The Anonymous Widower

The Design Of The New Greater Anglia Class 745 Train

I am writing this article about the new Class 745 trains for Greater Anglia, as I think they fit the evolving pattern of train design.

The Article In The July 2017 Edition Of Modern Railways

In the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled GA Shows Off Stadler Mock-Up, where this is said.

GA’s fleet will all offer air-conditioning, wi-fi, plug and USB points, electronic seat reservations and will have a low floor design to offer improved accessibility.

I would expect no less!

This is also said.

The 12-car EMUs are formed of two six-car sets permanently married together. Each six-car set has one power bogie at each end, with a total of four on a 12-car train.

As the train has a First Class section and the bistro buffet between First and Second Classes, I suspect there could be two different types of six-car set.

  • One with the First Class seats, the bistro buffet and perhaps a couple of Second Class cars.
  • One with Second Class seats.

Normally, trains will be formed of one of each set.

I would assume, if say two six-car sets were out of service for some reason, the two working sets could be married to create some temporary capacity.

But yet again we see a train and a half-train philosophy.

Bicycle Spaces

As the Norwich trains will have six bicycle spaces, perhaps three will be placed in each set.

The article also says that Stansted Expresses will have eighteen spaces. Perhaps, Class 745 trains have a movable bulkhead at the end opposite to the cab, so that bicycle capacity can be tailored to the expected passengers.

Surely, being able to book your bicycle on the train going to East Anglia for the weekend will not be a feature that is not used.

Capacity To Norwich

Currently, there is two trains per hour (tph) between London and Norwich via Colchester and Ipswich, which are eight-cars long.

The new trains will enable 3 tph, each of twelve-cars, which is more than doubling the number of cars in an hour.

Train Power

The current Class 90 locomotives have a power output of 930 kW to pull the eight coaches.

It could be that each of the four powered bogies are rated at 1000 kW, so if that is right, these new trains are much more powerful than the current ones.

This is an extract from the article.

GA is currently investigating the potential to change from diesel to electric power on the move, and says it will seek to utilise the environmental benefits of electric power wherever possible, even on short stretches out of Norwich and Ipswich stations.

All units are designed for 100 mph operation, but with the potential for upgrading to 110 mph in future.

Does the speed upgrade apply to both the electric and bi-mode units?

Knowing the lines well, I suspect that the extra speed could be useful on the following lines.

  • Stowmarket to Norwich
  • Cambridge to Norwich

I suspect that if there is more improved double-track introduced, there couple be other places.

Conclusion

So expect Norwich-in-Ninety and Ipswich-in-Sixty!

 

July 14, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Is This The Worst Bottleneck On The UK Rail Network?

This Google Map shows Norwich station and the various rail lines that serve it.

Norwich Station And Approach Lines

Norwich Station And Approach Lines

All the lines come into the station from the East and they split soon after leaving the station, with lines to Cromer, Lowestoft, Sheringham and Yarmouth taking the Northern line, with trains to Ipswich and Cambridge taking the Southern Line.

Between the two lines, lies Crown Point Traction and Rolling Stock Depot, which looks after much of Greater Anglia‘s rolling stock.

This Google Map shows the bridge at the South West corner of the depot, where the rail line to Ipswich and Cambridge, crosses the River Wensum.

Trowse Bridge

Trowse Bridge

Trowse Bridge is no ordinary bridge.

  • It is a single track swing bridge.
  • It was built in the 1980s, probably to a low cost design.
  • It is electrified by overhead conductor rail, rather than overhead wire.
  • It is mandated by an Act of Parliament to open for traffic on the river on demand.
  • It is rather unreliable.

It must be a nightmare for both Greater Anglia and Network Rail.

I wonder if this bridge has had effects on projects that are happening in East Anglia.

The New Depot At Manningtree

A new depot is being built at Manningtree. There are obviously, good reasons for this, but could the access over the Trowse Bridge to Crown Point be a factor.

It would certainly be easier for bi-mode Flirts working Lowestoft-Ipswich and Colchester-Peterborough to be based at Manningtree rather than Crown Point.

Direct Yarmouth To Lowestoft Trains Via A Reinstated Reedham Chord

There used to be a direct Yarmouth to Lowestoft Line, but now it is possible to use the Wherry Lines, with a reverse at Reedham station.

Network Rail are talking about reinstating the Reedham Chord to create a more direct route between East Anglia’s largest North-Eastern towns. This is said about the Reedham Chord in Direct Yarmouth Services in the Wikipedia entry for Lowestoft station.

In January 2015, a Network Rail study proposed the reintroduction of direct services between Lowestoft and Yarmouth by reinstating a spur at Reedham. Services could once again travel between two East Coast towns, with an estimated journey time of 33 minutes, via a reconstructed 34-chain (680 m) north-to-south arm of the former triangular junction at Reedham, which had been removed in c. 1880. The plans also involve relocating Reedham station nearer the junction, an idea which attracted criticism.

Could one of the reasons for looking at the the reinstatement of the Reedham Chord, be that it would allow diagrams for the trains working the branch lines to the East of Norwich and Ipswich to avoid the Trowse Bridge?

The Design Of The London To Norwich Trains

The current rakes of eight Mark 3 coaches hauled by Class 90 locomotives, that run the service between London to Norwich, only have one pantograph.

So does this mean there are operational problems with the train on the Trowse Bridge, as it does seem that the bridge owes a lot to Mr. Heath Robinson.

A modern electric multiple unit of this  length like say the Class 345 trains for Crossrail, often has two pantographs. This should be more reliable, if one should fail.

Would two pantographs allow a long train, such as the twelve-car electric Flirts, that Greater Anglia is leasing, to be able to be connected to either or even both sections of overhead electric wiring on the two sides of the river?

Gaps are common on third-rail electric trains as I  wrote about in Discontinuous Electrification Using IPEMUs 

Suppose, the electrification was removed from the Trowse Bridge!

Would this and other improvements make it possible to make the bridge much simpler and more reliable?

|Electric trains could use the following procedure to cross the bridge.

  • Trains could approach the bridge with the front pantograph lowered., drawing power from the rear one.
  • The train would cross the bridge and when the front pantograph was under the overhead wire on the other side, it would automatically raise and connect, lowering the rear pantograph appropriately.

Bi-mode trains would just use their diesel engines, swapping between modes automatically.

The Replacement Of The Bridge

Eventually, the bridge will have to be replaced, but surely a bridge without electrification would be easier to design and build. It could even be double-track to improve capacity into and out of Norwich.

I suspect that the long-term solution would be a double-track lifting bridge, similar to the Kingsferry Bridge in Kent. This was built in 1960 at a cost of £1.2million, which is £19.3million in today’s money.

When it is completed the Western Gateway Infrastructure Scheme, will incorporate a similar lifting bridge which will carry a road and the Manchester Metrolink over the Manchester Ship Canal.

Both these schemes also incorporate roads, so the Trowse Bridge will be simpler.

I think there could be scope for an engineer or architect to design something special for this crossing.

The Affordable Alternative

It has to be said, that perhaps the most affordable solution would be to build a stylish fixed link, probably with a double-track railway and  foot and cycle bridges.

As to the boat users, all boats that need to go under the bridge regularly would be modified so their masts could be lowered at no cost to their owners.

Other bribes could be given to occassional users.

November 20, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Crossrail 2 ‘Cannot Go Ahead’ Without Four-Tracking Of West Anglia Line

This is the title of an article in Rail Technology Magazine.

This is the first paragraph.

MPs for constituencies along the West Anglia line called for the route to be four-tracked in order to accommodate new rolling stock and Crossrail 2 at a Westminster Hall debate yesterday.

I know the West Anglia Main Line very well, as for perhaps fifteen years, I used to travel on it, regularly to get between Cambridge and London.

The Problems Of The West Anglia Main Line

Summarising its shortcomings, I would include.

  1. Trains are too slow.
  2. Capacity on the line is too small.
  3. There are lots of level crossings, which cause problems.
  4. With the development of the port at London Gateway, there could be pressure to put more freight trains on this line, to go to and from the North.
  5. Services from London, should be better integrated with Peterborough and Norwich services.
  6. Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds to Stansted Airport, is not easy by train.

This Infrastructure section in Wikipedia describes the West Anglia Main Line.

The line was initially 5 ft (1,524 mm) gauge, but between 5 September and 7 October 1844 it was converted to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge.

In 2013 the line was double track for most of its length, with small sections of single track on the Stansted branch and at Ware and quadruple track between Hackney Downs and Liverpool Street. The line is electrified at 25 kV AC and has a loading gauge of W8 except for the Stansted branch, which is W6.

The line is very much inferior to the Great Eastern Main Line.

The New Greater Anglia Franchise

The new Greater Anglia Franchise, will go a long way to sorting points 5 and 6, by introducing hourly services on the following routes.

  • Norwich to Stansred Airport via Ely, Cambridge North and Cambridge stations.
  • Colchester to Peterborough via Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds, and Ely.

With improved services from London to Stansted, this will help sort out a lot of the problems on the line.

But these changes will only put more pressure on capacity on the West Anglia Main Line.

Freight

The West Anglia Main Line doesn’t carry large numbers of freight trains, but there could be pressure to increase freight on the line in the future.

Once the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is electrified, there will be another electrified route from London Gateway to Peteborough.

It might be decided to reinstate the rail line from March to Spalding and the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Line, to take freight away from the East Coast Main Line.

If thiese routes get to be used for freight, it will put extra pressure for more capacity on the West Anglia Main Line.

More Capacity On The West Anglia Main Line

With demand for more capacity on the West Anglia Main Line, I think it is inevitable that the line will be improved.

This Future Developments section in Wikipedia, outlines what might happen.

If Stansted Airport’s expansion is authorised it is planned that the line will see many further changes. Long term proposals include four-tracking between Coppermill Junction and Broxbourne junction; an additional tunnel and platform edge on the Stansted Airport branch; one additional train per hour serving Stansted and up to six further trains per hour at peak times, including four into Stratford as a terminus. More stations, such as Broxbourne, will also have platform extensions to accommodate 12-car trains.

It seems likely that two tracks will be built alongside the line to Cheshunt as part of Crossrail 2. Intermediate stations from Tottenham Hale will transfer to Crossrail 2 releasing capacity on the main line for additional trains

Stansted Airport have certainly been a forceful advocate of four-tracking the West Anglia  Main Line.

Four-tracking of the twelve or so miles between Coppermill and Broxbourne Junctions would allow the following.

  • The possibility of at least 100 mph running on the fast lines.
  • Separation of slow and fast services.
  • Stansted and Cambridge Express services, that would be worthy of the name.
  • The possibility of more freight trains.

 

Four-tracking would certainly do the following.

  • Get the line ready to connect to Crossrail 2.
  • Probably make all stations between Tottenham Hale and Broxbourne step-free.
  • Add the station at Meridian Water to the line.
  • Improve the freight gauge from W8 to W10, where needed.

I suspect that four-tracking will also remove some of the notorious level crossings on the line.

I have this feeling that the four-tracking of this line could be one of those projects, where the existing infrastructure works normally, whilst the new tracks are built alongside.

Fast Services To Stansted, Cambridge And Norwich

South of Broxbourne station, fast services to and from Cambridge, only stop at Cheshunt and Tottenham Hale.

Given that the Flirts, that will be running Cambridge and Stansted services in a few years will be 125 mph trains, would it be worth it to save a few minutes building the new fast lines to allow running at this speed?

But should the four-track section of railway stop at Broxbourne Junction?

Between Broxbourne and Bishops Strtford, the West Anglia Main Line, has wide margins and I think that there are possibilities of extending the four-track section further North, perhaps even to Bishops Stortford station.

As an example, this Google Map shows Roydon station.

Roydon Station

Roydon Station

The biggest problem at Roydon is the level crossing, but on a quick look, it would appear that four-tracking would be possible.

From my memories of driving past and going through Bishops Stortford station, I thought this station would be a major problem to four-tracking.

But look at this Google Map of the station.

Bishops Stortford Station

Bishops Stortford Station

It would appear that space is not the premium I expected.

I think it would be possible to expand the station, to take advantage of two slow and two fast lines South of the station.

Surely, the fast lines, even if a good proportion of trains stopped at the station could accommodate twelve or more trains per hour (tph) to Stansted Airport, Cambridge and the North.

North of Bishops Stortford, all of the trains would be modern trains with the following characteristics.

  • The ability to cruise at 100 mph or more.
  • The ability to stop and start extremely fast.

So I suspect, that if the current infrastructure was improved, consistent 100 mph running would be possible to Cambridge.

Cambridge could be a problem with all the work going on.

  • The expansion of the existing Cambridge station
  • The building of the new Cambridge North station
  • The reorganisation of services to cope with the new Greater Anglia franchise.
  • The arrival of the East West Rail Link in the mid-2020s.

But I suspect Network Rail and Greater Anglia are working together on the solutions, to raise speeds all the way to Ely.

North of Ely, the Breckland Line has a lower speed limit of 75-90 mph, but if it were to be upgraded for 100 mph running, this would mean that the new Norwich to Stansted service via Cambridge using bi-mode Flirt trains, would be considerably faster, than the ten minutes short of two hours now possible with a change at Cambridge.

One thing, that I suspect will happen is that the following services will arrive and leave in a convenient pattern at Cambridge.

  • Cambridge to/from Ipswich
  • Stansted Airport to/from Norwich
  • Cambridge to/from Kings Lynn
  • Kings Cross to/from Cambridge
  • Liverpool Street to/from Cambridge
  • Peterborough to/from Cambridge
  • Thameslink to/from Cambridge

Cambridge will become an increasingly busy interchange.

As an example, I think we could see a Norwich to Kings Cross time of under two hours, with a change at Cambridge. Perhaps not ninety minutes, but with an upgraded Breckland Line running 100 mph plus bi-mode Flirts, it wouldn’t be far off.

Coppermill Junction

Four-tracking is proposed to start at Coppermill Junction, just South of Tottenham Hale station.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows Coppermill Junction.

Coppermill Junction

Coppermill Junction

Note.

  • The tunnels for Crossrail 2 will emerge to the North-West of this junction.
  • Rail access to the Crossrail 2 worksite would be a necessity.
  • I talked about plans to reinstate the Coppermill and Hall Farm Curves in Rumours Of Curves In Walthamstow.
  • The only inhabitants of the area are probably foxes, great crested newts and other sundry wildlife.

Surely, the creation of an upgraded track layout at Coppermill Junction, that allows Crossrail 2 to be built without disrupting services on the West Anglia Main Line and the Chingford Branch is important.

The reinstated Hall Farm Curve would also allow Chingford Branch services to run to Stratford for Crossrail and alternative Underground services.

The work to this junction, further emphasises that four-tracking of the West Anglia Main Line must be done before Crossrail 2 is built.

Crossrail 2

Politics, public relations and good project management all probably say, that when Crossrail 2 gets the go-ahead, four-tracking of the West Anglia Main Line, should be done first.

In a related and parallel project, the branch lines in South West London, should also be upgraded as early as possible to bring visible benefits.

  • Longer platforms at stations where needed.
  • Step-free access at all stations.
  • Sorting of level crossings and bottle-necks.

These improvements are needed, even if Crossrail 2 is not built.

If I have a criticism of the current Crossrail and Thameslink projects, it is that they are big-bang projects, where nothing appears to have happened except disruption for years and then it will all come together in a great splurge in 2018-2019.

With Crossrail 2, there is possibly a chance to build the line, so that the benefits come in a steady stream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 19, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

An Illustration Of East Anglia’s Rail Problems

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled More capacity for Anglia with second locomotive hauled set.

It describes how Abellio Greater Anglia is hiring in two Class 68 locomotives and a rake of three Mark 2 coaches, to maintain services after one of its Class 170 diesel multiple units, was badly damaged in a crash with a tractor at a level crossing in April. There are more details of this in this story on ITV, which is entitled Train carrying 135 passengers crashes at level crossing.

The hiring in of two-brand new locomotives can’t be a very affordable option, but it just illustrates that there is no spare stock available. If say a major bus company needs extra capacity for a big event, contingency plans probably mean a fleet is rustled up from somewhere.

So why isn’t there a pool of say refurbished diesel multiple units available? Most old diesel multiple units are probably only fit for scrap, when they are retired and I doubt any Government since railway nationialisation in 1948, would have allowed train companioes to have a central pool for emergencies.

But the real cause of this particular problem, is the old East Anglian one of level crossings. And a lot of those in East Anglia have trains passing at over 75 mph.

Intriguingly, in The New Trains Arriving In East Anglia, if I got it right that the Breckland Line between Cambridge and Norwich is going to run four- or even eight-car 100 mph electric trains with an IPEMU capability, then something must be done about these level crossings. The infrastructure has already been updated with new signalling and track improvements, but obviously this private level crossing was still being used.

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The New Trains Arriving In East Anglia

This article in the Derby Telegraph is entitled Derby workers on tenterhooks over contract worth BILLIONS. (Note the newspaper’s capitals!)

It states that the new East Anglian Franchise could be announced tomorrow, as it is supposed to be settled in June, and that the order for new trains is between Bombardier and Siemens.

I can’t believe that given the current Euro-turmoil in the country, that Siemens will be given this order.

I think that we can assume that based on London Overgroun’s contract for Class 710 trains, where this is said.

In July 2015 TfL announced that it had placed a £260m order for 45 4-car Bombardier Aventra EMUs

That a new four-car Aventra train will cost around £6million. I would suspect that Siemens Desiro City would probably be around the same price.

So for a billion pounds, you would get around a hundred and thirty trains.

As I said in Could Class 387 Trains Do Norwich In Ninety And Ipswich In Sixty?, one twelve-car Class 387 train, could fulfil the franchise requirement of two fast trains a day on the Great Eastern Main Line in both directions. It might even be possible to deliver it, early in 2017, now that it appears production of Class 387 trains might be able to continue.

The Derby Telegragh article talks about Aventra trains, but unlike Class 387 trains, these would not be available until probably 2019, at the earliest.

But Aventras for the flagship London-Ipswich-Norwich route could be delivered with all or part of this specification.

  • Up to twelve-cars.
  • Walk-through capability. Thameslink’s Bedford to Brighton serrvice will be like this, so why not?
  • A specially-design business- and commuter-friendly interior.
  • 125 mph capability to give all services Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty.
  • A buffet car could be provided.
  • An IPEMU capability, so a direct Yarmouth service could be introduced.

Some might mourn the passing of the much-loved and well-used Mark 3 coaches, but the Great Eastern Main Line would have one of the best commuting trains in Europe.

I estimate that six sets would be needed to provide two trains per hour in 90 minutes between Norwich and London.

Currently, they have sixteen sets with eight coaches.

If the trains had an IPEMU-capability, which is possible, but of course hasn’t been announced, these trains could also work Norwich to London via the Breckland Line and the West Anglia Main Line, serving Thetford, Ely, the new Cambridge North, Cambridge and Tottenham Hale. Currently, this route would take just under three hours with a change at Cambridge. What time a 125 mph electric train could manage, is pure speculation, but a time of two and a half is probably possible, with some track improvements on the route.

So could we see the current hourly, Norwich to Cambridge service on this route, serving Cambridge North and extended to London? It would give advantages to passengers, the operator and Network Rail.

  • The improved connectivity between Cambridge and Norwich would spread the benefits of the Fenland Powerhouse to Norwich and Norfolk.
  • Norfolk would get a third direct route to the capital, after the Great Eastern Main Line and the Fen Line.
  • Norwich services would have a same platform interchange to Thameslink at one or possibly both Cambridge stations.
  • One of the Northern bay platforms at Cambridge would be used more efficiently, as most Norwich services would be through trains.
  • The trains could be identical or very similar to those serving the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • The route would be available as a diversionary route between Norwich and London, should the |Great Eastern Main Line be closed.
  • There would be no major electrification needed.

To provide an hourly service, I think that three trains will be needed.

The Great Eastern Main Line to Ipswich and the western route to Ely, have platforms long enough for twelve-car trains. North from Ipswich, they can certainly take ten-car trains, as that is the effective length of the current stock.

So will the stock be eight- or twelve-car trains? It could be either, with perhaps some platform lengthening on the western route.

The minimum number of trains would be six for the Great Eastern Main Line and three for the western route. It would probably be prudent to call it ten trains.

I think adding in a bit extra for 125 mph and IPEMU-capabilities and a custom interior, that prices could be of the order of.

  • £20million for an eight-car train or £200million for ten.
  • £30million for a twelve-car train or £300million for ten.

That’s not billions!

Shorter units of perhaps four-car or eight-car formations with an IPEMU-capability,  could run the following routes.

  • Ipswich to Cambridge
  • Ipswich to Ely and Peterborough.
  • Ipswich to Lowestoft, if some form of charging could be provided at Lowestoft.

Four trains of eight-cars for these Ipswich-based routes, would be another £80million.

Still not billions!

This leads me to the conclusion, that a large number of other electric trains in the franchise will be replaced.

  • I believe for Norwich in Ninety, all trains north of Colchester need to have a 110 mph-capability or better.
  • Some trains are very tired, dated and lack capacity.
  • Some could have an IPEMU-capability for working the branch lines that don’t have electrification.

In the present franchise there are the following trains working the Great Eastern Main Line and the West Anglia Main Line

All are of four cars.

If all except the nearly-new Class 379 trains, were replaced with Aventras, that would cost about £950million including the IPEMUs for the branch lines.

I think that if they can develop a sensible way of charging trains at Lowestoft, Sherringham and Yarmouth, this would give the following advantages.

  • Every train would be a new or nearly-new electric multiple unit.
  • Some trains would have an IPEMU capability to handle lines without electrification.
  • Every train would be able to use regenerative braking to save energy.
  • There would be a large increase in capacity.
  • Most services would be faster and not just Norwich and Ipswich to London.
  • New trains into Southend to compete with c2c.
  • Trains would be available to serve the new Cambridge North station.
  • A possible London to Lowestoft service could be run.
  • .Services between Cambridge, Ipswich, Norwich and Peterborough could be increased.
  • March to Wisbech could be added to the network.
  • Diversionary routes from Ipswich, Norwich and Peterborough to London have been created.
  • No new electrification of a substantial nature.
  • Some quality diesel trains would be released to other operators.

As I indicated earlier, if it was decided to fulfil the requirements of Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty, early in the franchise, this could be done with some Class 387 trains.

If this happens, it will be a substantial improvement on the current service.

East Anglia will have been totally-electrified for passenger services, with all the electrification being done in a new, modern factory in Derby.

I don’t know what will happen, but unless something like this does, I can’t see how Bombardier will get the order for billions of pounds of new trains, as reported in the Derby Telegraph.

Engineering is the science of the possible!

 

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Could Class 387 Trains Do Norwich In Ninety And Ipswich In Sixty?

In Are More Class 387 Trains On The Way?, I postulated that Bombardier may have the capability to build more Class 387 trains, and that they could be used on services between Liverpool Street, Ipswich and Norwich.

Currently, the route is worked by Class 90 locomotives pulling and pushing eight Mark 3 coaches, with the help of a driving van trailer.

There are several problems and possible problems with the current trains.

  • The Class 90s are approaching thirty years old.
  • The Class 90s have had maintenance issues in the past.
  • The Class 90s don’t have regenerative braking.
  • The sewage discharge from the toilets  in the Mark 3 coaches, doesn’t meet the latest regulations.
  • The doors on the Mark 3 coaches, don’t meet the latest regulations or the expectation of passengers.
  • The doors must lengthen stops at stations. I wonder what is the difference between these trains and say a Class 390 train!
  • Entrance and exit from the Mark 3 coaches is not step-free.
  • Ride in the Mark 3 coaches is good, but the quality of the seating and number of tables in standard class, leaves a lot to be desired.
  • Wi-fi is not to the standard passengers expect these days.
  • Effectively you get eight coaches of passengers in a train the length of ten cars, that is running on a line with 12-car platforms.
  • The trains can’t serve Great Yarmouth.

Refurbishment is being applied to the train sets, but will that be good enough?

Updating the line’s, sixteen rakes of eight carriages would be a totally different matter to Chiltern’s creation of their superb sets of six carriages.

  • Would fixing the doors and the toilets on a hundred and thirty carriages be economic?
  • Is there the capacity to do the rebuild?
  • Fifteen trains are probably needed to run the service, so how long would it take to upgrade sixteen trains one after the other?
  • New carriages from the only source I know; CAF would mean waiting a few years.

In addition, this is said under proposed developments of the Great Eastern Main Line in Wikipedia.

In November 2013 an upgrade of the GEML to enable London-Norwich express services to achieve an improved journey time of 90 minutes was announced, this indicated that a raised line speed of 110 mph would be required and the replacement of the existing Mark 3 rolling stock with new inter-city rolling stock.

So it looks like Norwich in Ninrty isn’t on with the current trains. Could this be the reason, why the specification for the new franchise specifies just two fast trains per day in each direction?

The East Anglian Express

The starting point for this would be three Gatwick Express-style Class 387 trains working as a 12-car unit.

  • Twelve cars would be able to run on the line’s long platforms.
  • The Gatwick-style interior, without the extra luggage capacity, would be a good starting point for what is needed.
  • It would certainly be able to maintain 110 mph for large parts of the route from London to Norwich.
  • An IPEMU version would be available.
  • Delivery could be as early as 2018.

What would be the issues raised by replacing the current trains with twelve-car Class 387 trains?

Capacity

Capacity is a problem on the services between London and Norwich.

It is a problem, despite passengers being squeezed in tightly.

At present the current trains have eight carriages, but Class 387 trains on Gatwick Express regularly run with twelve carriages.

I think that we can assume that, twelve-car electric multiple units are possible from London to Norwich, perhaps after some platform lengthening.

I can’t find any reliable figures on the Internet as to capacity, so I’ll have to resort to riding on the trains and counting seats.

Certainly, the Class 387 trains have more tables.

Acceleration

I don’t know if the acceleration of the Class 387 trains or the current trains is better.

But the Class 387 train has a power of 2,250 HP or 750 HP per carriage, whereas the current train has an installed power of just 1,250 HP or 156 HP per carriage.

I know it’s a bit of a comparison between apples and oranges, but it would appear that the Class 387 train has more power per carriage and might accelerate faster.

Braking

It may surprise some people, but if you want a train to run fast over a route with stops, you need efficient and high quality braking systems. The Class 387 train has the latest regenerative braking, whereas the current train has technology from thirty years ago.

As the Class 360 trains, that share the line to Ipswich have regenerative braking, I suspect that some parts of the line is built to accept returned energy, but is all of it?

With Class 387 trains, there is always the option to make them IPEMUs, so that braking energy is stored on the train and used to give extra acceleration on pulling away from the station.

Line Speed

Obviously, the faster the line speed, the quicker the journey time. At present it is 100 mph and the current trains are 110 mph capable as are the Class 387 trains.

So it looks like a bigger increase in performance can come by giving as much of the track as possible a 110 mph line speed.

Remember too, that between Haughley Junction and Norwich, the only significant feature of the line is the stop at Diss, so I would suspect it would almost be 110 mph all the way. As you’re looking for savings of thirty minutes or so between London and Norwich, I wonder if this section of line could be even faster.

Stops

Several factors determine the speed of calling at a station in a train.

  • How fast the train can brake from line speed and stop in the station.
  • How long it takes the passengers to get off and on the train.
  • Good design of the train-platform interface, with wide doors, large lobbies and just a step across all helping.
  • How fast the train can accelerate back up to line speed.
  • Well-trained staff.

There are obviously other factors like waiting for other trains to connect or clear signals, but these will effect all trains.

Because of their better design, faster acceleration and regenerative braking, I think that the Class 387 trains will save something at every stop over the current trains.

I also think we’ll see stops reduced to an absolute minimum on the fastest trains, which might only stop at Ipswich and Colchester.

Interaction With Stopping Trains

I will make an assumption that London to Norwich trains will never run more frequently than four trains per hour. As it is currently two trains per hour, I think that is a reasonable assumption.

From Liverpool Street to Shenfield, there will be occasional trains stopping at perhaps, Stratford, Ilford and Romford, but with a fifteen minute window between fast expresses, I suspect everything could be fitted in, especially as local trains and passengers will use the frequent Crossrail.

Shenfield to Colchester is the difficult bit, as there are trains to Colchester Town, Clacton, Frinton and Walton to accommodate on the double-track main line.

North of Colchester it gets easier, with the only section with serious levels of traffic being the stretch between Ipswich and Haughley Junction, where freight trains to and from Felixstowe run along the double-track main line.

One way of easing the problem would be to make as many trains as possible on the line capable of running at line speed. The thirteen-year-old Class 360 trains are only capable of 100 mph.

Perhaps the expensive part of Norwich in Ninety is replacing the Class 360 trains with more Class 387 trains or some other 110 mph train?

The Digital Railway

Network Rail’s Digital Railway must surely help in running trains at up to 110 mph on some of the busier parts of the line.

Crossrail

Crossrail is going to have effects on the Great Eastern Main Line.

  • Crossrail will mean that between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, a lot fewer trains will stop on the fast lines.
  • Would it be possible to have 110 mph running between Liverpool Street and Shenfield?
  • Journeys like Diss to Goodmayes and Ipswich to Ilford should be quicker and easier.
  • If Norwich services stop at Shenfield and/or Stratford, how many passengers will transfer to Crossrail?

But we will have to wait until Crossrail opens to see how it changes travel patterns.

Stopping At Shenfield

One consequence of swifter stops is that an extra stop at Shenfield might be possible. This would connect to Crossrail, Southend and Southend Airport.

If you stop at Shenfield, there might be less need to stop at Stratford.

But passenger statistics will decide what is best.

Buffet Car

The current service has a buffet car. The Henry Blofelds of this world like to enjoy their train travel, so something better than a trolley service must be provided.

But that is a design issue, not one to do with the actual trains!

If the trains were fixed twelve-car formations, First Class might be in cars 1-3, with a buffet/shop in car 4. Car 1 would be the London end of the train.

Extra Services

There are several services in East Anglia, that could benefit from the intreoduction of new modern electric trains of at least four-cars.

  • London to Norwich via Cambridge, Cambridge North and Ely.
  • London to Great Yarmouth via Norwich.
  • Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough

All routes are electrified and would be possible with a Class 387 train with an IPEMU capability.

Delivery And Introduction Into Service

If we assume that the two Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty are to start as soon as possible, then it will be a challenging condition to meet.

Suppose, that delivery of just one twelve-car train is possible at an early date, how could it be used?

Currently, the first three trains out of Norwich leave at 05:00, 05:30 and 06:00 taking a few minutes under two hours to Liverpool Street.

Let’s suppose that after running into London in ninety minutes non-stop or with just a stop at Ipswich, it arrives back in Norwich perhaps three hours and twenty minutes later.

The train that left at 05:00 could now form the 08:30 to London and do the trip in ninety minutes, provided it could thread its way through the traffic between Colchester and Shenfield.

Obviously, the 05:30 and 06:00 trains could form the 09:00 and 09:30 trains to London respectively.

But Norwich has got two ninety minute high-capacity East Anglian Express services to London with the delivery of just one 12-car train.

Obviously, in the evening the reverse would happen.

In fact, they might get more than two Norwich in Ninety services, as I doubt the train would sit around all day in a siding. If the pattern of a Norwich in Ninety service every three and a half hours through the day, there would be at least five services possible.

Two new trains would mean that say all on the hour departures from Norwich were Norwich in Ninety, with the existing stock performing as now on the half hour.

Alternative Strategies

As only one train is needed to meet the franchise requirement, are there  alternative trains that could be used? The train would need.

  • 110 mph or greater top speed.
  • Preferably electric power, as diesel-powered would be a backward step.
  • At least eight carriages.
  • A quality interior.

I don’t think a second-hand train would be good enough, as East Anglia has had enough of hand-me-downs!

The only suitable train, that the new East Anglian Franchise could obtain, would be a twelve-car Class 379 train, which is a close relation of the Class 387 train.

  • The Class 379 trains are in service with Abellio Greater Anglia on Stanstead Express and Cambridge services.
  • They are only a 100 mph train, but probably could be uprated to 110 mph.

But that would ask the question of what would fill in on the West Anglia Main Line.

The Final Solution

I feel that by using every trick in the book, that a suitable train can be found, that could do Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty at least twice a day.

I suspect it would only need one train to meet the franchise requirement.

But two trains a day from Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty will not satisfy the passengers for long.

Given that all the 100 mph Class 360 and Class 321 trains on the line, slow everything down, I can see these trains being updated or replaced with 110 mph units.

In addition to the services I mentioned under Extra Services, there are several lines that could benefit from trains fitted with IPEMU technology.

Could we be seeing a large order for Aventra trains or something similar soon after the franchise is awarded. Some trains would need a 125 mph capability for Norwich services and some would have an IPEMU capability for the lines without electrification.

Conclusions

I have come to the conclusion that Class 387 trains can probably do Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty from London.

I think though to achieve this, the following must happen.

  • Line speed is raised to 110 mph in all places possible.
  • Bottlenecks like the Trowse Bridge are minimised.
  • Stops will be cut to an absolute minimum on the fastest trains.
  • The Class 360 and Class 321 trains must also be replaced with 110 mph trains.
  • The Digital Railway will play its part.

I do think though that to get all London to Norwich trains to ninety minutes, that it might need a faster train with a speed of 125 mph on the line north of Haughley Junction, which would be upgraded for perhaps 120 mph.

But I don’t know how much good engineers can squeeze out of the current 100 mph line on the long straights North of Haughley.

 

June 23, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 7 Comments

Abellio Greater Anglia Make Football At Ipswich And Norwich Difficult

A couple of seasons ago, my getting to Portman Road for the football was made very difficult, as virtually every match was difficult because of works on the line and it meant getting on a bus for most of the day.

So now Network Rail is sorting out the ballast on the track and from the 31st of January until the 22nd of March there will be no direct trains between London, Ipswich and Norwich at weekends.

A typical journey will now take nearly two hours, as opposed to the just over one it normally does. As that is twice, I really must get a lift up and back from somewhere.

Luckily it would appear to only be three matches; Wigan (31st Jan), Reading (21st Feb) and Brentford (7th Mar), as most in the period seem to be on Tuesday evening or we’re away at easier places to get to like Rotherham or Middlesbrough.

Tuesday night matches seem to be OK at the moment. Although, if we have extra time and penalties in the FA Cup replay on Wednesday, getting home might be tricky. As I write this there is a lot of anger on the forums complaining about no late trains after the match to Cambridge, Lowestoft and Felixstowe.

For the Norwich match on the first of March, which thankfully has a 14:05 start, it looks more feasible to go via Kings Cross and change at Cambridge.

Obviously, the ballast cleaning has to be done, but Abellio Greater Anglia could have used this disruption to fans getting to and from matches as a vehicle to show how well they can deal with adversity, instead of getting the old tired solutions out of the box.

For example, Abellio Greater Anglia have several rakes of Mark 3 coaches that run the services up the East Anglian Main Line. Could they not use a diesel locomotive to on match days run a football special either via or from Cambridge? Properly done, it might retrieve their battered reputation and encourage more people to travel by train.

But they can’t even get their information right. This was a poster at Liverpool Street on Saturday the 10th.

Greater Anglia Gets The Dates Wrong

Greater Anglia Gets The Dates Wrong

That is unless it’s me who’s got the wrong dates. At least they said the first of January was New Year’s Day. Although, it was a Thursday not a Wednesday.

It would be interesting to know how Norwich fans are coping during this period, as I think quite a few are dependent on using the long-distance trains to get to both home and away matches. Surely, during this interruption, they should seriously think about running direct diesel-hauled services from London to Norwich via Cambridge for all passengers. Does granny visiting Norwich really want to spend hours on a coach, when she booked a comfortable train? Especially, if it’s crammed full with angry football fans worried about missing the match or getting their onward connection in London.

Yet again, Abellio Greater Anglia have shown all the conservatism and arrogance of their Dutch masters, who managed the Fyra fiasco and introduced one of Europe’s worst ticketing systems to piss off foreign visitors.

 

January 11, 2015 Posted by | Sport, Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Crossrail Of The North

Is it farther between Liverpool and Hull or from London to Norwich?

Actually, they are about the same being around two hundred kilometres for both.

But compare the train times between the two city pairs.

Liverpool to Hull takes three and a quarter hours, with at least one change, whereas London to Norwich takes five minutes under two hours.

Actually, the London to Norwich service hasn’t improved much since the 1960s, as British Rail’s aspiration then had the catchy phrase of a two-hour, two-stop service.

Since then the line has been electrified and a typical train stops up to six times on the route, with eight coach services running twice every hour.

You might think, that being that the line runs across the flat East Anglian countryside that it is a railway on which high speeds of the order of two hundred kilometres per hour are possible.

But you’d be wrong, as the line isn’t straight and the maximum speed is only a hundred and sixty!

Even so, plans are afoot to do the London to Norwich trip in ninety minutes, probably using the current trains, albeit with perhaps some new locomotives.

All this shows what a disgrace the rail routes across the North of England are.

Few are electrified and trains are often scrapyard specials. There are some new trains, but these are seriously overcrowded.

Politicians should hang their heads in shame.

At least George Osborne seems to be thinking about it, judging by reports on the BBC this morning.

The North of England needs a high frequency and high capacity, world-class railway linking the main cities together. As with London to Norwich, Liverpool to Hull should be at least twice an hour in ninety minutes or less. It should all be possible with good 1980s, let alone the best modern, technology.

 

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 6 Comments

Norwich In Ninety

I travel regularly on the Great Eastern Main Line to Ipswich and have used the line since the 1970s, when we lived just north of Ipswich.

In those years, there has been very little improvement in journey times, although the trains are newer and perhaps slightly more comfortable.

So I was interested to find this report on the Treasury’s web site. Here’s the first paragraph.

Plans for a new expert group charged with finding ways to speed up rail services to the East of England by as much as 25% have been set out by the Chancellor.

Personally, I will be pleased if the speed improvement to Norwich, is matched on my shorter journey to Ipswich.

At present Ipswich and Norwich take 67 and 110 minutes respectively on a typical train. If Norwich were to be reached in ninety minutes, then Ipswich should be a few minutes or so under the magic figure of one hour.

Given that these trains would probably interface to Crossrail at \Shenfield, Stratford and Liverpool Street, it should be possible to go from Ipswich to Heathrow in under a hundred minutes. The Norwich figure would be two hours ten minutes.

I would think that this could be one of those small improvements, that show a very high return on the money invested. At least the line is fully electrified and all of the major stations can accept long high-capacity trains.

The major problem of delays caused by freight trains going to and from Felixstowe is also being solved with the Bacon Factory Curve, so I’m hopeful that by the end of this decade, we’ll be seeing much reduced journey times to East Anglia.

Will we also be seeing more electrication in East Anglia, like Ely to Norwich and Ipswich to Peterborough? I doubt it, although the latter would really help with the movement of freight out of Felixstowe.

November 16, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 4 Comments

Alan Partridge

I went to see the new Alan Partridge film at the Barbican last night.

My late wife was a fan of the original Alan Partridge television shows and she would have found last night’s film funny. I can remember seeing Cock and Bull Story with her in Cambridge, which we both enjoyed immensely.

Especially, as a lot of the film was set in Norwich, a town she knew well, as she’d practised as a barrister in the city on and off for more than thirty years.

So, although, I enjoyed the film and will give it four out of five, as both The Times and Guardian did, I found the film slightly sad. Especially, as I watched it alone.

If say the film had been set in say Bedford, Shrewsbury or Stoke, I would have enjoyed it a lot more.

August 10, 2013 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment