The Anonymous Widower

Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – How To Plan A New Rail-Link

Skelmersdale is the second largest town in the North West of |England without a railway station.

But it does appear that things are progressing towards the town having what is probably a much-needed station.

This article in the Southport Visiter is entitled Funding boost for new rail link to Skelmersdale.

Reading the article, you get the impression that all the stakeholders have got together and come up with a sensible plan.

The Route

The article says this about the route.

The plan would see Merseyrail services extended on from the current terminus at Kirkby station to serve Headbolt Lane, Rainford and Skelmersdale. Skelmersdale would become the new interchange for Merseyrail, and Northern Services on to Wigan and Manchester.

This would seem to be a well-thought out plan to use Skelmersdale as an interchange.

This Google Map shows the Southern part of Skelmersdale and the railway that runs through Rainford and Upholland stations.

Note.

  1. The town centre of Skelmersdale is the Concourse, which is marked by the town’s name in the top-centre of the map.
  2. The Kirkby Branch Line runs across the map.
  3. Rainford station is in the South-West corner of the map.
  4. Upholland station is on the left-centre of the map.
  5. Kirkby station and the new Headbolt Lane station would be West of Rainford station on the existing line which is single track.
  6. The track from Rainford through Upholland and to the East is double-track.

It looks like a triangular junction would be created East of Rainford, that would allow trains from both the East (Upholland, Wigan and Manchester) and trains from the West (Kirkby and Liverpool) to turn to the North to a station in Skelmersdale.

Looking at the area in more detail from my virtual helicopter, I’m certain that  a station could be placed close to the town centre with the capability of handling four trains per hour from both Liverpool and Manchester.

The station would probably need two platforms; one for Liverpool and one for Manchester.

There would be various possibilities for the track layout between the station and the existing Kirkby Branch Line.

In the simplest form, each platform would have an independent single track, which would allow trains from both Liverpool and Manchester to arrive and depart from Skelmersdale simultaneously.

I would also arrange the two platforms as opposite faces of a shared island platform.

This would mean the following.

  • Trains from Liverpool and Manchester would arrive at the same time.
  • Trains to Liverpool and Manchester would depart a few minutes later at the same time.
  • Passengers needing to change at the station would only have to walk across the platform and wait for the other train to leave.
  • A coffee kiosk and a shop could be positioned on the shared platform.

The Northern end of the platform could be open and passengers could walk straight into the Shopping Centre or to the parking.

It would not only be passenger-friendly, but totally step-free and very affordable.

The only restriction would be that trains must be able to do the following in under fifteen minutes.

  1. Travel from the Kirkby Branch Line to Skelmersdale station.
  2. Turnback the train at Skelmersdale.
  3. Travel from Skelmersdale station to the Kirkby Branch Line.

I have said fifteen minutes, as that would be needed for four trains per hour.

This might not be possible with the current Class 508 and Class 142 trains, unless they were extremely well driven, but Merseyrail’s new Stadler trains and Northern’s 100 mph Class 319 trains, would probably be able to handle the service.

It would be a unique way to serve a town like Skelmersdale, which is a few miles from a double-track line.

The only complicated track-work needed would be where the branch joined the Kirkby Branch Line.

Electrification

Merseyrail’s network is electrified using 750 VDC third-rail, whereas if the line to Manchester were to be electrified it would probably use 25 KVAC overhead wires, as has been used all over North-West England.

Keeping the two lines independent would enable each to have its own system. This layout has been used between Dalston Junction and Highbury and Islington stations on the London Overground and it has worked successfully for over seven years.

The article in the Southport Visiter also says this.

Merseyrail’s new trains will be running on the existing network from 2020, and trials to run them beyond the existing electrified ‘third rail’ track could help inform the scope of the Skelmersdale scheme, potentially meaning that major changes to install electrified track wouldn’t be needed. Developments in Northern trains over the next few years could also remove the requirement for lineside infrastructure and power connections as part of the project.

In Battery EMUs For Merseyrail, I talked about how Stadler were going to fit batteries to two of the new Merseyyrail trains.

I’m sure that if the third-rail electrification was extended from Kirkby to Rainford, that one of the new Stadler trains will be able to reach Skelmersdale and return.

The Stadler trains might even be able to travel from the existing electrification at Kirkby to Skelmersdale and back.

Northern could run the service between Skelmersdale and Manchester, using their new Class 769 trains, which can operate on lines with or without electrification.

This could mean that the link to Skelmersdale station could be built without electrification.

Kirkby Station

Kirkby station would only need minor rebuilding as it is effectively a single long platform, where Liverpool and Manchester trains meet head-on.

The barrier in the middle of the single-track under the bridge would need removing and there would be some moving of signals, but nothing very expensive would be needed.

Headbolt Lane Station

Headbolt Lane station would be another single platform station, which would serve trains going between Liverpool and Skelmersdale.

Rainford Station

Rainford station wouldn’t need any modification, but it might be reduced to a single step-free platform.

A Co-Operative Project

The article in the Southport Visiter says this.

The Skelmersdale Project is led by Lancashire County Council, involving Merseytravel, West Lancashire Borough Council, Merseyrail, Northern Rail and Network Rail.

This must be the key to the success of the project.

The Cost Of The Project

The article in the Southport Visiter says that the current estimate of the project cost is £300 million.

These actions will need to be done.

  • Create the track to connect Skelmersdale station to the Kirkby Branch Line.
  • Build a shared double-platform station at Skelmersdale.
  • Build a single-platform station at Headbolt Lane.
  • Upgrade the signalling.
  • Deliver the new Stadler trains and ascertain their range on batteries.
  • Northern must acquire some trains for Skelmersdale to Manchester.

It looks to me, that a budget of £300 million would be adequate.

Building The Project

The major work would be creating the junction East of Rainford station and the route to Skelmerrsdale and its new station.

If it could be built without any major electrification, it shouldn’t be the most difficult of construction projects.

Headbolt Lane station could be built as a single platform alongside the existing line.

It looks to me, that this is a classic project that fits into Network Rail’s new philosophy as outlined in this article in Rail echnology Magazine, which is entitled Carne: I’m determined for private sector to directly invest in railway.

Conclusion

It is an excellent plan!

 

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 5 Comments

London Businesses Endorse Calls For ‘Crossrail for the North’

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

This is said.

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

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

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

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

Some typical journeys between Liverpool and Leeds.

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

And across London from Ealing Broadway to Stratford

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

I would read the following into these figures.

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

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

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

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

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

When the following are done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How A Sketch On A Piece Of Paper Became An £85m Rail Bridge

The title of this post is the same as an article on inews, which describes the design process for the bridge over the Irwell in Manchester, which is the centrepiece of the Ordsall Chord.

It is a fascinating insight into the design of what could become Manchester’s new icon.

August 17, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Does Northern See Wigan As A Class 769 Train Hub?

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

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

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

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

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

Liverpool to Wigan

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

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

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

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

Consider.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manchester to Wigan North Western via Bolton

This is the other route mentioned in Wikipedia.

Consider.

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

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

Manchester to Southport

Why was this route not mentioned?

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

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

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

The Future

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

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

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

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

TransPennine Electrification And Piccadilly Upgrade Now Also In Doubt

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

A Digression About The Next Generation Of Trains

After digging through the various pages on Hitachi’s web site, I wrote Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?.

My conclusion was this.

I will be very surprised if Class 800/801/802 trains don’t have batteries.

Will the Class 385 trains for ScotRail have similar traction system?

But having thought about it more, I’m now convinced that by 2030, the average long distance train will have the following characteristics.

  • Ability to work from 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Ability if required to work from 750 VDC third rail.
  • Ability to raise and lower pantograph and switch beween modes at line speed.
  • Batteries to handle regenerative braking.
  • A generator unit to power the train.
  • A sophisticated control system to choose the appropriate power source and drive the train according to terrain, passenger load, weather and traffic.

The more I read about Hitachi’s Class 800, Class 801 and Class 802 trains, the more I’m convinced that the features I have listed, is their ultimate goal. I suspect too, that the suburban Class 385 train has the capability of meeting the same objectives.

I would be very surprised if Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, Siemens, Stadler and others are not thinking along the same lines, as this document from Hitachi entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme has been freely available since 2014.

It contains this diagram of the traction system of a Class 800 train.

Note the generator unit and the battery charger.

I’ve ridden the new Class 345 trains for Crossrail, a few times and after a trip yesterday in the gold-standard train;a 1970s  British Rail Mark 3 coach, I can honestly say that the ride, noise and vibration in ombardier’s new train, is the best I’ve ridden.

So are Bombardier using a new traction system to achieve this smoothness? I suspect they are.

I also can’t find anything to say how a train will be removed from the tunnel under London, in the event of a complete power failure. No sane engineer would allow a rescue involving diesel or hydrogen in an emergency. However, batteries on the train with the capability of getting passengers to a safe disembarking point would be an obvious solution..

TransPennine Electrification

The major rail route across the Pennines between Leeds and Manchester is the Huddersfield Line.

The following stations are open on the route.

The stations marked with asterisks (*) have electrification or will do soon.

Note the following about the route.

  • Stalybridge to Leeds is under forty miles by road, so it could be even shorter by rail.
  • Huddersfield station is one of a select group of Grade I Listed railway stations..
  • Greater Manchester is developing a suburban electric network.
  • Greenfield is the last station in Greater Manchester towards Leeds.
  • Leeds is developing a suburban electric network.
  • Cottingley is the last station in Leeds towards Manchester.
  • Currently, trains from Manchester Piccadilly to Leeds can take a diferent route to Stalybridge, that is electrified as far as Guide Bridge station.
  • I counted four tunnels, including Standedge tunnel, and over twenty bridges between Stalybridge and Huddersfield.
  • Electrification of this section, would probably mean closure for at least a year.
  • Between Huddersfield and Leeds the electrification would be a lot easier with about fifteen bridges and  Morley tunnel.

My philosophy for this route would be as follows.

  1. Electrification would not go anywhere near Huddersfield, as the heritage lobby and their lawyers would have a field day.
  2. Standedge and Morley tunnels are over 2,000 metres long, double track and Standedge is level. If they needed refurbishment in the future, perhaps they could be electrified with an overhead rail, so that bi-modes could have a couple of miles of electricity.
  3. Electrification might be extended at the Manchester and Leeds ends of the line, so that the two cities could improve their local suburban electric networks.
  4. An alternative would be that the Leeds and Manchester suburban electric networks were provided with a few Class 769 trains or even some brand new four-car bi-modes.
  5. Services between Leeds and Manchester would be run by fast bi-modes.

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

The money saved on the electrification would be spent on improving track and stations.

Currently the fastest journeys between Manchester and Leeds take just under fifty minutes.

What time could a Class 802 train achieve if the following were done.

  • Manchester to Stalybridge is fully electrified.
  • Some extra electrification was installed at Leeds.
  • The track is improved.

My money would be on thirty-five minutes.

Manchester Piccadilly Upgrade

I hate using the isolated island Platforms 13 and 14 at Manchester Piccadilly station.

They are just too crowded and the steps and escalators down to the platform aren’t well-designed.

The Frequency Of Trains Through Platforms 13/14

The two platforms can be considered equivalent to these busy two-platform stations.

All of these stations handle more trains than Plstforms 13./14 at Manchester Piccadilly.

Provided the signalling can handle it, it should be possible to schedule more trains through these two platforms.

One piece of information I viewed seemed to show that some services terminate in these two platforms. Surely, that is a way to reduce capacity.

Ordsall Chord And Class 769 Train Implications

The Ordsall Chord should change the pattern of trains, when it opens later this year.

The main implication will be that cross-city services can be developed.

The new Class 769 trains will help too, in that current diesel and electric services can be run using one type of train across the city.

A simple example would be Buxton to Blackburn.

These services release platform space in Manchester Piccadilly and other stations, which can be used for new services.

Access To Platforms 13/14

I’ve felt for some time, that if the access to the platform was better designed that a lot of the problems could be reduced.

I sometimes wonder, if when people see that their train is leaving from Platform 13 or 14, that they go there immediately and instead of waiting upstairs in the lounge, they descend to the platform.

When the Ordsall Chord is opened, because of the pattern of services passengers will sometimes change at one of the string of stations on the line.

Perhaps Oxford Road or Deansgate should be designated the preferred interchange station and fixed up with wider platforms, various kiosks and a waiting room to encourage passengers to change away from Piccadilly.

This Google Map shows Oxford Road station.

Oxford Road certainly seems to have space for passengers to use it as an exchange, when crossing the city.

But does Oxford Road have a stop on the Metrolink?

This Google Map shows Deansgate station.

 

Deansgate doesn’t seem to have the space of Oxford Road. But it does have a good connection to the Metrolink.

The Forgotten Salford Stations

The other stations that could help are the two forgotten Salford stations; Salford Crescent and Salford Central.

This Google Map shows Salford Crescent station.

I believe that this station is going to get more platforms. Could it become a sort of triage station, where passengers from the North of Greater Manchester changed for.

  • Trains for Manchester Victoria station.
  • Trains for Manchester Piccadilly station.
  • Metrolink to the city centre.

Surely, space could be found to run trams along Broad Street.

It would also look to be a station, where there is considerable scope to put housing or commercial developments above the station.

This Google Map shows Salford Central station.

With a bit of thinking Salford Central must have interchange possibilities.

But as with Salford Crescent, this station doesn’t have a Metrolink connection.

The Wikipedia entry for Salford Central has a section called Future Development. This is said.

A Network Rail report suggests building platforms on the line to Liverpool (via Newton-le-Willows), the lines of which run through the station but are not provided with platforms. This scheme has since been adopted by Transport for Greater Manchester and included in their Capital Works Programme for 2015–16 to 2020–21. This will see three additional platforms built, at a cost of £20.5 million and will allow Liverpool, Chester & Manchester Airport-bound trains (using the Ordsall Chord) to call here.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Conclusion About Manchester Piccadilly Upgrade

I am inevitably drawn to the following conclusions about the upgrade to Manchester Piccadilly.

The Ordsall Chord and the new electric services offered by the bi-mode trains will create a duckers-and-divers network across Manchester City Centre.

The following should be done.

  • Access to Platforms 13/14 at Manchester Piccadilly should be greatly improved.
  • Deansgate, Oxford Road, Salford Central and Salford Crescent should be improved with extra platforms, same- and cross-platform interchange.
  • The Metrolink should be extended to both Salford stations.
  • Greater Manchester should adopt a ticketing system based on bank cards to encourage use of the transport network.

Perhaps Mancunians need to be taught to duck-and-dive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Capacity Crunch At Chester – Mid-Cheshire Line

The Capacity Crunch At Chester article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has a section about the Mid-Cheshire Line.

The section opens with this paragraph.

Trains on the Mid-Cheshire Line, from Chester to Manchester via Stockport and Altrincham, provide interchange with Manchester Metrolink at Altrincham, but the average speed from Chester to Altrincham is 30 mph, which again is uncompetitive with car journey times.

Despite this and only an hourly service, Knutford station has in a footfall in excess of 500,000.

There are other problems.

  • The train timetable is not commuter-friendly to Chester.
  • Connections to and from London are bad at Chester.
  • Sunday services are two-hourly.

But Network Rail are on the case and are lengthening platforms, so frequencies can be increased.

Manchester Airport Western Link

The Wikipedia entry for the Mid-Cheshire Line talks about a western link to Manchjester Airport, which would start from near Mobberley.

Conclusion

Upgrading the Mid-Cheshire Line and Sandbach To Northwich must have possibilities.

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

F*** You, I’m Millwall

This is an extract from a piece on the responses to the London Bridge Attack in The Times.

Roy Larner, the football fan, who took on the attackers at Black and Blue, has told how he shouted, “F*** you, I’m Millwall” in response to their shouts of “Islam, Islam, Islam”. H received knife wounds to the head, chest and hands, but continued to fight, while other customers sought shelter.

“He kept slashing and hacking away at me,” he told The Sun. “They were stabbing and slashing at me as I waved my arms for 20 or 30 seconds.” More than 4,000 supporters have now signed a petition for Mr. Larner, 47, to be awarded the George Cross.

I do think, that there should be a few awards handing out after the two attacks in London and the one in Manchester.

June 8, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

By Rail Between Derby And Manchester via Sheffield

In his article entitled Connecting The Powerhouses in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, Colin Boocock, says that the one rail route between Derby and Manchester, is to go via Sheffield.

There is one train an hour that takes one hour 38 minutes with a change at Sheffield. The two legs appear to take 33 and 52 minutes respectively with a thirteen minute wait at Sheffield station, which is a well-equipped station.

Change the destination to Manchester Airport and it’s still one train an hour and the journey takes two minutes over two hours.

Incidentally, the fastest trains to Manchester and Manchester Airport via Sheffield seem to be the same trains.

Improving the times on this route will not be easy.

  • Stops are minimal at only Chesterfield, Stockport, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport.
  • The service uses the 90 mph Hope Valley Line between Sheffield and Manchester.
  • The only electrification is between Stockport and Manchester Airport.
  • Electrification from Sheffield to Stockport on the Hope Valley Line will be difficult because of the terrain and the countryside lobby.
  • Electrification from Derby to Sheffield will be difficult, as the line goes through a World Heritage Site.

The closure of the electrified Woodhead Line to passenger traffic in 1970, with the benefit of hindsight, now looks to be a crass decision of the highest order. I assume that, the great friend of the railways; Harold Wilson was in charge!

Conclusions

Going between Derby and Manchester by rail is a practical proposition, but it is a route, which would be difficult to improve.

 

June 3, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

A New Name For The Ordsall Chord

I must admit that as a Londoner and someone, who doesn’t know Manchester well, Ordsall Chord doesn’t have a name that suggests Manchester, its history and the many good things about the City.

After the tragic event of last week, surely, the locally-built massive steel bridge across the Irwell, should be dedicated to those who died and were hurt and given a name to reflect on Manchester’s past and present.

I would suggest something simple like the Mancunian Chord.

 

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 5 Comments

Metro Development With Flex Trains

The June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways gave a few more details of the Class 319 Flex trains, that are being created for Northern.

  • The trains now have their own TOPS-number of 769, which must be a seal of approval.
  • Northern have ordered eight Class 319 Flex trains as part of or in addition to a fleet of thirty-two Class 319 trains.
  • These eight trains will be delivered by the end of May 2018.
  • A Class 319 Flex train can be produced every two weeks.

It is also likely, that by the end of this year, Network Rail will have completed the following.

  • The Ordsall Chord connecting Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly stations.
  • Electrification between Manchester and Preston.
  • Electrification from Preston to Blackpool North station.
  • Electrification from Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge.

This will mean electric trains like the Class 319 train and bi-mode trains like the Class 319 Flex train, can go between Hazel Grove, Manchester Airport and Stockport to Blackpool North, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Victoria, Preston and Wigan North Western.

The Class 319 Flex trains using their diesel power will also be able to extend the electric network to Blackburn, Blackpool South, Burnley Manchester Road, Clitheroe, Southport, Stalybridge, Wigan Wallgate and Windermere, without any additional electrification.

There will be benefits for passengers.

  • The Class 319 trains and Class 319 Flex trains will be faster and journey times will be shorter.
  • Services run by elderly two-car trains will now be run by refurbished four-car trains.
  • Most journeys across Manchester will be continuous or with a single same-platform change at a convenient station.

How will various routes be affected?

Cross-Manchester Travel

Cross-City lines revolutionise city travel and the Ordsall Chord will do the same for Manchester.

This map from Wikipedia shows the location of the Ordsall Chord and how it is connected to exotic places like  Bolton, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester Airport, Stockport and Warrington.

Mancunians will have to learn how to use the link, but they won’t take long to do that!

You may be lucky and your journey will be available from your local station.

But if it requires a change, you will probably take a train to the central core stations of Victoria, Deansgate, Oxford Road or Piccadilly and change for your ultimate destination.

  • For many changes, you will just get off one train, wait on the platform for a few minutes and then board another train.
  • Some stations will be better interchanges than others.
  • Platforms 13 and 14 at Piccadilly may be crowded, but they are at least an island platform allowing a change of direction.
  • Platforms at Deansgate and Oxford Road may need widening.
  • Other stations like Salford Crescent and Salford Central will also get used as interchanges.

If there is one problem with the Ordsall Chord, it is the name.

Perhaps it should be called the Mancunian Chord?

Collateral Benefits Of The Ordsall Chord

The nearest railway line in concept to the Ordsall Chord is probably Thameslink in London.

  • As Thameslink has developed, it has not only provided a high-capacity North-South route across London, but it has also taken the pressure from main line stations like London Bridge, St. Pancras and Victoria, by allowing travellers to change to their long distance trains further out.
  • Thmeslink has also been a major factor in improving services to Gatwick Airport.
  • Gatwick Airport is building on its position to be a major rail hub South of London.

Over the years Thameslink has developed and some think in a few years time, Thameslink will be at least, if not more important than Crossrail.

Two things will definitely happen, when the Ordsall Chord opens.

As with Thameslink in London, Northern and Southern routes into the Manchester, will be linked back-to-back, to free up platforms in terminal stations.

Frequencies and capacity on many routes will increase. Stations, that have had a two-car diesel train twice an hour since the days of steam ended, will find they get a four-car electric or bi-mode train at a doubled frequency.

But long-term the Ordsall Chord will have major effects.

  • Towns and areas like Blackburn, Blackpool, Burnley, Chester, Hudderfield, Kirkby, Southport, Warrington and Wigan will have frequent train services to and from the whole of Manchester City Centre and will benefit accordingly.
  • Increased frequencies to Leeds and Liverpool will be easier to arrange.
  • Many travellers going to and from Birmingham, London and the South will change at Stockport rather than Piccadilly.
  • Few trains will reverse direction in Piccadilly.
  • Just as Gatwick Airport has been envigorated by Thameslink, Manchester Airport will become a major rail hub.
  • Will Preston develop into Manchester’s hub station for travellers going North or to Scotland.
  • Access to the tourist areas of North Lancashire, the Peak District and Yorkshire will be improved.

The Ordsall Chord will have such major effects on Manchester, that I could see HS2 plans being changed.

Buxton To Manchester And Clitheroe To Manchester

I will treat these routes together, as I believe they are a natural fit, where back-to-back operation will be beeficial.

  • Both routes are uphill away from Manchester.
  • Both routes need better and faster trains.
  • Both routes need more capacity.
  • Class 319 Flex trains could work both routes without any infrastructure work.

Could Buxton to Clitheroe, with perhaps a two-hourly extension to Hellifield for the Settle and Carlisle Railway create a very valuable tourism asset for the North-West?

In Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?, I looked at the possibilities about running  a direct back-to-back service across Manchester.

I said this.

In some ways the interesting one is the round trip from Buxton to Clitheroe, which allowing ten minutes for each turnround at Clitheroe and Buxton means that the round trip is under four hours.

This means that an hourly Buxton to Clitheroe service would need four trains and two trains per hour would need eight trains.

As the routes to Blackburn and Clitheroe in the North and Hazel Grove and Buxton in the South are very busy, four-car Class 319 Flex trains will be very welcome.

Windermere

Improving the service to Windermere station on the Windermere Branch is a complex problem.

I have been doing some analysis in Is Electrification Of The Windermere Branch Line Really Necessary?

I came to this conclusion.

I think that updating Oxenholme station with a fourth platform and using more powerful trains, would allow the frequency of trains on the Windermere Branch to be increased to one train every thirty minutes.

No electrification of the branchwould be needed.

We will know the answer, when Northern run a Class 319 Flex train in trials to Windermere.

I will not speculate on the timetable, but I’m sure Northern know about how the ideal timetable should look.

Manchester Airport to Huddersfield Via Stalybridge

Electrification to Stalybridge station is running late.

But no matter, as Class 319 Flex trains could fill in for their electric sisters.

Further Routes To The Core

Because they are bi-mode trains, the limitations of which routes can be served using Class 319 Flex trains, will be limited more by the availability of trains than anything else.

Signalling and operational procedures through the core will need to be improved, but a twin-track railway like that can take a frequency of sixteen to twenty tph over the Irwell.

After all, the East London Line has handled those frequencies in a tunnel built by Brunel’s father in the mid-1800s since 2010.

Adding New Routes

I don’t know the rail lines in Manchester at all, but so long as the track and need is there, Class 319 Fle trains can serve any route.

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, they are reporting on a plan to reopen six miles of disused railway between Irlam in Salford and Timperley in Trafford.

From the visualisation in the magazine, it looks a spectacular railway, that could provide a direct route between the West of the City and Althincham, Stockport and Manchester Airport.

Adding More Trains

I feel that Manchester will need more trains in a couple of years.

But just as Liverpool found no trouble with funding new custom-built trains for their network, when the time comes for Manchester to increase the fleet size, the city shouldn’t have a problem! Brexit permitting!

At least, if the Ordsall Chord routes are successful, they will define the specification of the new trains.

The simplest plan would see some new four-car electric units added to the fleet to release Class 319 trains for conversion to more Class 319 Flex trains.

Some of these trains could be specially designed airport trains for connecting Manchester Airport to Blackpool, Huddersfield, Liverpool and other places.

At some time in the future, all of the Class 319 trains and Class 319 Flex trains will be replaced, but will they finally see the scrapyard or will they be sent to do missionary work in places like Aberdeen, Bristol, Derby, Exeter, Lincoln, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle and other places.

Conclusion

The Class 319 Flex train may have been designed by Porterbrook and Northern to fill an enormous hole left by Network Rail’s non-performance on electrification, but like its famous predecessor, the InterCity 125 which filled the gap left by the non-performance of the Advanced Passenger Train, I feel it will set new standards in train travel. But this time on predominately urban rather than InterCity routes.

I also feel strongly, that te flexible methods being used in Manchester to develop the rail services could be used elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment