The Anonymous Widower

Roaming Around East Anglia – Freight Trains Through Newmarket

The East West Rail Consortium plan to change the route of freight trains to and from Haven Ports; Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich to the West of Kennett station.

In this document on the East West Rail Consortium web site, this is said.

Note that doubling of Warren Hill Tunnel at Newmarket and
redoubling between Coldham Lane Junction and Chippenham Junction is included
in the infrastructure requirements. It is assumed that most freight would operate
via Newmarket, with a new north chord at Coldham Lane Junction, rather than
pursuing further doubling of the route via Soham.

How would these changes affect Newmarket and the horse-racing industry in the town?

How Many Freight Trains Are We Talking About?

This table shows the number of freight trains going through Kennett station on the 1st of March 2019.

  • 00  1  1
  • 01  1  0
  • 02  0  1
  • 03  2  1
  • 04  1  1
  • 05  1  1
  • 06  1  2
  • 07  1  1
  • 08  1  0
  • 09  1  0
  • 10  1  0
  • 11  0  0
  • 12  0  0
  • 13  2  2
  • 14  0  2
  • 15  1  1
  • 16  0  1
  • 17  1  1
  • 18  0  1
  • 19  1  1
  • 20  1  0
  • 21  1  2
  • 22  0  2
  • 23  0  0

In the table the first figure is the hour, the second figure is the number of freight trains going West and the third figure is the number of freight trains going East.

This gives a daily total of eighteen trains going West and twenty-one trains going twenty-one trains going East.

But these figures will increase!

At present, Network Rail are adding a passing loop on the Felixstowe Branch Line. This article on Rail Magazine is entitled £60.4m Felixstowe Branch Upgrade Under Way and says this about the upgrade.

Installing the new line will create capacity for up to ten additional freight trains, each the equivalent of 76 lorries.

Not all will come via Kennett, as some will go via London.

The Port of Felixstowe will get larger and other improvements on the route across Suffolk will increase the number of freight trains passing through Kennett station.

I estimate that it is very likely that in a few years there will be two trains per hour (tph) in both directions for every hour of the day.

Rerouting The Trains Through Newmarket

Currently, these freight trains go via Ely, but the plan of the East West Rail Consortium would be to reroute all these freight trains through the Warren Hill tunnel and Newmarket station.

I suspect the reasons for the change of route could include the following.

Accessing The East West Rail Link From Newmarket Is Easy And Quick

If as expected the East West Rail Link joins the London-Cambridge Line just South of Cambridge South station, then the trains would run through Dullingham, Cambridge and Cambridge South stations, when running between the East West Rail Link and Newmarket station.

The East West Rail Link Will Be An Efficient Railway

Drive on a new motorway and the curves are smooth with relaxed gradients.

A new railway will be like that too and less energy will be used to power trains along its length.

Increasing the Capacity Through Ely Is Difficult

There is a very complicated track layout at Ely and increasing the number of trains might be difficult or very expensive.

Freight Trains Will Use The East West Rail Link To Avoid London

Take going between the Haven Ports and Bristol or South Wales.

Currently, these trains tend to go via London and in a couple of years will have to share tracks with London’s intensive Crossrail network between Acton Main Line and Reading stations.

Using the East West Rail Link, the trains would join the Great Western Main Line at Didcot, a few miles West of Reading.

How many services will use the East West Rail Link to by-pass London?

Freight Trains Will Use The East West Rail Link To Get To The West Coast Main Line

Currently, these trains either go via London or take the slow cross-country route via Peterborough to Nuneaton for the West Coast Main Line.

If they use the East-West Rail Link, they can join the West Coast Main Line at Bletchley.

The East-West Rail Link Will Be An Important Freight Link

I think that as the years pass and more freight terminals are created, we will see more freight trains using the East-West-Rail-Link and many of these trains will go through Newmarket.

What Problems Would The Rerouting Create In Newmarket?

I can see these problems.

Noise And Vibration

Four freight trains per hour will create a lot of noise and vibration as they pass through.

Frightening The Horses

This Google Map shows a corner of the gallops at Newmarket.

Note how the railway from the East splits into two, to the West of the band of trees running down the map.

  • The top branch curves away to the North and goes through Soham to Ely.
  • The bottom branch curves away to the South and goes through Warren Hill Tunnel to Newmarket station and then on to Cambridge.

Alongside, the Southern route is the Al Bahatri all-weather gallop, which is an important facility for training racehorses. It can just be picked out as a sand-coloured line.

Currently, nearly all the freight trains take the Northern route to Ely, keeping them away from the Al Bahatri.

But, if the main freight route was through the town, as planned by the East West Rail Consortium, then at least four freight trains per hour would run alongside the gallop. There could also be four passenger trains per hour.

Railway Electrification

It is unlikely, that the railway through Newmarket will be electrified, but under a different government, this could happen.

It might add another dimension to disturbance through the town, as you get pantograph noise and occasional sparks and flashes. I don’t know how horses will react, but from my own experience years ago, they do react to electrical fields.

The Rail Freight Industry

Look at most freight trains on the UK’s railways and the locomotive on the front, is a noisy, smelly and polluting Class 66 or Class 70 locomotive.

You’ll see these American imports, which don’t meet the latest emission regulations, hauling freight trains, even when there are overhead wires for electric haulage.

Why?

Because rail freight companies are so driven by accountants, that they can’t be bothered to obtain more modern diesel locomotives, that are quieter, more powerful and less polluting.

The picture shows a modern Class 68 locomotive at Stratford. These are quieter and meet most of the noise and emission regulations.

Mitigating The Problems

I’ll deal with various methods, that could be used, starting with the easiest.

A Level Railway Through The Town

It looks like the Victorian engineers, who built the railway through the town, built it as level as possible, so that steam locomotives didn’t have to work so hard in the Warren Hill Tunnel, which I don’t think has a chimney for smoke.

Modern engineers will ensure that the railway is as level as possible, with gentle gradients and curves all the way between Kennett and Dullingham stations.

Passenger Trains With Batteries

Greater Anglia’s new Class 755 trains are powered by both overhead electrification and onboard diesel engines. The latter sit in a power pack in the middle of the train.

Not having seen or heard one of these Swiss-built trains in the metal, I can make no comment as to the noise and vibration of these trains, but they should be quieter than the current three-car Class 170 trains.

It does appear that passenger trains built in the last years are much quieter, as they are much more aerodynamically correct and slippery, so they generate less noise.

The new trains have also been ordered for the South Wales Metro. But the Welsh trains will additionally be fitted with batteries to avoid some difficult electrification in the Valleys.

So if the passenger trains prove to be noisy through the town, which I doubt they will be, there will be the option of adding batteries to avoid the use of diesel power.

It is my belief, that technology will ensure that passenger trains will not be a problem.

More Environmentally-Friendly Freight Locomotives

As I said earlier, smelly, noisy and polluting freight locomotives are a big problem.

This is not just a problem for places like Newmarket with special circumstances, but on railways like the London Overground and those in Central Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester,, where suburban electric railways have to accommodate heavy rail freight.

The railway locomotive manufacturers have designed solutions for the problem in recent years.

Stadler, who are an innovative Swiss company have started to manufacture a Class 93 locomotive, which can run on diesel, electric and/or battery power. I’m fairly sure, that one of the design goals of this locomotive is to be able to haul a heavy freight train between Felixstowe and Peterborough, using electric power where it is available and a mix of diesel and battery at other times.

At Newmarket if the new double-track was well-designed and almost level, I suspect that a Class 93 locomotive could haul a train between Kennett and Dullingham stations on battery power.

Locomotives of this type should be compulsory on all freight routes through sensitive areas.

The government must legislate, as left to themselves the rail freight companies will sit on their hands and wallets.

One of the conditions of a double-track railway through Newmarket, should be that only locomotives that meet the latest noise, vibration and pollution standards, like the Class 93 locomotive should be allowed.

Quieter 100 mph Freight Trains

Karl Watts, who is a disruptive innovator and CEO of the Rail Operations Group, has bought the first ten Class 93 locomotives and intends to use them to haul 100 mph freight trains, where the routes allow.

On the electrified Great Eastern Main Line between Ipswich and London, the operating speed is 100 mph. But freight trains trundle up and down at 75 mph, thus slowing all of the passenger services.

Watts plans to use the Class 93 locomotives with new 100 mph container wagons to run freight trains at 100 mph on this and other routes, which would increase the freight and passenger capacity of the line.

New 100 mph freight wagons will be smoother, quieter and used through Newmarket at an appropriate speed would remove a large proportion of the noise and vibration.

Again, it would need investment from the freight companies.

However, modern freight trains hauled by modern hybrid locomotives like the Class 93 could significantly remove noise and vibration.

Lengthen Warren Hill Tunnel

A second bore will be dug to double-track the kilometre long Warren Hill Tunnel.

Some rail tunnels have been extended with covers and this technique might be possible at the Newmarket station end of the tunnel. The techniques exist, so that housing or other developments can be built on top of the railway.

Techniques like this not only suppress noise and vibration, but create much needed housing.

Acoustic Barriers

You see these a lot in Germany to reduce noise and vibration from railway lines in sensitive area, but rarely in the UK.

Conclusion

It will be difficult to put a double-track railway through Newmarket, but I believe that using modern rolling stock and some advanced construction, that a solution can be found.

Newmarket should dig in its heels and only accept the best to force rail freight companies to get their act together.

Government too, should enforce the current regulations on diesel locomotives, which most of the current locomotives do not meet.

March 4, 2019 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Better East-West Train Services Across Suffolk

The east-west train service across Suffolk is better than it was, but I’ve just read in a Network Rail study entitled Improving Connectivity, about a radical proposal to greatly improve services.

At present at Ipswich station, in addition to the main line services, there are hourly services to Cambridge, Felixstowe and Lowestoft, with a two-hourly service to Peterborough.

From a passenger point of view it is not good at times. In the past I have been irked by.

  • Trying to get between Newmarket and Felixstowe, which often means a not very short wait on Ipswich station.
  • The lack of a late night train back to Newmarket from Ipswich.
  • Bad connectivity between London services and the various branches.

It may be better now and some of the proposals in the latest franchise documents will certainly help.

One document I’ve read, talked about direct services between London and Lowestoft. When I moved to Suffolk in the 1970s, this route was served a couple of times a day.

But one proposal in the Network Rail study must be taken seriously.

The study proposes creating an island platform at an updated Newmarket station and running a direct service between Newmarket and Peterborough via Ely. The study describes the proposal like this.

To solve this dilemma,  The direct Ipswich to Peterborough service is replaced by a Newmarket to Peterborough service, running via a reinstated Warren Hill Junction – Snailwell Junction chord, as shown in Figure 3.2. A semi-fast Ipswich to Cambridge train connects into this service with a cross-platform connection at a reconstructed Newmarket station.

No services are duplicated and connections at Ipswich are simplified: the East Suffolk line arrival need only connect with the Cambridge train. This method of operation combines two markets on one train, achieving a 35 per cent reduction in train miles and halving the number of passenger train paths required on this busy freight corridor. In addition, Newmarket gains a direct service to Peterborough.

So one new short chord and a reconstructed Newmarket station, dramatically improve the passenger train services across Suffolk, whilst giving more much-needed space in the schedules for freight trains.

This map shows the area between Newmarket station and Warren Hill – Snailwell.

Newmarket's Railways, Racecourses and Training Grounds

Newmarket’s Railways, Racecourses and Training Grounds

Note that the line through Newmarket station goes in a tunnel under the training grounds of Warren Hill before turning to the East to connect to Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich. The new chord would connect between the Newmarket to Bury Line and the Ely to Bury Line.

Hopefully, Network Rail has safeguarded the route and hasn’t sold the land to some, who would oppose the plan.

If I read Network Rail’s proposal correctly, there would be an hourly Newmarket to Peterborough service, which would provide a cross-platform interchange with an hourly semi-fast Ipswich to Cambridge service.

Given that Abellio Greater Anglia were part of the IPEMU tests between Manningtree and Harwich, I suspect that both the Peterborough to Newmarket and Ipswich to Cambridge services would be run with four-car IPEMUs.

In my view it is a very good starting plan, but it does raise a few questions and interesting possibilities.

  • IPEMUs would be faster than the current diesel trains and would also offer an increase in capacity.
  • Would IPEMUs take over the Cambridge to Norwich, Ipswich to Lowestoft and Ipswich to Felixstowe services?
  • Newmarket racecourse is an incredibly popular venue and the current Newmarket station has inadequate capacity for racegoers. More four-car IPEMU trains from Cambridge, Ipswich, Ely and Peterborough calling at the station can only increase total capacity.
  • As now, I suspect a shuttle bus will be provided, between station and racecourse.
  • A simple one-platform Newmarket Racecourse station could even be built on land owned by the Jockey Club on the single-line section of line to the West of the town, which would be about a kilometre walk from both racecourses.
  • Cambridgeshire County Council have had plans for a long time to reopen Soham station. This would be on the hourly Newmarket to Peterborough service, which would men that with one change you could be in Cambridge or Ipswich.
  • If Soham is worth reopening, why not reopen Fordham station.
  • How would the new station at Cambridge North fit in and affect services in the area?

I think that when and if the full proposals arrive, they will have some extra features.

An uprated service from Cambridge to Ipswich will require some reorganisation at Ipswich.

Over the last few years, freight traffic through Ipswich station has eased due to ther opening of the Bacon Factory Chord which allows diesel-hauled freight trains to go directly between the Felixstowe branch and the Midlands and North via Stowmarket.

The Newmarket reorganisation will also release extra paths through Ely and Peterborough and there could be scope for improving the efficiency of Ipswich station.

Given that services will arrive from and leave to Cambridge, Lowestoft and Felixstowe, every hour. Surely, a platform layout could be found, so that they all used the same part of the station and passengers just walked across.

Imagine the benefits to passengers if say you were going between Beccles and Peterborough and you just walked across between trains at Ipswich and Newmarket.

I suspect that Network Rail and Abellio have an excellent idea for Ipswich station, filed under Cunning Plans.

Would it also be worth improving patterns at Ely?

This Google Map is from Railways in Ely in Wikpedia.

Ely Lines

Ely Lines

It is complicated. These are my thoughts.

  • The layout would appear to work quite well now,but will it cope with Cambridge North station?
  • Cambridge North station will probably generate a lot of traffic and with some reorganisation, passengers might even be able to walk across or just wait for the next train at Cambridge or Ely, to be on their way.
  • But in some cases, changing will mean climbing over the bridge at Cambridge or using the subway at Ely.
  • Ely station should cope with any extra services on the lines to Ely and Norwich.
  • There is also the issue of a possible Wisbech branch at March.

So will we see changes to the track layout at Ely?

I think the answer is yes!

But upgrading Ely does throw up one important question.

When the Cambridge Guided Busway was built, I didn’t think it was the best solution, but I had no real idea what would have been best.

I now wonder, if the ideal transport system for the route of the Cambridge Busway has arrived in the form of the tram-train!

If you look at the route from Huntingdon through Cambridge to Addenbrookes, it’s very much linked to the railway lines through the city. Most of the extensions proposed for the busway could be performed by tram-trains in tram mode. One proposal from Huntingdon to Peterborough, is typical of many systems, I’ve seen in Germany.

But it is too late now to change that decision.

One thing though that surprises me, is the amount of undeveloped land there is on either side of the railway line, where the Cambridge North station is being built. It could be possible to create a a tram line to connect Cambridge North station to the Cambridge to Ipswich Line. Thus tram-trains could go from both Cambridge North and Cambridge stations to Newmarket and then on past Fordham and Soham to Ely, where with a short chord they could turn south to the Cambridge stations.

Obviously, a real route would be based on the proposed developments and passenger traffic, but there are a lot of possibilities to use tram-trains to serve the towns and villages around Cambridge from the existing heavy rail lines.

At the Southern end, how about Shelford to Haverhill and onto Sudbury to then take the Gainsborough Line to Marks Tey?

I suspect that a single-track tram with passing places could handle tram-trains on a route not far removed from the route of the old Stour Valley Railway.

A lot of serious thinking can be done!

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Newmarket Sausage Gets European Protected Status

This has just been announced and about time too.

I actually prefer the Musks brand as does the Queen.  It’s just a pity, I find it difficult to get their gluten-free ones in London. Hopefully, now they’ve got the protected status, we might see some promotion by the better food retailers.

I see on the Musks website, that they are offering a gluten-free hamper.

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Food | , , , | 2 Comments

The Man Who Could Have Changed History

I’m half watching a play about Hitler.  But I’m finding it a bit difficult to follow, probably because of the hay fever’s effect on my hearing.

It is set in or about 1930 and I am reminded of another tale. It is in Lord Howard de Walden’s obituary in The Guardian.

He inherited 120 acres of London’s west end and bred and owned the 1985 Derby winner, Slip Anchor. But the story he loved to dine out on was when, as a young Cambridge student fresh out of Eton, he was driving a new car in Munich when a man walked out in front of him and was knocked down. “He was only shaken up,” recalled de Walden. “But had I killed him, it would have changed the history of the world.” The man was Adolf Hitler.

I never actually met him, but I knew a few people who worked for him, who never said any word about him that wasn’t complimentary.  My last vision of him was shortly before he died, sitting in state in a wheel-chair at Newmarket races, immaculately turned out ciomplete with apricot coloured socks; his racing colours as suggested by Augustus John.

August 21, 2011 Posted by | Sport, World | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hyperion Gets a Few Friends

Newmarket has a lot of statues to horses.  One of the most famous is the one of Hyperion by John Skeaping outside the Jockey Club Rooms.

Hyperion by John Skeaping

 When I was driven through the town yesterday, I noticed that he had a few multi-coloured friends scattered around him. Here’s one outside of the Post Office.

A Multi-Coloured Horse Outside Newmarket Post Office

One of my earliest memories is my father changimg a puncture in probably his Y-Type MG saloon, outside this Post Office or the Jockey Club Rooms.  I also remember driving through the town from Felixstowe to Liverpool in the mid-1960s to get to University.

July 28, 2011 Posted by | Sport | , , | 1 Comment

Boadicea Stands Guard

Standing guard opposite the Houses of Parliament is Boadicea, or as she is more normally spelled these days, Boudica. 

Boadicea Stands Guard

She may or may not have defeated the Romans, as whatever happened they remained in Britain.

Her spirit lives on, especially in East Anglia.  She probably came from that region, although no-one is sure quite where!  I have heard several people say, including my father, that if the Germans had landed in Suffolk in the Second World War, they would have got similar treatment to that meted out by Boadicea and her ragbag army of upwards of 100,000 men. When questioned as to the legitimacy of this treatment under the Geneva Convention, a common reply was “What would Boadicea have done?” I don’t know the truth of all these reports, but I know Suffolk people well and they wouldn’t have taken an invasion lightly.

Some also say that her tribe, the Iceni, were the supreme horsemen, who when their horses were suffering from horse sickness, looked for a new and healthier place to raise them. They found this valley in the chalk downs and moved there, calling the place New Horse Market. In time this was corrupted to Newmarket.  The town is the world centre of horse racing and breeding, known amongst racing people as Headquarters.  Every thoroughbred can trace their ancestry back to this small town in Suffolk.

July 2, 2011 Posted by | Sport, World | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do Tinned Artichokes Make You Rich?

I’ve just looked up the richest women in the UK.

I was once in Waitrose in Newmarket and one of the top ten was buying lots of tinned artichokes.

Is there a connection?

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Food, News | , , | 3 Comments

The Battered Stick Together

When you’ve been through what I have, you tend to follow others, who’ve triumped over adversity. 

Although, C & I bred racehorses for many years, I don’t follow racing much, these days.

But I was pleased to see a report in The Telegraph that Henry Cecil has the favourite for the flat season’s first  classic, the 2,000 Guineas. Henry has been battling cancer for some years and where lesser men would have crawled into a hole and hid or given up altogther, Henry has just kept going.

I shall be putting a couple of pounds on Frankel.

April 30, 2011 Posted by | Sport | , | Leave a comment

World Heritage Sites

Listening to the warm-up to the Grand National today on Radio 5 this morning, it struck me that none of the UK’s historic racecourses are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Liverpool city centre is but surely one of Aintree, Ascot, Epsom and Newmarket should be listed.

After all Newmarket and the Heath have been associated with horses since the time of Boudicca.  Newmarket is actually a corruption of New Horse Market. And every thoroughbred horse can trace its ancestry back to the small town in West Suffolk. 

And when it comes to other places that should be listed, the Forth Bridge is rightly on the provisional list, but Joseph Balzalgette‘s historic London sewers are not!

April 9, 2011 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment