The Anonymous Widower

Hitachi Trains For Avanti

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

The Bi-Mode Trains

Some more details of the thirteen bi-mode and ten electric Hitachi AT 300 trains are given.

Engine Size and Batteries

This is an extract from the article.

Hitachi told Modern Railways it was unable to confirm the rating of the diesel engines on the bi-modes, but said these would be replaceable by batteries in future if specified.

I do wonder if my speculation in Will Future Hitachi AT-300 Trains Have MTU Hybrid PowerPacks? is possible.

After all, why do all the hard work to develop a hybrid drive system, when your engine supplier has done it for you?

Would Avanti West Coast need a train that will do 125 mph on diesel?

The only place, they will be able to run at 125 mph or even higher will be on the West Coast Main Line, where they will be running under electric power from the pantograph.

If I were designing a bi-mode for 90 mph on diesel and 125 mph on electric, I would have batteries on the train for the following purposes.

  • Handle regenerative braking.
  • Provide hotel power in stations or when stationery.
  • Provide an acceleration boost, if required, when running on diesel.
  • Provide emergency power, if the wires go down in electric mode.

I’m sure MTU could work out a suitable size of diesel engine and batteries in an MTU PowerPack, that would meet the required performance.

Or maybe a smaller diesel could be used. An LNER Class 800 train has 1680 kW of installed power to maintain 125 mph. But the Great Western Railway versions have 2100 kW or twenty-five percent more, as their routes are more challenging with steeper gradients.

For the less challenging routes at a maximum of 90 mph between Crewe, Chester, Shrewsbury and North Wales, I wonder what level of power is needed.

A very rough estimate based on the speed required could put the power requirement as low as 1200-1500 kW.

As the diesel engines are only electrical generators, it would not effect the ability of the train to do 125 mph between Crewe and London.

There looks to be a virtuous circle at work here.

  • Lower maximum speed on diesel means smaller diesel engines.
  • Smaller diesel engines means lighter diesel engines and less fuel to carry.
  • Less weight to accelerate needs less installed power.
  • Less power probably means a more affordable train, that uses less diesel.

It looks to me, that Hitachi have designed a train, that will work Avanti West Coast’s routes efficiently.

The Asymmetric Bi-Mode Train

It looks to me that the bi-mode train  that Avanti West Coast are buying has very different performance depending on the power source and signalling

  • 90 mph or perhaps up to 100 mph on diesel.
  • 125 mph on electric power.with current signalling.
  • Up to 140 mph on electric power with in-cab digital signalling.

This compares with the current Class 221 trains, which can do 125 mph on all tracks, with a high enough operating speed.

The new trains’ different performance on diesel and electric power means they could be called asymmetric bi-modes.

Surely, creating an asymmetric bi-mode train, with on-board power; battery, diesel or hydrogen, sized to the route, mean less weight, greater efficiency, less cost and in the case of diesel, Higher carbon efficiency.

Carbon Emissions

Does the improvement in powertrain efficiency with smaller engines running the train at slower speeds help to explain this statement from the Modern Railways article?

Significant emissions reduction are promised from the elimination of diesel operation on electrified sections as currently seen with the Voyagers, with an expected reduction in CO2 emissions across the franchise of around two-thirds.

That is a large reduction, which is why I feel, that efficiency and batteries must play a part.

Battery-Electric Conversion

In my quote earlier from the Modern Railways article, I said this.

These (the diesel engines) would be replaceable by batteries in future if specified.

In Thoughts On The Next Generation Of Hitachi High Speed Trains, I looked at routes that could be run by a battery-electric version of Hitachi AT-300 trains.

I first estimated how far an AT-300 train could go on batteries.

How far will an AT-300 train go on battery power?

  • I don’t think it is unreasonable to be able to have 150 kWh of batteries per car, especially if the train only has one diesel engine, rather than the current three in a five-car train.
  • I feel with better aerodynamics and other improvements based on experience with the current trains, that an energy consumption of 2.5 kWh per vehicle mile is possible, as compared to the 3.5 kWh per vehicle mile of the current trains.

Doing the calculation gives a range of sixty miles for an AT-300 train with batteries.

As train efficiency improves and batteries are able to store more energy for a given volume, this range can only get better.

I then said this about routes that will be part of Avanti West Coast’s network.

With a range of sixty miles on batteries, the following is possible.

  • Chester, Gobowen, Shrewsbury And Wrexham Central stations could be reached on battery power from the nearest electrification.
  • Charging would only be needed at Shrewsbury to ensure a return to Crewe.

Gobowen is probably at the limit of battery range, so was it chosen as a destination for this reason.

The original post was based on trains running faster than the 90 mph that is the maximum possible on the lines without electrification, so my sixty mile battery range could be an underestimate.

These distances should be noted.

  • Crewe and Chester – 21 miles
  • Chester and Shrewsbury – 42 miles
  • Chester and Llandudno – 47 miles
  • Chester and Holyhead – 84 miles

Could electrification between Crewe and Chester make it possible for Avanti West Coast’s new trains to go all the way between Chester and Holyhead on battery power in a few years?

I feel that trains with a sixty mile battery range would make operations easier for Avanti West Coast.

Eighty miles would almost get them all the way to Holyhead, where they could recharge!

Rlectrification Between Chester And Crewe

I feel that this twenty-odd miles of electrification could be key to enabling battery-electric trains for the routes to the West of Chester to Shrewsbury, Llandudno and Holyhead.

How difficult would it be to electrify between Chester and Crewe?

  • It is not a long distance to electrify.
  • There doesn’t appear to be difficult viaducts or cuttings.
  • It is electrified at Crewe, so power is not a problem.
  • There are no intermediate stations.

But there does seem to be a very large number of bridges. I counted forty-four overbridges and six underbridges. At least some of the bridges are new and appear to have been built with the correct clearance.

Perhaps it would be simpler to develop fast charging for the trains and install it at Chester station.

Conclusion On The Bi-Mode Trains

It appears to me that Avanti West Coast, Hitachi and Rock Rail, who are financing the trains have done a very good job in devising the specification for a fleet of trains that will offer a good service and gradually move towards being able to deliver that service in a carbon-free manner.

  • The initial bi-mode trains will give a big improvement in performance and reduction in emission on the current Voyagers, as they will be able to make use of the existing electrification between Crewe and London.
  • The trains could be designed for 125 mph on electric power and only 90-100 mph on diesel, as no route requires over 100 mph on diesel. This must save operating costs and reduce carbon emissions.
  • They could use MTU Hybrid PowerPacks instead of conventional diesel engines to further reduce emissions and save energy
  • It also appears that Hitachi might be able to convert the trains to battery operation in a few years.
  • The only new infrastructure would be a few charging stations for the batteries and possible electrification between Chester and Crewe.

I don’t think Avanti West Coast’s ambition of a two-thirds reduction in CO2 is unreasonable and feel it could even be exceeded.

Other Routes For Asymetric Bi-Mode Trains

I like the concept of an asymetric bi-mode train, where the train has the following performance.

  • Up to 100 mph on battery, diesel or hydrogen.
  • Up to 100 mph on electrified slower-speed lines.
  • 125 mph on electrified high-speed lines, with current signalling.
  • Up to 140 mph on electrified high-speed lines, with in-cab digital signalling.

I am very sure that Hitachi can now tailor an AT-300 train to a particular company’s needs. Certainly, in the case of Avanti West Coast, this seems to have happened, when Avanti West Coast, Hitachi, Network Rail and Rock Rail had some serious negotiation.

LNER At Leeds

As an example consider the rumoured splitting and joining of trains at Leeds to provide direct services between London and Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Ilkley, Skipton and other places, that I wrote about in Dancing Azumas At Leeds.

In the related post, I gave some possible destinations.

  • Bradford – 13 miles – 25 minutes – Electrified
  • Harrogate – 18 miles – 30 minutes
  • Huddersfield – 17 miles – 35 minutes
  • Hull – 20 miles – 60 minutes
  • Ilkley – 16 miles – 26 minutes – Electrified
  • Skipton – 26 miles – 43 minutes – Electrified
  • York – 25 miles – 30 minutes

Note, that the extended services would have the following characteristics.

They would be run by one five-car train.

  1. Services to Bradford, Ilkley and Skipton would be electric
  2. Electrification is planned from Leeds to Huddersfield and York, so these services could be electric in a few years.
  3. All other services would need independent power; battery, diesel or hydrogen to and from Leeds.
  4. Two trains would join at Leeds and run fast to London on the electrified line.
  5. Services would probably have a frequency of six trains per day, which works out at a around a train every two hours and makes London and back very possible in a day.
  6. They would stop at most intermediate stations to boost services to and from Leeds and give a direct service to and from London.

As there are thirty trains per day between London and Leeds in each direction, there are a lot of possible services that could be provided.

Currently, LNER are only serving Harrogate via Leeds.

  • LNER are using either a nine-car train or a pair of five-car trains.
  • The trains reverse in Platforms 6 or 8 at Leeds, both of which can handle full-length trains.
  • LNER allow for a generous time for the reverse, which would allow the required splitting and joining.
  • All trains going to Harrogate are Class 800 bi-mode trains.

Note that the Class 800 trains are capable of 125 mph on diesel, whereas the average speed between Harrogate and Leeds is just 35 mph. Obviously, some of this slow speed is due to the route, but surely a train with a maximum speed of 90-100 mph, with an appropriate total amount of diesel power, would be the following.

  • Lighter in weight.
  • More efficient.
  • Emit less pollution.
  • Still capable of high speed on electrified lines.
  • Bi-mode and electric versions could run in pairs between Leeds and London.

LNER would probably save on track access charges and diesel fuel.

LNER To Other Places

Could LNER split and join in a similar way to other places?

  • Doncaster for Hull and Sheffield
  • Edinburgh for Aberdeen and Inverness
  • Newark for Lincoln and Nottingham
  • York for Middlesbrough and Scarborough.

It should be noted that many of the extended routes are quite short, so I suspect some train diagrams will be arranged, so that trains are only filled up with diesel overnight,

GWR

Great Western Railway are another First Group company and I’m sure some of their routes could benefit, from similar planning to that of Avanti West Coast.

Splitting and joining might take place at Reading, Swindon, Bristol and Swansea.

South Western Railway

South Western Railway will need to replace the three-car Class 159 trains to Exeter, that generally work in pairs with a total number of around 400 seats, in the next few years.

These could be replaced with a fleet of third-rail Hitachi trains of appropriate length.

  • Seven cars sating 420 passengers?
  • They would remove diesel trains from Waterloo station.
  • All South Western Railway Trains running between Waterloo and Basingstoke would be 100 mph trains.

I wonder, if in-cab digital signalling on the route, would increase the capacity? It is sorely needed!

Southeastern

Southeastern need bi-mode trains to run the promised service to Hastings.

  • Trains would need a third-rail capability.
  • Trains need to be capable of 140 mph for High Speed One.
  • Trains need to be able to travel the 25 miles between Ashford International and Ore stations.
  • Trains would preferably be battery-electric for working into St. Pancras International station.

Would the trains be made up from six twenty-metre cars, like the Class 395 trains?

The Simple All-Electric Train

The Modern Railways article, also says this about the ten all-electric AT-300 trains for Birmingham, Blackpool and Liverpool services.

The electric trains will be fully reliant on the overhead wire, with no diesel auxiliary engines or batteries.

It strikes me as strange, that Hitachi are throwing out one of their design criteria, which is the ability of the train to rescue itself, when the overhead wires fail.

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I published this extract from this document on the Hitachi Rail web site.

The system can select the appropriate power source from either the main transformer or the GUs. Also, the size and weight of the system were minimized by designing the power supply converter to be able to work with both power sources. To ensure that the Class 800 and 801 are able to adapt to future changes in operating practices, they both have the same traction system and the rolling stock can be operated as either class by simply adding or removing GUs. On the Class 800, which is intended to run on both electrified and non-electrified track, each traction system has its own GU. On the other hand, the Class 801 is designed only for electrified lines and has one or two GUs depending on the length of the trainset (one GU for trainsets of five to nine cars, two GUs for trainsets of 10 to 12 cars). These GUs supply emergency traction power and auxiliary power in the event of a power outage on the catenary, and as an auxiliary power supply on non-electrified lines where the Class 801 is in service and pulled by a locomotive. This allows the Class 801 to operate on lines it would otherwise not be able to use and provides a backup in the event of a catenary power outage or other problem on the ground systems as well as non-electrified routes in loco-hauled mode.

This is a very comprehensive power system, with a backup in case of power or catenary failure.

So why does it look like Hitachi are throwing that capability out on the trains for Avanti West Coast.

There are several possibilities.

  • The reliability of the trains and the overhead wire is such, that the ability of a train to rescue itself is not needed.
  • The auxiliary generator has never been used for rescuing the train.
  • The West Coast Main Line is well-provided with Thunderbird locomotives for rescuing Pendelinos, as these trains have no auxiliary generator or batteries.
  • Removal of the excess weight of the auxiliary engine and batteries, enables the Hitachi AT-300 trains to match the performance of the Pendelinos, when they are using tilt.

Obviously, Hitachi have a lot of train performance statistics, from the what must be around a hundred trains in service.

It looks like Hitachi are creating a lightweight all-electric train, that has the performance or better of a Pendelino, that it achieves without using tilt.

  • No tilt means less weight and more interior space.
  • No auxiliary generator or batteries means less weight.
  • Wikipedia indicates, that Hitachi coaches are around 41 tonnes and Pendelino coaches are perhaps up to ten tonnes heavier.
  • Less weight means fast acceleration and deceleration.
  • Less weight means less electricity generated under regenerative braking.
  • Pendelinos use regenerative braking, through the catenary.
  • Will the new Hitachi trains do the same instead of the complex system they now use?

If the train fails and needs to be rescued, it uses the same Thunderbird system, that the Pendelinos use when they fail.

Will The New Hitachi Trains Be Less Costly To Run?

These trains will be lighter in weight than the Pendelinos and will not require the track to allow tilting.

Does this mean, that Avanti West Coast will pay lower track access charges for their new trains?

They should also pay less on a particular trip for the electricity, as the lighter trains will need less electricity to accelerate them to line speed.

Are Avanti West Coast Going To Keep The Fleets Apart?

Under a heading of Only South Of Preston, the Modern Railways article says this.

Unlike the current West Coast fleet, the Hitachi trains will not be able to tilt. Bid Director Caroline Donaldson told Modern Railways this will be compensated for by their improved acceleration and deceleration characteristics and that the operator is also working with Network Rail to look at opportunities to improve the linespeed for non-tilting trains.

The routes on which the Hitachi trains will operate have been chosen with the lack of tilt capability in mind, with this having the greatest impact north of Preston, where only Class 390 Pendelinos, which continue to make use of their tilting capability will be used.

Avanti West Coast have said that the Hitachi trains will run from London to Birmingham, Blackpool and Liverpool.

All of these places are on fully-electrified branches running West from the West Coast Main Line, so it looks like there will be separation.

Will The New Hitachi Trains Be Faster To Birmingham, Blackpool And Liverpool?

Using data from Real Time Trains, I find the following data about the current services.

  • Birmingham and Coventry is 19 miles and takes 20 minutes at an average speed of 57 mph
  • Blackpool and Preston is 16.5 miles and takes 21 minutes at an average speed of 47 mph
  • Liverpool and Runcorn is 3.15 miles and takes 15 minutes at an average speed of 52 mph

All the final legs when approaching the terminus seem to be at similar speeds, so I doubt there are much savings to be made away from the West Coast Main Line.

Most savings will be on the West Coast Main Line, where hopefully modern in-cab digital signalling will allow faster running at up to the design speed of both the Hitachi and Pendelino trains of 140 mph.

As an illustration of what might be possible, London to Liverpool takes two hours and thirteen minutes.

The distance is 203 miles, which means that including stops the average speed is 91.6 mph.

If the average speed could be raised to 100 mph, this would mean a journey time of two hours and two minutes.

As much of the journey between London and Liverpool is spent at 125 mph, which is the limit set by the signalling, raising that to 135 mph could bring substantial benefits.

To achieve the journey in two hours would require an overall average speed of 101.5 mph.

As the proportion of track on which faster speeds, than the current 125 mph increase over the next few years, I can see Hitachi’s lightweight all-electric expresses breaking the two hour barrier between London and Liverpool.

What About The Pendelinos And Digital Signalling?

The January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways also has an article entitled Pendolino Refurb Planned.

These improvements are mentioned.

  • Better standard class seats! (Hallelujah!)
  • Refreshed First Class.
  • Revamped shop.

Nothing is mentioned about any preparation for the installation of the equipment to enable faster running using digital in-cab signalling, when it is installed on the West Coast Main Line.

Surely, the trains will be updated to be ready to use digital signalling, as soon as they can.

Just as the new Hitachi trains will be able to take advantage of the digital signalling, when it is installed, the Pendellinos will be able to as well.

Looking at London and Glasgow, the distance is 400 miles and it takes four hours and thirty minutes.

This is an average speed of 89 mph, which compares well with the 91.6 mph between London and Liverpool.

Raise the average speed to 100 mph with the installation of digital in-cab signalling on the route, that will allow running at over 125 mph for long sections and the journey time will be around four hours.

This is a table of average speeds and journey times.

  • 100 mph – four hours
  • 105 mph – three hours and forty-eight minutes
  • 110 mph – three hours and thirty-eight minutes
  • 115 mph – three hours and twenty-eight minutes
  • 120 mph – three hours and twenty minutes
  • 125 mph – three hours and twelve minutes
  • 130 mph – three hours and four minutes

I think that I’m still young enough at 72 to be able to see Pendelinos running regularly between London and Glasgow in three hours twenty minutes.

The paragraph is from the Wikipedia entry for the Advanced Passenger Train.

The APT is acknowledged as a milestone in the development of the current generation of tilting high speed trains. 25 years later on an upgraded infrastructure the Class 390 Pendolinos now match the APT’s scheduled timings. The London to Glasgow route by APT (1980/81 timetable) was 4hrs 10min, the same time as the fastest Pendolino timing (December 2008 timetable). In 2006, on a one off non-stop run for charity, a Pendolino completed the Glasgow to London journey in 3hrs 55min, whereas the APT completed the opposite London to Glasgow journey in 3hrs 52min in 1984.

I think it’s a case of give the Pendelinos the modern digital in-cab signalling they need and let them see what they can do.

It is also possible to give an estimate for a possible time to and from Manchester.

An average speed of 120 mph on the route would deliver a time of under one hour and forty minutes.

Is it possible? I suspect someone is working on it!

Conclusion

I certainly think, that Avanti West Cost, Hitachi and Network Rail, have been seriously thinking how to maximise capacity and speed on the West Coast Main Line.

I also think, that they have an ultimate objective to make Avanti West Coast an operator, that only uses diesel fuel in an emergency.

 

 

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rochdale Still Doesn’t Have A Direct Link To Manchester Airport

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

I recently went to Rochdale to see Ipswich play and what surprised me about the town, was how far it was from my hotel close to Manchester Victoria station.

I went on a tram and it took over an hour and it was also very crowded.

I then walked about a mile to the football ground.  Luckily a friendly Rochdale supporter showed me the way.

But is Rochdale’s link to Manchester Airport, any worse than say Walthamstow’s link to Heathrow or Gatwick.

  • Rochdale Town Centre to Manchester Airport by train – 1:05
  • Rochdale Town Centre to Manchester Airport by tram – 2:02
  • Rochdale Station to Manchester Airport by train – 0,:55
  • Rochdale to Manchester Airport by taxi- 0:27
  • Walthamstow Central to Heathrow Airport by Underground and Heathrow Express – 1:05
  • Walthamstow Central to Heathrow Airport by Underground – 1:27
  • Walthamstow to Heathrow Airport by taxi – 1:27
  • Walthamstow Central to Gatwick Airport by train – 1:22

Note.

  1. All journeys, except the taxis, need at least one change.
  2. My lawyer son lives in Walthamstow and always flies from Heathrow.
  3. He gets there by Underground, with one cross-platform change at Finsbury Park.
  4. Crossrail won’t help the man on the Walthamstow Underground.
  5. In Manchester the taxi is quicker, but it isn’t in London.

These are my thoughts.

Mancunians Are More Impatient

Not my view, but the view of a Northern station guy, who has worked on Platforms 13 and 14 at Manchester Piccadilly and busy stations on the London Overground.

He thought that they were sometimes in such a hurry to get on a train, that the train is delayed.

He also said, if you ask Londoners to stand behind the yellow line, they do. Mancunians don’t!

Access To Northern And TransPennine Trains Is Bad

Consider.

  • There is often a step up into the train in Manchester.
  • Manchester Metrolink is generally step-free into the tram.
  • Parts of London Underground/Overground are step-free.
  • The new TransPennine trains have pathetic and slow end-door access.

The two train companies have bought fleets of trains that are not fit for purpose.

The Manchester Airport Rail Link Is At Full Capacity

Manchester Airport station, does not have the best rail line from the City Centre.

Wikipedia says this.

Any future additional services to the Airport are in doubt without further infrastructure works; unresolved issues surround the lack of new ‘through’ platforms at Manchester Piccadilly which have been shelved by the government and the Styal Line to Manchester Airport operating at full capacity with little resilience to absorb delays.

The Rochdale Online article blames the stations in Manchester, but the Styal Line is equally to blame.

The Long Term Solution Is High Speed Two

In the 2030s, High Speed Two will solve the problem by using a tunnel between Manchester Airport and the City Centre.

It will also do the following.

  • Provide direct access between Manchester Airport and the Midlands, the South and London.
  • Provide direct access to Liverpool and Warrington in the West.
  • Provide direct access to Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, Hull and the North East, in the East.
  • All services will probably be at least five trains per hour (tph).

But High Speed Two won’t provide a direct link to Richdale.

Passengers between Rochdale and Manchester Airport will still have to change in the City Centre.

Unless of course, some TransPennine services to Manchester Airport are discontinued, as they can be done by High Speed Two.

This would free up paths to add extra services to Manchester Airport.

An Interim Solution

Not only Rochdale, but other towns and cities across the North like Bradford moan about lack of a direct service to and from Manchester Airport.

So what would I do?

Ban Freight Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

This may not be possible, but it should be a long term objective.

It will cost money, but it would release capacity through the Castlefield Corridor.

Ban Trains Without Level Access At Stations In The Castlefield Corridor

I know that Northern and TransPennine have just bought a load of new trains, but they make matters worse in the stations through the Castlefield Corridor.

All Trains To The Airport Must Be Eight Cars

This makes sense as it increases the capacity, but use the same number of paths.

  • Eight-car Class 379 trains – Stansted Express – 160 metres and 418 passengers
  • Five-car Class 802 trains – TransPennine Express – 130 metres and 342 passengers
  • Eight-car Class 331 trains – Northern – 190 metres and 568 passengers

It does appear that the new trains are also setting new standards for train length.

ERTMS Signalling Should Be Installed Between Manchester Victoria And Manchester Airport

ERTMS signalling would give more flexibility on the route.

Create A Manchester Airport Express

This has been suggested and would have the following characteristics.

  • Running between Manchester Airport and Manchester Victoria via Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Eight cars
  • Airport-style interiors
  • Step-free access at all stations.
  • Four tph
  • Running twenty-four hours a day.
  • It would have step-free access to the Metrolink at Manchester Victoria, Deansgate and Manchester Piccadilly.

Ideally it would use dedicated platforms at Manchester Airport and Manchester Victoria. The platform at Victoria would hopefully have cross-platform interchange with services going through the station from East to West.

Reduce TransPennine Services To The Airport

TransPennine Express runs the following hourly services to the Airport

  • Cleethorpes via a reverse at Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Edinburgh or Glasgow via the Castlefield Corridor
  • Middlesborough via the Castlefield Corridor
  • Newcastle via the Castlefield Corridor

Why not cut-back either the Newcastle or Middlesborough service to Manchester Victoria and make sure it has good cross-platform access to the Manchester Airport Express?

These services are regularly cut-back anyway due to the congestion.

Demolish Manchester Oxford Road Station And Build A Station That’s Fit For Purpose

Manchester Oxford Road is one of ultimate design crimes on the UK Rail network.

  • The new or refurbished station would be step-free.
  • Platforms would be able to accept two hundred metre long trains.
  • A well-designed bay platform would be provided to turn trains from the North efficiently.
  • Up to four tph could probably be turned back.

Network Rail do station and track layout design generally very well and I’m sure that a redesigned Oxford Road station could improve capacity through the Castlefield Corridor.

Improve Deansgate And Manchester Piccadilly Stations

If longer trains are to be run through the Castlefield Corridor, then the platforms at these two stations will need lengthening and passenger access will need to be improved.

Is There A Place For Tram-Trains?

Manchester are keen on using tram-trains to improve the Metrolink network.

This map clipped from Wikipedia shows the layout of the Metrolink in the City Centre.

Note.

  1. Manchester Piccadilly, Deansgate and Manchester Victoria all have step-free connections to the trains to and from Manchester Airport.
  2. The new Trafford Line will branch off at Pomona.

I think it is likely, that any new lines run by tram-trains will pass through at least one of the connecting stations.

This will increase the list of places that will have good access with a single change to and from Manchester Airport.

Conclusion

There would appear to be a lot of scope to create a high-capacity link between Manchester and the Airport.

But it does appear that the current timetable leaves little or no room to expand the service.

That is why, I believe a simpler but higher capacity service, based on a Manchester Airport Express could be developed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Still Going For A Quart In A Pint Pot

The title of this post is the same as that of an artticle in the November 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

The article describes the problems of running trains through the Castlefield Corridor through Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road and Deansgate stations.

It is a comprehensive article, that gets to the heart of the problem of the route.

It comes to the conclusion, that there is a need for either more infrastructure or less trains, than the current fifteen trains per hour (tph).

Under more infrastructure, the author lists these projects.

  1. Grade separated junctions at Castlefield and other junctions.
  2. A centre turnback at Manchester Oxford Road station.
  3. A West-facing bay platform at Manchester Victoria
  4. Four through platforms at Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly.
  5. Improvement at Manchester Airport station.

These points should be noted.

  • Options One and Four will be expensive and will probably cause massive disruption during construction for both rail and road traffic.
  • The author suspects Option Four would cost almost a billion pounds and would need the grade-separated junctions to get best value.

I shall deal with options Two, Three and Five later.

Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

Current passenger trains through the Castlefield Corridor are as follows.

  • East Midlands Railway – One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Norwich
  • Northern – One tph – Hazel Grove and Blackpool
  • Northern – One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Crewe
  • Northern – Two tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Blackpool
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Cumbria
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Liverpool Lime Street
  • Northern – One tph – Wigan North Western and Alderly Edge
  • Trains for Wales – One tph – Manchester Airport and Llandudno
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Middlesbrough
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Newcastle
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Glasgow Central or Edinburgh

This gives the following totals.

  • Eleven tph – Deansgate and Manchester Piccadilly
  • Two tph – Deansgate and Manchester Oxford Road

Add in a couple of freight trains and that gives 15 tph, which according to the author is the design limit.

These are frequencies from Manchester Airport.

  • There are seven tph between Manchester Airport and Oxford Road via Piccadilly.
  • There are three tph between Manchester Airport and Preston via Piccadilly and Oxford Road.
  • There are two tph between Manchester Airport and Leeds via Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria.

The author of the article also points out that Bradford is pushing for a direct service to Manchester Airport.

Frequency is important, but so is train length.

  • Transpennine Express services will generally be five cars in the future.
  • East Midlands Railway, Northern and Trains for Wales services will be between two and four cars.

Nothing too taxing to handle here, although Northern might decide to double trains of eight cars at times.

Comparison Of The Castlefield Corridor And The East London Line

Consider these facts about the Castlefield Corridor

  • Four Southern routings; Crewe, Hazel Grove, Stockport and Manchester Airport.
  • Five Northern routings; Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester Victoria, Trafford Park and Wigan North Western
  • Fifteen tph of which fifteen tph are passenger trains.
  • Three stations designed by Topsy, two of which are step-free.
  • Not step-free between train and plstform.
  • Three interchange stations.
  • Conventional signalling.
  • Fully electrified with 25 KVAC overhead.
  • Four train companies, with at least four types of passenger train.
  • Bad timekeeping.
  • Low customer satisfaction.

For comparison, consider these facts about the East London Line between Shoreditch High Street and Surrey Quays stations.

  • Four Southern routings; Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, New Cross and West Croydon.
  • Two Northern routings; Dalston Junction and Highbury & Islington
  • Sixteen tph of which all are passenger trains. Soon to be raised to twenty tph.
  • Seven stations designed by various architects, two of which are step-free, with Whitechapel to soon make this three step-free.
  • Some stations are step-free between train and platform.
  • Two interchange stations.
  • More bespoke signalling.
  • Fully electrified with 750 VDC third rail.
  • One train company and one type of passenger train.
  • Good timekeeping.
  • High customer satisfaction.

The route complexity and frequencies are fairly similar, so what are the big differences?

  • Is the East London Line’s signalling better?
  • The East london Line doesn’t have freight trains.
  • Does one type of train with wide doors and walk-through interiors, work wonders?
  • Does London’s step-free between train and platform make a difference?

I think the following actions should be looked at for the Castlefield Corridor.

  • Modern digital signalling.
  • All Northern services to be run using Class 195 or Class 331 trains, which look the same to passengers, despite one being electric and the other diesel.
  • TransPennine Express will be running three different type of train all with single doors, through the Castlefield Corridor. Ways of reducing the number of types must be found.

What idiot decided to buy three incompatible fleets? Surely, an order for a larger number of Hitachi trains would have been better?

My Behaviour In Manchester

I know Manchester’s trams and trains, but I haven’t a clue about the City’s buses, which seem to be reserved for the locals.

I regularly find myself using stations in the Castlefield Corridor and I have developed certain rules.

  • Never use Oxford Road, unless you’re lost and end up there by chance. It must be the worst designed modern station in Europe.
  • Never use the route unless you’ve already bought the ticket some time before.
  • Use Deansgate if possible, as it has a good connection to Manchester Metrolink.
  • Give myself plenty of time to catch a train from platforms 13 and 14 at Piccadilly.
  • Make sure I know what platform my train is using at Piccadilly.

I also tend to avoid catching any train from platform 13 or 14 at Piccadilly.

Passenger Problems On Platforms 13 and 14 At Manchester Piccadilly

One of the reasons, I avoid these platforms, is that they are always crowded and at weekends, there seems to be a lot of occasional travellers, often with heavy cases and babies in buggies.

I remember having a chat with a station guy there in a quiet time and it turned out that he’d also worked on platforms on the London Underground.

One point he made was that Londoners get back from the platform edge, when told, but Mancunians are slower to act.

He said trains were often delayed because of passengers struggling to get on.

Could Other Actions Be Taken To Ease The Overcrowding?

These are various ideas suggested in the article or some of my own.

Run Less Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

This would ease the problem, but it would make it more difficult for passengers to travel where they wanted and needed.

Build A Centre Turnback At Manchester Oxford Road

Consider

  • It would mean that trains turning back at Oxford Road, wouldn’t have to cross tracks, entering or leaving the turnback.
  • It could probably turn up to four tph.
  • It might also help in service recovery.

The author obviously likes this idea and I suspect it is possible, because he mentions it more than once.

Completely Rebuild Manchester Oxford Road Station

Manchester Oxford Road is certainly not fit for purpose.

This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry.

The station, a Grade II listed structure, requires frequent maintenance. In 2004, the station roof was partially refurbished to prevent leaking. In 2011, the platform shelters, seats and toilets were refurbished at a cost of £500,000.[36] In 2013, the station received a £1.8 million renovation to improve access, including lifts and an emergency exit.

In my view, the station needs the following.

  • Step-free access.
  • Longer platforms.
  • Higher capacity platforms.
  • Much better signage and maps.
  • The turnback described earlier.

No wonder I avoid it like the plague.

A completely rebuilt station with excellent step-free access might encourage more passengers to use the station, rather than the overcrowded Piccadilly.

Improve Deansgate Station

Deansgate station is not bad, but it could be improved to encourage more passengers.

Over the next few years, as the Metroilink expands, It could become a better interchange.

Step-Free Access Between Train And Platform Must Be Achieved

This picture shows access to a new Class 195 train at Manchester Airport.

With new trains, there is no excuse for not having level access, where someone in a wheelchair can just wheel themselves across.

Level access should reduce loading delays, as it eases loading of buggies, wheelchairs and wheeled cases.

If Merseyrail, Greater Anglia and some parts of the London Overground can arrange it, then surely Manchester can?

Nova Problem

The author also talks about possible problems with TransPennine’s new Nova trrains, which have single end doors, which could prove inadequate in busy times.

Build A West-Facing Bay Platform At Manchester Victoria Station

The author suggests this could be used to run a frequent shuttle service between Manchester Victoria and Manchester Airport via Deansgate, Oxford Road and Piccadilly.

It might mean that TransPennine services stopped short in Manchester and passengers would change for the Airport.

But it would solve the problems of the capacity in the Castlefield Corridor and platform availability at Manchester Airport

Could Passengers Be Nudged Towards The Metrolink?

I have watched the sheer number of passengers delay trains at Manchester Piccadilly, several times.

Would it ease delays if passengers used the Metrolink to Manchester Airport?

Perhaps, the journey by Metrolink could be made more affordable?

Conclusion

It’s a mess and as the author says in his title, quarts don’t fit into pint pots.

At least though, if High Speed Two is built to link up with Northern Powerhouse Rail and together they run London, Birmingham or Liverpool to Hull via Manchester Airport, Manchester City Centre, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds, this would solve the problem of the Castlefield Corridor by bypassing it for long-distance trains.

 

 

 

October 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

HS2 Railway To Be Delayed By Up To Five Years

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

These first few paragraphs indicate the current situation.

The first phase of the HS2 high-speed railway between London and Birmingham will be delayed by up to five years, Transport Minister Grant Shapps says.

That section of the line was due to open at the end of 2026, but it could now be between 2028 and 2031 before the first trains run on the route.

HS2’s total cost has also risen from £62bn to between £81bn and £88bn, but Mr Shapps said he was keeping an “open mind” about the project’s future.

The second phase has also been delayed.

What are the short term consequences of this delay in the building of High Speed Two?

  • No Capacity Increase Between London And Birmingham., until three or five years later.
  • Capacity increases to Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Preston will probably be five years or more later.

Are there any other things we can do to in the meantime to make the shortfall less damaging to the economy?

East Coast Main Line

Much of the East Coast Main Line (ECML) has been designed for 140 mph running. Wikipedia puts it like this..

Most of the length of the ECML is capable of 140 mph subject to certain infrastructure upgrades.

Wikipedia also says that Greengauge 21 believe that Newcastle and London timings using the shorter route could be comparable to those using HS2.

Track And Signalling Improvements

There are a number of improvements that can be applied to the ECML, with those at the Southern end summed up by this paragraph from Wikipedia.

Increasing maximum speeds on the fast lines between Woolmer Green and Dalton-on-Tees up to 140 mph (225 km/h) in conjunction with the introduction of the Intercity Express Programme, level crossing closures, ETRMS fitments, OLE rewiring and the OLE PSU – est. to cost £1.3 billion (2014). This project is referred to as “L2E4” or London to Edinburgh (in) 4 Hours. L2E4 examined the operation of the IEP at 140 mph on the ECML and the sections of track which can be upgraded to permit this, together with the engineering and operational costs.

Currently, services between London and Edinburgh take between twenty and forty minutes over four hours.

Who would complain if some or even all services took four hours?

To help the four hour target to be achieved Network Rail are also doing the following.

  • Building the Werrington Dive-under.
  • Remodelling the station throat at Kings Cross.
  • Adding extra tracks between Huntingdon and Woodwalton.
  • Devising a solution for the flat junction at Newark.

Every little helps and all these improvements will allow faster and extra services along the ECML.

Obviously, running between London and Edinburgh in four hours has implications for other services.

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North, I said this.

Currently, the fastest non-stop trains between London and Doncaster take a few minutes over ninety minutes. With 140 mph trains, I think the following times are easily possible.

  • London and Doncaster – 80 minutes
  • London and Hull  – A few minutes over two hours, running via Selby.
  • London and Leeds – A few minutes less than two hours, running on the Classic route.

For comparison High Speed Two is quoting 81 minutes for London Euston and Leeds, via Birmingham and East Midlands Hub.

I suspect that North of Doncaster, improving timings will be more difficult, due to the slower nature of the route, but as services will go between Edinburgh and London in four hours, there must be some improvements to be made.

  • Newcastle – Current time is 170 minutes, with High Speed Two predicting 137 minutes. My best estimate shows that on an improved ECML, times of under 150 minutes should be possible.
  • York – Current time is 111 minutes, with High Speed Two predicting 84 minutes. Based on the Newcastle time, something around 100 minutes should be possible.

In Wikipedia,  Greengauge 21 are quoted as saying.

Upgrading the East Coast Main Line to 140 mph operation as a high priority alongside HS2 and to be delivered without delay. Newcastle London timings across a shorter route could closely match those achievable by HS2.

My estimate shows a gap of thirteen minutes, but they have better data than I can find on the Internet.

Filling Electrification Gaps East Of Leeds And Between Doncaster And Sheffield

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North, I said this.

These are the lines East of Leeds.

  • A connection to the East Coast Main Line for York, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  • An extension Eastwards to Hull.

These would not be the most expensive sub-project, but they would give the following benefits, when they are upgraded.

  • Electric trains between Hull and Leeds.
  • Electric trains between Hull and London.
  • Electric access to Neville Hill Depot from York and the North.
  • An electric diversion route for the East Coast Main Line between York and Doncaster.
  • The ability to run electric trains between London and Newcastle/Edinburgh via Leeds.

Hull and Humberside will be big beneficiaries.

In addition, the direct route between Doncaster and Sheffield should be electrified.

This would allow the following.

  • LNER expresses to run on electricity between London and Sheffield, if they were allowed to run the route.
  • Sheffield’s tram-trains could reach Doncaster and Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

A collateral benefit would be that it would bring 25 KVAC power to Sheffield station.

Better Use Of Trains

LNER are working the trains harder and will be splitting and joining trains, so that only full length trains run into Kings Cross, which will improve capacity..

Capacity might also be increased, if Cambridge, Kings Lynn and Peterborough services were run with 125 mph or even 140 mph trains. GWR is already doing this, to improve efficiency between Paddington and Reading.

Faster Freight Trains

Rail Operations Group has ordered Class 93 locomotives, which are hybrid and capable of hauling some freight trains at 110 mph.

Used creatively, these might create more capacity on the ECML.

Could the East Coast Main Line be the line that keeps on giving?

Especially in the area of providing faster services to Lincoln, Hull, Leeds, Huddersfield,Bradford Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Conclusion On East Coast Main Line

There is a lot of scope to create a high capacity, 140 mph line between London and Edinburgh.

An Upgraded Midland Main Line

Plans already exist to run 125 mph bi-mode Hitachi trains on the Midland Main Line between London and Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.

But could more be done in the short term on this line.

Electrification Between Clay Cross North Junction And Sheffield

This 15.5 mile section of the Midland Main Line will be shared with High Speed Two.

It should be upgraded to High Speed Two standard as soon as possible.

This would surely save a few minutes between London and Sheffield.

140 mph Running

The Hitachi bi-modes are capable of 140 mph,  if the signalling is digital and in-cab.

Digital signalling is used by the Class 700 trains running on Thameslink, so would there be time savings to be made by installing digital signalling on the Midland Main Line, especially as it would allow 140 mph running, if the track was fast enough.

Extension From Sheffield To Leeds Via New Stations At Rotherham And Barnsley

Sheffield and Transport for the North are both keen on this project and it would have the following benefits.

  • Rotherham and Barnsley get direct trains to and from London.
  • A fast service with a frequency of four trains per hour (tph) could run between Leeds and Sheffield in a time of twenty-eight minutes.

This extension will probably go ahead in all circumstances.

Use Of The Erewash Valley Line

The Erewash Valley Line is a route, that connects the Midland Main Line to Chesterfield and Sheffield, by bypassing Derby.

It has recently been upgraded and from my helicopter, it looks that it could be faster than the normal route through Derby and the World Heritage Site of the Derwent Valley Mills.

The World Heritage Site would probably make electrification of the Derby route difficult, but could some Sheffield services use the relatively straight Erewash Valley Line to save time?

Faster Services Between London And Sheffield

When East Midlands Railway receive their new Hitachi bi-mode trains, will the company do what their sister company; Greater Anglia is doing on the London and Norwich route and increase the number of hourly services from two to three?

If that is done, would the third service be a faster one going at speed, along the Erewash Valley Line?

I suspect that it could have a timing of several minutes under two hours.

Conclusion On An Upgraded Midland Main Line

There are various improvements and strategies, that can be employed to turn the Midland Main Line into a High Speed Line serving Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.

West Coast Main Line

The West Coast Main Line is not such a fruitful line for improvement, as is the East Coast Main Line.

Digital signalling, 140 mph running and faster freight trains, may allow a few more trains to be squeezed into the busy main line.

Increasing Capacity Between London and Birmingham New Street

I’ve seen increased capacity between London and Birmingham quoted as one of the reasons for the building of High Speed Two.

Currently, both Virgin Trains and West Midlands Trains, have three tph between London and Birmingham New Street.

  • This is probably not enough capacity.
  • The line between Birmingham New Street and Coventry stations is probably at capacity.

These points probably mean more paths between London and Birmingham are needed.

High Speed Two is planned to provide the following services between London and Birmingham after Phase 2 opens.

  • Three tph – London and Birmingham Curzon Street stations via Old Oak Common and Birmingham Interchange (2 tph)
  • Fourteen tph – London and Birmingham Interchange via Old Oak Common.

That is a massive amount of extra capacity between London and Birmingham.

  • It might be possible to squeeze another train into each hour.
  • Trains could be lengthened.
  • Does Birmingham New Street station have the capacity?

But it doesn’t look like the West Coast Main Line can provide much extra capacity between London and Birmingham.

Increasing Capacity Between London and Liverpool Lime Street

Over the last couple of years, Liverpool Lime Street station has been remodelled and the station will now be able to handle two tph from London, when the timetable is updated in a year or so.

Digital signalling of the West Coast Main Line would help.

Increasing Capacity Between London and Manchester Piccadilly

Manchester Piccadilly station uses two platforms for three Virgin Trains services per hour to and from London.

These platforms could both handle two tph, so the station itself is no barrier to four tph between London and Manchester.

Paths South to London could be a problem, but installing digital signalling on the West Coast Main Line would help.

Conclusion On The West Coast Main Line

Other improvements may be needed, but the major update of the West Coast Main Line, that would help, would be to use digital signalling to squeeze more capacity out of the route.

The Chiltern Main Line

Could the Chiltern Main Line be used to increase capacity between London and Birmingham?

Currently, there are hourly trains between Birmingham Moor Street and Snow Hill stations and London.

As each train has about 420 seats, compared to the proposed 1,100 of the High Speed Two trains, the capacity is fairly small.

Increasing capacity on the route is probably fairly difficult.

Digital Signalling

This could be used to create more paths and allow more trains to run between London and Bitmingham.

Electrification

The route is not electrified, but electrifying the 112 mile route would cause massive disruption.

Capacity At Marylebone Station

Marylebone station probably doesn’t have the capacity for more rains.

Conclusion On The Chiltern Main Line

I don’t think that there is much extra capacity available on the Chiltern Main Line between London and Birmingham.

Conclusion

I have looked at the four main routes that could help make up the shortfall caused by the delay to High Speed Two.

  • Planned improvements to the East Coast Main Line could provide valuable extra capacity to Leeds and East Yorkshire.
  • The Midland Main Line will increase capacity to the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, when it gets new trains in a couple of years.
  • Planned improvements to the West Coast Main Line could provide valuable extra capacity to North West England.
  • The Chiltern Main Line probably has little place to play.

As Birmingham has been planning for High Speed Two to open in 2026, some drastic rethinking must be done to ensure that London and Birmingham have enough rail capacity from that date.

 

 

 

September 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Trenitalia Awarded West Coast Partnership

The title of this post is the same as this article on Railway Gazette.

There is all the usual good things about more seats and services, but little of the plans for the trains except these two paragraphs.

A new fleet of 13 electro-diesel and 10 electric trainsets will be introduced from 2022. These would replace the Bombardier-built Class 221 Super Voyager tilting DEMUs used by Virgin Trains, which will get an intermediate ‘refresh’ by the end of 2020. The new bimode units would be used on services between London and North Wales, while the electric sets would provide capacity for the additional services to Liverpool. Eliminating diesel operation on the electrified sections of the route is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 61%

First Trenitalia will invest £117m to refurbish the current fleet of 56 Alstom Class 390 Pendolino trainsets, providing ‘more comfortable’ standard class seats and additional luggage space, along with improved passenger information systems and enhanced toilets. More than £70m has been committed to providing free on train wi-fi and 5G capability.

This is all to be expected, as the replacement of the Class 221 trains has been indicated and the Pendelinos or Class 390 trains are now 

I will look at what this train order means.

West Coast Rail

There is now a Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail, which will be the operating name of the new company.

The New Fleet

West Coast Rail are introducing a new fleet of thirteen electro-diesel and ten electric trains will be introduced from 2022.

I would suspect the following.

  • Both types of trains will be the same length and will appear identical.
  • Performance of both types of train will be identical.
  • Electro-diesel trains can probably stand in for the electric versions.
  • The trains could be faster, have better acceleration and braking and be able to make faster station stops, than the current Class 390 trains.
  • The trains will be ready for digital signalling.

Hitachi must be the front-runner to supply the trains, as they have sold lots of trains to First Group and some of the trains are built in Italy.

The lengths and seating capacity of the various trains are as follows.

  • Nine-car Pendelino – 217.5 metres  with 469 seats.
  • Elrven-car Pendelino – 265.3 metres  with 589 seats.
  • LNER Nine-car Class 801 – 234 metres with 637 seats

Note

  1. The Hitachi Class 801 train is only seventeen metres longer than a nine-car Pendelino, but has 36% more seats.
  2. The Class 801 train is also shorter than an eleven-car Pendelino, but has 8% more seats.

From personal experience, the LNER Class 801 trains appear less cramped than a Pendelino.

London and Liverpool Services

I will look at the direct Virgin services between Euston and Liverpool Lime Street stations

  • Northbound trains leave at XX:07 and take two hours and 12-14 minutes for the journey.
  • Trains wait for 26-28 minutes in the platform at Liverpool Lime Street station.
  • Sorthbound trains leave at XX:47 and take two hours and 12-16 minutes for the journey.
  • Trains wait for 4-8 minutes in the platform at Euston station.

It looks to me, that Virgin are using the platform at Lime Street station to balance the service. It does mean that trains probably keep more reliably to the timetable, but it hogs the platform at Liverpool Lime Street

The round trip time is five hours, so for an hourly service five trains are needed.

This frequency could need a second platform at Liverpool Lime Street station, but the station has now been remodelled and at least one extra platform has been added.

A second train to Liverpool in an hour, will need another five trains or a total of ten trains.

So does this mean that Euston and Liverpool service gets a dedicated fleet of new trains?

  • Liverpool Lime Street station used to have length issues, so are the trains the maximum length for the station.
  • Will the trains have better performance that the Pendelinos?
  • Will the trains be able to run at 140 mph on in-cab signalling?
  • The current journey times, probably date from before Norton Bridge Junction was improved.
  • The current journey time is two hours and twelve minutes.

A new timetable is coming in December 2022! Will this timetable and the new trains and improvements enable a Euston and Liverpool round trip of four hours?

This would mean.

  • A time between London and Liverpool of around one hour and fifty minutes, with a ten minute turnround time.
  • Two tph would need just eight trains, or only three more trains than the present.hourly service.
  • A clockface timetable.
  • A more than doubling of capacity between London and Liverpool.
  • It might also be possible to run all services into the same platforms at both ends of the route!

If the last point is is correct, West Coast Rail will need one less platform at both Euston and Liverpool Lime Street stations. It should be noted that platform space at Euston is at a premium.

It would also mean that passengers will always go to the same platform at Euston and Lime Street, so this should reduce the scrum at Euston.

Will All The New Electric Trains Be Assigned To London And Liverpool Services?

The new electric trains will probably be faster, have better acceleration and shorter station dwell times than the Pendelinos, so will be able to go between London and Liverpool in a shorter time.

  • In a mixed fleet of new trains and Pendelinos, some trains would be slower.
  • The new trains have more capacity than the Pendelinos.
  • If a Pendelino had to replace a new electric train, it would most likely be late and would cause problems for the booking system.
  • A mixed fleet on a route, would probably increase the cost of staff and their training.
  • If eight trains are needed for the two tph service, a fleet of ten new trains would allow for one in maintenance and a spare.

For these reasons, I feel that the London and Liverpool services will get the whole fleet of new electric trains, thus releasing the five current bog-standard Pendelinos  on the route, to strength other services.

London and Manchester Services

If the London and Liverpool services could be speeded up, I suspect that the same could happen to London and Manchester services.

  • At the present time trains can do the round trip in four hours and forty minutes, so fourteen trains are needed for the current three tph.
  • The current Class 390 trains are probably capable of doing a round trip in four hours and thirty minutes, but this doesn’t fit a three tph timetable very well.
  • But it does fit a four tph service and it would need eighteen trains to run the service.
  • Manchester would get a thirty-three percent increase in capacity to and from London.

So if the five Class 390 trains released by the new trains on London and Liverpool services are moved to London and Manchester services, these services can be increased to four tph.

There is nothing to say it will happen, but it is pathetically possible and West Coast Rail will have enough Class 390 trains.

The addition of a fourth service will be driven by passenger numbers and perhaps a need to introduce a better service to and from the intermediate stops of Milton Keynes Central, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Macclesfield, Wilmslow and Stockport

London And Blackpool Services

Currently, Virgin Trains run four trains per day between Euston and Blackpool North stations, with  two Class 390 trains used for the service.

The Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail, says that some of the new trains will be used on the Blackpool service.

This may happen, but the new trains will certainly release some Class 390 trains from the London and Liverpool service to reinforce the Blackpool service.

Alternatively, better performance of the new trains, may enable two trains on the Blackpool route to run to a much more passenger-friendly timetable.

London And Birmingham Services

The Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail, says that some of the new trains will be used on the Birmingham service.

I can’t see this happening, although all current diesel services, through Birmingham will be replaced by Class 390 trains or the new bi-mode trains.

Class 221 Train Replacement

The Railway Gazette article says this about the replacement of theClass 221 trains.

These would replace the Bombardier-built Class 221 Super Voyager tilting DEMUs used by Virgin Trains, which will get an intermediate ‘refresh’ by the end of 2020. The new bimode units would be used on services between London and North Wales. Eliminating diesel operation on the electrified sections of the route is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 61%.

Currently, there are twenty Class 221 trains.

  • They are five-car trains
  • They are 116 metres long
  • They can operate at 125 mph
  • They have a tilting capability.

These paragraphs from Wikipedia describe their Operation.

Virgin Trains (West Coast) uses the Class 221 units primarily from London Euston to Scotland via Birmingham New Street (despite the route being electrified throughout) and, from London Euston to Shrewsbury and, London Euston to Chester and North Wales. They are also used by a few London Euston to West Midland services.

The trains to and from Scotland often operate as double units and alternate between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley (in turn alternating with TransPennine Express trains to and from Manchester Airport). When longer trains are needed for some of the busier services, a Pendolino will run through from and to London Euston, and the Super Voyager then fills in for it on the London to West Midlands route.

The trains on the North Wales route sometimes operate as double units. They run from London Euston and Chester and terminate at any of Chester, Holyhead, Bangor or Wrexham.

Note that they normally run as double units, which are 232 metres long.

As a nine-car Hitachi Class 800/801/802 train is 234 metres long, they would probably be able to call at any station, where a pair of Class 221 trains can operate.

If the trains are always assumed to run in pairs, then this means that there are ten operational ten-car trains.

So it looks like West Coast Rail will be ordering three additional bi-mode trains, as cover or to develop new routes.

London And Chester Services

I doubt there will be a major improvement in train timings between Euston and Chester, unless the new trains will be able to run at 140 mph using in-cab signalling between Euston and Crewe on the West Coast Main Line.

I also think, that as the new trains will be bi-modes and will run between Euston and Crewe using the electrification, that the chances of electrifying between Crewe and Chester will have decreased.

Extra Services

The Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail does give some details on extra services under Services.

Conclusion

With some rigorous mathematics and the addition of ten new electric trains, I believe West Coast Rail will be able to offer the following improved services.

  • London and Liverpool – two tph in perhaps one hour and fifty minutes.
  • London and Manchester – four tph in under two hours.

Will there be any other service improvements on this scale?

 

August 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 7 Comments

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 | , , , , , | 5 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

Grayling: No Solution To Oxford Road Woes

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Place North West.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said there is no “simple, quick, non-disruptive solution” to improving journeys on one of the most congested rail routes in and out of Manchester, arguing the cost of the original scheme was “way out of kilter”.

Plans to extend platforms at Oxford Road station have been mooted for a number of years, and were designed to take advantage of the completion of the Ordsall Chord to allow more frequent trains between Piccadilly, Victoria, and beyond.

The more I read about the problems of the Castlefield corridor through Manchester, the more I’m coming to the conclusion, that British Rail’s three tunnel scheme for the North was the right solution.

Liverpool

Liverpool got the Loop And Link Project, which is described like this in Wikipedia.

The major engineering works required to integrate the Northern and Wirral lines became known as the ‘Loop’ and ‘Link’ Project. The ‘Loop’ was the Wirral Line tunnel and the ‘Link’ the Northern Line tunnel, both under Liverpool’s city centre. The main works were undertaken between 1972 and 1977. A further project, known as the Edge Hill Spur, would have integrated the City Lines into the city centre underground network. This would have meshed the eastern section of the city into the core underground electric city centre section of the network, releasing platforms at mainline Lime Street station for mid to long haul routes.

The Edge Hill Spur was never built and if it had, it may have created the extra capacity, that Liverpool Lime Street station has now finally got, but several years ago.

Liverpool’s Underground railways are getting a new fleet of Class 777 trains and will be expanded in the next few years.

British Rail’s scheme for Liverpool has been successful.

Although, I am surprised that the layout of a single-track loop tunnel, that is used to terminate the Wirral Line, has not been copied more.

Newcastle

Newcastle got tunnels under the city, to join up the Tyne and Wear Metro in the late 1970s.

The Metro is now getting a new fleet of trains and will be further expanded.

British Rail’s scheme for Newcastle has been successful.

Manchester

Manchester had a scheme in the pipeline called the Picc-Vic Tunnel.

This Proposal section in Wikipedia gives a full description of the project. This is the first paragraph.

The South-East Lancashire and North-East Cheshire Public Transport Executive (SELNEC PTE) – the local transport authority which became the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) in 1974 (now Transport for Greater Manchester – TfGM) – made a proposal in 1971 to connect the unjoined railways running through Manchester city centre under the Picc-Vic scheme. The Picc-Vic proposal envisaged joining the two halves of the rail network by constructing new tunnels under the city centre, connecting Manchester’s two main railway stations, Piccadilly and Victoria. This new underground railway would be served by three new underground stations, joining together the regional, national and local rail networks with an underground rapid transit system for Manchester.

It also gives these three objectives for the scheme.

  • To improve the distribution arrangements from the existing railway stations which are on the periphery of the central core
  • To link the separated northern and southern railway systems
  • To improve passenger movement within the central area.

This is also said.

It formed part of a four-phase, Long Term Strategy for GMPTE over 25 years, which included bus priority and an East-West railway network, as well as a light rapid transport system.

The scheme was cancelled by Harold Wilson’s government, partly because he believed that railways were of the past and that everybody would be able to afford their own car and wouldn’t need to use trains.

It should also be remembered that his government also cancelled the Channel Tunnel and London’s Third Airport at Maplin.

It’s funny, but I thought, I’d used the Channel Tunnel several times. Perhaps, Harold Wilson didn’t get his out-of-kilter thinking sufficiently into the minds of Civil Servants. Although, there is still the Treasury’s periodic attempts to kill High Speed Two. But that is driven by the belief of the average Oxford graduate, that there is nothing worth visiting North of Watford.

The Picc-Vic Tunnel may not have completely solved Manchester’s rail connectivity, but it is my belief that it would have been a good start.

A Few Random Thoughts

These are a few random thoughts on the various schemes in Manchester.

Development of Piccadilly And Victoria After A Picc-Vic Tunnel

One of the reasons for cancellation, was that after the building of the tunnel, two large stations would still be maintained in the City.

Looking at various schemes across Europe including Kassel and Leipzig in Germany, where central tunnels have been built, this releases the terminals for development with smaller numbers of platforms.

I think if the Picc-Vic Tunnel had been built, then Piccadilly and Victoria might have morphed into combined through and terminal station like the excellent London Bridge. The released space at Piccadilly would have allowed High Speed Two to be integrated.

But of course, the elite in the Civil Service isn’t interested in High Speed Trains, except on their holidays in France.

TransPennines New Trains

Greater Anglia needed to have new rolling stock for services between London and Norwich.

They needed trains with following.

  1. 100 mph running
  2. Eight coaches
  3. Powerful traction
  4. Short station dwell times.
  5. High quality.

So they ordered a fleet of new Class 745 trains.

  • 100 mph running
  • Twelve coaches
  • Walk-through trains
  • 757 seats
  • Double doors for easy entry and exit.

It’s also rumoured that platform height will be adjusted so that that buggy-pushers and wheelchair-users will have level access between train and platform at all stations.

  • If you want to do Norwich-in-90 for all trains, then a short station dwell time is essential.
  • It also means if passenger numbers need another station to be added to a route, the extra stop only blows a small hole in the schedule, as opposed to a large one for a train of Mark 3 coaches.
  • I have a feeling Greater Anglia are aiming to send all their disabled ramps to the scrapyard.

So what trains have TransPennine ordered?

AQll these trains will have single-doors at both end of each car. That’s classic crap design!

It will be interesting to see the average dwell time of a train on the Castlefield Corridor and compare it with that of Class 745 trains calling at Ipswich, Colchester and Chelmsford.

My money’s on Swiss clockwork!

Northern’s New Trains

Northern’s new Class 195 and Class 331 trains appear to have two sets of double-doors on each side of each car.

Now that’s more like it!

Improving Throughput On The Castlefield Corridor

If you look at successful high-capacity lines with a lot of stopping trains like most lines on the London Underground, Thameslink the Tyne and Wear Metro and the Merseyrail Northern Line, all trains are the same.

One of the problems with the trains through Castlefield, is that there are a lot of diffeent trains. So doors on your train may be in a different position to those on the previous train.

This means that passengers will be more likely to be in the wrong place, which means loading takes longer.

It is probably too much to get identical trains running on the route, but TransPennine’s trains with end doors will make matters worse for capacity.

I don’t think, any train should be allowed on the route, unless it has two sets of double-doors on each side of all cars.

The route should also have digital signalling.

If the North London Line can handle eight passenger and two freight trains per hour, then surely the Castlefield Corridor can do the same.

Passenger Behaviour

I was chatting to a station guy on Platform 14 at Piccadilly, who had also worked on the London Underground.

He told me, that Londoners obey his instructions to stand-back, whereas Mancunians don’t!

I watched for about twenty minutes and I think because the trains are rather bad time keepers, when one arrives everybody wants to get on immediately.

Single doors on TransPennine’s trains will make this behaviour worse!

Conclusion

I think Chris Grayling mades a good summary of the problems of doing major work on a busy passenger and freight corridor through a major city.

The only way to deal with the problems of the Castlefield Corridor, is a series of small improvements to the existing system.

  • All trains through the corridor must have two double-doors on each side of each car.
  • Digital signalling must be installed.
  • Platform access must be improved with lots of lifts and escalators.

I also feel that if the trains were running to the timetable, then passengers wouldn’t crowd the platforms.

 

 

 

May 22, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Building New City-Centre Lines Instead Of Using Existing Network Inflates HS2 Cost By 15%

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

This is the first paragraph.

HS2’s second phase will cost more compared to similar overseas schemes because it relies on new dedicated high-speed lines into city-centre terminal stations at Manchester and Leeds rather than using the existing conventional railway.

As the review of the costs of HS2, that showed this, was done by PwC, I suspect the figures can be believed.

Over the last few years, we’ve redeveloped or extended several busy stations like Derby, Kings Cross, Liverpool Lime |Street, London Bridge, Manchester Victoria, Nottingham, Reading and St. Pancras.

I like Reading and London Bridge the best, as the large concourse crossing either over or under the tracks with lots of escalators and lifts, seems to work well  Liverpool Lime Street with a wide concourse at one end, seems to work well for a terminal station.

But St. Pancras is a mess for passengers and staff alike with effectively four stations in one one Victorian building.

It would have been better, if the station had been flattered and a new one built.

This approach is being taken at that 1960s monstrosity; Euston, which is being extended for HS2.

The four Northern stations in Phase 2 of HS2 are being treated differently.

  • Leeds is getting a dedicated approach to new platforms at right angles to the existing ones.
  • Liverpool Lime Street uses the existing approach and platforms have been extended for the new HS2 trains.
  • Manchester Piccadilly is getting a dedicated approach to new platforms alongside the existing ones.
  • Sheffield uses the existing approach and platforms will be extended for the new HS2 trains.

Liverpool Lime Street is already HS2-ready and can handle at least two normal expresses and one HS2 train in an hour.

The works were completed in a six-month blockade in the Summer of 2018.

I suspect Sheffield will be made HS2-ready, in a similar way.

Conclusion

Obviously, every station is different.

But Liverpool Lime Street has shown how it is possible to find an affordable, less disruptive approach to some stations.

 

November 15, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

New Safety Issue Emerges: LNER Azumas Put On Hold

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in Edition 863 of Rail Magazine.

One reason is that when running North of York, there is electro-magnetic interference with the signalling in electric mode.

But the other is that the inter-vehicle connectors could be used to climb on the roof. Apparently a man.of very little brain was killed, when he climbed on the roof of a Class 390 train at Manchester Piccadilly using that trains similar connectors.

Perhaps everybody who goes within fifty metres of a railway should have to see a psychiatrist first and be given a certificate. And that would be necessary for driving across a level crossing!

October 11, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments