and finance in Wales is finally looking up.
  • All trains will be at 140 mph for long stretches, so journey times will be one hour forty-five minutes.
  • Paddngton is not an attractive place to arrive at in London, but after Crossrail opens, all should  be different.
  • City of London to City of Cardiff in two hours.
  • Cardiff will be closer to the City of London, than Brussels, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester or Paris!
  • Heathrow’s Third Runway.
  • Four wheels bad, rails good
  • Kids are getting to like trains, just as  we did.
  • The next generation of on-train Internet will be much faster for working and keeping kids of all ages amused.
  • GWR, Grand Union and the Welsh Government could market the route as High Speed Wales!

Will three tph be enough?

My Prediction In October 2013

In October 2013, I wrote Will We Get HSW Before HS2?

This was the conclusion of that post.

So I believe that even if it still goes slower on opening, trains to Bristol and Wales will be doing 225 kph before the end of this decade.

If that isn’t a high speed railway like HS1, I don’t know what is?

But whatever we call it, it’ll be here several years before HS2!

I think we need to call for three cheers for Brunel, who got the route right in the first place.

I felt the biggest problem would be the Severn Tunnel! I got that wrong, as that difficult job is now done.

Conclusion

I like this proposal.

  • The important Paddington and Cardiff route gets a fifty percent increase in train frequency.
  • There could be genuine competition on the route.
  • Grand Union would be using five of the thirty InterCity225 sets, which are in good condition, judging by my recent journeys.
  • Could we see a customer service and catering war between the two operators?

If Grand Union Railway runs to Cardiff, I’ll give it a go.

April 25, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments