The Anonymous Widower

Expanding Manchester Piccadilly Station

This announcement on the Government web site is entitled Put HS3 at the heart of a High Speed North – Adonis.

This is an extract.

Recommendation six: Proposals for the redevelopment of Manchester Piccadilly station should be prepared jointly by TfN, Transport for Greater Manchester, Manchester City Council, Network Rail, DfT and HS2 Ltd.

These organisations should work to together to deliver:

a) Detailed plans for the new east-west platforms 15/16 to facilitate delivery early in Control Period 6 and unlock the development potential of the Mayfield site;

b) A masterplan for the longer-term development of Manchester Piccadilly station as a whole, incorporating capacity for HS2 services and options for the delivery and timing of platform capacity for HS3; and

c) Proposals for funding and financing the station redevelopment, including for private sector and local contributions.

I know Manchester Piccadilly station well  and it has multiple space problems. These pictures illustrate some of the problems on the North side of the station.

You have lots of short trains and long platforms, which means the following.

  • Passengers have to walk long distances.
  • There is confusion of which train to take with more than one in the platform.
  • It must be a nightmare for train operators and their staff.

Surely some reorganisation could improve this mess, that was probably designed by Topsy.

On the South side of the station, there are two of the most crowded platforms in the UK. Platforms 13/14 need a serious sorting out.

Currently, services from Platform 13 seem to go to the following.

  • Huddersfield
  • Leeds
  • Manchester Airport
  • Norwich
  • Scarborough
  • Sheffield
  • York

And from Platform 14 to the following.

  • Blackpool
  • Edinburgh
  • Liverpool
  • Southport

Most of the services seem to be provided by TransPennine Express and I think it is true to say, that when and if the Ordsall Chord is opened, there will be a sorting out of services on these two platforms.

But I do feel that the solution is Network Rail’s preferred one of adding platforms 15/16. They can’t be built soon enough, to ease the overcrowding.

This Google Map shows the layout of Manchester Piccadilly station.

Manchester Piccadilly Station

Manchester Piccadilly Station

The current Platforms 13/14 are along the bottom of the station, connected to the main station by the two small bridges. I would assume that the two new platforms will go on the south side of 13/14.

Wikipedia gives more details of developments related to the Northern Hub and HS2.

It is going to be a tight fit to get all the lines and platforms into the area.

The more I look at the station, the more I tend to think that the Picc-Vic Tunnel might have been a good solution.

It makes me wonder if it would be more efficient for HS2 and HS3 to share a route through Manchester from the Airport to Victoria and on to Huddersfield and Leeds. It would need to be mainly in tunnel and could go right under the city with underground stations. I wrote about it in Rethinking HS2 And HS3.

Surely, if two high speed lines are to go through Manchester, they should share a route?

I have also received this image from a reader; Ben.

An Alternative Cross-Manchester Tunnel

An Alternative Cross-Manchester Tunnel

Ben’s plan illustrates some advantages of a cross-city tunnel, which probably include.

  • Less demolition at stations served by HS2.
  • HS2 and HS3 could probably share platforms.
  • Release of platforms at Piccadilly.
  • A station in the centre of the city.
  • Better links to the trams and local train services
  • Ability to continue in tunnel towards Huddersfield and Leeds.

Remember that we’ve improved our tunnelling capability by a large amount in recent years.

Crossrail in London has also developed station designs and layouts, that could be used in Manchester.

  • Massive double-ended stations to effectively serve two separate locations.
  • Lines and station layouts to ease and encourage same platform interchange.
  • Moving walkways and inclined lifts, where necessary to ease passenger movement.
  • Island platforms to ease interchange between directions and branches, as at Whitechapel.

So could the most passenger friendly station, just called Manchester, be built under the city?

I don’t think that the current plans for Piccadilly, which are just so much conservative dross will be realised, as someone will come up with something much better. But then recommendation six encourages that!


March 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 1 Comment

High Speed North Barely Mentions Technology

The National Infrastructure Commission has published its report entitled High Speed North.

Technology and in particular new technology is hardly mentioned in the report.

This is the only mention with respect of improved technology in rail applications.

Ticketing, and in particular the absence of smart ticketing technology.

Design gets a few more mentions, but only one is meaningful.

It is very much a grey report produced by yesterday’s grey men.

The North has serious connectivity problems and it needs them to be solved now!

As I said in Adonis Promises Milk And Honey In The Future, But The North Needs Unblocking Now!, I can’t see much improvement until 2022.

All High Speed North does is confirm my suspicions of yesterday’s grey men conning the country out of fees.

To solve the North’s problems we must break out of the box! And how!

As an example of the report’s lack of ambition, the report says that Manchester Piccadilly station needs to add Platforms 15/16 in Control Period 6 or between 2019 and 2024.

That could be eight years and given the crowding you get on Platforms 13/14, those two extra platforms are needed now.

You need to do a lot better, Lord Adonis. But as a failed New Labour accolyte, we didn’t expect much more.


March 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Adonis Promises Milk And Honey In The Future, But The North Needs Unblocking Now!

I don’t have much time for Lord Adonis, as I always think that unelected politicians who change sides are a bit like the Vicar of Bray.

And lets face it, he was part of Tony Blair’s gang of idiots, who felt that licking Dubya’s arse and making war in Afghanistan and Iraq was more important than creating proper transport links across the north.

But they were only following the lead set by Harold Wilson, when he cancelled the Picc-Vic Tunnel. Wikipedia says this about how the need for the tunnel has been and is being fulfilled.

In 1992, the Metrolink system opened and linked both stations via tram, negating the requirement for a direct rail connection to an extent. In 2011, the Ordsall Chord was announced; it is an overground railway scheme designed to directly link Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria in a comparable fashion to Picc-Vic.

Wouldn’t it have been better to dig the tunnel in the first place?

I heard Lord Haskins and Chris Hyomes from Railfuture on Wake Up To Money this morning and they were aggressive in demanding that something happen sooner rather than later.

After my last trip to Huddersfield and writing Welcome To Huddersfield, I can say, that the Class 185 trains are a sick joke inflicted on the North by Tony Blair as Prime Minister and Gordon Brown as Chancellor. The trains are both too short and to few in number.

And then we have Lord Adonis saying on BBC Breakfast, that the line needs to be electrified as soon as possible.

So how long will the misery of the TransPennine routes continue before the line is electrified? 2022 is mentioned!

In my view there are four solutions for acceptable trains across the Pennines.

  1. Introduce the first bi-mode Class 800 trains on the route.
  2. Introduce the first bi-mode Class 800 trains on the East Coast to release InterCity 125s for the route.
  3. Introduce some locomotive-hauled stock.
  4. Create Class 387 trains with an IPEMU capability, so they could use energy storage to bridge the electrification gaps.

One of these must be implemented before the end of this year.

The first two options are impossible, as the Class 800 trains won’t be ready for passenger service until 2017.

I also think that Option 3 would be unacceptable to passengers, but is probably impossible, as there are no modern diesel locomotives available and probably very few coaches in good condition.

So we’re left with the Class 387 IPEMUs.

  • They are modern four car electric trains, with everything passengers expect. Only wi-fi is missing.
  • The IPEMU technology was successfully demonstrated in early 2015 using a Class 379 train.
  • I rode the demonstrator and was impressed for what that is worth!
  • Bombardier have won awards for the technology.
  • There are well upwards of twenty four-car trains available or being built, that could be modified.
  • There are rumours that IPEMUs could be used on the Great Western.
  • They can work in eight or twelve car trains, where platforms allow.
  • They can travel for over fifty miles on battery power, after charging on electrified track. So Leeds to Manchester is no problem!
  • Liverpool to Newcastle and Edinburgh via Leeds could be served by 110 mph electric trains.

Would a Northern Powerhouse built on battery trains be acceptable to politicians?

In my view, it will have to be, as Derby-built Bombardier Class 387 trains with an IPEMU capability are all we’ve got.

I shall be listening to George Osborne tomorrow!

March 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Reaction In The North To Rail Franchise Awards

I have been browsing the local papers in the North, to see the area’s reaction to the award of the new Northern and TransPennine franchises.

This article in the Liverpool Echo is entitled 4,000 more seats in £1.2bn boost for North West trains, which seems a very positive headline. This is the first paragraph.

Nearly 4,000 more seats on Liverpool and Manchester services during the morning peak and a new, direct Liverpool to Glasgow service were among the promised benefits of a trains package announced today.

They use a lot of positive language and only have a slight worry about what it will mean for fares.

This extract from another article, may be a bit parochial, but it is proud of Liverpool’s involvement in formulating the winning bids.

Merseytravel – who were involved in drawing up the specifications for the bidders – said there was a commitment to four fast services an hour between Lime Street and Manchester and two per hour between Liverpool, Leeds and York, as well as more services to Preston.

There will also be an early Northern service from Lime Street to Manchester Airport (arriving no later than 4.45am), and daily services to Manchester Airport via both Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Central.

It is also positive and just as I found in the city, when they introduced the Class 319s electric to Manchester Victoria, Merseysiders seem to be looking forward to better services.

Coverage on the Manchester Evening News, like this article entitled Hundreds of new carriages promised as Arriva and FirstGroup win Greater Manchester rail franchises, seems to be more cynical and snipes at Arriva for other issues. It doesn’t have the practical tone of the Liverpool reporting.

For instance, the Liverpool reporting stresses the much better service to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle, but despite Manchester will get a doubling of Scottish services, it isn’t given the same prominence.

Across in Leeds, the Yorkshire Post has an article entitled December 10: New age of the train – or not? This said.

Unlike previous deals which did not foresee the untapped potential of this region’s railways, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has used this opportunity to insist that the new franchise-holders invest in new rolling stock to help ease overcrowding on rush-hour trains. Yet it remains to be seen whether these operators, and their partners, can deliver the “world class rail service” envisaged by Mr McLoughlin and which is so integral to the much-vaunted Northern Powerhouse which aims to improve connectivity between major cities.

It looks to me that the Yorkshire character is shining through.

So on this quick look Liverpool is more positive and Manchester and Leeds are a tad negative.

Could it be that of the three cities, Liverpool is very proud of its locally-managed franchise, Merseyrail and are those in the area bigger train users than people to the East?

I also suspect, that at present, Liverpool with the electric trains to Manchester, has benefited most from rail dvelopment in the last few years.



December 10, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Manchester Victoria Station Be Promoted To The Premier League?

When I arrived at Manchester Victoria station, I expected the usual mess and a walk to pick up the tram to Piccadilly.

But I was greeted by a dry station, where the trams were now sheltering under an almost complete, but spectacular roof!

Victoria may date from the 1840s, but look at her now!

There was also today’s news on the Modern Railway’s web site, that the Class 319 trains had started working from Liverpool to Manchester Airport.

As my train went past Liverpool South Parkway later, I got several glimpses of smartly refurbished trains cascaded from Thameslink.

Soon, they will be running between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Victoria stations via Wigan.

Are one sprightly Victorian lady and a set of reliable British Rail-era electric trains finally going to give Manchester and Liverpool, the first class train connection they need and deserve?

March 5, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Expanding The Manchester Metrolink

In my view the Manchester Metrolink has not grown as fast as it should have done. A good proportion of the system opened in the early 1990s and nothing really seemed to open until the last few years.

For a lot of that twenty year gap, the government was one that you’d think would be sympathetic to expanding public transport in areas, where they could count on the vote. Perhaps, though Blair and Brown were more interested in war abroad than looking after the North!

There have been various plans to extend the Metrolink to places like Middleton, Salford, Stalybridge, Stockport and Trafford Park, but strangely not Bolton. Only the extension to Trafford Park has been funded.

Now I don’t know Manchester politics, but I do feel that if there had been a Manchester mayor for say the last ten years, I suspect with someone batting for Manchester, some of these extensions would have been progressed. Now that one should be there in 2017, hopefully progress will be quicker.

On this post there are comments about the non-extension of the tram from East Didsbury to Stockport.

So can this line be easily built, as it seems to me, as someone who only knows the area from the 1960s and a good map, that it would be of benefit to a lot of people?

Also if the Metrolink went to Stockport rail station, it would surely give an alternative Manchester station for those living on the tram network, just as Watford, Stratford, Ealing Broadway, Wimbledon and others do for the London Underground/Overground. Travellers should be given the choice of as many different routes as possible.

So I looked up how this line would get from East Didsbury to Stockport and found this article, which describes a route as proposed in 2004.

Reading the article, the route seems to be rather complicated and expensive, as it crosses the River Mersey several times and it doesn’t go to the rail station.

So perhaps if Stockport, is ever linked to the Metrolink, it will use a different route.

It all illustrates that extending the Metrolink isn’t as easy as it might first appear. I hope Manchester has got some good transport planners, who know the city well.

As an aside here, it is worth thinking about how the Northern Hub and in particular, the Ordsall Curve linking Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria, will indirectly affect the Metrolink. There could be at least four trains per hour both ways between the two stations and six going towards Bolton and Preston according to Wikipedia. So as some of these services will go south towards Stockport and the Airport, Manchester will probably see a high-frequency service between Piccadilly, Victoria, Bolton, Stockport, Salford and other places in the Greater Manchester area. The trains will all be electric and probably something like the ex-Thameslink Class 319. These trains will extend journeys all round the area to Blackpool, Huddersfield, Leeds, Liverpool, Preston, Warrington and Wigan. With not a lot more electrification, places like Blackburn, Burnley, Sheffield and Southport could be brought into an electrified network, where high-capacity trains run at least four times an hour on all routes.

One thing that would need to be done is improve the interchange between the Metrolink and some of the central Manchester rail stations. Victoria is showing glimpses of being superb, Piccadilly needs to be a much shorter walk and perhaps Salford Crescent needs to be linked to the tram.

I don’t drive and suspect will never do so again, but one thing that always worries me about city transport systems is, are there enough Park-and-Ride spaces and especially close to the motorways? I know London lacks badly in this area and suffers because of it. So how does Manchester stack up?

By the end of this decade, Manchester could be getting the transport system it needs and deserves.


November 14, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 4 Comments

An Interesting Snippet

In talking about rolling stock in the latest edition of Modern Railways this is said.

Observers have recently seen an increasing focus on diesel-operated branches in otherwise electrified networks where small add-on projects could release much needed capacity for use elsewhere during the period of acute shortages (of diesel multiple units) from 2015.

I recently read in an article on the Rail Engineer website, that extending electrification off a fully-electrified main line, is an easier and more affordable project, as some of the expensive pieces of hardware like electrical connections and transformers, are already installed.

So if this became policy, what lines should be electrified?

Here’s a few that will or could be!

The Marshlink Line between Hastings and Ashford is an oddity in that it is lone diesel-operated line in the south east corner of England. Proposals are being worked on to electrify this line, so that Class 395 trains can run through to Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne. Currently, Brighton to Ashford is worked by ten Class 171 trains and some or all of these could be released, if electric trains could run all the way from Brighton to Ashford.

The Marston Vale Line is also scheduled to be electrified as part of the Electric Spine.

The Felixstowe Branch Line needs electrification for freight, but being able to piggy-back to the Great Eastern Main Line may make electrification worthwhile.

The Manchester to Southport Line is one that is being looked for possible electrification according to Wikipedia. They say this!

Additionally Network Rail has identified electrification of Wigan to Southport, together with Ormskirk to Preston Line and the Burscough Curves as a possible source of new services.

In fact the whole of this area of Lancashire northwards from Liverpool, Warrington and Manchester to Wigan, Preston and Blackpool could end up being electrified as extensions to the Northern Hub. Most of the branch lines already have an electric connection at one or both ends.

I wouldn’t bet against the electrification of Preston to Leeds, as a lot of money is being spent on stations on the line, so how about some nice refurbished electric trains for the route.


April 24, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Slow Train To Liverpool

On Saturday, I’m flying out from Liverpool to Gdansk in Poland to start one of my home runs by train back to London.

You might argue why I’m starting from Liverpool rather than one of the London airports.

It’s because I’m seeing Ipswich Town play their last away match of the season at Burnley and it seems logical to take a flight from the more convenient Liverpool Airport.

I had thought, it would be easy to get a train between Burnley and Liverpool, as I’ve driven the route in the 1960s and it must have taken about two hours in my 1950s-vintage Morris Minor. So surely, there must be a train in about that time to speed me on my way, with a change at Preston.

If I was to do it today, I can do the journey in two hours and eight minutes with just that single change, but on Saturday, it’s a journey of two and a half hours changing at both Preston and Ormskirk. At least I end up in Liverpool at the station nearest to Carluccio’s, so there should be just time for a good late lunch and then a taxi to the Airport, from the rank next to the restaurant.

Fifty years on, we don’t seem to have made much progress!

Although things should get better in the next few years, as the Northern Hub spreads its electric tentacles.

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Searching For George Stephenson’s Bridge

One of the major components of the Northern Hub is the Ordsall Chord. This is so important it has its own web site.

Would you believe that where logically the curve should go, there is a Grade One listed bridge put up by George Stephenson?

The various heritage sites are shown here on the Ordsall Chord web site.

So I went to take some pictures of the area.

There are several bridges there and quite frankly none appears to have much elegance.

The solitary Salford lith was useless, as it only gave details about Salford.  I was virtually outside Manchester Victoria station and that wasn’t shown.

Salford and Manchester may be two separate cities, but the rest of the world sees them as one and they should act as such, otherwise visitors will come back with tales of this impenetrable city and discourage their friends from coming.



April 9, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why Wasn’t The Picc-Vic Tunnel Built?

The Picc-Vicc Tunnel, which would have been a rail bypass under Manchester. Having experienced the tunnel under Liverpool,earlier in the day, I was wondering, why a similar tunnel hadn’t been built in Manchester.

On the way back from Huddersfield to Manchester, I was discussing with several Huddersfield fans, how the Northern Hub would affect their journeys.  All seemed to be welcoming the upgrade, so I asked why the Picc-Vicc tunnel wasn’t built.

One guy, said that he’d been to a lecture at the local historical society. He said that British Rail and the government were planning three tunnels in the 1970s; Liverpool, Manchester and the Tyneside Metro.

So because of cost, one had to be dropped, and Manchester was chosen.

As we’re getting much better with tunnels every year, I wouldn’t say that the Picc-Vicc tunnel is dead. Crossrail was on the back-burner for so long, no-one ever thought it would happen!

Could we for instance see a tunnel under part of Manchester for HS2?

April 8, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment