The Anonymous Widower

Connecting The North West Of England’s Three Powerhouses

It could reasonably be argued that the three most important economic centres of the North West of England are.

  • The City of Liverpool and Merseyside
  • Manchester Airport
  • The City of Manchester and Greater Manchester

I’ll take a quick look at each, with particular reference to public transport links.

The City of Liverpool and Merseyside

Liverpool is introduced by this paragraph in Wikipedia.

Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in Merseyside, England. As of 2018, the population is approximately 494,814. Liverpool is the ninth-largest English district by population, and the largest in Merseyside and the Liverpool City Region. It lies within the United Kingdom’s sixth-most populous urban area. Liverpool’s metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the United Kingdom, with a population of 2.24 million.

Knowing Liverpool with affection as I do, I find the City difficult to describe in an unbiased manner, but in my experience few people go for a visit to Liverpool and don’t come back enchanted in some way. It is a many-faceted city!

One of Liverpool’s strengths is the local rail system; Merseyrail, which connects the suburbs to the centre, just like the Underground does in London. As with London, Merseyrail is backed up by a comprehensive bus network. And like London, Liverpool is introducing hydrogen-powered double-deck buses.

Merseyrail is also in a strong expansionist phase.

  • New trains are being delivered to replace some of the oldest trains on the national network in the UK.
  • New stations are being added to the core Merseyrail network.
  • Stations are being improved with refurbishment and step-free access.
  • Merseyrail have ambitions to expand their network to Liverpool Airport, Preston, Skelmersdale, Warrington and Wrexham.

The City of Liverpool and Merseyside in general are getting ready to expand their economy.

Manchester Airport

This Google Map shows Manchester Airport.

Note.

  1. The two runways.
  2. The railway station in the middle of the Airport.
  3. The M56 motorway passing across the North-West of the Airport.

Manchester Airport is the third-busiest airport in the UK in terms of passenger numbers.

  • It is a two-runway airport like Heathrow, which helps a lot in operational efficiency.
  • In 2018, it handled 61% of the number of passengers as Gatwick, but 71% of the aircraft movements.
  • The airport has three terminals.
  • The airport has rail connections to Crewe, Manchester, Northern England, the Central Belt of Scotland and Wales.
  • The airport is connected to the trams of the Manchester Metrolink.

I’ve never flown from the airport as a passenger, so I can’t comment.

Wikipedia has a section on the Future of Manchester Airport, which says.

  • Terminal 2 will be expanded with fifteen more covered stands,
  • The airport will expand to handle more freight.

Airport City Manchester is an £800million expansion to create an airport city on the lines of those at Barcelona and Frankfurt, alongside the airport.

Manchester Airport is certainly building for a future expansion.

Reading about rail links to the airport, you get the impression that some places like Bradford, Derby and Nottingham would like direct links to Manchester Airport.

The City of Manchester and Greater Manchester

Manchester is introduced like this in Wikipedia.

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 547,627 as of 2018 (making it the fifth most populous English district). It lies within the United Kingdom’s second-most populous urban area, with a population of 2.5 million and second most populous metropolitan area, with a population of 3.3 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation.

I don’t know Manchester as well as I know Liverpool and most of my visits to the City are usually with limited objectives and a possible overnight stay.

Like Liverpool, Manchester has an extensive public transport network based on the trams of the Metrolink and some local railway lines, backed up by lots of buses.

Transport for Greater Manchester is developing the transport network, with a new Metrolink line to the Trafford Centre opening soon.

Note that if Manchester’s rail system has a problem, it is congestion in the Castlefield Corridor through Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road and Deangate stations and on to Manchester Victoria and Salford Crescent stations. A permanent long-term solution is needed.

The City of Manchester and Greater Manchester are getting putting in the necessary transport links to expand their economy.

Connecting The Three Powerhouses

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North, I wrote the following, which I am now repeating in an updated form.

This clip of a map from this Transport for the North report , which is entitled At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail, shows a schematic of the current and possible rail links in the triangle between Crewe, Liverpool and Manchester.

High Speed Two, which is shown in dark green, would appear to come North and split into two routes.

  • One continues North to join the existing West Coast Main Line just South of Wigan.
  • Another goes through Crewe station.

North of Crewe, the two routes join and then split into three at the Junction labelled 6.

  • To Warrington and Liverpool
  • To Wigan, Preston and Scotland
  • To Manchester Airport and Manchester.

A second Junction labelled 5, allows Northern Powerhouse Rail trains to run Liverpool-Warrington-Manchester Airport-Manchester.

This is a new layout and has the following advantages.

  • I estimate that trains could save 7-8 minutes on services running between Crewe and Wigan because of the longer running at High Speed Two operating speeds at 225 mph.
  • ,If they don’t stop at Crewe and Runcorn, further minutes could be saved.
  • Trains between London and Preston and London and Glasgow could skip the stop at Warrington to save further minutes.
  • There could be an advantageous reorganisation of stopping patterns.
  • London and Liverpool services and Liverpool and Manchester services could stop at Warrington, which would give Warrington very good connections.
  • The Liverpool-Manchester and Liverpool-Crewe Lines could be built to High Speed Two standards, which could allow 225 mph running.

I also think the track layout can be run alongside or underneath the various motorways in the area for a lot of the route between Liverpool, Crewe, Warrington and Manchester Airport.

It would appear to be a very good solution to a complex problem and overall, I suspect it gives better connectivity, at a more affordable cost, whilst creating a railway that can be built with less disruption and will ultimately produce less noise.

The Transport for the North report, also says the following.

  • There could be a new Warrington South Parkway station.
  • Six tph between Liverpool and Manchester via Warrington are planned.
  • Journey times will be 26 minutes.

The Twenty-first Century will finally get a modern and fast Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

  • Trains would stop at Manchester Airport, a new Warrington South Parkway and possibly Liverpool South Parkway.
  • Trains would run every ten minutes.
  • Trains would take 26 minutes between Liverpool and Manchester.

These are a few other thoughts on the route.

The Liverpool Terminus

The Transport for the North report proposes a new High Speed station in Liverpool.

  • It would possibly be alongside Liverpool Lime Street station.
  • It would handle both High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail services.
  • The station would need at least four platforms.
  • The station could be connected to Liverpool Lime Street station’s Wirral Line platform.

I believe that a well-designed station could be squeezed in, on the edge of Liverpool City Centre.

Should Trains Stop At Liverpool South Parkway?

I think this could be important, especially, if the station gets a link to Liverpool Airport.

Between Manchester Airport And Manchester City Centre

Most current trains between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport stations take between 15-18 minutes.

I don’t believe that these times are compatible with a 26 minute time between Liverpool and Manchester.

So I am fairly certain that to achieve the planned time in the Transport for the North report, that an almost direct tunnel between Manchester Airport and Manchester City Centre is necessary.

The Manchester City Centre Station

Could the tunnel pass through underground platforms at Manchester Piccadilly station, which run across the station and then surface to connect with the chosen route to Leeds?

In an earlier plan, referenced under Manchester City Centre (Phase 2b) in the  Wikipedia entry for High Speed Two,, this is said.

The route will continue from the airport into Manchester city centre via a 7.5-mile (12.1 km) twin bore branch tunnel under the dense urban districts of south Manchester before surfacing at Ardwick.

Under the earlier plan, trains would have gone into a rebuilt Manchester Piccadilly station.

I also wonder, if the solution would be to bore a tunnel under Manchester City Centre with stations under Manchester Piccadilly station, Piccadilly Gardens and Manchester Victoria.

  • It might be just one set of platforms with travellators, escalators and lifts all over Manchester City Centre.
  • It should be noted that two High Speed Two trains, running as a pair would be four hundred metres long.

One of the advantages of a train connection between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria station, would be that the Castlefield Corridor would be by-passed.

  • TransPennine Express services between Manchester Airport and the North-East would be replaced by Northern Powerhouse Rail services between Liverpool and the North-East via Manchester Airport.
  • The Castlefield Corridor would probably be reserved for local services.
  • Passengers needing Manchester Oxford Road or Deansgate stations would use the current Manchester Airport station.

There are probably other advantages.

Building The High Speed Liverpool And Manchester Line

I believe that this line can be built without too much disruption to existing services, because Crossrail’s construction didn’t disrupt London.

Conclusion

My overall conclusion is that it is feasible to build a Liverpool and Manchester High Speed Line, as an early part of Northern Powerhouse Rail, that will also be used by High Speed Two, when that is extended to Liverpool and Manchester.

 

 

 

March 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Castlefield Corridor Trade-Off Plan For Fewer Trains

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

The article says that to solve the problems through the Castlefield Corridor, the number of trains will be reduced from 15 trains per hour (tph) to thirteen tph.

This arrangement applied until May 2018 and meant that two tph between Manchester Airport and East of the Pennines reversed in Manchester Piccadilly station to go East, rather than using the Castlefield Corridor through Deansgate and Manchester Victoria stations.

The arrangement worked well before May 2018 and I doubt there’s no reason, why it won’t work in the short-term.

The long-term solution is Northern Powerhouse Rail and/or High Speed Two, which looks like will be in tunnel between the Airport and Manchester City Centre and could carry as many as six tph between Manchester and Liverpool via the Airport.

Perhaps, this should be the first piece of High Speed Two to be built in the North.

  • It connects the three most important economic areas in the North West of England; Liverpool, Manchester and Manchester Airport.
  • It would greatly increase capacity.
  • It would probably have good connections to Crewe, Warrington, Wigan and the West Coast Main Line.
  • Liverpool has an extensive local rail network, which is being expanded.
  • Manchester is expanding the Metrolink network.

Some of the Castlefield Corridor services would have been replaced by better and faster services.

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rescued By Timpsons

Putting my boots back to go to the Football at around five, one of the laces gave up the ghost.

Timpsons? Surely, they could help.

But I would have to hurry, as it shut at six o’clock. I suppose the good peoiple of Manchester have to get up early to work in the satanic mills, so shops close early.

I eventually found a Timpsons in the Arndale Centre and for a few pounds, I got some new laces.

As the price included fitting, that must be three cheers for Timpsons!

As I left the Arndale Centre, many shops were closing.

Could the decline in High Street sales be partly because opening hours no longer fit the times, when the public now want to shop?

I regularly shop for everyday needs in the evening, if the television is rubbish and will go out for a snack supper to say a Leon or Carluccio’s and then perhaps pop-in to a Marks and Spencer to get food for a few days or perhaps some clothes from Eastfield. Usually shops in Inner London close at nine or ten.

My local M & S foodhall in Dalston, which is shutting at ten tonight, is just two bus stops away.

Perhaps, more people need to live in City Centres to revive them?

 

 

November 5, 2019 Posted by | Food, World | , , , , | 3 Comments

Fresh Calls For ‘Missing Link’ Buxton To Matlock Railway Line To Be Reopened

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the Buxton Advertiser.

I wrote in full about this route in Connecting The Powerhouses, after an article was published in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

This was my conclusion.

It’s very difficult to find a reason not to reopen the Peak Main Line.

I think in the last two years the case for reopening the Peak Main Line between Buxton and Matlock may have become even stronger.

MEMRAP

A group called the Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership or MEMRAP has been setup to promote the case for reopening.

A web site has been created.

New Lower-Carbon And Quieter Passenger Trains

Rolling stock has improved and trains like tri-mode Class 755 trains and possible battery electric trains, should be able to handle the route in a more environmentally-friendly way.

Transport Of Building Materials

This is a paragraph from the Buxton Advertiser article.

Funding for the project, according to Mr Greenwood, would come from working in partnership with local quarries which are supplying materials for the new Heathrow Airport runway and are involved with the HS2 project.

Network Rail has already have spent a lot of money to improve freight access to the quarries, as I reported in £14m Peak District Rail Freight Extension Unveiled. So the demand for building materials must be there and going via Matlock would remove some heavy freight trains from the Hope Valley Line.

Heavy freight trains might not be welcomed by all stakeholders.

Possible High Speed Two Cutbacks

As I wrote in Rumours Grow Over Future Of HS2, The Eastern leg of High Speed Two might be axed.

This may or may not change the case for reopening the Peak Main Line.

There Will Be Opposition

This is two paragraphs from the Buxton Advertiser article.

Peak Rail has long campaigned to re-open the line for heritage trains to run between Buxton and Matlock. However, director Paul Tomlinson said he was not in favour of the new plans.

He said: “I’m all in favour raising the profile of the line to get it re-opened but we can’t support this new idea.

Others will also object.

Conclusion

There will be various opposing pressures on both sides of reopening the Peak MNain Line.

In favour will be.

  • The quarries.
  • Cities like Derby and Nottingham and passengers wanting better links to and from Manchester and its Airport.
  • Transport for the North, as opening could increase capacity on the Hope Valley Line between Manchester and Sheffield.

Local interests will want to maintain the status quo.

October 18, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Network Rail Reveals Detailed £2.9bn Upgrade Plans For TransPennine Route

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

It is planned to be a comprehensive upgrade to the Huddersfield Line that includes.

  • 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 should be a major improvement to the Huddersfield Line.

Here are my thoughts on the upgrade.

Where Is Westtown?

Westtown is a difficult place to find on Google Maps.

This Google Map is the best I can do.

Note that Dewsbury station is at the North-East of the map and Ravensthorpe station is in the South-West corner, with the Huddersfield Line going through both stations.

  • To the South-West the line goes to Mirfield, Deighton and Huddersfield.
  • To the North-East the line goes to Batley, Morley, Cottingley and Leeds.

Westtown can be seen indicated to the West of the Huddersfield Line, North of the River Calder.

Railways Between Dewsbury And Huddersfield

This map clipped from the Wikipedia entry for the Huddersfield Line, shows the route between Dewsbury and Huddersfield stations.

Note the Leeds New Line, which was built by the London and North Eastern Railway and opened in 1900.

It appears to have been closed between 1960 and 1990.

Everybody blames Beeching for the closure of railways, but this closure started before he reported.

But it does seem, that LNER decided that four tracks were needed between Leeds and Huddersfield and that British Railways felt that two was enough.

It now appears that part of the solution to increasing capacity is to create a four-track section of the Huddersfield Line between Huddersfield and Westtown.

We often blame the state of our railways on poor Victorian planning and engineering, but it does appear that they got it right here and British Rail got it wrong, in the 1960s.

A Very Busy Line

If you look at the traffic through Dewsbury station, it is a busy train-spotters paradise, with five scheduled trains per hour (tph) typically stopping at the station and several more passing through.

Four-Tracking Between Huddersfield And Westtown

This is Network Rail’s preferred solution to providing more capacity between Huddersfield and Desbury.

It is not going to be simple engineering all the way.

This Google Map shows the Huddersfield Line crossing the River Calder and the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal South of Dewsbury station and to the North of Ravensthorpe station.

Note the two double-track bridges over the waterways.

This page on Georgraph has a picture of the bridge over the River Calder. It looks an excellent example of a Victorian wrought iron bridge.

Depending on their condition, these might need to be replaced, but they will certainly need to be upgraded to four tracks.

This Google Map shows Ravensthorpe station and the rail lines in the area in more detail.

The line going East from Ravensthorpe goes to Wakefield Kirkgate station, although there are no platforms at Ravensthorpe.

The Wikipedia entry for Ravensthorpe station says this.

Ravensthorpe station is adjacent to Thornhill LNW (London North Western) Junction, where a line branches to Wakefield Kirkgate. There are plans to extend the station by building new platforms on this line, which was built by the former Manchester and Leeds Railway.

It looks to me that there are possibilities to rebuild Ravensthorpe station and the lines in the area to meet the following objectives.

  • Two fast lines and two slow lines through the station.
  • Platforms for Dewbury and Leeds services.
  • Platforms for Wakefield Kirkgate services.
  • Four tracks to as close to Dewsbury station as possible.

It must help that a lot of the land North of the line to Wakefield Kirkgate, appears to be devoid of buildings.

The engineering would not be difficult, but probably extensive and expensive.

It should be noted that the Werrington Diver Under near Peterborough, which is a similar scale of project, was costed at £200 million.

West of Ravensthorpe station, there appears to be plenty of space to fit in two extra tracks alongside the current pair.

This Google Map shows Ravensthorpe station and the tracks to the West.

Note that there is space on both sides of the current tracks and a bridge.

But between Ravensthorpe and Mirfield stations, there are at least three more bridges.

This Google Map shows Mirfield station and the tracks to the West.

There could be problems adding extra tracks here.

  • The track and platform layout is unusual.
  • There may be a lack of space at the station.

But the biggest problem will probably be four-tracking the bridge over the River Calder.

This Google Map shows the bridge in more detail.

It does appear that the bridge currently has three tracks and might have at some time had four tracks.

If the two extra tracks could be added to this bridge, it would probably be heroic engineering at a high cost, given the difficulty of the site.

But I think engineers have replaced similar bridges on UK railways in recent years.

After Mirfield, the tracks take a wide loop to the North to go to Deighton station.

The tracks were probably built to follow the contours above the River Calder, so hopefully despite the terrain, they could be fairly level.

This Google Map shows the tracks through Deighton station.

It certainly looks that there should be room for two extra tracks.

Between Deighton and Huddersfield stations, it would appear that four-tracking would be as easy as any part of the route.

Looking at the stations from the air from my helicopter (i.e. Google Maps), I suspect that one way to four-track the line would be to proceed in something like this way.

  • Rebuild and four-track the bridge over the River Calder at Mirfield station.
  • Build the junction and the bridges to the North-East of Ravensthorpe station.
  • Create a pair of fast lines on the South side of the current tracks.
  • Move all traffic onto these new fast lines.
  • Rebuild the existing railway and the stations.

There may be a need for replacement buses, whilst the stations are rebuilt, but hopefully through services could continue.

Electrification

The Rail Technology Magazine opens with this paragraph.

Major station upgrades and plans to rebuild and electrify an 8-mile stretch of track have been put forward by Network Rail as part of a public consultation on a major upgrade to the TransPennine route.

As it is eight miles between Huddersfield and Dewsbury stations, it would seem likely that the electrification will stretch between the two stations.

This would enable TransPennine Express’s Class 802 trains to switch between electric and diesel power in the stations, if this is preferred by the operator.

Line Speed

The eight miles section of track will never have a particularly high speed, given the not very straight route and the terrain.

Currently, trains that stop at both Huddersfield and Dewsbury stations take eight minutes for the trip. Even trains going at speed through both stations seem no faster.

Four-tracking will surely allow fast expresses to pass local services and freight trains, but will the improvement save much time?

If trains could average 100 mph between Huddersfield and Dewsbury, just over three minutes could be saved.

Station Upgrades

The three stations between Huddersfield and Dewbury will all be upgraded, as will Hudderfield station.

The three smaller stations will probably be rebuilt as four platform stations or two platform stations with two through lines for fast services.

In Huddersfield And High Speed Two, I showed several pictures of Huddersfield station.

  • It will not be easy to upgrade to a full four-track station.
  • There are three through tracks and some bay platforms.

The two main through platforms are on the South side of the station, so if the two fast lines were on the South side of the route between Huddersfield and Ravensthorpe, this could enable an efficient station at Huddersfield.

I also think, there could be a problem at Huddersfield station, with trains to Sheffield on the Penistone Line, if more and faster trains were going through the station.

A New Timetable

I suspect that, if and when the upgrade is finished, that a new timetable will be brought in.

A possibility could be. that TransPennine Express trains run non-stop between Huddersfield and Leeds.

Now that Northern are getting new trains, perhaps these could run a Turn-Up-And-Go service of a train every fifteen minutes between Huddersfield and Leeds.

Heritage Issues

Huddersfield station is a Grade I Listed building and I suspect that the three bridges I have noted are lListed as well.

Will the Heritage lobby object to electrification in these sensitive areas?

Onward To Manchester

I have flown my helicopter between Huddersfield and Stalybridge and if the proposed improvement is successful, I suspect that the route to the West can be improved as far as Stalybridge.

  • The route is at least double track.
  • It looks like in places, it once had more tracks.
  • The trackside margins are fairly generous.
  • There doesn’t seem to be too many bridges.
  • Electrification will soon be as far as Stalybridge from Manchester.

After my quick look, I don’t think that electrifying between Huddersfield and Manchester would be too challenging, except for possibly, the Standedge Tunnel.

Onward To Leeds

The route between Dewsbury and Leeds is double track, with the only complication of the Morley Tunnel.

Conclusion

It looks to me, that all the difficult bits to creation of an electrified route between Manchester and Leeds via the Huddersfield Line, are in the stretch between Huddersfield and Dewsbury.

So perhaps it makes sense to sort out the difficult bits first, with this £2.9billion project.

 

 

 

 

 

August 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Will HS2 And Northern Powerhouse Rail Go For The Big Bore?

It looks to me that there will be increasing links and merging between High Speed Two (HS2) and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

This report on the Transport for the North web site, is entitled At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Proposals and possibilities include.

  • NPR will have a Western terminal at a new station in Liverpool City Centre.
  • HS2 trains would access Liverpool and Manchester via a junction between HS2 and NPR at High Legh.
  • There will be six trains per hour (tph) between Liverpool and Manchester via Manchester Airport.
  • The route between Manchester and Manchester Airport is planned to be in tunnel.
  • There will be six tph between Manchester and Leeds.

In addition, Boris has made positive noises about a high speed line between Manchester and Leeds being of a high priority.

So will the planners go for the logical solution of a High Speed tunnel between Manchester Airport and Leeds?

  • There could be a theoretical capacity of perhaps 15 tph, which is the design capacity of High Speed Two.
  • Speeds of up to 140 mph should be possible.
  • Stations could be at Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly/Piccadilly Gardens, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds.
  • West of Manchester Airport, the route appears easier and the tunnel would emerge close to the airport.
  • East of Leeds the tunnel would join up with existing routes to Doncaster, Hull, Newcastle and York.

I believe such a tunnel could be built without disrupting existing rail services and passengers. Remember building Crossrail’s tunnels was an almost invisible process.

It would result in two rail systems across Northern England.

  • Upgraded Classic Rail Routes
  • The Big Bore

My thoughts on the two systems follow.

Upgraded Classic Rail Routes

This could include improvements such as these,

  • Extra passing loops.
  • Selective electrification
  • Improved stations
  • Comprehensive in-cab digital signalling
  • More paths for passenger and freight trains.

Which could be applied to routes, such as these.

In addition, there could be the reopening of some closed or freight routes to passenger trains.

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Network Rail Reveals Detailed £2.9bn Upgrade Plans For TransPennine Route.

It is a comprehensive upgrade that includes.

  • 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.

In Sheffield Region Transport Plan 2019 – Hope Valley Line Improvements, I talked about planned improvements to the Hope Valley Line, which should begin in the next couple of years.

These improvements are given in detail under Plans in the Wikipedia entry for the Hope Valley Line.

The Hope Valley Improvements will cost in the region of tens of millions of pounds and Wikipedeia sums up the benefits like this.

These changes to allow three fast trains, a stopping train and freight trains each hour were also supported in a Transport for the North investment report in 2019, together with “further interventions” for the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme.

It seems like good value to me!

So could we see other Multi-million and billion pound projects created to improve the classic routes across the Pennines?

Projects would be fully planned and the costs and benefits would then be assessed and calculated.

Then it would be up to the Project Managers to devise the optimal structure and order in which to carry out all the projects.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the following techniques used.

  • Discontinuous electrification to avoid bridge reconstruction.
  • Intelligent, hybrid diesel/electric/battery trains from Bombardier, Hitachi or Stadler, capable of 125 mph running and changing mode at speed.
  • Modular digital signalling
  • Factory built stations and step-free bridges.
  • Removal of all level crossings.
  • All stations updated for step-free access between train and platform.

The objectives would be as follows.

  • More paths, where needed.
  • Faster line speed.
  • Less running on diesel.
  • Fast station stops.

Hopefully, the upgrading could be done without too much disruption.

Remember though, that disruption to existing users during a project, is most likely down to bad project management.

The Big Bore

The Central Core tunnel of Crossrail between Royal Oak and East London, was virtually a separate project before Crossrail’s stations and much of other infrastructure was built.

I believe that digging the tunnel first gave a big advantage, in that it could be constructed as an independent project, provided that the logistics of delivering the components and removing the junk was done efficiently.

But it did mean that travellers wouldn’t see any benefits until the project was almost complete.

HS2 and NPR are different in that they also envisage upgrading these routes.

  • The Huddersfield Line
  • The Chat Moss Line
  • The Calder Valley Line
  • The Hope Valley Line
  • The Dearne Valley Line
  • The Selby Line
  • The Midland Main Line North Of Clay Cross

Only the Huddersfield Line is directly affected by the Big Bore.

Effectively, the Big Bore will provide a by-pass route for passenger trains between Leeds and West of Manchester Airport, to take the fast trains of HS2 and NPR underneath the congested classic lines.

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North I said this about a tunnel between Leeds and Manchester.

To get a twenty-five minute time between Leeds and Manchester with a ten minute frequency, which I believe is the minimum service the two cities deserve, would be like passing a whole herd of camels through the eye of a single needle.

The Swiss, who lets face it have higher hills, than we have in Northern England would create a new route mainly in tunnel between the two cities, with perhaps an underground station beneath the current Grade I Listed; Huddersfield station.

The transport for the North report suggests Bradford Low Moor station, as an intermediate station, so why not Bradford Low Moor and Huddersfield stations?

Note that the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which opened a couple of years ago, deep under the Alps, is about the same length as a Leeds and Manchester tunnel, and cost around eight billion pounds.

It would be expensive, but like Crossrail in London, the tunnel would have big advantages.

  • It could be built without disrupting current rail and road networks.
  • It would have a capacity of up to thirty tph in both directions.
  • Unlike Crossrail, it could handle freight trains.
  • It would unlock and join the railway systems to the East and West.

I believe, it would be a massive leap forward for transport in the North of England.

It would be a very big project and probably one of the longest rail tunnels in the world.

Comparison With The Gotthard Base Tunnel

But surely, if a small and rich nation like Switzerland can build the Gotthard Base Tunnel, then we have the resources to build the Big Bore between Manchester Airport and Leeds.

Consider these facts about the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

  • It is two single track bores.
  • Each bore has a track length of around 57 kilometres or 35 miles.
  • The tunnel may be deep, but it is direct and level.
  • The maximum speed is 250 kph or 160 mph.
  • The operational speed for passenger trains is 200 kph or 125 mph.
  • The operational speed for freight is 100 kph or 62 mph.
  • It can take the largest freight trains.

To make numbers even more impressive it is joined to the shorter Ceneri Base Tunnel, to provide an even longer route.

Manchester Airport And Leeds Direct

Now consider Manchester Airport and Leeds.

  • The current rail distance is 56 miles.
  • There are stops at Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Victoria and Huddersfield stations.
  • Journey time is eighty minutes.

But the direct distance is only 68 kilometres or forty-three miles.

Surely if the Swiss can blast and dig two 57 km. single-track rail tunnels, we can go eleven kilometres further with all the recent experience of tunnelling around the world.

The lengths of the various legs would be as follows.

  • Manchester Airport and Manchester – 14 km.
  • Manchester and Huddersfield – 35 km.
  • Huddersfield and Bradford – 17 km.
  • Bradford and Leeds – 13 km

Trains running on the various legs at 200 kph, which is the cruising speed of a 1970s-built InterCity 125, could take the following times for the various legs.

  • Manchester Airport and Manchester – 4.2 minutes
  • Manchester and Huddersfield – 10.5 minutes
  • Huddersfield and Bradford – 5.1 minutes
  • Bradford and Leeds – 13 km – 3.9 minutes

Leeds and Manchester Airport would be under thirty minutes apart.

Looking at NPR between Liverpool and Hull, times could be as follows.

  • Liverpool and Manchester – 26 minutes
  • Manchester and Leeds – 20 minutes
  • Leeds and Hull – 38 minutes

Or a Coast-to-Coast time of under ninety minutes.

Train Frequencies

HS2 is being designed to handle fifteen tph, although slower intensive railways in the UK can handle up to twenty-four tph.

At the current time or certainly in a few years time, the theoretical maximum frequency through the Big Bore should be between these two figures. I will assume at least fifteen tph in this post.

The At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail report talks about the following frequencies.

  • Liverpool and Manchester via Manchester Airport – Six tph.
  • Manchester and Leeds – Six tph
  • Leeds and Hull – Two tph

This is all so lacking in ambition. It is like building a new high capacity road and only allowing those with status to use the road.

If Leeds and Manchester Airport can handle fifteen tph, why not use some of it to create an Express Metro under the Pennines?

To me, if the Big Bore is built, nothing short of twelve tph or a train every five minutes is acceptable, at Liverpool, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds stations.

The extension to Hull could be reduced to perhaps six tph, but with the upgrading of the Hull and Leeds Line to perhaps 140 mph, I’d be bold and create a true TransPennine Express;

Hull and Liverpool every five minutes would be the ultimate Marketing Man’s dream.

The Underground Stations

Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would all be through stations deep underground.

  • They would be connected to the surface by lifts and escalators.
  • Some entrances to the stations would connect to existing stations and others might emerge in City squares like Manchester’s P:iccadilly Gardens.
  • Most stations would be just two platforms, as all trains would pass through on either side of a large underground concourse.;
  • All stations would have platform edge doors.
  • Passengers would be able to reverse direction by just walking across the concourse.

Stations would build on the lessons learned from Crossrail. But then NPR is closer to Crossrail than a Classic High Speed Line.

The Terminal Stations

The two main terminal stations for NPR and trains running through the Big Bore would be the proposed High Speed station at Liverpool and the existing Hull station.

But one other terminal station is being created; Edinburgh.

I have been going to Edinburgh station to and from England for perhaps thirty years and the capacity of the station has constantly increased.

Recent developments are extended Platforms 5 and 6, that can take the longest LNER trains.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that with the application of digital signalling, that there is capacity for at least eight tph between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

There would certainly be capacity for at least two tph between Liverpool and Edinburgh via Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, York and Newcastle.

In the East the other possibilities for terminals are Doncaster, Newcastle and York.

  • I would discount Newcastle, as it lacks capacity and its location would make it difficult to add more.
  • Doncaster has good connectivity and space, but do Leeds and Hull offer similar connectivity?

So that leaves Hull, Edinburgh and York, as the only Eastern terminals.

In the West, there is probably a need to connect to the Northern section of the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

Glasgow Central is probably the obvious terminal, but it would need an extra connection at the junction of HS2, NPR and WCML at High Legh.

If necessary Preston could be used, as it has space and lots of connectivity.

Integration Of HS2 and NPR

The At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail report is proposing this and it looks that the following HS2 services could be possible between Euston and Manchester.

  • Two tph – Euston and Hull via Old Oak Common, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds
  • Two tph – Euston and Edinburgh via Old Oak Common, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, York and Newcastle.

Note.

  1. Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would all have four tph to and from London, by the Western arm of HS2’s Y.
  2. If in addition there were two tph between Liverpool and Hull and Liverpool and Edinburgh, this would mean four tph from the Big Bore of NPR to both Hull and Edinburgh.
  3. None of these core services need to terminate in the Big Bore.

I very much feel that integrating HS2 and NPR is the way to go.

Could We See A High Speed Northern Metro?

If we assume that the Big Bore could handle the HS2 frequency of at least fifteen tph, then it would be possible to create a service across the Pennines with the following frequencies.

  • Liverpool and Hull – 4 tph
  • Liverpool and Edinburgh – 2 tph
  • Glasgow and Hull – 2 tph
  • London Euston and Hull – 2 tph
  • London Euston and Edinburgh – 2 tph

This would result in the following frequencies

  • Liverpool – 6 tph
  • Glasgow – 2 tph
  • London Euston – 4 tph
  • Manchester Airport – 12 tph
  • Manchester – 12 tph
  • Huddersfield – 12 tph
  • Bradford – 12 tph
  • Leeds – 12 tph
  • Hull – 8 tph
  • York – 4 tph
  • Newcastle – 4 tph
  • Edinburgh – 4 tph

What would these frequencies do for train travel in the North of England?

Freight

The Gotthard Base Tunnel has been designed so that both freight and passenger trains can use the route.

There is a need for extra freight capacity across the country and I wonder if freight trains could use the Big Bore.

I estimate that the Big Bore would be 68 kilometres if bored straight and level between West of Manchester Airport and Leeds.

Lets assume it is seventy kilometres or 43.5 miles.

So times, through the tunnel at various average speeds would be.

  • 125 mph – 21 minutes
  • 110 mph – 23.7 minutes
  • 100 mph – 26.1 minutes
  • 90 mph – 29 minutes
  • 80 mph – 32.6 minutes
  • 62 mph (Gotthard Base Tunnel speed for freight) – 42 minutes.

Could it be mandated that freight trains can use the tunnel, if they could maintain a particular speed?

Consider.

  • A 125 mph train with stops at Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would probably take thirty minutes to transit the tunnel.
  • A freight train running at 90 mph would take more or less the same time.
  • Fifteen tph would mean a train every four minutes.
  • Automatic control of all trains in the tunnel would be a possibility. It appears to work on the much more complicated Thameslink.

I think with the following conditions, one or even two freight trains per hour, in addition to the passenger trains, can pass through the Big Bore in each direction.

  • The locomotives have the performance of at least the Class 93 locomotive, which is currently being built.
  • Freight trains can be hauled through at a minimum speed, which could be between 90 and 110 mph.
  • The passenger trains and train and platform staff work together to produce very short station dwell times.
  • All passenger trains are identical.
  • Station platforms are designed so that passengers can leave and enter the trains rapidly.

It will be a Big Bore with a capacity to match!

What About Sheffield?

I haven’t forgotten Sheffield, but I think it could be linked across the Penines by another route.

Under the upgrades for Northen Powerhouse Rail, it is proposed that services between Sheffield and Leeds become 4 ton in 25 minutes along the Dearne Valley Line.

Does Boris Know More Than He Lets On?

The headline on the front cover of Issue 885 of Rail Magazine is Boris Backs New Pennine Railway.

There is also a sub-heading of PM commits to Leeds-Machester line.

Boris didn’t apply any substance to the speech, except to say that it will be funded.

I believe that my naive analysis in this post shows that something is possible and I just wonder, if Boris has been briefed about a much better plan?

August 25, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Manchester’s Contactless Ticketing

In Manchester yesterday, I used their new contactless ticketing.

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

Use On The Trains

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

Consider.

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

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

Surely, the software can and will be extended!

 

Damage To The Terminal

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

Are they robust enough.

Instructions For Users

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

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

Terminal Design

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

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

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

No Staff

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

What About Those With Poor Vision?

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

Would my friend cope in Manchester?

Conclusion

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

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

 

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

Sheffield Region Transport Plan 2019 – Hope Valley Line Improvements

The improvements to the Hope Valley Line are listed under Plans in the Wikipedia entry for the line.

This is said.

Network Rail, in partnership with South Yorkshire ITA, will redouble the track between Dore Station Junction and Dore West Junction, at an estimated cost of £15 million. This costing is based on four additional vehicles in traffic to deliver the option, however, this will depend on vehicle allocation through the DfT rolling stock plan. This work will be programmed, subject to funding, in conjunction with signalling renewals in the Dore/Totley Tunnel area.

Other proposals include a loop in the Bamford area, in order to fit in an all-day (07:00–19:00) hourly Manchester–Sheffield via New Mills Central stopping service, by extending an existing Manchester–New Mills Central service. Planning permission for this was granted in February 2018.

These changes to allow three fast trains, a stopping train and freight trains each hour were also supported in a Transport for the North investment report in 2019, together with “further interventions” for the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme.

So what does that all mean?

All of the stations mentioned like Dore & Totley, Bamford are at the Sheffield end of the Hope Valley Line, where it joins the Midland Main Line.

This map, which was clipped from Wikipedia, shows the lines and the stations.

Note.

  1. The Midland Main Line runs South to North and West is upwards
  2. Dore West Junction is close to the Eastern end of Totley Tunnel.
  3. The Hope Valley Line is double track from Dore West Junction to the West.
  4. The Midland Main Line is double-track.
  5. Dore & Totley station is on a single-track chord, between Dore West Junction and Dore Station Junction.
  6. Another single-track chord connects Dore West Junction and Dore South Junction on the Midland Main Line.

I’ll now cover each part of the work in seperate sections.

Dore Junction And Dpre & Totley Station

This Google Map shows the area of Dore & Totley station and the triangular junction.

Note.

  1. Dore & Totley station is at the North of the map.
  2. The Midland Main Line goes down the Eastern side of the triangular junction.
  3. The Hope Valley Line goes West from Dore West Junction.
  4. The Midland Main Line goes South from Dore South Junction.

Network Rail’s plan would appear to do the following.

  • Create a double-track between Dore Station Junction and Dore West Junction, through the Dore & Totley station.
  • Add a second platform and a footbridge with lifts to the station.

Instead of a single-track line handling traffic in both directions, there will be a double-track railway with a track in each direction.

Capacity will have been increased.

In some ways Network Rail are only returning the station to how it existed in the past, so it shouldn’t be the most difficult of projects. But many of this type of project have surprises, so I’ll see it when the new station opens.

The Bamford Loop

On this page on the Friends of Dore & Totley Station web site, this is said about the Bamford Loop.

A Bamford Loop which is a place to halt frieight trains to allow passenger trains to overtake. This is east of Bamford station.

It is around a thousand metres long.

Flying my helicopter between Bamford and Heathersage stations, the track appears almost straight and adding a loop shouldn’t be that difficult.

The only problem is that there is a level crossing for a footpath at Heathersage West.

This will be replaced by a footbridge.

Benefits

The page on the Friends of Dore & Totley Station gives the main benefits of the scheme are to :-

  • Increase the number of fast trains from 2 to 3 per hour
  • Increase the stopping trains from 1 every 2 hours to 1 per hour
  • To provide for 3 freight trains every two hours as at present.
  • Allow trains of up to 6 cars to use the route
  • Accommodate longer freight trains
  • Improve reliability on the route

These seem to be fairly worthwhile benefits from a relatively simple scheme

 

July 22, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Japanese Car Rental Firms Discover New Trend Of Renting Vehicles For A Nap Or Quiet Lunch

The title of this post is the same as that of this story on The World News.

It was flagged up first on BBC Breakfast.

But is it any difference to my behaviour?

I generally get up, do all my daily chores and have a bath.

Then, I’ll go out about nine and take an Overground train or a bus to somewhere quiet for breakfast.

I will sometimes go as far as Richmond for breakfast in Leon.

And if the weather is hot like is it is now, I might even just sit on an air-conditioned train and read my paper or watch the news on my phone, stopping where I fancy for a coffee or a drink.

All I need to ensure, is that at some point, I stop off at a Marks and Spencer to get the food I need for supper.

Courtesy of my Freedom Pass, all this travel costs me a big fat zilch.

I call it Freedoming.

Today, though I’m roaming a bit further; Manchester. Hopefully, I’ll get a ride in one of the new Class 195 trains to Manchester Airport.

 

July 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

TfGM Announces Contactless Payments On Metrolink Trams

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

This is the first paragraph.

Passengers will be able to ‘touch-in’ using their contactless cards on Manchester Metrolink trams from July 15, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) announced today.

I shall be there with my contactless credit card on Monday week, to check that this is not fake news.

I look forward to the day, when Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds are all one contactless card area for trams, trains and buses.

When you consider that the combined area will be smaller than Greater London’s contactless area and that the distance between Lime Street and Leeds or Sheffield, is less than Reading to Shenfield, which will be contactless when Crossrail opens, the problems can’t be technological.

If the leaders of the four major Northern cities can agree this advance in ticketing, they will do more for the North, than any other short-term  transport development will achieve.

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