The Anonymous Widower

Connecting The North West Of England’s Three Powerhouses

It could reasonably be argued that the three most important economic centres of the North West of England are.

  • The City of Liverpool and Merseyside
  • Manchester Airport
  • The City of Manchester and Greater Manchester

I’ll take a quick look at each, with particular reference to public transport links.

The City of Liverpool and Merseyside

Liverpool is introduced by this paragraph in Wikipedia.

Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in Merseyside, England. As of 2018, the population is approximately 494,814. Liverpool is the ninth-largest English district by population, and the largest in Merseyside and the Liverpool City Region. It lies within the United Kingdom’s sixth-most populous urban area. Liverpool’s metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the United Kingdom, with a population of 2.24 million.

Knowing Liverpool with affection as I do, I find the City difficult to describe in an unbiased manner, but in my experience few people go for a visit to Liverpool and don’t come back enchanted in some way. It is a many-faceted city!

One of Liverpool’s strengths is the local rail system; Merseyrail, which connects the suburbs to the centre, just like the Underground does in London. As with London, Merseyrail is backed up by a comprehensive bus network. And like London, Liverpool is introducing hydrogen-powered double-deck buses.

Merseyrail is also in a strong expansionist phase.

  • New trains are being delivered to replace some of the oldest trains on the national network in the UK.
  • New stations are being added to the core Merseyrail network.
  • Stations are being improved with refurbishment and step-free access.
  • Merseyrail have ambitions to expand their network to Liverpool Airport, Preston, Skelmersdale, Warrington and Wrexham.

The City of Liverpool and Merseyside in general are getting ready to expand their economy.

Manchester Airport

This Google Map shows Manchester Airport.

Note.

  1. The two runways.
  2. The railway station in the middle of the Airport.
  3. The M56 motorway passing across the North-West of the Airport.

Manchester Airport is the third-busiest airport in the UK in terms of passenger numbers.

  • It is a two-runway airport like Heathrow, which helps a lot in operational efficiency.
  • In 2018, it handled 61% of the number of passengers as Gatwick, but 71% of the aircraft movements.
  • The airport has three terminals.
  • The airport has rail connections to Crewe, Manchester, Northern England, the Central Belt of Scotland and Wales.
  • The airport is connected to the trams of the Manchester Metrolink.

I’ve never flown from the airport as a passenger, so I can’t comment.

Wikipedia has a section on the Future of Manchester Airport, which says.

  • Terminal 2 will be expanded with fifteen more covered stands,
  • The airport will expand to handle more freight.

Airport City Manchester is an £800million expansion to create an airport city on the lines of those at Barcelona and Frankfurt, alongside the airport.

Manchester Airport is certainly building for a future expansion.

Reading about rail links to the airport, you get the impression that some places like Bradford, Derby and Nottingham would like direct links to Manchester Airport.

The City of Manchester and Greater Manchester

Manchester is introduced like this in Wikipedia.

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 547,627 as of 2018 (making it the fifth most populous English district). It lies within the United Kingdom’s second-most populous urban area, with a population of 2.5 million and second most populous metropolitan area, with a population of 3.3 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation.

I don’t know Manchester as well as I know Liverpool and most of my visits to the City are usually with limited objectives and a possible overnight stay.

Like Liverpool, Manchester has an extensive public transport network based on the trams of the Metrolink and some local railway lines, backed up by lots of buses.

Transport for Greater Manchester is developing the transport network, with a new Metrolink line to the Trafford Centre opening soon.

Note that if Manchester’s rail system has a problem, it is congestion in the Castlefield Corridor through Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road and Deangate stations and on to Manchester Victoria and Salford Crescent stations. A permanent long-term solution is needed.

The City of Manchester and Greater Manchester are getting putting in the necessary transport links to expand their economy.

Connecting The Three Powerhouses

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North, I wrote the following, which I am now repeating in an updated form.

This clip of a map from this Transport for the North report , which is entitled At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail, shows a schematic of the current and possible rail links in the triangle between Crewe, Liverpool and Manchester.

High Speed Two, which is shown in dark green, would appear to come North and split into two routes.

  • One continues North to join the existing West Coast Main Line just South of Wigan.
  • Another goes through Crewe station.

North of Crewe, the two routes join and then split into three at the Junction labelled 6.

  • To Warrington and Liverpool
  • To Wigan, Preston and Scotland
  • To Manchester Airport and Manchester.

A second Junction labelled 5, allows Northern Powerhouse Rail trains to run Liverpool-Warrington-Manchester Airport-Manchester.

This is a new layout and has the following advantages.

  • I estimate that trains could save 7-8 minutes on services running between Crewe and Wigan because of the longer running at High Speed Two operating speeds at 225 mph.
  • ,If they don’t stop at Crewe and Runcorn, further minutes could be saved.
  • Trains between London and Preston and London and Glasgow could skip the stop at Warrington to save further minutes.
  • There could be an advantageous reorganisation of stopping patterns.
  • London and Liverpool services and Liverpool and Manchester services could stop at Warrington, which would give Warrington very good connections.
  • The Liverpool-Manchester and Liverpool-Crewe Lines could be built to High Speed Two standards, which could allow 225 mph running.

I also think the track layout can be run alongside or underneath the various motorways in the area for a lot of the route between Liverpool, Crewe, Warrington and Manchester Airport.

It would appear to be a very good solution to a complex problem and overall, I suspect it gives better connectivity, at a more affordable cost, whilst creating a railway that can be built with less disruption and will ultimately produce less noise.

The Transport for the North report, also says the following.

  • There could be a new Warrington South Parkway station.
  • Six tph between Liverpool and Manchester via Warrington are planned.
  • Journey times will be 26 minutes.

The Twenty-first Century will finally get a modern and fast Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

  • Trains would stop at Manchester Airport, a new Warrington South Parkway and possibly Liverpool South Parkway.
  • Trains would run every ten minutes.
  • Trains would take 26 minutes between Liverpool and Manchester.

These are a few other thoughts on the route.

The Liverpool Terminus

The Transport for the North report proposes a new High Speed station in Liverpool.

  • It would possibly be alongside Liverpool Lime Street station.
  • It would handle both High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail services.
  • The station would need at least four platforms.
  • The station could be connected to Liverpool Lime Street station’s Wirral Line platform.

I believe that a well-designed station could be squeezed in, on the edge of Liverpool City Centre.

Should Trains Stop At Liverpool South Parkway?

I think this could be important, especially, if the station gets a link to Liverpool Airport.

Between Manchester Airport And Manchester City Centre

Most current trains between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport stations take between 15-18 minutes.

I don’t believe that these times are compatible with a 26 minute time between Liverpool and Manchester.

So I am fairly certain that to achieve the planned time in the Transport for the North report, that an almost direct tunnel between Manchester Airport and Manchester City Centre is necessary.

The Manchester City Centre Station

Could the tunnel pass through underground platforms at Manchester Piccadilly station, which run across the station and then surface to connect with the chosen route to Leeds?

In an earlier plan, referenced under Manchester City Centre (Phase 2b) in the  Wikipedia entry for High Speed Two,, this is said.

The route will continue from the airport into Manchester city centre via a 7.5-mile (12.1 km) twin bore branch tunnel under the dense urban districts of south Manchester before surfacing at Ardwick.

Under the earlier plan, trains would have gone into a rebuilt Manchester Piccadilly station.

I also wonder, if the solution would be to bore a tunnel under Manchester City Centre with stations under Manchester Piccadilly station, Piccadilly Gardens and Manchester Victoria.

  • It might be just one set of platforms with travellators, escalators and lifts all over Manchester City Centre.
  • It should be noted that two High Speed Two trains, running as a pair would be four hundred metres long.

One of the advantages of a train connection between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria station, would be that the Castlefield Corridor would be by-passed.

  • TransPennine Express services between Manchester Airport and the North-East would be replaced by Northern Powerhouse Rail services between Liverpool and the North-East via Manchester Airport.
  • The Castlefield Corridor would probably be reserved for local services.
  • Passengers needing Manchester Oxford Road or Deansgate stations would use the current Manchester Airport station.

There are probably other advantages.

Building The High Speed Liverpool And Manchester Line

I believe that this line can be built without too much disruption to existing services, because Crossrail’s construction didn’t disrupt London.

Conclusion

My overall conclusion is that it is feasible to build a Liverpool and Manchester High Speed Line, as an early part of Northern Powerhouse Rail, that will also be used by High Speed Two, when that is extended to Liverpool and Manchester.

 

 

 

March 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Castlefield Corridor Trade-Off Plan For Fewer Trains

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

The article says that to solve the problems through the Castlefield Corridor, the number of trains will be reduced from 15 trains per hour (tph) to thirteen tph.

This arrangement applied until May 2018 and meant that two tph between Manchester Airport and East of the Pennines reversed in Manchester Piccadilly station to go East, rather than using the Castlefield Corridor through Deansgate and Manchester Victoria stations.

The arrangement worked well before May 2018 and I doubt there’s no reason, why it won’t work in the short-term.

The long-term solution is Northern Powerhouse Rail and/or High Speed Two, which looks like will be in tunnel between the Airport and Manchester City Centre and could carry as many as six tph between Manchester and Liverpool via the Airport.

Perhaps, this should be the first piece of High Speed Two to be built in the North.

  • It connects the three most important economic areas in the North West of England; Liverpool, Manchester and Manchester Airport.
  • It would greatly increase capacity.
  • It would probably have good connections to Crewe, Warrington, Wigan and the West Coast Main Line.
  • Liverpool has an extensive local rail network, which is being expanded.
  • Manchester is expanding the Metrolink network.

Some of the Castlefield Corridor services would have been replaced by better and faster services.

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why Are Liverpool Good At Transfers?

This question was asked on BBC Radio 5, about Liverpool Football Club.

As an alumni, I raise money for cancer research at Liverpool University.

I get the impression, the University has no problem getting the best researchers to come to the Second City of England!

Everybody in the World has heard of Liverpool!

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Sport, World | , , , , | Leave a comment

TfGM Announces Contactless Payments On Metrolink Trams

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

This is the first paragraph.

Passengers will be able to ‘touch-in’ using their contactless cards on Manchester Metrolink trams from July 15, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) announced today.

I shall be there with my contactless credit card on Monday week, to check that this is not fake news.

I look forward to the day, when Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds are all one contactless card area for trams, trains and buses.

When you consider that the combined area will be smaller than Greater London’s contactless area and that the distance between Lime Street and Leeds or Sheffield, is less than Reading to Shenfield, which will be contactless when Crossrail opens, the problems can’t be technological.

If the leaders of the four major Northern cities can agree this advance in ticketing, they will do more for the North, than any other short-term  transport development will achieve.

July 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Transport for Wales Is Invading England

There is an article in the July 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled TfW Targets Swansea To Bristol Services.

This is the first paragraph.

Transport for Wales Rail Services is aiming to start an open access service between Swansea and Bristol Temple Meads, commencing in December 2020.

These are characteristics of the proposed service.

  • Hourly service
  • Calls at Neath, Port Talbot Parkway, Bridgend, Cardiff Central, Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Filton Abbey Wood stations.
  • Sixteen services per day will run Monday to Saturday in both directions, with twelve services on Sundays.
  • Trains will be Class 170 or Class 175 diesel trains.

Looking at current times of sections of the route, I suspect that services could take a few minutes under two hours and would need four trains.

Reasons given for planning the service include.

  • Long-term political pressure.
  • Welsh ministers abandoning plans for the £1.6 billion M4 Relief Road around Newport.
  • Cross-Severn road traffic has increased after abolition of tolls.
  • Main roads on either side of the Severn are congested.
  • Increased house sales in South Wales to people who work in the Bristol area.

Incidentally, before I read the article, if you asked me, I’d have thought there would be a direct service.

My only thought about the service, is that as there will be electrification between Bristol and Cardiff, why not run a proper fast bi-mode train like a Hitachi Class 800 train or a Stadler Class 755 train. The latter of which Transport for Wales have on order, for delivery in 2023.

The Class 755 train or its Welsh cousin, could be an interesting option.

  • The distance without electrification between Cardiff and Swansea is 46 miles.
  • Transport for Wales tri-mode version of the Class 755 train could have three batteries and a diesel engine in the four slots in the powrpack car.

Could it have the capability of jumping the gap.

Birmingham Services

The article also says that, Transport for Wales are also planning to extend their services that terminate at Birmingham to Coventry.

  • Holyhead and Birmingham New Street takes three hours.
  • Aberystwyth and Birmingham New Street takes three hours
  • Pwllheli and Birmingham New Street takes five hours

As Birmingham and Coventry takes twenty minutes or perhaps a convenient hour to go to Coventry and return with a relaxed turnround, does the extension make these three long services simpler to operate?

Extra positioning services from Crewe to Coventry in the morning and return in the evening are also proposed.

These would  also suggest that improving the ease of operation of these services is the reason for the extension to Coventry.

Liverpool Services

The article also says that these services to Liverpool will be added in 2022.

  • An hourly service to Llandudno.
  • A two-hourly service to Cardiff.

It isn’t said, if one of these services is an extension to the recently launched Liverpool and Chester service.

Conclusion

The Welsh are getting ambitious.

 

 

June 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Cadent Launches Report Mapping Out Routes To Hydrogen Fuelled Vehicles On UK Roads

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

This is the first paragraph.

A roadmap using hydrogen to decarbonise transport, particularly commercial transport, in the North West of the UK, has been unveiled by the country’s leading gas distribution network Cadent.

The article makes some points about hydrogen-powered transport.

  • Using Cadent’s network to deliver hydrogen, rather than tube trailers, massively reduces the cost and makes fuel cell electric cars (FCEVs) available to the general public for around the same price as a battery electric vehicle or a conventional diesel car.
  • FCEVs can travel further than battery electric vehicles and take the same time to refuel as a conventional petrol car.
  • Grid-supplied hydrogen is the most cost-effective way of supplying hydrogen transport fuel at the required volume – up to six times cheaper than if delivered by trailer and 70 per cent cheaper than electrolysis.

Cadent‘s interest in all this, is not about selling gas, as their interest and income is totalling in transporting gas from producers to end users. So they don’t care whether they transport natural gas or hydrogen.

Hydrogen Storage

The article also discloses plans of INOVYN, a wholly owned subsidiary of INEOS, to develop a grid-scale hydrogen storage facility.

It will be in salt caverns in mid-Cheshire.

It will be able to hold 2,000 tonnes of hydrogen.

It is cheaper to store hydrogen in salt caverns, than on the surface.

The salt caverns have been used to store gas for decades.

This is a quote from the INOYN spokesman.

Storage is a vital component of delivering a viable hydrogen energy system in the UK.

I only had an indirect quick glimpse underground, when I worked at ICI in the area around 1970, but ICI’s salt expert, said they had enough salt in Cheshire to last 9,000 years at the current rate of extraction.

Salt in Cheshire, is a unique geological formation, that is very valuable to the UK and it looks like in the future, thar could enable hydrogen power.

Hydrogen Generation

The hydrogen will still need to be produced. Wikipedia has an entry caslled Hydrogran Production, which is fairly dismissive of electrolysis.

But in my view, hydrogen could be produced by electrolysis using wind power, as other methods like steam reforming of methane produce carbon-dioxide.

I particularly like the idea of building wind farms in clusters around offshore gas platforms, that have extracted all the gas from the fields, they were built to serve.

  • Instead of running electricity cables to the wind farms,  hydrogen is produced by electrolysis on the platform and this is transported to the shore using the same gas infrastructure, that brought the natural gas onshore.
  • This could enable wind-farms to be developed much further offshore.
  • If carbon capture is ever successfully made to work, the existing gas pipe could also be used to transfer the carbon dioxide offshore for storage in worked-out gas fields.
  • The pipe between platform and shore could easily be made reversible, carrying hydrogen one way and carbon dioxide the other.

All of the technology required would also appear to be fully developed.

Conclusion

I am convinced that in the next few years, a hydrogen gas network can be created in parts of the UK.

The North West has advantages in becoming one of the first parts of the UK to have an extensive hydrogen network.

  • It has the means to produce hydrogen gas.
  • It has large wind farms in Liverpool Bay.
  • There are worked-out gas fields, that might in the future be used for carbon storage.
  • If INOVYN can store large quantities of hydrogen, this is a big advantage.

The biggest problem would be converting large numbers of houses and commercial premises from natural gas to hydrogen.

But, we’ve been through that process before, when we changed from town gas to natural gas in the 1960s and 1970s.

Should We Remove Gas From Our Houses?

I only use gas for heating.

  • I feel that naked flames are not a good idea to have anywhere near people, as they can produce oxides of nitrgen, that causes health problems.
  • Gas cookers are also a major cause of household fires.
  • Technology is moving against cooking with gas, as more more to electric induction hobs.
  • If you are fitting a new gas boiler, make sure it can be connected to hydrogen.

When I buy my next property, it will be all electric.

 

June 7, 2019 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Hillside Station To Go Step-Free

This document on the Government web site is entitled Access for All: 73 Stations Set To Benefit From Additional Funding.

Hillside station in Liverpool, is on the list.

These pictures show the station and the current station building, which is on a bridge.

This 3D Google Map shows the station.

Note.

  1. The station appears to have a large forecourt.
  2. The stairs to the platforms have thirty-two steps.
  3. There could be enough space for lifts outside the platforms.

But will a simple solution, be able to cope with major events like the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale?

Perhaps something more radical, but very possible will be done.

One idea, could be to extend the station building at both ends.

  • A set of wide safe stairs and a lift could provide direct access from the street to the platform in the extensions.
  • Once installed, the original stairs could be removed.

There are certainly possibilities for an architect to develop a solution to cope with the biggest events.

June 2, 2019 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

St Michaels Station To Go Step-Free

This document on the Government web site is entitled Access for All: 73 Stations Set To Benefit From Additional Funding.

St. Michaels station is on the list.

These pictures show the current station.

St Michaels station, like Hunts Cross station, has rather unusual long shallow angle ramps, with steps.

This 3D Google Map shows the station.

Note.

  1. It is a well-appointed and well-maintained station with a Ticket Office, a toilet and cycle storage and hire.
  2. Car parking is very limited.
  3. But the station is designed for pedestrians, cyclists and visitors
  4. The station has a rather chequered history, being closed in 1972, only to be reopened six years later.
  5. I think the design of the ramps is a good example of independent Liverpudlian thinking, which often ignores conventional practice.

The ramps were built for International Garden Festival in 1984, the site of which is shown on this second Google Map.

St. Michaels station is in the top-right corner of the map.

The International Garden Festival site has since been updated and 1300 new houses are being built on the site.

Adding step-free access to the station, will surely be a big asset to the area.

Preparation For Class 777 Trains

Note that St. Michaels station has been updated to allow step-free access  between the new Class 777 trains and platform.

According to a fellow traveller, it had been done at night with little inconvenience to passengers.

Installing The Lifts

I would suspect, that the two new lifts could be installed in the space currently occupied by the two disused stairways.

Conclusion

This is the type of station that needs step-free access.

  • It will make nearby developments more desireable.
  • It will facilitate walking with children and for those in wheelchairs.
  • It will increase traffic at the station.

I would also suspect the lifts can be added without too much disruption to the travelling public.

I also think there a lesson in the chequered history of St. Michaels station.

Next time a station or even a whole line has to be closed, make sure that it can be reopened, if necessary in the future. To many useful stations like Horden and Maiden Lane have been reduced to rubble. The former is being rebuilt and many believe the latter is needed.

 

June 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hunts Cross Station To Go Step-Free

This document on the Government web site is entitled Access for All: 73 Stations Set To Benefit From Additional Funding.

Hunts Cross station is on the list.

These pictures show the station and the current bridge.

Hunts Cross station, like St. Michaels station, has rather unusual long shallow angle ramps, with steps.

This 3D Google Map shows the station.

It may be unusual, but I suspect a conventional lift tower on each platform would make the station fully step-free.

Note.

  1. The station is Grade II Listed and is described as”A good example of the stations built for the Cheshire Lines Committee.”
  2. The ramps and bridge look to be in excellent condition and could be reasonably recent. Some repainting was actually in progress.
  3. For those that are in need of a drink, after climbing the ramps, there is a handy pub called the Waiting Room. It was busy, when I went to the station.
  4. As well as providing step-free entrance and exit to the station, the lifts would provide step-free interchange for passengers from Manchester needing to transfer to Merseyrail.
  5. Passengers arriving at the station, who need to go to Manchester, would do as they do now and walk across the platform.
  6. Do the last two pictures in the gallery show that the bridge was built or has been modified for lifts to be added? The bridge seems to have a lower wall, which could be removed.
  7. There may be some adjustments needed to the path that Links the station entrance to the bridge.

I’m also pretty certain, that the layout of the station, would allow works to be done, whilst the station is in full operation.

Preparation For Class 777 Trains

Unlike most other stations, that I saw on on the Merseyrail network, work appears to be outstanding to create level access between the new Class 777 trains and platform.

Future Electrification

The bridge would appear to be high enough to clear any future 25 KVAC electrification.

Conclusion

This shouldn’t be the most difficult of projects, unless the Heritage Lobby get upset.

The only problem, I can see would be, it might attract more passengers and create a need for a larger car park.

June 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Would Be The Best Result In The Manchester Derby?

Despite supporting Ipswich since our next door neighbour in Felixstowe took me at the end of the Ramsey era, I have affections for two other clubs.

As a child and teenager living in London, I did what my father had done in his youth and regularly went to see Spurs at White Hart Lane.

My father would tell stories about how he was at the Cup Final in 1921 and how before the Great War, his father would take them to the game in a pony and trap. My grandfather would give a kid a shilling to hold the horse’s head during the match.

Then in the 1960s at Liverpool University, I regular went to see both of the Liverpool clubs, although I identified more with Liverpool.

Perhaps because inh those years they played the better football and were more successful!

So who do I want to win the Manchester Derby?

Certainly not United, as in the 1950s, I lived next door to the most obnoxious United supporter, who rammed them down mine and my father’s throats at every opportunity.

I actually think, that both Spurs and Liverpool, would be happy with an extremely hard-fought goal-less draw at Old Trafford tonight!

April 24, 2019 Posted by | Sport | , , , , , | 2 Comments