The Anonymous Widower

Liverpool’s Vision For Rail

This document on the Liverpool City Region web site is entitled Metro Mayor’s Vision Of A Merseyrail for All Takes Vital Step Forward With Successful Trial Of New Battery-Powered Trains.

It makes these points in the first part of the document.

  • Game-changing technology paves way for Merseyrail network expansion across the Liverpool City Region and beyond
  • Merseyrail services could reach as far as Wrexham and Preston
  • City Region is at the forefront of the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology.

The new battery-powered trains would certainly go a long way to  enable, these objectives.

Battery-powered trains would need a range of 26.9 miles to go between Bidston and Wrexham stations.

Battery-powered trains would need a range of 15.3 miles to go between Ormskirk and Preston stations.

This link is to the North Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter for Spring 2021.

This is said about battery range of the new Class 777 trains.

Later model Class 777’s have the ability to leave the 3rd rail and operate under battery power for 20 miles or more with a full load thus
permitting expansion of the Merseyrail network beyond its current limits.

I suspect they will also have regenerative braking to batteries, which will increase the range and allow Bidston and Wrexham stations to be achieved without charge.

It certainly sounds like Preston and Wrexham and all the intermediate stations,  will be added to the Merseyrail network.

As to the third point above about the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology, I suspect this is mainly regenerative braking to batteries and replacement of elderly worn-out power supply equipment.

There is more in the Liverpool City Region document.

Expanding Merseyrail

This is said.

The game-changing technology could allow the Merseyrail network to extend across all six city region boroughs to places like Rainhill in St Helens, Woodchurch on the Wirral and Widnes in Halton.

It could also allow the new fleet to operate as far afield as Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn.

Note.

  1. A 25 KVAC capability could well be needed.
  2. Chargers could be needed at some of these stations. I suspect Stadler have a Swiss manufacturer in mind.

In the run-up to May’s elections, the Mayor pledged to deliver ‘Merseyrail for All, a commitment to connecting under-served communities to the Merseyrail network.

New Stations

Initially the battery-powered trains, which are considerably greener, using up to 30% less energy than the existing fleet, are set to run on services to a planned new station at Headbolt Lane, Kirkby.

The wider Merseyrail for All programme could ensure every community is well served by an integrated public transport network and new and refurbished train stations are also high on the agenda.

They could include:

  • The Baltic Triangle in Liverpool
  • Carr Mill in St Helens
  • Woodchurch on the Wirral

Note.

Tram-Trains And Trackless Trams

The document says this.

Tram-Train technology and trackless trams will also be looked at as potential means of extending the Merseyrail network into hard-to-reach places. The technology could benefit areas such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Speke, Kirkby Town Centre, Southport Town Centre, Wirral Waters and the Knowledge Quarter.

Tram-trains built by Stadler in Valencia are already running in Sheffield and in the next few years they should be deployed on the South Wales Metro.

They were built by Stadler, who are building Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains, so I suspect they’ll go together like peaches and cream.

The Belgian firm; Van Hool have a product called Exquicity. This video shows them working in Pau in France.

These tram buses run on rubber types and are powered by hydrogen.

Similar buses running in Belfast are diesel-electric.

Could these be what the document refers to as trackless trams?

Battery Train Trials

The article finishes with this summary of the battery train trials. This is said.

Under the battery trials, financed by the Transforming Cities Fund, one of the new class 777 trains fitted with the battery technology was tested on the Northern line.

The batteries exceeded expectations with the trains travelling up to 20 miles per run without the need for re-charging.

The battery trains would remove the need for the third ‘electric’ rail, enabling the trains to travel beyond the existing network without major track investment.

The units passed all tests during four weeks of trials on the City Region’s rail network in May and June.

The Combined Authority and partners are still assessing the full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the programme and will provide more information regarding the roll out as soon as it has been agreed.

It looks to me, if all these plans get implemented successfully, Liverpool City Region will have one of the best public transport systems of any similar-sized cities in the world.

The Full Plan As A Map

This article on the BBC is entitled Battery-Powered Trains Part Of Merseyrail Expansion Plan.

The article contains this map.

There is no key or explanation, but it appears that the pink lines are new routes, where Merseyrail will run trains.

Before I discuss each of the possible routes, I will discuss two big factors, that will affect a lot of my thinking.

The West Coast Main Line

Avanti West Coast have the following stops in trains per hour (tph)  at these stations on the West Coast Main Line as its trains pass the East of Merseyside.

  • Crewe – At least 5 tph
  • Warrington Bank Quay – At least 2 tph
  • Preston – At least 1 tph

These frequencies are in addition to these direct trains.

  • 1 tph to Liverpool Lime Street, which will rise to 2 tph in the December 2022, with a call at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Occasional services to Chester throughout the day.

Passengers do not have to go via Liverpool Lime Street to travel to London.

In addition. there are useful services run by TransPennine Express to Scotland, that call at Preston.

In Future; High Speed Two

This will call at Crewe, Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway, Preston and Warrington.

Northern Trains

Northern Trains were in all sorts of troubles and the service is now run directly by the Government’s Operator of Last Resort. I suspect that any reasonable offer to takeover over a service will be looked at favourably.

I will now look at Merseyrail’s new routes.

Ormskirk And Southport Via The Burscough Curve

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • A curve between Burscough Bridge and Burscough Junction will have to be rebuilt on a former alignment.
  • Southport and Ormskirk are about 13 miles apart.
  • Southport and Ormskirk have third-rail electrified lines to Liverpool and the South.

It would be an ideal route for battery-electric trains with a range of 20 miles.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near five stations a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It gives Southport a town of over 91,000 people more capacity to the city of Liverpool for jobs, leisure and shopping.
  • Will it open up more opportunities for new housing in villages like Burscough?

It will certainly give Merseyrail operational advantages to Southport.

Ormskirk And Preston

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Northern Trains service.
  • Preston and Ormskirk are about 15.3 miles and 32 minutes apart.
  • Omskirk has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Preston has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near the Ormskirk and Preston Line a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between North Liverpool and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced to under thirty minutes.

As football is so important to the Liverpool economy, would a time around forty-five minutes between Preston and Sandhills station tempt football supporters going to Anfield and Goodison Park to use the train and then perhaps a trackless tram to the stadium?

This Google map shows the location of Anfield, Goodison Park and Sandhills station.

Note.

  1. Anfield is in the bottom-right corner of the map and is marked by a red arrow.
  2. Goodison is in the top-right corner of the map, slightly to the West of Anfield.
  3. Sandhills station is in the bottom-left corner of the map.

Both stadia are around a mile and a half from the station.

Ormskirk And Preston

Once the Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston services are up and running, it would surely be possible to run a Southport and Preston service.

  • There would be a reverse at Ormskirk.
  • The two sections of Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston would both need battery power.
  • Whilst the driver changed ends at Ormskirk, the train would be recharged using a fast and efficient charger.
  • Times between Southport and Preston would be under an hour.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living in Southport, a direct link to Preston.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between Southport and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.

This service could be very valuable for passengers, but I suspect the route could be implemented with minimal infrastructure changes at Ormskirk station.

Ormskirk Station

This picture shows Ormskirk’s single platform from the Merseyrail end.

Note.

  1. The Liverpool train in the foreground.
  2. The Preston train in the background.
  3. The solid barrier between the trains.

 

I wonder if the following would be possible with the barrier removed.

  • The long platform would be treated as one platform divided into two.
  • Perhaps they will be the Liverpool and Preston/Southport platform,
  • Trains that will leave the station for Liverpool will stop in the Liverpool platform.
  • Trains that will leave the station for Preston or Southport will stop in the Preston/Southport platform.
  • Through trains between Liverpool and Preston or Southport would be possible.
  • A train between Preston and Southport could reverse in the Preston/Southport platform, whilst trains for Liverpool used the Liverpool platform.

It looks like it’s an efficient layout borrowed from somewhere else. and Stadler have probably seen it before.

Headbolt Lane Station

In Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through, I described the new Headbolt Lane station.

This screen capture is from the video in that post,

Note.

  1. Two platforms going away from the camera and one platform and what looks to be a siding going towards the camera.
  2. There appears to be no direct connection between the two different sets of tracks.

Until proven wrong, I believe that the camera is looking towards Liverpool, as it would mean that Liverpool services had two platforms. But they currently make do with one at Kirkby.

There is a walk through between the tracks, which

  • Enables passengers to access the second platform.
  • Allows passengers to enter the station from the other side.
  • Allows non-passengers to cross the tracks on the level.
  • Avoids the need to build a bridge.

It is certainly an innovative design.

If occasional trains need to go through, could there be a lift-out section of the walk-through?

But as there are buffer stops on the tracks in the three platforms, that are either side of the walk-through, I suspect it will never happen, as it’s too much hassle.

In the Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station this is said.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority announced in July 2021 that a trial of a battery electric multiple unit (BEMU) version of the new Class 777 will serve the new station, when it opens. This will not require all of the line extension to Headbolt Lane to be electrified.

Merseyrail would appear to have neatly side-stepped, the Office of Road and Rail’s policy of no more third-rail electrification.

But I’m sure Merseyrail could put an approved train-charging system in the station.

  • They would need one if a Class 777 train arrived with a flat battery.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Wigan Wallgate service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.

The system could be based on a short length of overhead wire and a slim pantograph or a system like Railbaar from Furrer and Frey.

But does it give any clues as to the orientation of the station in the video?

  • As there are three platforms and a siding, that meet at Headbolt Lane station, all could be fitted with chargers. to make sure the services are reliable.
  • Liverpool services could be handled at either end, as it only needs one platform.
  • Skelmersdale and Wigan services could probably share a platform, but they would be better surely using two platforms.
  • The siding could be created into a platform for extra services to be added to the Merseyrail network

So there is no pressing reason, why the station cannot be North or South of the railway.

I suspect road layout and land use issues will eventually decide, the orientation of the station.

Headbolt Lane And Skelmersdale

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail and Lancashire County Council.
  • Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale are just a few miles apart.
  • Direct running between Liverpool and Skelmersdale will not be possible, but it will be step-free change between trains.

The Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station seems to indicate a proposed extension of the Northern Line with the next stop being the existing Rainford station. This would surely not add greatly to costs and bring Merseyrail to more fare-paying customers.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • Skelmersdale is a town of nearly 39,000 and is said to be one of the largest towns in England without a rail connection.
  • At Headbolt Lane passengers will be able to change for Liverpool or Manchester.

A lot of passengers will have received a modern train service.

Headbolt Lane And Wigan

Consider.

  • This service is currently run by Northern trains.
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate stations are just over twelve miles apart.
  • Someone, who should know told me that by the time High Speed Two starts running through Wigan at a frequency of two tph, the two Wigan stations will have been combined.
  • Headbolt Lane station could be the drop-off point for those needing to go to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London on both the current West Coast Main Line and the future High Speed Two.

What better way to start that journey than on one of Merseyrail’s battery-electric Class 777 trains.

What would it do for passengers?

With modern battery-electric trains linking Headbolt Lane station to the combined Wigan station complex, this route could be the zero-carbon route between large parts of Liverpool and cantres of tourism and employment along and to the East of the M6 and the West Coast Main Line.

Liverpool South Parkway And Warrington Central

Consider.

  • This would be takeover of part of the current Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road service.
  • The map shows the service going at least as far as Warrington Central station.
  • Stations between Hunts Cross and Warrington Central include Halewood, Hough Green, Widnes, Sankey and the new Warrington West stations.

Distances are as follows.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street – 5.5 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Warrington Central – 12.7 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Trafford Park – 25.4 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Manchester Oxford Road – 28.7 miles

The following sections of the route have 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street
  • East of Trafford Park.

With a bit more electrification at either end, the whole route should be in range of a battery-electric Class 777 train.

Or the Class 777 trains could be fitted with bigger batteries!

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • This is a route that has needed decent trains for years and has finally got new Class 195 trains.
  • But, in addition, the battery-electric Class 555 trains would decarbonise the route.

The major problem, though is not infrastructure or trains, but surely Andy Burnham, who is the outspoken Mayor of Greater Manchester could object to Merseyrail invading his patch.

Merseyrail’s Cheshire Ambitions

This is a section of the map shown on the BBC article, showing Cheshire.

It looks like there could be as many as three routes.

  • Chester and Crewe
  • Chester and Runcorn East
  • Ellesmere Port and Runcorn East

I’ll now cover the routes in detail.

Chester And Crewe

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Crewe are about 21,2 miles and 25 minutes apart.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Crewe has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.
  • There are proposals, that Beeston Castle and Tarporley station be re-opened.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • If trains will run between Crewe and Liverpool, this creates a second route between the two major stations.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between The Wirral and Crewe, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced by enough to increase service frequency on the route.

I This would be a very useful extension of the Merseyrail network.

Chester And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Runcorn East are about 13.1 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would enable a Merseyrail circular route from Liverpool Lime Street to Chester via Edge Hill, Wavertree Technology Park, Broad Green, Roby, Huyton, Whiston, Rainhill, Lea Green, St Helens Junction, Warrington Bank Quay, Frodsham, Runcorn East and Helsby.
  • After Chester, it could take the Wirral Line back to Liverpool to make it a true Mersey Circular service.

Would a Mersey Circular service be a good idea?

Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the infrequent Northern Rail service.
  • Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East are about 10.8 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Ellesmere Port has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would certainly improve rail transport along the South Bank of the Mersey from Ellesmere Port to Warrington Bank Quay or Runcorn East depending on the Eastern terminus.
  • If the terminal were to be Warrington Bank Quay that would sort out the charging.
  • It could create a direct link in modern electric trains between Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.

I feel that an Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay service would be good for the area.

The Borderlands Line

I’ve left the Borderlands Line to last, as I feel it will be a lot more than commuter and leisure line between Liverpool and Wrexham.

  • It crosses the border between England and Wales
  • The line is 26.9 miles of double track, with a single-track extension of under two miles between the two Wrexham stations.
  • It has over twenty stations with more planned in both countries
  • It crosses a couple of rivers on long steel bridges.
  • It brings commuters to Liverpool and takes workers to the high-tech factories of companies like Airbus and Toyota on Deeside.
  • It connects to a lot of golf courses, one of which is the Open Championship course  at Royal Liverpool.
  • Once in Wales it has two connections to the North Wales Coast Line, which runs between Chester and holyhead.

It is no ordinary railway and is ripe for improvement to bridge passengers to employment sites and leisure areas along its route.

The line has one big problem in that passengers need to change trains at Bidston between Liverpool and Wrexham stations.

  • Between Bidston and Liverpool the Merseyrail electric trains to and from  Hoylake are used and they turn in the Liverpool Loop under Liverpool City Centre calling at four stations before returning.
  • Between Bidston and Wrexham, diesel multiple units are useds.

It is a route design straight out of the 1970s of men with minds without imagination. Even British Rail were designing battery-electric trains in the 1950s, which I wrote about in Did The Queen Ever Ride In This Train?.

Merseyrail intend to right the wrongs of the past using battery-electric Class 777 trains.

  • As electric versions of these trains will be used on the Liverpool and Hoylake service, there would be no need to change trains at Bidston if the Liverpool and Wrexham trains were just a battery-electric version of the same train.
  • The Wrexham trains would drive round the Liverpool Loop tunnel as hundreds of trains do every day.
  • The trains would be charged on the existing third-rail electrification at the Liverpool end.
  • I’m fairly certain that a frequency of two tph would be possible on the route, if the Liverpool Loop tunnel signalling could cope,
  • Trains would need to be charged at the Wexham end of the route and I’m sure Stadler have a solution.

It would be an efficient and cost effective way to decarbonise a tricky but useful branch line.

Conclusion

Stadler are playing their full orchestra of ideas on Merseyrail.

When completed, it will be one of the best metros of any urban areas up to a million people in the world.

This metro could do for Liverpool, what the Beatles did for the city in the 1960s.

July 15, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Beeching Reversal – Reopen Midge Hall Station

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

Midge Hall station is a closed station on the Ormskirk Branch Line.

This Google Map shows what’s left of Midge Hall station.

Note.

  1. The single-track Ormskirk Branch Line running SW-NE across the map.
  2. Midge Hall Lane crossing it at right-angles in the South-West corner of the map, where a level crossing can be seen.
  3. The original station had two platforms, of which the remains can be seen.

There certainly seems plenty of space to rebuild the station.

The Ormskirk Branch Line

The Ormskirk Branch Line runs between Ormskirk and Preston stations.

  • It is single-track most of the way.
  • It is about 15.5 miles long.
  • The current trains take just over half-an-hour.
  • There are four intermediate stations.
  • Most services terminate in a bay platform at Preston station.
  • Ormskirk station is electrified with 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • Preston station is electrified with 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

The Future section in the Wikipedia entry says this.

There have been several proposals to extend the Merseyrail electric service to Preston using this line. This would restore the most direct Liverpool – Preston route. The reinstatement of the Burscough Curves has been proposed which would allow services to Southport from Preston and Liverpool via Ormskirk. This could be accompanied by the reopening of Midge Hall station.

The reports usually say, that this would be achieved by fitting batteries to the new Class 777 trains.

Battery Operation Of Merseyrail’s New Class 777 Trains

It would appear that on each round trip between Ormskirk and Preston, the trains will have to run thirty-one miles on batteries.

  • In Batteries On Class 777 Trains, I estimated that, the battery capacity of a Class 777 train was 300 kWh.
  • It also looks like Stadler have designed the Class 777 train, with battery-operation as an integral part of the design.

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch, which is not very challenging.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

I know both branches reasonably well and the Ormskirk Branch is probably the least challenging.

Consider.

  • The Class 777 train is probably equivalent in length to a three-car train, as the cars are short.
  • The Class 777 train appears to have a sophisticated traction system, that includes regenerative braking to the batteries.

If the Class 777 train can achieve 3 kWh per vehicle mile, it will have a range of 33.3 miles. Reduce it to 2 kWh per vehicle mile and the range would be 50 miles.

I am fairly certain, that Stadler have designed a train, that can achieve a round trip between Ormskirk and Preston, without needing a battery top-up at Preston.

I don’t think, that it will need to use overhead wires either.

So that will save on infrastructure costs!

Charging The Batteries

The batteries would be charged using the existing third-rail electrification between Ormskirk and Hunts Cross stations.

No new infrastructure would be needed.

Future Services Between Liverpool And Preston

Preston and Liverpool already a direct hourly electric service via Huyton, St. Helens and Wigan North Western and until proven otherwise a second hourly service via Ormskirk would probably be a more-than-adequate replacement for the current Ormskirk and Preston service.

This would probably be achieved by one if the four trains per hour (tph) continuing to Preston.

As the current trains take about thirty minutes to run between Ormskirk and Preston, I think this could help devising a passenger-friendly timetable.

Future Services Between Southport And Preston

There is currently no train service between Southport and Preston stations.

But there used to be tracks as this Google Map shows.

Two railway lines run across the map.

The two railway lines cross towards the North-East corner of the map.

Note the two green scars of the disused and overgrown Burscough Curves reaching East from Burscough Bridge station.

  • The Northern curve connects to the Ormskirk Branch Line and used to enable trains to go between Southport and Preston stations.
  • The Southern curve connects to the Ormskirk Branch Line and used to enable trains to go between Southport and Ormskirk stations.

Full or even partial restoration of these curves would improve connections to Southport and Preston.

Extend Some Liverpool and Southport Services To Preston

One possibility would be to extend perhaps one-in-four Liverpool and Southport services to Preston via the following route.

  • Reverse at Southport
  • Via Burscough Bridge station and using the Northern Burscough Curve.

Coupled with a one-in-four extension from Ormskirk station, this would provide the following.

  • A two tph service between Liverpool and Preston
  • A two tph service through Rufford, Croston and Midge Hall stations.

With precise and intelligent timetabling. I suspect that Rufford, Croston and Midge Hall stations could all be single-platform stations.

Extend Some Liverpool and Ormskirk Services To Preston Via Southport

Another possibility would be to extend perhaps one-in-four Liverpool and Ormskirk services to Preston via the following route.

  • Using the Southern Burscough Curve to Southport via Burscough Bridge station.
  • Reverse at Southport
  • Via Burscough Bridge station and using the Northern Burscough Curve.

If the route used the electrified Platform 3 at Southport to reverse, it could top-up the batteries.

The Future Midge Hall Station

The design of the station will depend on the train frequency through the station.

An Hourly Service

Midge Hall station would probably be a single-platform station.

  • There would only need to be a single-track railway, as now!
  • The signalling would be handled by one train working, where only one train at a time would be allowed on the single-track between Ormskirk and Preston stations.
  • Passengers needing to cross the line to get to the platform, would use the level crossing.
  • Trains would arrive at fixed times in each hour.

It would be a very basic, but practical station.

A Two tph Service

Midge Hall station could probably still be a single-platform station.

  • There would only need to be a single-track railway, as now!
  • For a two tph service the signalling would need to be more sophisticated.
  • Passengers needing to cross the line to get to the platform, would still use the level crossing.
  • Trains would arrive at fixed times in each hour.

It would be a basic, but practical station.

A More Frequent Service

Midge Hall station would need to be a two platform station, as the line would need to be double-track.

  • Comprehensive signalling would be needed.
  • There could need to be a footbridge, with full step-free access.

It would be more expensive option.

A Compromise

I suspect in the end, Midge Hall station will be designed as a simple single-platform station, that can be upgraded, as required.

Conclusion

The frequency of the service between Ormskirk and Preston has a big effect on the cost of the work to be done.

But I can certainly envisage a two tph service along this route, if the Burscough Curves are reinstated.

  • One tph via Ormskirk.
  • One tph via Southport.

There would be two tph, through the reinstated Midge Hall station.

 

 

August 7, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 6 Comments

Beeching Reversal – South Fylde Line Passing Loop

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

The Project

This project is described on this page on the web site of the Fylde MP; Mark Menzies, which is entitled Improving The South Fylde Rail Line.

The page lists that these improvements are needed.

Track And Stations

These improvements are listed for track and stations.

The bid involves laying around three miles of track between Lytham and St Annes stations, the creation of a new rail platform at Ansdell and Fairhaven Station, the installation of signalling along the line, and potential platform changes at Preston Station. There is scope for improvements to St Annes and Lytham Stations, should Network Rail decide it would rather include those stations within the passing loop – but that would be decided further along the process.

Services

The objective is to be able to run two trains per hour (tph) between Preston and Blackpool South stations.

Trains

Better trains are needed.

It certainly looks like the Pacers have already gone.

The Route

I shall describe the current route in this section.

Blackpool South Station

The Google Map shows Blackpool South station.

Note.

  1. Entrance to the station is from Waterloo Road, which runs East-West across the map.
  2. There are a pair of bus stops by the station entrance.
  3. There is a lot of car parking close to the station.
  4. I suspect that the single platform can hold a modern eighty-metre four-car train.
  5. This seventy-year-old has no difficulty waking to the football ground or the Blackpool trams from the station.

With two tph and some updated facilities, this would be a very useful station.

I suspect there is even space to add a second platform in the future, if that were felt to be necessary.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach Station

This Google Map shows Blackpool Please Beach station and the nearby Pleasure Beach.

We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of this station. One beautiful late summer Saturday, I was going to see Ipswich play at Blackpool and out of curiosity I had explored the train to Colne station. In those days a decade ago, Colne and Blackpool South was one service and the train from Colne was full of families, by the time it got to Preston. A large proportion, left the train at the Pleasure Beach.

The conductor told me, that the crowds, I had witnessed weren’t untypical.

Squires Gate Station and Blackpool Airport

This Google Map shows Squires Gate station and the nearby Blackpool Airport.

Blackpool Airport after a troubled few years seems to be finding a niche market, with a few business, commercial, offshore and training flights.

But I believe that airports like Blackpool in the future can develop another large niche – electric aviation.

Getting to places like Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales by a nineteen-seat electric airliner will need the following.

  • As short a flight as possible.
  • Close to the coast would help.
  • Good public transport links. Blackpool Airport has both tram and train.
  • Space for aircraft to be parked, whilst charging.
  • Plentiful supplies of renewable electricity. The over-300 MW Burbo Bank Wind Farm is not far away in Liverpool Bay and it will only be joined by more and larger wind farms.
  • Frequent public transport.

Blackpool Airport could tick all these boxes, with a thick green marker.

Some example direct distances from Blackpool include

  • Aberdeen – 238 miles
  • Amsterdam Schipol – 340 miles
  • Belfast City – 128 miles
  • Cardiff – 165 miles
  • Dublin – 134 miles
  • Edinburgh – 150 miles
  • Exeter – 211 miles
  • Geneva – 661 miles
  • Glasgow – 155 miles
  • London Gatwick – 220 miles
  • London Heathrow – 192 miles
  • London Southend – 219 miles
  • Newcastle – 89 miles
  • Paris Orly – 422 miles
  • Isle of Man Ronaldsway – 68 miles
  • Southampton – 208 miles

These distances fit nicely with the range of the nine-seater Eviation Alice electric aircraft, which is predicted to be 620 miles.

St. Annes-on-the-Sea Station

This Google Map shows St. Annes-on-the-Sea station.

Note.

  1. Blackpool is to the North-West and Preston is to the South-East
  2. St. Annes-on-the-Sea is one of those convenient single-platform stations, where you just walk in-and-out on the level.
  3. The passing loop would start on the Preston side of the bridge.

There would need to be no major infrastructure work at the station, although I would expect the facilities could do with a makeover.

Ansdell And Fairhaven Station

In Should The Blackpool South Branch Be Electrified?, I said this about improvements to Ansdell and Fairhaven station.

Ansdell and Fairhaven station is nearest to the course at Royal Lytham.

    • The Open Championship is a very important event on the golfing calendar.
    • Other important golfing events are also held on the course
    • Royal Lytham and St.Annes, last held the Open in 2012 and 2001. So it might come back to Royal Lytham in the mid-2020s.

Ansdell and Fairhaven station used to have two platforms, as described in Wikipedia.

The station was set out as an island platform with tracks on both faces until the singling of the line in the 1980s. Trains now only use the southern face. A disabled access ramp now covers the northern part of the station.

So could a rebuild of the station do the following?

    • Restore two platforms on an island at the station.
    • Put in full disabled access.
    • Create a passing loop.
    • Longer platforms might be a good idea.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note.

    1. The disabled ramp winding away.
    2. The platform is probably about a hundred metres long.
    3. It would appear that there is space at the far end to extend the platform.

I suspect that an ambitious architect with vision, could design a station that met all objectives.

It could be the best Championship Golf Course railway station in the world.

Lytham Station

This Google Map shows Lytham station.

Lytham station will be the Eastern end of the loop and it is likely, that the single-track will change to double at the Western end of the station.

As with St. Annes-on-the-Sea station, I suspect that a good makeover, will be all that will be needed.

Moss Side Station

This Google Map shows Moss Side station.

The only problem here is the level crossing, so do Network Rail want to remove it?

Kirkham And Wesham Station

This Google Map shows Kirkham and Wesham station.

There are three platforms, which from bottom to top on the map are.

  • Platform 1 – Trains to Blackpool South
  • Platform 2 – Trains to Blackpool North
  • Platform 3 – Trains to Preston

All platforms seem to be being electrified in these  pictures. that I took during construction.

Note.

  1. It can’t be described as a station, built down to a small budget.
  2. In the captions to the pictures, I’ve numbered the platforms from left to right.
  3. The last picture looks down Platform 1 and there is an electrification gantry at the Preston end.

Could this comprehensive electrification be so that trains to Blackpool North can use both Platforms 1 and 2?

  • This would allow overtaking of say a local train by a London express.
  • Trains could also be turned back in Platform 1, before the end of its journey, if there was a problem.
  • The electrification is also substantial enough for the longest Class 390 trains.
  • It could even accommodate a classic compatible High Speed Two train.

So does the last point, mean that Blackpool North station is a possible High Speed Two destination? Provided, the platforms at Blackpool North station are long enough, I think it does!

This Google Map shows Kirkham West Junction, where trains to Blackpool North and Blackpool South stations diverge.

Note.

  1. The electrification gantries and their shadows can be seen.
  2. Preston is to the South-East and the route is fully-electrified.
  3. Blackpool North is to the North-West and the route is fully-electrified.
  4. Blackpool South is to the West. The double-track becomes single before Moss Side station.

This picture shows the route going off to Blackpool South.

I took the picture from a train going to Blackpool North station.

So why are wires being run along the first few hundred metres of the Blackpool South Branch?

The Timetable

Currently, trains take the following times to do these journey legs.

  • Run between Ansdell and Fairhaven and Blackpool South stations – 12 minutes
  • Turnback at Blackpool South station – 3 minutes
  • Run between Blackpool South and Ansdell and Fairhaven stations – 11 minutes

As the trains will be running every thirty minutes and the three legs total twenty-six minutes, that means there’s four minutes float.

So hopefully, it should be easily stainable, by an experienced rail timetable creator.

The Trains

I have remarked that I find the electrification at Kirkham & Wesham station, both comprehensive and slightly unusual.

Could The Electrification Have Been Designed For Battery Electric Trains To Blackpool South Station?

But there is one very plausible reason for the electrification layout – The Blackpool South Branch has been designed, so that services on the branch can be rum using battery trains.

  • The distance between Kirkham & Wesham and Blackpool South stations is just over eleven miles.
  • So for a round trip a range of perhaps twenty-five miles on battery power would suffice.
  • There would also be a need for a few minutes of hotel power, whilst waiting at Blackpool South station.

These power needs are well within the capabilities of the average battery train.

  • Trains could be charged on the nine minute run  between Preston and Kirkham & Wesham stations.
  • Changeover between electrification and battery power would take place in Kirkham & Wesham station.

An ideal train would surely be CAF’s four-car battery electric version of the Class 331 train, which I wrote about in Northern’s Battery Plans.

  • According to an article in the March 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, with the same name, these trains will be working between Manchester Airport and Windermere.
  • Class 331 trains without batteries will be running to and from Blackpool North station.
  • Four-car trains are probably the right size for the route.

There would also probably be no need for a charging station at Blackpool South station, if trains could leave Kirkham & Wesham station with a full battery.

Where Would The Trains Terminate In The East?

These would be the obvious choices.

  • Blackburn – Where there is a convenient bay platform.
  • Colne – Where they used to terminate!
  • Liverpool – Merseyrail has the trains and Liverpool has lots of punters and the imagination.
  • Preston – Where they do now!
  • Skipton – If the Skipton-Colne Link is built!

My money would be on Skipton, using a new Skipton-Colne Link, for the following reasons.

  • Politicians of all colours and roses are in favour.
  • Skipton has an electrified route to Leeds.
  • Skipton-Colne would be a valuable by-pass route during the building of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  • Battery-powered trains would be ideal for Skipton-Colne.

Would A Battery Electric Train Be Feasible Between Blackpool South And Liverpool?

Consider.

  • An all-stations service would complement the fast service between Liverpool Lime Street and Blackpool North stations via St. Helens, Wigan North Western and Preston.
  • The service could either go between Liverpool and Preston via Ormskirk or Southport and a reinstated Burscough Chord.
  • The Ormskirk route is 15 miles of unelectrified line and the Southport route is just four miles further.
  • A service via Southport would need to reverse at Southport station.
  • The service would be run using dual-voltage Class 777 trains fitted with batteries.
  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification, is already  installed between Preston and Kirkham & Wesham stations,
  • Using existing electrification, trains would leave Kirkham & Wesham, Ormskirk, Preston and Southport stations with full batteries.
  • A coastal service between Blackpool and Liverpool would surely attract visitors.
  • Liverpool and Blackpool are the two biggest urban areas on the coast.
  • There are several golf courses on the route, including three courses that have held the Open; Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

It may be a bit fanciful. But.

  • Merseyrail will have the trains.
  • Liverpool has the potential passengers.
  • I believe the route could handle a two tph service.
  • In Reopen Midge Hall Station, I showed that it was possible to run a two tph service between Liverpool and Preston, with one tph via each of Ormskirk and Southport.

Liverpool also has bags of ambition and imagination.

Would A Battery Electric Train Handle Preston And Skipton?

I estimate that this route is forty-one miles, with a stiff rise from Rose Grove to Colne station.

So would a battery electric train be able to handle this distance?

Hitachi are talking 56 miles for their Regional Battery Train, so I suspect CAF would want and need to be competitive with a similar specification.

Perhaps the logical service would be to run between Leeds and Blackpool South.

  • The service would go via Preston, Blackburn, Burnley Central, Colne and Skipton.
  • Leeds and Skipton is electrified.
  • Preston and Kirkham & Wesham is electrified.
  • No extra chargers for trains would be needed.

The only new infrastructure needed would be the Skipton and Colne Link.

Electrification Between Preston And Blackburn

Consider.

  • In Colne – Skipton Reopening Moves Closer, I talked about the proposed Huncoat Rail Fright Terminal, that could be built North of Blackburn on the East Lancashire Line.
  • Blackburn is a major hub for passenger services.
  • An electrified Blackburn would allow Manchester and Clitheroe to be run by battery electric trains. Clitheroe is ten miles and Bolton is thirteen.
  • An electrified Blackburn would allow Blackburn and Manchester Victoria via the Todmorden Curve to be run by battery electric trains. The whole route is 39.5 miles.
  • It may be possible for battery electric trains to reach Leeds via Hebden Bridge, as it is only fifty miles away, which is within Hitachi’s range.
  • As the Blackburn area grows, there will be more pressure for a daily London service.
  • Some think, the Calderdale route should be electrified.
  • Preston and Blackburn stations are just twelves miles apart.
  • There is a multiple unit depot at Blackburn.
  • I also feel that battery electric trains fanning out from Blackburn, wouldn’t do the town’s image any harm.

For all these reasons, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a short stretch of electrification added between Preston and Blackburn.

Conclusion

I like this proposal and it could be a big asset to trains across the Pennines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Colne – Skipton Reopening Moves Closer

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Railway Gazette.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris has confirmed that investigations have been commissioned into the proposed reinstatement of the 19·3 km Colne – Skipton ‘missing link’ connecting east Lancashire and west Yorkshire.

Investigations will look into.

  • Capital costs
  • Passenger demand forecasts
  • Service options.
  • Gauge enhancement measures necessary to increase rail freight capacity on TransPennine routes including between Accrington and Todmorden stations.
  • Proposals for a rail freight terminal on the site of the demolished Huncoat power station near Accrington.

This sounds more than a simple proposal to reopen the route between Skipton and Colne stations.

These are a few of my thoughts.

The Rail Route Between Preston And Skipton

The rail route between Preston on the West Coast Main Line and Skipton can be summarised as follows.

  • Preston and Rose Grove via Huncoat – double-track – electrification at Preston
  • Rose Grove and Colne – single-track
  • Colne and Skipton – to be reinstated – electrification at Skipton

Colne and Skipton might not be the easiest route to reinstate, as a dual carriageway has been built across the route to the North of Colne station.

Could Colne And Skipton Be Double-Track All The Way?

Consider.

  • The new section between Skipton and Colne could be built with single or double tracks.
  • The section between Rose Grove and Colne stations was built as a double-track and singled in 1971. British Rail’s accountants strike again!
  • The single-track section includes the Bank Top Viaduct, in the centre of Burnley.
  • Trains currently take twenty-one minutes between Rose Grove and Colne stations.

This picture shows Bank Top Viaduct.

I think the viaduct could be key to whether the route is double-track all the way.

  • If the redoubling can be performed at a reasonable cost, then that will be the way to go, as it might be possible to squeeze up to three trains per hour (tph) between Skipton and Rose Grove via Colne.
  • If on the other hand, doubling is too difficult or expensive, I estimate that no more than two tph would be possible.

For both solutions, there will need to be double track or a long passing loop, between Skipton and Colne.

Could Colne And Skipton Be Electrified?

Consider.

  •  Preston is a fully-electrified station on the West Coast Main Line.
  • Skipton is a fully-electrified station with electric trains to and from Leeds.
  • Full electrification would create an electrified route between Leeds and Blackpool, Liverpool and Preston.
  • It could be a useful diversion route for electric passenger trains across the Pennines, when their are engineering works on the Huddersfield Line or due to the building of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  • Electrification of the route, would allow electric haulage of freight trains to and from the proposed Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal.
  • Electrification of the Calder Valley Line between Preston and Leeds is always being proposed.
  • Electrication of Bank Top Viaduct could be tricky!

It should also be noted that this article on Rail Magazine was published on May 12th, 2020 and is entitled Electrification Key to Decarbonisation – Government. Views in Government about electrification have changed, so this might affect the decision to electrify the route.

The power is already there at both ends and electrification systems with low visual intrusion could be used.

On the other hand, some might consider electrification of the route inappropriate.

Could Colne And Skipton Be Partially Electrified?

Consider.

  • I estimate that the distance between Preston and Skipton will be 41 miles.
  • If Blackpool North station were the final destination, there would be 34 miles (2 x 17) to charge the batteries.
  • If Liverpool Lime Street station were the final destination, there would be 70 miles (2 x 35) to charge the batteries.
  • If Leeds station were the final destination, there would be 52 miles (2 x 26) to charge the batteries.
  • Manufacturers’ estimates of distances, indicate that battery electric trains could cover up to 65 miles on battery power.

As both ends of the route are electrified and trains would run extra miles under the wires, it would seem likely that a battery electric train could run between Preston and Skipton, without needing a charge en route.

Drax Group And Colne And Skipton Reinstatement

Drax power station uses Flue Gas Desulphurisation. Wikipedia says this about the process at Drax.

All six units are served by an independent wet limestone-gypsum flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) plant, which was installed between 1988 and 1996. This diverts gases from the boilers and passes them through a limestone slurry, which removes at least 90% of the sulphur dioxide (SO2). This is equivalent to removing over 250,000 tonnes of SO2 each year. The process requires 10,000 tonnes of limestone a week, sourced from Tunstead Quarry in Derbyshire. A byproduct of the process is gypsum, with 15,000 tonnes produced each week. This goes to be used in the manufacture of plasterboard. The gypsum is sold exclusively to British Gypsum, and it is transported by rail to their plant at Kirkby Thore (on the Settle-Carlisle Line).

The gypsum trains go through Skipton to access the Settle-Carlisle Line.

Drax power station is part-fuelled with biomass, which comes from all over the place including the United States via the Port of Liverpool.

It is no surprise that Drax Group are in favour of the Colne and Skipton reinstatement, as it would give them a new route between Drax and the Port of Liverpool.

This press release from Drax Group gives more details including this paragraph.

It will have a direct impact on improving our supply chain at Drax, allowing freight trains to travel much more quickly to the power station in North Yorkshire – reducing journey times from the Port of Liverpool to less than three hours, a journey which can take up to nine hours at the moment.

Trains will avoid the busy Huddersfield Line and Manchester Victoria station.

Drax’s statement would appear to be a powerful reason to reinstate Colne and Skipton.

These smart new or refurbished wagons, used by Drax to move woodchip should be much faster than the typical 20-30 mph freight speed of TransPennine routes.

This page on the Drax web site, is entitled This train isn’t like any other in the UK, and it gives more details about the wagons.

  • They were custom-designed and built in the last few years.
  • The roofs open automatically for loading.
  • A twenty-five wagon train can be loaded in 37 minutes.
  • A full train can carry between 1,700 and 1,800 tonnes of biomass.
  • Each train can unload in forty minutes.
  • They are the largest wagons on UK railways by a margin of 30 %.
  • Each wagon is nineteen metres long and can carry over seventy tonnes of biomass.
  • Approximately 14 trains per day arrive at Drax, bringing 20,000 tonnes of biomass.

I suspect to minimise journey times, Drax would like to see a fully electrified route between Preston and Skipton and a new double-track route between Colne and Skipton.

The Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal

This Google Map shows the position of the former Huncoat power station.

Note.

  1. Hapton station in the North-East corner of the map.
  2. Huncoat station in the South-West corner of the map.
  3. The East Lancashire Line running between the two stations.
  4. The M65 running across the top of the map.
  5. The A56 or Accrington bypass running North-South from the motorway junction at the top of the map.

Huncoat power station appears to have been in the South West corner of the rough-looking area, South of the M65 and the railway and West of the A56.

There is no Wikipedia entry for the demolished power station, but this page on The View From The North has some details and pictures.

It does appear to be a well connected site for a Rail Freight Terminal.

  • There could be a direct connection to the motorway network.
  • There is space for a connection with the East Lancashire Line, that would allow trains to access the interchange from both directions.
  • Trains could go West to the Port of Liverpool and the West Coast Main Line via Preston.
  • Trains could go East to Leeds and Yorkshire and on to the East Coast ports of Felixstowe, Hull, Immingham and Teesport.
  • If the East Lancashire Line were to be electrified, electric haulage could be used.

The Rail Freight Terminal could be bigger than a hundred hectares.

Gauge Enhancement On TransPennine Routes Including Between Accrington And Todmorden

Consider

  • Most freight trains passing through Hebden Bridge station  use the route via Rochdale and Todmorden to get to and from Liverpool and the West.
  • Few if any use the East Lancashire Line via Accrington.
  • Some passenger trains do take the Accrington route.
  • There are five tunnels between Accrington and the Todmorden Curve.
  • The building of the Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal, must mean that trains between the Rail Freight Terminal and Leeds and the East would need to use the Calder Valley Line as far as the Todmorden Curve. or the East Lancashire Line to Colne for the new route.

As freight trains rarely seem to use the East Lancashire Line to the East of Accrington could it be that this section of track needs gauge enhancement?

But if this gauge enhancement were to be completed, that could give two routes between Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal and the East, for the largest freight trains.

Thoughts On The Project Management

It would appear that there are a series of sub-projects to be done.

  1. Perform gauge enhancement and route improvement on the East Lancashire Line between Rose Grove and Colne. This would include any doubling of the route, if that were to be done.
  2. Start building the link between Skipton and Colne.
  3. Start building the Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal.
  4. Finish building the link between Skipton and Colne.
  5. Start passenger and freight services between Skipton and Colne.
  6. Finish building the Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal.
  7. Perform gauge enhancement on the Calder Valley Line between Accrington and Todmorden.

My objectives would be.

  • Open the Skipton and Colne route as a TransPennine diversion, as early as possible.
  • Upgrade the East Lancashire Line between Rose Grove and Colne with minimum disruption.
  • Open the Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal as early as possible.
  • Create multiple freight routes to and from Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal.

Electrification would be a future aspiration.

Whither Drax?

Drax Gtroup and their flagship power station have a major environmental problem in that the power station is a large emitter of carbon dioxide.

They also run a lot of diesel locomotive hauled trains carrying biomass, fly ash, gypsum, limestone and other materials to and from Drax power station, which is on the Drax branch of the Pontefract Line.

  • The Pontefract Line was built to serve the coalfields in the area.
  • It runs between Leeds and Hull via Pontefract and Goole.
  • It is not electrified, but it connects to the electrification at Leeds.
  • In the East is has good connections to Cleethorpes, Goole, Grimsby, Hull and Immingham.
  • The Port of Immingham is a major port, that is used by Drax to import biomass, which is hauled to the power station by diesel locomotives.
  • The route between Drax and Immingham has been improved recently, by the addition of the North Doncaster chord.
  • High Speed Two will run alongside the Pontefract Line on its approach to Leeds.
  • Freight trains between Drax and Skipton use an electrified diversion South of Leeds via Armley, that avoids the need for freight trains to pass through Leeds station.

I can see that in a more favourable climate for electrification, that electrification of the Pontefract Line would be recommended.

Given, the environmental record of Drax, which is both good and bad, I would suspect they would like to see electrification of the Pontefract Line, as it would create a lower carbon route for biomass trains between Immingham and the power station.

A New Electrified TransPennine Route For Passengers And Freight

I sense that a grander plan might exist behind all my thoughts.

If the following routes were to be electrified.

  • Preston and Skipton
  • The Pontefract Line between Leeds and Hull.
  • Knottingley and Immingham via Thorne

Hull and Liverpool would be connected for passenger electric trains and Liverpool and Immingham would be connected for freight.

Drax could also be on an electrified branch and they could say, they were hauling all their trains using renewable electricity. Marketing and environment are always important

 

 

 

 

May 12, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Blackpool Tramway Is Reaching Towards The Station

On Saturday, I went to Blackpool and rode the Blackpool Tramway to Fleetwood to see Ipswich play.

This Google Map shows the current walking route between Blackpool North station and the North Pier tram stop.

Note.

  1. The station is in the North East corner of the map.
  2. The North Pier tram stop is by the North Pier!
  3. The main tram route passes North-South across the map, close to the shore end of the pier.
  4. The walk is along Talbot Road.
  5. Close to the station is a branch of Wilko.

The new tram tracks will be laid along Talbot Road and these pictures show the current progress of the new tracks.

Note.

  1. The spur is twin-track.
  2. The first two and the last pictures appear to show the tram tracks going into Wilko.
  3. The tram tracks appear to share the road with other traffic.
  4. There is a full triangular junction where the spur meets the main North-South tramway.

A few extra facts and thoughts.

What About Wilko?

The Wilko store will either be demolished or modified and the space will be used by a tram stop.

  • It will be reached by an underpass from the station.
  • I suspect it will have two platforms.
  • One platform might be for trams to the North and the others for trams to the South.
  • There will probably be a few kiosks and small shops.

Done well and it would give passengers a good welcome.

The Track Layout

The track layout with the full triangular junction and a double-track to the station gives a lot of flexibility.

  • Trams can go between the the tram station and the North.
  • Trams can go between the the tram station and the South.
  • Trams could even come from the North, reverse in the station and go out to the South! Or vice-versa!

I also think it has been designed to be ready for expansion of the Blackpool Tramway.

A Tram Stop At Talbot Square

I have found a document on the Blackpool Council web site, that says this.

A tram stop on Talbot Square would be developed while road layouts are being examined so the new scheme would interfere as little as possible with drivers.

There is certainly enough space.

Could Tram-Trains Connect At Blackpool North Station To The Blackpool Tramway?

This Google Map shows Blackpool North station and the nearby Wilko.

I think it would be possible for tram-trains to come straight through the railway station and connect to the Blackpool Tramway.

  • I would suspect that a frequency of between four and six trains per hour (tph) would be possible.
  • The Tram-trains would have a battery capability with a range of perhaps twenty or thirty miles.
  • The tram-trains would obviously come from Preston.
  • But would they go on to Blackburn, Burnley, Clitheroe, Colne, Ormskirk, Southport and/or Todmorden.

The designs of the tracks, Blackpool North station and the proposed Blackpool North tram stop, would not seem to rule out the creation of a tram-train network with the Blackpool Tramway as the Western terminus.

Tram-Trains To The South

The new tram link at Blackpool North station will link the station to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and other attractions South of the North Pier.

To not annoy and discourage visitors, the frequency should be at least six tph or one tram every ten minutes. as little Harry and little Summer won’t late any longer!

Tram-trains to and from Preston and beyond, would have the following effects.

  • A lot of visitors wouldn’t have to change between train and tram.
  • They would reinforce the service between Blackpool North station and the Southern terminus at Starr Gate.
  • They might cut the number of cars needing to park in Blackpool.
  • Blackpool would become the only place in the world where you could see heritage trams, modern trams and tram-trains using the same system.

This tram-train link would surely improve the economy of Blackpool and the \Fylde Coast.

But the tram-trains don’t need to terminate at Starr Gate.

This Google Map shows the Blackpool Tramway’s Southern terminus and depot at Starr Gate and the nearby Squires Gate station.

Note.

  1. Starr Gate Depot on the West side of the map.
  2. The turning loop for the trams outside.
  3. Squires Gate station four hundred metres to the East.

I don’t think it would be difficult to connect the two rail systems.

  • Tram-trains would be able to more freely between the Blackpool Tramway and the South Fylde Line to Kirkham & Wesham and Preston stations.
  • The route between Kirkham & Wesham and Preston stations is electrified.
  • The length of the section without electrification between Kirkham & Wesham and Blackpool South stations is just over twelve miles.
  • The route West of Kirkham & Wesham station is single-track, but could probably be capable of handling more trains per hour, with some improvements like sections of double track.

I can’t see why tram-trains with a battery capability, which could be similar to those destined for the South Wales Metro, couldn’t run an extended service between Preston and the Blackpool Tramway.

  • Tram-trains would change systems at Blackpool North station and Squires Gate/Starr Gate.
  • Tram-trains would call at all stations and tramway stops in both directions.
  • A frequency of at least two tph in both directions would be my preference.
  • Tram-trains could easily handle the section without electrification on batteries charged on the existing electrification.
  • It would provide improved public transport links to the important golf course at Royal Lytham.

I also feel that running battery tram-trains on the South Fylde Line could be an affordable solution to improving public transport in the area.

Tram-Trains To The North

The same arguments that can be used to allow tram-trains to go South along the Blackpool Tramway, will also work, for allowing tram-trains to go to the North.

But there is no railway in good condition to create a loop, as can be done to the South.

Perhaps, two tram-trains per hour could go to Fleetwood Ferry tram stop and use the loop to return to Blackpool North station.

Fleetwood would regain a rail service to Preston, that appears to have been discontinued in the 1960s.

Reinstatement Of The Fleetwood Branch Line

The Association of Train Operating Companies has proposed the reopening of the Fleetwood Branch Line, which would connect Fleetwood with Poulton-le-Fylde on the electrified line to Blackpool North station.

The branch is also being developed for heritage purposes.

I do wonder though, that a tram-train solution, where tram-trains run between Preston and Fleetwood via Kirkham  & Wesham, Blackpool North and the Blsckpool Tramway, may give a higher return.

Obviously, a full study needs to be done.

Other Issues

On my trip to Fleetwood, two other issues were obvious.

A Distinct Lack Of Shelters

I took this picture, as I returned to the trams after the match.

At the time it was chucking it down!

Perhaps, they’d increase ridership, if passengers had some more shelter.

Bank Card Ticketing

I rarely carry cash these days, as I generally use contactless payments, for all payments under thirty pounds.

But on the Blackpool Tramway, you have to use cash!

That is so Nineteenth Century!

Conclusion

Blackpool Tramway can be built into a much more comprehensive and more customer-friendly tram and tram-train network.

 

 

 

 

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Between Blackpool South And Colne Stations Could Take Longer After 20th May

Tomorrow, trains between Blackpool South and Colne stations will take a few minutes under two hours.

But after the timetable change of May 20th, the journey will take an hour longer.

  • There will be a change at Preston.
  • This change will involve a wait of an hour.

I have ridden that line and in the summer, there are a lot of passengers that use it for a trip to the seaside.

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Northern’s Plans For Between Preston And Ormskirk

The service on the Ormskirk Branch Line between Preston and Ormskirk stations is an infuriating one.

  • The Class 153 trains that run the service seem to be unreliable when I use it.
  • The frequency is roughly hourly and not clockface by any means.
  • Sometimes the trains are very full.
  • The signalling appears to be old-fashioned.

But it seems that from May 21st, things will be getting better.

The timetable shows the following.

  • Trains leave Ormskirk hourly from 07:01 until 23:11 and take 31 minutes to get to Preston.
  • Trains leave Preston hourly from 06:26 until 21:26 and take 30 minutes to get to Ormskirk.

Journey times are actually similar to now, so I would assume they are for a Class 153 train.

What a pity, that the round trip will take over an hour.

Northern will need two trains to run this service, but if they could do a round trip in an hour, only one train would be needed.

Consider.

The Class 153 train is only a 75 mph train.

Part of the journey is along the electrified West Coast Main Line.

Northern have or soon will have faster trains in their fleet

I suspect that any one of these trains could achieve the hourly round trip.

All would offer increased capacity and better quality interiors.

The Class 769 train would handle the route with ease.

  • The train could use the electrification on the West Coast Main Line.
  • The train is faster.
  • It is a four-car train.

I doubt it will happen, but the trains could continue on the Merseyrail network, if their third-rail electrification shoes, were to be refitted.

But who knows what will happen if Merseyrail and Northern decide to bring the railways between Blackpool, Kirkby, Ormskirk, Preston, Southport and Wigan into the twenty-first century?

There’s certainly a lot happening in the area at the timetable change on May 20th.

  • Blackpool to Liverpool gets an electric hourly service.
  • Blackpool to Manchester Airport gets an hourly service, which will go electric in time.
  • Ormskirk to Preston gets a proper hourly service.
  • Wigan North Western to Alderley Edge gets a new service using Class 769 trains.
  • Wigan North Western to Stalybridge gets a revamped service using Class 769 trains.

Porterbrook’s affordable bi-mode Class 769 train seems to be fully involved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Shared Space In Preston

Done properly, I think shared space can transform a town or city centre.

These are pictures of the centre of Preston.

It seemed to be working well as I left, during the morning go-to-work period.

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

A Walk Around The Ordsall Chord

I took this walk around the Ordsall Curve.

I’d taken one of Manchestewr’s free city centre buses and a walk to the Spinningfields area.

This Google Map shows the layout of lines in the area.

The Area Of The Ordsall Chord

The Area Of The Ordsall Chord

 

Walking North-East to South-West along Water Street, the bridges in order are as follows.

  • The Prince’s Bridge is a disused road bridge, noticeable because of its zig-zag construction, which will be demolished. There’s more on the bridge on this page on Manchester History.
  • Then there is the single-track line, that the Museum of Science and Industry used to run their replica locomotive.
  • The Windsor Link Railway which connect Salford Crescent and Deansgate stations, appears to share a wide bridge with the line to the museum.
  • The last bridge is the direct historic line between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Piccadilly.

This Google Map shows the lines as they cross the Irwell in detail.

Across The Irwell

Across The Irwell

Note in the North-West corner of the map, the line between Salford Crescent and Manchester Victoria stations via Salford Central can be seen.

The Ordsall Chord will run in a North-South direction between this line and the line to Manchester Piccadilly.

Under Proposal in the Wikipedia entry for the chord, this is said.

The Ordsall Chord would preserve connectivity between the relocated East-West services and the city’s existing main rail interchange at Manchester Piccadilly. It would also improve rail access to Manchester Airport, which at present cannot be reached easily from Victoria. Without the chord, such operations would require for trains to be run on and then reversed back at Salford Crescent.

The would enable services such as.

  • Huddersfield, Leeds and York to Manchester Airport.
  • Leeds to Crewe without a change or a reverse in Manchester.
  • Huddersfield to London without a change.

It will also enable services on the Northern branches out of Manchester to be connected to those going South, with stops at both Victoria and Piccadilly in Manchester. This will mean that passengers needing to cross Manchester will probably be able to change trains once, rather than use the tram. it should also mean that both major Manchester stations will be able to use their capacity better, as trains will go through Manchester rather than terminate in the city.

No-one could argue that building the chord is simple, although released images show it to be dramatic.

An Artists Impression Of The Ordsall Chord

An Artists Impression Of The Ordsall Chord

Note.

  • In the image, you can see the historic Liverpool to Manchester Line behind the bridge.
  • Deansgate and Manchester Piccadilly stations are to the left with Salford Central and Manchester Victoria to the right.

After walking past the bridges, I crossed the river and followed Trinity Way virtually all the way to Salford Central station.

As I walked, I took these pictures.

The one thing that surprised me about this visit, was that propgress in the short time, they’ve had since all the legals were settled, seems to have been purposeful.

From Salford Central station, I was able to get a train to Preston, where I stayed the night.

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Will Merseyrail Rescue Croston?

Like everybody, I have been watching the news and in particular the floods in the North.

There have been several reports from the village of Croston, which has suffered particularly badly!

I don’t know the village, but I looked it up on Wikipedia and found that there is a Croston station serving the village.

This Google Map shows the village and the station.

Croston Station

Croston Station

Croston station lies on the Ormskirk Branch Line, which connects Ormskirk on the Mersetrail network around Liverpool, to Preston and the the West Coast Main Line. The Ormskirk Line one of those terrible and neglected pieces of infrastructure, left behind after the cuts of the 1960s and 1970s,

Merseyrail have ambitions to connect Liverpool to both Preston via Ormskirk and Manchester via Kirkby with new electric trains. I wrote on this in Is Liverpool Planning To Invade Manchester By Train? I said this.

———-

In the October 2015 edition of Modern Railways, there is an article about Merseytravel looking for a new fleet of trains for their 750V DC network, which is entitled New Trains For Liverpool. This is said.

Merseytravel has indicated that it will be seeking ‘innovative proposals’ from manufacturers, with considerable emphasis being placed on the overall cost of operating the fleet rather than just the basic cost of the trains themselves. Options such as regenerative braking and onboard systems to store energy under braking to be used for acceleration will attract particular interest. The independently-powered EMU (IPEMU or battery train) concept evaluated earlier this year on a modified Class 379 in East Anglia ,might see an application here.

It does appear on a quick look, that a version of the new Aventra train, which comes with an IPEMU capability as standard might be suitable for Merseyrail, as it could connect Preston to Ormskirk and Manchester to Kirkby, without any more electrification.

———-

Some of my thoughts in the Invading Manchester post, is based on this document, which is entitled Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy, so it is not idle speculation.

A half-hourly four-car service through Croston and other stations in the area linking to Liverpool and Preston using IPEMU trains, would not help directly with the floods, but would get people into and out of the area without needing to use a vehicle on flooded roads.

I’m sure that the engineers from Bombardier and Network Rail will ensure that an IPEMU can operate some kind of service in conditions as we’ve experienced over the last few days.

Intriguingly, I have just been reading this article in Rail Technology Magazine, which is  entitled Bombardier enters key analysis phase of IPEMU. In a section entitled Market Applications, this is said.

Bombardier has started assessing potential customers for battery-powered trains, looking first at branch line applications. Batteries could be a solution allowing non-continuous electrified infrastructure, and emergency rescue and last-mile opportunities. 

Although emergency rescue is probably more about power loss than floods, Bombardier obviously feel that an IPEMU has some genes inserted from a cross-country vehicle.

Knowing the way Liverpudlians think, I suspect that what was said about IPEMUs for Merseyrail in the October 2015 edition of Modern Railways will happen.

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment