The Anonymous Widower

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 | , , , , , , | 8 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 – Kirkby Station

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

So as I was going from Liverpool to Blackburn, I took a detour.

These pictures were taken at Kirkby station.

The amazing thing about Kirkby station is that in the last three years, the yearly passenger totals have averaged around 2.4 million.

Not bad for a station with four trains per hour (tph) to Liverpool and two tph to Manchester.

Near me in London, Chingford station has 4 tph to London and struggles to attract 1.7 million passengers per year.

You can understand, why Merseyrail are considering expanding the train service to Kirkby and the surrounding area.

Under Merseyrail’s plans, the station will remain a single platform, but I suspect the upgrading will do the following.

  • Trains will stop by the stairs and the ramp.
  • Platform facilities could be improved.
  • There’s space for a lift!

I suspect there’s not too many single-platform stations that will be able to handle 4 tph in both directions.

 

September 21, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

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