The Anonymous Widower

Tram-Trains To Hale Station

In Manchester Metrolink Extensions In A Sentence, I quoted this sentence from the Manchester Evening News.

It includes tram extensions to Port Salford, Middleton and Stalybridge, plus ‘tram trains’ to Hale, Warrington, Gorton and Glossop.

How would tram-trains from Hale join the current Metrolink network?

Hale Station

Hale station, is located in a busy and important village, in the middle of Cheshire’s footballer suburb, if you believe the tabloids.

The station has some problems.

  • The station needs a refurbishment.
  • The station needs step-free access.
  • The level crossing needs removing.

But the biggest problem is that there is only an hourly service serving the station, that runs between Manchester Piccadilly and Chester stations. To make matters worse the train is only two cars. My train was a Pacer, as the pictures show.

Onward To Knutsford, Northwich, Middlewich and Sandbach

In Business Case Requested For Middlewich Reopening, I looked at the opening of Middlewich station on the Northwich to Sandbach Line, which is just a dozen miles to the West of Hale station.

I’m certain in other parts of the UK, like East London, Nottingham and East Lancashire, that the provision of a train service between Middlewich and Manchester would be heavily patronised.

Or is it that the people in Cheshire too posh to use trains?

The Wikipedia entry for Middlewich station, says this about the initial service, when the station opened. in 1868.

The basic train service for passengers was from Crewe via Sandbach to Middlewich and Northwich. Some trains reversed at Northwich and then continued to Hartford and Greenbank and then along a short stretch of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) to Acton Bridge.

If the Northwich and Sandbach Line is ever reopened, surely one possibility for a train service is between Crewe and Manchester via Sandbach, Middlewich, Northwich, Hale and Altrincham.

  • Such a service would allow passengers between Althincham and Sandbach to have a handy connection to Crewe with its famed connectivity.
  • It would be a very useful commuter service to and from Manchester.
  • If it had a frequency of two trains per hour (tph) it would give a substantial increase to train services between Northwich and Altrincham.
  • It could possibly ease the overcrowding on the Styal Line.

By 2030, it would even provide a link to High Speed Two at Crewe, in addition to the connection in Manchester.

The Class 399 Train-Train

The Class 399 tram-train is a cross between a tram and a train.

  • They are members of the Stadler Citylink family of tram-trains.
  • In the UK, they are already running successfully between the centre of Sheffield and Rotherham Parkgate Shopping Centre.
  • In Sheffield, they work as trams and drivers have told me, they are powerful trams, that cope with Sheffield’s hills extremely well.
  • The tram-trains have step-free access between tram-train and platform.
  • On the National Rail lines to Rotherham, they cruise happily at 100 kph, which is almost as fast as a Class 156 train.
  • They can run on both 25 KVAC and 750 VDC overhead electrification.
  • Trains for Wales have ordered thirty six similar tram-trains, that can run on battery power, where electrification has not been erected.

This is one of Sheffield’s Class 399 tram-trains at Rotherham Parkgate.

Note the step-free access.

They are a very versatile tram or train, depending on where they are running.

I would suspect the following will happen in the next few years.

  • Sheffield are planning to replace their ageing tram fleet and they will look seriously at more Class 399 tram-trains, as they perform well as trams and the region needs more tram-trains.
  • Manchester have stated that they are looking seriously at tram-trains and Class 399 tram-trains will surely be considered.
  • Other tram networks are looking at tram-trains and they won’t ignore the Class 399 tram-train.

I feel we can expect to see more of these tram-trains in the UK.

Manchester Metrolink Needs More Trams

Manchester Metrolink will need more trams in the next few years and I wouldn’t be surprised that the new ones had a tram-train capability.

Possible Tram-Train Routes To Hale

These are possible routes.

A Metrolink Extension From Altrincham

This is the simplest option, where tram-trains would replace some or all of the service on the Atrincham and Bury and Altrincham and Piccadilly Metrolink services.

The tram-trains would probably need to have a battery capability and this would easily handle the less than a mile between Altrincham and Hale stations, without any electrification.

A Northward Extension From Manchester Victoria Station

In Could A Class 399 Tram-Train With Batteries Go Between Manchester Victoria And Rochdale/Bury Bolton Street/Rawtenstall Stations?, I looked at the possibilities of a Northward extension of the Metrolink,  using tram-trains, that had been suggested by an article in the February 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

I have included it here, as it would be a good destination for a cross-city tram-train service, that started at Hale.

A Southward Extension From Altrincham To Middlewich

If the Sandbach and Northwich Line were to be reopened to traffic with a station at Middlewich, this would be a possible Southern terminus for the route.

The distance would probably be too far for battery operation, so there would be a need to electrify the extension using either 25 KVAC main line or 750 VDC tramway electrification.

As the route has been used by Virgin’s Euston and Chester services as a diversion route, and the Crewe and Chester Line has a high priority for electrification, there is a chance that lines in the area will be electrified.

This could mean the tram-trains could easily run from Altrincham as far as Crewe, as the route could be fully electrified.

Tram-Train Between Manchester Piccadilly and Hale Via Stockport

On the route between Manchester Piccadilly and Hale station via Stockport, there are only two stations between Stockport and Hale station; Navigation Road and Altrincham.

Would it be feasible or worthwhile to convert this route into tram-train operation by perhaps adding 750 VDC overhead electrification?

  • There is typically one or two freight trains and one Chester and Manchester Piccadilly service in each direction in every hour, so two tram-trains per hour in each direction should be possible.
  • Stops could be added at convenient places.
  • Between Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly stations, the existing 25 KVAC electrification would be used.

It would not be the largest project.

The Refurbishment Of Hale Station

Hale station needs a refurbishment and a step-free bridge.

In Winner Announced In The Network Rail Footbridge Design Ideas Competition, I wrote how the competition was won by this bridge.

So could a factory-built bridge like this be installed at Hale station?

This Google Map shows Hale station.

I think a new bridge could be installed at the Northern end of the station, if it were to be decided that the current one couldn’t be fitted with lifts.

The Electrification And Bi-Mode Alternative

As I said earlier the Crewe and Chester Line could be electrified, which would enable electric trains to run between London and Chester.

However, since the award of the West Coast Partnership to First Trenitalia, I now think it is unlikely the Crewe and Chester Line will be electrified in the near future, as new bi-mode trains will be ordered for North Wales services.

But I don’t reject the notion, that Northern will run bi-mode Class 769 trains between Manchester Piccadilly and Chester.

These trains could use the electrification between Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly stations.

Conclusion

Tram-trains and much improved services to Hale are a distinct possibility.

 

 

 

August 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Could Platforms 1 And 2 At Manchester Piccadilly Station Become A Tram-Train Terminal?

Tram-trains often pass through a city in the following manner.

  • They arrive in the city as trains and take to the tram system.
  • They use the tram system to go through the city centre,
  • At the other side of the city, they take to the rail lines and go to the final destination.

I took this picture in the main square in Kassel in Germany.

A continuous stream of trams and tram-trains pass through going across the city.

Isn’t it just like Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester? except that at present, they’re all trams on the Manchester Metrolink!

In Manchester Metrolink Extensions In A Sentence, I gave this quote from the Manchester Evening News.

It includes tram extensions to Port Salford, Middleton and Stalybridge, plus ‘tram trains’ to Hale, Warrington, Gorton and Glossop.

Currently, services to Hale, Gorton, Glossop and other places like Guide Bridge, Marple and New Mills Central come into low-numbered platforms in Manchester Piccadilly station.

The original plans for High Speed Two were rather unimaginative and probably very expensive, envisaged four High Speed platforms on the Northern side of the station.

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North, I analyse the latest thinking on High Speed Two and I believe there is a chance, that Manchester Piccadilly will have underground through platforms deep underneath the current station.

These pictures show platforms 1 and 2 at Piccadilly station.

Currently, several of the lines that terminate in these two platforms are run by life-expired Pacers and they will be replaced by Class 195 trains.

But, as the quoted sentence shows, some of the routes into these platforms could be turned over to tram-train operation.

In Manchester Metrolink To Gorton And Glossop, I showed how it might be possible to connect the tram stop under Piccadilly station to the Glossop Line.

On the other hand the tram-trains might be able to run into these two platforms.

Conclusion

If Manchester acquires a few tram-trains, their rail and tram networks would appear to have lots of opportunities to use them efficiently.

It does also look, that it would be very advantageous, if the High Speed platforms could be through platforms underneath the main station.

  • Two well-designed through platforms would be able to handle a lot of trains and passengers.
  • The station could be refurbished, rather than demolished and rebuilt.
  • Fewer new platforms would be needed.

But above all updating the station would have a lower cost and would cause less disruption to all users.

 

 

 

August 14, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Is Manchester Metrolink Expensive?

On my trip to Manchester earlier this week, I used contactless ticketing for two trips on the Manchester Metrolink.

  • Piccadilly to Velopark
  • VeloPark to New Islington

It cost me £7.40.

On the same day, I went, I took a trip to Glossop and the return cost me £4.30 with a Senior Railcard.

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

Manchester’s Contactless Ticketing

In Manchester yesterday, I used their new contactless ticketing.

The system appeared to be working well, but I do have reservations.

Use On The Trains

I went up to Glossop on the train. As both Glossop and Manchester Piccadilly stations have tiket barriers, why can’t I use contactless ticketing on that type of journey?

Consider.

All of the barriers I saw, were the same as London’s, so they can also read contactless bank cards.

Not all stations in London have ticket barriers. You’re just expected to touch in and touch out, as you do with Manchester’s system.

Surely, the software can and will be extended!

 

Damage To The Terminal

Two of the four terminals I looked at were damaged; possibly by a sledgehammer or a Size 10-boot.

Are they robust enough.

Instructions For Users

I didn’t see any posters, describing how to use the system in English.

Surely, as Manchester, is receiving a lot more visitors, comprehensive instructions in several languages.

Terminal Design

I came across a couple of first time users, who were both locals and they weren’t sure, where to put their card.

I’d be interested to know, why they didn’t use London’s design of terminal.

I’ve only ever seen a technician fixing one broken terminal in London.

No Staff

I didn’t see any staff! The stop under Piccadilly had no staff there to help visitors.

What About Those With Poor Vision?

I have a friend, who is registered blind and has a guide dog. But he can see a bit and has no trouble using contactless in London, especially as the dog leads him to wide gates.

Would my friend cope in Manchester?

Conclusion

It’s a good start, but some details haven’t been properly thought through!

At least, I won’t need to buy a ticket in Manchester again, unless I’m using a train.

 

July 30, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Manchester Metrolink To Gorton And Glossop

The Wikipedia entry for the Manchester Metrolink doesn’t say much about  Glossop, except that one of the original lines would have taken over the Glossop Line to Gorton, Glossop and Hadfield stations.

In Manchester Metrolink Extensions In A Sentence, I quoted this sentence from the Manchester Evening News.

It includes tram extensions to Port Salford, Middleton and Stalybridge, plus ‘tram trains’ to Hale, Warrington, Gorton and Glossop.

How would tram-trains from Gorton and Glossop join the current Metrolink network at Piccadilly station?

Consider.

  • Glossop Line trains use the low-numbered platforms on the Northern side of Manchester Piccadilly station.
  • Some plans have shown High Speed Two platforms on the save side of Piccadilly station.

Look at this Google Map of the Northern side of the station.

Note.

  1. Two trams crossing the green space to the North of the station.
  2. The area between the tram lines and the tracks going into Piccadilly station, appears to be mainly car parking and low-grade buildings.
  3. The tracks leading to Gorton and Glossop are on the Northern side of Piccadilly station.

These are a few pictures of the area.to the North of the station.

I feel it would be very feasible for tram-trains to connect the Glossop Line and the tram station underneath the main station.

In fact there would be no reason, why tram-trains shouldn’t continue to serve Manchester Piccadilly train station.

High Speed Two

High Speed Two’s terminals in Manchester is in a state of foux at the moment, so it might be preferable to just replace all Glossop Line services with tram-trains and use Manchester Piccadilly tram station.

Updating The Glossop Line

The Glossop Line is electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires, which looks to be one of the systems in worst condition in the UK along with the Crouch Valley Line in Essex.

It would probably need replacing, as the rust weevils holding it up, must be getting very tired.

To say that some stations look like they’ve seen better times, is an understatement.

Class 399 Tram-Trains For Manchester

Transport for Greater Manchester are serious about tram-trains and I believe that their usefullness to the City could be explored by running the existing service between Manchester Piccadilly and Glossop using a small fleet.

Conclusion

Extending the Manchester Metrolink to Gorton and Glossop using tram-trains appears to be very feasible.

In my view, it would have made a good trial route to prove the concept of tram-trains in the UK.

 

July 29, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 11 Comments

Manchester Metrolink Extensions In A Sentence

This article on the Manchester Evening News, sums up the extensions to the Manchester Metrolink like this.

It includes tram extensions to Port Salford, Middleton and Stalybridge, plus ‘tram trains’ to Hale, Warrington, Gorton and Glossop.

We all need more pithy sentences like this. Me included!

July 29, 2019 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Trafford Park Line – June 2nd 2019

In Walking From Pomona To MediaCityUK, I showed the progress of the Trafford Park Line in February 2019.

These pictures show the current progress.

They were taken from a tram arriving at Pomona.

June 3, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

The Most Annoying Thing They Do To Trams

When I first arrive in a city, I tend to take a ride on the local trams to get my bearings.

But it is difficult, to see where you are and what you are doing, if the tram is covered in advertising, like this one in Manchester.

It means that visitors can’t see the city properly. Hopefully, locals know their city!

I remember visiting one city, where every tram was wrapped in advertising.

The city wasn’t very interesting, so perhaps that was the reason.

June 3, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Comparing Trams And Tram-Trains In Manchester And Sheffield

In Could A Class 399 Tram-Train With Batteries Go Between Manchester Victoria And Rochdale/Bury Bolton Street/Rawtenstall Stations?, I discussed how Class 399 tram-trains might be used on a route in the Manchester area.

This was my conclusion.

Could we see tram-trains running from Bury Bolton Street, Hebden Bridge, Rawtenstall and Rochdale into Manchester Victoria and then taking to the existing tram network?

If you’ve ever been to Karlsruhe, as I have to see the Class 399 tram-trains German cousins, you wouldn’t rule out anything.

That would include tram-train services to Blackburn, Buxton, Chester, Glossop, Hebden Bridge, Sheffield, Southport and Wigan.

So how do Manchester’s M5000 trams, Sheffield’s Supertrams compare to the Class 399 tram-train?

Body Construction

  • M5000 – Aluminium
  • Supertram – Steel
  • Class 399 – Lightweight Stainless Steel

Does the Class 399 use lightweight stainless steel to give enhanced crash protection and better corrosion resistance?

Sections, Doors and Length

  • M5000 – 2, 4 and 38.4 metres
  • Supertram – 3, 4 and 34.8 metres
  • Class 399 – 3, 4 and 37.2 metres

Capacity

  • M5000 – 60 or 66 seats, 149 standing, 209/215 maximum
  • Supertram – 86 seats, 155 standing, 241 maximum
  • Class 399 – 88 seats and 150 standing, 238 maximum

The M5000 is a bit less because it is a shorter vehicle with less standing space.

Entrance Height

  • M5000 – 0.98 metres
  • Supertram – 0.42 metres
  • Class 399 – .425 metres

The Supertram and the Class 399 have obviously been built to be able to use the same tram platforms in Sheffield.

Wikipedia says this about standard UK platform height.

The standard height for platforms is 915 mm with a margin of +0,-25 mm

But it would appear that the M5000 is not far from the UK standard height, but the Class 399 is 0.465 metres too low.

Consider.

  • The entrance height of a Greater Anglia Class 755 train, which is a bi-mode FLIRT is 0.96 metres.
  • On the South Wales Metro, variants of Class 399 tram/trains and Class 755 trains will share platforms.

So Stadler must have a nifty solution to overcome the platform height difference for these two trains, which is similar to that in Manchester between a Class 399 tram-train and an M5000.

If it’s on the tram-train, then Stadler have a solution, that will allow Class 399 tram-trains to run on the Manchester Metrolink.

The datasheet for the Class 399 tram-train says this about the suspension of the tram-train.

Smooth and silent operation with secondary air suspension and resilient wheels.

Secondary air suspension is not new on trains, as it certainly featured on British Rail Mark 3 coaches from the 1970s, which have a legendary smooth ride. It can still be seen between the bogie and the coach on many Bombardier trains, which trace their ancestry to British Rail designs.

The picture shows the bogie on a Class 378 train.

Note the air-suspension above the frame of the bogie.

Some cars use secondary air suspension with computers to control the amount of air in each rubber bag to improve the ride and road-holding.

Transport for London measure the pressure in the suspension and use this to calculate train loading. I described this application in Is This The Hippest Train Status Displays?

Could the air bags be pumped up to raise the train and and reduced in pressure to drop it a few centimetres?

There are certainly suspension engineers, in the automotive and motor-sport industries, who have relevant experience and could suggest a solution.

All this speculation is a bit like Lew Grasde’s quote on the film Raise the Titanic on which he lost a lot of money.

Raise The Titanic?  It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic!

Here it’s a bit of the reverse as if the tram-trains can be adjusted to the platform height, then hundreds of platforms don’t need to be rebuilt.

Suppose the platforms were built to fit an existing tram or train.

  • On the Manchester Metrolink the platforms would fit the M5000 trams.
  • On the Sheffield Supertram, the platforms would fit the Supertrams.
  • On the South Wales Metro, the platforms would fit the Welsh variant of the Class 755 train.

The Class 399 tram-trains running in Sheffield have their suspension adjusted on mnufacture and in the depot, so that there is level access between tram-train and platform.

Could the same tram-trains be adjusted so that they fit the Manchester Metrolink platforms, which are higher?

If they can, then Manchester has got a source of off-the-shelf tram-trains.

The picture shows a Class 399 tram-train at Rotherham Parkgate. Note the level access at the orange door in the foreground.

Manchester would need a different colour as Chelsea Blue wouldn’t be appropriate.

The intriguing idea, is can the same Class 399 tram-trains run in both Manchester and Sheffield, with the tram-train’s computer adjusting the ride height to suit the different height of platforms?

At present the answer is probably no, as if they could then there wouldn’t be dual-height platforms at Rotherham Central station.

Note the slopes down on both sides of the tracks from the high-level train platforms in the background, to the low-level tram platforms in the foreground.

It all depends on whether the suspension design is possible.

If it is, which I doubt, it would get round the bit problem of platforms on tram-train systems.

Weight

  • M5000 – 30.7 tonnes
  • Supertram – 46.5 tonnes
  • Class 399 – .66.1 tonnes

The Class 399 tram-train is a heavy beast so raising it by much might be difficult, as you changed from Sheffield to Manchester heights.

Operating Speed

  • M5000 – 80 kph
  • Supertram – 80 kph
  • Class 399 – .100 kph

Power And Power/Weight Ratio

  • M5000 – 480 kW – 15.6 kW/tonne
  • Supertram – 1108kW –  23.8 kW/tonne
  • Class 399 – 870 kW – 13.2 kW/tonne

Noye.

  1. By comparison the power/weight ratio of a Class 321 train is just 7.9 kW/tonne
  2. I have talked to Sheffield tram-drivers and their view is that the Class 399 tram-trains handle Sheffield’s hills better with a full load of passengers.
  3. The Class 399 has six traction motors, whereas the others have four.

So perhaps, the way that the Class 399 tram-train puts its power to the rail with more driven axles,  is important.

Conclusion

I am convinced that just as Sheffield’s Supertram can work happily with Class 399 tram-trains, Stadler have ways and means of making Manchester Metrolink’s M5000 trams work with the tram-trains.

If the Class 399 tram-train is compatible with both tram networks, this will be a great advantage in designing new tram-train routes.

It would also mean that one day, a tram-train service could run from Cathedral in Sheffield to Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester via the Hope Valley Line.

I suspect that a lot of local services from the two cities will be run by tram-train services, that cross the cities.

 

 

 

 

March 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Walking From Pomona To MediaCityUK

I took these pictures as I walked between Pomona and MediaCityUK tram stops in Manchester.

I walked along the linear construction site of the new Trafford Park Line of the Manchester Metrolink.

The new line should open in 2021.

Conclusion

If you like walking alongside water, as I do, it is good way to see some of Manchester’s new attractions like the Impreial War Museum North and The Lowry.

February 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments