The Anonymous Widower

Liverpool’s Vision For Rail

This document on the Liverpool City Region web site is entitled Metro Mayor’s Vision Of A Merseyrail for All Takes Vital Step Forward With Successful Trial Of New Battery-Powered Trains.

It makes these points in the first part of the document.

  • Game-changing technology paves way for Merseyrail network expansion across the Liverpool City Region and beyond
  • Merseyrail services could reach as far as Wrexham and Preston
  • City Region is at the forefront of the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology.

The new battery-powered trains would certainly go a long way to  enable, these objectives.

Battery-powered trains would need a range of 26.9 miles to go between Bidston and Wrexham stations.

Battery-powered trains would need a range of 15.3 miles to go between Ormskirk and Preston stations.

This link is to the North Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter for Spring 2021.

This is said about battery range of the new Class 777 trains.

Later model Class 777’s have the ability to leave the 3rd rail and operate under battery power for 20 miles or more with a full load thus
permitting expansion of the Merseyrail network beyond its current limits.

I suspect they will also have regenerative braking to batteries, which will increase the range and allow Bidston and Wrexham stations to be achieved without charge.

It certainly sounds like Preston and Wrexham and all the intermediate stations,  will be added to the Merseyrail network.

As to the third point above about the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology, I suspect this is mainly regenerative braking to batteries and replacement of elderly worn-out power supply equipment.

There is more in the Liverpool City Region document.

Expanding Merseyrail

This is said.

The game-changing technology could allow the Merseyrail network to extend across all six city region boroughs to places like Rainhill in St Helens, Woodchurch on the Wirral and Widnes in Halton.

It could also allow the new fleet to operate as far afield as Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn.

Note.

  1. A 25 KVAC capability could well be needed.
  2. Chargers could be needed at some of these stations. I suspect Stadler have a Swiss manufacturer in mind.

In the run-up to May’s elections, the Mayor pledged to deliver ‘Merseyrail for All, a commitment to connecting under-served communities to the Merseyrail network.

New Stations

Initially the battery-powered trains, which are considerably greener, using up to 30% less energy than the existing fleet, are set to run on services to a planned new station at Headbolt Lane, Kirkby.

The wider Merseyrail for All programme could ensure every community is well served by an integrated public transport network and new and refurbished train stations are also high on the agenda.

They could include:

  • The Baltic Triangle in Liverpool
  • Carr Mill in St Helens
  • Woodchurch on the Wirral

Note.

Tram-Trains And Trackless Trams

The document says this.

Tram-Train technology and trackless trams will also be looked at as potential means of extending the Merseyrail network into hard-to-reach places. The technology could benefit areas such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Speke, Kirkby Town Centre, Southport Town Centre, Wirral Waters and the Knowledge Quarter.

Tram-trains built by Stadler in Valencia are already running in Sheffield and in the next few years they should be deployed on the South Wales Metro.

They were built by Stadler, who are building Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains, so I suspect they’ll go together like peaches and cream.

The Belgian firm; Van Hool have a product called Exquicity. This video shows them working in Pau in France.

These tram buses run on rubber types and are powered by hydrogen.

Similar buses running in Belfast are diesel-electric.

Could these be what the document refers to as trackless trams?

Battery Train Trials

The article finishes with this summary of the battery train trials. This is said.

Under the battery trials, financed by the Transforming Cities Fund, one of the new class 777 trains fitted with the battery technology was tested on the Northern line.

The batteries exceeded expectations with the trains travelling up to 20 miles per run without the need for re-charging.

The battery trains would remove the need for the third ‘electric’ rail, enabling the trains to travel beyond the existing network without major track investment.

The units passed all tests during four weeks of trials on the City Region’s rail network in May and June.

The Combined Authority and partners are still assessing the full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the programme and will provide more information regarding the roll out as soon as it has been agreed.

It looks to me, if all these plans get implemented successfully, Liverpool City Region will have one of the best public transport systems of any similar-sized cities in the world.

The Full Plan As A Map

This article on the BBC is entitled Battery-Powered Trains Part Of Merseyrail Expansion Plan.

The article contains this map.

There is no key or explanation, but it appears that the pink lines are new routes, where Merseyrail will run trains.

Before I discuss each of the possible routes, I will discuss two big factors, that will affect a lot of my thinking.

The West Coast Main Line

Avanti West Coast have the following stops in trains per hour (tph)  at these stations on the West Coast Main Line as its trains pass the East of Merseyside.

  • Crewe – At least 5 tph
  • Warrington Bank Quay – At least 2 tph
  • Preston – At least 1 tph

These frequencies are in addition to these direct trains.

  • 1 tph to Liverpool Lime Street, which will rise to 2 tph in the December 2022, with a call at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Occasional services to Chester throughout the day.

Passengers do not have to go via Liverpool Lime Street to travel to London.

In addition. there are useful services run by TransPennine Express to Scotland, that call at Preston.

In Future; High Speed Two

This will call at Crewe, Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway, Preston and Warrington.

Northern Trains

Northern Trains were in all sorts of troubles and the service is now run directly by the Government’s Operator of Last Resort. I suspect that any reasonable offer to takeover over a service will be looked at favourably.

I will now look at Merseyrail’s new routes.

Ormskirk And Southport Via The Burscough Curve

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • A curve between Burscough Bridge and Burscough Junction will have to be rebuilt on a former alignment.
  • Southport and Ormskirk are about 13 miles apart.
  • Southport and Ormskirk have third-rail electrified lines to Liverpool and the South.

It would be an ideal route for battery-electric trains with a range of 20 miles.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near five stations a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It gives Southport a town of over 91,000 people more capacity to the city of Liverpool for jobs, leisure and shopping.
  • Will it open up more opportunities for new housing in villages like Burscough?

It will certainly give Merseyrail operational advantages to Southport.

Ormskirk And Preston

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Northern Trains service.
  • Preston and Ormskirk are about 15.3 miles and 32 minutes apart.
  • Omskirk has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Preston has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near the Ormskirk and Preston Line a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between North Liverpool and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced to under thirty minutes.

As football is so important to the Liverpool economy, would a time around forty-five minutes between Preston and Sandhills station tempt football supporters going to Anfield and Goodison Park to use the train and then perhaps a trackless tram to the stadium?

This Google map shows the location of Anfield, Goodison Park and Sandhills station.

Note.

  1. Anfield is in the bottom-right corner of the map and is marked by a red arrow.
  2. Goodison is in the top-right corner of the map, slightly to the West of Anfield.
  3. Sandhills station is in the bottom-left corner of the map.

Both stadia are around a mile and a half from the station.

Ormskirk And Preston

Once the Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston services are up and running, it would surely be possible to run a Southport and Preston service.

  • There would be a reverse at Ormskirk.
  • The two sections of Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston would both need battery power.
  • Whilst the driver changed ends at Ormskirk, the train would be recharged using a fast and efficient charger.
  • Times between Southport and Preston would be under an hour.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living in Southport, a direct link to Preston.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between Southport and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.

This service could be very valuable for passengers, but I suspect the route could be implemented with minimal infrastructure changes at Ormskirk station.

Ormskirk Station

This picture shows Ormskirk’s single platform from the Merseyrail end.

Note.

  1. The Liverpool train in the foreground.
  2. The Preston train in the background.
  3. The solid barrier between the trains.

 

I wonder if the following would be possible with the barrier removed.

  • The long platform would be treated as one platform divided into two.
  • Perhaps they will be the Liverpool and Preston/Southport platform,
  • Trains that will leave the station for Liverpool will stop in the Liverpool platform.
  • Trains that will leave the station for Preston or Southport will stop in the Preston/Southport platform.
  • Through trains between Liverpool and Preston or Southport would be possible.
  • A train between Preston and Southport could reverse in the Preston/Southport platform, whilst trains for Liverpool used the Liverpool platform.

It looks like it’s an efficient layout borrowed from somewhere else. and Stadler have probably seen it before.

Headbolt Lane Station

In Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through, I described the new Headbolt Lane station.

This screen capture is from the video in that post,

Note.

  1. Two platforms going away from the camera and one platform and what looks to be a siding going towards the camera.
  2. There appears to be no direct connection between the two different sets of tracks.

Until proven wrong, I believe that the camera is looking towards Liverpool, as it would mean that Liverpool services had two platforms. But they currently make do with one at Kirkby.

There is a walk through between the tracks, which

  • Enables passengers to access the second platform.
  • Allows passengers to enter the station from the other side.
  • Allows non-passengers to cross the tracks on the level.
  • Avoids the need to build a bridge.

It is certainly an innovative design.

If occasional trains need to go through, could there be a lift-out section of the walk-through?

But as there are buffer stops on the tracks in the three platforms, that are either side of the walk-through, I suspect it will never happen, as it’s too much hassle.

In the Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station this is said.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority announced in July 2021 that a trial of a battery electric multiple unit (BEMU) version of the new Class 777 will serve the new station, when it opens. This will not require all of the line extension to Headbolt Lane to be electrified.

Merseyrail would appear to have neatly side-stepped, the Office of Road and Rail’s policy of no more third-rail electrification.

But I’m sure Merseyrail could put an approved train-charging system in the station.

  • They would need one if a Class 777 train arrived with a flat battery.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Wigan Wallgate service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.

The system could be based on a short length of overhead wire and a slim pantograph or a system like Railbaar from Furrer and Frey.

But does it give any clues as to the orientation of the station in the video?

  • As there are three platforms and a siding, that meet at Headbolt Lane station, all could be fitted with chargers. to make sure the services are reliable.
  • Liverpool services could be handled at either end, as it only needs one platform.
  • Skelmersdale and Wigan services could probably share a platform, but they would be better surely using two platforms.
  • The siding could be created into a platform for extra services to be added to the Merseyrail network

So there is no pressing reason, why the station cannot be North or South of the railway.

I suspect road layout and land use issues will eventually decide, the orientation of the station.

Headbolt Lane And Skelmersdale

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail and Lancashire County Council.
  • Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale are just a few miles apart.
  • Direct running between Liverpool and Skelmersdale will not be possible, but it will be step-free change between trains.

The Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station seems to indicate a proposed extension of the Northern Line with the next stop being the existing Rainford station. This would surely not add greatly to costs and bring Merseyrail to more fare-paying customers.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • Skelmersdale is a town of nearly 39,000 and is said to be one of the largest towns in England without a rail connection.
  • At Headbolt Lane passengers will be able to change for Liverpool or Manchester.

A lot of passengers will have received a modern train service.

Headbolt Lane And Wigan

Consider.

  • This service is currently run by Northern trains.
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate stations are just over twelve miles apart.
  • Someone, who should know told me that by the time High Speed Two starts running through Wigan at a frequency of two tph, the two Wigan stations will have been combined.
  • Headbolt Lane station could be the drop-off point for those needing to go to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London on both the current West Coast Main Line and the future High Speed Two.

What better way to start that journey than on one of Merseyrail’s battery-electric Class 777 trains.

What would it do for passengers?

With modern battery-electric trains linking Headbolt Lane station to the combined Wigan station complex, this route could be the zero-carbon route between large parts of Liverpool and cantres of tourism and employment along and to the East of the M6 and the West Coast Main Line.

Liverpool South Parkway And Warrington Central

Consider.

  • This would be takeover of part of the current Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road service.
  • The map shows the service going at least as far as Warrington Central station.
  • Stations between Hunts Cross and Warrington Central include Halewood, Hough Green, Widnes, Sankey and the new Warrington West stations.

Distances are as follows.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street – 5.5 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Warrington Central – 12.7 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Trafford Park – 25.4 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Manchester Oxford Road – 28.7 miles

The following sections of the route have 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street
  • East of Trafford Park.

With a bit more electrification at either end, the whole route should be in range of a battery-electric Class 777 train.

Or the Class 777 trains could be fitted with bigger batteries!

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • This is a route that has needed decent trains for years and has finally got new Class 195 trains.
  • But, in addition, the battery-electric Class 555 trains would decarbonise the route.

The major problem, though is not infrastructure or trains, but surely Andy Burnham, who is the outspoken Mayor of Greater Manchester could object to Merseyrail invading his patch.

Merseyrail’s Cheshire Ambitions

This is a section of the map shown on the BBC article, showing Cheshire.

It looks like there could be as many as three routes.

  • Chester and Crewe
  • Chester and Runcorn East
  • Ellesmere Port and Runcorn East

I’ll now cover the routes in detail.

Chester And Crewe

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Crewe are about 21,2 miles and 25 minutes apart.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Crewe has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.
  • There are proposals, that Beeston Castle and Tarporley station be re-opened.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • If trains will run between Crewe and Liverpool, this creates a second route between the two major stations.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between The Wirral and Crewe, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced by enough to increase service frequency on the route.

I This would be a very useful extension of the Merseyrail network.

Chester And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Runcorn East are about 13.1 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would enable a Merseyrail circular route from Liverpool Lime Street to Chester via Edge Hill, Wavertree Technology Park, Broad Green, Roby, Huyton, Whiston, Rainhill, Lea Green, St Helens Junction, Warrington Bank Quay, Frodsham, Runcorn East and Helsby.
  • After Chester, it could take the Wirral Line back to Liverpool to make it a true Mersey Circular service.

Would a Mersey Circular service be a good idea?

Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the infrequent Northern Rail service.
  • Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East are about 10.8 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Ellesmere Port has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would certainly improve rail transport along the South Bank of the Mersey from Ellesmere Port to Warrington Bank Quay or Runcorn East depending on the Eastern terminus.
  • If the terminal were to be Warrington Bank Quay that would sort out the charging.
  • It could create a direct link in modern electric trains between Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.

I feel that an Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay service would be good for the area.

The Borderlands Line

I’ve left the Borderlands Line to last, as I feel it will be a lot more than commuter and leisure line between Liverpool and Wrexham.

  • It crosses the border between England and Wales
  • The line is 26.9 miles of double track, with a single-track extension of under two miles between the two Wrexham stations.
  • It has over twenty stations with more planned in both countries
  • It crosses a couple of rivers on long steel bridges.
  • It brings commuters to Liverpool and takes workers to the high-tech factories of companies like Airbus and Toyota on Deeside.
  • It connects to a lot of golf courses, one of which is the Open Championship course  at Royal Liverpool.
  • Once in Wales it has two connections to the North Wales Coast Line, which runs between Chester and holyhead.

It is no ordinary railway and is ripe for improvement to bridge passengers to employment sites and leisure areas along its route.

The line has one big problem in that passengers need to change trains at Bidston between Liverpool and Wrexham stations.

  • Between Bidston and Liverpool the Merseyrail electric trains to and from  Hoylake are used and they turn in the Liverpool Loop under Liverpool City Centre calling at four stations before returning.
  • Between Bidston and Wrexham, diesel multiple units are useds.

It is a route design straight out of the 1970s of men with minds without imagination. Even British Rail were designing battery-electric trains in the 1950s, which I wrote about in Did The Queen Ever Ride In This Train?.

Merseyrail intend to right the wrongs of the past using battery-electric Class 777 trains.

  • As electric versions of these trains will be used on the Liverpool and Hoylake service, there would be no need to change trains at Bidston if the Liverpool and Wrexham trains were just a battery-electric version of the same train.
  • The Wrexham trains would drive round the Liverpool Loop tunnel as hundreds of trains do every day.
  • The trains would be charged on the existing third-rail electrification at the Liverpool end.
  • I’m fairly certain that a frequency of two tph would be possible on the route, if the Liverpool Loop tunnel signalling could cope,
  • Trains would need to be charged at the Wexham end of the route and I’m sure Stadler have a solution.

It would be an efficient and cost effective way to decarbonise a tricky but useful branch line.

Conclusion

Stadler are playing their full orchestra of ideas on Merseyrail.

When completed, it will be one of the best metros of any urban areas up to a million people in the world.

This metro could do for Liverpool, what the Beatles did for the city in the 1960s.

July 15, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Will Hitachi ABB Power Grids Technology Be Used At Headbolt Lane Station?

Today, I was sent a link to the North Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter for Spring 2021.

Current Progress on Merseyrail’s Class 777 Trains

This is said in the newsletter about the progress of the new Class 777 trains.

At a recent meeting of the Liverpool City Region rail user groups hosted by Liam Robinson, Chair of
Merseytravel, a short presentation was given detailing progress in bringing the new Class 777 Stadler fleet into
operation. NCRUG has been keeping a keen watch on the introduction of this new fleet; later model Class 777’s
have the ability to leave the 3rd rail and operate under battery power for 20 miles or more with a full load thus
permitting expansion of the Merseyrail network beyond its current limits.

Particularly of interest in our patch is the Ellesmere Port to Helsby line, although at one point in the meeting I
did raise the concept of ultimately having a complete Merseyrail service circling the Mersey Estuary on a metro
styled basis Ambitious certainly, but unrealistic as a long-term goal? There would be considerable work required
at Liverpool south Parkway to connect the Merseyrail line to the network, however the terrain is suitably flat and
the trains will be capable. This obvious evolution of the network did seem to take the meeting by surprise.

Unfortunately the much anticipated introduction of the Class 777’s has been delayed for a number of factors,
not least of all the pandemic but border issues and storage also play a part. Trails are taking place on the Kirby
and Ormskirk lines, and full introduction might not be until as late as next year. The Liverpool City Region has a
clearly defined set of (deliverable) objectives for development of the rail network and the expansion has been
prioritised with a line to Skelmersdale being top of the list and the first step of that being a new station at Headbolt
Lane, Kirby – plans are already well developed for this. It is expected to be this line where proof of concept trails
will be conducted for the battery powered 777’s, although Merseyrail does have authorisation to use Ellesmere
Port–Helsby on account of the low traffic movements on that line! Network expansion is being considered to
Widnes via Hunts Cross and possibly as far as Warrington, but when the question of Ellesmere Port–Helsby
was raised, the route, although under consideration, was not high on the priority list. I suspect it will be at least
several years away and I’m sure the delayed introduction of the type will not only come as a disappointment for
NCRUG but also the Community Rail Partnership and CWaC Council, who have funded a basic feasibility study
into possible demand. Therefore we are left with the Northern Trains service for the foreseeable future – 3 return
trains daily on the current schedule.

After reading this extract, I am puzzled. The original priority was to use the battery capabilities of the new Class 777 trains to extend the Ellesmere Port service to Helsby.

  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations are 5.2 miles apart.
  • Ellesmere Port has a two trains per hour (tph) service to Birkenhead and Liverpool.
  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations are linked by a three trains per day (tpd) service.

Helsby station has comprehensive connections to Chester, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Warrington Bank Quay station.

Two tph between Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations would certainly improve train services in the area and probably explains the disappointment shown by the writer of the newsletter.

So why have Merseyrail switched the emphasis to battery trains to Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale from Ellesmere Port and Helsby?

Headbolt Lane Station

Headbolt Lane station is a station of an unusual design, which I wrote about in Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through.

  • Two platforms appear to face West towards Liverpool.
  • One platform appears to face East towards Wigan and Manchester.
  • The platforms meet head-on and a walkway runs between them to allow passengers to access all platforms.
  • There appears to be provision for a fourth platform to serve Skelmersdale. which is to the East of Headbolt Lane.

I think the design means that access to all platforms is level, passengers can enter from both sides of the railway and the station doesn’t need an expensive bridge.

Between Kirkby And Headbolt Lane Stations

Headbolt Lane and Kirkby stations are a couple of miles apart at most. So were Merseyrail hoping to extend the third-rail electrification to Headbolt Lane station, but the Office of Rail and Road has more or less said that no more third-rail electrification is allowed. See ORR’s Policy On Third Rail DC Electrification Systems.

So are Merseyrail having to use battery power between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane stations?

If they are then they have the trains.

As according to the extract from the Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter, the Class 777 trains have a range of twenty miles on battery power, then this should be no problem.

The Skelmersdale Shuttle

The design of Headbolt Lane station does mean that there will be no through running between Liverpool and Skelmersdale.

So it looks to me, that to allow full step-free access to all platforms, the Skelmersdale service will be a battery-electric shuttle train.

  • It could also be the only train on a single-track between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale, which would simplify signalling and operation.
  • Two tph could be possible with a single train.
  • The train would be charged in either termini using an appropriate charging system.

How many other simple branch lines could be run that way or built new?

Headbolt Lane And Manchester Victoria Via Wigan Wallgate

Consider.

  • The distance between Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria stations is just under thirty miles, which is well within range of the average battery-electric trains currently under development.
  • As the current Kirkby and Manchester Victoria stations is run by Northern Trains and they are likely to be acquiring some Class 331 trains with a battery capability, these will surely be an ideal train.
  • The train would be charged in the East-facing platform at Headbolt Lane station using an appropriate charging system.

Headbolt Lane station would be a diesel-free station. As incidentally, so would Kirkby and Skelmersdale stations.

Charging Trains At Headbolt Lane Station

It would appear that both East-facing platforms at Headbolt Lane station will need to charge these trains.

  • A Class 777 train with a third-rail capability and the ability in the future to access overhead electrification.
  • A Class 331 train with no third-rail capability and the ability to access overhead electrification.

Class 777 trains from Liverpool would hopefully have enough power in their batteries to return to Kirkby.

It would appear that a short length of 25 KVAC overhead electrification in both platforms would be ideal for charging trains to and from Manchester and Skelmersdale.

If one of Hitachi ABB Power Grids’s containerised overhead electrification power systems could handle both platforms, it would surely be ideal.

A crossover to allow Manchester and Skelmersdale trains to use either East-facing platform, might be desirable, as it could improve reliability.

Conclusion

It looks like Hitachi ABB Power Grids can provide a sensible solution to handling battery-electric trains at Headbolt Lane station. Or for that matter at any station, where battery-electric trains interface with the UK rail network.

July 10, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through

I had to show this Merseytravel YouTube video, as I feel the new Headbolt Lane station uses some interesting ideas.

This Google Map shows Headbolt Lane and the railway.

Note.

  1. The footbridge over the railway. I took the pictures from and around this bridge in Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – Headbolt Lane Station.
  2. The footbridge can’t be seen in the YouTube video.

Liverpool is to the West and Wigan is to the East.

These are my thoughts.

Is The Station North Or South Of The Railway?

As it is called Headbolt Lane, the station must have good access from that road, otherwise travellers will get rather confused.

So until proven otherwise, I will assume that the station must be to the North of the railway.

Which Way Is Liverpool In the Video?

If the station is North of the railway, then in the first part of the video, the visualisation approaches the station from the North and Liverpool is to the right and Wigan is to the left.

If that is right, then the yellow bus always points towards Liverpool.

How Many Platforms?

Wikipedia says that Headbolt Lane station will have three platforms.

From the video there will be two platforms for trains to and from Liverpool, although the current layout at Kirkby station makes do with just one platform.

There would also appear to be a single platform for trains to and from Wigan, Bolton and Manchester.

But there is a second Eastern track shown in the video, which possibly indicates provision has been made for a second platform for services in that direction.

Wot No Bridge?

It would appear that there is no bridge over or subway under the railway.

But it does appear that the platform layout shown allows passengers to walk between the ends of the tracks on the level to the platform or platforms on the side of the station away from the station building.

Will There Be A Second Entrance To The Station On The Other Side Of The Tracks?

The layout would allow this and it could be useful for those passengers living or working on that side of the railway.

Is The Platform Layout Unique?

I have travelled widely looked at railway stations all over the world.

But I can’t remember seeing a layout like this.

The layout does have advantages.

  • An expensive bridge with lifts will not be needed.
  • There is nothing mechanical or electrical to go wrong.
  • Extra platforms can be added if required.
  • It can also be used as a simple step-free way to cross the railway.

I suspect that the layout could be used in other places.

Train Frequencies To Liverpool

The current service between Kirkby station and Liverpool is four trains per hour (tph), which is handled on a single platform.

One platform at Headbolt Lane would surely be sufficient, but a second platform must surely allow extra services and provide more resilience in case of train failure.

Train Frequencies To Wigan, Bolton And Manchester

The current service between Kirkby station and Manchester is one tph, which is handled on a single platform.

One platform at Headbolt Lane would surely be sufficient and could easily handle two tph.

Are two platforms provided for Liverpool services, so that extra services could be run in the Peak or to provide more resilience, should a train fail in the station.

A Service To Skelmersdale

Consider.

  • Skelmersdale is about five miles North of the line between Headbolt Lane and Wigan.
  • One of Merseyrail’s current Class 507 trains covers the 5.5 miles between Kirkby and Sandhills station in twelve minutes.
  • The proposed layout of Headbolt Lane station does not allow direct services between Liverpool and Skelmersdale.

These distances and timing would mean the following.

  • A single shuttle train between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale could run a two tph service.
  • A pair of shuttle trains between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale could run a four tph service.

Passengers would need to change trains at Headbolt Lane station.

This may seem less passenger-friendly than a direct service, but it could be the most affordable option.

And it could always be improved with modifications at Headbolt Lane station.

Is There A Role For Battery-Electric Trains?

Consider.

  • For Health and Safety reasons, it is very unlikely that any new third-rail track will be laid in the UK.
  • The distance between the current Kirkby station and the new Headbolt Lane station is about 1.5 miles.
  • The distance between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations is less than eight miles.
  • I suspect Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations would both have good power supplies.
  • Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains have a battery capability.

Would this allow the following?

  • Liverpool and Headbolt Lane services to use battery power between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane station. All charging would be done between Liverpool and Kirkby.
  • The shuttle train between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale would work on battery power, with batteries charged at both ends of the route.

There is also the possibility, that the Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria service could be run using battery-electric Class 331 trains.

  • Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria will be a 28.5 mile service with a couple of miles of electrification at the Manchester end.
  • I estimate that the battery-electric Class 331 trains will have sufficient range to handle this route with charging at Headbolt Lane station.
  • Currently, trains from Manchester Victoria take over ten minutes to turnround at Kirkby station.
  • Provision for a charger could be built into Headbolt Lane station.

It would be a simple way to electrify the Kirkby and Manchester Victoria service.

In addition, battery-electric Class 331 trains are likely to have longer battery range than the Class 777 trains.

So might it be better if the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale shuttle was worked by battery-electric Class 331 trains.

If the two East-facing platforms at Headbolt Lane station were to be fitted with charging facilities, this would give an increased level of reliability.

Could Northern’s Manchester Victoria Service Terminate At Skelmersdale?

If both services were to be run by Northern’s battery-electric Class 331 trains, this could be a possibility.

  • A reverse would be needed at Headbolt Lane station.
  • I estimate that 2tph on the route would fit together well.
  • Trains would be charged at Skelmersdale station.
  • Chargers might not be needed at Headbolt Lane station.

In addition, a two tph service would fit in well with four or six tph to Liverpool.

Conclusion

It’s almost as if Headbolt Lane station could consist of three elements.

  • The station facilities, bus interchange and car parking.
  • A two-platform station for Merseyrail services to Liverpool
  • A two-platform station with charging facilities for Northern services to Blackburn, Bolton, Manchester Victoria, Skelmersdale and Wigan.

All services from Headbolt Lane station will be run by battery-electric reains.

Costs have been saved by the following.

  • Not having a bridge over the tracks.
  • Maintaining the separation between Northern and Merseyrail services.
  • Not electrifying between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane stations.
  • Not electrifying the Skelmersdale Branch.

The whole station appears to have been designed on a single level.

 

 

 

May 24, 2021 Posted by | Design, Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A First Visualisation Of Headbolt Lane Station

This visualisation of the proposed Headbolt Lane station in Kirkby has appeared on several web sites.

Wikipedia also says that the station will have one platform and as there is a Class 777 train on the left hand side of what I take to be the station building, I would assume that is the platform.

It looks an interesting station layout with a wide concourse with trains on one side and buses on the other.

I can’t work out from the image, if there is a long shelter alongside the train, as one sees on some tram stops. But if it was felt necessary one could surely be fitted to give passengers some covering in inclement weather.

As the station also features five-hundred parking spaces, these must be arranged around the station on this side of the railway, which is currently just a single track.

The Plans On Rail Future

This page on the Rail Future web site is entitled A Station Back In Skelmersdale and it indicates the following.

  • A map shows a spur, which is connected to the Kirkby and Wigan Line, by a large triangular junction between Rainford and Upholland stations, running North to Skelmersdale.
  • Services of two tph between Liverpool and Skelmersdale and an hourly service between Manchester and Skelmersdale are proposed.
  • Rainford station would appear to exchange a direct link to Manchester for a direct link to Liverpool. But then Rainford is in Merseyside and Upholland and Skelmersdale are in Lancashire.

With these proposals the junction and the spur would only need to be single-track, with Skelmersdale station only needing a single-platform.

Could the following simplifications also be done?

  • Upholland and Rainford stations become single platform stations
  • The track between the two stations is mothballed or even removed.
  • There would only be a single track between both stations and Skelmersdale station.

There’s certainly scope to save money on construction and maintenance.

Could this single track and platform design be the reason, why Headbolt Lane station only has a single platform?

Consider.

  • The current Kirkby station, handles four tph to and from Liverpool City Centre on a single platform.
  • The line becomes double-track to the East of Fazakerley station.
  • I suspect double-track is needed to allow 4 tph

I suspect Headbolt Lane station could handle four tph to and from Liverpool, but there may need to be some double-track between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane stations.

I also estimate that to travel the return journey on the approximately eight miles between Headbolt Land and Skelmersdale station will take about thirty minutes.

Would this mean that it were possible to create a timetable, which allowed four tph between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane stations and two tph between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations?

  • The single platform would be bi-directional.
  • Two tph out of four arriving at Headbolt Lane station would reverse and go back to Liverpool.
  • The other two tph would continue to Skelmersdale.
  • The two tph returning from Skelmersdale would continue to Liverpool.

It would be one for the Busby Berkeley of train time-tabling.

The alternative of running four tph between Liverpool and Skelmersdale would need the following.

  • Full double-tracking between Fazakerley and Skelmersdale stations.
  • Two platform stations at Kirkby, Headbolt Lane and Rainford, which would need step-free bridges.

It would be a much more expensive scheme.

How Much New Electrification Would Be Needed?

Given the politics of third-rail electrification, I suspect the scheme will use as little as possible.

If the battery-equipped Class 777 trains can run the return journey between Kirkby and Skelmersdale stations, then all track to the East of Kirkby station could be without electrification.

This would probably also mean that the current power supply wouldn’t need to be upgraded to cope with additional electrification.

Could There Be A Two tph Service Between Skelmersdale And Manchester?

I don’t think a single-track line between Upholland and Skelmersdale would rule this out, but having two two tph services might need a second platform at Skelmersdale station.

On the other hand, the Manchester and Liverpool services could be timed to allow a cross-platform interchange at Skelmersdale.

This would mean that someone wanting to go between say Sandhills and Bolton would go direct with a quick change at Skelmersdale.

Could There Be Through Running Between Manchester And Kirkby?

Four tph between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane station with two tph extending to Skelmersdale, running through the single-platform stations at Kirkby, Headbolt Lane and Rainford, would probably make the current Manchester and Kirkby service difficult, if not impossible.

But as the change at Kirkby will be replaced with one at Skelmersdale, it would be more of an inconvenience than a disaster.

In addition, if two tph were to be run between Manchester and Skelmersdale and the trains were timetabled to meet at Skelmersdale, this would effectively be a pseudo-through service.

A single track could be left between Upholland and Rainford for engineering trains and possibly the occasional freight train.

Strategic Car Parking

Consider.

  • The new Headbolt Lane station, is going to be provided with five hundred car-parking spaces.
  • The new Skelmersdale station will probably have adequate provision.
  • At the present time, Rainford and Upholland stations don’t appear to have any parking.

I would suggest, that a good look is taken at car and bicycle parking at all stations to the East of Headbolt Lane station.

Conclusion

It appears to be a scheme, that has been designed to keep costs to a minimum.

But that probably means, it is more likely to get built!

I also like the concept of a large station concourse alongside a single platform and track, which will probably be without electrification. It should be very safe too!

It is strange, that I’ve not seen that layout before either in the UK or on the many railways, that I’ve used abroad.

 

 

August 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Government Boost To Reopen Skelmersdale Rail Link To Manchester And Liverpool

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Lancs Live.

These two paragraphs give the whole story.

Rosie Cooper says the government has given her new assurances that it is committed to creating a Skelmersdale rail link.

Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris told the West Lancashire Labour MP that an initial £500m funding pot set aside for reopening lines closed under the Beeching Act could be used towards ongoing efforts for Skelmersdale.

To my mind, Skelmersdale illustrates the appalling planning of the 1960s.

These dates are from Wikipedia.

  • November 5th, 1956 – Skelmersdale station closed to passenger services.
  • January 10th, 1957 – Harold Macmillan becomes Prime Minister
  • 1961 – Skelmersdale was designated a new town.
  • March 27th, 1963 – Beeching Report
  • October 19th, 1963 – Sir Alec Douglas Hume becomes Prime Minister
  • November 4th, 1963 – Skelmersdale station closed to all services.
  • October 16th, 1964 – Harold Wilson becomes Prime Minister
  • 1968-1970 – The M58 opens to connect Skelmersdale to the M6 and the M57 at Switch Island.
  • June 19th, 1970 – Edward Heath becomes Prime Minister.

It looks like a rail connection to the new town was removed, but a comprehensive road network was built.

This policy seems to be very different to decisions taken at Billericay, Crawley, Harlow, Hemel Hempstead, Kirkby, Milton Keynes and Stevenage, where rail connections were at least maintained.

The Latest Plan For Skelmersdale Station

This is the latest plan for Skelmersdale station, according to the Wikipedia entry.

It has been proposed a new station at Skelmersdale would act as the terminus for Merseyrail’s Northern Line, with connections available to Wigan and Manchester. Initial estimates suggest that the scheme could cost around £300 million to develop. On page 36 of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Long Term Rail Strategy document of October 2017, it states that Merseytravel is currently working with Lancashire County Council and Network Rail to develop a plan to extend the Merseyrail network from Kirkby through to Skelmersdale, with work completed in 2019. They are considering 3rd rail electrification and other alternatives with a new station at Headbolt Lane to serve the Northwood area of Kirkby. The document on page 37 states two trials of electric 3rd rail/battery trains will be undertaken in 2020, this is one of the “alternatives”

Lancashire County Council approved a plan in May 2019 to commission an outline business case into reopening the station which will be presented to the government.

Note.

  1. The possible site of Headbolt Lane station and the Concourse Shopping Centre in Skelmersdale are about 8 miles apart.
  2. Will the trains to Wigan and Manchester be direct or via a change at the new Headbolt Lane station?
  3. The reference to battery-electric trains, which would be able to handle the sixteen-mile round trip easily.

The site of the station will be at the former Glenburn Sports College, which is a couple of hundred metres to the East of the Concourse Shopping Centre.

This Google Map shows the location.

I would feel that this is very convenient.

  • The former Glenburn Sports college is marked by the red arrow.
  • The Concourse Shopping Centre is to the West of the station.
  • The station would be well-connected to the road network.
  • The approach track to the station could probably run by the side of Southway and cross it using a bridge or underpass.

This second Google Map shows the station in relation to the Kirkby Branch Line.

Note.

  1. The Glenburn Campus is indicated with the red marker at the top of the map.
  2. The M58 goes across the map.
  3. Rainford station is in the South-West corner of the map.
  4. Upholland station is on the Eastern edge of the map below the M58.

The Kirkby Branch Line links the two stations.

  • The Kirkby Branch Line continues to the West to the new Headbolt Lane station, Kirkby station and Liverpool city centre.
  • The Kirkby Branch Line continues to the East to Wigan Wallgate, Bolton and Manchester Victoria stations.
  • The Kirkby Branch Line is double-track to the East of Rainford and single-track to the West.

How will Skelmersdale station be connected to the Kirkby Branch Line?

If you look at the previous map, notice that a network of roads lead down from the Concourse Shopping Centre and then go under the M58. From the Google Map, it looks like the roads go under the M58 where there is a generous bridge.

This Google Map shows the section of the route on both sides of the M58.

It looks to me that a single-track railway could be run between the new Skelmersdale station and the Kirkby Branch Line.

  • Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains are not large trains and I am certain a single track could be squeezed in alongside the roads.
  • The distance is about three miles and a train would take about six minutes or around about fifteen minutes for the round trip.
  • Four trains per hour (tph) would be possible, which is the same frequency as the current service between Kirkby station and Liverpool.

Putting this together, I think the following would be possible.

  • A single track line without electrification between the Kirkby Branch Line and the new Skelmersdale station to the East of the Concourse Shopping Centre on the Glenburn Sports Campus site.
  • Class 777 trains would use battery power to the East of Headbolt Lane station.
  • The trains would charge their batteries between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane station.
  • The branch would leave the Kirkby Branch Line to the East of Headbolt Lane station.
  • Up to four tph between Liverpool Central and Skelmersdale stations, calling at all stations.
  • Up to two tph between Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria stations via Wigan.
  • Passengers between Skelmersdale and Manchester would change at Headbolt Lane station.

Other schemes would be possible, but allowing a direct Manchester and Skelmersdale service might be complicated and add substantially to the cost.

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 13 Comments

Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – Headbolt Lane Station

In Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – How To Plan A New Rail-Link, I talked about Headbolt Lane station.

From Kirkby, I took a taxi to look at the sites of Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations.

These pictures were taken at the site of the proposed Headbolt Lane station.

Plans for the station talk about a single platform.

This Google Map shows the railway line, which runs alongside Headbolt Lane.

Note the footbridge in the bottom left corner of the map.

Merseyrail would seem to have a lot of space to put the station.

September 21, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – How To Plan A New Rail-Link

Skelmersdale is the second largest town in the North West of |England without a railway station.

But it does appear that things are progressing towards the town having what is probably a much-needed station.

This article in the Southport Visiter is entitled Funding boost for new rail link to Skelmersdale.

Reading the article, you get the impression that all the stakeholders have got together and come up with a sensible plan.

The Route

The article says this about the route.

The plan would see Merseyrail services extended on from the current terminus at Kirkby station to serve Headbolt Lane, Rainford and Skelmersdale. Skelmersdale would become the new interchange for Merseyrail, and Northern Services on to Wigan and Manchester.

This would seem to be a well-thought out plan to use Skelmersdale as an interchange.

This Google Map shows the Southern part of Skelmersdale and the railway that runs through Rainford and Upholland stations.

Note.

  1. The town centre of Skelmersdale is the Concourse, which is marked by the town’s name in the top-centre of the map.
  2. The Kirkby Branch Line runs across the map.
  3. Rainford station is in the South-West corner of the map.
  4. Upholland station is on the left-centre of the map.
  5. Kirkby station and the new Headbolt Lane station would be West of Rainford station on the existing line which is single track.
  6. The track from Rainford through Upholland and to the East is double-track.

It looks like a triangular junction would be created East of Rainford, that would allow trains from both the East (Upholland, Wigan and Manchester) and trains from the West (Kirkby and Liverpool) to turn to the North to a station in Skelmersdale.

Looking at the area in more detail from my virtual helicopter, I’m certain that  a station could be placed close to the town centre with the capability of handling four trains per hour from both Liverpool and Manchester.

The station would probably need two platforms; one for Liverpool and one for Manchester.

There would be various possibilities for the track layout between the station and the existing Kirkby Branch Line.

In the simplest form, each platform would have an independent single track, which would allow trains from both Liverpool and Manchester to arrive and depart from Skelmersdale simultaneously.

I would also arrange the two platforms as opposite faces of a shared island platform.

This would mean the following.

  • Trains from Liverpool and Manchester would arrive at the same time.
  • Trains to Liverpool and Manchester would depart a few minutes later at the same time.
  • Passengers needing to change at the station would only have to walk across the platform and wait for the other train to leave.
  • A coffee kiosk and a shop could be positioned on the shared platform.

The Northern end of the platform could be open and passengers could walk straight into the Shopping Centre or to the parking.

It would not only be passenger-friendly, but totally step-free and very affordable.

The only restriction would be that trains must be able to do the following in under fifteen minutes.

  1. Travel from the Kirkby Branch Line to Skelmersdale station.
  2. Turnback the train at Skelmersdale.
  3. Travel from Skelmersdale station to the Kirkby Branch Line.

I have said fifteen minutes, as that would be needed for four trains per hour.

This might not be possible with the current Class 508 and Class 142 trains, unless they were extremely well driven, but Merseyrail’s new Stadler trains and Northern’s 100 mph Class 319 trains, would probably be able to handle the service.

It would be a unique way to serve a town like Skelmersdale, which is a few miles from a double-track line.

The only complicated track-work needed would be where the branch joined the Kirkby Branch Line.

Electrification

Merseyrail’s network is electrified using 750 VDC third-rail, whereas if the line to Manchester were to be electrified it would probably use 25 KVAC overhead wires, as has been used all over North-West England.

Keeping the two lines independent would enable each to have its own system. This layout has been used between Dalston Junction and Highbury and Islington stations on the London Overground and it has worked successfully for over seven years.

The article in the Southport Visiter also says this.

Merseyrail’s new trains will be running on the existing network from 2020, and trials to run them beyond the existing electrified ‘third rail’ track could help inform the scope of the Skelmersdale scheme, potentially meaning that major changes to install electrified track wouldn’t be needed. Developments in Northern trains over the next few years could also remove the requirement for lineside infrastructure and power connections as part of the project.

In Battery EMUs For Merseyrail, I talked about how Stadler were going to fit batteries to two of the new Merseyyrail trains.

I’m sure that if the third-rail electrification was extended from Kirkby to Rainford, that one of the new Stadler trains will be able to reach Skelmersdale and return.

The Stadler trains might even be able to travel from the existing electrification at Kirkby to Skelmersdale and back.

Northern could run the service between Skelmersdale and Manchester, using their new Class 769 trains, which can operate on lines with or without electrification.

This could mean that the link to Skelmersdale station could be built without electrification.

Kirkby Station

Kirkby station would only need minor rebuilding as it is effectively a single long platform, where Liverpool and Manchester trains meet head-on.

The barrier in the middle of the single-track under the bridge would need removing and there would be some moving of signals, but nothing very expensive would be needed.

Headbolt Lane Station

Headbolt Lane station would be another single platform station, which would serve trains going between Liverpool and Skelmersdale.

Rainford Station

Rainford station wouldn’t need any modification, but it might be reduced to a single step-free platform.

A Co-Operative Project

The article in the Southport Visiter says this.

The Skelmersdale Project is led by Lancashire County Council, involving Merseytravel, West Lancashire Borough Council, Merseyrail, Northern Rail and Network Rail.

This must be the key to the success of the project.

The Cost Of The Project

The article in the Southport Visiter says that the current estimate of the project cost is £300 million.

These actions will need to be done.

  • Create the track to connect Skelmersdale station to the Kirkby Branch Line.
  • Build a shared double-platform station at Skelmersdale.
  • Build a single-platform station at Headbolt Lane.
  • Upgrade the signalling.
  • Deliver the new Stadler trains and ascertain their range on batteries.
  • Northern must acquire some trains for Skelmersdale to Manchester.

It looks to me, that a budget of £300 million would be adequate.

Building The Project

The major work would be creating the junction East of Rainford station and the route to Skelmerrsdale and its new station.

If it could be built without any major electrification, it shouldn’t be the most difficult of construction projects.

Headbolt Lane station could be built as a single platform alongside the existing line.

It looks to me, that this is a classic project that fits into Network Rail’s new philosophy as outlined in this article in Rail echnology Magazine, which is entitled Carne: I’m determined for private sector to directly invest in railway.

Conclusion

It is an excellent plan!

 

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 10 Comments

An Overview Of Headbolt Lane Station

Headbolt Lane station is Merseyrail’s solution to connecting the single-track Kirkby Branch of the Northern Line to the double-track Kirkby Branch Line from Wigan  Wallgate station in an efficient manner.

At present at Kirkby station, the following happens.

  • The two lines meet head-on at Kirkby station, which is less than satisfactory, with a walk along a shared platform to change trains.
  • The service between Liverpool and Kirkby is a Turn-Up-And-Go four tph.
  • The service between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate and Manchester is just one tph.
  • Also, I’m also not sure of the quality of the facilities at Kirkby station.

, So hopefully a new station at Headbolt Lane would offer advantages.

  • It would be a better-equipped station.
  • Interchange would be cross-platform.
  • The trains would be timed to be in the station at the same time.
  • The trains can double as waiting rooms, whilst waiting for passengers.
  • Ideally the frequencies on both branches would be the same at four tph.

I reckon that the current trains would take about the same four minutes to go from Kirkby to Headbolt Lane as they do between Fazakerley and Kirkby, as the distances are similar. So as the current trains seem to stop quickly at stations according to the timetable, perhaps a time of ten minutes between Fazakerley and Headbolt Lane is on the cards..

So given the need for the driver to change ends at Headbolt Lane station, it looks like the timings available with the current trains are not fast enough to allow the line to be extended to Headbolt Lane station and maintain the current four tph.

Four tph could probably be achieved if the line was made double-track or if a second turn-back platform were to be provided at Headbolt Lane station.

But all that would cost money.

But help would be at hand, in that the faster new Stadler trains,with  their ability to stop and get going again very quickly, would probably be designed to execute the turnback fast enough to keep the four tph service.

So it might appear that the consequence of this, is that Headbolt Lane station can’t be served by Merseyrail at four tph, until the new Stadler trains are delivered, unless the Class 507 trains are faster than they appear and the drivers know how to squeeze out their maximum performance.

One complication could be that services to Skelmersdale will pass through the station.

But this would probably ease the provision of four tph to and from Liverpool, as Skelmersdale would offer another station, where trains could be turned back, if say two tph turned at Headbolt Lane and two tph at Skelmersdale.

It might be that extension to Skelmersdale and making Headbolt Lane the turnback station for Kirkby need to be done together to get four tph from Kirkby to Liverpool with the current trains.

Before I leave the subject of Headbolt station, the question has to be asked, if trains can run directly between Liverpool and Wigan Wallgate.

Some would argue, that if you were doing that route, you’d go from Liverpool Lime Street to Wigan North Western, but what if you live at Kirkdale and your mother lives in Wigan?

As I believe that lines like these need a Turn-up-And-Go four tph, and I believe Merseyrail think the same way, then the best solution is to provide four tph both ways from Headbolt Lane station and make sure that passengers can just walk across to continue their journey.

Conclusion

I have come to the conclusion, that four tph from Kirkdale to Manchester is possible with a cross-platform change at Headbolt Lane station.

March 26, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 4 Comments

Sorting Out The Kirkby, Ormskirk And Southport Branches Of Merseyrail’s Northern Line

A Lot of changes will and could happen at the Northern end of Merseyrail‘s Northern Line in the next few years.

  • New bespoke Stadler trains will be introduced, that will run services from Liverpool to Kirkby, Ormskirk and Southport stations.
  • Class 319 and Class 319 Flex trains will start to appear at stations like Kirkby, Ormskirk and Southport, where Merseyrail’s network joins Northern Rail’s lines from Bolton, Manchester, Preston and Wigan.
  • A new station at Maghull North will be built.
  • Skelmersdale, which is one of the largest towns in the North-West without a rail connection, could be linked to Merseyrail’s  network.
  • A new Headbolt Lane station could be built to create a proper connection between Merseyrail and Northern’s trains using the Kirkby Branch Line to Wigan Wallgate station and onwards to Bolton, Manchester and Manchester Airport.
  • Ormskirk station could be remodelled to allow direct services Liverpool and Preston.
  • The Canada Dock Branch could be electrified and be opened to passenger trains.
  • The Burscough Curves could be reinstated.
  • The Southport to Manchester Line could be electrified.
  • Everton could be building a new stadium at Bradley Moore Dock.

In the next series of sections, I will cover some of these changes and issues raised in more detail.

Turn-Up-And-Go Services

Where I live in Dalston in East London, the London Overground run services at what they call a Turn-Up-And-Go service of four trains per hour (tph).

Merseyrail use this frequency on some of their lines, as do Birmingham and Leeds.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on some more routes in the North-West, where there is sufficient demand.

Can Stadler’s New Trains And Class 319 Trains Share The Same Tracks and Platforms?

I’m not sure about this, as until we see the new trains and/or their specification making a comparison is difficult.

  • Both trains can run on third rail electrified lines, although most of the current Class 319 trains working in the North West have had their third rail equipment removed.
  • The Stadler trains must be designed to work with the current Class 507 and Class 508 trains, which they probably must do during the introduction phase.
  • So could there be size problems between Stadler’s and the Class 319 trains?

But seeing how Stadler are always a company for the main chance, I wouldn’t put it past their engineers to design a train, that can work the same routes as all variants of the Class 319 trains, as replacing them in a few years time would be a nice little earner.

There is also plenty of words in the media, which state that 25 KVAC overhead capability can be added to the Stadler trains, so they can work lines out of Liverpool Lime Street.

As an aside here, I should mention the Halton Curve, which is to be upgraded to create a new route between Liverpool and Chester.

Under Upgrade in the Wikipedia entry for the Halton Curve, this is said about the building of the curve and its future services.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority approved the work in April 2016, utilising Government’s Local Growth Fund (LGF) funding £10.4 million, adding an additional £5.67 million from the city’s LGF. Work is hoped to start in June 2017 and to be completed in May 2018. This should lead to an hourly service between Liverpool and Chester from December 2018 along the curve with some services extending into North Wales.

With their dual voltage and electro-diesel capability, the Class 319 Flex trains must be an ideal train to work services to Chester and North Wales via the Halton Curve.

So I suspect there could be a lot of compatibility between the current Merseyrail trains, the new Stadler trains and the Class 319 trains, as otherwise it could be tricky to work the Halton Curve to Chester, until the new Stadler trains are delivered.

This leads me to say that  there should be no problems with both sets of trains sharing platforms and tracks on the surface branches of the Northern Line to Kirkby, Ormskirk and Southport.

I suspect that the Class 319 trains could also work the Northern Line tunnels, but I suspect that would be a step too far for Merseyraiil and they would prefer their network to be reserved for their new Stadler trains as much as possible.

Canada Dock Branch

The Canada Dock Branch will have a large influence on what happens  to the rail services in the North of Liverpool.

There will be a massive increase in capacity of Liverpool Docks after the completion of Liverpool2.

Under Freight Use in the Wikipedia entry for the Canada Dock Branch, this is said.

Due to the construction of Liverpool2 container terminal at the port of Liverpool the line will increase in freight traffic. In May 2016 it was announced that the line’s final section into the dock estate would be upgraded to double track from single track to increase capacity to the port. Combined with improved signalling at Earlestown, the improvements will enable up to 48 trains a day to enter the port. Work on the line is expected to be completed by 2019.

How many trucks is that going to remove from the M62?

Under Passenger Use in the Wikipedia entry for the Canada Dock Branch, this is said.

The line is also being seriously assessed for reopening to passengers with Everton F.C. and Liverpool F.C. stadia both located on the line’s route.

On 16 July 2007 the Liverpool Daily Post reported that Liverpool F.C. may partially fund the reopening of the line to passenger services providing a direct rail link to the proposed Stanley Park Stadium however this project has since been dropped by the club. This was highlighted on the Network Rail North West development plan as a potential project to be undertaken by Network Rail, rather than Liverpool F.C..

The Department for Transport’s Rail electrification document of July 2009, states that the route to Liverpool Docks will be electrified. The Canada Dock Branch Line is the only line into the docks.

Add this to 48 freight trains per day running into the Docks and this must surely result in the Canada Dock Branch being electrified between Liverpool Docks and where the Branch joins the electrified Liverpool and Manchester Lines at Wavertree Technology Park station.

This is also said about passenger services.

The electrification of this branch line would greatly assist in recommissioning passenger trains, as costs would be reduced. The electrification of the Liverpool and Manchester line will reduce travel time from around 45 minutes to 30 minutes between the two cities due to the greater acceleration achieved by electric trains in clearing lines quickly, and the raising of the speed limit along the line from 75 to 90 mph. These advantages will cascade onto the Canada Dock branch line. Class 319 dual-voltage, 3rd rail and overhead wires, EMUs will be fully refurbished and transferred from the Thameslink route to operate between Liverpool, Wigan and Manchester. The dual voltage trains can operate on Merseyrail’s 3rd rail network giving greater scope for route planning.

There is also a serious suggestion to introduce passenger services on this line in the Local Transport Plan for Merseyside. This was again mentioned in Merseytravel’s 30-year plan of 2014.

Putting the comments about electrification, passenger services and 319 trains together with Network Rail’s performance as regarding electrification in the North-West, I now feel that Porterbrook, Northern Rail and Rail North have thrown a very large drum of lubricating oil into the mix in the shape of the Class 319 Flex train.

A passenger service could be run along the Canada Dock Branch, as soon as the following conditions are met.

  • Some stations have been built or reopened.
  • The route is appropriately signalled, tested and certified.
  • A small number of Class 319 Flex trains are available.

Electrification can come later.

 

This Google Map shows Kirkdale  station on the Merseyrail Northern Line.

Note the dark cutting going North-East to South-West across the map. With a more detailed resolution, I can see railway tracks in the bottom.

This is the Canada Dock Branch.

So what do I think will happen and where would I put my money?

  • Electrification
  • A passenger service.
  • A station to serve Liverpool and Everton Football Clubs
  • Some other stations
  • An interchange at Kirkdale station between the Canada Dock Branch and the Northern Line.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Canada Dock Branch.

Headbolt Lane Station

Headbolt Lane station is Merseyrail’s solution to connecting the single-track Kirkby Branch of the Northern Line to the double-track Kirkby Branch Line from Wigan  Wallgate station in an efficient manner.

I wrote about this station in An Overview  Of Headbolt Lane Station

 

Kirkby Or Headbolt Lane To Manchester

In this section, by Kirkby, I mean Kirkby and/or Headbolt Lane. The former would apply now and the latter, when it is built.

Currently, a train running between Kirkby and Salford Crescent stations takes around 60 minutes, via Atherton.

If I apply Irene’s Law, which admittedly applies to London Underground journeys, but seems to work in a rough manner on intensive urban and suburban lines, I reckon that an electric train can do the following.

  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Piccadilly – 6 minutes
  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Victoria – 4 minutes

So it leads me to think that a Class 319 Flex train, which is faster than the current Class 156 train, could probably do Kirkby to either of the two Manchester stations in under an hour.

This would mean the following.

  • To provide a two tph service  to Manchester would require four trains.
  • To provide a four tph service  to Manchester would require eight trains.

Where the benefits come, is when all the lines are electrified, which means faster speed and quicker stops.

Take the four tph service between Dalston Junction and New Cross. As the service takes 22 minutes, the round trip can be done within an hour, giving drivers time to turn the train and have a comfort break or a coffee.

So this shorter route will only need four trains to porovide a four tph timetable.

Anything that can be done to reduce the journey time, means the required frequency can be attained with a smaller number of trains.

Going back to the Kirkby to Manchester service.

There is a bay Kirkby/Southport-facing platform at Wigan Wallgate station, which is shown in this Google Map.

And here’s a picture of the platform.

According to Wikipedia, the bay platform is for trains for Southport and Kirkby.

Wigan to Kirkby is currently scheduled at 24 minutes, which I suspect is so that a Class 142 Pacer can do a complete trip within the hour.

So this would mean the following.

  • 2 tph between Kirkby and Manchester would need 4 trains.
  • 2 tph between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate would need 2 trains.

So two trains have been saved.

But Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate is run at a Turn-Up-And-Go  frequency of 4 tph, where the trains have cross-platform access to Liverpool to Kirkby trains with the same frequency.

Southport To Manchester

I wasn’t intending to look at Southport to Manchester now, but as I’ve just looked at Kirkby to Manchester and the two routes both go through Wigan Wallgate station, I’ll do it to follow the Kirkby analysis.

Currently, a train running between Southport and Salford Crescent stations takes just over 60 minutes, via Atherton, with Southport and Wigan Wallgate taking thirty minutes.

So at a quick look, it would appear that

So this would mean the following.

  • 2 tph between Southport and Manchester would need 4 trains.
  • 2 tph between Southport and Wigan Wallgate would need 2 trains.

If the timings were aligned, every inbound Wigan Wallgate service from both Kirkby and Southport would arrive at Wigan Wallgate, in front of a Manchester service, which could take them to where they wanted to go, if it was beyond Wigan.

So with 12 trains, the following lines could get these services.

  • 4 tph Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate
  • 4 tph Southport to Wigan Wallgate
  • 2 tph Wigan Wallgate to Salford Crescent via Bolton
  • 2 tph Wigan Wallgate to Salford Crescent via Atherton

From Salfrord Crescent, passengers will after the Ordsall Chord and the related works have been completed, be able to get easily to Deansgate, Hazel Grove, Manchester Airport, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria, Salford Central, Stockport and probably a few others too.

Obviously, there are other and better patterns.

But it just shows what can be done, by creating a network of electrified and pseudo electrified lines into Manchester and funnelling them through a series of interchanges.

The Burscough Curves

There were some good thngs done by British Rail in the 1960s and 1970s, but there were some supreme examples of crap design.

This Google Map shows trhe Burscough Curves, which I suspect were originally designed to make operation of trains to the South East of Southport a lot more efficient.

There are two railway lines on the map.

Connecting them are the North and South Burscough Curves.

This description of the Burscough Curves, is a simplified version of that in Wikipedia.

During the rail restructuring of the 1960s and 1970s, the “Burscough Curves”, which formed a link between the Ormskirk-Preston and Southport-Wigan lines were removed, although the formation survives. The North Curve was taken out of use and severed in July 1969, being lifted in 1973: it was last used for a Saturdays only empty train from Blackpool to Southport. The South Curve was singled in 1970, but remained in use to serve the extensive sidings at the MOD depot located just to the north of Burscough Junction station. It saw its last train in 1982.

The passenger service from Ormskirk to Burscough Junction and on to Southport, which used the southern curve, was withdrawn in 1962

Pressure from local transport groups,  has not so far persuaded Network Rail to reinstate the curves. Various schemes have been proposed, including the full electrification of the line from Southport via Burscough to Ormskirk using the same third rail system as Merseyrail. This proposal would allow users of the Ormskirk branch of Merseyrail’s Northern Line to reach Southport directly.

Wikipedia also says something of how they might be used in the future.

A new study being conducted by Merseytravel could see demand for a potential reinstatement and electrification of the curves in the near future. The uses of the curves in a new service pattern has been identified by Network Rail, if electrified along with the through lines.

One factor more than any other will decide what happens to the Burscough Curves and the possible opening of a through route from Ormskirk to Preston and that is new housing developments in the area.

It has already contributed to the need to open Maghull North station to relieve pressure on Maghull station

Midge Hall on the Ormskirk Branch Line could be the next to open.

Ormskirk To Southport

This is mentioned in my extract from Wikipedia’s entry for the Burscough Curves.

I suspect that any reinstatement of the Burscough Curves would develop this alternative route from Liverpool to Southport.

Ormskirk To Preston

If you take one of the new Northern Electrics from Liverpool Lime Street to Preston, it’ll take you 58 minutes.

If you go the other way by taking a Merseyrail train from Liverpool Central  to Ormskirk and then a train for Preston, it will only take you just seven minutes longer.

The time could and probably will be reduced in the next few years.

  • When the new faster Stadler trains are running to Ormskirk, it is likely that 6-7 minutes will be taken off the time.
  • Eliminating the change of trainat Ormskirk could reduce the time.
  • But new modern trains could go much faster on an improved Ormskirk Branch.

I would estimate that times of forty minutes could be achieved, with perhaps a frequency of two tph.

Higher frequencies like 4 tph, would probably need full restoration of the second track between Ormskirk and Preston.

This fast time would attract passengers and especially those living in the North of Liverpool and on the coast to Southport.

But other factors would also help.

  • Fast trains to the North and Scotland will call at Preston and going via the Ormskirk  Branch may be more convenient for many.
  • Aintree station is five stations South of Ormskirk, so  the route may offer a quick way to the races.
  • The Open is at Royal Birkdale this year.

I have a feeling that extending the Northern Line from Ormskirk to Preston, with a well-thought out treatment of the Burscough Curves, may produce lots of passengers that the train companies didn’t think existed.

Everton’s New Stadium

Everton may well be building a new stadium at Branley Moore Dock, which is between Sandhills station and the City Centre.

For a new sports ground, that could be the centrepiece of a Commonwealth Gales in 2022 or 2026, it is well-placed and not far from Merseyrail’s Northern Line.

I have discussed this project in Everton’s New Stadium.

Except for possibly changes of services at times, it should not affect operation of services on the Northern Line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 18, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment