The Anonymous Widower

Should Railways Have A Pop-Up Service Capability?

Most of us will be familiar with the concept of Pop-Up Retail.

This is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry.

Pop-up retail, also known as pop-up store (pop-up shop in the UK, Australia and Ireland) or flash retailing, is a trend of opening short-term sales spaces that started in Los Angeles and now pop up all over the United States, Canada, China,Japan, Mexico, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia. The pop-up industry is now estimated to be a $50 billion industry. Pop-up retail has been an increasing factor during the retail apocalypse of the 2010s, including seasonal Halloween retailer Spirit Halloween, who has operated stores in vacant spaces during the season.
Chris Stokes in his column in the December 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, gives a summary of and praises Adrian Shooter’s Vivarail project and its Class 230 train.
He then says.
Two of the units are scheduled for export to the United States, to demonstrate for the potential for ‘pop-up’ commuter services; the cost of a one-year period are said to be equivalent to the consultancy costs for opening a new route. Should such an approach be considered in this country too? The gestation period for new services on freight-only routes is probably the best part of 10 years, but it doesn’t have to be like that.
So is Chris’s concept a viable proposition?
Examples In The UK
Chris then goes on to give an example of a successful pop-up station.
When floods swept away the road bridge at Workington in 2009; Network Rail and Northern constructed a pop-up station and introduced additional trains in less than two weeks.
Recently, Liverpool Lime Street station was partly-closed for rebuilding, so Network Rail extended Platform 4 at Liverpool South Parkway station, so that it could be used as a terminus for trains from London and the South.
The picture shows a Virgin Pendelino in the temporary platform.
Passengers could then transfer to Merseyrail to complete their journey to Liverpool City Centre.
Incidentally, I’d like to know how many passengers to and from Liverpool, found it more convenient to catch their London train from Liverpool South Parkway station. Perhaps, after Merseyrail has its new trains, many passengers would like to use Liverpool South Parkway for longer journeys?
Does anybody know of any other instances of pop-up stations like these in the UK?
What Is Needed To Create These Pop-Up Stations?
Various elements must be brought together to build a pop-up station.
Types Of Stations

I can envisage three types of simple stations.

  1. A one-platform station on a single-track line.
  2. A two-platform station on a double-track line.
  3. A one-platform station on a double-track line.

Note

  1. Type One, would be the simplest and would be worked bidirectionally.
  2. Type Two, would probably require a bridge across the tracks.
  3. Type Three, would need crossovers at both ends of the station, to allow the single platform to be worked bidirectionally.

Obviously, Type 1 would be the most affordable and probably easiest to install.

The Platforms
This picture shows the temporary extended platform at Liverpool South Parkway station.
Only, if you look to the left, do you realise, it is not a permanent structure.
The only problem was that at 150 metres in length, it was a long walk. But most pop-up stations would not be for eleven-coach Class 390 trains.
Scaffolding and prefabricated platforms, should be able to cope with most situations.
Station Buildings
The platform extension at Liverpool South Parkway station didn’t need any buildings, as it was added to an existing station.
But surely, Portakabin and their ilk can come up with something that would work for a couple of years, with perhaps a waiting room or shelter, a ticket machine and even toilets.
A Station Bridge
A proportion of two-platform stations will need a bridge, so that passengers can get from one platform to the other.
At the present time, where a temporary bridge is needed, Network Rail generally put up vast scaffolding structures, like this one at Forest Gate station, used during station reconstruction for Crossrail.
Passenger-friendly it is not!
What is needed is a well-designed temporary footbridge system, that can be lifted in place in sections from a train.
Some footbridge versions might even have lifts and could be installed as pop-up bridges at stations, which urgently need step-free access.
Perhaps, pop-up stations could use a version of Heatherwick Studio’s rolling bridge.
I shall add some pictures of the open bridge, when they fix it.
  • It would certainly bridge the gap between two platforms with a double-track railway in between.
  • In a rail application, the bridge would be interlocked with the signalling and controlled by the signaller.
  • Signals and lights could be added to the bridge  to ensure complete safety.
  • Wikipedia says the original at the Paddington Basin cost £500,000, which could probably be reduced if more were built.
  • This page on the Merchant Square web site, shows the bridge in action.
  • I suspect this bridge would work on single- or double-track lines, without electrification, or with third-rail or with overhead electrification.
  • At many stations it could just be dropped in place from a rail-mounted crane, after preparing the existing platforms.
  • I suspect though, that there would be a limit to the number of trains per hour it could handle.
One of Heatherwick’s bridges, would certainly help in telling the locals, that they have a new station or step-free bridge across the railway.
I wonder if Heatherwick Studio has been talking to Network Rail.
Signalling
The signalling might have to be modified to ensure safety.
When all trains were fitted with in-cab digital signalling, as is planned, then this would surely make pop-up stations and services easier to install.
Tracks
The installation would surely be designed to minimise work on the tracks.
Only the Type Three station would require more than minimal work to the tracks, but the station would only have one platform, which would not require a bridge.
Modern Trains And The Pop-Up Station
Chris Stokes talks about running new pop-up services on freight-only lines, but I believe that there will be calls to use pop-up stations to provide extra stops on existing services.
As an example, suppose that Greater Anglia wanted to assess the demand for a new Soham station. In a year or two, the company will be operating at least an hourly service along the line with their new Class 755 trains.
These trains are part of the new breed of modern trains, which will have the following.
  • The ability to execute a fast stop at a station.
  • Level access will be possible between train and platform.
  • On-board CCTV systems to ensure safe loading and unloading of passengers.
  • Modern in-cab digital signalling.

This will enable the trains to make a station stop without causing problems to the existing timetable.

So if Network Rail, had the ability to quickly install a pop-up station, modern trains would allow a service to be tested at a reasonable cost.

The Practicalities Of Installing A Pop-Up Station

Suppose a station were to be installed at Soham or any other suitable place.

I would expect Network Rail to produce standard designs for the foundations of their pop-up stations.

Network Rail periodically close a line to replace track or do various other work. When a line is closed for this work and a pop-up station might be needed on the route, the standard foundations would be installed.

Then, when the budget for the station had been obtained, the station would be installed and commissioned in a suitable possession.

Conclusion

I believe a pop-up station is a feasible proposition.

If a pop-up station is a feasible proposition, then it follows that to install perhaps five stations on a freight-only line to create a totally new passenger service is also a feasible proposition.

 

December 5, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liverpool South Parkway Station Stands In For Lime Street

I went to Liverpool to see the new Maghull North station and a few other things in the Second City.

Liverpool Lime Street station is closed at the moment due to major works, so all London trains are going only as far as Liverpool South Parkway station.

These pictures show the station.

The station was coping well, as passengers from outside Liverpool ytansferred to Merseyrail to continue their journeys to the City Centre.

On my visit to Liverpool, I went first to Maghull North station, so I got a Southport train on Merseyrail’s Northern Line to Sandhills station, where I changed trains.

There are not many cities in the UK, which have the luxury of an alternative terminus of the quality of Liverpool South Parkway station to stand in, when the main station has to be closed.

When we left for London, the train initially went towards Liverpool and then crossed over to the line to London, before coming back through the Liverpool South Parkway station.

This was because the station wasn’t designed for use as a terminus and there is no other way to get the train on the right line for Crewe and the South.

It would also appear from the pictures, that to cope with the length of the eleven-car Virgin Pendelinos, that a temporary platform extension has been built.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

The Halton Curve: Small Piece Of Track, Big Rail Ambitions

The title of this post is the same as that of an article on the Rail Technology Magazine web site.

The Halton Curve will create a link between Liverpool and North Wales. This page on the Network Rail web site gives more details.

Work has started on the 1.5 miles of rail track, known as the ‘Halton Curve,’ that will unlock leisure and business opportunities between the Liverpool City Region, its airport, Cheshire and North Wales.

Vital upgrades to signalling and track will enable new services between Liverpool and Chester, serving Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway (for Liverpool John Lennon Airport) Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby.

The existing line, which currently only runs a one-way passenger service once a week in the summer, will be upgraded to provide an hourly service in each direction from December 2018 with the potential for connections to North Wales in the future.

Restoring the Halton Curve is similar to a number of smaller projects that have been executed in the last few years, to improve connectivity and efficiency in the UK rail network.

Most seem to have been worthwhile. But look back a couple of decades and it was unlikely that some of these projects would ever be needed.

As the economy grows, freight moves from road to rail and more people travel a lot more by rail, it is very difficult to predict what will happen in the future. I feel we should address the following.

If we remove a railway line, we should not destroy the ability to reinstate the line. Rebuilding the Waverley Route and the Varsity Line would be a lot easier, if this rule had been followed.

Network Rail appear to have a tendency to kick smaller projects into the future. A simple example is the creation of a bay platform at Stevenage station to turn back services on the Hertford Loop Line which seems to have been pushed back until after the new Class 717 trains arrive.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

NR States Ambition To Keep Liverpool Moving During Major Lime Street Work

The title of this post is the same as the title of this article on the Rail Technology Magazine web site.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Liverpool Lime Street will remain “open for business” whilst it undergoes major work this autumn, Network Rail has today reassured passengers in the region.

The latest stage of work will take place between 30 September and 22 October in what is one of the biggest upgrades the station has seen since the 19th century.

The station upgrade is part of a £340 million railway investment in the Liverpool City Region.

This document from Network Rail describes the scope of the project in detail.

These are some extracts from the document.

What Are The Benefits For Passengers?

The Liverpool City Region Railway Upgrade Plan will deliver for passengers:

  •  A bigger and better railway network with longer and faster trains
  •  More reliable railway infrastructure
  • Better facilities for passengers, especially at stations
  • Increased capacity/additional services

What Will This Mean In Practice?

  • Three extra services per hour, in and out of Lime Street station, such as the planned new First Transpennine Express
    services from Liverpool to Glasgow in 2019.
  • Better east-west connectivity to and from Liverpool.
  • New services to Chester via Liverpool South Parkway and the opportunity to develop more routes into North Wales in the future.
  • New station facilities and interchange at Newton-Le-Willows.
  • A new station at ‘Maghull North’ to support growth in passenger demand.
  • New signalling which will improve the reliability of the network and speed up decision making to minimise disruption.
  • Works to facilitate the running of new trains on the Wirral and Northern lines.

Liverpool Lime Street Station

Liverpool Lime Street station will be getting a major upgrade consisting of the following.

  • Two new platforms between the current platforms 7 and 8.
  • Platform lengthening.
  • Improved signalling and electrification.
  • More shops.

This should enable another three trains per hour to be handled.

It’s over fifty years since I first arrived in Lime Street to go to Liverpool University and the station has changed a lot in those years. Network Rail are saying, that this upgrade will cope with the doubling of passenger number expected before 2043.

Using Liverpool South Parkway Station As A Relief Terminus

The upgrade will mean that at times during the works, trains into Liverpool will not be able to access Lime Street. So some trains will terminate at Liverpool South Parkway station from where passengers can take Merseyrail’s Northern Line to the City Centre.

How many of our large cities can cope, when the main station is closed?

  • Glasgow proved they can, when Queen Street station was closed.
  • London is managing biow, with mahor works going on at Waterloo.
  • Manchester’s ability to cope will surely be greatly improved when the Ordsall Chord opens.
  • Birmingham seemed to manage during the rebuilding of New Street station.
  • Newcastle has the Metro to help.
  • Sheffield has a second station at Meadowhall.

Would Leeds be the city to struggle?

Liverpool will probably cope well, as there are various rail routes into the City, that avoid Lime Street, most of which have four trains per hour.

I always remember the Liverpool Bus Strike of around 1967. Liverpudlians just walked, as did most of the students like me, who needed to get into the University.

I don’t think, it will come to walking this time, as Network Rail have promised quality buses.

Conclusion

There is a lot of work to do, but after the example of Waterloo, it is likely to go fairly well to plan.

But there will be a few hiccups.

August 17, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769

This is the title of a short article in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

Giving the Class 319 Flex train, its own unique class number of 769, must say that Porterbrook, Northern, Network Rail and the Department of Transport, think that the bi-mode conversion of a Class 319 train is a viable project.

The article gives some new details about the trains.

  • Northern have ordered eight units, which will be delivered before the end of May 2018.
  • The first unit is at Wabtec’s Brush Traction facility in Louthborough.
  • Completion of the design and the first load testing is plasnned before the end of May.
  • The first unit is due to be completed with driver training underway, by the end of the year.
  • Northern will get a total of thirty-two Class 319 trains, which probably include the eight Class 769 trains.
  • Tri-mode functionality and dynamic mode changeover on the move are being considered.
  • Full production rate is a Class 769 train every two weeks.

The Class 319 Flex train has definitely moved from concept to a real train.

The article finishes by saying that Porterbrook expects further orders soon, while  it is also considering transferring the concept to other roiling stock, such as the Class 455 train.

Why Convert Class 455 Trains?

The Class 319 and Class 455 trains are very similar electrical multiple units based on Mark 3 coaches.

But there are a few differences.

  • The Class 455 is third-rail only, whereas the Class 319 is dual-voltage.
  • The Class 455 is a 75 mph train, whereas the Class 319  is a 100 mph train.
  • South West Trains’ Class 455 trains have had an extensive refurbishment and are fitted with 2+2 seating.
  • South West Trains planned to upgrade the traction package of the Class 455 trains, which would include new AC traction motors and regenerative braking. This article in Rail Magazine has full details.

A Class 455 Flex train could have the following specification.

  • The updated 2 x 2 seating.
  • The new traction package with AC traction motors and regenerative braking.
  • 75 mph operating speed on both electric and diesel.

It could be a better financial proposition for both the leasing company and the train operator.

In The Class 319 Flex Train And Third Rail Routes, I looked at various third-rail routes that could be served with a Class 319 Flex train.

Some of these routes could be served by a Class 455 Flex train, instead of the Class 319 Flex train.

The article states that Porterbrook are expecting further orders and could it be, that the company have assessed the number of bi-mode trains required and found that a large proportion of the available Class 319 trains might need to be converted.

So creating a Class 455 Flex train for use in areas with third rail electrification, might be a prudent action.

South Western Railway, will have around ninety well-maintained Class 455 trains with the refurbished interiors going spare, so there is certainly no shortage of trains to convert.

South Western Railway And Class 455 Flex Trains

South Western Railway, themselves could have some uses for the trains.

I doubt that the trains would be acceptable running long distance services from say Waterloo to Salisbury, due to being designed as short distance commuter trains and the lack of a toilet and tables.

They would be ideal for the following local services.

In some places like the Lymington Branch, they would release Class 158/159 trains to boost services on the West of England Main Line.

Merseyrail And The Class 455 Flex Trains

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, Chris Stokes talks about the problems of running services between Bidston and Wrexham Central stations on the Borderlands Line. He concludes with the following.

So the operation of the route is very tight, but it appears to work quite well.

There has been talk of using battery trains on this route in place of an expensive full electrification, which would allow Merseyrail’s new Stadler trains to run the route in the following manner.

  • At least two trains per hour (tph).
  • Longer trains.
  • Calls at proposed new stations on the route.

In an ideal world, the service would terminate at the Northern end of the line by going round the third-rail electrified Loop Line under Liverpool City Centre.

The Class 455 train appears on a brief look to be the same size as Merseyrail’s current Class 508 trains, so it should be possible to use the Liverpool Loop.

Chris Stokes has told me two things.

  • The Class 455 trains, used redundant trailer cars from Class 508 trains, that were shortened for Merseyrail, so there can’t be much difference in the size of the Class 455 and Class 507/508 trains.
  • The Wrexham service used to terminate at Birkenhead North station.

So it seems a better Northern terminus could be possible.

Ideally, the Loop Line would be used, but look at this Google Map of Birkenhead North station.

The Wikipedia entry for the station, has a section entitled Wrexham Diesel Service. This is said.

From 4 January 1971 until 2 October 1978, the diesel service on the Bidston to Wrexham line, which had previously operated from New Brighton, was diverted to Birkenhead North. These trains terminated on the centre platform which had previously been used for Liverpool-bound services, and when one of the diesel trains was present (which in that timetable was much of the time), Liverpool-bound electric services used the outer north side of the island platform instead. The diesel service was cut back to Bidston from 2 October 1978. Regular use of the outer platform at Birkenhead North thereafter ceased.

Note that the service used to be Wrexham to New Brighton, which with the replacement of a short chord and some work at New Brighton station might be another alternative, although the service wasn’t very busy.

So could a Class 455 Flex train work the route in the following manner?

  • Use diesel power between Wrexham Central and Bidston stations.
  • Use electric power from Bidston to Liverpool.
  • Join the other Wirral Line trains and terminate in the Liverpool Loop, stopping at the four stations in Central Liverpool.

As to frequency, you could run as many trains as you want, as the Borderlands Line is double-track, with the exception of a short single track section between the two Wrexham stations.

A round trip would take nearly three hours based on current timings, which would mean the following numbers of trains would be needed.

  • One tph – three trains.
  • Two tph – six trains.
  • Four tph – twelve trains.

As Merseyrail like to run four tph on the various branches, why not use this frequency on the Borderlands Line?

It would be a Turn-Up-And-Go service, that would benefit a large number of people.

Does the service have to terminate at Wrexham?

It certainly wouldn’t require any electrification or challenging engineering to open up these and other possible routes.

The Class 455 Flex train may have other uses in Liverpool.

Northern’s services in the area will probably use a few Class 319 Flex trains alongside their Class 319 trains, that already serve Liverpool Lime Street.

So where services are being extended from Merseyrail’s third-rail network, why not use some Class 319 Flex trains, as these trains have a third-rail capability from their days South of the Thames?

  • There may be an engineering or operational problem with a dual-voltage Class 319 Flex train.
  • The pantograph of a Class 319 Flex train might make the train too large for parts of Merseyrail’s third-rail network.
  • A third-rail only Class 455 Flex train may be a better financial proposition for leasing companies and train operators.

Or it could be that Porterbrook’s response to the Class 319 Flex train has been so positive, that the alternative offered by the Class 455 Flex train is welcomed.

Merseyrail’s prime route for a bi-mode Flex train would be the Canada Dock branch.

  •  There is a long term aspiration to run a passenger service.
  • The branch is not electrified but it could connect to Liverpool’s third-rail network at both ends and also to 25 KVAC at the Southern end.
  • Numerous freight trains use the route.
  • Perhaps four stations at about ten million pounds a time would need to be rebuilt.
  • Liverpool Football Ground would get a station.

Class 455 Flex trains could run a Southport, Ormskirk or Kirkby to Liverpool South Parkway service tomorrow.

A Four-Car Diesel Multiple Unit

In Who Would Want An Electric Train Powered Only By Diesel?, I discussed the fact that according to the Porterbrook brochure,

A diesel-only version of Class 319 Flex is now being delivered for one operator.

Could it be, that the updated interior of the Class 455 train, is exactly what the operator wants in a diesel train?

A Class 455 Flex train would have the following characteristics, if the third-rail equipment was removed.

  • Four cars.
  • Diesel power only.
  • 75 mph operating speed.
  • A quality 2 x 2 interior.
  • A train that meets all the present and future access and disabled regulations.

That sounds to me like a high-quality replacement train for which Direct Rail Services will provide you with two Class 68 locomotives and some elderly coaches, which probably don’t meet the latest regulations.

But also, the UK suburban diesel multiple unit fleet has quite a lot of two and three car trains, but very few four-car ones and you see lots of four-car trains made by coupling two two-car units together. So perhaps, some train operators, see these trains as an easy and affordable way to increase the number of four-car trains on their routes without any form of electrification.

As South Western Railway take over the South West Trains franchise on the 20th August 2017, perhaps some Class 455 trains would be available soon after, as they could replace them with new Class 707 trains.

I suspect that a Class 455 Flex train could be available early in 2018.

Conclusions

The Class 319 Flex train or more properly the Class 769 train looks to be a successful concept.

I’m also convinced that Porterbrook have decided the market is larger than they originally thought, so they are seriously looking at converting Class 455 trains, to make sure they have enough trains.

 

May 25, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

From Stockport Station To Liverpool Lime Street Station By Train

In a comment a friend said this about going by train from Stockport to Liverpool.

When we first moved here, there was no direct train to Liverpool, we had to go into Piccadilly, cross to Victoria and get a train to Liverpool. And before the trams that was a complete pain!

So how is it now?

Using National Rail Enquiries, I find that every hour there is a direct train from Stockport station to Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street stations at around twenty-five minutes past the hour, that takes a few minutes over the hour to get to Liverpool Lime Street.

They seem to be run by East Midlands Trains, so they will be a Class 158 train, which is fine.

If say you were to drive to Manchester Airport first, you can get a refurbished electric train, that takes virtually the same time to Liverpool.

Stockport To Manchester Airport

Until I wrote this, I hadn’t realised that Airport trains don’t go via Stockport, but they use the Styal Line that by-passes Stockport.

Looking at maps of the area, it would appear that there might be a way of trains going from Manchester to the Airport via Stockport.

Trains might take the Mid-Cheshire Line and then access the Styal Line at a new junction North of Gatley station.

This Google Map shows the area where the railway lines cross.

Gatley station is at the South-West corner of the map and the Styal Line runs Northwards past the motorway junction between the M60 and the A34.

The Mid-Cheshire Line runs across the map South of the motorway junction and the Alexandra Hospital.

I suppose the cost was too high, but then how do you put all the travellers’ cars on the train?

The fact that the rail link between Stockport and Manchester Airport wasn’t created at the same time as the motorway junction is a design crime of the highest order.

It looks to me that there is even space for a Park-and-Ride for Stockport and Manchester in the area.

The Ordsall Chord

The Ordsall Chord, will link Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly stations with a huge bridge across the Irwell, before the end of 2017

It will have four trains per hour (tph) in both directions, between Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly, Oxford Road, Deansgate, Salford Central and Manchester Victoria stations. There is probably capacity for this service to go to eight tph,

Initially, trains will be refurbished four-car Class 319 electric trains, that currently work Liverpool to Manchester services.

These trains are no suburban trundlers, but will be able to cruise near to 100 mph on parts of the journey, thus knocking a few minutes off the time between Manchester Piccadlly and the Airport.

What Will The Ordsall Chord Do For Stockport?

I have to ask this question and until the timetables are published late this year, everything I say here will be speculation.

  • I would be very surprised if there wasn’t at least 1 electric tph that went to Manchester Victoria station.
  • Eventually, this service could be made more frequent and perhaps extended to Blackburn, Burnley, Huddsersfield or Stalybridge.
  • If Manchester Victoria has been designed right, there should be same-platform interchange at the station to TransPennine services to places like Hull, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  • I also suspect train companies will use the chord to provide new services like perhaps Chester to Leeds, that could go through Stockport.

Forget HS3 for the moment, this is the reality of 2017.

Liverpool to Manchester Airport

Several stations in Liverpool have an hourly service to Manchester Airport and this will probably get better as more Class 319 and Class 319 Flex Trains are brought into service.

It’s rather ironic, but from what I have found, that it would appear that Liverpool gets at least as good a service to Manchester Airport as does the much Stockport!

And Liverpool’s service is likely to double in frequency in the near future!

The Liverpool and Stockport services to Manchester Airport, do have one thing in common though! Both have  intermediate stops at Manchester Piccadilly!

But why would you want to go to Manchester Piccadilly, when you’re just going a few miles down the road? Especially, as if you’re going to Manchester Piccadilly, you already have in excess of four tph.

Leeds To Manchester Airport

Currently, Leeds to Manchester Airport has a two tph service via Huddersfield.

When the Ordsall Chord opens that Leeds to Manchester services will go to a higher frequency via Manchester Victoria, thus improving the service to the Airport from Leeds, by giving Leeds passengers access to Manchester local tram and train services to the Airport.

Conclusions

Services from Stockport through Manchester will improve, due to the opening of the Ordsall hord and other electrification works.

But, Stockport needs a quick non-stop service to the Airport with a frequency of at least two tph for economic prosperity.

Perhaps to get a good service to Manchester Airport, your city must begin with L or M.

 

March 19, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts On Merseyrail’s New Trains

Merseyrail have ordered 52 new Stadler trains to replace, the 59 geriatric Class 507 and Class 508 trains on the Northern and Wirral Lines.

In some ways I was surprised, as with the possible takeover of tye Borderlands Line to Wrexham in Wales, I thought that Bombardier, may have had a good chance with Aventras with an onboard energy storage or IPEMU-capability.

Reports On The Internet

These are some useful articles that give more details.

  1.  Article in the Liverpool Echo, entitled Merseytravel reveals new £460m train fleet plans – with no train guards
  2. Article in Railway Gazette, entitled Stadler selected to supply bespoke Merseyrail train fleet
  3. Article in Rail News entitled Stadler wins contract to build new Merseyrail trains
  4. Article in Focus Transport entitled New Stadler Trains Announced for Merseyrail

These are my thoughts on the new trains.

The Loop

The Wirral Line trains run in a single-track circular loop tunnel under Liverpool (The Loop), which is a fairly unusual railway formation. But it works well and means that the three stations on The Loop can be single-platform.

The track in the Loop is being relaid in the first half of 2017 and this article on the Merseyrail web site describes the work.

This is a video of the rebuilding.

Note.

  • The tunnel has a diameter of 4.7 metres.
  • By comparison, the Crossrail tunnels have a diameter of 6.2 metres.
  • If you are relaying the track, you will make sure, that the track and platforms fit your current trains, which could run for another five years or more.
  • The tunnels and platforms will probably be sized, so that there is only a small gap between the train and platform.
  • The slab track chosen looks to be of the highest quality and similar to that which Transport for London are using on the Sub Surface lines, as described in this article in Rail Engineer.

So Liverpool is getting a world-class railway track on The Loop, which will fit its current rolling stock, like a glove.

It will also be very safe, as the gap between the trains and the platform could be very narrow.

They don’t say in the video, but will the tracks be arranged so that the trains align for step-across at the stations on The Loop?

The Tunnel Size Issue

If you have just rebuilt the track in the Loop, then this will have implications for the new trains needed for the lines.

The small size of the tunnel and the precision fit, mean that any new trains must be a similar height and width, as the current Class 507/508 trains.

The height of the Class 508 train is 3.58 metres and for comparison the height of a Class 378 train is 3.78 metres.

I don’t have a figure for a Bombardier Aventra, but I suspect that they are just too fat.

So it looks like that a small number of non-standard size trains need to be built to fit the slightly smaller size tunnels under Liverpool.

The Railway Gazette article says this about the trains ordered from Stadler.

There will be a mix of airline and facing seats, with more space for bicycles, pushchairs and persons with reduced mobility. The train body will be designed specifically for the Merseyrail network, with lower floors and a sliding step to provide near-level access.

It is interesting to note, that Stadler also won the order for the smaller trains on the Glasgow Subway, which I wrote about in Glasgow Subway Orders New Trains From Stadler.

As it looks like they will be specially built to fit the tunnels and the platforms, this has various implications.

  • Passengers in wheelchairs, pushing buggies or dragging large suitcases should be able to just wheel themselves into the train, which is described as lower floor.
  • All platforms, that the trains call at, must have the same critical dimensions.
  • Safety could be increased as the gap between train and platform could be very narrow.
  • Incidentally, the trains are reported to be fitted with automatic gap fillers, to make sure nothing drops through the gap.
  • Will the tracks in the Northern Line tunnel through Liverpool be renewed?

The trains had better be well-built as they’re going to have to last a long time. But if say extra trains were to be needed to increase frequency, capacity or routes, Merseyrail would probably just send an e-mail to Switzerland.

Platforms And Stations

Most new trains need modifications to platforms, to match the trains.

As it appears that the new trains are designed to fit the current platforms, I suspect that very little will need to be done before they arrive.

On my travels, I did notice on-going work at some stations, but this would fit either fleet of trains.

From the specification of the trains, it would appear that all of the driver-only-operation equipment is on the trains, rather than the platform, so station improvement money can be spent on passenger facilities like lifts and weather protection.

Any new stations that may be required could possibly be built to an affordable but very passenger-focused design.

Cost

Special trains don’t come cheap and these 52 trains roll in at a total of £450million or about nine millions a train.

Compare this with the price of £260million, that Transport for London paid for 45 similar-capacity Class 710 trains for the London Overground, which works out at just under six million a train.

The trains are apparently not leased, but paid for directly. The Rail News article, says this.

The 52 four-car trains will be publicly owned rather than leased from a ROSCo, and the finance needed will be raised in various ways, including by using a rail reserve that has already been established for this purpose, plus loans at ‘favourable interest rates’. Merseytravel said ‘such opportunities are currently being explored, such as a loan from the European Investment Bank’.

London financed the first London Overground trains in a similar way.

Capacity

The Railway Gazette article, says this on capacity.

The 65 m long four-car EMUs will have  the same number of seats as the existing three-car sets, but will be 4 m longer with wide through gangways to provide an increase in standing space. This will increase total capacity per EMU from 303 to 486 passengers.

Some of my observations.

  • It looks like each train is 64 metres long, with a car length of 16 metres, as opposed to 60 and 20 for the current trains.
  • I suspect that there is some interesting behavioural software out there, that is used to design people systems. So the interiors will work!
  • The current trains pack in five passengers in every metre of length, whereas the new trains pack in 7.6
  • Will it be a lot more packed in there? I don’t know, but the space between carriages is now available for passengers.
  • The same trains will be able to run on both the Northern and Wirral Lines.
  • Will the extra capacity in a single train, mean that most services will be run by a single four-car unit?

In the Peak, I suspect two trains could be coupled together, as they are now. However, they will couple together and uncouple much quicker and probably automatically.

On the other hand the trains themselves could increase capacity.

I’ll look at the Northern Line first.

In London, Thameslink, Crossrail and the East London Line, run similar services to those on Liverpool’s Northern Line, where services fan out from a central core.

I believe that if the Northern Line ran twelve trains per hour (tph) between Sandhills and Hunts Cross stations, that this would increase the capacity on that route. Twelve tph running all day, would need just 24 trains.

If in the Peak more trains were needed, extra services would be added to an appropriate route.

The Wirral Line is unique, in that trains from four destinations slot together to go under the Mersey, go round The Loop, before going back to Birkenhead and fanning out to where they started.

Currently, twelve tph run in The Loop and I suspect to provide this service all day needs just 24 trains.

Merseyrail have ordered 52 trains, which means there are just four trains to cover maintenance issues and increase services in the Peak.

London Overground Syndrome

All new and upgraded lines seem to suffer from London Overground Syndrome, where passengers see what they like and the original passenger forecasts prove to have been pessimistic.

On the East London Line, three-car trains were forecast to be the right size, but they had been designed to be lengthened and now after two upgrades, the trains are now five-cars long.

As this syndrome has been seen on the Borders Railway, the Nottingham Express Transit and other places, I would not be surprised to see it on Merseyrail’s Northern and Wirral Lines.

But the design of the trains, future-proofs the lines, should there need to be more capacity.

Provided, the signalling can accept the increased frequencies, more identical trains would be added to the fleet.

Or trains could be lengthened, by adding another car, so that the busiest routes perhaps ran five-car trains.

As it would only be a problem of success, I suspect, that the financing wouldn’t be a problem.

Extras In The Contract

The Railway Gazette article, says this on extra items included in the contract.

This headline figure also covers upgrades to the power supply, platforms and track, as well as refurbishment of the depots at Kirkdale and Birkenhead North and future maintenance of the new trains.

I’ve heard that Merseyrail’s power supply is a bit dodgy and probably needs updating. I’ve always wondered, if the trains would handle regenerative braking by the use of onboard energy storage.

Nothing is said except this in the Railway Gazette article.

At 99 tonnes, the EMUs will be lighter than the current 105 tonne trains, and energy consumption is expected to be 20% lower, including regenerative braking; options for energy storage are to be studied.

It will be interesting to see the specification of the new train.

Performance

The Railway Gazette article, says this on performance.

A new timetable will be introduced in 2021 once the existing Class 507 and 508 units dating from the 1970s have been withdrawn; the new trains’ better acceleration and braking is expected to enable Hunt’s Cross – Southport journey times to be reduced by 9 min.

The interesting thing, is that being nine minutes quicker between Southport and Hunts Cross, will bring the journey under the hour and mean that the service can be achieved using less trains.

It would also mean that all trains could go through the core to Hunts Cross, without having to turn trains at Liverpool Central.

Energy Storage

The trains will be fitted with regenerative braking, where the traction motors, act as generators to slow the train, turning the train’s energy into electricity.

There are three common ways of handling the electricity generated.

  1. Feed it back into the power network for other trains to use, as is done on the London Underground and on the extensive third-rail network in the South East.
  2. Store the energy on the train and reuse it, as has been demonstrated by Bombardier and is common in vehicles as diverse as high-performance cars, hybrid buses and trams in Seville.
  3. Feed the electricity into resistors on the roof of the train and turn it into heat.

I believe that option 3 is totally unacceptable and is akin to burning money.

Option 1 will probably require extensive modification to the power supply of the Merseyrail network, as the supply is not known to be of the best and there is no need to handle regenerative braking with the current Class 507/508 trains.

So will we see some form of energy storage on the trains? Birmingham’s trams will have on board energy storage in a few years, so the technology is on its way.

The Railway Gazette article, says that options for energy storage are to be studied.

As an Electrical and Control Engineer, I strongly believe that the cost cost-effective way to handle the regenerative braking energy is to store the energy on the trains.

On European gauge trains, equipment is often mounted on the roof, where there is plenty of space in the generous loading gauge.

But Merseyrail has the problem of the small tunnels.

Look at this picture of a Class 507/508 train entering a tunnel at James Street station.

Undergound Stations In Liverpool

 

Note how there is some space above the train in the tunnel entrance.

Imagine a train specifically-designed for these tracks, platforms and tunnels, with the bottom of the doors level with the platforms. Would this release more space for putting energy storage on the roof, as has been done with Seville’s trams?

If I am right with this speculation, onboard energy storage also enables the following.

  • Regenerative braking on the whole of the Merseyrail third-rail network.
  • Next station recovery of the trains, in case of power failure.
  • The ability to extend routes using stored energy.

In addition, trains with onboard energy storage have other maintenance and operational advantages.

More Destinations

The Railway Gazette article, says this on more destinations.

The 750 V DC third-rail EMUs will be capable of conversion to dual-voltage operation for use on 25 kV 50 Hz lines with a view to serving Skelmersdale, Warrington and Wrexham in the longer term.

If onboard energy storage is fitted with sufficient range, this would open up other possibilities and also make destinations like Preston much more affordable to implement.

Train-Tram Operation

Note that I said train-tram and not tram-train.

In Riding The Vogtlandbahn, I talked about riding a unique German railway in Zwickau, where the trains go walkabout from the main line station and travel through the city just like trams to a stop in the centre. This picture shows a train-tram at that stop.

At Zwickau Zentrum Tram/Train Stop

At Zwickau Zentrum Train/Tram Stop

You don’t need to guess, who made the train! It was of course Stadler and is not electric, but a diesel-multiple unit.

It is worth comparing weight and capacity of Liverpool’s new trains with Manchester’s trams.

The Railway Gazette article, says that the trains will weigh 99 tonnes and have a capacity of 486 passengers. This compares with the M5000 on the Manchester Metrolink, which weighs in at 80 tonnes for a double unit and carries 400 passengers.

So weight and capacity is not out of line with a typical large tram.

Trams need to have a door sill height, that gives level access between the tram and platform.

Level Access On The London Tramlink

Level Access On The London Tramlink

Not all trams and trains match the platform, as well as this example on the London Tramlink.

But, Liverpool’s new trains will be built to fit the current track and platforms, which after updating, will all be to the same height and designed to give step-free access..

Without doubt, the new trains could call at correctly-dimensioned tram-style stops, just as the train-trams do in Zwickau.

Tram-style sections of the route could be designed to the following principles.

  • Tram-style flush slab track, so passengers can just walk across the track.
  • Segregated tracks.
  • No electrification
  • Trains would run using onboard energy storage.
  • Low speed limit.
  • Rail-style signalling, whether trackside or in-cab.
  • Charging station, like a Railbaar if required.

Lines could be single-tracked with single-platform stops to make everything more affordable.


Train-Tram To Liverpool Airport

Could we see Merseyrail’s new trains leaving the rail lines at Liverpool South Parkway station, switch to onboard energy storage and continue to the Airport on a dedicated track without electrification?

This Google Map shows the station and the Airport.

Liverpool Airport And Liverpool South Parkway Station

Liverpool Airport And Liverpool South Parkway Station

Note.

  • The station is at the top of the map in a triangle of lines.
  • There must be various possibilities for a route between the station and the airport.
  • The train could call at the New Mersey Shopping Park.

From my knowledge of both areas, the Liverpool Airport route is no more difficult, than what was done in Zwickau.

Journey times to and from Liverpool Airport would be something like.

  • Liverpool South Parkway station – 5 minutes
  • Liverpool Central station – 18 minutes
  • Southport station – 54 minutes

If they followed Northern Line principles, the frequency would be four tph.

I may be wrong, but it looks like Merseyrail have acquired trains, that running as train-trams can fulfil the link to Liverpool Airport.

More Train-Tram Routes

The proposed Liverpool Airport link is a classic route extension using onboard energy storage, which is very similar to the extension of the Midland Metro through Birmingham City Centre.

So could any of the routes to current terminals, be extended using onboard energy storage and running as a tram.

Ellesmere PortNew Brighton, Southport and West Kirby stations all serve coastal towns, but despite this, they don’t seem the sort of places that cry out for a tram along the promenade.

Chester could possibly benefit, but I suspect this could be one very much for the future.

Skelmersdale could be a distinct possibility, as the scars of the rail routes to the old Skelmersdale station, from the two Northern Line termini of  Ormskirk and Kirkby, which are still visible on Google maps. This map from Wikipedia shows the old Skelmersdale Branch.

Skelmersdale Branch

Skelmersdale Branch

A new railway could be built simply, as it was in Zwickau.

  • Single-track
  • No electrification
  • Trains would run using onboard energy storage.
  • Tram-style stops.

The train could even go walkabout in Skelmersdale to serve important places.

As Kirkby station needs demolition and rebuilding, unless it gets Listed status, as a monument to the British Rail School Of Crap Design, there must be opportunities to give Kirkby and Skelmersdale a modern transport system to be envied.

If you think all of this speculation is outrageous fantasy, I suggest you visit Zwickau and ride the Vogtlandbahn.

The Ultimate Train-Tram Route

A lot of people, that I’ve met from Liverpool, mourn the passing of the Liverpool Overhead Railway or the Docker’s Umbrella.

Because of this, it has been suggested that a tram should run along the Mersey, past the main attractions of the Waterfront, connecting to the Northern Line at perhaps Sandhills and Brunswick stations.

This is one of those projects thast gets speculated about for years and then it gets implemented because it is integral to another project, like a massive development or a City getting the Olympic Games. Or in Liverpool’s case the Commonwealth Games, which is a distinct possibility in either 2022 or 2026!

As it runs through a World Heritage Site, it will have to be built without overhead wires and run on stored energy.

Canada Dock Branch

The Canada Dock Branch runs in an arc to the North and East of Liverpool city centre.

  • It is a freight route linking Liverpool Docks to routes out of the city.
  • The capacity of the route is being upgraded to 48 freight trains per day.
  • It is not electrified.
  • There are no passenger services.
  • The line runs close to both Liverpool’s main football grounds.
  • Are there any large developments, that would benefit from a train service along the route of the line?

With the development of the massive new dock at Liverpool2 and the pressure for more electrified freight trains, I think it is likely that the Canada Dock Branch will be electrified.

So could passenger services be reinstated on the line?

This Google Map shows the section of the Canada Dock Branch, where it curves round the two football grounds.

The station at the bottom left is Sandhills station, with Merseyrail’s Kirkdale depot to the North.

canadadock1

I don’t know whether there is a connection, but the lines cross in the region of the depot and if required one could probably be built.

I think it is likely, that if the Canada Dock Branch is electrified for freight reasons, then Merseyrail will look at running a service along the line.

  • It might terminate at Sandhills in the North.
  • It might terminate at Broad Green, Edge Hill or even Lime Street in the South.
  • Stations could be simple affairs, much like the one in the picture at Zwickau.

Whether they did propose a service would depend on traffic forecasts and possible costs.

The Commonwealth Games Line

Liverpool do spectaculars well and if they get the Commonwealth Games in either 2022 or 2026, I can see that the city could use the new Stadler trains to create a line for the Games, thaqt would be a legacy, that the city needs and wants.

Starting in the South by the Albert Dock and the Echo Arena, the line would go past the Three Graces at the Pierhead and then North to Everton’s new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, which is being proposed as the main venue of the Games. From there it could continue to Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium, which will probably play some part in the Games.

The line would also connect or go close to the following.

I’m sure Liverpudlians will give it a suitable nickname.

Consider.

  • Much of the Southern part of the route is within the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City World Heritage Site.
  • I think it would be possible to run the route using onboard storage.
  • Charging would be at each end of the route.
  • Catenary running could be used between the two football grounds, some of which could be on an electrified Cansada Dock Branch.
  • The Southern end could use on-street running with catenary to go up the hill to Hope Street , to serve both cathedrals.
  • After the Games, both Liverpool football grounds would have a tram connection to the Pierhead.

Designed properly, it could become one of the world’s most iconic tram lines.

Conclusions

Merseyside will be getting one of the best commuter railways in the world!

I also think, that these innovative trains will make other cities and train operators, think hard about the design of their railways and the trains.

 

 

December 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Little Chord Goes A Long Way

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Halton Curve Gets The Green Light.

I wrote about the Halton Curve in Could Tram-Trains Be Used To Advantage In Liverpool?  I said this in a section entitled Upgrading The Halton Curve

Funds have been made available to upgrade the Halton Curve, so that trains can reach Chester from Liverpool South Parkway via Runcorn.

The Halton Curve

The two blue squares indicate the two ends of the current single-track curve. The top one is where the curve leaves the Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main Line south of Runcorn station and the bottom one is where it joins the Chester to Manchester Line east of Frodsham.

The main reason for doing this would be to allow trains from Chester and North Wales better access to Liverpool Lime Street and South Parkway stations, and the John Lennon Airport.

As the Tier Two and Three electrification plans for the North as they effect Merseyside, includes full electrification of the lines around Chester, this would mean that an upgraded curve would be electrified.

There are probably good reasons to add an extra track to the curve, which would make it possible for Chester to be a new southern destination of the Northern Line.

The Rail Magazine article says this.

The Liverpool City Combined Authority has approved a range of projects aimed at improving travel across Merseyside, including reinstatement of the Halton Curve.

Also endorsed by the Welsh Government and by Cheshire West and Chester Council, bringing the line back into full use will entail an hourly direct service between Liverpool and Chester, and the extension of some services into Wales.

So just as the Todmorden Curve helped with the rail system around Burnley and the Ipswich Chord helped in Suffolk, will the Halton Curve help to develop the railways on Merseyside?

What is interesting about this decision, is that this appears to be a Liverpool decision, not one from Central Government.

Should more infrastructure decisions be devolved?

I think it’s very much a big yes!

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment