The Anonymous Widower

Redhill To Ashford International Via Tonbridge

I did this trip to find out what the current service was like after writing Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East.

The journey can be broken into sections.

Changing At Redhill Station

I arrived at Redhill station and took these pictures as I changed to the train for Tonbridge station.

The three services are in Redhill station at approximately the same time.

  • The Southern service to and from Tonbridge used Platform 1a.
  • The GWR service from Reading to Gatwick used Platform 1.
  • The GWR service from Gatwick to Reading used Platform 0.

I think if you’re nippy on the stairs, travellers wanting to go between Reading and Ashford or vice-versa could manage the train, but a direct through service would be preferred by some travellers.

Between Redhill And Tonbridge Stations

I took these pictures as the train ran between Redhill and Tonbridge.

Note.

  1. The train was a smart three-car Class 377 train.
  2. It is a route with a quiet calm along the Downs.
  3. There are new housing and commercial developments along the route.

Some of the stations could do with improvement, which should probably include step-free access, as at Redhill and Tonbridge stations.

Changing At Tonbridge Station

These pictures show Tonbridge station.

Note.

  • The station is step-free with lifts.
  • I had to use the bridge to get from one side of the station to the other to catch my next train.
  • There seemed to be several passengers, who continued their journey from Tonbridge.

After a wait of nearly thirty minutes I was on my way to Ashford International station.

Thoughts On The Service

These are my thoughts on the service.

Battery Electric Trains

Having seen this service in operation, I feel that this must be one of the most suitable services for battery electric trains in the UK.

In Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East, I broke the route down into electrified and non-electrified sections.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Electrified – 26.5 miles – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Electrified – 20 miles – 35 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Gatwick and Redhill – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Redhill and Reigate – Electrified – 2 miles – 4 minutes
  • Reigate and Shalford Junction – Not Electrified – 17 miles – 20 minutes
  • Shalford Junction and North Camp – Electrified – 9 miles – 11 minutes
  • North Camp and Wokingham – Not Electrified – 11 miles – 14 minutes
  • Wokingham and Reading – Electrified – 7 miles and 9 minutes

Note.

  1. Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill, Gatwick, Guildford, Wokingham and Reading are all fully-electrified main line stations.
  2. Most of the route and the two ends are electrified.
  3. All electrification is 750 VDC third rail.
  4. All sections without electrification are less than twenty miles.
  5. The route is more than 75 % electrified.

There are several trains, which have been fitted with batteries, plans to fit them with batteries exist or would be suitable to be fitted with batteries.

All trains have similar specifications.

  • Four cars.
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • All are modern trains.
  • They either have third-rail shoes or can be fitted with them.

In addition, no infrastructure changes would be needed.

I also feel, that the same class of train could be used on these services in the South-East.

  • Oxted and Uckfield
  • Ashford International and Hastings

Why not use one class of battery electric trains for all these routes?

The Three Reverses

The full service between Reading and Ashford International stations will require three reverses at Gatwick and Redhill (twice).

Having seen the current system in operation at Redhill station, I feel the following operation would work, using a version of London Underground’s stepping-up.

From Reading to Ashford International the following sequence would apply.

  • The train from Reading would stop in Platform 1 at Redhill, as they do now.
  • A second driver would step-up into the rear cab and take control of the train.
  • The original or first driver, who’d driven the train from Reading would stay in the cab.
  • The second driver would drive the train to Gatwick.
  • When, the train is ready to leave, the first driver takes control from his cab.
  • The second driver, who’d driven the train from Redhill would stay in the cab.
  • The first driver would drive the train back to Platform 0 at Redhill, as they do now.
  • When, the train is ready to leave, the second driver takes control from his cab.
  • The first driver would step down and probably have a break, before he is needed to drive another train.
  • The second driver would drive the train to Ashford International.

Trains going the other way would do a similar sequence in reverse.

Other than the battery system, the trains may need a communication and safety system between the two cabs.

Hydrogen Trains

Consider these points about using a hydrogen-powered train between Reading and Ashford International.

  • The maximum distance without electrification is just 20 miles.
  • The route is over 75 % electrified.
  • Hydrogen fuelling and supply systems would need to be provided.
  • Hydrogen trains would require changes to maintenance.

In my view, using a hydrogen-powered train would be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Gatwick Connect

Could the service be considered to be a Gatwick Connect service?

The full Reading and Ashford International service would call at these major locations

  • In the West – Reading, Winnersh, Wokingham, Crowthorne, Farnborough, Guildford, Dorking and Reigate
  • In the East – Ashford International, Paddock Wood and Tonbridge.

Both the Eastern and Western legs also call at Redhill.

Could the service be extended in the West?

The obvious destination would be Heathrow.

Once the future of Heathrow is sorted, there will probably be some form of Southern or South-Western access into Heathrow.

Could this service connect Gatwick and Heathrow?

  • Perhaps there would be a reverse at Reading!
  • Or it might use one of numerous schemes put forward to access Heathrow from the West.

In any case, as Reading is one of the best-connected stations in England, passengers will use this connectivity to get to Gatwick.

Could the service be extended in the East?

Like Reading, Ashford International is a well-connected station.

It would be possible to extend the service to perhaps Canterbury or Dover?

There must also be the possibility of running a service to Maidstone West or Strood in the East!

Conclusion

There could be a lot of possibilities for this route.

I also feel, that it is one of the best routes to be run by battery trains in the UK. These trains could also be the same, as those working Oxted-Uckfield and Ashford International-Hastings.

There would be no need for any new infrastructure, as there is electrification at both ends of the route.

 

 

September 27, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

UK’s Largest Solar Park Cleve Hill Granted Development Consent

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Solar Power Portal.

These are the two introductory paragraphs.

Cleve Hill Solar Park, set to be the largest in the UK, has been granted development consent by the energy secretary.

The colossal 350MW project will include 880,000 panels along with battery storage, and sit just one mile northeast of Faversham, in Kent, situated close to the village of Graveney.

Other points from the article.

  • Cleeve Hill Solar Park is a £450million project.
  • It is the first solar project to be considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.
  • It is being developed as a joint venture between Hive Energy and Wirsol.
  • It is due to be operational by 2022.
  • To complete the project 700 MWh of energy storage will be added later.

The article also contains this quote from Solar Trade Associations chief executive Chris Hewett.

Solar has a significant role to play in boosting the economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. With the right policies we can expect to see an 8GW pipeline of solar projects unlocked and rapidly deployed, swiftly creating a wealth of skilled jobs and setting us on the path towards a green recovery.

8 GW of intermittent energy will need a lot of storage.

As Cleeve Hill’s developers are planning to provide 700 MWh of storage for 700 MW of solar panels, it would appear that 8 GW of solar panels could need up to 16 GWh of energy storage.

As our largest energy storage system is the pumped storage Electric Mountain in Snowdonia with a capacity of 9.1 GWh and most of the large solar developments are towards the South of England, the UK needs to develop a lot more energy storage, where the solar is generated and much of the energy is used.

I can see the following environmentally-friendly developments prospering.

  • Highview Power‘s CRYOBattery, which uses liquid air to store energy. Systems have a small footprint and up to a GWh could be possible.
  • Electrothermal energy storage like this system from Siemens.
  • Using electrolysers from companies like ITM Power to convert excess energy into hydrogen for transport, steelmaking and injecting into the gas main.
  • Zinc8‘s zinc-air battery could be the outsider, that comes from nowhere.

Developers could opt for conservative decision of lithium-ion batteries, but I don’t like the environmental profile and these batteries should be reserved for portable and mobile applications.

Floatovoltaics

One concept, I came across whilst writing was floatovoltaics.

The best article about the subject was this one on Renewable Energy World, which is entitled Running Out of Precious Land? Floating Solar PV Systems May Be a Solution.

A French company call Ciel et Terre International seem to be leading the development.

Their web site has this video.

Perhaps, some floatovoltaics, should be installed on the large reservoirs in the South of England.

  • The Renewable Energy World article says that panels over water can be more efficient due to the cooling effect of the water.
  • Would they cut evaporative losses by acting as sunshades?
  • As the French are great pecheurs, I suspect that they have the answers if anglers should object.

This Google Map shows the reservoirs to the West of Heathrow.

Note.

  1. Wraysbury Reservoir has an area of two square kilometres.
  2. King George VI Reservoir has an area of one-and-a-half square kilometres.
  3. Using the size and capacity of Owl’s Hatch Solar Farm, it appears that around 65 MW of solar panels can be assembled in a square kilometre.
  4. All these reservoirs are Sites of Special Scientific Interest because of all the bird life.
  5. Heathrow is not an airport, that is immune to bird-strikes.

Could floatovoltaics be used to guide birds away from the flightpaths?

Incidentally, I remember a report from Tomorrow’s World, probably from the 1960s, about a porous concrete that had been invented.

  • One of the uses would have been to fill reservoirs.
  • The capacity of the reservoir would only have been marginally reduced, as the water would be in the voids in the concrete like water in a sponge.
  • Soil would be placed at the surface and the land used for growing crops.

I wonder what happened to that idea from fifty years ago!

June 5, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Chernobyl’ Fears Dismissed As Herne Bay Hydrogen Plant Bid Approved

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

it would appear that Kent Online got their prediction right. that I wrote about in Hydrogen Power Plant Bid In Herne Bay Set For Green Light From Canterbury City Council.

June 4, 2020 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , | Leave a comment

Conditions And Thoughts On The New Southeastern Franchise

The January 2018 Edition of Modern Railways gives a review of the conditions, that the Department for Transport are imposing on bidders.

The First Sentence

This is the first sentence of the article.

The Department for Transport says bidders for the next Southeastern franchise will be required to provide space for at least 40,000 additional passengers in the morning rush hour with 12-car services on the busiest routes.

This raises an interesting question.

Does the DfT mean actual twelve-car trains or ones as long as current twelve-car trains?

In Big On The Inside And The Same Size On The Outside, I discussed how by using  good design, Bombardier were getting more passengers in a train of the same length.

This is an extract from c2c’s Press Release.

The Aventra is one of the fastest-selling trains in the UK rail industry, and these new trains will be manufactured at Bombardier’s factory in Derby. Each new train, which will operate in a fixed set of 10-carriages, will include over 900 seats, plus air-conditioning, wifi, plug sockets and three toilets onboard. Each new carriage is larger and contains more seats than on c2c’s current trains, so each 10-carriage new train provides capacity for 15% more passengers onboard compared to a current 12-carriage c2c train.

So three x four-car trains working as a twelve-car train are replaced by one ten-car train, just as with Greater Anglia. Note the claimed fifteen percent capacity increase!

Metro Services

The article says this about Metro services,

Metro-style trains will be introduced on suburban routes, similar to those on other high-capacity routes into London.

Is the DfT thinking of trains like Crossrail’s Class 345 trains?

Changes Of London Terminals

The DfT was thinking of all inner suburban services going to a single London terminal, but this has been dropped following opposition.

Changes are still proposed, to stop conflicts at Lewisham.

  • Bexleyheath Line services will switch from Victoria to Cannon Street or Charing Cross.
  • Hayes Line services will serve Victoria and Charing Cross, but not Cannon Street.
  • North Kent Line services will run to Cannon Street.
  • Sidcup Line services will run to Charing Cross and Cannon Street in the Peak.
  • Extra services will serve Abbey Wood for Crossrail.
  • More twelve-car trains.

The objective is a turn-up-and-go Metro-style service on suburban routes.

To London Overground, Merseyrail and other commuters around the K, that means four trains per hour.

As there was with the proposal Network Rail made to curtail Sutton Loop Line services at Blackfriars, there will be complaints. Especially, from those who were at Eton with certain MPs!

Hopefully the design of London Bridge station will help smooth things over.

Twelve-Car Trains At Charing Cross And Waterloo East

If most trains are twelve-car trains, then surely all platforms at Cannon Street, Charing Cross, London Bridge, Victoria and Waterloo East stations, must surely be able to handle trains of this length.

As it is specifically mentioned, Charing Cross and Waterloo East stations must be the most problem.

There have been suggestions of rebuilding the two stations, with the platforms at Charing Cross extending over the Thames.

Consider.

  • Modern signalling could handle twenty-four trains per hour between Charing Cross and London Bridge.
  • Connections to the Jubilee Line could be better.
  • The Bakerloo Line is planned to be extended to Lewisham.
  • Waterloo East station could surely have over-site development.
  • Techniques borrowed from London Underground could be used to turn trains faster at Charing Cross.

I have a feeling that we will see something fairly radical happen in the next few years to increase capacity across the South Bank.

Faster Services To Hastings

This is said about services to and from Hastings.

DfT has specified a new two trains per hour service between London, Tonbridge and Ashford, allowing services to Hastings to be speeded up by removing calls at Orpington, Sevenoaks and Hildenborough.

Bidders are incentivised to develop further proposals for reducing journey times, including for deliveringn high speed services between London St. Pancras, Hastings and Bexhill via Ashford.

That all sounds good for Hastings.

More Trains Between Strood And Tonbridge

This route along the Medway Valley Line will have two trains per hour all day.

Trains For The Franchise

The DfT has specified the trains in a fairly detailed way.

Cars No Longer Than Twenty Metres

This is probably because of curved platforms and other restrictions on the various routes.

It is also a similar car length to the current Class 465 trains and Class 377 trains.

No Extra Selective Door Opening, Except At Waterloo East

I suspect this could be that selective door opening, confuses passengers and perhaps slow the stops.

First Class To Be Removed By September 2020

Will this be popular with all passengers?

There doesn’t seem to have been too many protests about the future removal of First Class on Greater Anglia’s services in Essex.

But it will allow the capacity of the train to be increased, to provide space for some of those 40,000 additional passengers.

ETCS Will Have To Be Deployed

European Train Control System (ETCS)  can enable higher frequencies of trains in a safe manner and mandating that it be deployed is a sensible move.

At Least One Accessible Toilet On Main Line And High Speed Trains

I think most train operating companies would do this!

Adequate Wi-Fi

Not providing wi-fi and in addition 4G signals, is probably an easy way to reduce ridership.

Walk Through Trains

The fleets that have been bought recently, are all of this type, so I think it would be unlikely, that any new trains for the Southeastern franchise would be different.

My Thoughts

Train Length

 

Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, South Western Railway and Virgin Trains East Coast have set a pattern, by ordering trains and half-trains, that can probably be used in a flexible manner.

Half-train/Full-train ratios for the various companies are.

  • Great Western Railway – 1.6
  • Greater Anglia – 4.0
  • South Western Railway 0.5
  • Virgin Trains East Coast – 0.5

Each company has chosen an appropriate number of trains for their routes, but each can adjust numbers by running two half-trains as a full train.

So will we see the same strategy on a future Southeastern franchise?

Perhaps most trains will be twelve-car trains with a small number of six-car trains, that can work together as required.

Train Speed

In Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Elimination Of Slow Trains, I came to this conclusion.

All trains incapable of running a service at 100 mph should be eliminated, just as the two operators;Greater Anglia and South Western Railway, are planning to do.

All of the new Southeastern franchise’s trains should be 100 mph trains.

 

 

 

December 22, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Everybody Who Thinks HS2 Is A Waste Of Money Should Read This!

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Economic benefits of HS1 revealed as high-speed line turns 10.

This is the first three paragraphs.

HS1 Ltd has assessed the economic impact of the UK’s first high-speed line as it approaches a milestone 10th year.

According to findings, HS1 has attracted a minimum of £3.8 billion in economic and social benefits since domestic services began, which was two years after its official opening in November 2007.

In addition, 5,766 tourism sector jobs have been created and supported by HS1 since the opening.

So I’d say that was a success.

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

Train Spotting At Samphire Hoe

Samphire Hoe Country Park lies a few kilometres west of Dover.

These pictures show the railway line that runs along the foot of the White Cliffs Of Dover.

In the time I was there, I only saw the one Class 375 train.

September 13, 2017 Posted by | Transport | | 1 Comment

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Abbey Wood Station

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks about Kent and Crossrail.

This is said.

In December 2018, the Elizabeth Line is due to reach its south-eastern terminus at Abbey Wood, where there will be interchange with the North Kent line.

A wide range of new journey opportunities will open up, which over time will influence many choices over work and home locations. A train every five minutes from Abbey Wood to Canary Wharf and central London is expected to have a dramatic effect in North Kent.

The article goes on to say that a working group called Crossrail Gravesend is pushing to extend the Elizabeth Line to Ebbsfleet International station for High Speed One.

In this post, I will talk about issues at Abbey Wood station.

The Modern Railways article says that Abbey Wood station is a cross-platform interchange, as do other articles.

Track Layout At Abbey Wood Station

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the layout of lines at Abbey Wood station.

Compare this with this track layout, that I posted in Abbey Wood Station –  29th August 2016.

Note the following.

  • The older layout shows cross-platform interchange.
  • The current one has two pairs of platforms, with Platforms 3 and 4 for Crossrail and Platforms 1 and 2 for other services.
  • The current layout probably connects better to the existing lines to Dartford.

These pictures were taken on the 28th June 2017 and show pictures generally taken from the West of the station.

They show a similar layout, of two Northern platforms (3 & 4) for Crossrail and two Southern platforms (1 & 2) for all other services.

Note.

  • The two cross-overs to the West of Abbey Wood station to get the Crossrail trains to and from the right platforms.
  • The station building and the two footbridges over the lines.
  • The solid wooden fence between the two pairs of lines.
  • The robust nature of the overhead wiring.

I suspect, that if they had wanted to have Eastbound and Westbound lines each share an island platform, it would have required a flyover, which would have been a large expense.

These pictures were taken on the 10th July 2017 to the East of the station.

Note that the first seven pictures were taken from a public footbridge that crosses the tracks about five hundred metres to the East of Abbey Wood station and the last few pictures were taken from a train leaving Abbey Wood station for Dartford station.

This recent Google Map shoews from Abbey Wood station, to where the reversing siding ends close to where Aliske Road turns North

The pictures and the map show the following.

  • The two third-rail electrified tracks of the North Kent Line run between Platforms 1 and 2 at Abbey Wood station to Belvedere station.
  • The North Kent tracks are fully in use, by services between London and Kent.
  • The two Crossrail Platforms 3 and 4 at Abbey Wood station are electrified with overhead wires.
  • The two tracks in Platforms 3 and 4 would appear to join together into a single line mainly without electrification, that connects to the North Kent Line about a kilometre to the East of Abbey Wood station.
  • There is only a short length of electrification to the East of the station.

It is not what I expected, as it means that there is no cross-platform interchange between services going to North Kent and Crossrail, as various sources including the The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article have said.

Passengers changing between the North Kent Lines and Crossrail will have to go over through the station or use the bridge.

So how will the station handle the various train movements?

Comparison Between Abbey Wood and Shenfield Stations

Abbey Wood will after rebuilding be a station with two North Kent and two Crossrail platforms

Shenfield station has now been converted into a station with six platforms, three of which can be used as Crossrail platforms.

In the Peak, services to the two stations are as follows.

  •  Shenfield – 10 trains per hour (tph)
  • Abbey Wood – 12 tph

In addition 4 tph on the Shenfield Branch turn-back at Gidea Park station.

In the Off Peak, services to the two stations are as follows.

  •  Shenfield – 8 tph
  • Abbey Wood – 8 tph

So it would appear that Abbey Wood is the harder station to operate with more services in the Peak and one less platform.

Train Stabling At Abbey Wood Station

Train stabling needs to be provided on a busy branch line, as it makes it easier to adjust the number of trains running to the demand throughout the day.

At Shenfield, the stabling sidings are beyond the station, which must be easier operationally, than the position of the sidings at Abbey Wood, where they are back down the line at the Plumstead tunnel portal.

If you look at the second set of pictures taken to the East of the station, spaqce would appear to be very limited. So is this why stabling is not ast of Abbey Wood station.

Turning Back Crossrail Trains At Abbey Wood

At Shenfield, train operators have been turning back Class 315 trains at a rate of six tph since 1980, so with the addition of a new platform and modern trains and signalling, the handling of ten tph should be achievable.

But at Abbey Wood in the Peak, there is a need to turn trains round at a rate of twelve tph or a train every five minutes.

The operation could involve each of Platform 3 and 4 handling six tph, using the cross-overs to the West of the station to get the train between each platform and the right Crossrail track, but handling six tph on two platforms feeding a 12 tph double track railway is a tough ask.

From what I have seen, I think that Crossrail will turnback their trains like this.

  • All Crossrail trains from London arrive in Platform 4.
  • All Crossrail trains to London depart from Platform 3.
  • All trains arriving in Platform 4 use the unelectrified single track line as a reversing siding to get to Platform 3
  • As the pictures show, the single track line is probably long enough to store a failed train, for later recovery.

But the Class 345 trains have a system called Auto-Reverse.

When the train is ready to leave Platform 4,the driver initiates an Auto-Reverse and the train moves automatically into the reversing siding, whilst the driver starts to walk back through the train to the other cab.

  • By the time, the train is in the reversing siding, the driver is ready to drive the train into Platform 3.
  • The process will have to be done within five minutes.
  • The process could also involve the basic cleaning and removal of rubbish, with cleaners getting on at Platform 4 and getting off at Plstform 3.

Crossrail is not your bog-standard railway.

Trains Leaving Service At Abbey Wood

Suppose a train was leaving service at Abbey Wood.

Normally, it would probably perform the Auto-Reverse and go to the stabling sidings at the Plumstead tunnel portal.

It might even go the wrong way directly out of Platform 4, if the signalling was bi-directiomal.

Remember too, that Class 345 trains could be two independent half-trains, so if one half fails, the other could be designed to get the train to safety and out of the way.

Class 345 trains are not a bog-standard trains.

Running Crossrail Trains To And From Gravesend

From what I have seen, I’m convinced that the track layout at Abbey Wood station, means that Crossrail can be easily extended to and from Dartford, Gravesend, Rochester, Gillingham or Rainham.

Let’s assume the terminal for four tph is Gravesend.

Crossrail trains from London to Gravesend will do the following.

  • Stop in Platform 4 at Abbey Wood station.
  • Lower the pantograph
  • Take the single uon-electrified line alongside the North Kent Line.
  • Cross over to the Down North Kent Line.
  • Use the third-rail electrification to travel to Gravesend.

Crossrail trains from Gravesend to London will do the following.

  • Use the third-rail electrification to travel from Gravesend.
  • Cross over to the single non-electrified line alongside the North Kent Line before Abbey Wood station.
  • Stop in Platform 3 at Abbey Wood station.
  • Raise the pantograph.

The Crossrail trains would be needed to be fitted with third-rail shoes.

Interchange BetweenThe Extended Crossrail And Other Services.

Suppose you are going from Ramsgate to Paddington, you would get a Highspeed service to Gravesend and then wait for a Crossrail train to call at the same platform.

To repeat myself, Crossrail is not a bog-standard railway.

Crossrail’s Trump Card

When the trains turnback at Abbey Wood or extend to and from Gravesend, the Class 345 trains will have to use the non-electrified single track line shown in the pictures.

It may be electrified in the next year! But why bother?

The distances that need to be handled without power are not much more than a kilometre at slow speed.

The Class 345 trains could be fitted with batteries to bridge the gaps in the electrification.

These batteries will also do the following.

  • Handle regenerative braking.
  • Provide emergency power, in the event of complete tunnel power failure.

Conclusion

To repeat myself again, Crossrail is not a bog-standard railway.

See Also

These are related posts.

To know more read Kent On The Cusp Of Change in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

 

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

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Maidstone

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks about Kent and not surprisingly, the county town;Maidatone is mentioned several times.

The Medway Valley Line

The Medway Valley Line runs as its name suggests down the Medway Valley, from Strood station in the North to Maidstone WestPaddock Wood, and Tonbridge  stations in the South.

I took these pictures on the line.

Note.

  1. Strood station is undergoing a major upgrade, which the hoardings claim will be finished this year.
  2. The Medway Valley Line has its own termial platform in Strood station.
  3. The line is double-track all the way.
  4. The line is run as a community rail service.
  5. There were several level crossings on the route.
  6. There were several new housing estates visible from the train.

The line would appear to be well run and I suspect that in the next few yeas, services could be increased.

Currently, the service is a two trains per hout (tph) shuttle with an Peak Hour service between St. Pancras International and Maidstone West.

Plans exist for an all day Highspeed service between St. Pancras International and Maidstone West and this would mean three tph along the Medway Valley Line.

I do feel though that if a way could be found to run four tph on the route, that this would be very beneficial.

Maidstone

I walked between Maidstone West and Maidstone East stations buying lunch on the way in a cafe.

These pictures sum up my walk.

If I do the trip again, which is likely, I’d go to Maidstone East station first, as the walk would be dowbhill. It would also mean, I could pick up my gluten-free lunch in Marks and Spencer and eat it by the River Medway.

Not that the liver, bacon and vegetables was at all bad!

Maidstone East Station

I’ve discussed Maidstone East station before in this post called Maidstone East Station.

The two visits have left me with the impression, thatr the service from Maidstone East station is crap.

It will improve when Thameslink starts its two tph service to Cambridge, which will give the station four tph to and from London.

Two developments would really improve Maidstone East station.

Development of the station is promised, with Wikipedia saying this.

In November 2012, initial plans for the regeneration of Maidstone East Station were submitted to Maidstone Borough Council to determine whether an Environmental Impact Assessment was required. MBC concluded in December 2012 that due to the additional road traffic, an assessment would be appropriate. Plans include a new railway station, new large foodstore, other retail units, bar, cafe, commuter and retail parking (approx 1100 spaces) and associated landscaping. The proposed plan involves the demolition of the existing station ticket office, a disused hotel/bar, retail units opposite County Hall and the adjacent Royal Mail sorting and enquiry office which is due to transfer operations to a new site in Park Wood, Maidstone late 2012

Kent’s county town certainly needs a better station.

The other development would be to get rid of the Class 465 trains.

The one I got home was unreliable and according to fellow passengers, this is not uncommon.

But the speed it was keeping on the line to London was a measily 30 mph at times.

It was definitely, one that could be named a Notworker.

Hopefully the new franchise holder will obtain a new fleet of trains to kick the problem off the White Cliffs.

Conclusion

I learned a lot of the good and bad points about Southeastern today.

See Also

These are related posts.

To know more read Kent On The Cusp Of Change in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

 

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Longfield Station

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has made me ask  questions about how services to various stations in Kent will be affected.

Longfield station is probably best described as a typically busy commuter station with three trains per hour (tph) for most of the day.

These pictures show the station.

This Google Map shows the layout of the station.

I had lunch with a friend whilst I was there and a problem he flagged up was that parking can be difficult, especially if you want to travel later n the day.

Parking At longfield Station

He said sometimes the only alternative to driving, is to cut across toEbbsfleet International station and put up with the higher prices of the Highspeed sewrvice.

Note how the car parking at Longfield station is all over the place.

The Price Of The High Speed Service

I have heard several complaints about the cost of the service into St. Pancras and I do wonder that if Victoria could be used as a second terminal, as I examined in Victoria As A Highspeed Terminal, that this could have the affect of bringing prices down.

Trains Through Longfield

I travelled out to Longfield in a 100 mph Class 377 train, but I travelled back in a 75 mph Class 466 train.

The former are just about fast enough, but the latter are too slow for a journey between ictoria and Dover or Ramsgate.

As I indicated in Track Improvements, Network Rail believe that the key to faster services is better signalling and faster trains.

The signalling problem is being addressed by the East Kent Re-Signalling Project, but new trains are needed that can operate at a higher speed on the lines in Kent.

Using a version of the Class 395 train is a possibility, but so is an entirely new train from another manufacturer. Having ridden in an Aventra and read the armours that the train can have a 125 mph capability, I’m sure Bombardier can come up with a Kent Coast Express.

Surely, more Class 395 trains must be the most likely, as six-car trains, working on most routes as 12-car units, is something that appears to work well for the current operator.

I think that the most likely scenario in future will be.

  • The stopping service currently run by 75 mph Class 466 trains will be run by 100 mph Class 377 trains.
  • The two semi-fast services will be run by new faster trains.
  • All services would be twelve-car trains.

As each service would be run by a faster train, there would be journey time savings.

Will Longfield Lose Any Of Its Three Trains Per Hour?

I think this is unlikely, as when this is tried, there is usually  a bitter row, that train operating companies try to avoid.

Will There Be Any Victoria to Thanet Services via Bromley South And High Speed One?

These services would take the following route from Victoria to Ashford International station.

  • Bromley South station
  • Fawkham Junction Link
  • Ebbsfleet International station
  • High Speed One

After Ashford, they could go to Dover, Hastings or Ramsgate.

There are two capacity constraints.

  • Between Victoria and Bromley South.
  • Between Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fast service from Victoria to Thanet in the timetable.

It would be ideal, if a train to both Dover and Ramsgate were possible in an hour.

Conclusion

It is my view that Longfield station will not have an inferior service to the present time, when the new franchise is awarded.

But services will be different! And hopefully faster!

See Also

These are related posts.

To know more read Kent On The Cusp Of Change in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

 

July 4, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 15 Comments

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Track Improvements

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks mentions a few track improvements.

Ashford Spurs

This enables more Continental trains to call at Ashford International station. I discussed it in Ashford Spurs.

The Link Between High Speed One And The Marshlink Line

This is needed to get the Highspeed trains from St. Pancras to Hastings, I I discussed in Highspeed to Hastings.

The Modern Railways article says this about the creation of the link.

It will be an uphill struggle to fund necessary layout changes at Ashford International during Control Period 6 (2019-2024). A realignment of the track would be needed to join the track serving the London end of platform 2 (which is accessible from the Marshlink route) to the Ashford spurs that link through to High Speed 1.

This diagram from Wikipedia shows the lines through Ashford International station.

Note how the two main tracks of High Speed One use a flyover to get out of the way of Ashford International station. The Ashford Spurs connect the lines through the two platforms to High Speed One.

This Google Map shows the London end of Ashford International stations.

There are three island platforms, which are as follows from the bottom.

  • Platform 1 and 2 for third-rail domestic services and the Marshlink Line
  • Platform 3 and 4 for Continental services
  • Platform 5 asnd 6 for Highspeed domestic services.

The two lines visible beyond platforms 5 and 6 are High Speed One on the flyover.

At the London end of the station, there is already the following links to High Speed One from the station.

  • Platform 3 to London for Continental services
  • Platform 4 from London for Continental services
  • Platform 5 to London for Highspeed services
  • Platform 6 from London for Highspeed services

It could be quite complicated connecting even one of Platform 1 and 2 to High Speed One.

But at least as these pictures show, there is plenty of space.

Note.

  1. The pictures were taken from a Highspeed train leaving Platform 5 for London.
  2. The first picture was taken just to the London side of the bridge shown in the Google Map.
  3. The domestic Platforms 1 and 2 are on the far side, in this first picture.
  4. The

I do feel that after some of the engineering on Crossrail and Thameslink, that an affordable solution is possible.

In addition to the space, I don’t think any trains thunder through here at high speed, as they use the flyover for that.

I also feel that Hitachi might be the key here.

As I said in Highspeed to Hastings, I believe that batteries not diesel will be used to power the trains on the Marshlink Line.

So if necessary, battery power could be used to power the trains between High Speed One and Platforms 1 and 2.

Hitachi could probably do the change between power sources under the wires of High Speed One, so this would mean that there would be no extra overhead electrification at Ashford International station.

As most of the train frequencies between High Speed One and Ashford International station are not by any means high, I wonder if there is a simple solution in there somewhere.

The most difficult connection would be to get trains from London across three tracks.

  • The Highspeed line from Platform 5 to London
  • The Continental line from London to Platform 4.
  • The Continental line from Platform 3 to London

A single track unelectrified dive-under or even a flat junction might be possible to connect High Speed One to Platforms 1 and/or 2.

Connecting Platforms 1 and/or 2 to High Speed One to London is much easier, as no other lines need to be crossed.

I also wonder if the funding problem and probable subsequent delay of building a link could lead to an interim solution to give Hasting the service it needs.

Network Rail’s Options For The Link Between High Speed One And The Marshlink Line

This document from Network Rail gives their options for the link.

  1. High Speed One To Platform 2
  2. High Speed One To Marshlink via Platform 3

As the second option would leave Continental services with just one bi-directional platform, I think it is unlikely to be used, as what happens if a train fails in the platform?

This diagram from the Network Rail document shows the traqck layout for the first option.

Note the only track work would appear to be two or three new cross-overs, which are shown as being electrified with both third-rail and overhead line.

Note the following.

  1. The trains that will be working the Marshlink Line and High Speed One will have either diesel or battery power for the Marshlink Line.
  2. Modern trains like Hitachi’s Class 800 trains can change from one mode to the other at linespeed, raising and lowering the pantograph as necessary.
  3. Automation can aid the driver in selecting the best power source.

So could we see the cross-overs built without electrification to save money and probably time as well?

I suspect this could be possible, although there may be operational reasons to add third-rail electrification.

Network Rail say this about their scheme with dual-power cross-overs.

Although this seems a fairly simple proposal, the technicalities of installing the crossovers, power supplies and signalling enhancements add significantly to the challenges of the scheme, which would cost in the region of £15-35M.

Surely, as the trains will have a dual-power capability for the Marshlink Line, this would reduce the challenges and cost of the scheme.

, The Fawkham Junction Link

The Fawkham Junction link will enable Highspeed services to use another terminal in London, which will probably be Victoria.

I discussed this link in Fawkham Junction Link.

General Track Improvements

This document from Network Rail is the Route Specification for the South East and it details two projects, that will improve times on the lines between Victoria and shford International station.

  • Journey Time Improvement – Reduce impact of Permanent Speed Restrictions
  • Maidstone signalling interlocking renewal – Renewal of interlocking and external equipment

The document indicates they could be completed in 2019.

The document also  uses this phrase in several places.

Increase speed to rolling stock and signalling capability

As the East Kent Re-Signalling Project seems to be improving the signalling, it does appear that one of the keys to better services in Kent may well be faster trains.

It should be noted, Network Rail have been particularly successful in upgrading the speed of the Midland Main Line in recent years, so with a faster third-rail train available, they might be able to speed up services on the East Kent Lines.

An Interim Solution For A Highspeed Service To Hastings

As I said earlier connecting the Marshlink Line to High Speed One might be delayed because of funding.

Network Rail’s planned improvements will deliver journey time improvements between Victoria and Ashford International stations and along the lines in East Kent, provided some faster trains are procured.

There is not much point in having tracks with a capability in excess of 110 mph, if the trains can’t make use of it.

But these trains, be they Ultimate Class 395 trains or a product from another manufacturer, will be needed to bridge the electrification gap of the marshlink line.

Once the modifications at Ashford are complete, these trains will be able to use High Speed One.

Conclusion

Track improvements are a key to making the new Southeastern franchise a lot better.

See Also

These are related posts.

To know more read Kent On The Cusp Of Change in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

 

July 2, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 18 Comments