The Anonymous Widower

A First Visualisation Of Headbolt Lane Station

This visualisation of the proposed Headbolt Lane station in Kirkby has appeared on several web sites.

Wikipedia also says that the station will have one platform and as there is a Class 777 train on the left hand side of what I take to be the station building, I would assume that is the platform.

It looks an interesting station layout with a wide concourse with trains on one side and buses on the other.

I can’t work out from the image, if there is a long shelter alongside the train, as one sees on some tram stops. But if it was felt necessary one could surely be fitted to give passengers some covering in inclement weather.

As the station also features five-hundred parking spaces, these must be arranged around the station on this side of the railway, which is currently just a single track.

The Plans On Rail Future

This page on the Rail Future web site is entitled A Station Back In Skelmersdale and it indicates the following.

  • A map shows a spur, which is connected to the Kirkby and Wigan Line, by a large triangular junction between Rainford and Upholland stations, running North to Skelmersdale.
  • Services of two tph between Liverpool and Skelmersdale and an hourly service between Manchester and Skelmersdale are proposed.
  • Rainford station would appear to exchange a direct link to Manchester for a direct link to Liverpool. But then Rainford is in Merseyside and Upholland and Skelmersdale are in Lancashire.

With these proposals the junction and the spur would only need to be single-track, with Skelmersdale station only needing a single-platform.

Could the following simplifications also be done?

  • Upholland and Rainford stations become single platform stations
  • The track between the two stations is mothballed or even removed.
  • There would only be a single track between both stations and Skelmersdale station.

There’s certainly scope to save money on construction and maintenance.

Could this single track and platform design be the reason, why Headbolt Lane station only has a single platform?

Consider.

  • The current Kirkby station, handles four tph to and from Liverpool City Centre on a single platform.
  • The line becomes double-track to the East of Fazakerley station.
  • I suspect double-track is needed to allow 4 tph

I suspect Headbolt Lane station could handle four tph to and from Liverpool, but there may need to be some double-track between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane stations.

I also estimate that to travel the return journey on the approximately eight miles between Headbolt Land and Skelmersdale station will take about thirty minutes.

Would this mean that it were possible to create a timetable, which allowed four tph between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane stations and two tph between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations?

  • The single platform would be bi-directional.
  • Two tph out of four arriving at Headbolt Lane station would reverse and go back to Liverpool.
  • The other two tph would continue to Skelmersdale.
  • The two tph returning from Skelmersdale would continue to Liverpool.

It would be one for the Busby Berkeley of train time-tabling.

The alternative of running four tph between Liverpool and Skelmersdale would need the following.

  • Full double-tracking between Fazakerley and Skelmersdale stations.
  • Two platform stations at Kirkby, Headbolt Lane and Rainford, which would need step-free bridges.

It would be a much more expensive scheme.

How Much New Electrification Would Be Needed?

Given the politics of third-rail electrification, I suspect the scheme will use as little as possible.

If the battery-equipped Class 777 trains can run the return journey between Kirkby and Skelmersdale stations, then all track to the East of Kirkby station could be without electrification.

This would probably also mean that the current power supply wouldn’t need to be upgraded to cope with additional electrification.

Could There Be A Two tph Service Between Skelmersdale And Manchester?

I don’t think a single-track line between Upholland and Skelmersdale would rule this out, but having two two tph services might need a second platform at Skelmersdale station.

On the other hand, the Manchester and Liverpool services could be timed to allow a cross-platform interchange at Skelmersdale.

This would mean that someone wanting to go between say Sandhills and Bolton would go direct with a quick change at Skelmersdale.

Could There Be Through Running Between Manchester And Kirkby?

Four tph between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane station with two tph extending to Skelmersdale, running through the single-platform stations at Kirkby, Headbolt Lane and Rainford, would probably make the current Manchester and Kirkby service difficult, if not impossible.

But as the change at Kirkby will be replaced with one at Skelmersdale, it would be more of an inconvenience than a disaster.

In addition, if two tph were to be run between Manchester and Skelmersdale and the trains were timetabled to meet at Skelmersdale, this would effectively be a pseudo-through service.

A single track could be left between Upholland and Rainford for engineering trains and possibly the occasional freight train.

Strategic Car Parking

Consider.

  • The new Headbolt Lane station, is going to be provided with five hundred car-parking spaces.
  • The new Skelmersdale station will probably have adequate provision.
  • At the present time, Rainford and Upholland stations don’t appear to have any parking.

I would suggest, that a good look is taken at car and bicycle parking at all stations to the East of Headbolt Lane station.

Conclusion

It appears to be a scheme, that has been designed to keep costs to a minimum.

But that probably means, it is more likely to get built!

I also like the concept of a large station concourse alongside a single platform and track, which will probably be without electrification. It should be very safe too!

It is strange, that I’ve not seen that layout before either in the UK or on the many railways, that I’ve used abroad.

 

 

August 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Government Boost To Reopen Skelmersdale Rail Link To Manchester And Liverpool

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

These two paragraphs give the whole story.

Rosie Cooper says the government has given her new assurances that it is committed to creating a Skelmersdale rail link.

Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris told the West Lancashire Labour MP that an initial £500m funding pot set aside for reopening lines closed under the Beeching Act could be used towards ongoing efforts for Skelmersdale.

To my mind, Skelmersdale illustrates the appalling planning of the 1960s.

These dates are from Wikipedia.

  • November 5th, 1956 – Skelmersdale station closed to passenger services.
  • January 10th, 1957 – Harold Macmillan becomes Prime Minister
  • 1961 – Skelmersdale was designated a new town.
  • March 27th, 1963 – Beeching Report
  • October 19th, 1963 – Sir Alec Douglas Hume becomes Prime Minister
  • November 4th, 1963 – Skelmersdale station closed to all services.
  • October 16th, 1964 – Harold Wilson becomes Prime Minister
  • 1968-1970 – The M58 opens to connect Skelmersdale to the M6 and the M57 at Switch Island.
  • June 19th, 1970 – Edward Heath becomes Prime Minister.

It looks like a rail connection to the new town was removed, but a comprehensive road network was built.

This policy seems to be very different to decisions taken at Billericay, Crawley, Harlow, Hemel Hempstead, Kirkby, Milton Keynes and Stevenage, where rail connections were at least maintained.

The Latest Plan For Skelmersdale Station

This is the latest plan for Skelmersdale station, according to the Wikipedia entry.

It has been proposed a new station at Skelmersdale would act as the terminus for Merseyrail’s Northern Line, with connections available to Wigan and Manchester. Initial estimates suggest that the scheme could cost around £300 million to develop. On page 36 of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Long Term Rail Strategy document of October 2017, it states that Merseytravel is currently working with Lancashire County Council and Network Rail to develop a plan to extend the Merseyrail network from Kirkby through to Skelmersdale, with work completed in 2019. They are considering 3rd rail electrification and other alternatives with a new station at Headbolt Lane to serve the Northwood area of Kirkby. The document on page 37 states two trials of electric 3rd rail/battery trains will be undertaken in 2020, this is one of the “alternatives”

Lancashire County Council approved a plan in May 2019 to commission an outline business case into reopening the station which will be presented to the government.

Note.

  1. The possible site of Headbolt Lane station and the Concourse Shopping Centre in Skelmersdale are about 8 miles apart.
  2. Will the trains to Wigan and Manchester be direct or via a change at the new Headbolt Lane station?
  3. The reference to battery-electric trains, which would be able to handle the sixteen-mile round trip easily.

The site of the station will be at the former Glenburn Sports College, which is a couple of hundred metres to the East of the Concourse Shopping Centre.

This Google Map shows the location.

I would feel that this is very convenient.

  • The former Glenburn Sports college is marked by the red arrow.
  • The Concourse Shopping Centre is to the West of the station.
  • The station would be well-connected to the road network.
  • The approach track to the station could probably run by the side of Southway and cross it using a bridge or underpass.

This second Google Map shows the station in relation to the Kirkby Branch Line.

Note.

  1. The Glenburn Campus is indicated with the red marker at the top of the map.
  2. The M58 goes across the map.
  3. Rainford station is in the South-West corner of the map.
  4. Upholland station is on the Eastern edge of the map below the M58.

The Kirkby Branch Line links the two stations.

  • The Kirkby Branch Line continues to the West to the new Headbolt Lane station, Kirkby station and Liverpool city centre.
  • The Kirkby Branch Line continues to the East to Wigan Wallgate, Bolton and Manchester Victoria stations.
  • The Kirkby Branch Line is double-track to the East of Rainford and single-track to the West.

How will Skelmersdale station be connected to the Kirkby Branch Line?

If you look at the previous map, notice that a network of roads lead down from the Concourse Shopping Centre and then go under the M58. From the Google Map, it looks like the roads go under the M58 where there is a generous bridge.

This Google Map shows the section of the route on both sides of the M58.

It looks to me that a single-track railway could be run between the new Skelmersdale station and the Kirkby Branch Line.

  • Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains are not large trains and I am certain a single track could be squeezed in alongside the roads.
  • The distance is about three miles and a train would take about six minutes or around about fifteen minutes for the round trip.
  • Four trains per hour (tph) would be possible, which is the same frequency as the current service between Kirkby station and Liverpool.

Putting this together, I think the following would be possible.

  • A single track line without electrification between the Kirkby Branch Line and the new Skelmersdale station to the East of the Concourse Shopping Centre on the Glenburn Sports Campus site.
  • Class 777 trains would use battery power to the East of Headbolt Lane station.
  • The trains would charge their batteries between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane station.
  • The branch would leave the Kirkby Branch Line to the East of Headbolt Lane station.
  • Up to four tph between Liverpool Central and Skelmersdale stations, calling at all stations.
  • Up to two tph between Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria stations via Wigan.
  • Passengers between Skelmersdale and Manchester would change at Headbolt Lane station.

Other schemes would be possible, but allowing a direct Manchester and Skelmersdale service might be complicated and add substantially to the cost.

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 13 Comments

Merseyrail’s Battery Intentions

In New Merseyrail Fleet A Platform For Future Innovations, I quoted from  this article on the Rail Technology Magazine web site.

The article mainly is an interview with David Powell, who is programme director of rolling stock at Merseytravel.

This is a direct quote from the article.

We will be exploring, with Stadler, what the options are for having the trains becoming self-powered. This isn’t the bi-modes that lots of other people are talking about in the industry; this is on-board electrical storage.

The Wikipedia entry for Merseyrail links to this document, which puts a lot more flesh on Merseyrail’s intentions for battery trains.

It outlines strategies for the following routes.

Ellesmere Port And Helsby

The document says this.

There is a reasonable business case for extending the Merseyrail service through to Helsby.
However this is likely to be best served by the use of Merseyrail battery powered enabled
services. This will be tested on the new units in 2020.

According to Wikipedia, the sixth Class 777 train to be delivered will be fitted with batteries.

Currently, the service between Liverpool Central and Ellesmere Port stations is as follows.

  • A train every thirty minutes.
  • Trains take eighty-five minutes to do the round trip from Ellesmere Port round the Wirral Loop under Liverpool and back to Ellesmere Port.
  • There are thirty-one stops on the route.
  • There is a five minute turnround at Ellesmere Port station.

Two trains are needed to run the service.

The Current Class 507/508 trains and the future Class 777 trains both have the same operating speed, but there are performance differences.

The British Rail trains have 656 kW of power per train, whereas every new Stadler train will have 2,100 kW. The speed may be the same, but the acceleration will be much greater if needed and and the regenerative braking should be powerful and smoothly controlled.

  • Figures for the Class 313 train, which is similar to the Class 507/508 trains show a top speed of 75 mph and an acceleration of 0.67 m/s².
  • Figures for the Class 777 train show a top speed of 75 mph and an acceleration of 1.1 m/s².

These figures mean that a Class 507 train will get to 75 mph in 125 seconds, whereas the new Stadler trains will take just 76 seconds.

In addition, loading and unloading of passengers with their increasing levels of extras will be much faster due to the hollistic design of the trains and the platforms on the new Stadler trains.

It would not be unrealistic to see around a minute saved at every stop.

I think this level of improvement could be expected, with all the modern trains in the UK.

The extended service between Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations is not much extra distance and time.

  • Just over five miles each way.
  • About thirteen minutes each way , based on existing services on the route.

So if the terminus were to be moved to Helsby, when the new trains are in service, the time savings between Ellesmere Port and Liverpool should cover the extra distance.

It should also be noted about Helsby station.

  • It has four platforms and could probably handle four trains per hour (tph).
  • A platform with a charging station could be created.
  • It has a wide selection of services including Chester, Llandudno, Manchester and Warrington.

To my mind, Liverpool to Helsby would be an ideal route for a battery electric train.

Ormskirk-Preston Enhancements

The document says this.

This incorporates both electrification from Ormskirk through to Preston and the potential
reintroduction one or both of the Burscough Curves. In view of the deferral of electrification
proposals, and the relative low ranking of the electrification proposal in the Northern Sparks
report, it is unlikely that the electrification proposal is expected to be taken forward in the
near future. In addition to this, the business case for extending electrification to Burscough,
and the introduction of the southern Burscough Curve, is poor. The potential use of battery
powered Merseyrail units may improve the business case for both proposals. This will be
reviewed after the Merseyrail units have been tested for battery operation in 2020.

Currently, the service between Ormskirk and Preston stations is as follows.

  • A train every hour.
  • Trains take around thirty minutes to go between the two terminal stations.
  • The route is fifteen and a half miles long.
  • There are three stops on the route.
  • There is a long turnround in a bay platform at Preston station.

At the present time, the service seems rather erratic, with some services replaced by buses and long connection times at Ormskirk.

The service between Liverpool Central and Ormskirk stations takes thirty-five minutes with eleven stops and is generally every fifteen minutes, with a half-hourly service in the evening and at weekends.

If a Class 777 train could use battery power, I estimate it could run between Liverpool Central and Preston stations within an hour.

This would surely open up the possibility of a new service between Liverpool and Preston.

  • It would take only a few minutes longer than the fifty-one minutes of a direct train between Liverpool Lime Street and Preston stations.
  • It would connect a lot of stations to the West Coast Main Line at Preston.
  • It would link the major sporting venues of Aintree, Anfield and Goodison or Everton’s new ground to the North.
  • At the Southern end, it could connect to Liverpool Airport.

The Class 777 trains would need to be able to do about thirty miles on battery power and if required, the technology exists to either top up the batteries at Preston or use a pantograph to access the overhead wires of the West Coast Main Line.

At the present time, the Ormskirk Branch Line between Ormskirk and Preston stations is only single track and probably needs resignalling, but I suspect that a four tph service could be run between Liverpool and Ormskirk, with two tph extended to Preston.

Extra track work, North of Ormskirk and the reinstatement of the Burscough curves would allow.

  • Four tph between Liverpool and Preston via Ormskirk.
  • A service between Liverpool and Southport via Ormskirk.
  • A service between Preston and Southport.

There is even the possibility of extending Liverpool and Preston services to Blackpool South station, if they used the overhead electrification through Preston to charge the batteries.

Borderlands Development

The document says this.

While the aspiration is to fully electrify the line, and incorporate it into the Merseyrail
network, this is very much a long term aspiration. In the interim period the aim is to develop
the line through the introduction of an improved diesel service. Merseytravel will work
closely with relevant cross-border organisations such as Growth Track 360 to bring this
about. There are a number of new station proposals for the line, the principal being a new
station close to the Deeside Industrial Park, which would improve the ability of the
workforce to access the site via public transport.

The Borderlands Line provides a service between Liverpool and Wrexham Central station with a change at Bidston station.

  • The twenty-seven miles between Wrexham Central and Bidston are not electrified.
  • The line is double-track throughout.
  • There are twelve stations on the line.
  • The service is hourly, but probably needs to be at least half-hourly.
  • The service takes about an hour between Wrexham and Bidston stations.

Using Class 777 trains on the route, using battery power between Bidston and Wrexham Central stations would enable.

  • A direct service, that terminated in the Wirral Loop under Liverpool.
  • An increased capacity at Bidston station.
  • A faster service.

I estimate that a time of perhaps seventy to eighty minutes between Liverpool Central and Wrexham Central stations will be possible.

There would be very little infrastructure work, except for new stations and the possible ability to top up batteries at Wrexham Central.

I suspect that political problems, rather than any railway ones will be larger.

Bootle Branch Electrification

The document says this.

A long term proposal which will need to be considered alongside the developing freight
strategy for the region and the expansion of the Port of Liverpool. The proposal envisages
the introduction of passenger services which will operate from the Bootle Branch into Lime
Street. An initial study is required to understand fully the freight requirements for the line
and what the realistic potential for operating passenger services over the line is.

The Bootle Branch is known as the Canada Dock Branch in Wikipedia.

Class 777 trains with a battery capability and the ability to use the overhead electrification into Liverpool Lime Street would be able to serve this route, without the need for electrification.

Obviously, if for freight efficiency, the route was electrified, the trains could use it as needed.

North Mersey Branch

The document says this.

A long term proposal; this envisages a new service operating from Ormskirk via Bootle into
Liverpool. It was reviewed as part of the Merseyrail Route Utilisation Strategy in 2009 which
identified a poor business case.

I can’t identify the actual route, but there are various rail alignments into and through the Docks.

Skelmersdale

The document says this.

Merseytravel is currently working with Lancashire County Council and Network Rail to
develop the Merseyrail network from Kirkby through to Skelmersdale. This work is expected
to be completed in 2019. Further development work will be required before this project is
implemented. While 3rd rail electrification is being considered currently, alternatives will be
considered later in the development process. A new station at Headbolt Lane to serve the
Northwood area of Kirkby is an integral part of this proposal. The potential to extend the
network further through to Wigan will need to be developed separately.

I wrote about this plan in Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – How To Plan A New Rail-Link.

Thoughts On Battery Size And Range

Thjis article on Railway Gazette is entitled Battery Trial Planned For New EMU Fleet.

This is the first paragraph.

The sixth of the 52 four-car 750 V DC third rail electric multiple-units which Stadler is to supply for Merseyrail services around Liverpool is to be fitted with a 5 tonne battery to test the business case for energy storage. While all the EMUs will be equipped for regenerative braking, this is not seen as optimal on the Merseyrail network.

I find the last part of this paragraph difficult.

Does it mean the trains can use regenerative braking, but that it is not worth using?

This media release on the Stadler web site is entitled Stadler Signs Contract To Build And Maintain 52 Metro Trains For
Liverpool City Region.

This is a sentence.

The units will also be equipped with batteries that allow independent movement of the units in the workshop and depot areas.

Out of curiosity, what will be the kinetic energy of the four-car trains at the full speed of 75 mph

  • The train weight is given as 99 tonnes in Wikipedia.
  • The passenger capacity is 484, with a weight of 90 Kg each.
  • This gives a train weight of 142.56 tonnes.

Putting these figures into Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator gives a kinetic energy of 22.3 kWh.

I feel that this fairly low amount of energy could be held in a 60 kWh battery, that would probably come from a hybrid bus and weigh about 600 Kg.

I would be very surprised if Stadler are not using a smaller battery to do the following.

  • Handle regenerative braking.
  • Independent movement in the workshop and depot areas.
  • Train power in sidings and platforms.

It could also handle, train rescue to a safe evacuation point, in the event of power failure. I suspect that like Crossrail in London, Merseyrail would be very happy to have an independent recovery system in the tunnels under Liverpool, Birkenhead and the River Mersey.

In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I estimated that using 3 kWh per vehicle mile is not a bad estimate for the energy use of an electric train running at speeds in excess of 100 mph.

Using this figure would give  a range on a 60 kWh battery of at least five miles, which would move the train out of the tunnels if the power failed.

But we’re talking about a modern lightweight train running on probably newly relaid track and my 3 kWh per vehicle mile could be a little on the high side.

Stadler are talking of fitting the sixth train with a fifty five battery, which would probably have a capacity of around 500 kWh.

Using various consumption figures, the range would be as follows.

  • 3 kWh per vehicle mile – 42 miles
  • 2 kWh per vehicle mile – 62 miles
  • 1 kWh per vehicle mile – 125 miles

Stadler and their battery supplier are probably working on.

  • A train that uses less electricity.
  • More efficient regenerativer braking.
  • A more intelligent train control system.
  • Increased energy density in the battery.
  • Efficient charging systems.
  • A plug-in battery pack that can be added and removed in minutes.

As a Control and Electrical Engineer, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that the control, electrical and software system of trains with and without the five tonne battery are identical and some just have a larger amount of energy storage.

Range on battery power can only increase!

Consider the lengths of some of the routes discussed earlier.

  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby – 5 miles
  • Ormskirk and Preston – 16 miles
  • Bidston and Wrexham Central – 27  miles

Only the last route might need a charging station at the remote terminal.

My Own Speculation On Routes

I think there could be other routes that could easily be run by Class 777 trains running on battery power.

Onward From Hunts Cross

The current service between Hunts Cross and Manchester Oxford Road stations is only two tph, using rather suspect rolling stock.

  • Under Merseyrail and London Overground rules, it should be at least four tph to give travellers a Turn-Up-And-Go service.
  • The stations are of variable quality, but are being improved and will soon be joined by a new station at Warrington Wrst.
  • There is a lot of new developments along the route.
  • The service terminates in a convenient bay-platform at Manchester Oxford Road station.
  • The service calls at Deansgale station for the Manchester Metrolink.

The route could be developed into a City-Centre-to-City-Centre and commuter route for both Liverpool and Manchester.

So could this route be run by Class 777 trains using battery power?

Consider.

  • Hunts Cross and Manchester Oxford Road are just twenty-seven miles apart.
  • The last couple of miles to Oxford Road is electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Hunts Cross is electrified with 750 VDC third-rail.

It will be a Liverpool and Manchester Railway for the Twenty-First Century

I think it is one of those problems, where the engineering is easy, but the politics will be very difficult.

Onward From Headbolt Lane

The current service between Liverpool and Kirkby, which will be extended to the new station at Headbolt Lane, is a a Turn-Up-And-Go service of four tph. But the onward service to Wigan and Manchester is just a very inadequate hourly-service.

Consider.

  • Headbolt Lane and Wigan are just twelve miles apart.
  • Plans are being developed to create a proper transport interchange at Wigan for the arrival of High Speed Two.
  • Wigan North Western is electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Kirkby is and Headbolt Lane will be electrified with 750 VDC third-rail.

It would appear to be very possible to extend Class 777 trains from Kirkby to Wigan using battery power.

More Trains For Merseyrail

This is a paragraph from the Stadler media release about Merseyrail’s new trains.

The new four-car trains will all be in service by 2021, with the first unit arriving for testing by the middle of 2019.
The value of the manufacture and maintenance contracts for the 52 trains is up to £700m and Merseytravel
also has the option to procure an additional 60 units of rolling stock.

If the options are taken up, this would more than double the size of the Merseyrail’s fleet.

But where will these trains connect to Liverpool City Centre?

Helsby, Preston, Skelmersdale, Wrexham Central and the other routes in Liverpool will all need more trains, but nothing like sixty trains.

So will we see Wigan and Warrington added to Merseyrail’s destinations? And what about Manchester?

Never say no to Liverpool and their Swiss co-conspirators!

Conclusion

It is a comprehensive expansion strategy, where much of the work to create the various extensions is performed by adding equipment to the trains in factories or depots, rather than by the disruptive installation of electrification.

It looks very much like a case of Have Swiss Train Will Travel.

But then, I think the London Overground is using a similar strategy to expand in partnership with Bombardier.

Other networks like the Tyne & Wear Metro and those in cities like Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Leeds will be using similar philosophies of battery trams, tram-trains and trains.

Cardiff has already disclosed their plans and Stadler are building the trains for the South Wales Metro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 21, 2018 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hammond To Announce ‘More Money’ For Northern Powerhouse Rail

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

This is said.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is to announce an extra £300m to improve rail links in northern England, in a speech to the Conservative Party conference.

Plans to electrify the whole Trans-Pennine route have been in doubt.

But the new money will be used to ensure HS2 will link to faster trains between Liverpool and Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and York – so-called Northern Powerhouse rail.

What would I do with £300 million to improve the rail lines in the North?

To Electrify Or Not!

If we don’t electrify a few routes it will make things difficult.

As an example, you might want to create an HS2 route from London to Middlesbrough, using the Northallerton to Middlesbrough Line.

HS2 trains would probably travel from the HS2 terminus at Leeds along the East Coast Main Line to Northallerton.

If the last few miles were not electrified, then the train would need to be a bi-mode.

However, the dead weight of a diesel engine might reduce the performance sufficiently, so the train couldn’t run at full speed on HS2.

So the HS2 trains would probably need electrified track at all time!

I don’t think that all the destinations that might need an HS2 service are on all-electric route from HS2.

How about these stations?

  • Barrow
  • Blackburn
  • Burnley
  • Edinburgh
  • Huddersfield
  • Lincoln
  • Middlesbrough
  • Newcastle
  • Sheffield
  • York

Note that Carlisle and Glasgow are not on my list, but four important stations , that are served by the East Coast Main Line, cannot be reached by an electric train from HS2, because of gaps in the electrification.

Splitting And Joining

I am assuming that trains can join and split like the Class 395 trains to Kent.

As a simple example two five-car trains might start from London as a ten-car train and split at Crewe or Nottingham, with perhaps each train going to different destinations.

Going southward, two trains would join for the dash to London.

Cross-And Same-Platform Interchanges

By clever station design, it might be possible for interchanges at places like Crewe, Nottingham, Preston and York to be a simple procedure, where passengers get off one train and get on the connecting service either immediately or after a few minutes, without negotiating any steps, escalators or lifts.

Electrification

Possible routes to electrify would be as follows.

Batley To Selby Via East Leeds Parkway, Leeds and White Rose Centre

Leeds are keen to build two new stations; East Leeds Parkway and White Rose Centre. The line could be electrified between these two stations to form a new electrified CrossLeeds service perhaps between Batley in the West and Selby in the East.

There is the 4km. long tunnel at Morley and this could be easy to electrify, by using an overhead rail, as was used in the Severn Tunnel.

Leeds to York

This would give the following advantages.

  • It would complete a fully electric route from Leeds to York, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
  • A time saving of upwards of upwards of five minutes between Leeds and York.
  • Direct connection for HS2 to the East Coast Main Line.
  • It would allow electric trains to be moved between York and Neville Hill depot in Leeds.

It would also be a fairly simple piece of electrification.

Northallerton To Middlesbrough

This line is only twenty miles long and it would allow electric trains and HS2 to go to Middlesbrough.

Preston To Burnley via Blackburn

I’m very keen on this electrification.

  • It would give a lift to the area.
  • Electric and bi-mode trains could run between Blackpool, Blackburn, Clitheroe, Burnley, Colne, Liverpool and Manchester.

HS2 trains would be able to reach Blackburn and/or Burnley.

Tunnels

There are several long tunnels in the Pennines. I believe that these should be electrified, as Network Rail seem to be able to handle tunnels.

Bi-mode trains would run through using the electrification.

Improved Lines

These lines could be improved and might even be electrified.

Camp Hill Line

This would create a second line across Birmingham. Extra chords at Bordesley, a couple of stations and electrification would make it a quality improvement.

Carnforth To Barrow

Barrow and the nearby Sellafield need a lift and perhaps, if the line were to be improved bi-mode trains could reach Barrow from Crewe, where there will be an easy interchange with HS2.

Electrifying the line might be possible, but the Heritage lobby won’t want the Lake District spoiled.

Derby To Nottingham Via East Midlands Hub

When HS2 gets to the East Midlands Hub station between Nottingham and Derby, it will need good connections to both cities.

This could be heavy rail or an extended Nttingham Express Transit.

Liverpool To Manchester Via Chat Moss

The electrified route between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Victoria stations has a very low operating speed.

Sort it!

New And Reopened Lines

There are a couple of lines thsat could be built or reopened.

MerseyRail’s Northern Line to Skelmersdale

I like this idea and it could be an improvement with a high return.

Skipton And Colne

This missing link should be created, so that there is another route across the Pennines.

As Skipton is electrified, why not electrify the link and the existing Colne to Rose Grove line, which would be on the Preston to Burnley route that I think should be electrified.

 

 

 

Conclusion

I’ve probably spent £300 million now!

But I do think, if Network Rail are innovative, things can be made a lot better.

 

 

October 2, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – Skelmersdale Station

In Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – How To Plan A New Rail-Link, I talked about a new Skelmersdale station.

From Kirkby, I took a taxi to look at the sites of Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations.

These pictures were taken in and around the Concourse Shopping Centre at Skelmersdale.

The Shopping Centre has everything needed for a railway station, if one should be built nearby.

This Google Map shows the Concourse Shopping Centre.

As the rail line from the junction to the East of Rainford station comes in from the South, I’m sure that Merseyrail have a good place to put the station, so that passengers can walk into the Concourse Shopping Centre.

Passengers might even be able to use the existing bridge.

 

 

September 21, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – Headbolt Lane Station

In Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – How To Plan A New Rail-Link, I talked about Headbolt Lane station.

From Kirkby, I took a taxi to look at the sites of Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations.

These pictures were taken at the site of the proposed Headbolt Lane station.

Plans for the station talk about a single platform.

This Google Map shows the railway line, which runs alongside Headbolt Lane.

Note the footbridge in the bottom left corner of the map.

Merseyrail would seem to have a lot of space to put the station.

September 21, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – Kirkby Station

In Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – How To Plan A New Rail-Link, I talked about Kirkby station.

So as I was going from Liverpool to Blackburn, I took a detour.

These pictures were taken at Kirkby station.

The amazing thing about Kirkby station is that in the last three years, the yearly passenger totals have averaged around 2.4 million.

Not bad for a station with four trains per hour (tph) to Liverpool and two tph to Manchester.

Near me in London, Chingford station has 4 tph to London and struggles to attract 1.7 million passengers per year.

You can understand, why Merseyrail are considering expanding the train service to Kirkby and the surrounding area.

Under Merseyrail’s plans, the station will remain a single platform, but I suspect the upgrading will do the following.

  • Trains will stop by the stairs and the ramp.
  • Platform facilities could be improved.
  • There’s space for a lift!

I suspect there’s not too many single-platform stations that will be able to handle 4 tph in both directions.

 

September 21, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

The Route

The article says this about the route.

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

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

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

Note.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This would mean the following.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electrification

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

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

The article in the Southport Visiter also says this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kirkby Station

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

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

Headbolt Lane Station

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

Rainford Station

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

A Co-Operative Project

The article in the Southport Visiter says this.

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

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

The Cost Of The Project

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

These actions will need to be done.

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

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

Building The Project

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

It is an excellent plan!

 

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 10 Comments