The Anonymous Widower

Does Anybody Know Of A Shuttle Train Without A Timetable?

In Very Light Rail – A Revolution, I suggested that automated shuttle trains could be run between West Ealing and Greenford on the Greenford Branch.

Trains would not run to a timetable, but when they were ready and the line was clear, they would move to the next station.

I suspect the safest way would be for when the driver had a green signal and the doors were closed, they just pressed a button which told the train to proceed to the next station.

I believe this was the system, that was used when the Victoria Line was opened in 1968.

It has its advantages.

  • On average passengers don’t have to wait so long.
  • If the driver sees a group of passengers coming, he can delay the train for a minute or so until they have got on.
  • If perhaps a passenger in a wheelchair is having a bit of difficulty, he can wait.
  • If, as on the Greenford Branch, another train needs to come through, the shuttle train can park up in a platform and continue operating after the second train has cleared. Separation between the lightweight passenger train and any other train is maintained at all times.

But the biggest advantage is that you get more trains per hour (tph).

I know that cable cars, cliff railways, funiculars and of course lifts often work without a timetable, but does anybody know of a rail line, that works without one?

January 12, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Very Light Rail – A Revolution

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

It is a good explanation of what very light rail is all about and the design concepts behind the first vehicle, which is called Revolution.

My feeling is that Any Very Light Rail vehicle should be able to run a short branch line route as capably as a Class 153 train.

But hopefully with better passenger and driver comfort and facilities.

  • The speed of Revolution is 65 mph and that of a Class 153 train is 75 mph, so is that close enough?
  • I would hope that Revolution has better acceleration as it has an electric transmission.
  • Revolution has 56 seats and a wheelchair space and is PRM-compliant, whereas the Class 153 train has a few more seats and only some are PRM-compliant.
  • Revolution has wi-fi and power sockets and most Class 153 trains don’t.

The quality of the seats and the view from the trains will probably be the tie-breaker.

The article doesn’t say, but surely they would find more applications, if they could run in pairs, do they might be able to replace a two-car Class 150 train.

Reading the whole article gives me the impression, that the designers have done thorough job to design a lightweight train, that both passengers and drivers will like.

I will reserve my judgement until I see and ride one of these trains.

An Automated Shuttle Train

In An Automated Shuttle Train On The Greenford Branch Line, I proposed an automated shuttle on the Greenford branch.

The Greenford Branch Line has the following features.

  • It is 2.5 miles long.
  • It is double-track.
  • It is not electrified.
  • There is a single platform station at both ends with three intermediate stations.
  • The service frequency is two tph.
  • Trains take 11-12 minutes to go between the two terminals.
  • Freight trains also use the line.

To run the ideal four tph, trains would need to do a round trip between West Ealing and Greenford in fifteen minutes.

Suppose the Revolution vehicle was automated with the driver having a supervisory role.

  • The train would shuttle between West Ealing and Greenford, leaving each station, when it was ready, so as many trips as possible were performed.
  • On seeing a green signal, the driver would tell the train to proceed top the other station, if they knew it to be safe.
  • If a freight train needed to come through, the shuttle train would stay in either West Ealing or Greenford stations out of the way protected by the signalling, until the freight train had cleared the track.
  • Freight trains and the shuttle would never be on the same piece of track at the same time, which would greatly aid safety.

I suspect that at least three trains would go between the two stations in every hour, with perhaps four in the Peak.

January 11, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 5 Comments

Wallingford Station: Historic Railway Canopy Finds New Home

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

These are the first three paragraphs.

A historic canopy over a railway station platform that was in danger of being junked has found a new home.

The structure at Maidenhead in Berkshire had to be taken down because of electrification works needed for the Crossrail scheme.

It was painstakingly relocated to Wallingford Station in Oxfordshire and restored over seven years.

Judging by the comments in the article, it sounds like a job well done!

These paragraphs give the comments of TV historian; Tim Dunn.

TV historian Tim Dunn, who was present at the unveiling, called the canopy “one of a kind”.

“The fact that it’s been brought up bit by bit and rebuilt finally gives this railway a portal to the rest of the town,” he added.

“This is a brand new entrance to Wallingford.”

Does Tim Dunn imply anything more by the final statement?

Is There A Possibility Of The Restoration Of A Passenger Service Between Cholsey And Wallingford?

Consider these factors.

Great Western Railway Seem To Have a Policy Of Developing Their Branch Lines

In GWR To Test Battery Train On Branch Line, I said this.

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

This is the first paragraph.

Great Western Railway has invited expressions of interest in trialling a battery powered train on the 4 km non-electrified branch line from West Ealing to Greenford in west London.

The article says that Vivarail have made a previous proposal, but other companies are also likely to declare their interest.

Later in the related article, Mark Hopwood, who is Managing Director of Great Western Railway, indicated that they were looking for a modern zero-carbon solution for all of the branch lines, which they doubt would ever be electrified.

If GWR had a fleet of battery trains, then they could probably handle the two-and-a-half miles of the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway, provided the traffic was there, to make the service worthwhile.

Wallingford

Wallingford is a town of nearly twelve thousand inhabitants and many smaller towns and villages in England, have a regular rail service.

Cholsey Station

Cholsey station has two trains per hour (tph) between Paddington and Didcot Parkway stations, with extra services between Oxford and Reading stations in the Peaks.

This Google Map shows Cholsey station.

Note.

  1. Four through platforms for Great Western Railway services.
  2. Platforms 1 and 2 for the fast services are on the Western side.
  3. Platforms 3 and 4 for the slow services are on the Eastern side.
  4. Bay Platform 5 is tucked in the North-East corner of the station and is the terminus for services on the Cholsey And Wallingford Railway.
  5. There are only 55 parking spaces.

Is the number of parking spaces sufficient for the station, if a lot of passengers drive from Wallingford?

Could Battery-Electric Trains Handle The Service Between Cholsey And Wallingford?

As GWR has decided to look for battery-electric trains for their branch lines and this is only a five mile round trip, I think we can assume, that the battery-electric trains of the type, that Great Western Railway chooses, will be able to work this branch.

Intriguingly, the Greenford Branch Line is also 2.5 miles long and a round trip takes under thirty minutes, although the service is only hourly.

I feel that a well-driven single battery-electric train can provide two tph on the branch.

Charging would probably be needed at only one end of the branch line.

As all the through lines at Cholsey station are electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires, I suspect that charging would be provided at that station.

Conclusion

I think it would be possible to provide a two tph service on the Cholsey and Wallingford branch line, using a battery-electric train.

July 2, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 4 Comments

GWR To Test Battery Train On Branch Line

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

This is the first paragraph.

Great Western Railway has invited expressions of interest in trialling a battery powered train on the 4 km non-electrified branch line from West Ealing to Greenford in west London.

The article says that Vivarail have made a previous proposal, but other companies are also likely to declare their interest.

I feel some unexpected proposals could turn up.

The reason would be commercial,.

This is the last paragraph of the article, which says this.

The challenge on Great Western is we’ve got branches like Greenford, Windsor, Marlow and Henley along the Thames valley, and then in the West Country we’ve got St Ives, Falmouth, Newquay, Looe, Gunnislake and so on’, said Hopwood. ‘If we don’t electrify those could we fit the trains with a battery?’ The ideal solution may be a train that fast charges either at one end of the route or possibly at both ends, or on a route like Marlow, Gunnislake or Looe, where the trains reverse during their journey, could the charge point even be on that part of the branch?’

Note.

  1. Mark Hopwood is now the Managing Director of GWR.
  2. Nine branches are mentioned, so with spare trains and maintenance, it could be a good-sized order.

But this project could be even bigger.

South Western Railway are a sister company of Great Western Railway and in August 2020, I wrote Special Train Offers A Strong Case For Reopening Fawley Line about the plans to open the Fawley Line.

This was a section, I wrote about trains that might work the line.

South Western Railway’s Innovative Train Plan

This is another quote from the article.

However, SWR’s Mark Hopwood favours a much bolder plan. “We’d have to take a decision, once we knew the line was going ahead. But my personal belief is that we should be looking for a modern environmentally-friendly train that can use third-rail electricity between Southampton and Totton and maybe operate on batteries down the branch line.”

Pressed on whether that would mean Vivarail-converted former-London Underground stock, Hopwood ads. “It could be. Or it could be a conversion of our own Class 456, which will be replaced by new rolling stock very shortly. But I don’t think this is the time to use old diesels.

This is the same Mark Hopwood, who is now Managing Director of GWR.

These pictures show the current status of one of the twenty-four Class 456 train.

In Converting Class 456 Trains Into Two-Car Battery Electric Trains I discuss this conversion in detail.

Conclusion

Twenty-four battery-electric Class 456 trains would probably go a long way to satisfy GWR’s needs.

June 24, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

West Ealing Station Goes Step-Free As Part Of Crossrail Upgrades

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

The title says it all.

These pictures, which were taken on the 31st March 2021, show West Ealing station.

Note

  1. It is fully step-free.
  2. As at Acton Main Line station, the lifts are very disabled-friendly.
  3. The terrible staircases of the old station have yet to be demolished.
  4. There is just a small amount of work to finish.

It is a fine addition to London’s portfolio of stations.

But one thing is not covered in the article – What is going to happen to the Greenford Branch?

I think I would favour the automated shuttle! But then I’m a trained Control Engineer.

  • Two-car battery electric train.
  • Option of being lengthened to three cars.
  • I suspect Alstom, CAF, Stadler and Vivarail could all provide trains.
  • There would be level access between train and platform to reduce station dwell times.
  • Automated like the Victoria Line, where when ready to depart, the driver presses a button to close the doors and then the train moves automatically to the next station.
  • The driver could sit in the middle of the train with screens to see front and rear, so they wouldn’t even have to change ends, which wastes time.
  • Or they might choose to sit in the front cab or even use a sophisticated remote control, developed with gaming or military drone experience.
  • Charging would be automatic at both terminals.
  • One train would run a continuous service with a timetable, which just said services would be a service approximately every fifteen minutes
  • Trains would have wi-fi and passengers could view front and rear camera images on their devices.
  • Trains would be stabled at night in one of the two terminal platforms and could have a spruce up each night from a mobile or the station cleaning crew.
  • Trains might need to have sufficient performance to run a service into and out of Paddington, at the beginning and end of the day. But if Crossrail services were reliable and six tph, this feature could be superfluous. But other services might need a main line capability at say 60 or 70 mph to relocate to and from the main depot.
  • On the Greenford Branch, signallers and/or the driver would need the ability to park the train in the next terminal station, when a freight train is passing through.

Get this automated branch line right and the technology could be used in several places around the UK.

 

 

April 1, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

West Ealing Station – 12th October 2020

These pictures show the current state of West Ealing station.

A few of my thoughts.

The Size Of The Station

It is not small!

Will The Current Entrance Be Retained?

From the outside the original entrance looks to be in good condition.

Will it be retained?

I think it won’t be as the stairs are a bit of an accident waiting to happen.

Electrification Of The Greenford Branch

If the Greenford Branch is going to be electrified, the last picture shows that gantries and headspan wires are in place over the Western end of Platform 5.

The electrification could be fixed to the new station building, if it were to be electrified.

Power would not be a problem, as a main sub-station for Crossrail and the Great Western Main Line is nearby.

In Could Class 165 HyDrive Trains Be The Solution To The Greenford Branch?, I showed that a train with better acceleration could provide four trains per hour (tph) on the Greenford Branch.

I feel that a pair of powerful two-car battery electric trains could  provide four tph on the branch.

  • They would charge using a short length of 25 KVAC overhead electrification in Platform 5 at West Ealing station.
  • The route is only 2.5 miles.
  • Recharging time wouldn’t be very long, as the battery wouldn’t be enormous.

In Special Train Offers A Strong Case For Reopening Fawley Line, the Managing Director of South Western Railway; Mark Hopwood is quoted as saying, that their Class 456 trains could be converted to two-car battery trains. Converting Class 456 Trains Into Two-Car Battery Electric Trains discusses this conversion in detail.

A two-car Class 456 train equipped with batteries and the ability to use 25 KVAC overhead electrification, would be ideal for the branch and could probably provide four tph.

Conclusion

This station is starting to look like a quality station for Crossrail.

October 12, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 6 Comments

An Interloper At West Ealing Station

These pictures show a Chiltern Railway‘s Class 165 train in West Ealing station.

Has the train just been borrowed by Great Western Railway or is there another reason?

It looks like as I passed, that I saw a Parliamentary Train, which uses the Greenford Branch to travel to High Wycombe

December 11, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Will The Class 230 Trains Be Coming Home?

Long term readers of this blog, will notice, that I keep returning to the short Greenford Branch Line in West London.

  • It is four kilometres long
  • It runs between West Ealing and Greenford stations.
  • Greenford station is step-free and West Ealing station should be by December 2019.
  • There are three intermediate stations.
  • It is mainly double track, with a short length of single track at both ends.
  • Two trains per hour (tph) is provided by a single Great Western Railway (GWR) Class 165 diesel train.

It will be a valuable feeder route for passengers to and from Crossrail, which is rumoured to be opening to Reading in December 2019.

An opening of the Western branches of Crossrail between Paddington and Reading would bring the following services to West Ealing station.

  • Two tph between Paddington and Reading
  • Two tph between Paddington and Maidenhead
  • Four tph between Paddington and Heathrow Terminal 4
  • Two tph between Paddington and Heathrow Terminal 5

Two tph shuttling between West Ealing and Greenford is a bad match to the future ten tph on Crossrail.

Four tph Run Between West Ealing And Greenford Stations

This would obviously be ideal, but is it possible?

This Google Map shows West Ealing Junction, where the Greenford Branch joins the Crossrail tracks alongside the Great Western Main Line.

Note how the two tracks of the Greenford Branch Line start in the North-west corner of the map.

  • They join into a single-track, which passes under the footbridge.
  • The tracks then split a few metres to the East of the bridge.
  • The Northern track goes into the bay Platform 5 at West Ealing station, which must be over eighty metres long.
  • The Southern track joins the Crossrail line towards Paddington.

The track layout allows the ocassional refuse trains to pass along the Greenford Branch Line, but would also allow four tph to be run into the bay Platform 5.

This picture shows the current state of the under-construction step-free bridge at West Ealing station.

Once this bridge is complete, probably later this year, West Ealing station will be ready for four tph to Greenford.

The simplest safe operation would be for an incoming train to West Ealing station, to wait at Drayton Green station, until it was passed by the outgoing train. Once the points and the signals were set, the incoming train, would move into West Ealing station.

This Google Map shows the lines at the Greenford end of the Greenford Branch Line.

Note how the two tracks of the Greenford Branch Line start in the South-East corner of the map.

  • They join into a single track.
  • After a few metres, the tracks split into two.
  • The Western track dives under the Westbound Central Line and goes into the bay Platform at Greenford station.
  • The Northern track goes under both Central Line tracks and joins the Acton-Northolt Line.

It would appear that the track layout is designed so that four tph can work into Greenford station.

The Problem Of The Trains

The current Class 165 train works the line well.

  • A two-car train has enough capacity
  • At 45 metres long the train fits the short platform at Greenford station.
  • I estimate that in a month, the train does about 5,400 miles.

But as the only GWR diesel train, surrounded by large numbers of electric trains, the Class 156 train probably has to trundle some miles to be serviced.

In an ideal world, the train would have the following properties.

  • Less than fifty metres long.
  • Self-powered.
  • Ability to be serviced locally.
  • To run a four tph service, two trains and a spare would probably be needed

To look after the trains and hold the spare train, a convenient facility will be needed.

This Google Map shows the wider area around West Ealing station and West Ealing Junction.

Note the sidings between the Great Western Main Line, the Greenford Branch and the Plasser UK factory.

These sidings are where GWR stable some of their Class 387 trains.

But if the rumours are correct, that Crossrail is going to take over London to Reading services in December 2019, GWR will probably have less use for this facility.

It would surely, be an ideal mini-depot for the Greenford Branch Line fleet.

  • It is a secure site.
  • A refuelling facility could be provided, if necessary.
  • If a passenger service were to be started on the Brentford Branch Line, that is only a few miles away.

There may be a small amount of trackwork needed for efficient operation.

Did A Small Revolution Start In Bedford Yesterday?

In A First Ride In A Revenue-Earning Class 230 Train, I wrote about my ride in the first Class 230 train to enter public service.

This was the conclusion to my post.

It is a well-designed train, that impressed me.

It should find a niche in the train market.

The fact that the train is in service, will in itself provoke interest from train operating companies and Councils and other groups promoting new or reopened train services.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see more orders this year.

So will a small fleet of Class 230 trains be coming back to London, where they spent the first nearly forty years of their working lives?

  • The Class 230 train is the right size.
  • The Class 230 train is a quality train, with an interior, that can be tailored to the route.
  • Servicing can be organised locally.
  • Diesel or battery power is available.

A fleet of four trains would provide the following services.

  • Four tph on the Greenford Branch Line.
  • One or two tph on the Brentford Branch Line.

One train would be spare.

What Is The Likelihood Of A Passenger Service On The Brentford Branch Line?

Like the Greenford Branch Line, the Brentford Branch Line could be a valuable feeder line for Crossrail.

  • Hounslow Council have been pushing for a passenger service between Southall and a station at the Golden Mile (The Great West Road)
  • South of the Golden Mile, the original route can be seen on Google Map and there might be possibilities to extend it to the original terminus.
  • It would be in walking distance of a lot of development at Brentford Lock West.
  • Unfortunately, a new viaductwould need to be built over the Great West Road.

If the branch gets passenger trains, I estimate that one train could run a two tph service between Southall and Brentford Golden Mile.

New developments around Brentford could be what eventually makes adding passenger trains to this freight line worthwhile.

What About The Costs?

Transport for London is probably very happy with the current service on the Greenford Branch Line, as it is not their responsibility.

If Crossrail opens to Reading in December 2019, I suspect GWR will look at this leftover from privatisation as a increasing nuisance.

The Wikipedia entry for the Class 230 train has a section on Cost Comparison.

  • Using the figures for a Class 150 train, GWR are spending about 14,300 pounds a month, plus staff and fuel to provide the current service.
  • Three Class 230 trains providing a four tph service would cost an operator about 25,300 pounds a month, plus staff and fuel.

How much extra revenue for Transport for London, would a four tph service on the Greenford Branch Line generate, if Crossrail were to open to Reading?

An extra train for the Brentford Branch ine would probably add another 9,000 a month, plus staff and fuel.

I have no evidence, but after my ride yesterday, I feel that Class 230 trains could transform the economics of rail services in West Ealing and Brentford.

Conclusion

Bring a small fleet of Class 230 trains home!

And while you’re about it, reopen the Brentford Branch Line to passenger trains with an hourly service.

April 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

West Ealing Station – 16th April 2019

These pictures were taken at West Ealing station.

At last there appears to be some progress, with the footbridge now under construction.

The station certainly looks to be advanced enough, to fit in  with Crossrail opening within a year, as I wrote about in Crossrail Service To Reading On Track For December Opening.

According to the Wikipedia entry for Crossrail, West EWaling station will have the following trains, when Crossrail opens.

  • Two trains per hour (tph) between Reading and Abbey Wood
  • Two tph between Maidenhead and Abbey Wood
  • Four tph between Heathrow Terminal 4 and Abbey Wood.
  • Two tph between Heathrow Terminal 5 and Abbey Wood.

What if you want to go to Shenfield?

If the Western section of Crossrail opens in December, would West Ealing station get the following service?

  • Two tph between Reading and Paddington
  • Two tph between Maidenhead and Paddington
  • Four tph between Heathrow Terminal 4 and Paddington
  • Two tph between Heathrow Terminal 5 and Paddington

That would surely be an excellent service!

If the frequency on the Greenford Branch could be doubled to four tph, there would also be an excellent interchange to the branch line.

Crossrail To Reading In December 2019

As current rumours are that Crossrail will open in December to Reading, it looks like the station will be usable.

It is planned that West Ealing station will have a Crossrail train every six minutes.

 

April 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 4 Comments

An Automated Shuttle Train On The Greenford Branch Line

The Greenford Branch Line has the following features.

  • It is 2.5 miles long.
  • It is double-track.
  • It is not electrified.
  • There is a single platform station at both ends with three intermediate stations.
  • The service frequency is two tph.
  • Trains take 11-12 minutes to go between the two terminals.
  • Freight trains also use the line.

To run the ideal four tph, trains would need to do a round trip between West Ealing and Greenford in fifteen minutes.

If we assume that the two end stops take two minutes and the six intermediate ones take thirty seconds, then that leaves just eight minutes to cover the five miles of the round trip.

This is an average speed of 37.5 mph.

I don’t have the calculation experience or knowledge of train performance to prove it, but I think that an appropriate train would  be able to run an automated shuttle, with a frequency of four tph.

The train (or tram-train) would have the following features.

  • It would be battery-powered.
  • It would be highly automated.
  • It would have an operating speed of perhaps sixty mph.
  • It would have fast acceleration and deceleration.

The following infrastructure works would also be needed.

  • The track would be improved to allow higher speeds.
  • The points would be automated.
  • Level access between platform and train would be provided.
  • A fast charging system would be added to the bay platforms at Greenford and West Ealing stations.

If four tph could be achieved on the Greenford Branch with just one automated shuttle and no electrification, this would be exactly what the operator, the passengers and the Government ordered.

February 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 3 Comments