The Anonymous Widower

Exploring The Great Western Branches – 29th November 2016

On this morning, I explored the three branches of the Great Western Main Line, that are closest to London, to look at the progress of electrifying their connecting stations on the main line.

I then repeated the trip to add in two more branches.

I was also looking to see how services could be run with say four-car Class 387 trains, that had been fitted with on-board energy storage, as I wrote about in Rumours Of Battery-Powered Trains.

All the branches are described in order from London.

Electrification At West Ealing Station And On The Greenford Branch

These pictures show the electrification at West Ealing station, where the Greenford Branch Line connects to the main line.

This map from shows the area in the photographs, at the Southern end of the Greenford Branch Line.

The Southern End Of The Greenford Branch

The Southern End Of The Greenford Branch

Notes and queries.

  • The pictures of the lines were taken from a footbridge over the line, behind the Access Self Storage.
  • The lines in the map show an older layout.
  • The track in the bay platform 5 has access to both tracks on the Greenford Branch, which means that two trains could work the line to provide a four trains per hour (tph) service.
  • The Up Slow line has access to both tracks on the Greenford Branch and to the new West Ealing sidings.
  • The island for Platforms 4 and 5 appears to be more or less complete.
  • Platform 3 needs to be lengthened.
  • There are signs of foundations for the footbridge, past the end of the current Platform 3 and in the construction works beyond Platform 5.
  • Will the Bay Platform 5 be double-sided? There’s no foundations for a bridge on the Platform 4/5 island.
  • Will Platforms 1 and 2 be reconstructed or removed?

I suspect that the station is ready for a  four tph diesel shuttle to Greenford, but the Bay Platform 5 can’t be wired until the bridge is in place.

Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work The Greenford Branch?

A few facts and thoughts.

  • The service is not possible at present, as there are no wires in the Bay Platform 5 at West Ealing station, where the trains would need to charge their storage between trips.
  • Trains would probably wait between three and five minutes at West Ealing station, which would be more than enough to top up the batteries.
  • The bay platform at Greenford station and platforms at the other stations will probably need lengthening, but there would probably be little other infrastructure work.
  • Incidentally, there is a tunnel on the branch, where blocks of housing have been built over the line, so electrification of the line could be difficult, unless provision was made, when the housing was built.
  • Without doubt, the track layout at West Ealing has been designed, so that two trains could provide a four tph service.
  • Two four-car trains could probably be parked in the bay platform. This could give operational flexibility.

Passenger routes between main line and Greenford Branch services would be as follows.

  • With Eastbound services on the main line, the change would a very easy walk of a few metres across the island platform.
  • With Westbound services on the main line, use of the bridge would be needed. But it looks like the footbridge has been positioned at the optimal position for both services and passengers joining or leaving the railway at West Ealing station.

As there will be frequencies of at least 8 tph on the main line and 4 tph on the branch, waiting will be a maximum of fifteen minutes.

The West Ealing Sidings

The pictures show the Orange Army swarming all over the new West Ealing Sidings, which will provide stabling for the new Class 387 trains.

I also took these pictures of the sidings as I returned to London.

Incidentally, as I passed through Old Oak Common on the way back to London, there were upwards of six of the new trains squatting in Hitachi’s new depot for the Class 800 trains.

If in the future, there is a variant of these trains with on-board energy storage, these sidings are certainly conveniently placed for the Greenford Branch.

Traffic On The Brentford Branch Line

These pictures were taken from Southall station of a train going onto the Brentford Branch Line.

I’d never seen any traffic here before and I only included the pictures, as Hounslow Council have aspirations for a passenger service on this line, that I wrote about in Could The Golden Mile In Houslow Get A Station?

If it was decided to open the Brentford Branch Line to passenger trains, then Class 387 trains with on-board energy storage would be a possibility to provide services.

A Heathrow Connect Class 360 Train in Platform 5 At Hayes and Harlington Station

I didn’t expect to see this.

A Heathrow Connect Class 360 Train in Platform 5 At Hayes and Harlington Station

A Heathrow Connect Class 360 Train in Platform 5 At Hayes and Harlington Station

But there were signalling issues, so they appeared to be  using the Class 360 train as a shuttle to Heathrow.

Electrification At Slough Station And On The Windsor Branch

These pictures show the electrification at Slough station, where the Windsor Branch Line or more correct, the Slough to Windsor and Eton Line connects to the main line.


  • There are overhead gantries over Platform 1 at Slough station, which is the bay platform for the Windsor Branch Line.
  • There is a line of overhead line gantries on the outside of the curve, as the Windsor Branch Line leaves Slough.
  • The gantries on the branch are lighter than those on the main line.
  • The Class 166 train in the picture had three-cars, so the platform could probably be lengthened for a four-car Class 387 train.

As there appears to be no work anywhere else on the branch, I have to assume, that the electrification doesn’t go very far along the Windsor Branch Line.

This Google Map shows the lines at the start of the Windsor Branch Line.


There are two main tracks at the start of the Windsor Branch.

The track closest to the blue building, is the actual branch.

  • It is a single track that goes between Windsor and Eton Central station and the Bay Platform 1 at Slough station.
  • Trains take six minutes for the journey.
  • The current frequency is three tph.
  • The bay platform 1 and a short length of the branch could be electrified.

The track furthest from the blue building is a long spur off the Down Main, that allows trains to be moved to and from the Windsor Branch Line.

  • It appears to be long enough for train to be parked on the spur.
  • It appears that the spur is being electrified for about a couple of hundred metres.
  • The spur could be extended or reconfigured to become a passing loop.

There also appears that there is a crossing that allows trains to move to and from the bay platform 1.

Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work The Windsor Branch?

Operation of the Windsor Branch would be as follow with a train fitted with on-board energy storages.

  • Trains enter the branch by going to the end of the spur and reversing into the bay platform 1.
  • Trains charge their on-board energy storage in Platform 1.
  • Trains run to and from Windsor using on-board energy, charging after each trip.
  • Trains leave the branch by going to the end of the spur and reversing onto the Down Main.

I have a feeling that if needed, that with small modifications, four tph might be possible, using two trains.

One of the possibilities unlocked by four tph could be to use the train to get passengers to the town from a Park-and-Ride site, beside Junction

Windsor And Eton Central Station

I took these pictures of Windsor and Eton Central station.

It certainly has several quality food outlets.

Electrification At Maidenhead Station And On The Marlow Branch

These pictures show the electrification at Maidenhead station, where the Marlow Branch Line connects to the main line.


  • Platform 5 is almost fully-electrified and the wires curve away onto the Marlow Branch.
  • Platform 4 and its connection to the Marlow Branch appears to be fully electrified.
  • There is a reversing siding to the West of the station in there somewhere.
  • There is an unfinished gap in the electrification of all lines to the East of Maidenhead station.

I wouldn’t think it would be long before all the electrification work is finished at Maidenhead station.

Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work The Marlow Branch?

So how will the various services to and from Maidenhead and on the Marlow Branch be handled, if Class 387 trains with on-board storage were available?

  • Between London and Maidenhead services would be worked using overhead power.
  • Between Maidenhead and Bourne End, services would be worked using on-board energy storage, that would be charged in Platform 5 at Maidenhead  or on the main line to and from London.
  • Between Bourne End and Marlow, the trains couldn’t run as they are too long and a two-car Class 166 would work the service and connect at Bourne End.

From the layout of the overhead wiring, I suspect that which of Platforms 4 or 5 is used at Maidenhead is flexible and which is actually used by a particular service would depend on many factors.

Electrification At Twyford Station And On The Henley Branch

These pictures show the lack of electrification work at Twyford station, where the Henley Branch Line connects to the main line.

The two slow platforms 3 and 4 at Twyford station, which will be used by Crossrail and Platform 5 which is used by the Henley Branch trains, show no signs of electrification, although work has been done on the fast platforms 1 and 2.

In the December 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article by Roger Ford entitled Electrical Clearances: The Plot Thickens.

As the stations either side of Twyford, which are Maidenhead and Reading, are both almost fully wired, there must be a serious reason why there isn’t any work started on Platforms 3, 4 and 5 at Twyford. Could it be that without either rebuilding the bridge or lowering the track and rebuilding the platforms, the new regulations can’t be met?

However, there could be a possible solution.

These trains will be using the station in a few years.

  • Class 800 trains, which are bi-mode.
  • Class 345 trains, which I believe could be fitted with on-board energy storage for other reasons, like tunnel emergencies.
  • Class 387 trains, which I believe could be fitted with on-board energy storage.

So could we see Platforms 3 and 4 at Twyfrord station without wires?

I’ve no idea!

But it does seem strange that no electrification work has been started at Twyford station, except on the fast lines, through Platforms 1 and 2.

Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work The Henley Branch?

So how will the various services on the Henley Branch be handled, if Class 387 trains with on-board storage were available?


  • The branch is only a short one with a total length of 4.5 miles.
  • There are one tph on the branch, with extras to Paddington in the Peak.
  • Trains turn round in about four minutes.
  • From 2018, Twyford station will be served by 2 tph from Crossrail and 4 tph from GWR in each direction.
  • Platforms at all stations seem long enough for at least four-car trains.
  • There used to be a passing loop at Shiplake station.
  • Trains going to and from Paddington could charge their energy storage on the main line.

Two trains working a reconfigured branch could possibly create a 4 tph service.

Creating a four tph service on the Henley Branch, is the sort of problem, that engineers solve in the traditional way. – In a suitable hostelry!

I think that spending the money on a passing loop, some means of charging the trains and possibly a rebuilt Shiplake station, will be much better value, than electrifying the branch and the Crossrail platforms at Twyford station.

Electrification At Reading

In the December 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Loco-Hauled EMUs On GWR.

The article starts by saying.

GWR’s new Class 387 trains will be loco-hauled to and from their depot at Reading, until electrification between Maidenhead and Reading is completed.

Could this all be because, Network Rail don’t have a plan to electrify Twyford?

At least the depot seems electrified.

I didn’t see a Class 387 in their depot, but there were at least half-a-dozen parked at Hitachi’s depot at North Pole.

Electrification From Didcot To Oxford

The Cherwell Valley Line between Didcot and Oxford can be described as follows.

  • It is a double-track hemmed in on both sides.
  • The two stations at Radley and Culham are on narrow strips of land and could be difficult to electrify.
  • There is a tail of electrification gantries from Didcot Parkway onto the branch, which is typical of some other branches like Windsor and Marlow.
  • There were electrification piles in several places, either in the ground or just lying around.
  • The track could have be reconfigured to incorporate a new South-facing bay Platform at Oxford station.

These are some pictures.

One of Chiltern’s Class 168 trains was also hanging around, training drivers.

Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work Didcot To Oxford?

Didcot to Oxford is about 10.5 miles, so I suspect range is not a problem, especially if the new Southern Bay Platform is built, which would mean trains would not have to cross the lines wasting energy North of the station.

What would drive this, is not technology, but if Chiltern are running a service at their usual standard from Oxford to Marylebone, it could be take passengers from the GWR.

New Class 387 trains with on board energy storage could be a good weapon with which to fight back!

But then so would Class 800 trains!

Oxford Station

I took these pictures at Oxford station on the 1st of December.

Note GWR’s 13:01 arrival from Banbury into the new bay Platform 2.

Was I watching the first scheduled train into the new platform?

There certainly wasn’t any dignitaries!

National Rail’s Arrival and Departure details on the Internet certainly showed that Banbury services were using the new Platform 2 later in the day.


From my explorations I have come to the following conclusions.

  • There is a large gap in the electrification works at Twyford station.
  • It looks to my untrained eye, that the Greenford, Windsor and Marlow branches are being wired, so the branches could be served by electric trains with on-board energy storage.
  • The Orange Army is furiously at work creating new sidings at West Ealing for the Class 387 trains.
  • It is possible for trains to use the new bay Platform 2 at Oxford station.

It will be interesting to take a Chiltern service to Oxford, when the service opens on the 11th of December.

It certainly was a good day to take photographs.


November 29, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bourne End Station And Improving The Marlow Branch Line

Bourne End station is an intermediate station on the Marlow Branch Line, where trains reverse on their way between Maidenhead and Marlow stations.

It also is a terminus of trains to and from Paddington station in the Peak.

This Google Map shows the station and its location.



  • The Bourne End Railway Bridge takes the railway over the Thames to and from Maidenhead.
  • The two-car Class 165 train on its way to or from Marlow.
  • The station has a short Northern platform, where trains reverse and a longer Southern one, that can only be used by trains going to Maidenhead.
  • There is a step-free interchange between platforms
  • All lines are single-track.

These pictures show the station and the surrounding area.

These are some thoughts on various ideas and issues on Bourne End station and the Marlow Branch Line.

Longer Trains To Marlow

Currently, because of the layout of the junction, where trains take the left-hand fork to Maidenhead and the right hand route to Marlow., all trains to Marlow must be only two cars.

I don’t know if modern trains can take sharper curves than the 1990s-built Class 165 trains on the route, but if it was the case, it might be possible to configure the junction to allow the Northern platform to be lengthened to take a longer train.

There are also other features of modern trains like a Class 387 train, that might help.

  • Selective door opening.
  • Walk-through design.
  • 20 metre as opposed to a near-23 metre car-length of the older diesel train.

It would be a tight fit, but I suspect that fitting a three or even four-car train in Bourne End station might be possible, if the passenger traffic needed that capacity.

Passing Loops On The Line

There used to be a passing loop at Cookham station, but this was removed in the 1960s.

This Google Map shows Cookham station.

Cookham Station

Cookham Station

It is probably one of those things that is possible, but would actually be a difficult project to  implement.

  • The users of the line wouldn’t accept a long closure.
  • The level crossing would add a large degree of complication and opposition.

I suspect that unless there were really pressing reasons, that a passing loop will never be rebuilt at Cookham.

Increased Frequency

In the Peak, the service between Marlow and Maidenhead is effectively two trains per hour (tph). The method is described in Train Services under the Wikipedia entry for the Marlow Branch Line. This is said.

The off-peak service is one train per hour in each direction between Maidenhead and Marlow. During morning and evening peak times a two trains per hour service is achieved by using two trains: one shuttling between Marlow and Bourne End, and another between Bourne End and Maidenhead/London Paddington. This is possible because Bourne End station has two platforms that may be used simultaneously.

I suspect, that some devious train scheduler has a method for improving on this in the Peak and perhaps providing 2 tph in the Off Peak all day.

Certain facts might help.

  • It only takes seven minutes to travel between Bourne End and Marlow stations.
  • It only takes eleven minutes to travel between Bourne End and Maidenhead stations.
  • Track improvements and modern faster trains might improve these times.
  • Modern trains probably mean that the driver can change ends in a shorter time.
  • Modern trains have various driver assistance systems to help timekeeping.
  • . Running two tph as a shuttle shouldn’t be a problem, as it is currently in the Peak.
  • Currently, four tph run to both Paddington and Reading from Maidenhead, with extra trains in the Peak.
  • Crossrail will add four tph to Paddington and two tph to Reading.
  • If all trains are modern, with floor heights compatible with Crossrail’s Class 345 trains and GWR’s Class 387 trains, then all train entry and exit, will just be a step or wheel across.

It probably all adds up to having at least two tph on the branch all day.

One problem that will limit frequency to two tph, is the lack of a passing loop on the line.

Two tph is only attainable, by using Bourne End station as a virtual passing loop, where the trains don’t actually pass. but the passengers do.

I suspect that train arrivals and departures at Bourne End station, are timed, to minimise conflicting passenger movements between platforms.

This is the current times of some movements at Bourne End station in the morning Peak.

  • 7:21 – Train arrives from Maidenhead
  • 7:24 – Train arrives from Marlow
  • 7:27 – Train leaves to Maidenhead
  • 7:28 – Train leaves to Marlow

These times give seven minutes for Maidenhead to Marlow passengers to change trains and three minutes for passengers going the other way.

They obviously give plenty of time for the driver to change ends of the train.

If we take the current timings  of Maidenhead to Bourne End and Bourne End to Marlow, we get timings for a complete shuttle of two journeys.

  • Maidenhead and Bourne End – 6+2*11 +4 = 32 minutes
  • Marlow and Bourne End – 4 + 2*7 + 4 = 22 minutes

The extra four minutes has been added as that is how long it takes to reverse the train at Marlow.

So if a minute or two could be shaved on the Maidenhead shuttle, two tph is possible.

Three tph are probably possible between Bourne End and Marlow, but using one train to run three tph between Maidenhead and Bourne End is certainly not possible unless, one or more of the following are done.

  • A passing loop is built between Maidenhead and Bourne End.
  • A better sequence of trains is used at Bourne End.
  • Trains run faster and call in minimum times at intermediate stations.
  • Some trains don’t terminate at Maidenhead, but go on to Paddington or another station.

I am left with the conclusion, that with modern trains two tph is possible all day, but with minor adjustments three tph may be possible, especially in the Peaks.

Restoring The Line To High Wycombe

From the images in this post, I think it would be unlikely that the line to High Wycombe would ever be restored.

It would probably need a level crossing and I doubt Network Rail or the locals would like that idea.

I think that the increased frequency of trains between Bourne End and Maidenhead would need a passing loop.


It has been planned to electrify Bourne End station and the Marlow Branch Line.

As I said in Is It Bi-Modes And Battery Trains To The Rescue?, nothing has been said by the Rail Minister about any plans for the electrification of the Marlow Branch.

But I did take these pictures at Maidenhead station today.

Why would the platform for the Marlow Branch and the first couple of hundred metres of the branch be electrified?

Especially, as there appeared to be no sign of work on the rest of the line between Maindenhead and Bourne End!

Given what I saw and wrote about increased frequencies, I think there are four possibilities.

  1. The Marlow Branch continues to be run as now..
  2. It receives traditional electrification later.
  3. The line is electrified just enough to charge trains with an IPEMU-capability or batteries.
  4. It has something to do with reversing Crossrail trains.

Option 1 and 2 are possibilities, but Crossrail are reversing trains to the West of the station.

It would also appear that sufficient work is being done for option 3.


  • There appears to be no work going on to lower the track in the numerous bridges.
  • The clearances, are enough for a battery-powered train or IPEMU, which would be those needed for a Class 165 train.
  • The line is only just over seven miles long, which would be within battery range.
  • The line has at least two level crossings, which can be difficult to electrify.
  • Putting overhead wiring on Bourne End Railway Bridge could rightly meet with objections.

Perhaps the best way to run the branch would be to run it almost as two separate services, as it is currently done in the Peak.

  • A newer two-car diesel, like say a Class 172 train, runs the shuttle between Marlow and Bourne End.
  • A four-car electric multiple unit with an IPEMU-capability, runs the Bourne End to Maidenhead service, under battery power charging at Maidenhead station, using the 200 metres or so of overhead wires.
  • The trains are timed to meet at Bourne End, where passengers change between the trains.
  • Certain Bourne End to Maidenhead trains could be extended to Paddington, as they are now in the Peak. I think they would take two hours for the round trip.
  • In some ways the biggest advantage is that the only new infrastructure, would be the electrification at Maidenhead station, that is currently in progress.

I feel it is all feasible.


On current timings, two tph is very feasible and three tph may be a possibility and a certainty in the Peak.

What benefits would passengers get from this level of service?

  • They get a turn-up-and-go service of at least two tph.
  • They get newer trains with more capacity.
  • Some of the trains would be electric-powered.

And the train operator?

  • They get newer trains with more capacity.
  • They would only need to allocate a small number of trains to provide the service.
  • They get an easy-to-deliver service.

Hopefully, the quality service would attract more passengers and generate profits.

Surely though, Network Rail are the biggest winner, as they would only need to get the infrastructure into tip-top condition, add a small amount of electrification and give it a thorough testing.

Will it happen?

I have no idea, but it certainly looks like something innovative is being assembled.

If whatever Network Rail and GWR are planning, should involve the use of IPEMUs or battery-powered trains and it proved to be a success, then it would open up the possibility of several branch and other lines receiving the same electrification by stealth.

  • Barking Riverside Extension
  • Didcot Parkway to Oxford
  • Felixstowe Branch
  • Greenford Branch
  • Henley Branch
  • Marshlink Line
  • Sudbury to Marks Tey and Colchester
  • Uckfield Branch
  • Windsor Branch

It is certainly easier to electrify a line using modified electric trains with batteries, built in a new clean and warm factory in Derby, rather than by traditional methods, which seem to be Network Rail’s money pit.







November 11, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Are The TOCs Arguing Over The Class 387 Trains?

The April 2015 Edition of Modern Railways has an article entitled Operators Vying For Class 387s.

Before discussing the article, I’ll describe the trains involved.

Class 387 Trains

At present there are twenty-nine new four-car Class 387 trains running Thameslink services for Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).

  • These are dual-voltage 175 kph (110 mph) versions of Electrostars.
  • They can run on probably most of the electrified routes in the UK.
  • They are about to be replaced by brand-new Siemens Class 700 trains, as these are delivered.
  • They are closely related to the Class 379 trains, which were used for the IPEMU prototype in early 2015.

As they become available, they are supposed to go to the Great Western Railway (GWR).

But GWR only have the working electrification from Paddington to Hayes and Harlington station on which to run the trains. As I showed in Hayes and Harlington Station – 28th February 2016, work is progressing at the station and an extended bay platform is being created.

The finish of platform works at the station, will mean a service can be started between Paddington and Hayes and Harlington.

  • It will replace the main-line portion of the service between Paddington and Greenford, which is soon to be discontinued.
  • It can be used by GWR for driver training.
  • Class 387 trains working in GWR livery will be good publicity.

But I can’t see this service needing more than a couple of Class 387 trains.

This picture shows the colour scheme of a Class 387 train, currently working on Thameslink.

Class 387 Train

The colour of those doors looks suspiciously like GWR green to me! So perhaps the transfer of operator would not require anything more than downloading new software for the passenger information screens and changing the adverts and notices.

In addition to the current twenty-nine trains on Thameslink, Bombardier have three further orders for Class 387 trains.

  • Twenty-seven four-car Class 387/2 trains are being delivered for Gatwick Express.
  • Eight four-car trains for GWR.
  • Twenty four-car trains have been ordered by Porterbrook.

Bombardier are reported to be on the verge of finishing the Gatwick Express order and starting manufacture of more Class 387/1 trains.

Class 442 Trains

The Class 442 trains, which are being replaced on Gatwick Express by Class 387/2 trains are not the most loved trains in the UK’s train fleet.

It is very likely that despite being the fastest third-rail trains in the world, that they will go to the scrapyard as they are replaced.

The only reason some might be retained on Gatwick Express, is so that some Class 387/2 trains could work Thameslink to release a few of the Class 387 trains for other operators.

Class 700 Trains

The Class 700 trains, being built in Germany by Siemens, are replacing the last Class 319 trains and the new Class 387 trains on Thameslink.

So introduction of these trains is important to release Class 387 trains for other operators.

But these trains are only due to be introduced on the 16th April 2016 and there are inevitable questions.

  • What is the introduction into service schedule?
  • As with all new trains or car, bus or truck for that matter, will there be any teething problems?
  • Will they replace the Class 319 or 387 trains first?
  • Will the passengers like them?

The last question is the most important and expect lots of moaning about the lack of free wi-fi!

Class 360 Trains

The Class 360 trains, used on Heathrow Connect, have a peripheral role in the argument, as c2c were trying to sublease two of these trains to sort out their capacity problems.

But the well-documented problems of Heathrow Express, have probably meant that these trains are no longer available.

Summarising The Article

The first paragraph of the Modern Railways article entitled Operators Vying For Class 387s,  says that several operators are vying for the Class 387/1 trains currently working on Thameslink.

To summarise.

  • c2c, who are big Electrostar operators, are still looking for trains after failing to procure Class 360 trains.
  • GWR is anxious to get 387s to start driver training.
  • GTR wants to retain them, as there is problems with the new Class 700 trains.
  • GWR have apparently suggested that GTR retain the Class 442 trains and use the new Class 387/2 Gatwick Expresses on Thameslink.
  • GWR wants to start services to Maindenhead earlier than thought.

It looks like there’s a serious argument going on.

The final paragraph offers a solution.

It could be that the quest to find additional short term capacity at c2c may be solved by early delivery of the next batch of 387s, construction of which is to begin shortly at Bombardier’s Derby factory.

Perhaps, building some of Porterbrook’s trains before those destined for GWR, where they have nowhere to run, could happen!

Bombardier are probably being a bit bullish, as after all one of the reasons for the problems would appear to be the new Class 700 trains from Siemens.

Adding An IPEMU Capabilty To Class 387 Trains

Could it also be, that until this argument is settled, we will not be seeing any Class 387 trains converted into IPEMUs?

I believe that a proportion of trains with on-board energy storage could help some of our electrification problems.

Bombardier have stated that all their new Aventra trains will be wired to accept on-board energy storage if the operator desires it be added. This article in Global Rail News gives full details.

In the meantime, the only train that is available that can be given an IPEMU capability is the Class 387 train.

Electric Services To Maidenhead And Reading

The article says this about electrification to Maidenhead.

Whilst the completion date for wiring to Maidenhead is shown in the re-plan of Network Rail’s Enhancements Programme by Sir Peter Hendy as being June 2017, Modern Railways understands that work is ahead of the new schedule and this section may be completed by the end of 2016.

As electrification to Reading is Crossrail’s problem, this might help too, as different structures are being used.

In Rumours Of Battery Trains, I discussed an article in the September 2015 Edition of Modern Railways entitled Class 387s Could Be Battery Powered, which said that GWR’s eight additional Class 387 trains could be battery powered. This was said in Modern Railways.

Delivery as IPEMUs would allow EMUs to make use of as much wiring as is available (and batteries beyond) while electrification pushes ahead under the delayed scheme, and in the longer term would allow units to run on sections not yet authorised for electrification, such as Newbury to Bedwyn. The use of IPEMUs might also hasten the cascade of Class 16x units to the west of the franchise.

But thinking about electrification to Maidenhead in a practical manner, would a train operator want Maidenhead as the terminus of a new electric service.

Remember that the Class 387 trains are required to increase capacity and bring a whole new level of electric traction and modern comfort to services from Paddington to Bedwyn, Newbury, Oxford, Reading and other places in the Thames Valley, so having to change from your old diesel train to a new electric one at Maidenhead is something that will bring out the worst out of passengers.

If you look at train times between Maidenhead and Paddington, some services take up to thirty-six minutes, but the fastest scheduled journey I can find is probably by an InterCity 125 in nineteen. So you can understand, why GWR would like 110 mph Class 387 trains on the route. They could probably do the journey in a few minutes over twenty.

With Chiltern starting an Oxford to Marylebone in December 2016, GWR are probably preparing to lose a lot of their Oxford business. I know which service I’d choose.

But the Class 387 IPEMU would offer a viable alternative.

  • Hayes and Harlington station is fully electrified to Paddington and is just under eleven miles from Paddington.
  • Reading station is not electrified and is thirty-six miles from Paddington.
  • A Class 387 IPEMU has a range of upwards of fifty miles on batteries.

The Class 387 IPEMU would seem to have been designed to handle Paddington to Reading. But I suspect that electric services will not be offered until the wires reach Maidenhead.

So when will GWR be offering an electric local service between Paddington and Reading?

  • Trains would use overhead power to the end of the wires and batteries beyond.
  • Enough Class 387 trains will have to be converted to IPEMUs
  • Enough platforms at Paddington would have be able to accept electric trains.

Could this be why GWR appear to be so keen to take deliveries of Class 387 trains?

From Reading diesel shuttles would work the lines to Bedwyn and Oxford.

So how does this fit in with Modern Railways assertion, that electrification to Maidenhead will be complete before the end of the year?

If GWR take the IPEMU route to provide services between Paddington and Reading, it just means that the train will be less reliant on the batteries, as Maidenhead to Reading is only twelve miles.

To go to anywhere past Reading is probably difficult, as suitable places like Bedwyn, Didcot and Newbury are more than twenty-five miles from Maidenhead, which probably means the range is too much for an IPEMU, as it has to go both ways on battery power.

On the other hand, every extra mile of usable electrification would extend the reach from Paddington.

But there are three places, where Class 387 IPEMUs could operate without major additional electrification; the three branch lines.

  • Henley is 11.5 miles from Maidenhead.
  • Marlow is 5 miles from Maidenhead.
  • Windsor is 2.5 miles from Slough.

There would probably need to be some short lengths of electrification where the branches join the main line, signalling upgrades and platform lengthening. But not electrifying the branches and using IPEMUs would probably be welcomed by Network Rail, as it would sidestep any legal challenges to the electrification on aesthetic and heritage grounds.

In the peaks there are direct services between Bourne End station on the Marlow Branch and London, which seem to take fifty-four minutes. I suspect that a Class 387 IPEMU could do the journey about twenty minutes faster, with electrification between Paddington and Maindenhead.

Onward To Oxford

Electrification to Maidenhead would not give advantages in providing electric services from Reading to Bedwyn, Newbury and Oxford.  It’s just too far for a train powered by batteries.

Commercial common sense, would indicate that with Chiltern scheduled to serve Oxford station in December 2016, if there was one destination, where new electric trains must go, it is Oxford.

And by the end of 2016!

It sounds like an impossible dream!

Roger Ford in an article in the April 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled GWEP Target Dates And Costs, says this about testing the Class 800 trains.

GWEP’s 16-mile ‘test track’is between Reading and Didcot; It was originally due to have been energised in September last year.

Energisation for test running is now scheduled for September this year.

He also indicated, and I can confirm it, that substantial amounts of the overhead structures have been installed. So I think we can assume that by September, the test track will probably be working.

As an aside here, I wonder if the test track will electrify and use one of the west-facing bay platforms at Reading station.

If we assume that the test track provides a fully-functioning electrified route between Reading and Didcot, it could surely be used by Class 387 IPEMUs to get to Didcot.

  • They would use overhead electrification from Paddington to Maidenhead or the end of the wires.
  • They would go to Reading on battery power.
  • Reading to Didcot would be using the overhead wires put up for the test track.
  • Batteries would be charged on both electrified sections.

Oxford is less than twenty miles from Didcot, so reaching Oxford with an electric service is possible before December 2016.

Onward To Bedwyn

Bedwyn is forty-two miles from Maidenhead and thirty from Reading, so it would appear to be another impossible dream, even if there was electrification all the way to Maidenhead from Paddington.

I do think that unless the Great Western Main Line is electrified to Maidenhead, that getting Class 387 IPEMUs to Bedwyn is impossible.

But there are three possibilities to get to Bedwyn from Paddington, if Maidenhead is electrified.

  • A bigger battery to give a longer range.
  • As the train stops at Reading, it could stop in an electrified platform and charge the battery.
  • Electrifying the junction and a short length of the Reading to Taunton Line, perhaps as far as Reading West station.

I’m sure Bombardier, Network Rail and GWR are working on a solution.

It should also be noted that there are two west facing bay platforms used for services to Basingstoke, Bedwyn and Newbury. These could be electrified and Bedwyn could be served by a shuttle.

Onward To Basingstoke

Another possibility would be to use the Class 387 IPEMUs to provide a service along the Reading to Basingstoke Line, which is currently run using diesel multiple units.

It could be charged at Reading by electrifying the two west-facing bay platforms or even at Basingstoke using  third-rail electrification in the bay platform.



I believe that all the Thames Valley services out of Paddington could be run by a fleet of Class 387 trains, some or all of which would be IPEMUs, It would be necessary to do the following.

  • Electrify between Airport Junction and Maidenhead.
  • Allow the use of the test track between Reading and Didcot by Class 387 services travelling past Didcot.
  • Electrify selected platforms at Reading station.

The new trains would provide an increase in capacity, faster services and possibly extra routes.

I also believe that it would be possible to serve Oxford using Class 387 IPEMUs by the end of the year. This might persuade passengers not to desert to Chiltern.

Does this all explain GWR’s reluctance to lose the Class 387 trains, that have been earmarked for transfer from Thameslink?

But with other train companies looking jealously at the GWR’s Class 387 trains, it’s no wonder there’s an argument.




March 26, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Marlow Branch

After my exploration yesterday of Twyford Station And The Henley Branch, I felt I had to explore one of the other branches today.

So I took the Great Western Railway to Maidenhead station and went up and down the Marlow Branch Line.

Unlike at Twyford, where you have several minutes to make the connection, at Maidenhead, I only had a couple, so pictures of Maidenhead station are a bit sparse in the gallery. However, I did take some others in Before Crossrail Maidenhead Station.

Much of what was said about the Henley Branch applies to the Maidenhead Branch.

  • It is a short branch of just over seven miles with a change of direction in the middle at Bourne End station.
  • An IPEMU would appear to be more than capable of providing a service on the line.
  • At a quick look, it would appear that the platforms at Bourne End, Cookham, Furze Platt and Marlow stations could easily be made long enough for a four car train.
  • The line has several level crossings and a couple of low bridges, that could cause problems with traditional electrification.
  • Bourne End Railway Bridge is an historic bridge and I doubt that the heritage lobby would allow it to be electrified using overhead wires.


One almost unique quirk of the line is that the reversal of direction at Bourne End, where the driver has to walk to the other end of the train.

The Class 165 train is over twenty years old and was built before trains had modern control and wi-fi systems. Surely, a modern train could be driven from the rear, using CCTV for forward vision between Bourne End and Marlow.

Extending From Bourne End To High Wycombe

I think that it is true to say, that a lot of people would be very pleased if the branch line still continued past Bourne End and on to High Wycombe station.

This Google Map shows Bourne End station.

Bourne End Station

Bourne End Station

Note how the line from Maidenhead comes in from the South West and the line continues to Marlow along the river after the change of direction. The former line to High Wycombe is visible as a green scar going off to the North East.

I certainly think that the ambitious natures of Chiltern Railways, Great Western Railway and Crossrail/Transport for London will mean that this extension to effectively make High Wycombe one change away from Crossrail will be seriously looked at by the train companies.


December 11, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Before Crossrail – Maidenhead

Another Station Almost Ready For Crossrail – Rating 7/10

According to Wikipedia, Maidenhead needs some updating for Crossrail.

The station will undergo significant modification, including the replacement of the existing passenger waiting facilities, a new ticket hall, lifts, a new platform for Marlow branch line services, the introduction of overhead line equipment and the construction of new stabling and turnback facilities to the west of the station.

The expensive lifts have already been installed into the subway.

The statue is of Sir Nicholas Winton and it is good to see a statue of the man. It is also good that it is displayed in such a public place, which is probably almost safe from metal thieves. I have long believed that more works of art should be placed on stations, as you’d generally need a train and a large crane to steal them. This Google Map shows the layout of the station.

Maidenhead Station - Downloaded 6th July

Maidenhead Station – Downloaded 6th July

Note the Marlow Branch Line

October 11, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Crossrail To Start Construction At Maidenhead

I think we’ll be seeing lots of little articles like this one from the Maidenhead Advertiser in the next few months. This is the guts of the report.

The first visible phase of building work to prepare Maidenhead Station for the arrival of Crossrail is set to begin.
Network Rail contractors are due to arrive at the site in Braywick Road on Saturday and will be a permanent fixture throughout the summer.
Changes to the station including lengthened platforms to make room for 10-car Crossrail trains, a new lift, enhanced station information facilities, security systems and CCTV equipment.

The article goes on to say that 10,000 people will be working on Crossrail  on 40 sites before the line opens in 2019.

It is a very large project.



July 3, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment