The Anonymous Widower

Fed Up Council Threatens Injunction Against Network Rail Over Closure Of Milton Keynes Railway Crossing

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Milton Keynes Citizen.

This looks like the ultimate level crossing argument between a council and Network Rail.

In some ways it’s all a bit ironic, as Network Rail’s headquarters is in Milton Keynes.

This Google Map shows the disputed crossing in Woburn Sands.

Note.

  1. The railway is the Marston Vale Line.
  2. Woburn Sands station and a level crossing is at the Western edge of the map.
  3. Swallowfield Lower School is at the Eastern edge of the map.
  4. Cranfield Road runs along the Northern side of the railway.

The row is all about the closure of the foot crossing, that links Cranfield Road and the school.

I live on a road to a primary school. At school times, there is heavy traffic on the pavement, with a lot of younger children in buggies and others with scooters.

  • A lot of the younger children are probably not going to school, but are too young to be left at home, by themselves.
  • I also see a couple of children in wheel-chairs.

I suspect the traffic to Swallowfield Lower school will be similar.

  • A bridge over the railway with steps would not be an adequate solution.
  • A bridge with lifts would be expensive.
  • A bridge with ramps would probably be difficult to fit in the restricted site.
  • A shallow subway with a ramp either side would probably be the only acceptable and affordable solution.

This picture shows such a subway at Enfield Lock station.

Could one like this, be dug under the railway at Woburn Sands?

November 11, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Karen’s Travel Problem

My friend, Karen, has a train problem.

She lives in Leeds and needs to go to Milton Keynes regularly.

The journey is difficult with often two changes and the need to go across Manchester.

But not from Monday!

It appears that under the new timetable, all the XX:50 trains from Leeds, go direct to Piccadilly over the Ordsall Chord and now give you twenty-five minutes to catch a direct train to Milton Keynes.

The total journey time is just under three hours.

The return journey seems quicker too!

It will be interesting to see, how much the Ordsall Chord changes journeys across Manchester!

May 19, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

MK-Bedford New Line Mooted

The title of this post, is the same as the title of an article in the April 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph.

A new railway between Milton Keynes and Bedford for the East West Rail project has been suggested as a way of avoiding problems with the Marston Vale Line, where the hourly stopping service and numerous level crossings limit capacity for through regional trains.

Another aim is that the next phase of the project should be completed by the end 2022, which is between a one and two years earlier than the existing target.The Chairman of the East West Rail Company, then said he’d like the the railway to open in 2027.

The article says a new route will be expensive, but innovative ways of doing things could help.

Consider these points about the Marston Vale Line

  • The stations need development.
  • There are at least thirteen level crossings.
  • New houses are being built near some stations.
  • The operating speed  is just 50 mph.
  • Finding a new route at Fenny Stratford, Woburn Sands, Aspley Guise, Ridgmont and Lidlington could be difficult.
  • The railway passes under the M1 and the A421, so moving these crossing points could be difficult.

It’s all a complicated design problem.

East West Rail could borrow a trick from the Heathrow Southern Railway, which is planned to run alongside the M25 to get to Heathrow. The new railway could be routed alongside the A421 in the Bedford area.

This Google Map shows the A421 to the South of Bedford.

Note.

  • The Marston Vale Line goes across the North West corner of the map.
  • The Midland Main Line goes across the map in a North-South direction.
  • The roundabout at the North East connects the A421 to the A6.
  • The building by the roundabout is a hotel.

If the East West Rail Link was routed alongside the by-pass a station could be built where the two lines cross.

  • The Midland Main Line and Thameslink would be linked to the East West Rail Link.
  • Passengers for Bedford would be able to use the frequent Thameslink service to get to the town.
  • A big Park-and-Ride could be built.
  • Marston Vale Line services would take the same route as they do now, via Bedford St. Johns station.

If it was desired, chords could be built to enable services on the East West Rail Link to serve Bedford with a reverse in Bedford station.

Oxford has a Parkway station, Milton Keynes has a Milton Keynes South station at Bletchley, Cambridge will probably have a Cambridge South station, so why shouldn’t Bedford have a Bedford South station?

March 22, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

East West Rail To Be A ‘Diesel Commuter Railway’

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in Rail News. The article talks about the design of the East West Railway.

The East West Railway is important for three reasons.

  • It creates a passenger rail link between the high-tech cities of Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge.
  • There are various sites on the route, where much-needed development of houses is proposed and these would benefit from the railway.
  • Likewise the developments would provide passengers for the railway.

Rob Brighouse is chairman of the company setup to build the rail link and he indicates more details of the proposal to reopen the railway.

Purpose Of The Railway

Rob Brighouse says this about the purpose of the railway.

The route has changed from being an electrified corridor for freight – part of the ‘electric spine’ envisaged in 2012 – to become a diesel operated commuter railway, at least for the foreseeable future.

So it looks like the railway will be built without provision for long and heavy freight trains.

But I wouldn’t rule out fast parcels and light freight traffic using diesel or bi-mode multiple units, capable of 100 mph. Would these trains be something like a modern version of a Class 325 train?

In practice, this probably means that no provision is made for long freight loops and some of the connections to other lines can be simpler.

Single Or Double Track

Nothing is said about whether the design is for a single or double track railway.

I doubt there is much money to be saved by adding sections of single-track.

The Wikipedia entry for the East West Railway indicates that the Oxford to Bletchley section is proposed to have a 100 mph operating speed.

For these and other reasons, I feel that the engineers designing the line, will ensure that it is a double track 100 mph line.

The section along the Marston Vale Line would need to be upgraded if 100 mph double-track is the standard.

I also think that almost uniquely for a railway in the UK, that the line could be built virtually level with very gentle turns, so that little energy is wasted fighting the terrain.

Level Crossings

West of Bletchley, there are few if any level crossings, but those between Bletchley and Bedford would need to be removed, if the railway was to be built as a fast and smooth line.

Electrification

Rob Brighouse said this about electrification of the route.

I am not planning on making specific provision for electrification. If there are locations where it can be accommodated at a sensible price and it’s much more effective today than tomorrow then we will certainly look at that, yes.

I will review the work that has already been done to adjust structures on the Bicester-Bletchley section. If it creates many abortive costs by cancelling that work then obviously that will inform the decision, but if the work can be done later then that’s what I’ll be looking at. At the moment we are looking at a non-electrified route.

That is a pragmatic approach.

As I said previously, I believe that a well-designed almost-level 100 mph double track could mean that the amount of carbon dioxide produced by an energy- efficient diesel or bi-mode train would not be excessive.

The approach would also have these advantages.

  • The route would be available to diesel or bi-mode trains immediately after it is built and certified.
  • Electrification of the new railway at a later date with 25 KVAC overhead electrification would be relatively easy, if the building of the initial line is properly documented.
  • Overbridges, station platforms and other structures could be built or rebuilt with the required clearance for electrification at a convenient time.
  • In the next few years, more efficient battery, hydrogen-powered or whatever trains might be built, which could take advantage of the line.

Electrifying the line, only when needed would delay the time, when a lot of money is spent!

Proposed Services Along The Route

This document on the East West Railway web site, shows the following services.

Bedford to Oxford and Reading

  • Due to open in 2022.
  • Calling at Ridgmont, Woburn Sands, Bletchley, Winslow, Bicester Village, and Oxford Parkway
  • 1 train per hour in each direction
  • Approximate journey time: Bedford to Oxford 61 minutes

The current Bletchley to Bedford service will continue.

Milton Keynes to Oxford and Reading

  • Due to open in 2022
  • Calling at Bletchley, Winslow, Bicester Village and Oxford Parkway
  • 1 train per hour in each direction
  • Approximate journey time: Milton Keynes to Oxford 41 minutes

Combined with the Bedford service, Bletchley, Winslow, Bicester Village and Oxford Parkway will get two trains per hour (tph) to and from Oxford and Reading.

Milton Keynes to Aylesbury and London Marylebone

  • Due to open in 2024
  • Bletchley, Winslow, Aylesbury Vale Parkway, Aylesbury, Princes Risborough and High Wycombe
  • 1 train per hour in each direction
  • Approximate journey time: Milton Keynes to Aylesbury 33 minutes

Winslow will be getting three tph in both directions.

Nothing has been said about services to the East of Bedford.

There must be endless possibilities, as Ipswich and Norwich are mentioned in East West Railway articles.

Train Length

As to train length, I suspect that this is much on the lines of how long is a piece of string.

So will they just start with a four- or five-car train and see how it goes?

This approach was tried on the London Overground and the Borders Railway and in both cases, train capacity had to be increased.

At least most modern trains like Aventras from Bombardier and those from Hitachi are cut-and-shut trains, that can be easily extended, by adding cars in the middle.

The platforms are a bigger problem, if they need to be lengthened.

So I would build them long enough to handle two five-car trains working as a pair.

The pair of trains could also join and split en-route if required.

  • Two trains start from Ipswich and Norwich.
  • They join at Cambridge and proceed along the East West Railway.
  • They split at Oxford, with one section going to Reading and the other going to Swindon or Bristol.

The trains would need end gangways, so passengers could get into the right part of the train.

Hitachi already have automatic joining and splitting with Class 385 trains, so that isn’t a problem.

Train Frequency

The line will be built with the following characteristics.

  • Double track
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • Level with gentle curves.
  • No level crossings.
  • No slow freight trains.
  • 100 mph trains.
  • Modern signalling as on Crossrail and Thameslink

I don’t think that a headway as low as six or even four minutes between trains will be unreasonable.

Headway could also be variable along the route.

Bi-Mode Trains

Going from East to West along the route, the following stations are or will be on electrified lines.

  • Cambridge – Electrified
  • Cambridge South – New station at Addenbrooke’s Hospital – Electrified
  • Sandy – Crossing the electrified East Coast Main Line.
  • Bedford – Crossing the electrified Midland Main Line.
  • Bletchley – Crossing the electrified West Coast Main Line.
  • Didcot – Electrified
  • Reading – Electrified

So it would surely be prudent to run bi-mode trains on the line, so they may be able to take advantage of the electrification at the ends of the line.

Bi-mode trains will improve in the next few years with the following features.

  • The ability to change between electric and diesel at line speed.
  • Batteries could handle regenerative braking in both electric and diesel mode and help to asccelerate the train, when running on diesel.
  • The ability to raise and lower the pantograph quickly and without driver intervention.
  • Overhead or third-rail electrification could be used to fully charge the battery, if required.

I feel it would be very feasible to use bi-mode trains on the route and they would create less carbon-dioxide than a pure diesel.

I would also opt for bi-mode trains with a top speed of 125 mph on electrified lines, so extensions on the four connecting lines with this capability, would be possible and efficient.

Strategic short lengths of electrification would make the trains more energy-efficient.

Didcot

Didcot Parkway station sits on the junction where the East West Railway will join the Great Western Main Line.

This Google Map shows the junction.

Note the Great Western Main Line going across the map.

  • Reading is to the East.
  • Swindon is to the West.
  • Lines give connection to the East West Railway in both directions.

At some point in the future, services on the East West Railway could go to and from the West to perhaps serve Wales and the West.

If East West Railway adopt the same policy as they have with the Marston Vale Line, I will assume that other services between Reading and Oxford will remain unchanged.

Oxford

Oxford station will be a key interchange on the East West Railway.

I very much suspect though that services will be arranged at Oxford, so that change between local and East West Railway services is just a hop-off one train and hop-on another, or perhaps a walk across the platform.

Bletchley

A flyover at Bletchley station takes the East West Railway over the West Coast Main Line, which I discussed the in The Bletchley Flyover.

Connectivity

At present trains can also use the flyover to go in both directions between the Northbound West Coast Main Line and the Westbound East West Railway.

I also think trains can connect on the flat between the Southbound West Coast Main Line and the Eastbound East West Railway.

Will the building of the East West Railway increase connectivity at Bletchley?

The Bletchley Flyover And The New Platforms

This picture shows the Bletchley flyover.

Note.

  • It is a massive concrete structure.
  • It is almost a mile long.
  • It is not electrified.
  • West Coast Main Line is electrified using 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Two new platforms for the East West Railway will be built on the flyover to enable interchange with the West Coast Main Line.
  • Services will use the flyover to access Milton Keynes Central station.

This is a visualisation of how the proposed Bletchley station with the extra platforms could look.

I think the architects and engineers have created a good design.

  • A new entrance to the station on the other side of the West Coast Main Line has been created.
  • Interchange between the West Coast Main Line and the East West Railway will be step-free.
  • No electrification of the East West Railway is shown.

I also think it  could be built for an affordable cost.

Electrification At Bletchley

As substantial work will have to be done on the viaduct, would it be prudent to at least prepare the viaduct for electrification, when the new platforms for the East West Railway are created?

If a short section of electrification was added here will be beneficial for train operation.

  • Bi-mode trains could use it to reduce their diesel consumption and carbon footprint.
  • In future, battery trains could use it to charge their batteries.

Electrification of the flyover is a decision for the accountants.

But as the company building the line, will also operate some of the trains, they can offset construction against running costs.

Bedford

In the next phase of the building of the East West Railway, which is projected to be completed in 2022, Bedford station will be the Eastern terminus.

The service would probably use the existing platform 1A.

Under Future Developments in the Wikipedia entry for Bedford station, this is said.

Plans were being promoted by Network Rail and Bedford Borough Council for the redevelopment of the station quarter.

Platform 1A will be extended through the existing building to accommodate 12-car trains; presently it is only long enough to handle four-car trains and is a terminating bay.

Such a platform would be able to terminate trains arriving from.

  • Midland Main Line and Thameslink from the South.
  • Midland Main Line from the North.
  • The East West Railway.

The longer platform will need to be electrified to be able to handle Thameslink trains.

But it would enable services from the East West Railway to connect to the North at Bedford along the Midland Main Line.

Until more detail is published, I can’t say any more about Bedford.

Sandy

Sandy will be where the East West Railway crosses over the electrified East Coast Main Line.

I suspect that the design of this station will build on experience of Bletchley and hopefully it will be a convenient step-free interchange between services on both lines.

As with the new platforms at Bletchley, it could be relatively easy to provide a short length of electrification at the station.

Cambridge, Ipswich And Norwich

Only Cambridge on the West Anglia Main Line is electrified on the route of the East West Railway.

Wires reach to Ely in the North and Stansted Airport and London in the South.

Consider.

  • Greater Anglia are going to use Stadler Class 755 bi-mode trains on lines without electrification from Cambridge to Ipswich and Norwich.
  • The Breckland Line to Norwich could be turned into an almost-level 100 mph-plus line with very little infrastructure to slow trains.
  • The Breckland Line is lightly used, with a passenger service of two tph and very few freight trains.
  • Cambridge to Ipswich is partially electrified.
  • Cambridge and/or Peterborough to Ipswich has a passenger service of two tph and large numbers of heavy freight trains.

 

Bi-mode trains would probably be the preferred choice of train to the East of Cambridge.

Battery Trains

If you look at the lengths of the various sections of the East West Railway, they are as follows.

  • Cambridge South – Sandy – 22 miles
  • Sandy – Bedford – 9 miles
  • Bedford – Bletchley – 24 miles
  • Bletchley – Bicester – 20 miles
  • Bicester – Oxford – 14 miles
  • Oxford – Didcot – 14 miles

Consider.

  • No section is very long and all would be within the capability of battery trains in a few years.
  • Charging would be at both ends of the line in Cambridge and between Didcot and Reading.
  • But this might not be enough, especially if the trains used battery power at the Cambridge end to reach Ipswich and Norwich.
  • The solution would probably be to add enough electrification at Bletchley, Bedford and Sandy.

If battery trains do finally arrive, the East West Railway would be a very appropriate line to embrace the technology.

New Technology

If ever there was a railway, where new technology would be understood and welcomed by passengers, it must surely be the East West Railway between Cambridge in the East and Oxford and Reading in the West.

One big advantage this route has over others in the UK, is that I believe it could be built almost-level  with perhaps the biggest gradient being climbing over the Bletchley flyover. The energy needs of a modern train could be low.

Hydrogen-Powered Trains

Hydrogen-powered trains are effectively bi-mode trains with batteries, that use a hydrogen-powered power-pack instead of a diesel one to generate electricity when needed.

In this Press Release, Alsthom give a lot of details of their hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint.

  • Completely emission-free
  • 1000 km range on a tank-full of hydrogen.
  • 140 kph operating speed.

Alsthom have received their first order for fourteen trains from Germany.

I believe, that once they are fully developed, they could be ideal for the East West Railway.

Solar-Powered Trains

This may seem bizarre, but read Solar Power Could Make Up “Significant Share” Of Railway’s Energy Demand.

I believe that small solar-farms with batteries could be used to advantage on this line.

  • The line could be designed almost level and could have very low traction power consumption.
  • Much of the route goes through open countryside, where people don’t seem to object to solar farms.
  • Third-rail electrification could be installed at stations and for perhaps a kilometre on either side, to charge batteries on trains.
  • The electrification could also accelerate the trains on their way.
  • Power to the track would only be switched on when a train is present, thus reducing consumption and increasing safety.
  • The electricity generated could power the stations.

Why not?

Additional Services

The East West Railway  will have created extra capacity in a loop round London, that Rob Brighouse will be free of slow, heavy freight.

I believe that train operating companies will make use of the new route.

  • It will be a 100 mph double-track railway with plenty of capacity.
  • If built as an almost level track, it could offer substantial energy savings.
  • It will have connections to four electrified main lines radiating from London.
  • It will be free of slow, heavy freight trains.

However, it would need suitable diesel, bi-mode or hydrogen trains capable of 100 mph running.

But it could be a very efficient and lower-cost route across England!

Parcels And Light Freight

As I said earlier, I feel the route will also be used by fast parcels and light freight trains based on diesel or bi-mode multiple units.

As an example, plans exist to create a major freight airport at Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, which I wrote about in A Station At Doncaster Sheffield Airport. Part of the plan involves, diverting the East Coast Main Line to serve the Airport directly.

Amazon already flies parcels into the Airport and these could be loaded onto bi-mode express parcel trains, which could go down the electrified East Coast Main Line before taking the East West Railway to travel to Wales and the West of England.

Birmingham To Stansted Airport

Thjis one tph service is run by CrossCountry and goes via Cambridge, Ely, Peterborough, Leicester and Nuneaton. If CrossCountry were to switch to 125 mph bi-mode trains, might it be an alternative to use the East West Railway and perhaps the West Coast Main Line, where paths will be released once, HS2 is opened.

It would certainly be a faster and more economical journey

New Or Rerouted CrossCountry Services

Many of CrossCountry’s services take forever and visit some unsuspected stations. But obviously, it’s what their customers want.

I suspect though with 125 mph bi-mode trains, CrossCountry would look seriously about the possibility of using the East West Railway with its connections to four electrified main lines.

Marston Vale Services

This document on the East West Railway web site, says that current hourly services between Bletchley and Bedford  along the Marston Vale Line will continue.

  • On that section, the long distance trains are planned to stop at just Ridgmont and Woburn Sands stations.
  • Low-performance Class 230 trains planned for the line could slow fast traffic.
  • Especially if they stick to the current journey time of forty-three minutes.
  • Would an express want to get stuck behind a a slow local train?

I wonder how fast a 100 mph diesel multiple unit like a Class 172 train could go between Bedford and Bletchley?

I think it won’t be fast enough to avoid delaying East West Railway services.

So, something radical will need to be done.

It might be the solution would be to build that section of the route with three tracks; two for the East West Railway and a bi-directional one for the Marston Vale services.

  • This would separate the fast and local services.
  • There’s certainly plenty of space alongside the current tracks.

At least there don’t seem to have been many protests about building the East West Railway.

Conclusion

I think we could see the East West Rasilway built in a totally-different way.

  • Track designed for low energy use and fast, frequent trains.
  • Innovative trains.
  • Reduced carbon emissions, by the application of new technologies.

It could truly be a railway for the twenty-first century!

 

 

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 8 Comments

Will Crossrail Go Up The West Coast Main Line?

This report on the BBC from August 2014, is entitled Crossrail Extension To Hertfordshire Being Considered.

This is the opening paragraph.

Proposals to extend Crossrail to Hertfordshire are being considered by the government, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced.

But then in August 2016, the proposal was cancelled as being poor value for money.

The Wikipedia entry for Crossrail has a section called To the West Coast Main Line, under Extensions.

This is said.

Network Rail’s July 2011 London & South East Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) recommended diverting West Coast Main Line (WCML) services from stations between London and Milton Keynes Central away from Euston, to Crossrail via Old Oak Common, to free up capacity at Euston for High Speed 2. This would provide a direct service from the WCML to the Shenfield, Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood, release London Underground capacity at Euston, make better use of Crossrail’s capacity west of Paddington, and improve access to Heathrow Airport from the north. Under this scheme, all Crossrail trains would continue west of Paddington, instead of some of them terminating there. They would serve Heathrow Airport (10 tph), stations to Maidenhead and Reading (6 tph), and stations to Milton Keynes Central (8 tph)

That sounds all very sensible. So why was the scheme cancelled?

I will look at various factors to see if I can get an idea!

Current Local Services To Milton Keynes

London Midland currently runs five trains per hour (tph) between Euston and Milton Keynes Central stations using Class 350 trains capable of 110 mph.

The new operator; West Midlands Trains will replace these trains with 110 mph Aventras.

Note that both these trains have to be capable of running at 110 mph, as this is necessary for efficient operation of the West Coast Main Line.

Crossrail Local Services To Milton Keynes

Crossrail’s Class 345 trains are only capable of 90 mph running, but then again, West Midlans Trains will have Aventras capable of 110 mph.

So for a start, the current Crossrail trains would be unable to work services to Milton Keynes in an efficient manner.

I would estimate around twenty trains  would have to be updated for 110 mph running to provide eight tph.

An Upgrade Of Milton Keynes Central Station

With a fast eight tph running to and from Central London, the nature of the train services at Milton Keynes would change dramatically.

How many of Virgin’s passengers to and from the North would prefer to change to a local train at Milton Keynes, rather than lug heavy baggage on the Underground?

HS2 would have an unexpected competitor.

ERTMS On The West Coast Main Line

Would ERTMS need to be installed on the West Coast Main Line to accommodate al these trains?

This will probably happen soon anyway, but Crossrail to Milton Keynes could bring it forward.

Connecting Crossrail To The West Coast Main Line

Look at this map from carto.map.free.fr, which shows the lines in the Old Oak Common area.

Note.

  • The West Coast Main Line is the multi-track railway towards the top of the map.
  • The Great Western Main Line is the multi-track railway towards the bottom of the map.
  • The Slow Lines on both main lines are on the Northern side of the tracks.
  • The Old Oak Common station will be on the Great Western Main Line, just to the West of the North Pole Depot.

This all means that a flyover or a tunnel must be built to connect the two pairs of Slow Lines. It’s not simple!

This Google Map of the area illustrates the problem.

Note.

  • The Great Western Main Line going across the bottom of the map.
  • The North Pole Depot alongside the Great Western Main Line.
  • The Dudding Hill Line and the West London Line at the Western side of the map.
  • Crossrail’s newly-built depot is the large grey rectangular building.
  • There’s also some housing to the North-West of Crossrail’s Depot

I doubt that a flyover could pass over all that.

But a tunnel starting at the surely soon-to-be-redundant Heathrow Express Depot , that turned North-West would be a possibility.

A tunnel could emerge to the North-West of Harlesden station.

This Google Map shows that area.

Note.

  • The silver building in the top-left corner is the Princess Royal Distribution Centre.
  • The West Coast Main Line runs diagonally across the map.
  • The Dudding Hill Line runs up the Eastern side of the map.

I suspect that space for a tunnel portal can be found.

  • Twin tunnels would probably be bored.
  • I estimate that they, would need to be just over two kilometres long.
  • I suspect too, that they could be build without an additional ventilation shaft in the middle.

Looking at these maps, I’m very much of the opinion, that boring a tunnelled solution, would be possible, but what would be the cost?

The Lee Tunnel in East London is about twice as long and larger in diameter. From the cost of that tunnel, which was opened in 2016, I feel that the two tunnels could be built for just under a billion pounds.

A Tunnel-Free Solution

This Google Map shows Old Oak Common between the Great Western Main Line and the West Coast Main Line.

The Crossrail station would be at the bottom just above the North Pole Depot.

I wonder if a line could go through or behind the Heathrow Express site and then follow the North London Line behind the Crossrail Depot to Willesden High Level Junction.

This Google Map shows Willesden High Level Junction and the tracks of the London Overground as they pass over the West Coast Main Line.

I suspect modern three-dimensional design and structural analysis can create a connecting viaduct.

I doubt the track will be much more than a kilometre long and I suspect with the right signallinmg and a degree of Sutomatic Train Control, eight tph each way could be handled on a single track.

Conclusion

It looks like updating the Class 345 trains, ERTMS and building a tunnel under Old Oak Common could be a sizeable bill.

Have cost estimates been such, that the project was not deemed to be value for money?

October 23, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Future Rail Developments At Milton Keynes

The Milton Keynes area and its stations at Bletchley, Bow BrickhillFenny Stratford, Milton Keynes Central and Wolverton, are in for a lot of development in the next few years.

The East West Rail Link

This map shows the East West Rail Link.

East West Rail Link

East West Rail Link

Note how it crosses the West Coast Main Line at Bletchley and has a connection to Milton Keynes Central.

The Wikipedia entry for Bletchley station has a section called Future. This is said.

The Marston Vale Line is the passenger carrying remnant of the Varsity Line. As of 2014, the line beyond Bletchley through Winslow to Bicester Town is closed to passenger traffic, with goods traffic going only as far as Newton Longville sidings for the waste disposal site there. The high level crossing (officially named the “The Bletchley Flyover” – built in 1959 as part of the Modernisation Plan, with 7 x 56 ft (17 m) spans and then expected to be used by 80 trains a day) over the WCML at Bletchley remains in place and in occasional use. There is a funded plan to re-open the line to passenger traffic via Bicester to Oxford by 2019 and an unfunded desire to rebuild it from Oxford right through to Cambridge. A key element of the plan is to build a Bletchley high level station so that passengers may transfer between the lines. (Note that there is no corresponding east to north route).

It is obviously, a bit out of date, as the East West Rail Link is now planned and funded to Bedford.

This Google Map shows the track layout at Bletchley with the Marston Vale Line joining from the East and Fenny Stratford station.

Bletchley Station And The East West Rail Link

Bletchley Station And The East West Rail Link

Note.

  1. Stadium MK at the top of the map.
  2. The East West Rail Link can be seen curving to the west to the south of Bletchley station.
  3. The flyover over Bletchley station.
  4. Fenny Stratford station is to the south west of the large building at the east.
  5. The next station to the East is Bow Brickhill.

Bletchley will become a more important station.

East West Rail Link Services From Milton Keynes Central

The Wikipedia entry for Milton Keynes Central has a section called East West Rail. This is said.

From 2019, services are planned to operate (over a rebuilt East West Rail Link) to Oxford via Bletchley, Winslow and Bicester Town; and also to London Marylebone via Aylesbury and High Wycombe. Extension of the Oxford service to Reading has been mooted.

This will definitely need some more platforms at Milton Keynes Central, other than the single one 2A built for the still-born extended Marston Wale service to Milton Keynes.

I published some pictures in Platform Space At Milton Keynes Central, which show that there is some space.

Implications For Bletchley

I have now written The The Bletchley Flyover to cover the implications for Bletchley.

Great North Western To Blackpool

The Wikipedia entry for Milton Keynes Central has a section called Great North Western. This is said.

Great North Western Railway has been given permission to run 6 trains a day from London to Blackpool North from 2018, with conditional permission for a stop at Milton Keynes Central dependent upon future capacity after infrastructural work.

This will probably be very much a development, that will only affect Milton Keynes Central station.

Crossrail To Milton Keynes Central

The Wikipedia entry for Milton Keynes Central has a section called Crossrail. This is said.

Network Rail’s July 2011 London & South East Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) recommended diverting West Coast Main Line (WCML) services from stations between London and Milton Keynes Central away from Euston, to Crossrail via Old Oak Common, to free up capacity at Euston for High Speed 2. Doing so would provide a direct service from the WCML to the Shenfield, Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood, release London Underground capacity at Euston, make better use of Crossrail’s capacity west of Paddington, and improve access to Heathrow Airport from the north. Under this scheme, all Crossrail trains would continue west of Paddington, instead of some of them terminating there. They would serve Heathrow Airport (10 tph), stations to Maidenhead and Reading (6 tph), and stations to Milton Keynes Central (8 tph).

In August 2014, a statement by the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin indicated that the government was actively evaluating the extension of Crossrail as far as Tring and Milton Keynes Central, with potential Crossrail stops at Wembley Central, Harrow & Wealdstone, Bushey, Watford Junction, Kings Langley, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Tring, Cheddington, Leighton Buzzard and Bletchley. The extension would relieve some pressure from London Underground and London Euston station while also increasing connectivity. Conditions to the extension are that any extra services would not affect the planned service pattern for confirmed routes, as well as affordability.

Extending Crossrail to Milton Keynes would seem to be a sensible idea.

It would increase the capacity and frequency of services between Milton Keynes and London and open up several more direct destinations.

The quote from Wikipedia talks of increasing connectivity to Crossrail.

This connectivity is in addition to that created by an Old Oak Common station.

As with the East West Rail Link, it will probably need extra platforms at Milton Keynes Central. But there is at least some space to create them.

Conclusion

Milton Keynes Central will be a lot bigger and busier than it is now.

But it will join that elite group of stations that are Crossrail’s and Thameslink’s super-hubs.

 

December 13, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

A Better Experience In Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes has never been my favourite place, since I used to take my late son; George, to his boarding school, which inevitably meant a trip round the endless roundabouts. I was then mugged in the city by the street furniture, that I wrote about in A Pedestrian-Unfriendly City.

So when Ipswich were playing MK Dons, I thought I’d give the city one more chance.

These are a few observations.

  • The London Midland train was filthy and swimming in beer. I would assume it was supporters going to London.
  • There is no information at Milton Keynes Central station, as to how you get to the ground.
  • Bus 1 from Milton Keynes Central station, drops you just a rather cluttered short walk from Stadium MK.
  • There are no signs or maps for Away supporters, as to what is the best route.
  • Someone told me, that if you drive to the ground, parking costs £7 and you have to pay on-line.
  • I’ve never been to a British stadium before, where burger vans and tea stalls outside the ground, were conspicuous by their absence.
  • Several of the larger restaurants outside serve gluten-free food.
  • The stadium has some of the best handrails I’ve seen in a ground.
  • Coming back I just missed a bus and had to wait half-an-hour for the next small but full bus in a freezing cold shelter. I’d have taken a taxi, but there was no sign of a taxi rank.

I’ve never seen a ground, where it is assumed that everyone comes by car or supporters coach before.

I would have been distinctly miserable if Ipswich hadn’t won!

Milton Keynes is going to have to improve the buses. The number one bus, that I caught links Stadiujm MK and Milton Keynes Hospital to the stations at Milton Keynes Central and Bletchley.

This Google Map shows the area of Milton Keynes.

Milton Keynes Stations, Stadium MK And The Hospital

Milton Keynes Stations, Stadium MK And The Hospital

Milton Keynes Central station is in the North West corner, with Bletchley station st the bottom. The other station at the right is Fenny Stratford station on the Marston Vale Line, which will be incorporated into the East West Rail Link.

This map shows the route of the proposed line.

East West Rail Link

East West Rail Link

Wikipedia talks about extending the Marston Vale line to Milton Keynes Central, but although the track has been created, no trains have run.

Chiltern are also looking to extend their Aylesbury service to Milton Keynes Central via Bletchley, so hopefully this might prompt improvement in the bus services to Stdium MK and the Hospital.

I doubt it will, as Milton Keynes is one of those places where you’re a total loser, if you don’t have car and why should their taxes provide for better bus transport for the disabled, elderly and those that can’t drive.

I think we need a law in this country, that every hospital should have at least a four buses per hour direct service to the main railway and bus stations.

December 13, 2015 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Electrification Of The East West Rail Link

East West Rail has this question about electrification in the FAQ.

Q: Will East West Rail be electrified and if so, when?

A: It is expected that the Western Section of the East West Rail link will include electrification of the line between Bedford and Oxford.

Bletchley to Oxford is expected to be completed first during the 2014-2019 railway funding period.

Bedford to Bletchley will follow, probably in the next railway funding period 2019-2024, as part of the wider work done to electrify the Midland Main Line to Corby, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The Office of Rail Regulation has confirmed funding in principle for the electrification.  The exact amount of funding and scope is expected to be determined by the ORR by March 2015 following detailed development between NR, DfT and the train operators.

I will take this as a qualified yes or it would be desireable.

Bletchley to Oxford electrification is stated as being done first and if that timetable is met, it would be likely to be completed before services start on these routes.

  • Oxford to Milton Keynes
  • Milton Keynes to London via Aylesbury.

As both Oxford and Milton Keynes are currently or will be electrified by then, the services between the old and new cities could be performed by a 100 mph EMU, like a Class 387 train, which could then continue to Reading if required.

But there are no plans to electrify any of the London to Aylesbury Line. To complicate matters Chiltern Railways have a shortage of suitable diesel trains.

So although the line might be ready in 2019 or so, there would appear to be no chance of Chiltern Trains running between London and Milton Keynes.

Unless!

Wikipedia gives the length of the passenger section from London to Aylesbury Parkway as about thiry nine miles.

So this probably means that the line could be run by Class 387 IPEMU trains, if there was some electrification in Marylebone station to charge the trains before they travelled North.

It is an interesting possibility.

Especially, as an electrified Marylebone, would probably allow the same trains to run services to electrified stations at Bicester Village, Oxford Parkway and Oxford.

December 4, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Crossrail Go To Hertfordshire?

Yesterday, it was reported on the BBC that the government is seriously thinking of diverting some Crossrail trains to Hertfordshire possibly terminating them at Tring.

This is an old idea originally proposed by Network Rail and discussed here in Wikipedia.  This is what is said.

Network Rail’s July 2011 London & South East Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) recommended diverting West Coast Main Line (WCML) services from stations between London and Milton Keynes Central away from Euston, to Crossrail via Old Oak Common, to free up capacity at Euston for High Speed 2. This would provide a direct service from the WCML to the West End, Canary Wharf and other key destinations, release London Underground capacity at Euston, make better use of Crossrail’s capacity west of Paddington, and improve access to Heathrow Airport from the North.[113] Under this scheme, all Crossrail trains would continue west of Paddington, instead of some of them terminating there. They would serve Heathrow Airport (10 tph), stations to Maidenhead and Reading (6 tph), and stations to Milton Keynes Central (8 tph).

I think this could turn out to be an excellent change of plan. It certainly won’t add a billion or so to the costs of the project. Tring station would appear to have quite a large number of platforms and the only major infrastructure for the route would appear to be a tunnel at Old Oak Common.

Crossrail as originally designed went to Heathrow and Maidenhead in the West and Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the East. Sensibly in my view, Maidenhead has been changed for Reading in the West, to add a whole new level of connectivity to the West of England and Wales. Connecting to the West Coast Main Line could add similar connectivity to the North West of England, North Wales and Scotland.

So should Crossrail go to Tring or perhaps a more substantial interchange on the West Coast Main Line, which has cross platform interchange to Virgin’s streams of Class 390 Pendolinos to speed North? The excerpt from Wikipedia, I quoted earlier, says eight trains an could go to Milton Keynes.

I estimate that if Crossrail services terminated at Milton Keynes, the trains would get there within a few minutes of an hour from Canary Wharf. That is only twenty minutes more than it will take from Heathrow to Canary Wharf.

But Milton Keynes is more than a New City on the West Coast Main Line, it is an important staging post on the East-West Rail Link from Cambridge and East Anglia to Oxford and the West Country, so making Milton Keynes one of the Crossrail termini and linking it to the North with frequent services, could give whole new areas of the country like East Anglia and the West of England much better train services to the North.

If Milton Keynes was developed as this major hub, this would have other consequences.

  • The East-West Rail Link should probably be built as a 200 kph capable railway, so that Oxford to Cambridge services could be well under two hours.
  • The East-West Rail Link connects to the Midland Main Line at Bedford and Chiltern Services at Bicester, so should it complete the set by going to Cambridge via Peterborough, where it can interchange with the East Coast Main Line. It is the cheapest possible route of the rail link, but what people who live in places like Oakham will think about it, I do not know.
  • HS2 might be being built in the wrong place, as if Milton Keynes becomes this important rail hub, surely it should visit the city.

All I can say, is that extending Crossrail to Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes, will make planners think very hard about connections from the terminus to points to the North, East and West.

 

August 8, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments

A Pedestrian-Unfriendly City

I mentioned to a friend, who lives near Milton Keynes, that I might come up to see the new electric buses in the city. They suggested I come up and take one of the new buses to Bletchley Bus Station, where they would pick me up.

I got a return ticket on London Midland to Milton Keynes Central for just £9.55 for a journey that takes thirty-five minutes each way. Which I didn’t think was bad value.

There was information at the station about the buses, but compared to London, it wasn’t of the highest quality.

Clear But Fairly Useless Bus Information

Clear But Fairly Useless Bus Information

Although, the bus stand looked to be all new.

A New Bus Station

A New Bus Station

But it was all very draughty and after waiting for twenty minutes, I didn’t see any of the new wireless electric buses going to Bletchley.

A New Electric Bus

A New Electric Bus

Although a couple did pass without stopping.

Then my friend sent me a text to say, that they’d had a breakdown and when the AA came, they’d meet me in the central shopping in the city. There didn’t seem to be clear instructions about the best bus to get to the centrre and as it was a sunny, but cold day, I decided to walk, especially, as I could see a solitary lith with a map by the station.

A Solitary Lith In Milton Keynes

A Solitary Lith In Milton Keynes

The lith said that it would be about a fifteen minute walk, so I set off for the centre.  I didn’t pass any other direction signs or liths and eventually, I had to resort to the age-old device of asking a passer-by. I then got another message from my friend, who was still waiting for the AA.  A phone call later and we decided, we’ll meet another day.

I carried on walking and found the shopping centre, where I knew there was a Carluccio’s, so at least I could have lunch before returning. Carluccio’s cafes are usually fairly obvious with their blue canopies, but could I find it? Of course not! I couldn’t even find a directory in the shopping centre, giving any useful information. It was a new experience for me, to find a shopping centre without instructions to find your favourite shop. So I decided to go back to London and took a sign pointing to a bus station. But the dreadful place had one more surprise in store for me.  To get to the buses, I had to walk into the sun and didn’t see this beautifully camouflaged stone seat, as my eyesight isn’t a hundred percent, in certain circumstances.

A Camouflaged Stone Seat

A Camouflaged Stone Seat

I didn’t see it at all and it rapped me hard across both knees.

The Damage To My Left Leg

The Damage To My Left Leg

The picture shows the damage on my left leg.

When will those that design our pavements realise that not everyone is fit with perfect eyesight?

I wonder if a personal injury lawyer, would like to take on my case.

And then of course, there was no simple way to find which bus you should take to get back to the station.

When I got back to the station, I was wrongly informed, which was the next London Midland train back to London, so I had to wait for twenty minutes on a cold windy station with no shelter.

I shall never return to the most pedestrian-unfriendly city, I’ve found on my travels.  And as my friend will testify, they can’t even get the breakdown service for the cars that they expect everybody to use, correct!

February 4, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments