The Anonymous Widower

Where Next For Chiltern?

Chiltern Railways have now got their Marylebone to Oxford service up and running.

Wikipedia gives a list of their future plans. Included are the following.

  • Platform lengthening.
  • Restoration of former tracks.
  • Remodelling Banbury, which has already been done.
  • Building of the West Hampstead Interchange.
  • Development of services between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.
  • Creation of a Chiltern Metro.
  • Reopening various branch lies.

In addition there has been talk of electrification and opening a route along the New North Line to Old Oak Common.

Building On Oxford

As of yesterday, as I wrote in Oxford To Marylebone Opens For Business, they now have a two-platform terminus at Oxford station.

I can’t believe they have made this investment there, without other plans to use it. Wikipedia says this about the platforms at Oxford station.

The scheme also includes two new platforms at Oxford station, to be built on the site of the disused parcels depot. The new platforms will initially be five carriages in length, but provision will be made for them to be extended southwards to eight carriages.

A two platform terminus like this, will have a large capacity, when fully developed.

  • Two of Chiltern’s Class 68 locomotive hauled sets of Mark 3 coaches could be accommodated at the same time.
  • Two shorter trains could be handled in one platform at the same time.
  • Rebuilding plans for Oxford station would improve passenger handling.
  • The two-platform underround terminus at Moorgate handles 12 tph.

It could probable handle the proposed two trains per hour (tph) for the East West Rail Link with ease.

I can’t believe that these two platforms, won’t become a vibrant mini-station within Oxford station.

But where will trains and passengers go?

Expansion At Birmingham Moor Street

Birmingham Moor Street station is one of those stations, that spent decades in the wildeness and has now become an important alternative station.

Wikipedia says this about Proposed Future Developments concerning expansion of the station.

The currently disused third bay platform would be reopened, and an additional new fourth bay platform would be opened to accommodate the new services.

This is also said about HS2.

The High Speed 2 terminus in Birmingham is planned to be built on an adjacent site and will likely be linked to Moor Street, though have a separate name (either Fazeley Street or Curzon Street). The station and high-speed line is proposed to be completed by the mid-2020s.

So it looks as if Moor Street will become a more important Birmingham station for commuters and a gateway to high speed vservices from the city.

Services Between Oxford And Birmingham

Currently around two tph run between Oxford and Birmingham.

  • Typically, they call at places like Banbury, Leamington Spa, Coventry and Birmingham International.
  • Services are run by Cross-Country.
  • Services take between sixty and seventy minutes.
  • Services continue to places like Bournemouth, Manchester Piccadilly and Newcastle.

I’ve travelled on the route several times.

  • It tends to be overcrowded.
  • Service quality is not of the quality, you get with Chiltern, London Midland or TransPennine Express.

I think there could be a niche for an extra service between Oxford and Birmingham,, just as Chiltern hope and probably know, there’s room for one between London and Oxford.

  • Services would go between the bay platforms at Oxford and Birmingham Moor Street.
  • The Banbury remodelling must have helped the timetabling of the service.
  • A Chiltern quality service would be provided.
  • Two tph would leave at the same minutes past the half-hour.
  • Services could call at Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Warwick Parkway and Solihull, or whatever was appropriate.
  • Journey time could be sixty minutes or just under.
  • 2 tph on an hourly service would need four trains to run a service all day.
  • The Oxford Birmingham route would get four tph.

The only loser would be Cross-Country, who might lose passengers to the new service.

But then like Chiltern, they are ultimately owned by Deutche Bahn.

But, you can’t run a service without trains.

From 2019, Greater Anglia will start to receive new twelve-car Flirts for Liverpool Street to Norwich services. Currently, to run this service Greater Anglia uses 15 sets of eight Mark 3 carriages, with Class 90 locomotives and driving van trailers. In the last couple of years, all have been superbly refurbished with the addition of wi-fi and retention toilets. All the trains need is to fit sliding doors, as Chiltern have done for their Mark 3 coaches and replace the Class 90 with a Class 68 locomotive.

This would enable, Chiltern to offer a Mark 3 -only service between Marylebone and Birmingham and Oxford and the release of other trains for the Oxford to Birmingham service.

As every operator is short of trains and delivery timescales slip, it might be worth looking at the availability of suitable trains.

  • According to Wikipedia, as many as twelve driving van trailers could be in store at Long Marston. How many could be brought back into service?
  • Greater Anglia are replacing fifteen sets of Mark 3 carriages and a DVT, with ten electric Flirts, that will increase the frequency from 2 tph to 3 tph. Could this mean that one or two sets could be released before the Flirts enter service?
  • Hopefully, InterCity 125s will start to be available, as they are replaced with Class 800 trains from Summer 2017.

There are also other possibilities if events go to plan.

This is certainly a development to file under Watch This Space.

 

 

 

December 12, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oxford To Marylebone Opens For Business

I took these pictures, at Oxford station today, as the Great and Good opened the Chiltern’s new service to Oxford.

Compare the pictures, with these, I took on the 1st of December.

It does appear a lot of work has been done, in the intervening ten days.

December 12, 2016 Posted by | News | , | 2 Comments

Improving Train Services Through Oxford

As the Didcot Parkeay to Oxford electrification is now going to be delayed until the mid-2020s, I thought this article in the Oxford Times offered an interesting solution.

It proposes that Chiltern’s Marylebone to Oxford service goes on to Didcot Parkway.

December 5, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | 1 Comment

A Walk From Oxford Station – 1st December 2016

This walk was a repeat of A Walk From Oxford Station, that I took in March 2015.

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You wouldn’t notice much from the pictures, but being there I noticed changes.

It was all so much better organised, with a new bridge and extra tracks for Chiltern services.

December 2, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Exploring The Great Western Branches – 29th November 2016

On this morning, I explored the three branches of the Great Western Main Line, that are closest to London, to look at the progress of electrifying their connecting stations on the main line.

I then repeated the trip to add in two more branches.

I was also looking to see how services could be run with say four-car Class 387 trains, that had been fitted with on-board energy storage, as I wrote about in Rumours Of Battery-Powered Trains.

All the branches are described in order from London.

Electrification At West Ealing Station And On The Greenford Branch

These pictures show the electrification at West Ealing station, where the Greenford Branch Line connects to the main line.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the area in the photographs, at the Southern end of the Greenford Branch Line.

The Southern End Of The Greenford Branch

The Southern End Of The Greenford Branch

Notes and queries.

  • The pictures of the lines were taken from a footbridge over the line, behind the Access Self Storage.
  • The lines in the map show an older layout.
  • The track in the bay platform 5 has access to both tracks on the Greenford Branch, which means that two trains could work the line to provide a four trains per hour (tph) service.
  • The Up Slow line has access to both tracks on the Greenford Branch and to the new West Ealing sidings.
  • The island for Platforms 4 and 5 appears to be more or less complete.
  • Platform 3 needs to be lengthened.
  • There are signs of foundations for the footbridge, past the end of the current Platform 3 and in the construction works beyond Platform 5.
  • Will the Bay Platform 5 be double-sided? There’s no foundations for a bridge on the Platform 4/5 island.
  • Will Platforms 1 and 2 be reconstructed or removed?

I suspect that the station is ready for a  four tph diesel shuttle to Greenford, but the Bay Platform 5 can’t be wired until the bridge is in place.

Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work The Greenford Branch?

A few facts and thoughts.

  • The service is not possible at present, as there are no wires in the Bay Platform 5 at West Ealing station, where the trains would need to charge their storage between trips.
  • Trains would probably wait between three and five minutes at West Ealing station, which would be more than enough to top up the batteries.
  • The bay platform at Greenford station and platforms at the other stations will probably need lengthening, but there would probably be little other infrastructure work.
  • Incidentally, there is a tunnel on the branch, where blocks of housing have been built over the line, so electrification of the line could be difficult, unless provision was made, when the housing was built.
  • Without doubt, the track layout at West Ealing has been designed, so that two trains could provide a four tph service.
  • Two four-car trains could probably be parked in the bay platform. This could give operational flexibility.

Passenger routes between main line and Greenford Branch services would be as follows.

  • With Eastbound services on the main line, the change would a very easy walk of a few metres across the island platform.
  • With Westbound services on the main line, use of the bridge would be needed. But it looks like the footbridge has been positioned at the optimal position for both services and passengers joining or leaving the railway at West Ealing station.

As there will be frequencies of at least 8 tph on the main line and 4 tph on the branch, waiting will be a maximum of fifteen minutes.

The West Ealing Sidings

The pictures show the Orange Army swarming all over the new West Ealing Sidings, which will provide stabling for the new Class 387 trains.

I also took these pictures of the sidings as I returned to London.

Incidentally, as I passed through Old Oak Common on the way back to London, there were upwards of six of the new trains squatting in Hitachi’s new depot for the Class 800 trains.

If in the future, there is a variant of these trains with on-board energy storage, these sidings are certainly conveniently placed for the Greenford Branch.

Traffic On The Brentford Branch Line

These pictures were taken from Southall station of a train going onto the Brentford Branch Line.

I’d never seen any traffic here before and I only included the pictures, as Hounslow Council have aspirations for a passenger service on this line, that I wrote about in Could The Golden Mile In Houslow Get A Station?

If it was decided to open the Brentford Branch Line to passenger trains, then Class 387 trains with on-board energy storage would be a possibility to provide services.

A Heathrow Connect Class 360 Train in Platform 5 At Hayes and Harlington Station

I didn’t expect to see this.

A Heathrow Connect Class 360 Train in Platform 5 At Hayes and Harlington Station

A Heathrow Connect Class 360 Train in Platform 5 At Hayes and Harlington Station

But there were signalling issues, so they appeared to be  using the Class 360 train as a shuttle to Heathrow.

Electrification At Slough Station And On The Windsor Branch

These pictures show the electrification at Slough station, where the Windsor Branch Line or more correct, the Slough to Windsor and Eton Line connects to the main line.

Note.

  • There are overhead gantries over Platform 1 at Slough station, which is the bay platform for the Windsor Branch Line.
  • There is a line of overhead line gantries on the outside of the curve, as the Windsor Branch Line leaves Slough.
  • The gantries on the branch are lighter than those on the main line.
  • The Class 166 train in the picture had three-cars, so the platform could probably be lengthened for a four-car Class 387 train.

As there appears to be no work anywhere else on the branch, I have to assume, that the electrification doesn’t go very far along the Windsor Branch Line.

This Google Map shows the lines at the start of the Windsor Branch Line.

slough1

There are two main tracks at the start of the Windsor Branch.

The track closest to the blue building, is the actual branch.

  • It is a single track that goes between Windsor and Eton Central station and the Bay Platform 1 at Slough station.
  • Trains take six minutes for the journey.
  • The current frequency is three tph.
  • The bay platform 1 and a short length of the branch could be electrified.

The track furthest from the blue building is a long spur off the Down Main, that allows trains to be moved to and from the Windsor Branch Line.

  • It appears to be long enough for train to be parked on the spur.
  • It appears that the spur is being electrified for about a couple of hundred metres.
  • The spur could be extended or reconfigured to become a passing loop.

There also appears that there is a crossing that allows trains to move to and from the bay platform 1.

Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work The Windsor Branch?

Operation of the Windsor Branch would be as follow with a train fitted with on-board energy storages.

  • Trains enter the branch by going to the end of the spur and reversing into the bay platform 1.
  • Trains charge their on-board energy storage in Platform 1.
  • Trains run to and from Windsor using on-board energy, charging after each trip.
  • Trains leave the branch by going to the end of the spur and reversing onto the Down Main.

I have a feeling that if needed, that with small modifications, four tph might be possible, using two trains.

One of the possibilities unlocked by four tph could be to use the train to get passengers to the town from a Park-and-Ride site, beside Junction

Windsor And Eton Central Station

I took these pictures of Windsor and Eton Central station.

It certainly has several quality food outlets.

Electrification At Maidenhead Station And On The Marlow Branch

These pictures show the electrification at Maidenhead station, where the Marlow Branch Line connects to the main line.

Note.

  • Platform 5 is almost fully-electrified and the wires curve away onto the Marlow Branch.
  • Platform 4 and its connection to the Marlow Branch appears to be fully electrified.
  • There is a reversing siding to the West of the station in there somewhere.
  • There is an unfinished gap in the electrification of all lines to the East of Maidenhead station.

I wouldn’t think it would be long before all the electrification work is finished at Maidenhead station.

Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work The Marlow Branch?

So how will the various services to and from Maidenhead and on the Marlow Branch be handled, if Class 387 trains with on-board storage were available?

  • Between London and Maidenhead services would be worked using overhead power.
  • Between Maidenhead and Bourne End, services would be worked using on-board energy storage, that would be charged in Platform 5 at Maidenhead  or on the main line to and from London.
  • Between Bourne End and Marlow, the trains couldn’t run as they are too long and a two-car Class 166 would work the service and connect at Bourne End.

From the layout of the overhead wiring, I suspect that which of Platforms 4 or 5 is used at Maidenhead is flexible and which is actually used by a particular service would depend on many factors.

Electrification At Twyford Station And On The Henley Branch

These pictures show the lack of electrification work at Twyford station, where the Henley Branch Line connects to the main line.

The two slow platforms 3 and 4 at Twyford station, which will be used by Crossrail and Platform 5 which is used by the Henley Branch trains, show no signs of electrification, although work has been done on the fast platforms 1 and 2.

In the December 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article by Roger Ford entitled Electrical Clearances: The Plot Thickens.

As the stations either side of Twyford, which are Maidenhead and Reading, are both almost fully wired, there must be a serious reason why there isn’t any work started on Platforms 3, 4 and 5 at Twyford. Could it be that without either rebuilding the bridge or lowering the track and rebuilding the platforms, the new regulations can’t be met?

However, there could be a possible solution.

These trains will be using the station in a few years.

  • Class 800 trains, which are bi-mode.
  • Class 345 trains, which I believe could be fitted with on-board energy storage for other reasons, like tunnel emergencies.
  • Class 387 trains, which I believe could be fitted with on-board energy storage.

So could we see Platforms 3 and 4 at Twyfrord station without wires?

I’ve no idea!

But it does seem strange that no electrification work has been started at Twyford station, except on the fast lines, through Platforms 1 and 2.

Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work The Henley Branch?

So how will the various services on the Henley Branch be handled, if Class 387 trains with on-board storage were available?

Consider.

  • The branch is only a short one with a total length of 4.5 miles.
  • There are one tph on the branch, with extras to Paddington in the Peak.
  • Trains turn round in about four minutes.
  • From 2018, Twyford station will be served by 2 tph from Crossrail and 4 tph from GWR in each direction.
  • Platforms at all stations seem long enough for at least four-car trains.
  • There used to be a passing loop at Shiplake station.
  • Trains going to and from Paddington could charge their energy storage on the main line.

Two trains working a reconfigured branch could possibly create a 4 tph service.

Creating a four tph service on the Henley Branch, is the sort of problem, that engineers solve in the traditional way. – In a suitable hostelry!

I think that spending the money on a passing loop, some means of charging the trains and possibly a rebuilt Shiplake station, will be much better value, than electrifying the branch and the Crossrail platforms at Twyford station.

Electrification At Reading

In the December 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Loco-Hauled EMUs On GWR.

The article starts by saying.

GWR’s new Class 387 trains will be loco-hauled to and from their depot at Reading, until electrification between Maidenhead and Reading is completed.

Could this all be because, Network Rail don’t have a plan to electrify Twyford?

At least the depot seems electrified.

I didn’t see a Class 387 in their depot, but there were at least half-a-dozen parked at Hitachi’s depot at North Pole.

Electrification From Didcot To Oxford

The Cherwell Valley Line between Didcot and Oxford can be described as follows.

  • It is a double-track hemmed in on both sides.
  • The two stations at Radley and Culham are on narrow strips of land and could be difficult to electrify.
  • There is a tail of electrification gantries from Didcot Parkway onto the branch, which is typical of some other branches like Windsor and Marlow.
  • There were electrification piles in several places, either in the ground or just lying around.
  • The track could have be reconfigured to incorporate a new South-facing bay Platform at Oxford station.

These are some pictures.

One of Chiltern’s Class 168 trains was also hanging around, training drivers.

Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work Didcot To Oxford?

Didcot to Oxford is about 10.5 miles, so I suspect range is not a problem, especially if the new Southern Bay Platform is built, which would mean trains would not have to cross the lines wasting energy North of the station.

What would drive this, is not technology, but if Chiltern are running a service at their usual standard from Oxford to Marylebone, it could be take passengers from the GWR.

New Class 387 trains with on board energy storage could be a good weapon with which to fight back!

But then so would Class 800 trains!

Oxford Station

I took these pictures at Oxford station on the 1st of December.

Note GWR’s 13:01 arrival from Banbury into the new bay Platform 2.

Was I watching the first scheduled train into the new platform?

There certainly wasn’t any dignitaries!

National Rail’s Arrival and Departure details on the Internet certainly showed that Banbury services were using the new Platform 2 later in the day.

Conclusions

From my explorations I have come to the following conclusions.

  • There is a large gap in the electrification works at Twyford station.
  • It looks to my untrained eye, that the Greenford, Windsor and Marlow branches are being wired, so the branches could be served by electric trains with on-board energy storage.
  • The Orange Army is furiously at work creating new sidings at West Ealing for the Class 387 trains.
  • It is possible for trains to use the new bay Platform 2 at Oxford station.

It will be interesting to take a Chiltern service to Oxford, when the service opens on the 11th of December.

It certainly was a good day to take photographs.

 

November 29, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Progress On The Cowley Branch

I first wrote about the Cowley Branch in Oxford Takes A Leaf Out Of Cambridge’s Book In November 2014.

Much of my post was based on this article on the BBC, which is entitled Cowley line passenger train service planned for Oxford.

So how is the planning of the branch progressing?

In the November 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an interview with Dave Penney of Chiltern Railways, as the company is opening their service to Oxford station on the twelve of December.

In Science Park Next?, this is a paragraph.

Extending services from Marylebone through Oxford’s platform 3 to Kennington Junctionfor the Cowley Branch might be trouble; the problem is coming back, with Oxford Parkway-bound services having to cross the main lines on the flat at Kennington and into constrained line capacity on the route into Oxford station Extending the down goods loop into the station would help here, but that is some way down Network Rail’s list of priorities, so an Ocford Science Park service seems unlikely to happen anytime soon.

But help might be at hand, in that a new Oxford station might be built, which I wrote about in Could This Be A Ground-Breaking Idea In Station Design?

Surely, if a new station is built, current and possible future services will be taken into account, in the design.

I have no idea if the Cowley Branch will be opened to passenger trains.

I do think that there could be good reasons to create this service.

  • Oxford Science Park, Oxford Business Park, Oxford United Stadium and the Mini Factory would gain a passenger rail link.
  • Extending Along The Cowley Branch my make oiperation  easier.
  • It fits well with the East West Rail Link
  • It would greatly increase Chiltern’s catchment area in Oxford.

But, I don’t think we’ll see any progress until planning and building of the new Oxford station has started.

This is Google Map shows the route of the Cowley Branch.

cowleybranch

Kennington Junction is where the branch leaves the Oxford to Didcot Line and then curves across the South of the City to the Mini Factory, which is the massive set of light-coloured buildings in the North-East corner of the map.

The Oxford Science Park is indicated by the red arrow, with the stadium to its East.

October 27, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Will Chiltern Connect Oxford To London On December The 12th 2016?

This article on the Eailway Gazette web site is entitled Tracklaying completed for Chiltern to Oxford.

|So that’s another hurdle jumped and there are probably others like a platform at Oxford station.

But everybody seems hopeful!

I shall be there on the twelfth.

If it all works out fine, I think that Chiltern opening to Oxford on time and on budget, it could set a very worthwhile precedent.

So where will be the next smaller project to be set in motion?

Who knows? But if the Chiltern extension gets loaded with passengers, there could be a lot of bandwagon jumping.

 

 

I

September 22, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

A Level Crossing That Should Be Closed

One of my Google Alerts found this article in the Bicester Advertiser, which is entitled Tunnel could be dug under Bicester London Road railway line to keep route open.

So I found a Google Map of the crossing and Bicester Village station.

Bicester Village Station And The London Road Level Crossing

Bicester Village Station And The London Road Level Crossing

If you consider that when the next phase of the East West Rail Link opens in a few years time, the following passenger trains will be going through the station.

  • 2 trains per hour (tph) from London Marylebone to Oxford
  • 2 tph from Oxford to London Marylebone
  • 2 tph from Reading to Bedford/Milton Keynes
  • 2 tph from Bedford/Milton Keynes to Reading

That is 8 tph for a start and when you add in a few long freight trains, it is surely a good idea to close the level crossing and dig a road tunnel under the rail line.

September 12, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Hundred Days To A New Rail Link

The title of this article in the Oxford Mail says it all.

New rail link between central Oxford and London Marylebone ‘complete in 100 days’

It will hopefully all be complete for the first train between Oxford and Marylebone on December 12th.

I think people will look back in a few years and see this date as extremely significant in the development of new rail services.

If it is as successful, as Chiltern hope it will be, I think we’ll see other companies start to develop new routes. Some which probably include.

  • The East West Rail Link between Oxford and Cambridge via Milton Keynes and Bedford.
  • Marylebone to Milton Keynes
  • Bristol Metro
  • Routes from Cambridge and Cambridge North station
  • Routes from Old Oak Common in London
  • Gospel Oak to Barking Line Extensions
  • Cardiff Metro
  • Merseyrail Extensions
  • Teesside Metro
  • Oxford Branch Lines

I have left out any extensions to the two vast railways lines in London and the South East; Crossrail and Thameslink.

December 12th, 2016 could be the dawn of a new Railway Age.

September 4, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Demolition Has Started For The New Platforms At Oxford Station

Demolition has finally started of the old parcels office at Oxford station to create the two platforms for the Chiltern service to the station.

I can’t see this being a large project, as hopefully, it will just be creating the platforms and making sure there are shelters and the other platform details.

Wikipedia says this about the two new platforms.

The scheme also includes two new platforms at Oxford station, to be built on the site of the disused parcels depot. The new platforms will initially be five carriages in length, but provision will be made for them to be extended southwards to eight carriages.

Will they be in Chiltern’s or Great Western Railway’s house style?

As Chiltern Railways coaches are in sets of six, will these platforms be built initially to handle eight coaches? It would seem to be prudent!

Also according to this section in Wikipedia, services will start in December 2016.

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment