The Anonymous Widower

A Walk In Leeds City Centre

I had time to waste, so I took a walk in a wide circle around Leeds station.

I went under the railways through the station and then walked along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal towards the West. I turned North and followed the Kirkstall Viaduct, that used to take the trains into Leeds Central station.

One of the problems of this walk in Leeds, is that you might like to go through the station. But it doesn’t seem to be encouraged.

September 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Kirkstall Forge Station

Kirkstall Forge station has recently reopened, after being closed in 1905.

It is certainly an impressive new station and one of the best new stations I’ve seen.

There are certainly some nice touches.

  • A covered bridge with glass sides to give good views.
  • Nice finishes.
  • I liked the crash barriers and seats made out of steel, to emphasise the station’s history.
  • The Braille signs on the handrails. Something I first saw in Italy and wrote about in A Nice Touch On The Milan Underground.

At present, it doesn’t seem that busy and trains are not very numerous, but as the development gets underway in the area and the car parks fill up, this station could get very busy.

Some of the trains are going to and from Skipton, on the Airedale Line. If you read the Future section for that station’s Wikipedia entry, you get the impression that lots of things will happen at Skipton.

  • Direct London trains to Skipton are on the cards and a stop at Kirkstall Forge would be ideal for West Leeds and those that live on the Wharfedale Line to Ilkley, which also call at Kirkstall Forge.
  • But surely, Skipton is one of those places that is a jumping off point for the Pennines and also the Settle-Carlisle Line.
  • In addition, if plans to connect Skipton to Colne to connect Lancashire and Yorkshire through the Pennines come to fruition, Kirkstall Force could be the station, where passengers drive to get their train to the other side.

I don’t think you can accuse Network Rail and Metro of building a station at Kirkstall Forge, that doesn’t have future proofing.

It will be interesting to go in perhaps five years and see how this station has developed.

September 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | 1 Comment

Tram-Trains Recommended For Leeds-Bradford Airport Link

This report on Global Rail News is entitled Tram-train preferred for Leeds Bradford Airport link, which probably says most of it.

This Google Map shows the cities of Bradford and Leeds and the airport to the North.

Bradford, Leeds and Leeds-Bradford Airport

Bradford, Leeds and Leeds-Bradford Airport

And this map shows the airport and the surrounding area from Guiseley in the North West to Horsforth in the South East.

Leeds Bradford Airport

Leeds Bradford Airport

Both towns have stations.

If you need to travel between the two towns by rail, you need to change trains at Leeds.

The consultants report recommends that to link Leeds to the airport a tram-train link be built from Horsforth.

This Google Map shows the countryside between Horsforth station and the southern end of Leeds-Bradord Airport.

Horsforth To Leeds-Bradford Airport

Horsforth To Leeds-Bradford Airport

Horsforth station is in the South East corner of the map.

It would seem to not be the biggest engineering project to construct the airport link.

Although, it should be born in mind, that the area around and between Leeds and Bradford is not by any means flat and pilots of light aircraft are usually cautious on the approach to the airport, because the terrain causes all sorts of winds and updraughts.

This Google map shows the country between Guiseley and the northern end of Leeds-Bradford Airport.

Guiseley To Leeds-Bradford Airport

Guiseley To Leeds-Bradford Airport

Guiseley station is in the North West corner of this map.

It would probably not be as easy to built a link from Guiseley to the airport, that could handle tram-trains, as to build one from Horsforth.

Years ago, the Otley and Ilkey Joint Railway planned to create a railway from Guiseley to Horsforth via Yeadon, but it was never built and the Yeadon Branch was closed to all traffic in 1964.

It would be ironic, if tram-trains were to reconnect Guiseley and Horsforth via Leeds-Bradford Airport, along the route of the Yeadon Branch.

If a route from the airport to Guiseley could be built for tram-trains, then they could carry on to Bradford Forster Square station, thus giving Bradford direct access to the airport.

March 1, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Future Of The Calder Valley Line

On Saturday and Sunday, I did four trips on the Calder Valley Line

The pictures aren’t as comprehensive, as I would like, but at times the rain was very heavy.

The Route And Trains

This diagram clipped from Wikipedia, shows the route of the Calder Valley Line.

Calder Valley Line

Calder Valley Line

Note.

There is not much electrification.

  • Leeds to York is either electrified or will be in conjunction with the Huddersfield Line electrification.
  • Other routes between Leeds and the other Bradford station; Forster Square are electrified.
  • Manchester Victoria station is electrified.
  • Preston station is electrified and hopefully will be electrified to Blackpool North station.

The trains are a mixture of diesel Class 150 and Class 158 trains, run by Northern Rail. The Class 150s are a bit small and uncomfortable for the route and the top speeds of 75 mp for the Class 150s and 90 mph for the Class 158s, are probably not fast enough, especially as the two ends of the line have higher speed limits.

The Future

Wikipedia has a section on the Future of the Calder Valley Line. This is said.

Improvements to the line are proposed as part of Network Rail’s Northern Hub plans, which would allow for more frequent services on the line. Some services via Bradford would also be extended to Chester,Crewe, Liverpool and Manchester Airport. The Chester & Liverpool services have since been incorporated into the new Northern Rail franchise agreement – awarded to Arriva Rail North in December 2015 and due to start in April 2016, these will be marketed under the “Northern Connect” brand and operated by new 100mph DMUs once delivered. The Manchester Airport trains will follow one the Ordsall Curve is completed in 2018.

Low Moor station, between Bradford Interchange and Halifax, is due to be re-opened in 2016. A business case is being developed to re-open Elland station between Halifax and Brighouse.

There is no mention of electrification, for which the earliest dates are quoted as somewhere in the period from 2019-2024.

But there is this article is on the Shields Gazette web site, with a title of Electrification of the Calder Valley is ‘top priority’ says Rail Minister.

This article is backed up by other statements, so Network Rail and the Government are thinking seriously about electrification of the Calder Valley Line.

Network development and/or electrification is happening at both ends of the Calder Valley Line and I’ll look at both.

Network Development in Leeds and Bradford

The West Yorkshire Metro has proposed electrification of the Harrogate Line and have performed an extensive new station study.

They have already opened Apperley Bridge station and Kirkstall Forge station will follow in a few weeks.

The new stations survey mentions these new stations.

As I said earlier Low Moor station is being built. It will be on the unelectrified line between Bradford Interchange and Halifax. If Elland station is reopened, then it will be the other side of Halifax towards Brighouse. To serve both these new stations trains will have to serve the following stations.

  • Bradford Interchange
  • Low Moor
  • Halifax
  • Elland
  • Brighouse
  • Huddersfield

This is a modification to the current hourly service from Bradford Interchange to Huddersfield via Brighouse.

In the next few years hopefully, Huddersfield will be electrified, but there is no chance that this route into Bradford Interchange will be electrified at the same time. It would probably be pointless, as Bradford Interchange station, unlike Bradford Forster Square station is not electrified.

To make matters a lot more complicated, the stupid fact that Bradford has two entirely separate stations, means the following.

  • There is no train, that calls at both Leeds and Bradford and goes on to Huddersfield and Manchester.
  • There is no train, that calls at both Leeds and Bradford and goes on to Halifax and Hebden Bridge.
  • There will be no direct train between Leeds and Low Moor.

I think other journeys of less than twenty or thirty miles in the Leeds-Bradford area will probably be either impossible or much more complicated than they should be.

Also, at the moment, two of the Leeds-Bradford routes are electrified and the Calder Valley Line is not.

The only new electrification in the area planned, will be the fast route on the Huddersfield Line from Leeds to Huddersfield via Dewsbury.

To help in comprehension, this is a Google Map, showing how the Calder Valley Line links into Bradford Interchange.

Bradford And The Calder Valley Line

Bradford And The Calder Valley Line

Bradford Forster Square Station is in the North-East corner of the map, with Bradford Interchange below it.

Note how the Calder Valley Line comes in from Leeds in the east,  before doing a turn to the north and Bradford Interchange station. After reversing in the station, trains leave the station in a southerly direction towards the new Low Moor station and onto the West. Because of the dark scar below the line, I wonder if in the past, there has been a connection by-passing the station.

It’s a mess!

The solution needs to be four-fold.

  • Electrify Leeds to Huddersfield via Dewsbury. This is being done.
  • Electrify the Calder Valley Line from Leeds through Bradford and Low Moor as far as Halifax.
  • Electrify the link between the Calder Valley Line and the Huddersfield Line through Brighouse.
  • Sort out the absurd situation of the two Bradford stations.

This would enable the West Yorkshire Metro to expand its network of electric trains in the area. It could even use IPEMUs, which would charge their batteries on the electrified core network and then provide services to other towns and cities.

I’m sure that the West Yorkshire Metro can be ambitious and will have other and better ideas.

Network Development in Lancashire

Currently, there is a lot happening at the other end of the Calder Valley Line.

  • The Todmorden Curve has opened and a new hourly service runs between Blackburn and Manchester Victoria.
  • Manchester Victoria station is becoming a top class station and an electrified hub for services spreading out from Manchester.
  • Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street is now electrified.
  • Manchester Victoria to Blackpool North via Bolton and Preston is being fully electrified.
  • The Ordsall Curve is finally being built to link Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria stations.
  • Merseyrail is acquiring a new fleet of trains, which may include IPEMUs.

With the devolution of local rail services to local bodies, I suspect other things will happen.

Northern Connect

Northern Connect is a new sub-brand that will be introduced by Arriva Rail North.

Services in the sub-brand using the Calder Valley Line include.

  • Chester to Leeds via Warrington, Manchester Victoria and the Calder Valley
  • Blackpool North to York via Preston and Leeds
  • Bradford to Manchester Airport via the Calder Valley.

Will the first two services call at Bradford Interchange and will the third call at Leeds?

According to the January 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, these routes will be worked by new diesel multiple units.

The Chester and Manchester Airport services may need to be delayed until after the Ordsall Chord is opened.

But whatever happens Arriva Rail North will be running more services on the Calder Valley Line.

For commercial reasons, they would like to do the following.

  • Run faster services.
  • Run more frequent services.
  • Run services with smart new trains.
  • Run services with electric trains.

All except the last could be possible in the next few years.

The Current Infrastructure

The Calder Valley Line between Halifax and Burnley is summed up by Wikipedia like this.

For the section between Halifax and Burnley the line uses the valley of the River Calder, which in fact comprises two separate valleys with rivers of the same name, that of West Yorkshire and the Lancashire River Calder thus giving the services their name; it also follows the Rochdale Canal from Todmorden into Manchester. Since the route crosses the Pennines, there are many tunnels to negotiate en route.

I counted twelve tunnels and at least two major viaducts. The tunnels include at least three over a thousand metres, one of which; the Summit Tunnel is over 2.6 miles long.

The Summit Tunnel is one of the oldest rail tunnels in the world, is lined with 23 million bricks and has been used continuously since it opened in the 1840s.

This Google Map shows the challenging nature of the line.

Between Burnley And Todmorden

Between Burnley And Todmorden

Note how the line threads its way between the hills and houses and uses a tunnel to get through.

It must be a nightmare on which to work.

As if the hills, valleys and rivers wasn’t enough, stuck in the middle of the line is the Grade II Listed Hebden Bridge station. I wrote about it in Hebden Bridge and feel that the heritage lobby will strongly resist any changes to this station.

In fact, electrification across the Pennines could bring out all the environment lobby, who feel views are more important, than jobs and prosperity.

I have a feeling, that any sane electrification engineer will look at this line between Manchester Victoria and Halifax and between Blackburn and Todmorden  and say that electrifying the line is just not on!

He or she would also feel that leaving the sleeping giant of the Summit Tunnel lie would be best.

But apart from that, the line seems sound and in good order.

Electric Trains On The Calder Valley Line

If electrification of the Calder Valley Line is a top priority of politicians how can that be squared with the undoubtedly difficult nature of the work that would be required to electrify the line.

So what can be electrified?

  • As I said earlier, there will be strong pressure to electrify around Leeds and Bradford. to perhaps as far as Halifax and Brighouse.
  • I also suspect that electrifying from the West Coast Main Line at Preston to Blackburn would be relatively easy.

So this would leave the these gaps of lines and routes without electrification.

  • Blackburn to Halifax – Around thirty miles
  • Manchester Victoria to Halifax – Around thirty-five miles
  • Blackburn to Manchester Victoria – Around forty miles

All of these runs would be totally within the range of an IPEMU.

Preston to Blackburn electrification, might also allow IPEMUs to take over the following routes.

  • Blackpool South to Colne and possibly on to Skipton on a new section of track.
  • Blackpool North to Settle
  • Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe via Blackburn

So I believe it is possible for the Calder Valley Line to get electric trains, without the cost and disruption of installing the overhead wires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 5, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

An Early Sunday Start From Burnley To Manchester

I started early and took the 08:39 train from Burnley Manchester Road station to Manchester Victoria station.

It is a picturesque ride around the Todmorden Curve, over valleys on high viaducts and through traditional stone-built villages and towns, with the hills of the Pennines in the background and quite a bit of water alongside the rail line.

The line has improved greatly in the last few years and there are lots of tidy stations, with seats, shelters and information boards. The only larger ones are Burnley Manchester Road, Todmorden and Rochdale.

Despite the early hour on a Sunday, there were quite a few passengers and the train was about three-quarters full at Manchester Victoria.

Thinking back to my first time by train to Burnley in 2011, the rail link has improved dramatically.

  • A smart new station has been built.
  • The Todmorden Curve has been opened to provide a direct train service to Manchester.
  • An hourly service links Burnley and Manchester Victoria via the curve.

From reports, I’ve read, the line is well-used.

This question has to be asked – Could the line be electrified?

Look at some of the pictures and they show the challenging nature of electrifying the line.

  • From Burnley to Todmorden, there are a number of well-built Victorian stone over-bridges.
  • Also on this stretch there are at least two high stone viaducts.
  • There are several tunnels, includin the Summit Tunnel, which is 2.6 km. long and has been in continuous use since the 1840s.
  • Many stations have been upgraded or rebuilt recently.
  • Also in this area, some new bridges across the line for new roads and the Metrolink, seem to appear to be rather low.

Also, look as this section of the line between Burnley and Todmorden.

Between Burnley And Todmorden

Between Burnley And Todmorden

Note how the rail line curves between the hills and the houses, using tunnels and viaducts to get go on its way.

It’s one of those lines, where you’d try to find an alternative to traditional electrification. If it’s not space, it’s heritage issues and there would be lots of bridges, viaducts and tunels to rebuild.

Go west from Burnley and the line has a couple of high viaducts and a couple of tunnels, but the East Lancashire Line seems to get easier west of Blackburn station, with a line over mainly flat countryside with plenty of space on either side. At Preston it connects to the electrified West Coast Main Line.

Electrifying from Preston to Blackburn, would open up several routes to the use of IPEMU trains.

  • Blackpool South to Colne – A substantial part of the route of the fifty mile route from Blackpool South to Colne would be electrified and from the performance figures I’ve seen, this route would be an easy one for something like an  IPEMU-variant of a four-car Class 387 train.
  • Burnley to Manchester – The service I rode from Burnley to Manchester starts at Blackburn and finishes in a fully electrified Manchester Victoria.  So to answer my original question about whether the route could be electrified, there is actually no need to electrify, as IPEMUs could easily link two electrified terminals over that distance.
  • Manchester to Clitheroe – Look at the Ribble Valley Line on Wikipedia and there are five viaducts and three tunnels listed, in a line of around thirty miles. However, the good news is three-fold. The line has been well looked after, it’s promoted as a tourist attraction and soon, it will be electrified from Manchester as far as Bolton. I can’t see why with a small top-up at Blackburn, that this route couldn’t be run by an IPEMU.
  • Blackpool North to Settle – This route is run as a tourist train called DalesRail on Sundays in the Summer, when it goes all the way to Carlisle. An IPEMU could certainly run a service between Blackpool North and Settle, but I doubt it could stretch all the way to Carlisle along the Settle-Carlisle Line, as there are some massive gradients on that line.
  • Blackpool North to Leeds – This route along the Calder Valley Line via Hebden Bridge, Halifax and Bradford would be totally within range of an IPEMU, once Blackburn to Preston is electrified. If necessary, Leeds to Bradford could be electrified as well. A train fit for the Northern Powerhouse, powered by batteries and built in Derby!

This all illustrates how an IPEMU can benefit from even short sections of electrification. Blackburn to Preston would be under twenty miles of electrification without troublesome viaducts and tunnels across fairly flat country and it opens up several routes to new electric trains.

It’s funny, but if you are going to use IPEMU trains, you electrify all the lines, that you can electrify and maintain with ease and leave all the difficult bits to the battery feature in the trains.

 

 

January 3, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

From Leeds To Burnley Manchester Road

I’d gone to Burnley for the football via Leeds, as the West Coast Main Line seemed to be partly closed and I also wanted to take a look at the recently-opened Apperley Bridge station, which I wrote about in The New Apperley Bridge Station.

The trains across the Pennines on Saturdays are an hourly service at xx:08 from York to Blackpool North, that calls at New Pudsey, Bradford Interchange, Halifax and Hebden Bridge, on the section of route I would travel.

The train was busy and I was unable to get any decent pictures, but my 12:08 departure dropped me on time in Burnley Manchester Road station at 13:11. I wrote about the scenic qualities of the route before in The Scenic Route From Leeds To Manchester.

Burnley Manchester Road station doesn’t have a taxi rank, but I was able to hi-jack an empty one and the driver took me to my Premier Inn just north of the town centre and Turf Moor for a fiver.

It was a hard-fought match and a goalless draw was a fair result.

The Premier Inn is a useful one, as it is only a few minutes walk down and up the hill to Turf Moor.

One of the staff told me, that they get a lot of walkers and cyclists using the hotel as a half-way point on the nearby Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

 

January 2, 2016 Posted by | Sport, Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The New Apperley Bridge Station

Apperley Bridge station  is a new station between Leeds and Shipley on the Leeds to Bradford Lines.

The station is a simple design, based around an existing bridge and uses ramps rather than lifts for step-free access.

It must make for a more affordable design. The new Kirkstall Forge station is reported to be being built using similar principles.

This Google Map shows the Location of Apperley Bridge station.

Apperley Bridge Station Location

Apperley Bridge Station Location

The station has been built by the wetsmost of the two branches. The Avenue leading away to the North doesn’t lead to the country seat of a man of means or breeding, but to what appears to be a large sewage works.

The two stations are reported in this web page as costing sixteen million pounds for the pair.

But judging by the heavyweight construction, the good-sized shelters, Network Rail have future proofed this station for a lot more passengers than they will expect in the next year.

Perhaps this section entitled The Future in the Wikipedia entry for the Airedale Line offers a clue!

This is said.

Recent Network Rail reports have looked at ways of increasing capacity on the line. Because of the difficulty of lengthening platforms at Shipley, it will be hard to introduce longer trains (i.e. 5 or 6 carriages) as is being proposed on the neighbouring Wharfedale Line. It is therefore proposed to run more trains per hour between Leeds and Keighley, with a new platform at Keighley to accommodate this. A new station atApperley Bridge opened in 2015 and Kirkstall Forge is due to open in January 2016, with both stations located between Leeds and Skipton via Shipley.

Could it be that the two new stations will also divert commuters into Leeds from Shipley?

Wikipedia appears to suggest that Shipley station has access problems, so perhaps diverting passengers to a new fully-accessible station increases capacity on the line.

This Google Map shows that Shipley station isn’t your bog-standard two-platform station.

Shipley Station

Shipley Station

I only know of one other station built in the middle of a triangular junction; Liverpool South Parkway. But that station was designed that way.

Incidentally, a guy at Appleby Bridge station told me, that it can take an hour to drive into Leeds in the rush hour from the village, but the train takes less than ten minutes.

January 2, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

HS2 Does The Right Thing At Leeds

I don’t like the concept of most of the HS2 stations.

Euston, isn’t too bad, as the HS2 platforms are alongside those for the main station and I suspect that when and if I see it in reality, I will be able to arrive in the station on perhaps a London Midland train from Bletchley or Tring and just walk across to the HS2 platforms.

At some of our better interchange stations like Reading, to change trains, you go up escalators to a wide overbridge and then walk across to the escalator for the platform of your departing train. The design also allows seats and cafes in a totally non-claustrophobic environment. I have a feeling that the new London Bridge will raise the bar of this type of station even higher!

To my mind the designs for HS2 station at Birmingham is absolute rubbish and truly terrible. Birmingham is developing a local train, tram and bus network centred on New Street station, so instead of HS2 arriving into this hub, it arrives at a separate station some distance away and many passengers will have to get a tram to connect to their ongoing service.

As HS2 will run very large trains, imagine say a thousand Chelsea fans arriving on HS2 to go to a match at Villa Park and needing to get a train from New Street. You save masses of time by using HS2 and then waste it queuing for a tram.

But if HS2 arrived directly into New Street, a lot of the problems would be solved with a short walk.

In Birmingham there is no space in New Street itself, but why shouldn’t HS2 arrive in an underground station beneath New Street? Or in my preferred solution, in a giant double-ended station stretching right under the City Centre.

As they’ve got a redundant piece of Grade 1 Listed railway memorabilia, they’ll use that instead. The heritage lobby should crawl back into its hole!

But at Leeds, HS2 have put forward a new proposal, where HS2 meets the existing station in a giant version of the way  trams met the train at Nottingham.

This is the only picture I can find of the proposal. It’s in an article in Global Rail News.

HS2 At Leeds Station

HS2 At Leeds Station

Passengers arriving in Leeds would just walk to the front of the train and then they’d be over the platforms of the existing Leeds station. If that is too difficult, then I’m sure we’ll see a few travalators.

It is a much better layout than that proposed for Birmingham.

Interchange between HS2 and local services must be a short walk, assisted by lifts, escalators or travalators as required.

December 19, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Reaction In The North To Rail Franchise Awards

I have been browsing the local papers in the North, to see the area’s reaction to the award of the new Northern and TransPennine franchises.

This article in the Liverpool Echo is entitled 4,000 more seats in £1.2bn boost for North West trains, which seems a very positive headline. This is the first paragraph.

Nearly 4,000 more seats on Liverpool and Manchester services during the morning peak and a new, direct Liverpool to Glasgow service were among the promised benefits of a trains package announced today.

They use a lot of positive language and only have a slight worry about what it will mean for fares.

This extract from another article, may be a bit parochial, but it is proud of Liverpool’s involvement in formulating the winning bids.

Merseytravel – who were involved in drawing up the specifications for the bidders – said there was a commitment to four fast services an hour between Lime Street and Manchester and two per hour between Liverpool, Leeds and York, as well as more services to Preston.

There will also be an early Northern service from Lime Street to Manchester Airport (arriving no later than 4.45am), and daily services to Manchester Airport via both Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Central.

It is also positive and just as I found in the city, when they introduced the Class 319s electric to Manchester Victoria, Merseysiders seem to be looking forward to better services.

Coverage on the Manchester Evening News, like this article entitled Hundreds of new carriages promised as Arriva and FirstGroup win Greater Manchester rail franchises, seems to be more cynical and snipes at Arriva for other issues. It doesn’t have the practical tone of the Liverpool reporting.

For instance, the Liverpool reporting stresses the much better service to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle, but despite Manchester will get a doubling of Scottish services, it isn’t given the same prominence.

Across in Leeds, the Yorkshire Post has an article entitled December 10: New age of the train – or not? This said.

Unlike previous deals which did not foresee the untapped potential of this region’s railways, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has used this opportunity to insist that the new franchise-holders invest in new rolling stock to help ease overcrowding on rush-hour trains. Yet it remains to be seen whether these operators, and their partners, can deliver the “world class rail service” envisaged by Mr McLoughlin and which is so integral to the much-vaunted Northern Powerhouse which aims to improve connectivity between major cities.

It looks to me that the Yorkshire character is shining through.

So on this quick look Liverpool is more positive and Manchester and Leeds are a tad negative.

Could it be that of the three cities, Liverpool is very proud of its locally-managed franchise, Merseyrail and are those in the area bigger train users than people to the East?

I also suspect, that at present, Liverpool with the electric trains to Manchester, has benefited most from rail dvelopment in the last few years.

 

 

December 10, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Northern Electrification Going To Use Battery Trains?

This report on the BBC is entitled Network Rail to restart electrification of train lines. This is said.

The electrification of two railway lines is to be restarted after the projects were halted so a review could be carried out, the government says.

Work on the TransPennine Express Railway – between Manchester and York – and Midland Mainline – from London to Sheffield – was paused in June.

Sir Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail, said the “temporary pause” had “given us the space to develop a better plan”

The Aventra IPEMU

Looking at the electrification of the two lines in posts over the previous few days, I have come to the conclusion that properly engineered battery trains built by Bombardier in Derby called Aventra IPEMUs (Independently Powered Electrical Multiple Units) could charge their batteries on existing sections of electrification and jump the gaps at speeds of up to at least 110 mph and possibly 125 mph, by running on batteries.

If that sounds like something that is too good to be true, I don’t believe it is! I was impressed when as a paying passenger, I rode the prototype train between Manningtree and Harwich.

For those who think that a battery train is just so-much Mickey Mouse-technology, note that the battery supplier; Valence is linked to Tessla; the electric vehicle manufacturer. A review of their latest car is on Autocar. The biggest problem with the car is not the power, range and performance, but the time it takes to charge the car from a typical supply. In addition to the overhead wire or third rail of the railway, an Aventra IPEMU has to charge the battery, the train will also charge the batteries using the regenerative braking system.

The TransPennine Line

On the TransPennine Line from Liverpool to Newcastle, the only gap in the electrification is the forty-three miles between Leeds and Manchester.

Aventra IPEMUs have a range of sixty miles, so Liverpool to Newcastle would be electric all the way and could be faster by up to thirty minutes on the current three hour journey.

Read Jumping The Electrification Gap Between Leeds And Manchester for full details on what it would entail.

The Midland Main Line

On the Midland Main Line, the electrification reaches from St. Pancras to Bedford.

As Corby, Kettering and Leicester are all within an Aventra IPEMU’s range from Bedford, these places could be served by these trains, once a certain amount of track and station work had been completed.

Read Thoughts On Midland Main Line Electrification for full details.

Delivering The Projects

The BBC article says this about the schedule.

The TransPennine upgrade is expected to provide capacity for six “fast or semi-fast trains” per hour between Manchester, Leeds and York , reducing journey times by up to 15 minutes.

The Manchester to York section of the work is now planned to be completed by 2022.

Once completed, the whole line from Liverpool to Newcastle will be fully electrified, the Department for Transport added.

The electrification of Midland Mainline north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby will now be completed by 2019, and the line north of Kettering to Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and to Sheffield will finish by 2023.

My project management knowledge and observations of Network Rail, say that to get electric trains to Kettering and Corby by 2019, would be a very tight schedule to perform on a working railway using conventional electrification!

But if it were needed to replace the current Class 222 trains with Aventra IPEMUs, it would just be a matter of certifying the line for the new Aventra IPEMUs and training the drivers and other staff.

There would be little or no work outside in the elements and all of the electrification would effectively be done in a comfortable warm factory at Derby!

I also feel that if say Network Rail said that the projects would be delivered on a particular date, that the risk of non-delivery would be very small.

Aventra IPEMUs can’t be delivered earlier, as the Derby factory will be jammed solid with production of Aventras for Crossrail.

On the other hand to prove the concept, would Bombardier modify a Class 387 train to create an IPEMU variant to run in passenger service between St.Pancras and Corby. Note that there have already been rumours of Class 387 IPEMU variants for Great Western Railway.

I wouldn’t be surprised if such a train is created, as it would be a superb way to identify any problems, train staff, prove the credibility of battery trains to a sceptical public and even deliver  electric trains earlier.

A Cunning Plan

There are twenty seven Class 387 trains running on the Thameslink route at the moment, that will be replaced by Class 700 trains between 2016 and 2018.

As the Great Western Main Line won’t be electrified to Newbury, Swindon and Oxford until 2019 or whatever, there does seem to be the possibility of some very new Class 387 trains going into storage.

But as they are very similar to the Class 379 that was used for the IPEMU demonstrator, I do wonder if those clever engineers at Bombardier could convert some of these 110 mph trains into an IPEMU variant that could be used on services on TransPennine and the Midland Main Line.

If there were any spare Class 379 trains, I’m sure that other train companies would find a use for them! Especially, if Bombardier developed a plug-in battery system for the trains, so they could be used to prove if IPEMUs improved the lot of passengers on secondary lines.

You have to make your assets sweat.

Conclusion

I may be wrong, but I can’t see any other way to meet the schedule that has been published, unless some form of IPEMU is used to bridge the gaps in electrification..

It could be said that the North needs fast electric trains now and George Osborne needs them by 2020, as he has an election to win!

It might not matter much to most people if the trains didn’t run until say August 2020, but George Osborne would be unlikely to win an election in May 2020, if the trains were not delivered and running smoothly.

 

September 30, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment