The Anonymous Widower

Direct Trains Between Liverpool Lime Street And Norwich

In my wanderings around the UK, I very often come across this service and use it for short trips between two major towns or cities many miles from both Liverpool and Norwich.

The Current Service

Currently, the service is run by East Midlands Trains and is usually a two-car Class 158 train. Although, I have seen the service worked by a pair of these trains.

The route is very comprehensive with calls at Liverpool South Parkway, Widnes, Warrington Central, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Piccadilly, Stockport, Sheffield, Chesterfield, Alfreton, Ilkeston, Nottingham, Grantham, Peterborough, Ely and Thetford.

The service always seems to be full and I suspect that in addition to offering useful routes like Manchester-Sheffield, Liverpool-Nottingham and Nottingham-East Anglia, it is often a convenient route for some long distance business and family travellers.

The major problem for a train operator is that it needs a lot of rolling stock to provide a service.

Liverpool to Norwich takes five and a half hours, so to provide the hourly service probably needs as many as a dozen trains.

This extract comes from the East Midlands Trains section in Wikipedia entry for the Class 158 train.

The hourly Norwich to Liverpool service has been criticised for overcrowding, especially between Liverpool and Nottingham. This resulted from the Department for Transport specifying two-coach units in the EMT franchise starting in November 2007. In the light of persistent and excessive overcrowding, with some passengers being left behind on occasions, the DfT eventually admitted that it had made a mistake. Various cascades of other units enabled more Class 158 stock to be released for this route, and from the December 2011 timetable change the busiest services have been lengthened to four-coach trains between Liverpool and Nottingham, with units splitting and joining at Nottingham as necessary, two-coach trains being regarded as adequate between Nottingham and Norwich. Further services on this route were strengthened from December 2012.

Running a pair of Class 158 trains on the route between Liverpool and Nottingham, does seem to ease problems there, but I’ve encountered bad over-crowding at the Eastern end too.

Improvements On The Route

Several improvements or changes of rolling stock have or are taking place in the next few years.

Increased Capacity At Liverpool Lime Street

This is detailed in the 2017-2018 Station Remodelling section of the Wikipedia entry for Liverpool Lime Street station.

  • Two new platforms are being added.
  • Platforms are being lengthened.

In addition there are improvements on the approaches to the station.

Ordsall Chord And Related Improvements In Manchester

The Liverpool-Norwich service calls at both Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly stations, although it doesn’t use the new Ordsall Chord.

But I can’t believe that the Liverpool-Norwich service won’t be affected by all the works in Manchester.

Hope Valley Line Improvements

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Long-Awaited Hope Valley Line Plans Given The Green Light.

Improvements to the Hope Valley Line between Manchester and Sheffield include.

  • A loop to allow passenger trains to overtake slow freight trains.
  • Removal of a foot crossing.
  • Improvements around Dore and Totley station.

This is said on this document on the Transport for the North web site, which announces the Hope Valley improvements.

The new passing loops will mean three fast trains can run per hour between Sheffield and Manchester, one every 20 minutes, freight and stopping trains every hour, and a fast Manchester-Nottingham and East of England service every hour.

If nothing else, the extra capacity between Manchester and Sheffield, will reduce reliance on the Liverpool-Norwich service.

Improvements To The Midland Main Line

The Midland Main Line is not being electrified between Nottingham and Sheffield, but other improvements have taken place over the last few years.

  • In particular, the Erewash Valley Line has been improved and a new station at Ilkeston has been added.
  • The Liverpool-Norwich service calls at stations on this by-pass.
  • The line has been resignalled.

Would a train with a 125 mph capability, as opposed to the 90 mph operating speed of the Class 158 train, allow a faster service?

East Coast Main Line Running

The 90 mph Class 158 trains must present pathing problems on the East Coast Main Line, whereas a 125 mph train could mix it easier with the high speed trains.

Greater Anglia’s Plans

Greater Anglia have ordered a fleet of Class 755 trains.

  • The trains are bi-mode.
  • The trains have a 100 mph operating speed.
  • Greater Anglia have ordered fourteen three-car and twenty-four four-car trains.

Greater Anglia will be replacing 27 diesel trains, that consists of  58 carriages, with 38 bi-mode trains, that consist of 138 carriages.

  • There are forty percent more trains.
  • There are a hundred and thirty-eight percent more carriages.
  • Average train length of the diesels is 2.1 carriages, wheres that of the bi-modes is 3.6.

There are two possible reasons for these large number of trains.

  • Abellio have decided to buy a few bi-modes for their other franchises.
  • There is going to be a massive expansion of train services in East Anglia.

Two of the new bi-mode services interact with the Liverpool-Norwich service.

  • Colchester to Peterborough via Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds and Ely
  • Norwich to Stansted Airport  via Ely and Cambridge.

Both services are thought to be hourly.

Consider the Colchester to Peterborough service.

  • I estimate that trains will take around two hours.
  • The round trip could be under five hours, even with a generous turn-round at both ends and perhaps a wait at Ipswich.
  • The waits would allow connecting passengers to join the train.
  • A five hour round trip would need five Class 755 trains.
  • I would choose four-car trains, as the route can get crowded.

Could the Colchester to Peterborough service be considered as an extension of the Liverpool-Norwich service, that serves Bury St. Edmunds, Ipswich and Colchester?

I think it could if the trains were timed appropriately.

  • Passengers from Liverpool to Ipswich, would change at Peterborough or Ely to the Peterborough to Colchester train, which would arrive a few minutes after the Liverpool to Norwich train.
  • Passengers from Ipswich to Liverpool, would change at Ely or Peterborough to the Liverpool train, which would arrive a few minutes after Colchester to Peterborough train.

Hopefully, the change would not require a platform change.

Consider the Norwich to Stansted Airport service.

  • I estimate trains will take about one hour and fifty minutes.
  • The round trip would be four hours and would need four Class 755 trains.
  • I would choose four-car trains, as the route can get crowded.

Could the Norwich to Stansted Airport service be equally spaced with the Liverpool-Norwich service between Ely and Norwich  to give a clock-face two trains per hour (tph)?

These services call at Ely

  • CrossCountry -Birmingham to Stansted Airport
  • East Midlands Trains – Liverpool to Norwich
  • Greater Anglia – Peterborough to Colchester
  • Greater Anglia – Norwich to Stansted Airport
  • Great Northern – Kings Lynn to Kings Cross

Totalling them up gives the following frequencies to various stations.

  • Bury St. Edmunds/Ipswich/Colchester – 1 tph
  • Cambridge North/Cambridge – 3 tph
  • Kings Lynn – 1 tph
  • Norwich – 2 tph
  • Peterborough – 3 tph
  • Stansted Airport – 2 tph

I suspect that the services will be arranged so there are convenient interchanges. No-one wants to spend an hour on a draughty Ely station waiting for the next train.

I also suspect that Greater Anglia  will use some of their extra trains to improve connectivity at Ely.

Speed Limits On The Route

Speed limits on the route are rather variable.

  • Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington is limited to 85 mph
  • The Hope Valley Line between Manchester and Sheffield is 90 mph
  • The proportion of the Midland Main Line, where 125 mph running is possible, is being increased.
  • Grantham to Peterborough on the East Coast Main Line allows 125 mph running.
  • The Peterborough to Ely Line is limited to 75 mph.
  • The Breckland Line between Ely and Norwich is limited to 75- 90 mph.

I feel that increasing speed limits on some parts of the line would help the Liverpool to Norwich service.

But surely, a train with a 125 mph-capability would help with journey times and train timetabling between Sheffield and Peterborough.

But on the rest of the route, trains with this speed capability, wouldn’t be needed.

Rolling Stock Choices For Liverpool Lime Street And Norwich

Various choices include.

Class 158 Trains

Everything could carry on as now using Class 158 trains

  • Two two-car trains working ass a pair would go from Liverpool Lime Street to Nottingham.
  • The trains would divide at Nottingham.
  • One train would go on its way to Norwich, and the other would wait at Nottingham to join with the train returning from Norwich.

With all the new diesel multiple units arriving in the next few years, I think it is likely that more Class 158 trains could be made available to strengthen the service.

The trouble with the Class 158 trains, is that with only a 90 mph operating speed, they can’t take advantage of the sections of the route where 125 mph running is possible.

Class 170 Trains

These trains were built as successors to the Class 158 trains.

  • They are more modern.
  • They are 10 mph faster.
  • Most  are three cars.

But they are still not fast enough for the 125 mph sections of the route.

A Second Service Between Liverpool And Nottingham

Improvements on the Hope Valley Line and in Liverpool and Manchester, might make it possible to run a much-needed second service between Liverpool and Nottingham via Manchester, Stockport and Sheffield..

This extra service could use the same trains as the full service.

Currently, the direct service between Liverpool Lime Street and Nottingham takes two hours thirty five minutes. In some ways, this is a problem, as if the timing was say two hours twenty minutes, a five hour round trip would be possible.

This would mean that the second service would need just five trains.

I doubt that Class 158 trains could meet this schedule, so more would be needed.

Class 800 Trains

Class 800 trains are 125 mph bi-mode trains, but are they fast enough on diesel to make real differences to the timetable by running fast on the Midland Main Line?

I think not!

So more trains would be needed to run the service.

Bombardier’s Proposed 125 mph Bi-Mode

A genuine 125-mph bi-mode, with that performance on both electricity and diesel, would be a totally different matter.

  • Timings between Liverpool and Nottingham would drop to perhaps two hours twenty, thus allowing a five hour round trip.
  • Timings between Liverpool and Norwich would drop to perhaps four hours fifty, thus allowing a ten hour round trip.

Even so a full service would require fifteen trains.

Bombardier have proposed a train of this type and I wrote about it in Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power.

In my view, this small exercise shows why some routes in the UK need a 125 mph bi-mode.

If the train can’t do 125 mph, where it is possible on the Midland and East Coast Main Line, the time savings on the route won’t be possible and more trains will be needed to run the service.

One great advantage is that the trains working this route could be the same as those working the main routes of the East Midlands franchise to and from London.

Short Formation InterCity 125 Trains

The forty-year-old InterCity 125 trains have the power and the speed to match the 125 mph bi-mode trains.

Short formation with four or five passenger cars between the two Class 43 locomotives are being used by Scotrail and Great Western Railway, but to use them on Liverpool to Norwich would require another fifteen trains to be updated, which is probably not as cost effective as new 125 mph bi-modes.

Conclusion

If service between the Liverpool Lime Street and Norwich is to continue in its present form, it needs 125 mph bi-more trains.

 

 

 

 

April 29, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steam Methane Reforming

In The Liverpool Manchester Hydrogen Clusters Project, I used an extract that describes the project.

This was a paragraph from the extract.

It proposes converting natural gas into clean-burning hydrogen gas, using a process called steam methane reforming. The process also removes CO2 from the gas, which can then be captured using existing carbon and capture storage technology and stored in depleted offshore gas reservoirs.

So what is steam methane reforming?

Methane is a chemical compound consisting of one carbon and four hydrogen atoms, that is the major component of natural gas.

This first paragraph is from the Wikipedia entry for steam reforming.

Steam reforming is a method for producing hydrogen, carbon monoxide, or other useful products from hydrocarbon fuels such as natural gas. This is achieved in a processing device called a reformer which reacts steam at high temperature with the fossil fuel. The steam methane reformer is widely used in industry to make hydrogen. There is also interest in the development of much smaller units based on similar technology to produce hydrogen as a feedstock for fuel cells. Small-scale steam reforming units to supply fuel cells are currently the subject of research and development, typically involving the reforming of methanol, but other fuels are also being considered such as propane, gasoline, autogas, diesel fuel, and ethanol.

If the process has a problem, it is that is produces carbon dioxide, which in the case of the Liverpool Manchester Hydrogen Clusters Project is captured and will be stored depleted gas reservoirs.

April 10, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Liverpool Manchester Hydrogen Clusters Project

The project is described briefly on this page on the Cadent web site.

This is the introduction.

The use of hydrogen in place of natural gas could offer a route to widespread decarbonisation of gas distribution networks.

The Liverpool-Manchester Hydrogen Cluster project is a conceptual study to develop a practical and economic framework to introduce hydrogen into the gas network in the Liverpool-Manchester area.

It proposes converting natural gas into clean-burning hydrogen gas, using a process called steam methane reforming. The process also removes CO2 from the gas, which can then be captured using existing carbon and capture storage technology and stored in depleted offshore gas reservoirs.

The hydrogen gas would then be supplied to a core set of major industrial gas users in Liverpool-Manchester and fed into the local gas distribution network as a blend with natural gas.

Note.

  1. At Runcorn, Ineos make hydrogen and chlorine by the electrolysis of brine.
  2. When I worked in Castner-Kellner works at Runcorn, it was generally taken away be truck.
  3. The Burbo Bank wind farm in Liverpool Bay, can produce 348 MW of electricity using some of the biggest wind turbines in the World, according to this article in The Guardian.
  4. Using excess  electricity generated by win turbines at night, is used by the Germans to create hydrogen.

It doesn’t look like the project will suffer from a shortage of hydrogen.

Alsthom And Hydrogen Powered Trains

Alsthom have a site at Widnes, where they modify and paint trains. They have also indicated, that they might build new trains in the UK.

They have also developed a hydrogen-powered train called the Alsthom Coradia iLint, which starts test running with passengers in a couple of months.

This promotionalvideo shows how Alsthom’s hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint works.

The North Wales Coast Line would be an ideal test track.

  • It’s around eighty miles long.
  • It is nearly all double-track.
  • It has a 90 mph operating speed.
  • It’s probably pretty flat, as it runs along the coast.

I don’t think too many people would bother about a few extra quieter trains, just emitting steam and water vapour.

North Wales could be getting a new environmentally-friendly tourist attraction.

 

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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 | Travel | , , , , , | 6 Comments

London Businesses Endorse Calls For ‘Crossrail for the North’

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

This is said.

A statement from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) admitted that travelling in the north was a “tortuous, time-consuming experience” and that improved travel in the region needed to be seen as a top future priority by the government.

But perhaps this is this most telling statement, from the LCCI’s Policy Director.

It is interesting to note that the distance between Leeds and Liverpool is roughly the same as the whole length of London Underground’s Central Line – yet that northern journey can sometimes nearly take double the time,

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry have a very valid point.

Some typical journeys between Liverpool and Leeds.

  • Liverpool to Newcastle train – One hour twenty-eight minutes
  • Liverpool to Scarborough train – One hour forty-six minutes

And across London from Ealing Broadway to Stratford

  • Central Line – 53 minutes – Actual
  • Crossrail – 27 minutes – Predicted

I would read the following into these figures.

  1. Why does a Scarborough service take twenty minutes longer than a Newcastle one?
  2. Creating a new route can create substantial saving of time.

This suggests to me a two phase approach to creating a better service across the North.

In the first phase new trains, track and signalling improvements and more efficient operation, are used to cut the time as much as possible.

In The Pressure For More Rail Electrification, I speculated that the following times could be possible.

  • Liverpool to Manchester Victoria – 30 minutes
  • Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield – 28 minutes
  • Huddersfield to Leeds – 22 minutes

When the following are done.

  1. Liverpool to Manchester Victoria could be speeded up by a couple of minutes, after the addition of the fourth track at Huyton.
  2. According to the time table, most dwell times are reasonable, but nine minutes is allowed at Manchester Victoria.
  3. Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge electrification is completed.
  4. All trains that can’t cruise at 100 mph are removed from the route.

One,  three and four are already underway and if the track were to be improved across Chat Moss, which currently has a 75 mph speed limit, I reckon that a reliable time of 60-70 minutes would be possible with a Class 800 train.

This would use electrification between Liverpool and Stalybridge and diesel from there to Leeds.

But even with selective electrification between Stalybridge and Leeds, the sort of times the North needs will not be attained.

Some form of new route will be needed in phase two of speeding up trains between Liverpool and Leeds.

September 17, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Lord Adonis On Crossrail Of The North

There has been a lot of talk recently about HS3 or Crossrail Of The North.

On Radio 5 Live, this morning, Lord Adonis said a lot of sensible things about the high speed line from Liverpool to Hull via Manchester and Leeds.

His plea was for a plan for a start and he suggested that an objective would be to halve the journey time from Manchester to Leeds and have a train every few minutes.

He suggested it could be probably built using a mixture of new track alignments and existing railways.

I agree with what he said, but the problem is that every Tom, Dick and Harriet has their own ideas of what they want.

How Would I Design Crossrail Of The North?

I can at least look at this without favouring any one of the North’s great urban area.

Urban Areas Of The North

I will list those with populations of over 200,000,, from this list in Wikipedia.

  • Manchester – 2,553,379
  • West Yorkshire – 1,777,934
  • Liverpool – 864,122
  • Tyneside – 774,891
  • Nottingham – 729,977
  • Sheffield – 685,368
  • Teeside – 376,633
  • Stoke-on-Trent – 372,775
  • Sunderland – 335,415
  • Birkenhead – 325,264
  • Hull – 314,018
  • Preston – 313,322
  • Blackpool – 239,409
  • Barnsley – 223,281

Urban areas with populations between 100,000 and 200,000 include Wigan, Mansfield, Warrington, Doncaster, York, Burnley, Blackburn, Grimsby, Accrington, Burton, Lincoln and Chesterfield.

Some of the connections between pairs of these areas are truly dreadful despite being only fifty or so files apart.

Northern Connect

I would think it reasonable that all these centres of population have good, preferably direct,  connections between them.

Northern obviously think this way as they are creating a concept called Northern Connect, using new Class 195 trains to connect many of these areas with a quality service.

The North TransPennine Routes

TransPennine operate these North Peenine  routes.

  • 1 train per hour (tph) – Liverpool Lime Street to Newcastle
  • 1 tph – Manchester Airport to Middlesbrough
  • 1 tph – Manchester Airport to York
  • 1 tph – Liverpool Lime Street – Scarborough
  • 1 tph – Manchester Piccadilly to Hull

Note that the opening of the Ordsal Chord iin a few months, might change the routing of some of these services.

All of these services use the Huddersfield Line between Manchester and Leeds, stopping at both Huddersfield and Leeds stations.

 

Manchester Victoria To Leeds

As Lord Adonis said, the important section is between Manchester Victoria and Leeds stations.

I’ll start with a comparison of a series of rail journeys, all of which are about the same length.

  1. The fastest trains between Manchester Victoria and Leeds take forty-nine minutes, with a stop at Huddersfield, and are just 1 tph
  2. Norwich to Ipswich in a couple of years, will take 30 minutes at a frequency of 3 tph.
  3. Glasgow to Edinburgh currently takes about fifty minutes, at a frequency of 4 tph.
  4. Cardiff to Swansea currently takes 52-54 minutes, at a frequency of 2 tph.

It does seem that the North has a point if  two of East Anglia’s larger cities get a better service than Leeds and Manchester.

The Huddersfield Line And The Great Eastern Main Line Compared

It is also enlightening to compare the Manchester to Leeds Line via Huddersfield to Ipswich To Norwich section of the Great Eastern Main Line.

It should be noted that I’m comparing these two lines, as both have lived on scraps from Central Government for decades. I also know the Great Eastern Main Line well!

  • Both lines are double-track.
  • Norwich-Ipswich is flat.
  • The Huddersfield Line is rather hilly
  • Norwich-Ipswich has only two stations and only the occasional slower service.
  • The Huddersfield Line has numerous stations and local services.
  • Norwich-Ipswich is electrified to a robust standard.
  • On the Huddersfield Line, only Manchester to Stalybridge is scheduled for electrification.
  • Norwich-Ipswich has a 100 mph speed limit, that could possibly be raised in places.
  • I can’t find the speed limit on the Huddersfield Line, but suspect it could be less than 100 mph.

It is truthful to say that the Huddersfield Line is a much more challenging route than the Norwich to Ipswich.

The Effect Of Electrification On The Great Eastern Main Line

It might appear that the electrification of the Great Eastern Main Line makes for the difference in times.

But it should also be remembered that Ipswich to Norwich wasn’t electrified until the mid 1980s and if I remember correctly before that date, the fastest expresses were timed at two hours from Norwich to London with just two stops. The fastest services now are ten minutes under two hours with four stops.

With the introduction of the new Class 745 trains, timings of ninety minutes have been promised to the Department for Transport.

Timings did not drop significantly with the electrification in the mid-1980s, Services just became more reliable with more stops, as electric trains can accelerate better.

The decrease in timings over the next few years will be down to the following.

  • Removal of bottlenecks like Trowse Bridge.
  • Increase in speed limits.
  • Trains with a shorter dwell time at stations.
  • Trains with better acceleration and braking.
  • Improved track and signalling.
  • All passenger trains on the line will have the same performance.

I will be very interested to see what timings, the Class 745 trains eventually achieve!

Electrifying Between Leeds And Manchester Victoria Stations

It looks like the electrification between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge stations will be complete by the end of this year.

The central section of the route is problematical with the Grade 1 Listed Huddersfield station and large numbers of bridges.

In TransPennine Electrification And Piccadilly Upgrade Now Also In Doubt, I came to these conclusions about electrifying the route.

  1. Electrification would not go anywhere near Huddersfield, as the heritage lobby and their lawyers would have a field day.

  2. Standedge and Morley tunnels are over 2,000 metres long, double track and Standedge is level. If they needed refurbishment in the future, perhaps they could be electrified with an overhead rail, so that bi-modes could have a couple of miles of electricity.

  3. Electrification might be extended at the Manchester and Leeds ends of the line, so that the two cities could improve their local suburban electric networks.

  4. An alternative would be that the Leeds and Manchester suburban electric networks were provided with a few Class 769 trains or even some brand new four-car bi-modes.

  5. Services between Leeds and Manchester would be run by fast bi-modes.

Is there a more difficult stretch of possibleelectrification in the UK?

The Ultimate Bi-Mode Train

Currently four bi-mode trains are planned for introduction into the UK.

Note.

  • Two hundred and eleven bi-mode trains have been ordered.
  • Nineteen Class 802 trains have been ordered for TransPennine routes.

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I look at the prospect of using energy storage in Hitachi’s bi-mode trains.

The Class 802 train is probably something like the ultimate bi-mode train.

  • 125 mph using electrification.
  • 100 mph under diesel power
  • Regenerative braking at all times using energy storage.
  • Automatic pantograph raising and lowering.
  • Sophisticated in-cab signalling.

Obviously, interior fitment would be up to the operator.

Class 195 Trains

Northern is acquiring 25 x two-car and 30 x three-car Class 195 trains.

These are 100 mph trains, so it must be a good idea to make sure all Northern services that use the same routes as TransPennine services are run by these faster trains.

Short/Medium Term – A Classic Manchester Victoria To Leeds Route

TransPennine Express are already planning to run Class 802 trains between Liverpool and Newcastle via Manchester and Leeds. It looks to me, that whoever plans their train policy, saw the electrification crisis coming.

I wonder what times they can achieve between Leeds and Manchester Victoria, if the following were to be done.

  • Stalybridge to Manchester Victoria electrification is complete.
  • Track and signalling is the best it can be.
  • The route has a 100 mph operating speed.
  • All trains on the route are 100 mph capable.
  • Northern replaces their scrapyard specials with Class 195 trains.

The reason for the same operating speed of 100 mph, enables trains to follow each other in a stream. It could be 90 mph, if that was easier for the route.

Station dwell times can also be reduced.

Due to overcrowding, the TransPennine dwell times, must currently be some of the worst in the UK.

This is typical at Huddersfield.

Not even the Japanese with their pushers could get this to work.

But a modern train like the Class 802 train with wide lobbies and adequate capacity should cope.

So what time could be possible, if everything goes as planned?

If Norwich to Ipswich which is about the same distance as Leeds to Manchester, can be achieved in thirty minutes, I believe it is possible that the Northern route could be achieved in the same time or perhaps thirty-five minutes.

Thirty-five minutes should be adequate for a few years, if say there was a train every ten minutes!

Long Term – A Genuine High Speed Manchester Victoria To Leeds Route

I’ve flown my virtual helicopter between Manchester and Leeds and it is not flat agricultural land like seventy percent of the route of HS2.

I believe that creating a genuine high speed route, with say a 140 mph top speed across the Pennines will be a major engineering challenge that will make Crossrail in London look easy.

It may even be more economic to develop 140 mph hydrogen-powered tilting trains, that can run on the classic route at 125 mph.

Only one thing matters to passengers; a fast reliable and very comfortable and affordable  train service across the country.

Manchester Victoria To Manchester Airport

When the Ordsall Chord opens any Leeds to Manchester Victoria service can continue to Deansgate, Oxford Road, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport stations.

Manchester Victoria To Liverpool

Currently, services between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Victoria stations take a few minutes over half-an-hour.

I would suspect that thirty minutes is achievable, if the following is done.

  • The four-tracking at Huyton is completed.
  • Track and signalling is the best it can be.
  • The route has a 100 mph operating speed.
  • All trains on the route are 100 mph capable.
  • Northern replaces their scrapyard specials with Class 195 trains.

I suspect all of this is in progress.

Note, this is very similar work, to that needed between Manchester and Leeds.

Leeds To Hull

Currently, services between Leeds and Hull stations take a few minutes under an hour.

A few thoughts on the route.

  • The Selby Line from  Leeds to Hull is double-track and not electrified.
  • From my virtual helicopter, it appears to be straight in very flat country, so it is no wonder Hull Trains offered to electrify the line.
  • If the Selby swing bridge were to be sorted, it could become a 100 mph line with trains to match.
  • Northern replaces their scrapyard specials with Class 195 trains.
  • Modern in-cab signalling.

I suspect quite a few minutes could be taken off this route which is about fifty miles.

I suspect this line will eventually be electrified, as it could give sound time savings and it looks relatively easy.

York To Scarborough

Currently, services between York and Scarborough stations take forty-nine minutes, with one tph.

  • Similar improvements to the double-track unelectrified line as for the Leeds to Hull route, could be made.
  • But if the line has a problem , it is that it has 89 level crossings, although Network Rail intends to close them all before 2025.

I wonder, if the time can be reduced between York and Scarborough, such that two tph can be timetabled.

I doubt York to Scarborough will be electrified.

Northallerton To Middlesbrough

This short line is quite heavily used and is a valuable diversion route, so I suspect nothing urgent needs to be done.

Like Leeds to Hull, I suspect this line will eventually be electrified.

Conclusions

I have come to the following conclusions.

  • Manchester Victoria to Leeds is achievable in half-an-hour with the new trains on order and no major infrastructure, other than that already planned.
  • Any line where TransPennine Express services run needs to have the highest possible operating speed and no slow trains.
  • Northern need to get their Class 195 trains into service as soon as possible.

Improvements are much-needed in the North, which could include.

  • A short/medium term plan to deliver the best possible service with the new trains ordered by Northern and TransPennine Express.
  • A long term plan to deliver a genuine 140 mph service across the North of England.
  • A plan to improve the Calder Valley and Hope Valley Lines across the Pennines.
  • A plan to improve some of the poor connections across the North.
  • A strategy to make the best use of connections with HS2.

A detailed plan is needed that lays down what should be done in the next ten to twenty years.

The plan is also needed as soon as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

August 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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 | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Does Northern See Wigan As A Class 769 Train Hub?

The Wikipedia entry for Northern, shows under their entry for eight Class 769 trains, that the routes they will cover include.

  • Liverpool to Wigan
  • Manchester to Wigan North Western via Bolton.

Wigan is a proud and friendly town and I wrote about it in Wigan On The Up.

The West Coast Main Line through Wigan North Western station is electrified and Northern run half-hourly electric services to Liverpool using Class 319 trains.

But the other station; Wigan Wallgate is not wired and is definitely Pacer territory.

Liverpool to Wigan

As Liverpool Lime Street to Wigan North Western is fully electrified, I would be very surprised if Northern would run a bi-mode Class 769 train on this route, except as a stand-in for a failed Class 319 train.

Routes to places North of Wigan North Western, like Blackpool, Lancaster and Preston will be fully-electrified, so these routes can be served by the Class 319 trains.

Northern could be thinking of running a service between Liverpool Lime Street and Blackburn/Burnley for which a Class 769 train would be ideal.

But I think more likely, is that they are thinking of using Class 769 trains on the Kirkby Branch Line, which currently links Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate stations.

Consider.

  • There is talk of running this branch as a shuttle.
  • Wigan Wallgate station already has a suitable bay platform for a shuttle.
  • The route is double-track except between Kirkby and Rainford stations.
  • Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate takes a convenient twenty-four minutes.
  • Merseyrail have a long term ambition to built a new Headbolt Lane station, as an interchange between their Northern Line and services to Wigan and Manchester.
  • Merseyrail want to serve Skelmersdale.

Could this route be the reason for the reported Battery EMUs For Merseyrail?

  1. The Class 769 trains are used between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate stations as a shuttle.
  2. Two trains would be able to provide a two trains per hour (tph) service, without any new infrastructure.
  3. Merseyrail ascertain that their new Stadler trains can travel between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate and back on battery power.
  4. Merseyrail determine if a fast charging station is needed in the bay platform at Wigan Wallgate for their Stadler trains.

If the Class 769 trains show the passenger traffic is there and the Stadler trains can handle the route on batteries, could we see some or all of the Merseyrail Northern Line services extended to Wigan Wallgate?

Because the Stadler trains will be fast modern trains designed to execute stops quickly, I suspect that even on the single track section of line between Kirkby and Rainford stations, they could run at the frequency of four tph, that is currently run all day between Kirkby and Liverpool Central stations.

  • This would mean that the the current four tph to Kirkby would become four tph to Wigan Wallgate.
  • The service would be run by brand-new Stadler trains.
  • The track at Kirkby would have to be relaid to allow trains to run straight through.
  • The signalling would probably need updating.
  • Means to charge the trains at Wigan Wallgate might need to be provided.
  • A new single-platform station could be built at Headbolt Lane.
  • The four stations between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate would get four tph in both directions.

It would give The Train To Wigan Pier a whole new meaning.

Once they had done their good works in proving the route, the Class 769 trains would be posted elsewhere to do more missionary work.

Manchester to Wigan North Western via Bolton

This is the other route mentioned in Wikipedia.

Consider.

  • Bolton to Manchester will be electrified, by the end of the year.
  • The route passes through Ince, Hindley, Westhoughton and Lostock.

Class 769 trains travelling this route,  would open a second electrified route between Manchester and Preston via Wigan.

Manchester to Southport

Why was this route not mentioned?

  • Manchester to Southport is a route run mainly by Pacers to a frequency of two tph.
  • Some trains go via Bolton and some via Atherton.
  • The route via Bolton will be partly electrified by the end of the year.
  • The route via Atherton is not electrified.

I suspect that under current plans of just eight Class 769 trains, there aren’t enough to use them on this busy route.

Ideally, this route should be run with two tph going on each of the routes to Manchester from Wigan Wallgate.

The Future

Northern have ordered both diesel and electric Civity multiple units from CAF.

In Auckland Mulls Battery-Electric Train Order, I looked at how CAF had proposed battery-electric Civity trains for Auckland.

I’m sure CAF wouldn’t mind varying the order.

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Capacity Crunch At Chester – Borderlands Line

The Capacity Crunch At Chester article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talked about the Borderlands Line.

The article says this about the line and the passenger service.

The line is currently worked by two ATW Class 150/2 Sprinter units, which do their best to maintain the clockface hourly frequency. The Wrexham-Bidston Rail Users Association told the Wales & Borders franchise inquiry performance is far from ideal, highlighting late running frequently leads to trains being turned back at Shotton, meaning they do not reach Bidston to connect with Merseyrail services to Liverpool and leaving lengthy gaps at intermediate stations in England.

The article then talks about electrifying the line, but Network Rail have indicated that this would cost £207million. Apparently, third-rail electriication now needs palisade fencing along the track.

Enter The Class 455 Flex Train

In The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769, I commented on the report, that Porterbrook were also looking at converting Class 455 trains to bi-modes.

Consider.

  • These trains could probably work Merseyrail’s tunnels, as they are closely related to the current trains.
  • They have quality 2 x 2 interiors.
  • They meet all regulations.
  • Performance is similar to the current trains.
  • They are four-cars.
  • Porterbrook will have ninety-one trains to place, when South Western Railway replaces them with Aventras.

The only problem is that the interiors are very red, which might upset half of Merseyside.

But I think it is possible that we could see Class 455 Flex trains working the Borderlands Line.

  • From Wrexham to Bidston, they would use their on-board diesel engines.
  • At Bidston, they would change from diesel to third-rail electric power.
  • From Bidston to Liverpool, they would join the queue of trains from the Wirral and go round the newly-rebuilt Loop Line.

I’m pretty sure, that if Merseyrail have signalled the Loop appropriately, that there would be enough capacity in the Loop to run two trains per hour (tph) between Wrexham and Liverpool.

Based on the following current timings.

  • Liverpool Lime Street -to Bidston – 17 minutes
  • Bidston to Wrexham – 1 hour

With a few performance tweaks, I suspect that a Class 455 Flex train could do the round trip in well under three hours.

So three trains could easily handle the current hourly service, but would give the following advantages.

  • Direct access to Liverpool City Centre.
  • Four-cars instead of two.
  • A much better interior.

The only problem would be checking that the Class 455 trains would fit the tunnels in the Loop Line. But seeing, that  the Class 455 trains, were built as a successor to the Class 508 trains used by Merseyrail, I suspect they fit.

Could Class 319 Flex Trains Be Used?

The reason I looked at Class 455 Flex trains first is that in a article in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled ‘319 Flex’ Units To Be Class 769, this is said.

The company reports considerable interest in the concept and expects further orders soon, while it is also considering transferring the concept to other rolling stock, such as Class 455 EMUs.

As Porterbrook will soon receiving around ninety of these trains from South Western Railway, these struck me as possibilities for the Borderlands Line.

If you look at Merseyrail’s current Class 507 and Class 508 trains, Class 455 trains and Class 319 trains, they all appear to have a similar 2.82 metre width and a 3.58 metre height.

So if Class 319 Flex trains could work the tunnels under Liverpool, what would this do to service on the Borderlands Line.

  • Their 90 mph as opposed to 75 mph operating speed could bring the round trip under two and a half hours.
  • Five trains would be needed for a 2 tph service.
  • Wrexham to Liverpool times of under an hour and fifteen minutes should be possible.
  • The better performance of the trains would allow extra stops to be made with ease.
  • The trains can have First Class seats and fully-accessible toilets.

In Wales Orders Some Golden Oldies, I noted how Arriva Trains Wales are acquiring five Class 319 Flex trains as cover for the refurbishment of Class 150 and Class 158 trains on the Cardiff Valley Lines.

So once all of these diesel trains have been refurbished, will we be seeing the Class 319 Flex trains moved to the Borderlands Line?

July 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Capacity Crunch At Chester – Halton Curve

The Capacity Crunch At Chester article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks about the Halton Curve.

The curve will allow services between Liverpool Lime Street, South Liverpool and Liverpool Airport to Chester and North Wales.

The article says this.

Initially, Merseytravel will subsidise an hourly Chester-Liverpool service via the Halton Curve, as a first step in the development of enhanced services using the curve.

It then goes on to quote Huw Jenkins if Merseytravel as saying.

It would be a priority for the new Wales and Borders franchise to introduce regular services via the curve to Liverpool from significant stations in North Wales, including Bangor, Llandudno and Wrexham.

The business case for the Halton Curve is also stated to include.

  • Bangor to Liverpool in 140 minutes.
  • Llandudno to Liverpool in 130 minutes.
  • Create an alternative route between Liverpool and Cardiff via Chester and Shrewsbury.

I would suspect that the direct service between Cardiff and Liverpool will take about three and a half hours in something like a Class 802 train.

These trains could also probably travel between Liverpool and Shrewsbury in around ninety minutes, giving access to all the West Wales services at Shrewsbury station.

Conclusion

I have a feeling that when we look back on the reinstatement of the Halton Curve in a couple of decades, it could be a raging success and a very bad case of what I call London Overground Syndrome.

This is my definition of the disease.

This disease, which is probably a modern version of the Victorian railway mania, was first identified in East London in 2011, when it was found that the newly-refurbished East London Line and North London Line were inadequate due to high passenger satisfaction and much increased usage. It has now spread across other parts of the capital and across the UK, despite various eradication programs.

It is usually solved by adding more capacity.

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment