The Anonymous Widower

The Halton Curve: Small Piece Of Track, Big Rail Ambitions

The title of this post is the same as that of an article on the Rail Technology Magazine web site.

The Halton Curve will create a link between Liverpool and North Wales. This page on the Network Rail web site gives more details.

Work has started on the 1.5 miles of rail track, known as the ‘Halton Curve,’ that will unlock leisure and business opportunities between the Liverpool City Region, its airport, Cheshire and North Wales.

Vital upgrades to signalling and track will enable new services between Liverpool and Chester, serving Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway (for Liverpool John Lennon Airport) Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby.

The existing line, which currently only runs a one-way passenger service once a week in the summer, will be upgraded to provide an hourly service in each direction from December 2018 with the potential for connections to North Wales in the future.

Restoring the Halton Curve is similar to a number of smaller projects that have been executed in the last few years, to improve connectivity and efficiency in the UK rail network.

Most seem to have been worthwhile. But look back a couple of decades and it was unlikely that some of these projects would ever be needed.

As the economy grows, freight moves from road to rail and more people travel a lot more by rail, it is very difficult to predict what will happen in the future. I feel we should address the following.

If we remove a railway line, we should not destroy the ability to reinstate the line. Rebuilding the Waverley Route and the Varsity Line would be a lot easier, if this rule had been followed.

Network Rail appear to have a tendency to kick smaller projects into the future. A simple example is the creation of a bay platform at Stevenage station to turn back services on the Hertford Loop Line which seems to have been pushed back until after the new Class 717 trains arrive.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Capacity Crunch At Chester – Halton Curve

The Capacity Crunch At Chester article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks about the Halton Curve.

The curve will allow services between Liverpool Lime Street, South Liverpool and Liverpool Airport to Chester and North Wales.

The article says this.

Initially, Merseytravel will subsidise an hourly Chester-Liverpool service via the Halton Curve, as a first step in the development of enhanced services using the curve.

It then goes on to quote Huw Jenkins if Merseytravel as saying.

It would be a priority for the new Wales and Borders franchise to introduce regular services via the curve to Liverpool from significant stations in North Wales, including Bangor, Llandudno and Wrexham.

The business case for the Halton Curve is also stated to include.

  • Bangor to Liverpool in 140 minutes.
  • Llandudno to Liverpool in 130 minutes.
  • Create an alternative route between Liverpool and Cardiff via Chester and Shrewsbury.

I would suspect that the direct service between Cardiff and Liverpool will take about three and a half hours in something like a Class 802 train.

These trains could also probably travel between Liverpool and Shrewsbury in around ninety minutes, giving access to all the West Wales services at Shrewsbury station.

Conclusion

I have a feeling that when we look back on the reinstatement of the Halton Curve in a couple of decades, it could be a raging success and a very bad case of what I call London Overground Syndrome.

This is my definition of the disease.

This disease, which is probably a modern version of the Victorian railway mania, was first identified in East London in 2011, when it was found that the newly-refurbished East London Line and North London Line were inadequate due to high passenger satisfaction and much increased usage. It has now spread across other parts of the capital and across the UK, despite various eradication programs.

It is usually solved by adding more capacity.

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

A Little Chord Goes A Long Way

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Halton Curve Gets The Green Light.

I wrote about the Halton Curve in Could Tram-Trains Be Used To Advantage In Liverpool?  I said this in a section entitled Upgrading The Halton Curve

Funds have been made available to upgrade the Halton Curve, so that trains can reach Chester from Liverpool South Parkway via Runcorn.

The Halton Curve

The two blue squares indicate the two ends of the current single-track curve. The top one is where the curve leaves the Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main Line south of Runcorn station and the bottom one is where it joins the Chester to Manchester Line east of Frodsham.

The main reason for doing this would be to allow trains from Chester and North Wales better access to Liverpool Lime Street and South Parkway stations, and the John Lennon Airport.

As the Tier Two and Three electrification plans for the North as they effect Merseyside, includes full electrification of the lines around Chester, this would mean that an upgraded curve would be electrified.

There are probably good reasons to add an extra track to the curve, which would make it possible for Chester to be a new southern destination of the Northern Line.

The Rail Magazine article says this.

The Liverpool City Combined Authority has approved a range of projects aimed at improving travel across Merseyside, including reinstatement of the Halton Curve.

Also endorsed by the Welsh Government and by Cheshire West and Chester Council, bringing the line back into full use will entail an hourly direct service between Liverpool and Chester, and the extension of some services into Wales.

So just as the Todmorden Curve helped with the rail system around Burnley and the Ipswich Chord helped in Suffolk, will the Halton Curve help to develop the railways on Merseyside?

What is interesting about this decision, is that this appears to be a Liverpool decision, not one from Central Government.

Should more infrastructure decisions be devolved?

I think it’s very much a big yes!

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment