The Anonymous Widower

Would A Lower Cost Rail Link To Skelmersdale Be Possible?

In the Wikipedia entry for Skelmersdale railway station, there is a section called Reopening Proposals, where this is said.

Skelmersdale has been described as the largest town in North-West England that doesn’t have a railway station, although Leigh, Greater Manchester, which also has no station is larger.

This section called 2022, gives the latest status of the proposals to connect Skelmersdale to the UK rail network.

Government reinforces that the station proposals are being considered. Rosie Cooper calls for the new Rail Minister to visit Skelmersdale, in order to aid the DfT’s decision. However, the Department for Transport announced in July 2022 that it was rejecting the Strategic Outline Business Case, throwing the scheme into doubt. The DfT instead suggested that better bus links with the Kirkby–Wigan rail line would be a cheaper way of improving connectivity for Skelmersdale.

This Google Map shows the town of Skelmersdale.

Skelmersdale is a town with an extensive road network, with good links to the M58 motorway.

I would suspect, that those who don’t have access to a car or some other form of personal transport, are second-class citizens.

According to Wikipedia, in the latest statement from the DfT, this was said.

The DfT instead suggested that better bus links with the Kirkby–Wigan rail line would be a cheaper way of improving connectivity for Skelmersdale.

I would simplify the DfT statement by removing the word bus. All transport links should be improved.

Consider.

  • By the end of 2023, there will be five stations between Kirkby and Wigan; Headbolt Lane, Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton.
  • Upholland station is the nearest to Skelmersdale.
  • Headbolt Lane station is being built with approximately 300 car parking spaces.
  • Rainford station has ten car parking spaces.
  • Upholland station has no car parking.
  • Orrell station has no car parking.
  • Pemberton station has no car parking.
  • From Google Maps it doesn’t look promising to add parking at Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations.
  • Only Headbolt Lane station will have bicycle parking.
  • Headbolt Lane station will have direct rail access to Liverpool.
  • Headbolt Lane, Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations will have direct rail access to Wigan and Manchester.
  • Headbolt Lane station will be built with provision for buses.
  • Skelmersdale bus station is at the main shopping centre in the centre of the town.

After Headbolt station opens in 2023, I would do the following.

  • Provide a high-capacity bus service between Headbolt Lane station and Skelmersdale.
  • Provide secure bicycle parking at Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations.
  • Investigate a bus service between Upholland station and Skelmersdale.
  • Monitor all passenger movements in the area, to see whether a rail link is needed.

Once Headbolt Lane station and the new services settle down, it should be possible to make a good estimate of the number of passengers who would use the rail link.

These are my thoughts on a lower-cost service to a new Skelmersdale station.

The Current Plan For A Branch To Skelmersdale

This map from OpenRailwayMap shows the proposed future railway between Skelmersdale and the Wigan and Kirkby Line.

Note.

  1. The new branch to Skelmersdale is shown dotted.
  2. The Northern end of the branch is in the Concourse shopping centre in Skelmersdale.
  3. The branch goes under the M 58 Motorway.
  4. The branch joins the Wigan and Kirkby Line in a triangular junction.
  5. Rainford station is to the West of the junction.
  6. Upholland station is to the East of the junction.

It could be a complete solution.

Will There Be A Direct Service Between Skelmersdale And Liverpool?

I feel the design of Headbolt Lane station precludes this, as there doesn’t appear to be a line through Headbolt Lane station, as all three platforms are terminal platforms, with two serving Liverpool and one serving Wigan and Manchester.

Passengers would need to change at Headbolt Lane station, if travelling between Skelmersdale And Liverpool.

Will There Be A Direct Service Between Skelmersdale And Manchester?

This would appear to be possible.

Could The Original Route Be Used?

The original Skelmersdale Branch ran between Rainford and Ormskirk, with a station on the West side of Skelmersdale.

This Google Map shows the route.

Note.

  1. Skelmersdale town centre and the Concourse shopping centre are in the North-East corner of the map.
  2. The M 58 motoway runs across the top of the map.
  3. The dark green scar of the Skelmersdale branch runs down the West side of the map.
  4. Just below, where the motorway and the old railway cross, there is a large landfill.
  5. Rainford station on the Wigan and Kirkby Line is towards the bottom of the map.

I wonder, if a lower-cost track layout could be slotted in partially using the route of the old railway.

  • It would be mainly single track.
  • The branch would only connect to Headbolt Lane station.
  • A passing loop would be needed to run two trains per hour (tph).
  • It might be possible to slot a single-track through to the centre of Skelmersdale.

Would it be an alternative, if a Park-And-Ride station were built near or on top of the landfill?

What Would Be The Train Service?

Southport station has the following services.

  • Four tph to and from Liverpool
  • Two tph to and from Wigan Wallgate and Manchester

I think reasons of fairness would dictate that Skelmersdale has a two tph service to both Liverpool and Manchester.

It is also worth looking at the services through Wigan Wallgate station.

  • 1 tph – between Southport and Alderley Edge via Westhoughton and Manchester Piccadilly
  • 1 tph – between Southport and Stalybridge via Westhoughton and Manchester Victoria
  • 1 tph – between Kirkby and Blackburn via Atherton and Manchester Victoria

The third service does not run on Sundays. This is surely an omission in the timetable, that should be rectified.

Wigan Wallgate And Skelmersdale Via Headbolt Lane

As I said earlier Headbolt Lane station is a station with three terminal platforms, two of which will have trains to and from Liverpool and the other will have trains to and from Wigan Wallgate and Manchester.

If Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations are connected by a route using the original branch, it would be possible to run a service between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale stations with a reverse at Headbolt Lane station.

Note.

  1. The Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate Line is double-track and all stations have two platforms.
  2. A passing loop on the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale section would probably be needed for two tph.
  3. Passengers between Skelmersdale and Liverpool would change at Headbolt Lane station.
  4. There would be no changes to services between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane stations and they would remain at 4 tph.
  5. Preferably, Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale would operate at two tph.
  6. All stations between Wigan Wallgate and Headbolt Lane would get two tph to Manchester.
  7. I estimate that Wigan Wallgate to Skelmersdale is less than twenty miles.
  8. In Bolton-Wigan £78m Rail Electrification Project Announced, I indicate that Wigan Wallgate station will be electrified.

The service to Manchester could either be direct or with a change at Wigan Wallgate to a Southport service.

A Shuttle Train Between Wigan Wallgate And Skelmersdale Via Headbolt Lane

This may be an alternative to running the Skelmersdale service all the way to Manchester.

  • Services would terminate in the bay Platform 3 at Wigan Wallgate station.
  • Passengers to and from Manchester would catch a Southport train.
  • The frequency of the shuttle train would be two tph.

Using a shuttle would need less trains.

Rolling Stock

The Wikipedia entry for the Kirkby branch line, shows the service being run by a Class 150 train, which are diesel-powered.

Services on the Manchester and Southport Line are run by a variety of diesel multiple units and all Class 769 trains.

If the platforms at Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale are built to handle four-car trains, then Northern have any number of diesel multiple units and the Class 769 trains, which could run the service.

But there is also the possibility of using battery-electric multiple units, like the Class 321 BEMU train, that I wrote about in Eversholt Rail And Vivarail To Develop Class 321 BEMU.

  • The distance between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale is probably about twenty miles.
  • Charging would be needed at Skelmersdale station.
  • Wigan Wallgate would need an electrified route to Manchester.
  • It also appears that the Class 321 BEMU, which will have a 30 minute range could handle the Wigan Wallgate and Southport leg on batteries.
  • If a battery-electric shuttle train is used between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale, it would be charged at both ends of the route.

It appears to me, that if Network Rail electrify between Wigan Wallgate and Manchester, then services between Manchester and Kirkby, Skelmersdale and Southport could be run by Class 321 BEMU trains, which with their Renatus interiors will not be British Rail trains rescued from the scrapyard.

It will also mean passengers between Liverpool and Skelmersdale will be using two smart trains.

Conclusion

Consider.

  • New track should be the minimum possible between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations.
  • Network Rail must electrify between Manchester and Wigan Wallgate.
  • Class 321 BEMU trains should be used between Manchester and Headbolt Lane, Skelmersdale and Southport.

I believe that there is an affordable solution to the provision of electric train services to Skelmersdale somewhere in my ramblings.

 

 

August 26, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Greater Manchester Leaders Now Want Clean Air Zone Charges Scrapped On ALL Vehicles After Huge Backlash

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Manchester Evening News.

This is the first two paragraphs.

No vehicles should be charged in the new Clean Air Zone (CAZ), Greater Manchester leaders have agreed, as the scheme remains under review.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has called for a ‘non-charging’ scheme which would help fund vehicle upgrades.

How can a non-charging scheme help to fund vehicle upgrades?

I suppose that Burnham wants the Government to pay for updating all the vehicles that Mancunians might drive in the Clean Air Zone.

March 4, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone Plans Put On Hold

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

These are the first four paragraphs.

The controversial rollout of Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) has been delayed.

The scheme, which would see some high-emission vehicles face daily charges, had been due to begin at the end of May. Private cars would be exempt.

The government said the pause would allow for consultation and a revised plan was due in July.

Regional mayor Andy Burnham had earlier asked the government to delay the scheme.

If Manchester don’t bring the pollution levels down, Client Earth are threatening legal action.

But to me, as a pedestrian, I do find Manchester City Centre a difficult place to walk, compared to say Birmingham or Liverpool, as the traffic seems to move about at a fast pace.

But then I blame Harold Wilson, who cancelled the Picc-Vic tunnel.

Liverpool and Newcastle received their beneficial cross-city tunnels, but Harold Wilson said that everyone would have their own cars, so we won’t need railways.

February 5, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 4 Comments

Manchester Arena Attack: Families ‘Disgusted’ By Memorial Trespassing

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

These are the introductory paragraphs,

Families of people killed in the Manchester Arena attack have said they were “disgusted” after a memorial site for the 22 victims was trespassed on.

The Glade of Light memorial in the city centre remains a building site and does not officially open until the new year.

Two bereaved families said they were appalled to find the security fences pulled down on Sunday.

The article also said this.

Ms Curry said she found hundreds of people were walking through the area, which is supposed to be closed to the public.

She said one man stood on a memorial stone and was abusive when challenged, another woman vomited all over the area, and groups of youths were openly smoking drugs.

I can’t understand what led to this aggressive trespass.

When, I am in certain cities, there does seem to be more low life on the streets than you habitually see in London.

I do wonder, if it is partly because of London’s transport regulations and actions as laid down by the Mayor and Transport for London.

London has an extensive CCTV network and after the London bombings of July the seventh and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, I’m sure it was improved.

Did the improved CCTV and the police action in the shooting the unfortunate Brazilian, deter a lot of low life from going to the centre?

Ken Livingstone or was it Boris, introduced a policy of banning alcohol on London’s transport system.

The precise details are given in this recent article on the Sun.

I have a feeling it had a positive effect, but did it mean that less drunks found their way to the centre?

In 2011, I sat next to a guy on a Manchester bus going from Piccadilly Gardens to Bury. I noticed that about a dozen youths were harassing the driver, trying to get his fare money and remarked on this to my companion.

My companion on hearing my London accent, said you don’t get that in London because of the contactless ticketing, as there is no fare money on the bus.

I was surprised at his reply and asked him to explain. It turned out he was a Trade Union Official, who looked after bus workers in Manchester. He told me his Union wanted a London-style contactless ticketing system, as it had drastically cut the number of attacks on staff in London.

Having worked with the Metropolitan Police on the analysis of data, they have also found that contactless ticketing helps in the tracing of people through London’s transport network and has solved several serious crimes.

Conclusion

I feel that terrorism and London’s reaction to it, banning of alcohol on public transport, contactless ticketing and other measures have helped keep drunks and those up to no good out of the centre.

 

December 6, 2021 Posted by | News, World | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Metrolink Tram Drivers To Strike After ‘Pitiful’ Pay Offer

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

The strikes will be on the 25th and 26th September, which coincide with a Manchester United home match and the Great Manchester Run.

It would appear that Unite’s new boss; Sharon Graham means business. And in Manchester’s case, a drop in business activity for two days.

I wonder how many extra tonnes of carbon dioxide will be emitted in Manchester on each day of the strike, as people swap from the electric trams to their cars.

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Sport, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Greater Manchester’s First Low Carbon Hydrogen Hub To Be Developed As Part Of New Collaboration

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article from Manchester Metropolitan University.

This is the first two paragraphs.

A new partnership aims to support ambitions for Greater Manchester to become the first Net Zero region in the world by 2040, with the planned installation of the city’s first low-carbon hydrogen hub.

For the first time, sustainable hydrogen fuel will be produced at scale in the region, creating opportunities for businesses in the area to make Net Zero plans with hydrogen in mind.

It doesn’t say much about the hydrogen hub, but from other sources, I have found the following.

it appears it will have the capability of producing 200 MW of green hydrogen.

  • Carlton Power is the main developer.
  • It will be built on the Trafford Low Carbon Energy Park.
  • Building will start next year with operation scheduled for 2023.
  • It will be built near Highview Power’s 50MW/250 MWh CRYOBattery.

It sounds ambitious. Especially, as it appears Carlton Power are talking about developing another ten similar sites in the UK.

August 11, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , | 5 Comments

All You Want To Know About Highview Power

This article on Power is entitled Market Prospects Heating Up for Cryogenic Energy Storage.

It talks in detail about the technology, financing and market prospects for Highview Power and their CRYOBattery.

  • Their batteries store energy by liquifying air and storing it in large tanks.
  • To recover the energy, the air is encouraged to go to a gaseous phase and put through an air turbine.
  • Their first commercial system is being built at Carrington near Manchester.
  • The Carrington system will have an output of 50 MW and be able to store up to 250 MWh.
  • Other systems are under development for Vermont and Spain.
  • The systems are built like Leho from readily available components from the oil and gas industry.

One of my regrets in life, is that I missed the crowdfunding for this company!

Read the article as you might find one of Highview Power’s CRYOBatteries coming to a site near you.

Power’s article is the best yet on describing the technology.

 

June 2, 2021 Posted by | Energy Storage | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Has Gone Wrong In Kent?

The population of the county is 1.855 million, as opposed to Greater Manchester’s 2.822. So its population is about two-thirds of that of Greater Manchester.

Over the last few days Kent has had around 500-700 new cases of the covids per day as opposed to about 150 per day in Greater Manchester. Liverpool is less than 100.

November 29, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , | 5 Comments

Northern Powerhouse Rail – A New Line Between Manchester And Leeds Via The Centre Of Bradford

In this article on Transport for the North, which is entitled Northern Powerhouse Rail Progress As Recommendations Made To Government, one of the recommendations proposed for Northern Powerhouse Rail is a new rail line between Manchester and Leeds via the centre of Bradford.

I shall look at a few of the possibilities for various sections of the route.

Current And Proposed Timings Between Manchester And Leeds

These are the current typical timings between Manchester Victoria and Leeds stations.

  • 55 minutes for 43 miles, which is an average speed of 47 mph.

With Northern Powerhouse Rail, a time of 25 minutes is the objective, which is an average speed of 103.2 mph.

  • As my helicopter flies it is just 35.7 miles, so a 25 minutes journey time would require an average speed of 85.7 mph.

It is obvious that a new much straighter line is needed with an operating speed of at least 100 mph.

One of the best 100 mph lines in the UK  is the Great Eastern Main Line between Liverpool Street and Norwich.

  • It is generally only double-track.
  • The fastest services take 90 minutes for the 115 miles, which is an average speed of 77 mph.
  • It is a busy line with lots of suburban services closer to London and freight trains to and from Felixstowe.

But even a line built to the standard of the Great Eastern Main Line wouldn’t be good enough for Northern Powerhouse Rail’s objective of 25 minutes.

The mathematics tell me, that a new line is needed, built as straight as possible between Manchester and Leeds.

High Speed Two’s Approach To Manchester

This map clipped from High Speed Two’s interactive map, shows the route of High Speed Two as it approaches Manchester Piccadilly station.

The colours of High Speed Two indicate the type of construction.

  • Black is a bored tunnel. Only in the South East corner, where it continues to Manchester Airport.
  • Purple is a tunnel portal.
  • Brown is a track between retaining walls. Used through Manchester Interchange or Airport station.
  • Red is a viaduct.
  • Orange is a box structure

This Google Map shows a similar area.

Are High Speed Two serious about demolishing a large area of Manchester to the North and East of Manchester Piccadilly station?

  • It will cause massive disruption all over the centre of Manchester.
  • How many businesses will be ruined by this plan?
  • How many residents are there in the area?
  • How will trains from the new platforms at Piccadilly station continue to Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds and Sheffield?
  • Mrs. Merton could have said “Let’s all have a reverse!” And she’d have been joking!
  • You can’t go through the new platforms, as that would mean demolishing most of Manchester City Centre.

What High Speed Two are proposing is complete and utter rubbish!

In Whither HS2 And HS3?, which I wrote in May 2015, I said this.

I do think though that our designs for HS2 are rather dated and don’t take things that are happening or have happened into account.

Crossrail in London has shown that putting a large twin rail tunnel under a major city, is not the problem it once was. Crossrail have also been very innovative in creating stations with the minimum disturbance to existing infrastructure. As an example, the new Whitechapel station for Crossrail has also used a technique called uphill excavation, where you create escalator and lift shafts upwards from the tunnels, rather than traditionally from the surface, which is much more disruptive.

These techniques can revolutionise the construction of HS2.

Take cities like Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield, which have developed and are continually developing extensive local rail, tram and bus networks. So why are we in Birmingham still talking about creating an HS2 station at Curzon Street? Surely, we just dig a very deep pair of HS2 tunnels under the city and then uphill excavate into not only New Street, but Moor Street and Snow Hill as well. The tunnels would be only made as long as necessary, although the underground station could be very large. But it probably wouldn’t be much bigger than the enormous double-ended Liverpool Street/Moorgate station being created for Crossrail.

The great advantage of this method of construction is that you can continue to develop your network of local trains, trams and other transport links, untroubled by the construction of the new station deep below. Anybody, who thinks this is not possible, should spend half-an-hour walking around Whitechapel station, where the Hammersmith and City, District and East London Lines are passing untroubled over the giant hole and through the building site for the new station.

To some the example of Crossrail in London, would not be a good one, as Crossrail is years late. But the tunnelling under London and the excavations for the stations have gone well and were delivered on time.

In the related post, I went on to propose a double-ended underground station in Manchester with connections to both Piccadilly and Victoria stations. It could even have other connections to locations in the City Centre like Piccadilly Gardens.

There’s certainly space for a stylish entrance at the busy tram and bus interchange.

By applying the lessons learned in the building of Crossrail and other projects like Stuttgart 21, which I wrote about in Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof, I’m sure that a massive underground station in Manchester could be built successfully, on time and on budget.

I am not alone in thinking this way. In The Rival Plans For Piccadilly Station, That Architects Say Will ‘Save Millions’, I write about a plan from world-class architects Weston Williamson, who designed the superb new London Bridge station.

This visualisation from Weston Williamson, shows their proposed station.

Note.

  1. In the visualisation, you are observing the station from the East.
  2. The existing railway lines into Piccadilly station are shown in red.
  3. Stockport and Manchester Airport are to the left, which is to the South.
  4. Note the dreaded Castlefield Corridor in red going off into the distance to Oxford Road and Deansgate stations.
  5. The new high speed lines are shown in blue.
  6. To the left they go to Manchester Airport and then on to London, Birmingham and the South, Warrington and Liverpool and Wigan, Preston, Blackpool, Barrow-in-Furness, the North and Scotland.
  7. To the right, they go to Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, Hull and the North East, and Sheffield, Doncaster and the East.
  8. Between it looks like  a low-level High Speed station with at least four tracks and six platforms.
  9. The Manchester Mretrolink is shown in yellow.
  10. The potential for over-site development is immense. If the Station Square Tower was residential, the penthouses would be some of the most desirable places to live in the North.

This station would enable improvements to rail services in the North and Scotland.

  • It would be a through station, to allow East to West services, like Liverpool and Hull.
  • Fewer services would have to reverse.
  • All services using the underground station, that went to the West would serve Manchester Airport.
  • TransPennine services like Liverpool and Edinburgh and Liverpool and Scarborough, would use the station and also call at Manchester Airport.
  • TransPennine services like Glasgow and Manchester Airport could be extended to Leeds and Hull.
  • TransPennine services would not need to use the overcrowded Castlefield Corridor.
  • All existing services to the main section of the existing Piccadilly station, could continue operation as now, during the construction and operation of the underground station. Some would eventually be replaced by high speed services using the underground station.

Manchester Airport would have one of the best train services of any airport in the world. It would certainly be on a par with Schiphol.

Careful alignment of the tunnels under Manchester, could also ease the building of the new line between Manchester and Leeds.

Huddersfield And Westtown (Dewsbury)

The only part of an upgraded TransPennine route between Manchester and Leeds, that is in the planning and design phase and visible to the public, is the upgrade between Huddersfield to Westtown (Dewsbury), which is described on this page of the Network Rail web site. This is the introductory paragraph.

We’re proposing an upgrade to a section of railway between Huddersfield and Westtown (Dewsbury) to deliver passenger benefits along the TransPennine railway.

Network Rail provide this very useful map.

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Network Rail Reveals Detailed £2.9bn Upgrade Plans For TransPennine Route, which gives the major details of the upgrade.

  • Improvement between Huddersfield and Westtown
  • Grade separation or a tunnel at Ravensthorpe
  • Rebuilding and electrification of eight miles of track.
  • Possible doubling the number of tracks from two to four.
  • Improved stations at Huddersfield, Deighton, Mirfield and Ravensthorpe.

This project would be a major improvement to the Huddersfield Line, but I have one problem with this project. – It doesn’t go anywhere near Bradford.

This Google Map shows Bradford, Leeds, Brighouse and Dewsbury.

Note.

  1. Bradford is in the North-West corner of the map, with the red arrow marking Bradford Royal Infirmary.
  2. Leeds is in the North-East corner of the map.
  3. Brighouse is in the South-West corner  of the map.
  4. The red arrow at the bottom of the map marks Dewsbury and District Hospital, with the towns of Morley and Dewsbury to the East.

The route Network rail are improving goes South-Westerly from Leeds and through both Morley and Leeds, before turning to the West and then going South to Huddersfield.

I am left with the conclusion, that Network Rail’s plans may do wonders for travel between Leeds and Huddersfield, but they don’t do anything for Bradford.

But the plans will have positive effects on travellers between Leeds and Manchester.

Eight Miles Of Electrification

Eight miles of electrification may not seem much, but to a Hitachi Regional Battery train, travelling at speed it is a few minutes to add some charge to the batteries, especially if the train stops at Dewsbury and/or Huddersfield stations.

This Hitachi infographic gives the specification for the Hitachi Regional Battery train.

Note.

  1. It has a range of 90 km or 56 miles on battery power.
  2. It can travel at up to 100 mph on battery power.
  3. TransPennine’s Class 802 trains can be converted to Regional Battery trains, by simply swapping the diesel engines for battery packs.

If these trains fully-charged their batteries on the eight miles of electrification, they could do the following.

  • Going East they could easily reach Leeds, which is under ten miles from Dewsbury station. At a pinch they could even reach York, which is thirty-five miles from Dewsbury.
  • Going West they could reach Manchester, which is twenty-six miles from Huddersfield station. At a pinch, they could just about reach Liverpool, which is fifty-seven miles from Huddersfield.

Note that North of York and West of Manchester are both fully electrified.

This eight miles of electrification would enable the following.

  • Several of TransPennine Express services run by Class 802 trains to become all-electric services.
  • Other operators like Northern could use battery electric trains for stopping services along the route.
  • It might even enable some freight trains to run through the area, with hybrid power.

It looks to me, that Network Rail have chosen this section to electrify, so that it gives a lot of benefit to battery electric trains.

Will Services Be Faster Between Huddersfield And Leeds?

I estimate the the straightened track, the better acceleration of electric trains and other improvements would save up to perhaps ten minutes.

Timings between Manchester and Leeds, would probably be around 45 minutes, which is nowhere near Northern Powerhouse Rail’s objective of 25 minutes

The Problem Of Bradford

Bradford has two central stations; Bradford Interchange and Bradford Forster Square. which have no connection between them.

This Google Map shows the two stations.

It is an area crowded with buildings between the two stations.

There is a Wikipedia entry called Bradford Crossrail, where this is said about the reasons for the two stations.

These stations were built in the nineteenth century by different railway companies with an individual, rather than a comprehensive plan for rail development in the city.

The Wikipedia entry also says this about Northern Powerhouse Rail and the city.

The Northern Powerhouse Rail project has also mooted a project to link Leeds and Manchester with a through route at Bradford. Whilst this would either involve a bypass line south of the city and a parkway station at Low Moor or a new route tunnelling through the city centre, neither option mentions connecting the lines from both north and south of the city together.

I will look at the two solutions to connect Northern Powerhouse Rail to the City.

Low Moor Station

The diagram shows the connections between Bradford Interchange, Bradford Low Moor, Huddersfield and Leeds stations.

It would appear that if a connection were to be made between Low Moor and New Pudsey stations. that could be a solution.

This Google Map shows where the lines to Huddersfield and Leeds join outside Bradford Interchange station.

Note,

  1. Bradford Interchange station is to the North.
  2. Bradford Low Moor station is to the South.
  3. New Pudsey station is to the East.

I suspect it would be possible to create a curve that allowed trains to go between  Bradford Low Moor and New Pudsey stations, but I doubt it would be a fast route.

A Bradford Tunnel

This would be the bold option, where all sorts of routes could be possible.

  • It could go under the City Centre in such a way, that it had pedestrian connections to both current stations and important places with a large number of visitors.
  • It could connect to Huddersfield in the West and Leeds in the East.
  • It might even loop under the City Centre, as the Wirral Line does under Liverpool.

A tunnel under the City, would be my preferred solution.

A Tunnel Between Manchester And Leeds

So far, various people or organisations have advocated the following tunnels on the route.

  • High Speed Two are proposing a tunnel between Manchester Airport and Manchester City Centre.
  • Weston Williamson are proposing a Manchester High Speed station underneath Manchester Piccadilly station.
  • A tunnel has been proposed to connect to Bradford City Centre.

I feel strongly, that a tunnel can be built under the Pennines to link Manchester and Leeds.

Rail Tunnels through the Pennines have been dug before, notably at Standedge, Totley and Woodhead.

I answered the question in detail in Will HS2 And Northern Powerhouse Rail Go For The Big Bore? and this was the conclusion of that post.

I believe that my naïve analysis in this post shows that a TransPennine tunnel is possible.

But I believe that the right tunnel could have one big advantage.

Suppose it was built to handle the following.

    • A capacity of eighteen tph, which is the same as High Speed Two.
    • An operating speed of 140 mph or more. The Gotthard Base Tunnel has a maximum operating speed of 160 mph.
    • High Speed Two’s Full-Size trains.
    • The largest freight trains

It would be future proofed for longer than anybody could envisage.

There are also other smaller advantages.

    • It would by-pass a lot of difficult areas.
    • It would cause very little aural and visual disruption.
    • IIf it were designed with care, it would not affect the flora and fauna.
    • As with the Swiss tunnel, it could be dug level, which would save energy and allow trains to run faster.
    • It could be running twelve tph between Leeds and Manchester Airport via Bradford, Huddersfield and Manchester Piccadilly.
    • Existing surface railways at the Eastern end could serve Cleethorpes, Darlington, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Hull, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Scarborough, Sheffield and York
    • Existing surface railways at the Western end could serve Barrow, Blackpool, Carlisle, Chester, Glasgow, Liverpool. North Wales, Preston and Wigan.

It would be more like Thameslink for the North turned on its side, rather than Crossrail for the North.

Would such a TransPennine tunnel be realisable?

Consider.

  • 3D design software has improved tremendously over the last decade.
  • The Swiss have shown that these long tunnels can be built through solid rock.
  • There is plenty of space to put the tunnel.
  • It doesn’t have to be one continuous tunnel.
  • It might be possible to built it as a base tunnel, which would be low down and level between two valleys on either side of the Pennines.

I think there could be a lot of flexibility on how the tunnel would be designed and built.

Conclusion

A Manchester and Leeds tunnel via Bradford, could be one of the boldest projects ever undertaken in the UK.

I believe that we have the capabilities to build it.

Project Management Recommendations

This is a large project that will take several years.

  • But the Swiss have dug the Gotthard Base Tunnel of a similar size through solid rock in recent years.
  • It would be a political symbol to the North, that Government is serious about levelling up.
  • In thirty years or so, it won’t be found to have been built with inadequate capacity.

Other projects, such as the Huddersfield and Westtown Improvement wukk old the fort, whilst the tunnel is built.

 

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Northern Powerhouse Rail – A New Line Between Liverpool And Manchester Via The Centre Of Warrington

In this article on Transport for the North, which is entitled Northern Powerhouse Rail Progress As Recommendations Made To Government, one of the recommendations proposed for Northern Powerhouse Rail is a new rail line between Liverpool and Manchester via the centre of Warrington.

I shall look at a few of the possibilities for various sections of the line starting at the Manchester end.

High Speed Two And Northern Powerhouse Rail Between Warrington/Lymm And Manchester Airport

This map clipped from High Speed Two’s interactive map, shows the route of High Speed Two in the area between Lymm and Manchester Airport.

Note.

  1. High Speed Two is shown in orange
  2. The blue dot is Manchester Interchange station at Manchester Airport.
  3. High Speed Two goes North to Wigan North Western station.
  4. High Speed Two goes South to Crewe station.
  5. High Speed Two goes East to Manchester and the East.
  6. The East-West Motorway is the M56 with Junction 7/8 in the middle of the map and Junction 9 with the M6, at the Western edge of the map.

This enlarged map shows High Speed Two between Manchester Airport and Junction 7/8 of the M56.

 

The colours of High Speed Two indicate the type of construction.

  • Black is a bored tunnel. Only in the North East corner, where it continues to Manchester.
  • Brown is a track between retaining walls. Used through Manchester Interchange or Airport station.
  • Red is a viaduct.
  • Yellow is a cutting.

This Google Map shows a similar area.

High Speed Two’s tracks will be on the South side of the Motorway and will be shared with Northern Powerhouse Rail.

  • There is likely to be up to twelve trains per hour (tph) in both directions.
  • I would think, that with modern signalling that the trains would be running at 140 mph or more.
  • Between Manchester Airport and Warrington could be a line as between St. Pancras and Ebbsfleet on High Speed One.

This map clipped from High Speed Two’s interactive map, shows the M56 and High Speed Two around Junction 7/8 of the M56.

The colours are as before.

  • The obvious way to build a new rail line between Manchester and Warrington, would surely be to create a rail junction just South of the Motorway junction.
  • A line to Warrington could run along the South side of the Motorway.
  • I also believe that there should be a connection between the High Speed Two lines to Manchester and Wigan North Western, to allow high speed services between Manchester and Barrow, Blackpool, Preston, Windermere and Scotland.

Building the rail junctions around the Motorway junctions would be a good idea for environmental and visual reasons.

Northern Powerhouse Rail would then continue to Junction 9 of the M56 Motorway.

This Google Map, shows the M56 around Junction 9 with the M6.

Note.

  1. The M56 running East-West.
  2. The M6 running North-South.
  3. Lymm services to the North-West of the junction.
  4. Lymm is to the North-East and Warrington is to the North-West of the junction.

Would it be possible for to run South of the M56 and then turn North to run along the Western side of the M6 towards Warrington?

I very much feel, that with modern 3D software, an engineer with expertise in extreme knitting could thread a double-track line through to take a North-Western route towards Warrington.

The Bridge Across The Mersey

If you look at maps of the area, there is a big problem of water between Junction 9 of the M56 and Warrington town centre, with its two stations of Warrington Bank Quay and Warrington Central, both of which have services to Liverpool Lime Street station.

The problem is the Manchester Ship Canal.

I then noticed a bridge to the South East of the town centre, which is shown in this Google Map.

It may look like it has got more than a touch of the dreaded iron moths, but it certainly looks like it was once a double track rail line.

The bridge was on the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway, which did what you would expect from the name.

This Google Map shows the track of the railway either side of the bridge.

Note the bridge in the centre of the map and the green scar of the former railway running East-West across the map.

To the East the green scar of the railway can be picked out all the way to M6.

Note.

  1. The bridge is at the West over the Manchester Ship Canal.
  2. The green scar of the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway can be followed all the way to the M6,
  3. I think the track is now a footpath, as it is marked on the map with a dotted white line.

I would be interested to know, if it could take a modern double track railway.

This Google Map shows an enlarged view of where the green scar of the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway goes under the M6.

Note the dotted white line marking the railway, towards the top of the map.

Would it be possible to design a track layout, where Northern Powerhouse Rail came up the Western side of the M6 and was able to connect to Warrington?

I certainly believe it’s a possibility.

Warrington Bank Quay Station

To the West of the bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal, the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway ran through low-level platforms at Warrington Bank Quay station.

This Google Map shows Warrington Bank Quay station.

This picture shows a freight train passing under Warrington Bank Quay station.

Note.

  1. There are four North-South platforms on the West Coast Main Line.
  2. The Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway passes East-West under the four main platforms.
  3. Low levels platforms used to handle passengers on the East-West lines.
  4. I was looking to the East in the picture.
  5. The tracks continue to the West on the route of the former St. Helens Railway, which is now a freight route.
  6. The map shows the tracks curving sharply round one of the meanders of the River Mersey.

Warrington Bank Quay station is on a congested and tight site, but by using some of the spare railway land, I feel it could rebuilt to be an excellent station for Warrington.

Warrington Bank Quay Station As An Interchange

Warrington Bank Quay station could be an excellent and efficient interchange between High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

There are also local services from the station, which could be useful for some travellers.

Between Warrington Bank Quay Station And Widnes

This Google Map shows the Mersey estuary between Warrington Bank Quay station and Widnes.

Note.

  1. Warrington is in the North-East corner of the map, with Warrington Bank Quay station shown by a red station symbol.
  2. The new Mersey Gateway bridge is in the South-West corner of the map.
  3. The River Mersey meanders between the bridge and Warrington.
  4. Fiddlers Ferry power station can be picked out in the nearest meander of the Mersey to the bridge.
  5. The dark straight line below the river is the Manchester Ship Canal.
  6. There is currently a freight line on the North bank of the river.

This Google Map shows Fiddlers Ferry power station, with the railway between the now-decommissioned power station and the River Mersey.

Note.

  1. Fiddlers Ferry will become an employment site.
  2. It could even be a good place for a depot for Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  3. I think there’s scope to increase the operating speed of the railway along the Mersey.

Could it even be an electrified high speed line with a 125 mph operating speed?

Between Widnes And Liverpool Lime Street

The trains coming from Warrington could join the Liverpool Branch of the West Coast Main Line at Ditton East Junction.

The route between Ditton East Junction and Liverpool Lime Street has the following characteristics.

  • It has four tracks.
  • It is 10.6 miles long.
  • Avanti West Coast’s expresses typically take twelve minutes for the trip without stopping.
  • The stations on the route; Liverpool South Parkway; West Allerton, Mossley Hill and Edge Hill, all have one platform per line.
  • It is fully electrified.
  • Lime Street station has recently been updated with longer platforms and a higher capacity approach to the station.
  • Some local services have already been moved to Merseyrail’s Northern Line.
  • Stopping services on the route have their own platforms.

I believe that with the installation of full digital signalling and a degree of automatic train control, as far as Crewe and Warrington Bank Quay stations, that the following services could be handled.

  • Six tph – Northern Powerhouse Rail – Liverpool and Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly
  • One tph – East Midlands Railway – Liverpool and Nottingham
  • Three tph – High Speed Two – Liverpool and London Euston
  • One tph – High Speed Two – Liverpool and Birmingham Curzon Street
  • Two tph – London North Western – Liverpool and Birmingham and London Euston

Note.

  1. This is only 13 tph.
  2. Avanti West Coast services would be replaced by High Speed Two.
  3. TransPennine Express services would be replaced by Northern Powerhouse Rail
  4. The Liverpool and Nottingham service may or may not go via Ditton East junction.

If the capacity on this branch could be raised to 15 tph, that would be only be a train every four minutes, or half the frequency, that will eventually be operational on Crossrail and Thameslink. It would also be less than the 18 tph frequency of High Speed Two.

Conclusion

This simple exercise has proven to me, that a high speed line could be built between Manchester Airport and Liverpool Lime Street station.

  • Several sections of the route could have an operating speed of 125 mph or more.
  • By running the tracks along the M56 and M6, visual and aural intrusion could be minimised.
  • The line along the Mersey through Warrington could be a valuable part of the route.
  • West of Warrington, much of the infrastructure needed, appears to be in place and it would only need to be upgraded.

There was a large and extremely pleasant surprise at the Liverpool end.

The approach to Liverpool Lime Street is two fast and two slow lines, and I believe, that this section of the route could handle up to say 15 fast trains and six stopping trains per hour, with full digital signalling.

Unlike London and Manchester, I doubt that Liverpool will need a tunnel to access the City Centre.

I also believe that after its refurbishment of the last couple of years, Lime Street could be substantially ready for High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Project Management Recommendations

This project divides neatly into three.

  1. Between Manchester Airport and Warrington along the route of the M56 and M6.
  2. Reconstruction, upgrading and electrification through Warrington and the rebuilding of Warrington Bank Quay station.
  3. Reconstruction, upgrading and electrification between Warrington and Liverpool.

The first project will be a major one, involving the construction of nearly twenty miles of new electrified railway, with numerous viaducts, bridges and a large junction at High Legh with High Speed Two.

The other two projects would be a lot simpler and would involve turning twenty miles of double-track freight line into a modern electrified railway.

I would construct projects 2 and 3 early in the schedule, as it would give Warrington a new Bank Quay station. A passenger service to Liverpool Lime Street, could also be opened if required.

 

 

 

November 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments