The Anonymous Widower

Northern Powerhouse Rail – Significant Upgrades And Journey Time Improvements To The Hope Valley Route Between Manchester And Sheffield

In this article on Transport for the North, which is entitled Northern Powerhouse Rail Progress As Recommendations Made To Government, one of the recommendations proposed for Northern Powerhouse Rail is significant upgrades and journey time improvements to the Hope Valley Line between Manchester and Sheffield.

I shall look at a few of the possibilities for the route.

Northern Powerhouse Rail’s Objective For The Route

Wikipedia, other sources and my calculations say this about the trains between Manchester and Sheffield.

  • The distance between the two stations is 42.6 miles
  • The current service takes 49 to 57 minutes and has a frequency of two trains per hour (tph)
  • This gives an average speed of 52.2 mph for the fastest journey.
  • The proposed service with Northern Powerhouse Rail will take 40 minutes and have a frequency of four tph.
  • This gives an average speed of 63.9 mph for the journey.

This last figure of 63.9 mph, indicates to me that a 100 mph train will be able to meet Northern Powerhouse Rail’s objective.

Current Trains On The Hope Valley Line

In July this year, I went along the Hope Valley Line between Manchester Piccadilly and Dore and Totley stations, which I wrote about in Along The Hope Valley Line – 13th July 2020.

My train was a pair of refurbished Class 150 trains.

These trains can handled the current timetable but they have an operating speed of only 75 mph.

Looking at Real Time Trains for last week, it now appears that Northern are using new three-car Class 195 trains.

These are much better.

  • They are 100 mph trains with much better acceleration.
  • The train was still running the timetable for the slower trains.

With thirteen stops, I suspect that these new trains could be under fifty minutes between Manchester and Sheffield.

Will The Hope Valley Line Be Electrified?


  • Currently, the Hope Valley Line is electrified between Manchester Piccadilly and Hazel Grove stations.
  • In the future, the line is likely to be electrified between Sheffield and Dore & Totley stations, in conjunction with rebuilding the Midland Main Line, to the North of Clay Cross North junction for High Speed Two.
  • After the electrification at the Eastern end, just over thirty miles will be without electrification.
  • The Hope Valley Line has an operating speed of 90 mph.

This Hitachi infographic shows the specification of the Hitachi Regional Battery train.

As these are a 100 mph train with a range of 90 km or 56 miles on battery power, these trains could work Manchester and Sheffield in the required time of forty minutes. provided they could be charged at the Sheffield end of the route.

TransPennine’s Class 802 trains can be fitted with batteries to become Regional Battery Trains, so it would appear that TransPennine’s services on this route could go zero-carbon.

In addition Northern, who are the other passenger operator on the route are working with CAF on battery electric trains, as I wrote about in Northern’s Battery Plans,

I don’t believe there are pressing reasons to electrify the Hope Valley Line to allow passenger trains to meet Northern Powerhouse Rail’s objective.

Will Operating Speed On The Hope Valley Line Be Increased?

Under Plans in the Wikipedia entry for the Hope Valley Line, this is said.

Network Rail, in partnership with South Yorkshire ITA, will redouble the track between Dore Station Junction and Dore West Junction, at an estimated cost of £15 million. This costing is based on four additional vehicles in traffic to deliver the option, however, this will depend on vehicle allocation through the DfT rolling stock plan. This work will be programmed, subject to funding, in conjunction with signalling renewals in the Dore/Totley Tunnel area.

Other proposals include a 3,600 feet (1,100 m) loop in the Bamford area, in order to fit in an all-day (07:00–19:00) hourly Manchester–Sheffield via New Mills Central stopping service, by extending an existing Manchester–New Mills Central service. Planning permission for this was granted in February 2018, but delays mean that this will now not be completed until 2023.

These changes to allow three fast trains, a stopping train and freight trains each hour were also supported in a Transport for the North investment report in 2019, together with “further interventions” for the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme.

It would also probably be a good idea, to increase the operating speed of the line to 100 mph where possible.

Effect On Passenger Services

100 mph trains on a track with an operating speed of 100 mph, could show some impressive timings.

On the Great Eastern Main Line, which is a very busy 100 mph double-track railway, 100 mph trains, achieve a 77 mph average for 90 minutes over the 115 miles, between London Liverpool Street and Norwich with a single stop.

A one-stop Manchester and Sheffield service at this speed would take just 33.2 minutes.

The stopping trains would be more of a challenge to get under forty minutes, but at least if they were battery electric trains, they’d have the better acceleration and deceleration of the electric trains.

  • Fifty minutes would be a realistic time.
  • Ten minutes turnround time at each end, would be ideal for charging the batteries and give an efficient two hour round trip.

Efficient timetabling could create a very comprehensive service for the Hope Valley Line.

Freight Trains On The Hope Valley Line

Under Freight in the Wikipedia entry for the Hope Valley Line, this is said.

Over a million tons of cement a year is taken away by rail from Earle’s Sidings at Hope.

That is a very large number of freight trains, all of which are currently hauled by diesel locomotives.

  • Looking at Real Time Trains, there are nearly always two freight trains in every hour of the day.
  • If you look at the routes, they go to a myriad number of destinations.
  • Following the routes between Dore Junction and the quarries to the South of the Hope Valley Line, there are several tunnels.
  • There are numerous quarries in a cluster, all served by their own rail lines.

Electrifying the delivery of the cement and limestone from the quarries would be a large and very expensive operation.

This Google Map shows Earle’s Sidings at Hope.

Perhaps a half-way house solution would be to use diesel to haul trains between the quarries and Earle’s sidings, where the locomotive is changed for an electric one?

  • But that would then mean that all routes from between the Peak District quarries and their destinations would need to be fully-electrified.
  • It should be noted that that the problem of zero-carbon trains, also exists at port and rail freight interchanges, where safe operation with 25 KVAC overhead wires everywhere can be a nightmare.
  • Rail freight companies are unlikely to change their old diesel locomotives for new expensive electric locomotives, until all possible routes are fully electrified.
  • It is also a big problem, all over the world.

Perhaps, what is needed is a self-powered zero-carbon locomotive with sufficient power to haul the heaviest trains?

I believe such a locomotive is possible and in The Mathematics Of A Hydrogen-Powered Freight Locomotive, I explored the feasibility of such a locomotive, which was based on a Stadler Class 68 locomotive.

The zero-carbon locomotive, that is eventually developed, may be very different to my proposal, but the commercial opportunities for such a locomotive are so large, that I’m sure the world’s best locomotive designers are working on developing powerful locomotives for all applications.


Northern Powerhouse Rail’s ambition for Manchester and Sheffield via the Hope Valley Line is simply stated as four tph in forty minutes. But this may be something like.

  • Three fast tph in forty minutes.
  • One stopping tph in perhaps fifty minutes.
  • One freight tph in each direction to and from the quarries that lie to the South of the line.

I didn’t realise how close that the line is to that objective, once the following is done.

  • Introduce 100 mph passenger trains on the route.
  • Improve the track as has been planned for some years.

Note that all the passenger trains, that now run the route; Class 185, 195 and 802 trains, are all 100 mph trains, although they are diesel-powered.

With a length of just under 43 miles, the route is also ideal for battery electric trains to work the passenger services, be the trains be from Hitachi, CAF or another manufacturer, after High Speed Two electrifies the Midland Main Line to the North of Clay Cross North Junction, in preparation for high speed services between London and Sheffield.

I would recommend, that one of High Speed Two’s first Northern projects, should be to upgrade the Midland Main Line between Clay Cross North junction and Sheffield station to the standard that will be required for High Speed Two.

I would also recommend, that the Government sponsor the development of a hydrogen electric locomotive with this specification.

  • Ability to use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC electrification
  • 110 mph operating speed on electrification.
  • Ability to use hydrogen.
  • 100 mph operating speed on hydrogen.
  • 200 mile range on hydrogen.

A locomotive with this specification would go a long way to decarbonise rail freight in the UK and would have a big worldwide market.

Project Management Recommendations

This project divides neatly into three.

  • Perform the upgrades at Dore Junction and add the loop in the Bamford area, as detailed in Wikipedia, which will increase the capacity of the Hope Valley Line.
  • Electrify the Midland Main Line between Clay Cross North junction and Sheffield, as will be needed for High Speed Two. This electrification will allow battery electric trains to run between Manchester and Sheffield and between Sheffield and London.
  • Procurement of the trains. CAF and Hitachi are currently finalising suitable designs for this type of operation.

It would also be helpful, if the freight trains could be hauled by zero-carbon hydrogen electric locomotives, to create a much-improved zero-carbon route between Manchester and Sheffield.






November 23, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts On The Buxton Line

In these four posts.

I describe an enjoyable trip up from Manchester Piccadilly station up and down the Buxton Line to Buxton station.

These are some thoughts.

Rolling Stock

The Buxton Line is very stiff for a railway in England. Wikipedia says this about the rolling stock.

Due to steep gradients on this line, Class 142 and Class 153 DMUs are banned from the section of line between Hazel Grove and Buxton. Therefore, services to Buxton are worked by Class 150 and Class 156 DMUs. Also Class 158 DMUs were once blocked from operating on the line to Buxton due to the possibility of the large roof-mounted air vents striking low bridges on the route.Piccadilly to Hazel Grove services used Class 323 electric multiple units up until 2008.

I went up in a Class 150 train and came down in a Class 156 train.

The Class 150 train definitely found the climb a struggle and it wasn’t even that full.

I dread to think how even two Class 156 trains working together would have coped after a City-United Derby in Manchester.

The trains up and down this line need to have the following characteristics.

  • Four-cars or more.
  • Lots of power.
  • Step-free access from the platform for wheel-chair users and buggy pushers.
  • Big windows.
  • Lots of space for luggage and bicycles.

As it is a unique tourist line, what about a commentary available through the train’s wi-fi?

The Class 319 Flex train for which this Manchester to Buxton is going to be a test route, should be a lot better, but as tourism by train grows in importance for the rail companies, a need for a specialist tourism-friendly interior will need to be developed.

These are some pictures I took of a Thameslink Cllass 319/4 train, that will be the starting point for the Class 319 Flex train.

The Class 319 Flex trains could be an improvement. They’ve even got a First Class section.


When the line is run consistently by one type of rolling stock, I would hope that the platform-train step will be minimised, which I think is one of the biggest drawbacks to train travel for perhaps wheel-chair users and buggy pushers in the UK.

Not on this line, but in my recent trip to the North, on one occasion, I nearly saw a child tipped out of a buggy under a Pacer at Wigan Wallgate station. Luckily the child and the buggy was caught by two quick elderly and obviously savvy passengers.

A straight push-across gets rid of this problem. It can surely be pretty much achieved on the Buxton Line, if one one type of train works the regular services on the line.

I didn’t look in detail, but I suspect that only Stockport, Hazel Grove and Buxton are true step-free stations, although I suspect is not difficult at some stations, especially on the line going to Buxton.

The line going to Buxton is probably the most important side and it would be interesting to see how many passengers get out at intermediate stations coming down from Buxton compared to the number going to Buxton.

Some of the stations were very basic and others less so and I suspect that some improvements would be welcome, especially if on a wet day, you had to wait an hour for a train.

I would think too, that some stations have good views from the Buxton-bound platform, so is there scope to create a proper viewing place for the less-mobile.

There is certainly scope to improve the facilities at stations along the line.

Buxton Station

Buxton station has scope to be made into a proper terminus with perhaps a cafe and a comfortable waiting room.

After my experience recently, that I wrote about in A Good Day Out In A Wheelchair, some form of wheelchair or mobility scooter hire at the station might be in order.

I’ve seen mobility scooter hire at one coastal station before, but I can’t remember where. It might not even have been in the UK!

Train Frequency

This line has an hourly service, with extra trains in the Peak.

But as it is at least a double-track all the way from Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, I’m sure that the line could be run at a frequency of two trains per hour all day. Especially, if the trains  were like the Class 319 Flex trains and had enough power to maintain a faster timetable, even when fully-loaded.

Perhaps, with two trains per hour and decent kiosks at some of the intermediate stations, it would even attract more casual walkers to explore the line.


The Buxton Line could be one, where the normal ticketing model will be fine for the locals, but may not be the best for tourists and casual users.

Disability Issues

I haven’t had a proper look and I’m no expert, but I do wonder if selected improvements could be made, the line could be a way for those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility to explore the area.


The Buxton Line is a valuable railway for the residents and visitors to the area.

I do wonder though with a small amount of selective and sympathetic development, that it could be made even more valuable.

In some ways, designing the Class 319 Flex train, so that it can work the line, can only encourage more passengers to use the route.


March 16, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Hazel Grove Station

Hazel Grove station is an important station on the Buxton Line.

Just to the South of the station, there is a large housing development, which probably helps to explain the what looks to be new expansion to the car parking at the station.

This Google Map shows the area around Hazel Grove station.

There are two main railways on the map.

  • The Buxton Line runs North-West to South-East, connecting Stockport and Manchester in the North-West to Buxton in the South-East.
  • The Buxton Line goes through Hazel Grove station, where some trains stop and under Chester Road.
  • The rail line running East-West connects the Hope Valley Line in the East to a freight-only going West.

There is also a single-track bi-directional chord that connects the Hope Valley Line with Stockport.

The East Midlands Trains service between Norwich and Liverpool uses this chord, but doesn’t stop in Hazel Grove station.

Current Services At Hazel Grove Station

Under Services in the Wikipedia entry for Hazel Grove station, this is said.

Today Hazel Grove is served by two trains per hour to/from Manchester Piccadilly – the hourly Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton and the hourly Preston to Hazel Grove DMU services. Only a few of the local DMU services between Manchester and Sheffield go via Hazel Grove – most travel via New Mills Central. Few services from Buxton now continue past Manchester Piccadilly and those that do (currently seven services in total) operate in the early morning and evening business peak periods.

So Hazel Grove has a just two diesel multiple units per hour to Manchester Piccadilly..

The Class 319 Flex Train

If the building, testing and delivery of the Class 319 Flex train goes according to the Porterbrook/Northern plan, then the following will happen before the December 2017 Timetable Change..

  • Four Class 319 Flex trains will be in service.
  • Four more Class 319 trains will be in progress of being converted to Class 319 Flex trains.
  • Class 319 Flex trains will be running between Manchester Piccadilly and Buxton.
  • Class 319 Flex trains must be running to Blackpool and Windermere, if the sub-leased Class 185 trains have to go back to TransPennine.

Without any extra electrification, the Class 319 Flex trains will be able to run from Hazel Grove to  to Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool North, Buxton, Manchester Piccadill, Preston, Wigan North Western and Windermere

New Track/Electrification Before December 2017 Timetable Change

These changes and upgrades, should happen before the December 2017 Timetable Change.

  • Manchester to Preston via Bolton should be electrified.
  • The Blackpool Branch Lines to Blackpool North should be electrified.
  • Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge could be electrified.
  • According to Network Rail, the Ordsall Chord should be in operation.

They could make a lot of difference to services from Hazel Grove station.

  • Class 319 electric trains could run to Blackpool North, Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria, Preston and Wigan North Western.
  • Class 319 Flex bi-mode trains could run to Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool South, Buxton, Clitheroe, Stalybridge and Windermere

Northern Rail have an awful lot of sensible possibilities for electric or bi-mode services.


March 9, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment