The Anonymous Widower

Redhill To Ashford International Via Tonbridge

I did this trip to find out what the current service was like after writing Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East.

The journey can be broken into sections.

Changing At Redhill Station

I arrived at Redhill station and took these pictures as I changed to the train for Tonbridge station.

The three services are in Redhill station at approximately the same time.

  • The Southern service to and from Tonbridge used Platform 1a.
  • The GWR service from Reading to Gatwick used Platform 1.
  • The GWR service from Gatwick to Reading used Platform 0.

I think if you’re nippy on the stairs, travellers wanting to go between Reading and Ashford or vice-versa could manage the train, but a direct through service would be preferred by some travellers.

Between Redhill And Tonbridge Stations

I took these pictures as the train ran between Redhill and Tonbridge.

Note.

  1. The train was a smart three-car Class 377 train.
  2. It is a route with a quiet calm along the Downs.
  3. There are new housing and commercial developments along the route.

Some of the stations could do with improvement, which should probably include step-free access, as at Redhill and Tonbridge stations.

Changing At Tonbridge Station

These pictures show Tonbridge station.

Note.

  • The station is step-free with lifts.
  • I had to use the bridge to get from one side of the station to the other to catch my next train.
  • There seemed to be several passengers, who continued their journey from Tonbridge.

After a wait of nearly thirty minutes I was on my way to Ashford International station.

Thoughts On The Service

These are my thoughts on the service.

Battery Electric Trains

Having seen this service in operation, I feel that this must be one of the most suitable services for battery electric trains in the UK.

In Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East, I broke the route down into electrified and non-electrified sections.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Electrified – 26.5 miles – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Electrified – 20 miles – 35 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Gatwick and Redhill – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Redhill and Reigate – Electrified – 2 miles – 4 minutes
  • Reigate and Shalford Junction – Not Electrified – 17 miles – 20 minutes
  • Shalford Junction and North Camp – Electrified – 9 miles – 11 minutes
  • North Camp and Wokingham – Not Electrified – 11 miles – 14 minutes
  • Wokingham and Reading – Electrified – 7 miles and 9 minutes

Note.

  1. Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill, Gatwick, Guildford, Wokingham and Reading are all fully-electrified main line stations.
  2. Most of the route and the two ends are electrified.
  3. All electrification is 750 VDC third rail.
  4. All sections without electrification are less than twenty miles.
  5. The route is more than 75 % electrified.

There are several trains, which have been fitted with batteries, plans to fit them with batteries exist or would be suitable to be fitted with batteries.

All trains have similar specifications.

  • Four cars.
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • All are modern trains.
  • They either have third-rail shoes or can be fitted with them.

In addition, no infrastructure changes would be needed.

I also feel, that the same class of train could be used on these services in the South-East.

  • Oxted and Uckfield
  • Ashford International and Hastings

Why not use one class of battery electric trains for all these routes?

The Three Reverses

The full service between Reading and Ashford International stations will require three reverses at Gatwick and Redhill (twice).

Having seen the current system in operation at Redhill station, I feel the following operation would work, using a version of London Underground’s stepping-up.

From Reading to Ashford International the following sequence would apply.

  • The train from Reading would stop in Platform 1 at Redhill, as they do now.
  • A second driver would step-up into the rear cab and take control of the train.
  • The original or first driver, who’d driven the train from Reading would stay in the cab.
  • The second driver would drive the train to Gatwick.
  • When, the train is ready to leave, the first driver takes control from his cab.
  • The second driver, who’d driven the train from Redhill would stay in the cab.
  • The first driver would drive the train back to Platform 0 at Redhill, as they do now.
  • When, the train is ready to leave, the second driver takes control from his cab.
  • The first driver would step down and probably have a break, before he is needed to drive another train.
  • The second driver would drive the train to Ashford International.

Trains going the other way would do a similar sequence in reverse.

Other than the battery system, the trains may need a communication and safety system between the two cabs.

Hydrogen Trains

Consider these points about using a hydrogen-powered train between Reading and Ashford International.

  • The maximum distance without electrification is just 20 miles.
  • The route is over 75 % electrified.
  • Hydrogen fuelling and supply systems would need to be provided.
  • Hydrogen trains would require changes to maintenance.

In my view, using a hydrogen-powered train would be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Gatwick Connect

Could the service be considered to be a Gatwick Connect service?

The full Reading and Ashford International service would call at these major locations

  • In the West – Reading, Winnersh, Wokingham, Crowthorne, Farnborough, Guildford, Dorking and Reigate
  • In the East – Ashford International, Paddock Wood and Tonbridge.

Both the Eastern and Western legs also call at Redhill.

Could the service be extended in the West?

The obvious destination would be Heathrow.

Once the future of Heathrow is sorted, there will probably be some form of Southern or South-Western access into Heathrow.

Could this service connect Gatwick and Heathrow?

  • Perhaps there would be a reverse at Reading!
  • Or it might use one of numerous schemes put forward to access Heathrow from the West.

In any case, as Reading is one of the best-connected stations in England, passengers will use this connectivity to get to Gatwick.

Could the service be extended in the East?

Like Reading, Ashford International is a well-connected station.

It would be possible to extend the service to perhaps Canterbury or Dover?

There must also be the possibility of running a service to Maidstone West or Strood in the East!

Conclusion

There could be a lot of possibilities for this route.

I also feel, that it is one of the best routes to be run by battery trains in the UK. These trains could also be the same, as those working Oxted-Uckfield and Ashford International-Hastings.

There would be no need for any new infrastructure, as there is electrification at both ends of the route.

 

 

September 27, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East

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

Despite being reported on Surrey Live and the fact that Gatwick is in Sussex, the plan has been proposed by Kent County Council’s Rail Project Manager.

The plan would extend the existing Great Western railway line – which runs from Reading to Gatwick via Redhill – to mid and east Kent.

The article suggests the service could go between Reading and Canterbury West stations.

This table sums up the connectivity.

I have a few thoughts.

The Terminal Stations

The suitability of the two proposed terminals can be summed up.

  • Reading has been designed as a terminal station, with five bay platforms, three of which can be used by Gatwick services.
  • Canterbury West has not been designed as a terminal station and has no bay platforms.

Perhaps Ashford International station would be a better Eastern terminal?

  • It has Eurostar services.
  • Trains can terminate in Platform 1 and go to Tonbridge.
  • It has lots of car parking.

Dover Priority and Ramsgate could also be possibilities as they have terminal platforms.

Connecting At Gatwick Airport

It looks like a combined service might get complicated in the Redhill/Gatwick area.

  • Trains between Reading and Gatwick go via Redhill station, where they reverse.
  • There is no direct route between Tonbridge and Gatwick, so trains will probably have to reverse at Redhill, to go between Tonbridge and Gatwick.

Would a service between Reading and Ashford, that reversed twice at Redhill and once at Gatwick, be rather tricky to operate? Or even unpopular with passengers?

This Google Map shows Redhill station and the lines leading South from the station.

Note.

  • Redhill station at the top of the map.
  • The Brighton Main Line running North-South in the middle of the map.
  • The North Downs Line to Guildford and Reading curving West from the station.
  • The Redhill and Tonbridge Line to Tonbridge and Ashford leaving the map in the South-East corner.

I suspect that adding extra tracks in a very crowded area will be very difficult.

What Do The Timings Show?

A quick calculation, which is based on current timings, can give a journey time for between Ashford and Gatwick Airport.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Southeastern timing – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Southern timing – 35 minutes
  • Reverse at Redhill – GWR timing – 4 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – GWR timing – 8 minutes

This gives a total of eighty-five minutes.

  • Google says that you can drive it in sixty-three minutes.
  • If you took the train today, between Ashford International and Gatwick Airport stations, the fastest rail journey is around 110 minutes with a change at St. Pancras International.

It does look though that a faster train between Kent and Gatwick Airport could be competitive, as going via London certainly isn’t!

Could Simplification And Automation Provide A Solution?

Consider.

  • The Ashford International and Tonbridge timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • The Tonbridge and Redhill timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • How much time would be saved by only stopping at Tonbridge between Ashford International and Gatwick?
  • Could automation handle a fast reverse at Redhill, where passengers couldn’t board or leave the train?
  • Would a driver in each cab, allow the reverses to be done faster?

Trains going between Reading and Ashford International, would call at the following stations between Guildford and Tonbridge.

  • Dorking Deepdene
  • Reigate
  • Redhill
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Redhill – A quick Touch-And-Go.
  • Tonbridge
  • Paddock Wood

If two minutes a stop could be saved at each of the nine omitted stops and at each reverse, this would save twenty minutes East of Gatwick, which would give the following timings.

  • Gatwick and Tonbridge – 27 minutes
  • Gatwick and Ashford International – 65 minutes

Timings would be compatible with driving.

West of Gatwick, the service would be as the current GWR service.

  • After arriving at Gatwick from Ashford, the train would reverse.
  • En route it would reverse at Redhill, to continue to Reading.

Passengers wanting to go between say Tonbridge and Redhill, would use this reverse at Redhill to join and leave the train.

It would be an unusual way to operate a train service, but I feel it could be made to work, especially with the right automation and/or a second driver.

Trains For The Service

The service can be split into various legs between Ashford and Reading.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Electrified – 26.5 miles – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Electrified – 20 miles – 35 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Gatwick and Redhill – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Redhill and Reigate – Electrified – 2 miles – 4 minutes
  • Reigate and Shalford Junction – Not Electrified – 17 miles – 20 minutes
  • Shalford Junction and North Camp – Electrified – 9 miles – 11 minutes
  • North Camp and Wokingham – Not Electrified – 11 miles – 14 minutes
  • Wokingham and Reading – Electrified – 7 miles and 9 minutes

Note.

  1. Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill, Gatwick, Guildford, Wokingham and Reading are all fully-electrified main line stations.
  2. Most of the route and the two ends are electrified.
  3. All electrification is 750 VDC third rail.
  4. All sections without electrification are less than twenty miles.

This route would surely be ideal for a battery electric train.

As both the Heathrow and Gatwick Express services are run using Class 387 trains and the Stansted Express has used Class 379 trains for the last few years, similar trains to these might be an ideal choice, if they could be fitted with battery power and the ability to use 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

The facts seem to be on the side of this service.

  • There are spare Class 387 trains and some more will be released by c2c in the next few years.
  • Greater Anglia will be replacing their Class 379 trains with new Class 745 trains.
  • A Class 379 train was used to test the concept of battery electric trains.
  • Both class of trains could be fitted with third-rail gear.

Either of these trains could be used for the service.

As they are 100 or 110 mph trains with good acceleration, they might even save a few minutes on the journey.

Infrastructure Changes

I suspect they could be minimal, once it was worked out how to handle the three reverses in the Gatwick and Redhill area.

Conclusion

I think it would be a feasible plan to run an Ashford and Reading service via Gatwick.

I would also decarbonise the route at the same time, as it must be one of the easiest routes in the country to run using battery electric trains.

  • There is electrification at both ends and in the middle.
  • The longest stretch of track without electrification is just seventeen miles.
  • All charging could be done using existing electrification.
  • There are platforms at both ends, where trains can get a full charge.
  • There are trains available, that are suitable for conversion to battery trains for the route.
  • No extra infrastructure would be needed.
  • Battery electric trains would allow extension of the route to Oxford in the West.

How many extra passengers would be persuaded to take the train to Gatwick, by the novelty of a battery electric Aurport Express?

Marketing men and women would love the last point!

 

 

September 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Network Rail Consults On Reigate Turnback Platform Plans

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in Rail Magazine.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Network Rail is consulting with the public over plans to build a 12-car turnback platform at Reigate.

The third paragraph says this.

NR says “Reigate is hampered by platforms that are four-car in length. This means that Southern trains must split/join at Redhill, adding time to journeys and limiting capacity”

Other points are also made.

  • Thameslink’s Class 700 trains which are fixed formations of eight or twelve cars can’t call at Reigate station.
  • Power is poor at Reigate limiting the length of trains.
  • Passengers from Reigate to London Bridge and beyond need to change at Redhill or East Croydon.

This Google Map shows the station.

The new bay platform, which will be numbered 3, will go on the South side of the tracks at the East end of the station, where the car-park currently is situated.

Future Services At Reigate Station

In the Wikipedia entry for Reigate station, under Future, this is said.

In 2020, Network Rail announced that they are planning to upgrade Reigate station, which includes constructing a new 12-carriage bay platform (number 3) on the south side of the station, and extending the existing platform 2 to also accommodate 12-car trains. Currently the track layout just east of the station forces Southern to turn its trains around on platform 2, and since this platform is not long enough to accommodate 8-car sets, Southern services to and from Reigate are limited to 4 carriages in length. The upgrade would enable longer trains to serve the station, and the new bay platform would allow trains to/from London to terminate there instead of occupying the through westbound track, thus improving reliability on the whole line. 

Once the upgrade is delivered, there are further proposals to introduce Thameslink services running to London Bridge, London St Pancras and beyond to destinations north of London, replacing the current Southern services to London Victoria.

In some ways, this work at Reigate is all part of a larger series of projects, that are aiming to improve reliability and create more capacity on the Brighton Main Line.

The Brighton Main Line Improvement Project

This £300 million project is described on this page on the Network Rail web site.

The improvement project focussed on the southern end of the Brighton Main Line between Three Bridges and Brighton / Lewes. Major engineering work was planned for the Victorian-era tunnels at Balcombe, Clayton, Haywards Heath and Patcham and the railway which runs through them.

We stemmed leaks into the tunnels and improved drainage, while the third rail power supply and signalling were replaced or upgraded.

Elsewhere on the closed section, we replaced the track and sets of points, which enable trains to switch between tracks.

The project is now complete and won an award at the Railway Innovation Awards 2019.

Upgrading Gatwick Airport StationThis £150 million project is described on this page on the Network Rail web site.The size of Gatwick Airport station will be doubled to improve the journey between train and plane.Benefits will include.

  • Improved Accessibility
  • A better journey experience
  • Improved train performance

Works will include.

  • Doubling the size of the station concourse.
  • Eight new lifts, five new escalators and four new stairways.
  • Widened platforms 5 and 6.
  • Upgraded connections to the terminal.

The works will start in May 2020 and finish in 2023.

Access for All At Crawley Station

This £3.9 million project is described on this page of the Network Rail web site.

Crawley station is being upgraded to full step-free access, which should be complete in Autumn 2020.

It looks like a second bridge is being installed over the tracks.

I do wonder, if Crawley station is being upgraded, so that it can be used as a back-up access to Gatwick Airport, if some of the construction work at Gatwick Airport station means that the station will be closed.

The dates certainly fit and the station has two trains per hour (tph) to both London Bridge and Victoria stations.

Unblocking The Croydon Bottleneck

This £300 million project is described on this page of the Network Rail web site.

This is the introductory paragraph.

We are proposing an upgrade to the Brighton Main Line, to provide more reliable, more frequent and faster services for the 300,000 passengers who rely on it each weekday, and to provide the capacity needed for future growth.

There is also what looks to be a fairly frank video.

Platform 0 At Redhill Station

Redhill station gained a new Platform 0 a couple of years ago.

This long platform must help the operation of the station.

Thoughts On The Reigate Scheme

These are my thoughts on the building of two twelve-car platforms at Reigate station.

Thameslink To Reigate

This document on the Network Rail web site is entitled Connecting Reigate To Thameslink.

Currently, train services to the Reigate/Gatwick Airport/Crawley area are as follows.

  • Southern – Two tph – London Victoria and Reigate via East Croydon, Purley, Coulsdon South, Merstham and Redhill.
  • Southern – Two tph – London Victoria and Southampton/Portsmouth via East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges, Crawley and Horsham
  • Thameslink – Two tph – Peterborough and Horsham via East Croydon, Purley, Coulsdon South, Merstham, Redhill, Horley, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges and Crawley
  • Thameslink – Two tph – Bedford and Gatwick Airport via East Croydon, Purley, Coulsdon South, Merstham, Redhill, Earlswood, Salfords and Horley.
  • Thameslink – Two tph – Cambridge and Brighton via East Croydon and Gatwick Airport
  • Thameslink – Two tph – Bedford and Brighton via East Croydon and Gatwick Airport
  • Gatwick Express – Two tph – London Victoria and Brighton via Gatwick Airport
  • Gatwick Express – Two tph – London Victoria and Gatwick Airport
  • Great Western Railway – One tph – Reading and Gatwick Airport via Reigate and Redhill

Stations around Gatwick will get the following services from London

  • Coulsdon South – Six tph
  • Crawley – Four tph
  • Earlswood – Two tph
  • Gatwick Airport – Sixteen tph
  • Horley – Four tph
  • Merstham – Six tph
  • Redhill – Six tph
  • Reigate – Two tph
  • Salfords – Two tph

I can see good reasons for terminating the Bedford and Gatwick Airport service at Reigate.

  • Gatwick Airport has sixteen tph to Central London.
  • During the rebuilding of Gatwick, it might be a good idea not to have trains terminating at Gatwick.
  • Reigate is under seven miles from Gatwick Airport and a coach service would take under twelve minutes.

This would mean that, train services to the Reigate/Gatwick Airport/Crawley area are as follows.

  • Southern – Two tph – London Victoria and Southampton/Portsmouth via East Croydon, Coulsdon South, Merstham, Redhill, Earlswood, Salfords, Horley, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges, Crawley and Horsham
  • Thameslink – Two tph – Peterborough and Horsham via East Croydon, Purley, Coulsdon South, Merstham, Redhill, Horley, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges and Crawley
  • Thameslink – Two tph – Bedford and Reigate via East Croydon and Redhill
  • Thameslink – Two tph – Cambridge and Brighton via East Croydon and Gatwick Airport
  • Thameslink – Two tph – Bedford and Brighton via East Croydon and Gatwick Airport
  • Gatwick Express – Two tph – London Victoria and Brighton via Gatwick Airport
  • Gatwick Express – Two tph – London Victoria and Gatwick Airport
  • Great Western Railway – One tph – Reading and Gatwick Airport via Reigate and Redhill

Stations around Gatwick will get the following services from London

  • Coulsdon South – Four tph
  • Crawley – Four tph
  • Earlswood – Two tph
  • Gatwick Airport – Fourteen tph
  • Horley – Four tph
  • Merstham – Four tph
  • Redhill – Six tph
  • Reigate – Two tph
  • Salfords – Two tph

Note.

  1. I have adjusted calling patterns to what is shown in the document called Connecting Reigate to Thameslink.
  2. Southern and Gatwick Express services will go to Victoria
  3. Thameslink services will go via London Bridge and St. Pancras.
  4. Passengers will be able to change at Redhill or East Croydon to swap their London terminal between Victoria and London Bridge/St. Pancras.

Obviously, Network Rail must have their own and better plans to run the services.

Will Platform 3 At Reigate Be Used As An Emergency Platform?

With the right track layout and signalling a  bay platform can easily handle four tph, as platforms on the London Overground do at Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, Dalston Junction, Highbury & Islington, New Cross and West Croydon stations. Some of these platforms will be going to six tph within a couple of years.

Over the next three years, Gatwick Airport station is being rebuilt.

Surely, Reigate would make an ideal station to turn trains, if the Brighton Main Line was blockaded.

  • Passengers could be taken by bus to Gatwick.
  • The two twelve-car platforms would be able to handle the longest trains on the Brighton Main Line.
  • The car park could be used as a bus terminal.

It looks to me, like Network Rail are planning for the worst.

Electrification To Guildford?

Consider.

  • One of the sub-projects of the rebuilding of the platforms at Reigate station will be boosting the power supply.
  • Within two years, Great Western Railway will be running Class 769 trains with a third-rail capability between Reading and Redhill/Gatwick.
  • All passenger trains running between Redhill and Reigate will have a third-rail capability.
  • There is a 750 VDC electricity supply for electrification at Guildford.

So why, shouldn’t the line be electrified to Guildford station?

Thameslink To Guildford?

Consider.

  • Trains between Reigate and Guildford take twenty-five minutes to do the twenty miles on the North Downs Line.
  • I have read somewhere, that Guildford station is to be rebuilt.
  • The North Downs Line passes through the sizeable town of Dorking.
  • Two tph between Reading and Gatwick and two tph between Guildford and Redhill could surely share tracks between Guildford and Redhill.

If the line between Reigate and Guildford had been electrified, would it be worthwhile extending Thameslink from Reigate to Guildford?

Conclusion

I like this scheme at Reigate, but I do think there’s more behind it than has been disclosed.

March 25, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 5 Comments

Platform 0 At Redhill Station Is Progressing

Redhill station is being upgraded.

This picture of the new Platform 0 was taken from the existing Platform 1.

Works include.

  • The new Platform 0 will become a through platform for trains to London.
  • It is certainly long enough for a twelve car train.
  • It appears it will be fully connected to the entrsnce by the car park.
  • The current platform 1 will become a South-facing bay platform.

The January 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, also says this about the upgrade.

This is aimed to allow GWR to boost the Reading to Gatwick frequency from hourly to half-hourly from May 2018. The operator’s ultimate sim is to introduce a third hourly service on the North Downs line, although concerns from Network Rail about level crossing risk have affected progress with this plan.

Currently, the journey between Reading to Gatwick Airport takes 76 minutes without a change, but the train reverses direction at Redhill. One driver told me, that if GWR issued the drivers with better shoes, they could save a minute or so on the timetable at Rewdhill.

But 76 minutes isn’t a bad time by way of the North Downs Line. Especially, as the trains have to negotiste eleven level crossing! Is that what Network Rail mean by level crossing risk?

If you take Crossrail’s estimate of the Reading to Farringdon time of 59 minutes and the timetabled Farringdon to Gatwick Airport time of 54 minutes, you get a time 113 minutes or nearly forty minutes longer than the shorter and more direct route.

The North Downs Line is partly electrified with third rail and I wonder what time a Class 802 train could achieve!

Conclusion

The Platform 0 works at Redhill station are part of a fifty million pound project, whivh will do the following.

  • Increase capacity at Redhill station.
  • Remove conflicts between Brighton Line and Reading to Gatwick Airport services.
  • Enable a two trains per hour service between Reading and Gatwick Airport.

It will be interesting to see if it works in May 2018.

The works do show how money spent on smaller projects can give multiple benefits.

 

December 21, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment