The Anonymous Widower

Will The East Coast Main Line Give High Speed Two A Run For Its Money To The North East Of England?

I have looked up High Speed Two timings on their Journey Time Calculator and compared them with current LNER timetables.

  • London-Leeds – Current – 136 minutes – HS2 – 81 minutes
  • London-York – Current – 111 minutes – HS2 – 84 minutes
  • London – Darlington – Current – 141 minutes – HS2 – 112 minutes
  • York- Darlington – Current – 27 minutes – HS2 – 26 minutes
  • London – Durham – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 138 minutes
  • York – Durham – Current – 45 minutes – HS2 – 44 minutes
  • London – Newcastle – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 137 minutes
  • York – Newcastle – Current – 55 minutes – HS2 – 51 minutes
  • London – Edinburgh – Current – 259 minutes – HS2 – 220 minutes
  • Newcastle – Edinburgh – Current – 83 minutes – HS2 – 83 minutes
  • York – Edinburgh – Current – 138 minutes – HS2 – 134 minutes

Note.

  1. I have assumed that Newcastle and Edinburgh takes 83 minutes, which is the current timing.
  2. The time savings possible to the North of Leeds are only a few minutes.
  3. As an example, the straight route between York and Darlington is 34 miles, which means an average speed of only 75 mph.

Serious work needs to be done North of York to improve timings.

Improvements To The East Coast Main Line

Various improvements to the East Coast Main Line are in process of building designed or built.

Extra Tracks

These example of more tracks are from the Wikipedia entry for the East Coast Main Line.

  • Four tracks are being restored between Huntington and Woodwalton.
  • Freight loops between York and Darlington.

There are probably other places, which will see extra tracks in the next few years.

Power Supply And Electrification

Wikipedia identified places where the power supply and the electrification could be better.

This sentence indicates the comprehensive nature of the planned work.

Power supply upgrades (PSU) between Wood Green and Bawtry (Phase 1 – completed in September 2017) and Bawtry to Edinburgh (Phase 2), including some overhead lines (OLE) support improvements, rewiring of the contact and catenary wires, and headspan to portal conversions (HS2P) which were installed at Conington in January 2018.

The Hertford Loop Line is also due to have some power supply upgrades.

Station Improvements

Darlington, Kings Cross, Stevenage and York will have track improvements, which will improve the capacity of the tracks through the stations.

Werrington Junction

Werrington Junction will be a big improvement. This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry.

The project will see the construction of 1.9 miles (3 km) of new line that will run underneath the fast lines, culverting works on Marholm Brook and the movement of the Stamford lines 82 feet (25 m) westwards over the culverted brook. This will mean that trains for the GN/GE line no longer need to cross the fast lines on the level, nor use the Up Fast line between Peterborough station and the junction. The project, coupled with other ECML improvement schemes (such as the four tracking from Huntingdon to Woodwalton) will improve capacity on the line through Peterborough by 33% according to Network Rail. This equates to two extra train paths an hour by 2021, when the work is scheduled to be completed. In turn, this will remove 21 minutes from the fastest King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley service, and 13 minutes from the fastest King’s Cross to Leeds service. It will also see an increase of 1,050 ‘intercity’ seats per hour on express trains through Peterborough.

The upgrade will add two more train paths to the route and knock 21 and 13 minutes off the faster Edinburgh and Leeds services respectively.

The Newark Flat Crossing

This is the railway equivalent of a light-controlled pedestrian crossing in the middle of a motorway.

This Google Map shows the crossing.

Note.

  1. The East Coast Main Line running roughly North-South
  2. The A 46 road crossing the line.
  3. The Nottingham-Lincoln Line running parallel to the railway.
  4. A chord allowing trains to go between the Nottingham-Lincoln Line and Newark North Gate station, which is to the South.
  5. The River Trent.

Complicated it certainly is!

I wrote about the problems in The Newark Crossing and felt something radical needed to be done.

Looking at the numbers of trains at the Newark Crossing.

  • The number of trains crossing the East Coast Main Line, is typically about three to five trains per hour (tph) and they block the East Coast Main Line for about two minutes.
  • But then there could be a fast train around every four minutes on the East Coast Main Line, with eight tph in both directions.

The numbers of trains and their speeds would probably cut out a Control Engineer’s solution, where all trains are computer controlled through the junction.

Although, it might be possible to reduce the number of conflicting trains on the East Coast Main Line dramatically, by arranging a Northbound and a Southbound express passed each other at the flat junction.

There’s also the problem of what happens if a crossing train fails, as it goes over the East Coast Main Line. But that must be a problem now!

Whatever happens here will be a well-thought through solution and it will add to the capacity of the East Coast Main Line and increase the line-speed from the current 100 mph.

Level Crossings

Wikipedia says this about level crossings.

Level crossing closures between King’s Cross and Doncaster: As of July 2015 this will no longer be conducted as a single closure of 73 level crossings but will be conducted on a case-by case basis (for example, Abbots Ripton Level Crossing will close as part of the HW4T scheme).

It is my personal view that all should be removed.

ERTMS Signalling

Wikipedia says this about the installation of ERTMS digital in-cab signalling.

The line between London King’s Cross and Bawtry, on the approach to Doncaster, will be signalled with Level 2 ERTMS. The target date for operational ERTMS services is December 2018 with completion in 2020.

Note that, ERTMS is needed for 140 mph running.

140 mpg Running

Wkipedia says this about 140 mph running.

Increasing maximum speeds on the fast lines between Woolmer Green and Dalton-on-Tees up to 140 mph (225 km/h) in conjunction with the introduction of the Intercity Express Programme, level crossing closures, ERTMS fitments, OLE rewiring and the OLE PSU – est. to cost £1.3 billion (2014). This project is referred to as “L2E4” or London to Edinburgh (in) 4 Hours. L2E4 examined the operation of the IEP at 140 mph on the ECML and the sections of track which can be upgraded to permit this, together with the engineering and operational costs.

A rough calculation indicates that up to eleven minutes could be saved by this upgrade, between London and Darlington.

Prospective Timings On The East Coast Main Line

Consider.

  • The package of new trains level crossing closures, ERTMS, OLE rewiring and the OLE PSU, which is collectively known as L2E4 should deliver Edinburgh in four hours.
  • Nineteen minutes need to be saved on current times.
  • I believe that if the train takes four hours or less, travellers will switch from the airlines.
  • High Speed Two are aiming for a time of 220 minutes, but is this by the West or East Coast routes?
  • As their proposed Glasgow service has a similar time, I assume it is by the West Coast route.
  • Wikipedia states that an Open Access Operator was thinking of running Class 390 trains or Pendelinos between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh in 223 minutes.

If the managers of LNER are the least bit ambitious, I can see them wanting to run a service between London and Edinburgh, in a time that is several minutes under four hours.

It should always be remembered that the East Coast Main Line was built for speed, as these true stories illustrate.

  • Mallard set the world speed record for steam locomotives in 1938 of 126 mph, on the line.
  • The record time between London and Edinburgh was set in 1991 by an InterCity 225 train at a minute under three-and-a-half hours.

I even have my own special memory of the line, which I wrote about in The Thunder of Three-Thousand Three-Hundred Horses. Behind a Deltic or Class 55 locomotive, I went from Darlington to London in two hours and fifteen minutes, which is faster than today’s fastest trains. Not bad for a 1960s design, but the train was a coach short and had a clear run. And was probably extremely-well driven.

Is the East Coast Main Line and especially the section South of Darlington, a route, where a knowledgeable driver can coax the maximum out of a high speed train?

Possible savings over the next few years include.

Werrington Junction

When this is completed, it could knock twenty-one minutes off the timings to Edinburgh.

Newark Crossing

How much time could be saved here?

There must be some time savings if the line speed can be increased from 100 mph.

140 mph Running

The various improvements in L2E4 are intended to enable services to run between London and Edinburgh in under four hours.

  • Does L2E4 include any possible time savings from Werrington Junction?
  • Does L2E4 include any possible time savings from improvements at Newark?
  • What is the completion date for L2E4?
  • Most of the time savings for L2E4 will be South of Darlington as the track is straighter.

As I said earlier a rough calculation indicates that L2E4 will save about eleven minutes to the South of Darlington.

Conclusion

There must be over thirty minutes of savings to be accumulated on the East Coast Main Line. Much of it because of the Werrington and Newark improvements will be South of Darlington.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see timings like these.

  • London-Leeds – Current – 136 minutes – HS2 – 81 minutes – Possible ECML – 120 minutes
  • London-York – Current – 111 minutes – HS2 – 84 minutes – Possible ECML – 90 minutes
  • London – Darlington – Current – 141 minutes – HS2 – 112 minutes – Possible ECML – 115 minutes
  • London – Durham – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 138 minutes – Possible ECML – 130 minutes
  • London – Newcastle – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 137 minutes – Possible ECML – 130 minutes
  • London – Edinburgh – Current – 259 minutes – HS2 – 220 minutes – Possible ECML – 210 minutes

It looks to me, that the East Coast Main Line could be fulfilling the aspirations of British Rail’s engineers of the 1980s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Braving The London Underground

I took these pictures today, in a short Underground trip between Angel and Kings Cross St. Pancras tube stations.

It’s not very busy! Is it?

  • There was no-one else in the tunnel as I walked between the escalators at Angel station.
  • There was only two other people in my carriage on the train.
  • There were few people in the tunnels at Kings Cross.

Isuspect that I travelled during lunchtime helped.

May 8, 2020 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , , , | 4 Comments

First Of Five FirstGroup Class 803s Arrives In UK

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

The Class 803 trains will be used by East Coast Trains for their low-cost, one-class, open-access service between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh.

The trains would appear to be being delivered in time for services to start in Autumn 2021.

The article says the  trains are the first to have a new feature.

They will be fitted with batteries, although these will not provide traction performance – instead, they can power on-board services should the train fail.

The Class 803 trains are electric trains and are these batteries a replacement for the single diesel-engine on the electric Class 801 trains? This diesel-engine has two main purposes.

  • Provide emergency power for on-board services.
  • Move the train to a safe place foe evacuation of passengers.

The article also says that Hitachi could fit traction batteries to existing bi-mode fleets.

April 16, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

LNER Services To Double Between Bradford And London

The title of this post is the same as that as this press release from LNER.

This is the introductory paragraph.

London North Eastern Railway (LNER) is pleased to confirm it will be doubling the number of Azuma weekday services between Bradford Forster Square and London King’s Cross from Monday 18 May 2020.

The timetable is as follows.

Southbound

  • Leave Bradford Forster Square at 06:30 and arrive London Kings Cross at 08:59
  • Leave Bradford Forster Square at 08:43 and arrive London Kings Cross at 11:31

Northbound

  • Leave London Kings Cross at 16:33 and arrive Bradford Forster Square at 19:29
  • Leave London Kings Cross at 18:33 and arrive Bradford Forster Square at 21:29

All services appear to call at Shipley between Leeds and Bradford Forster Square.

The press release doesn’t say if the trains split and join at Leeds station, but the timings are generous enough, if it is needed.

I wonder, if there will be more services between London and Bradford Forster Square in a few months. It probably depends on the level of success.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

LNER Expands To Huddersfield

This press release from LNER is entitled LNER Announces Direct Services Between Huddersfield And London.

These are the introductory paragraphs.

LNER is proud to announce new Azuma services will be introduced between Huddersfield and London King’s Cross from Monday 18 May 2020.

The daily weekday service in each direction will be LNER’s first direct link between the West Yorkshire market town and the capital.

They will also connect nearby Dewsbury directly with London King’s Cross, after more than a generation of no direct services between Huddersfield and London.

The timetable will be as follows.

The new southbound service will depart from Huddersfield at 05:50 and Dewsbury at 06:01. The Azuma service will arrive in Leeds at 06:16, where it will couple to another five-car Azuma to form the 06:40 Leeds to London King’s Cross service, which will arrive in the capital at 08:51 on weekdays.

The evening northbound service will depart from London King’s Cross at 18:03 and will be formed of two five-car Azuma trains, which will split in Leeds, with one train continuing to Skipton and the other to Dewsbury, arriving at 20:45 and then Huddersfield at 20:58.

Joining and splitting is definitely being brought to Yorkshire by LNER.

I wonder, if there will be a London to Huddersfield service in the reverse direction in a few months.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chaos Between London And Leeds

On Tuesday, I had booked myself between Kings Cross and Leeds on the 11:03 LNER train. My idea was to do a short round trip to Harrogate from Leeds before going across the Pennines to Manchester and sign in to my hotel, before going to see Ipswich play at Rochdale in the evening.

But it all went wrong, as someone decided to commit suicide and was hit by a train at Grantham.

Finally, I got to Leeds at around two, which was too late to carry out my plan.

  • I just missed a Harrogate train and it was getting too dark for photographs.
  • I eventually got a very crowded TrainsPennine Express to Manchester Victoria.
  • My supper was just a gluten-free egg and waterfresh sandwich from Marks and Spencer.

At least, I’d only paid just under thirty pounds for my First Class ticket to Leeds, which was only six pounds more than I paid to cross the Pennines.

Conclusion

This is the second time recently, after Did Someone Try To Steal The Electrification?, when I’ve been seriously delayed by problems on the railways, which are nothing to do with the trains or train companies.

Staff at LNER told me that suicides are common in November, as Christmas approaches.

Short of putting a security guard every hundred metres along the railway, I don’t think there’s a certain way of stopping these incyursions.

November 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 5 Comments

Tortillas From Kings Cross Square

If you are arriving at Kings Cross station and feel a little peckish, it is often worthwhile to check out the offerings in Kings Cross Square in front of the station.

I found these delicious gluten-free tortillas last week.

October 14, 2019 Posted by | Food | , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On A 140 mph East Coast Main Line Between London And Doncaster

The East Coast Main Line is being upgraded with digital signalling to allow Azumas and other high speed trains to run at 140 mph for most of the route, starting with the section between London and Doncaster.

There is also a string of projects all along the line to improve operating speed, cut out slow trains and improve junctions and crossings.

Finsbury Park And Stevenage

In The New Fifth Platform At Stevenage Station – 11th October 2019, I talked about the improvements at the Northern end of the Hertford Loop Line, which I believe could allow the fast lines between Stevenage and Finsbury Park stations to be exclusively used by digitally-signalled 140 mph trains.

Currently, these passenger services run between Stevenage and Finsbury Park in a typical hour.

  • LNER – Edinburgh – 2 trains – #
  • LNER – Leeds – 2 trains – #
  • LNER – Newark or York – 1 train – #
  • Great Northern – Cambridge and Ely expresses – 2 trains
  • Thameslink – Cambridge stopping trains – 2 trains.
  • Thameslink – Peterborough and Horsham – 2 trains
  • Thameslink – Cambridge and Brighton – 1 train
  • Hull Trains – 7 trains per day. – #
  • Grand Central – 9 trains per day. – #
  • East Coast Trains – 5 trains per day. – From 2021. – #

The services can be divided into four groups.

140 mph Non-Stop Expresses

Services marked with a hash (#) will probably  be run by versions of Hitachi Class 80x trains or similar, which will be capable of 140 mph running under digital signalling, between Finsbury Park and Stevenage stations.

The twenty-one services run by Hull Trains, Grand Central and East Coast Trains, will probably add up to less than two trains per hour (tph).

This means that there is a need to run seven tph between Finsbury Park and Stevenage.

Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely Expresses

Currently, these go non-stop between Kings Cross and Cambridge on the fast lines.

Surely, these should be 140 mph-capable trains, so they fit in with all the fast expresses.

After all, Oxford is served by 140 mph-capable trains, so why not Cambridge?

Cambridge Stopping Trains

The half-hourly Cambridge stopping trains have to stop in Welwyn North station,

  • They will have to use the fast lines between Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth stations, as there are only two tracks.
  • Currently, trains are timetabled to take nine minutes to pass through the double-track section.
  • North and South of the double-track section, the services will use the slow lines, as they call at several stations

But these services still leave forty-five minutes in every hour, in which to fit the 140 mph services through the restricting double track section.

These services will be replaced by a two tph Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East stations.

Thameslink Cross-London Services

The two Thamelink Cross-London services between Peterborough and Horsham and Cambridge and Brighton, go non-stop between Finsbury Park and Stevenage stations.

So could these three services use the Hertford Loop Line?

  • North of Stevenage, they use the slow lines.
  • South of Finsbury Park, they use the slow lines to access the Canal Tunnels for the Thameslink platforms at  St. Pancras.
  • Would calls at perhaps Alexandra Palace, Enfield Chase and Hertford North be worthwhile.

The only disadvantage would be that the route would be a few minutes slower, than using the main line.

Trains Terminating At Kings Cross Station

In each hour, it appears that the following trains will terminate at Kings Cross station.

  • Seven 140 mph expresses, that are going North of Hitchin.
  • Two 140 mph expresses, that are going to Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two stopping services, that are going to Cambridge.

The station has nine platforms in the main station and three in the suburban station at the side.

The Wikipedia entry for Kings Cross station, has a section entitled Future Remodelling, where this is said.

In January 2018, it was announced that half the station would close for 3 months from January to March 2020 for remodelling work to the station and its approach, expected to cost £237 million. This includes rationalisation of the tracks, reopening the third tunnel to the approach of the station and closure of platform 10.

The remodelling must allow an increase in numbers of trains terminating at Kings Cross, especially as the problems in the throat should be sorted.

These points should be noted about the High Speed Two platforms at Euston.

  • There are eleven platforms.
  • They can handle eighteen tph.
  • The trains will be up to four hundred metres long.

Considering that a nine-car Class 801 train is less than 240 metres long, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Kings Cross can handle eighteen tph.

Does that mean that Kings Cross station can accommodate another seven services?

Would The East Coast Main Line Be Able To Handle Eighteen 140 mph Expresses An Hour?

If Kings Cross station can handle eighteen tph, then the two fast lines of the East Coast Main Line must be able to handle this number of trains.

  • The two fast lines of the East Coast Main Line between London and Doncaster could be considered a smaller and slower version of High Speed Two.
  • High Speed Two has a capacity of eighteen tph.
  • High Speed Two trains are almost twice as fast as those on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Signalling on the East Coast Main Line will have to deal with slower trains, where there are less than four tracks, as over the Digswell viaduct and through Welwyn North station.

This is just the sort of challenge, for which digital signalling has been created.

Spare Capacity South Of Hitchin

Suppose in a couple of years the following has been done.

  • Kings Cross station has been remodelled.
  • The Hertford Loop Line has been updated for more and faster trains.
  • Thameslink services can use the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Thameslink is running the full 24 tph service.
  • The Cambridge stopper has been changed into a Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East.
  • Cambridge and Brighton has become a two tph service.
  • Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely expresses are run by 140 mph-capable trains.

This would mean the following frequencies, to the South of Hitchin.

  • Seven tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and the North, with some stopping at Stevenage.
  • Two tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two tph – 100 mph Thameslink services between Cambridge and Brighton routed via the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Two tph – 100 mph Thameslink services between Peterborough and Horsham routed via the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Two tph – 100 mph Thameslink services between Cambridge and Maidstone East routed via the East Coast Main Line. The slow line will be used except over the Digswell viaduct and through Welwyn North station.

Note.

  1. There will also be a two tph Thameslink service in the Peak between Welwyn Garden City and Sevenoaks. This can be discounted as it avoids the tricky bits of the East Coast Main Line.
  2. Thameslink services to Cambridge and Peterborough would be routed via the Hertford Loop ine, at a frequency of four tph.
  3. All Thameslink services would be routed via the Canal Tunnels and St. Pancras station.
  4. Kings Cross would only be handling 140 mph-capable trains, at a frequency of nine tph.

If the capacity of the 140 mph fast lines is the same as the similar High Speed Two, then eighteen tph should be possible.

Planned trains could be as follows.

  • Seven tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and the North, with some stopping at Stevenage.
  • Two tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two tph – Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East.

Does that mean another seven tph can be accommodated between Kings Cross and Hitchin?

As only nine tph would be going into Kings Cross, the station should have no difficulty handling that number of trains. It could possibly handle another nine tph.

Spare Capacity North Of Hitchin

At Hitchin, the following services wukk go to and from Cambridge.

  • Two tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two tph – Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East.

The other Thameslink services can be ignored, as they use the slow lines between Stevenage and Hitchin and the Hertford Loop Line, so they are out of the way of the 140 mph services.

Does that mean another ten tph can be accommodated between Hitchin and the North?

What Limits The Number Of Extra Trains?

My crude estimation appears to show the following.

  • Kings Cross station may be able to handle another nine tph.
  • Between Kings Cross and Hitchin may be able to handle another seven trains.
  • North of Hitchin may be able to handle another ten trains.

It would appear that the double track section over the Digswell viaduct and through Welwyn North station, limits the capacity of the whole route.

Estimated Timings

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North, I stated this.

Currently, the fastest non-stop trains between London and Doncaster take a few minutes over ninety minutes. With 140 mph trains, I think the following times are easily possible.

  • London and Doncaster – 80 minutes
  • London and Hull  – A few minutes over two hours, running via Selby.
  • London and Leeds – A few minutes less than two hours, running on the Classic route.

For comparison High Speed Two is quoting 88 minutes for London Euston and Leeds, via Birmingham and East Midlands Hub.

There could be a race to Leeds between High speed Two and Classic services on the East Coast Main Line.

Speculation On Extra Services

It would not be right, if I didn’t have a small speculation.

Cambridge Services

Consider.

  • Oxford and Cambridge both have two main routes to and from London.
  • Both have a fast service running at a frequency of two tph.
  • Both have other quality, but slower services.

It could be argued that extra fast services are run to Cambridge, but this would use up two valuable paths over the Digswell viaduct.

Perhaps it would be better to copy Greater Anglia’s solution for London and Norwich services and order a high quality purpose-designed train for the route.

  • 140 mph-capability
  • Digitally-signalled
  • 240 metres long
  • High quality interior

There would need to be some platform lengthening between Cambridge and Kings Lynn.

Leeds Services

Leeds currently has two tph from Kings Cross and Manchester Piccadilly has three tph from Euston.

Leeds also has a daily direct service to Aberdeen.

I suspect that there could be a sorting out at Leeds, which would mean it gets a third service from London.

Conclusion

If something similar to what I have proposed is possible, it looks like as many as an extra seven tph can be accommodated between Kings Cross and the North.

 

 

 

 

October 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Travelling From Edinburgh To London Next Wednesday

I am going to Scotland for a couple of days and will be returning on Wednesday.

I have just booked a First Class Advance Ticket for £69.30

  • I used my Senior Railcard.
  • The train leaves at 19:36 and s the last direct train South.
  • The train arrives in London at 01:05, which isn’t too late for me, as I can get a taxi home, for a reasonable fare.
  • I can even get an all-night bus to the stop round the corner.
  • I will be served complimentary snacks on the train.

Out of curiosity, I looked up easyJet

These were possible flights and prices, between Edinburgh and Gatwick Airports.

  • 06:05 – 07:35 – 65.55
  • 13:40 – 15:20 – £82.72
  • 15:35 – 17:15 – £88.78
  • 21:15 – 22:45 – £125.14

In addition, I would have to add about a tenner for getting to the Airports and perhaps ninety minutes before and after the flight.

So it looks to me, that my train ticket is better value, quicker and may get me home only an hour or so, later than the last flight, which will be twice the price.

 

August 17, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A First Ride In One Of LNER’s New Azumas

The Azuma is the name given by LNER‘s new Class 800 trains.

I rode in one today from Peterborough to Kings Cross after deliberately doing the trip the other way in an InterCity 125.

I took these pictures.

These are my thoughts.

The Brand-Name

The Azuma brand-name is one of those names, that was either thought-up for a fee of several million pounds by a specialist agency or it was thought up by a few serious real-ale drinkers in a comfortable pub, in front of a roaring fire or a blazing sun.

  • It is actually Japanese for East, so I doubt it will be controversial.
  • It is catchy and if say Simon Calder said that he liked the new Azuma, it might result in extra ticket sales.
  • It will differentiate LNER from their competitors running differently-liveried examples of the same Class 800 train.
  • Does it suggest speed in English, with the zoom in the middle?

LNER obviously like it, as Wikipedia says they retained the name, which was devised by the previous franchise holder; Virgin Trains East Coast.

Thinking through the history of the East Coast Main Line, I can only remember one class of locomotives or trains, that got a name; the Class 55 locomotive or Deltic. For those of my generation, Deltics are often iconic. In The Thunder of Three-Thousand Three-Hundred Horses, I describe a memorable trip behind a Deltic.

The Livery

The livery is distinctly cheeky, with an eye suggested around the front side-window!

The eye certainly stands out, which could be a good way to get extra seat sales.

It also appears that the livery has changed from the original Virgin East Coast design.

I like it!

The Interior

The interior is simple, practical and bright with some innovative touches.

  • I was in Standard and there were a reasonable number of good-sized tables, which is always welcome.
  • The seats seemed better than those fitted to the Class 800 trains on Great Western Railway (GWR).
  • The electronic seat registration status displays were clear and understandable.
  • I didn’t use the wi-fi or the charging points, but others were using them and one guy said they worked fine.
  • Our ticket collector had a moan and I suspect there are a few problems that will be corrected as necessary.

But then trains always get a lot better after their first major update.

Comparison With Great Western Railway’s Version

The general consensus between two other passengers and myself, was that the seats in the Azuma were more comfortable, than those of GWR’s Class 800 trains.

A Three Class Train

Like some other services in the UK, the Azuma is effectively a three-class train.

  • First Class
  • Standard Class with a table.
  • Bog Standard Class

I find it interesting that East Midlands Railway are promising that all seats will have tables, which already happens on some services on Chiltern Railways.

I wonder if LNER’s competitors; East Coast Trains, Grand Central and Hull Trains will offer more tables.

As a regular user of Chiltern Railways, I can see more tables being added to all main line services.

Performance

As the pictures show, I followed the train speed with the Speedview app on my phone.

After accelerating away from Peterborough 125 mph was held to Stevenage and then after slowing for the twin-track section over the Digswell Viaduct, the train maintained 100 mph for most opf the way until Kings Cross.

I think we will see improved performance onf the East Coast Main Line, with speeds increasing and journey times decreasing.

  • There are plans to add extra tracks between Huntingdon and Peterborough.
  • The flyunder at Werrington will be completed.
  • There are plans for improvements to the North at Newark, Doncaster and York.
  • Digital signalling will allow 140 mph running of Azumas and other Class 800 trains.
  • It has been suggested that capacity on the route would improve with 125 mph trains running to Kings Lynn.

If all operators were running Class 800 trains, this would surely increase capacity.

Splitting And Joining

This document on the Hitachi web site is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-Speed Rolling Stock For UK Intercity Express Programme.

This is a sentence from the document.

It also incorporates an automatic coupling system that shortens the time taken to couple or uncouple trains while stopped at a station.

Their Kentish cousins have been at it for several years.

LNER have not disclosed how they will use splitting and joining, but there are possibilities, where two five-car trains leave London as a ten-car train and then split en route to serve two destinations.

  • London to Aberdeen and Inverness, splitting, at Edinburgh.
  • London to Harrogate or Skipton and Middlesborough, splitting at Leeds.
  • London to Lincoln and Hull, splitting at Newark.

Trains would join at the same stations, when returning South.

The splitting and joining has advantages over the current fixed-length InterCity 125 and InterCity 225.

  • A five-car Azuma, only needs a 130 metre long platform. So services to destinations like Lincoln, Middlesbrough, Scarborough and Sunderland without a long platform become possible without expensive platform extensions.
  • Train paths on the East Coast Main Line are being used more efficiently, as in some cases two destinations are served by one service into Kings Cross.

There are some disadvantages.

  • Travellers must make sure they get into the correct part of the train.
  • There is probably more staff on the train, as both five-car trains need a full crew.
  • Returning South, trains must keep to time precisely to the joining station, to avoid delaying another service.
  • All possible calling points on the East Coast Main Line, must be able to handle ten-car trains But as these are less than twenty metres longer than an InterCity 225, lengthening shouldn’t be a major exercise.

It’s probably best to consider the two five-car trains as separate services, which happened to be coupled together on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line.

It should also be noted that several stations like Kings Cross, Doncaster, York and others have entrances in the middle of the platform, which is convenient for either the front or rear train.

Bicycles, Surf Boards And Oversized Luggage

I don’t think you get many surfboards on London to Leeds services, but a member of LNER’s staff told me, that during the recent Tour de Yorkshire, there were a lot of passengers with bicycles. This could be a problem on the Azuma,, as the nine-car train has only four spaces, with a five-car just two.

With the conversion of Scottish services to Azumas, I can see that luggage could be a problem.

I took this picture at Edinburgh, where this luggage is about to be swallowed by the locomotive of an InterCity 125.

I can see a time, when there will be a need to add another car to some nine-car trains, to make sure all the bicycles, surf boards and oversized luggage can be accommodated on the train.

  • Are LNER cutting themselves off from upmarket golf tours, where passengers travel between London and Gleneagles in First Class luxury?
  • GWR have a similar problem on South West England services and I think, it will get more serious in the next few years, as more people take up cycling and surfing.
  • It appears GWR have resorted to banning surf-boards.
  • ScotRail have opted to convert redundant single-car Class 153 trains, into multi-purpose additional carriages to enhance services on the West Highland Line.

I can also see a problem on the London to Inverness services. In Promoting The Highland Main Line, I wrote about the efforts of the Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership to encourage more visitors to their iconic line and the surrounding area.

Many of the visitors that are attracted to the area, might come with bicycles, golf bags, climbing equipment and other oversized baggage.

So could we see an extra multi-purpose car added to some Azumas working between London and Scotland?

  • The Class 800 trains can be lengthened to as long as twelve cars.
  • Manufacturing of extra cars in the next few years, should be relatively easy.
  • Adding extra cars is a simple cut-and-paste, with the train software ascertaining the train formation.
  • Most platforms are probably long enough for at least ten-car trains.
  • A ten-car Class 800 formation is only fifteen metres longer than a nine-car InterCity 225.
  • There may be opportunities to carry high-value, urgent or perishable freight.

Obviously, the train operators’ needs to satisfy their markets and their finances will decide if extra cars are worth adding.

But I think, that we’ll see some ten-car Azumas on the London and Aerdeen, Edinburgh and Inverness routes.

Conclusion

The train appears to meet the specification, but as regards bulky luggage, it could be that the specification is lacking.

 

 

 

May 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 6 Comments