The Anonymous Widower

Thoughts On The Lateness Of Crossrail

This article on the BBC is entitled Crossrail Delay: New London Line Will Open In Autumn 2019.

This is the first paragraph.

London’s £15bn Crossrail project is to open nine months after its scheduled launch to allow more time for testing.

I spent most of my working life, writing software for the planning and costing of large projects and despite never having done any serious project management in anger, I have talked to many who have, both in the UK and around the world.

So what are my thoughts?

Crossrail Is A Highly-Complex Project

The project involves the following.

  • A 21 km double-track tunnel under London.
  • New Class 345 trains
  • Four different signalling systems.
  • Rebuilt stations at West Drayton, Hayes & Harlington, Southall, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway. Acton Main Line, Forest Gate, Manor Park, Ilford
  • Refurbished stations at Hanwell, Maryland, Seven Kings, Goodmayes, Chadwell Heath, Romford, Gidea Park, Harold Wood, Brentford and Shenfield.
  • Major interchanges with existing stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farrington, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and Stratford.
  • New stations at Custom House, Canary Whar, Woolwich and Abbey Wood.

Some parts are easy, but a lot are very difficult.

A Shortage Of Specialist Workers

I believe that certain factors could be reducing the pool of workers available to Crossrail.

Less workers than needed would obviously slow the project.

Having to pay more than budgeted to attract or keep workers will also raise costs.

My thoughts on what is causing a possible shortage of specialist workers follow.

Crossrail-Related Development

If you own a site or a building, near to one of Crossrail’s stations, then your property will substantially increase in value, when the line opens.

Walk past any of the Crossrail stations in Central London and some further out and you will see towers sprouting around the station entrance like crows around a road-kill.

Developers know how to cash-in on the best thing that has happened to them since the Nazis flattened acres of Central London.

New sites are also being created over several Crossrail stations including Moorgate, Farringdon (2 sites), Tottenham Court Road (2 sites), Bond Street (2 sites) and Paddington.

But do all these extensive developments, mean that there are not enough sub-contractors, specialist suppliers, electricians, chippies, air-conditioning engineers, plumbers and other trades to do all the work available in London?

I also suspect a developer, building an office block to the world’s highest standard could pay better and faster, than a Crossrail supplier under pressure.

Underground Working

Working underground or in mining is dangerous.

In the 1960s, women were totally banned from working below the surface.

It must have been around 1970, when I met one of ICI’s archivists; Janet Gornall, who a few years previously had organised storage of their masses of historical documents, in the company salt mine at Winsford. The mine is still used for document storage, by a company called Deepstore.

Health & Safety found out that Janet would be supervising and indexing the storage underground, so that if any document was required, they could be easily retrieved. This caused them to give the scheme a big thumbs down.

Questions were even asked in the House of Commons, but nothing would change Health & Safety’s view

In the end a simple solution was found..

As the boxes came up from London they were piled up in a large building on the surface, in the position Janet wanted them underground.

The pile of boxes was then moved underground and stacked in exactly the same way.

Nowadays, anybody can work underground, but they must have training and be certified for such work.

Crossrail thought the number of certified underground workers might not be enough, so they set up the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA) at Ilford. This article on the Crossrail web site is entitled  A Legacy To The Construction Industry.

Some points about TUCA.

  • It is now part of Transport for London.
  • It was funded by Crossrail and the Skills Funding Agency.
  • TUCA is Europe’s only specialist soft-ground tunnelling training facility.

I wrote about TUCA in Open House – TUCA, after a visit in 2012.

I was told on my visit, that the Swiss have a similar facility for rock tunnelling and that there were plans for both academies to work together.

Trainees from all over the world would get training in an exotic Swiss mountain and then go on to enjoy the wonders of Ilford.

But at least they’ll be safe workers for all types of tunnelling.

I do wonder if some of the Crossrail delays has been caused by a lack of properly trained underground workers, as now the tunnelling is completed, many have moved on to the next project.

Thames Tideway Scheme

The Thames Tideway Scheme is a £4billion scheme to build a massive sewer under the Thames to clean up the river.

Many Crossrail engineers, tunnellers and workers are now working on the new scheme.

Brexit

Stuttgart 21 is one of numerous mega-projects in Europe.

Many of the workers on Crossrail were originally from Europe and now with the uncertainties of Brexit, some must be moving nearer home,to work on these large European projects.

Well-Paid Jobs In Sunnier Climes

Don’t underestimate, the effect of the Beast From The East last winter.

Skilled personnel have always gone to places like the Middle East to earn a good crust.

With Crossrail under pressure, how many of these key workers have gone to these places for the money?

Conclusion

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that a shortage of specialist workers is blamed for the delays.

In the BBC article, there is this quote

We are working around the clock with our supply chain and Transport for London to complete and commission the Elizabeth line.

Fairly bland, but does the supply chain include specialist suppliers and workers, which are under severe pressure from other projects to perform various works?

It’s probably true that there is only a finite pool of these companies, tradesmen and workers and at least some of the best will have been lured away.

Station Problems

In this article in the Architects Journal, which is entitled Crossrail Delayed Until Autumn 2019, this is said.

Crossrail then revealed in February that it had overspent its budget for the year to 30 March 2018 by £190 million.

At the time TfL said works at Whitechapel station, designed by BDP, and Farringdon station, designed by AHR, were completed later than expected, and there were delays to work at Weston Williamson’s Woolwich station and John McAslan + Partners’ Bond Street station.

I’ll look at Whitechapel station as an example.

You don’t need to be an expert to figure out that Whitechapel station is running late.

Look at all the blue hoardings.

  • I know this only shows what is visible to the public.
  • The Crossrail platforms deep underground could be ready.
  • The main entrance to the station is still shrouded in plastic.
  • The escalators to get down to Crossrail, will be between the two District/Metropolitan Line platforms.

This Google Map shows the area of Whitechapel station.

Note how the site is hemmed in, by important buildings including a Sainsburys supermarket and Swanlea School.

See An Innovative Use Of The School Holidays, for an insight about how the builders of the station coped with the lack of space.

I also feel that Whitechapel is an incredibly complex station to build.

  • It is crossed by two important railways; the District/Metropolitan Line and the East London Line.
  • Innovative techniques from the coal mining industry had to be used to dig the escalator tunnel.
  • Whitechapel will be the station, where passengers change between the two Eastern branches.

I do wonder, whether a different design would have been easier to build.

For instance, could Sainsburys have been paid to shut their superstore and that site used to build the station?

But Crossrail has chosen a design and now they must build it.

The New Class 345 Trains

The new Class 345 trains for Crossrail are an almost totally new design called Aventra by Bombardier, that I believe has been specifically created to make the operation of Crossrail as efficient as possible.

The trains must have something about them, as since launch they have attracted five more substantial orders, from five different operators.

The introduction into service of the Class 345 trains,has been reasonably straightforward, but not without some issues.

But I do question, the launching of Aventra trains solely on a line as complex as Crossrail.

Would it have been easier to have built the Class 710 trains first and thoroughly debugged them on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

But then that electrification was late.

Four Types Of Signalling

Crossrail needs trains to have four different types of signalling.

CBTC – Communications-Based Train Control

ETCS – European Train Control System

AWS – Automatic Warning System

TPWS – Train Protection & Warning System

I know that as Crossrail runs on other lines with these signalling and going to a single system like ETCS would need to the changing of signalling systems on much of the railways in the South-East and the trains that use them.

It appears that there are problems for the trains running into Heathrow and one of the reasons for the Crossrail delayed opening, is to allow more time to test the trains and the signalling.

From my experience of writing complex software systems, where my software needed to interface with two operating systems, I know that you can never put too much time into testing complex systems.

So where is the dedicated test track, where trains can simulate the signalling of Crossrail routes, day in and day out?

I believe that not enough time and money was allocated to test this complex system.

Crossrail has found out the hard way.

Europe Has A Lack Of Train Test Tracks

A lot of European nations are ordering new trains and the UK is probably ordering more than most.

Reading the railway stories on the Internet, there are lots of stories about trains being brought into service late. And not just in the UK, but in Germany and Italy for example.

Crossrail identified that there was a need for a training academy for underground workers.

Did anybody do the calculations to make sure, there was enough test tracks for all the trains being built in Europe?

However, it does look as though Wales is coming to rescue Europe’s train makers, as I describe in £100m Rail Test Complex Plans For Neath Valley.

I suspect Crossrail wish this project had been completed a couple of years ago.

A Shortage Of Resources

For successful completion of projects on time and on budget, there must be enough resources.

I believe that, when the lateness and overspend on Crossrail is analysed, shortage of resources will be blamed.

  • Shortage of people and suppliers, that has not been helped by other projects taking advantage of new opportunities offered by Crossrail.
  • Shortage of space for work-sites at stations.
  • Shortage of places to fully test trains and signalling.

I suspect that the last will be the most serious.

Hugo Rifkind On A Late Crossrail

In an excellent article in today’s copy of The Times entitled Leavers Have A Cheek Trying To Block HS2, Hugo Rifkind says this about Crossrail.

You think we’ll remember, 50 years from now. that Crossrail took six months longer than expected?

Rubbish. London will rest on it like a spine and boggle that we ever managed without.

I think Rifkind is right.

Will Hutton

Will Hutton has written this article in the Guardian, which is entitled Don’t moan about Crossrail. Once Complete, It Will Be A Rare Triumph In Our public Realm.

He says this.

Let’s sing a different tune. Therailway line, more than 60 miles long, linking Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east – adding 10% to London’s commuter rail capacity – and set to carry around 200 million passengers a year, will be a fantastic achievement. Its 13-mile-long tunnels run more than 100ft under the capital’s streets, navigating everything from underground sewers to the deep foundations of skyscrapers with superb engineering aplomb. The longstanding reproach is that Britain can’t do grand projects. Crossrail, now christened the Elizabeth line, is proof that we can.

He then goes on to criticise the structure of the construction project, the salaries paid and the current Government.

But I suspect that in a few yeas time, Hutton, Rifkind and myself could have a quiet pint and say Crossrail got it right.

Current Developments That Will Help Bridge The Delay

It’s not as if, no new transport developments won’t happen in the time before Crossrail eventually opens in Autumn 2019.

Trains Providing More Capacity

These trains will be providing extra capacity.

  • New Class 717 trains will be running on the services to and from Moorgate station.
  • New Class 710 trains will be running on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.
  • New Class 710 trains will be running on the Lea Valley Lines to Cheshunt, Chingford and Enfield Town stations.
  • New Class 710 trains will be running on the Watford DC Line.
  • Cascaded Class 378 trains and new Class 710 trains will be running extra services on the original circular service of the London Overground.
  • More Class 345 trains will be providing all of Crossrail’s services to Heathrow and Shenfield.
  • New Class 720 trains or something similar or older, will be providing four trains per hour (tph) between Stratford and Meridian Water stations.

Note that before the end of 2019, nearly a hundred new trains will be delivered.

New And Rebuilt Stations

There will be some new or rebuilt stations.

  • Acton Main Line
  • Forest Gate
  • Gidea Park
  • Hayes & Harlington
  • Manor Park
  • Maryland
  • Meridian Water
  • Northumberland Park
  • Tottenham Hale
  • West Drayton
  • West Ealing
  • West Hampstead

This list may contain other stations.

Underground Improvements

There will also be Underground improvements.

  • The Central Line Improvements Programme will increase capacity and reliability on the Central Line.
  • The Metropolitan Line is being upgraded with new signalling.
  • Up to ten Underground stations may be made step-free before the end of 2019.

The improvements to the Central and Metropolitan Lines, through Central London will compensate for the delaying of Crossrail’s core tunnel.

A Few Questions

I have to ask questions.

Will The High Meads Loop Be Used?

This would provide an excellent interchange between the following services.

  • Local services to Hertford East and Bishops Stortford stations,  including the new STAR service, along the West Anglia Main Line.
  • Stansted Express and Cambridge services to and from Stratford.
  • Fast Greater Anglia services to Chelmsford, Colchester, Southend and further, along the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • Crossrail services between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.
  • Central Line services.

There is also only a short, but tortuous walk to the Jubilee Line for London Bridge and Waterloo stations and Central London.

Based on the experience of the Wirral Loop under Liverpool, which handles sixteen tph, I believe that the High Meads Loop could handle a substantial number of trains, that instead of using the crowded lines to Liverpool Street station, would use the new uncrowded route from Tottenham Hale to Stratford via Lea Bridge station.

Moving services to Stratford from Liverpool Street would also free up platforms at the major terminus, which could be used to provide extra services on the Great Eastern Main Line.

The extra capacity might also enable the lengthening of the Crossrail platforms at Liverpool Street to be extended, so they could take full-length Class 345 trains.

No new extra infrastructure would be required at Stratford, although in future, a platform to connect the loop to Stratford International station would be nice.

I will be very surprised if the High Meads Loop is not used creatively in the future.

Will Some New Pedestrian Tunnels At Stations Like Liverpool Street And Paddington Be Opened?

I use Moorgate and Liverpool Street stations regularly.

There are blue walls everywhere, behind which the Crossrail infrastructure is hiding.

I do hope Crossrail and Transport for London are looking at the possibilities of using completed infrastructure to create new walking routes in stations to ease congestion.

Conclusion

Crossrail was designed to be opened in four phases over two years.

I am drawn to the position, that because of various resource shortages and the testing of trains, perhaps the project could have been arranged as perhaps a series of smaller projects delivered over a longer period of time.

 

 

 

 

 

September 4, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hackney Wick Station – 12th May 2018

The builders now seem to be on the home straight at Hackney Wick station.

The fitting out is well underway on the platforms and it appears that the ground level works are progressing.

Because of today’s weather, I didn’t really want to have a look at ground level.

Building A Station Without Closing The Railway Line

After the initial closure at Easter 2017, to install the subway, which I wrote about in A Tough Way To Spend Easter, I’m pretty certain, there has not been a major closure of the line and work to build the station has continued, whilst trains have continued to run on the railway and stop at the platforms for passengers.

I suspect that project managers have learned a lot from this project.

May 12, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

OLE Upgrades Complete At Anglia As Part Of £46m Transformation

The title of this article, is the same as that of this article on Rail Technology Magazine.

I hope this is actually the case.

  • I’ve had enough of rail replacement buses, when trying to get to football at Ipswich on a Saturday.
  • For at least the last three years, I’ve probably seen more away matches, than those at Portman Road.
  • Three hours each way to Ipswich, effectively means, the only pleasurable thing you do is see the match.
  • This work has probably hit attendances at both Norwich and Ipswich.
  • I’ve renewed my season ticket fort next season, but if it is as thin on home matches as this one has been, it will be my last season of travel.

What puzzles me, is why can’t Network Rail adjust their work schedule, so that at least important matches like the two Derbies have trains?

But then you wouldn’t rate Network Rail highly for Project Management!

 

May 8, 2018 Posted by | Sport, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Overground Trains For Gospel Oak To Barking line Delayed… By Three Months

The title of this post is the same as that, of this article in the Islington Gazette.

Various reasons are given.

  • The Bridge at Crouch Hill station.
  • Delays in testing the overhead wires.
  • Software problems on the trains.
  • TfL are awaiting trains for driver training.

Network Rail and TfL are apparently blaming each other.

There has been some very bad planning and design on the updating of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

  • Crouch Hill bridge should have been rebuilt earlier.
  • Some of the overhead gantry supports were built to wrong dimensions.
  • Some of the project planning seems optimistic with hindsight.

Would I also be right in thinking, that the process of introducing the new trains could have been better handled?

Or is it just, that the idea was to get the Geospel Oak to Barking Line working first and run perhaps a couple of Class 710 trains on the line for the following purposes.

  • Give a thorough testing of all systems.
  • Accumulate certification mileage.
  • Training of drivers.

This would appear to be what happened with Crossrail’s Class 345 trains, which could be seen shuttling up and down between Stratford and Shenfield stations for a couple of months in the middle of the day, before they were allowed to carry fare-paying passengers.

Perhaps, the testing of the trains and initial training of the drivers should have been planned for the Northern section of the Watford DC Line, where the same dual-voltage 710/2 variant of the trains will eventually be deployed.

Conclusion

It would all have been so much different, if the electrified railway had been delivered on the original target date that according to Wikipedia, would have allowed the new trains to run in early 2018.

 

 

April 26, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Charting An Electric Freight Future

The title of this post, is the same as the title of an informative article in the April 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, which was written by Julian Worth, who has many years experience of the rail freight industry.

This is a very comprehensive article looking at the future of motive power for freight trains.

These are points from the article, with some added comments of my own.

2040 And A Diesel-Free Rail System

Government ministers have said that by 2040, the UK will have a diesel-free railway, which will reduce emissions and especially particulates.

This page on the Government web site is entitled Let’s Raise Our Ambitions For A Cleaner, Greener Railway, which gives the text of a speech by the Rail Minister; Jo Johnson.

This is part of what he said.

And that’s why I am today announcing a new ambition.

I would like to see us take all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040.

If that seems like an ambitious goal – it should be and I make no apology for that.

After all, we’re committed to ending sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

If we can achieve that, then why can’t the railway aspire to a similar objective?

Rail may be less carbon intensive than road transport.

That’s why modal shift’s so important.

As an engineer. I feel it is a challenge that is acceptable.

The Diesel Locomotives Are Getting Old!

The ubiquitous Class 66 locomotives, don’t meet the latest emission standards, but in addition, by the late 2020s, they will be getting to thirty years old.

Other locomotives like Class 59 locomotives will be even older.

Replacement locomotives will be needed, as maintenance costs will be getting too high.

The Last-Mile Electric Locomotive

Electric locomotives with a last-mile capability away from electrification like the Class 88 locomotive could be favoured.

  • They could be used for terminal work and short-distance movements.
  • They would have a 25 KVAC capability.
  • They could possibly have a 750 VDC capability, to work on the third-rail network.
  • They would meet all the emission standards, when running on diesel.

Julian Worth suggests that the last-mile capability could be provided by a battery.

Although, this would be environmentally-friendly and better in urban areas, I think that any onboard power, should be able to take a train into and out of the Port of Felixstowe, London Gateway and the other major ports.

I met a manager of the Port of Felixstowe a few years ago and they don’t like 25 KVAC wires in a dock, as containers do occasionally get dropped.

Most lines into ports and inland terminals, don’t appear to be too challenging and I’m sure that an uprated Class 88 locomotive could be built, that would handle entry and exit to all the ports and terminals in the UK.

Do We Need A Freight Electrification Strategy?

Julian Worth suggests we need one for the next couple of decades.

He makes some good points.

  • Electric traction current is cheaper than diesel fuel.
  • Availability of modern electric locomotives should be better than a diesel.
  • Diesels may be restricted in urban areas. It could be a vote winner in Mayoral elections in the large Metropolitan areas.

He finishes this with this statement.

Crucially, switching to electric locos from around 2030 would not entail premature replacement of the current fleet and would represent necessary asset renewal in modern equivalent form.

Just imagine the outcry from the Green Movement, if these ageing diesels were to be replaced with modern diesel locomotives..

Undoubtedly, we need a well-thought out freight strategy.

GB Railfreight

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled GB Railfreight In ‘Locomotive Acquisition’ Talks.

So at least one freight company is looking for new motive power. GB Railfreight has a fleet of seventy-eight Class 66 locomotives with other locomotives in the ageing category. Some of their work like hauling the Caledonian Sleeper needs well-presented reliable locomotives, so perhaps they need to update their image.

It will be interesting to see what type and class of locomotive they buy.

Rail Freight Has Changed

Coal to power stations used to be the dominant freight on UK railways.

But n0t any more! Thank goodness!

The major freight on UK railways is intermodal or trains of containers from port to inland terminal and vice versa.

There is also a large growth in construction materials, miuch of it going from quarries in the West Country and the Peak District to the South East of England. To send this any other way than by train, would surely be madness.

There also seems to be an increasing number of trains carrying new vehicles to and from the Continent. More will surely start to use the Channel Tunnel.

Julian Worth says this, after summarising the freight flows.

This suggests modest extensions of electrification might permit much of the construction and intermodal businesses, together with most automotive traffic, to be electrically hauled throughout.

He then goes on to say that the big gap is Felixstowe to Peterborough, Nuneaton and Birmingham.

The Port of Felixstowe

I partly grew up in the town and never thought the port would grow to the size, it is today.

I also remember in the 1980s, when only the odd intermodal train was to be seen on the Felixstowe Branch Line.

  • Now, a dozen trains in each direction on every day take the route between Felixstowe and the Midlands.
  • The Felixstowe Branch Line is being upgraded to raise the number of trains from the port from 33 to 48.
  • The Great Eastern Main Line and the routes through North London are close to capacity.
  • The direct route via Peterborough is a lot shorter than the London route.

Julian Worth states, that the number of trains between Felixstowe and the Midlands could rise to as high as fifty every day.

Routes That Should Be Electrified For Freight

Julian Worth suggests that the following routes should be electrified.

Route 1 – London Gateway to Thames Haven Junction

If you electrify Felixstowe to the Midlands, this will remove some diesel freight trains from London.

It would be stupid to replace them with diesel freight trains from London Gateway. So it would be fairly logical to electrify the connecting route to London Gateway.

This Google Map shows London Gateway and the rail connection to the electrified London, Tilbury and Southend Railway.

Note.

  1. The electrified London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, runs North-South at the extreme left of the map.
  2. The connecting spur curves East on what appears to be a new chord before accessing sidings on the North side of London Gateway.
  3. There would appear to be a lot of space to expand the port.
  4. The rail spur to the port is double track.
  5. It looks like their are sat least five sidings for handling freight trains.
  6. The sidings are double-ended, so last-mile capable electric locomotives could run round trains, without the need for electrification.

It would have appeared to have been designed for electrification.

Full details on London Gateway’s plans for rail access are given here in the Wikipedia entry for London Gateway, under Rail Terminal.

This is a quick summary.

In other places Wikipedia says the port is highly-automated.

I am led to the conclusion, that the Gospel Oak to Barking Line will see a high number of electric freight trains in the future.

I’m not surprised that Julian Worth says the spur currently handles sixteen trains per day and is set to grow significantly.

I certainly wouldn’t buy a house on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Route 2 – Nuneaton To Birmingham Lawley Street

If Felixstowe to Nuneaton is electrified, then this extends the electrification to the massive Lawley Street Freightliner Terminal, which is in central Birmingham.

This diagram from Wikipedia shows the route.

Note.

  1. Lawley Street Freightliner Terminal, is on the short spur at the top of the diagram.
  2. iThis electrification would also complete a fully-electrified route between Birmingham New Street station and Sansted Airport, so CrossCountry could use electric trains on that route, instead of the current Class 170 train, which is often overcrowded.
  3. Would the electrification open up opportunities for more electrified local services in Birmingham?

Julian Worth says that this twenty miles carries thirty-two trains per day.

Would electrifying this route also have environmental benefits in terms of pollution?

Route 3 – Basingstoke To Southcote Junction and Oxford to Denbigh Hall Junction

This route, which connects the Port of Southampton with the West Coast Main Line, would require forty-two miles of electrification.

Consider.

  • It would create a fully-electrified route from Southampton to the West Coast Main Line.
  • Julian Worth says it carries forty-eight trains per day.
  • I also think, he is assuming that the Great Western Electrification extends to Oxford, which surely it will do in the next few years.
  • Dual voltage locomotives would be needed.
  • It would require electrification of part of the East West Railway.

The East West Railway is to be built as a privatised railway and I’m sure if the sums were right, they would electrify the route from Oxford to Denbigh Hall Junction.

If the Western end of the East West Railway were to be electrified, this must increase the options and operating speed for passenger trains on the route.

Route 4 – Merehead/Whatley to Newbury

Consider.

  • Merehead and Whatley are both Quarries of the Mendip Hills.
  • The line is double-track and seventy-two miles long.
  • Julian Worth says that this route carries twenty-eight stone trains per day.
  • Many trains are double-size.
  • In a four hour period, using Real Time Trains I found,three stone trains that weighed 4,800 tonnes and had a maximum speed of 45 mph and four stone trains that weighed 2,000 tonnes and had a maximum speed of 60 mph, using the route from the Mendips to London.

With all that heavy traffic, it strikes me that their are only two ways to power these trains on the route.

  • Very powerful diesel locomotives, possibly working in pairs.
  • Very powerful 25 KVAC electric locomotives, which would need electrification, able to supply lots of amps.

Mendip Rail currently run these services using Class 59 locomotives, which have the following characteristics.

  • Built in North America between 1985 and 1995.
  • They were the first privately-owned locomotives on the UK main line.
  • They have the ability to creep to shift heavy loads on gradients.
  • They have a maximim speed of 60-75 mph.
  • They are towered by a 2.5 MW diesel engine.

This extract from Wikipedia illustrates their power.

On 26 May 1991 Kenneth J Painter (59005) (with assistance from Yeoman Endeavour) set the European haulage record, with a stone train weighing 11,982 tonnes and 5,415 feet (1,650 m) long. However the so-called ‘mega train’ experiment was not very successful, as a coupling in the centre of the train broke.

It would appear, there was nothing wrong with the locomotives.

By the late 2020s, these locomotives will be over forty years old and although they could probably soldier on for another ten or even twenty years, the cost of maintenance will increase and reliability could decrease. You don’t want a 4,800 tonne stone train blocking the Reading to Taumton Line.

I suspect too, that it is unlikely that this important stone traffic will decrease. This is said in the Wikipedia entry for Mendip Rail.

Mendip Rail’s class 59s work services between various destinations which have changed over time according to demand and specific contracts. They have worked regularly over southern railway tracks, for example to the former Foster Yeoman terminals at Eastleigh and Botley, as well as delivery aggregates for construction work on the Thames Barrier, Second Severn Crossing, Channel Tunnel and most recently Heathrow Terminal 5, which required 3 million tonnes of stone.

Mendip Rail hauls about 4.5 million tonnes of stone from Torr Works each year, and about 2.5 million tonnes from Whatley Quarry.

I suspect that these stone flows will continue and there will come a time in the not-to-distant future, where new locomotives will be required.

  • The Class 59 locomotives were built for these stone trains and have a maximum tractive effort of 507 kN at just 7 mph.
  • A large electric Class 92 locomotive has a maximum tractive effort of only 400 kN.

But I suspect that engineers can design an electric locomotive, that can handle these trains either by themselves or working in a pair.

So there will be a choice between a very powerful diesel locomotive or a very powerful electric one.

  • Will those that live by the railway and environmentalists accept new diesel locomotives?
  • Electric locomotives would require the line to be electrified.
  • Electrification would allow Great Western Railway to run their Class 800 trains more efficiently using the wires.
  • Would those who live by the railway, accept the electrification of the line?

It’s a difficult choice.

Route 5 – Felixstowe to Ipswich. Haughley Junction to Peterborough and Helpston to Nuneaton

Consider

  • This would be a big project, as it would require 146 miles of new electrification.
  • But the return could be worthwhile, as currently the route handles twenty trains per day and once the Felixstowe Branch Line has more double track, this figure could rise to fifty-six trains per day.
  • At Ipswich, Peterborough and Nuneaton, the route connects to fully-electrified lines.

My project management knowledge tends to electrifying this line from East to West as almost three separate projects.

  1. Felixstowe to Ipswich
  2. Haughley Junction to Peterborough
  3. Helpston to Nuneaton

It could even be five, if Helpston to Nuneaton was split into two at either Leicester or the Midland Main Line.

I have three general questions.

  • When the gauge clearance was undertaken a few years ago, were bridges raised to accommodate wires as well?
  • Will the natives object to fifty trains per day?
  • Will the line be  resignalled to handle the greater number of trains?

Once the full route is electrified, the number of trains to and from Felixstowe , that used the Great Eastern Main Line and the routes through London would drop. Obviously, some trains like those between Felixstowe and Wales and the West Country would still need to use the London routes.

But overall, this would allow a mixture of the following.

  • Higher passenger train frequencies on the North London Line
  • Higher passenger train frequencies on the Gospel Oak To Barking Line
  • More freight trains to and from London Gateway could use the cross-London routes.

The last point would mean, that electric locomotives would need to have access to London Gateway.

I will detail my thoughts on Felixstowe to the Midlands electrification in the next three sub-sections.

Route 5A – Felixstowe to Ipswich

Electrifying between Felixstowe and Ipswich shouldn’t be the most challenging of projects.

  • The route is fairly flat.
  • The route is double track, except for part of the Felixstowe Branch Line.
  • The line was cleared for the largest containers a few years ago.
  • Doubling of the Felixstowe Branch Line around Trimley and the removal of some level crossings should start this year.
  • There should be an adequate 25 KVAC power supply at Ipswich.

I have two extra questions.

  • Will the partial doubling of the Felixstowe Branch, prepare the line for electrification?
  • Has a scheme been designed to take electrification to the port?

But there will be benefits.

  • Some freight trains that use the Great Eastern Main Line and the electrified routes through London, could be hauled all the way. by electric locomotives.
  • If Felixstowe station was to be electrified, Greater Anglia could run five-car Class 720 electric trains instead of Class 755 bi-mode trains on the branch, if required.
  • Class 755 bi-mode trains on the Ipswich to Lowestoft service, would be able to use the electrification between Westerfield and Ipswich stations.
  • Noise and vibration could be reduced.

It is just over a dozen miles of elwctrification, so isn’t the largest of projects.

Route 5B – Haughley Junction to Peterborough

Like the first section between Felixstowe and Ipswich, this section is also not very challenging.

  • The route is fairly flat.
  • The route is double track.
  • The line was cleared for the largest containers a few years ago.
  • Ely is being remodelled to remove a bottleneck.
  • Ely to Soham improvements seem to have been dropped, but will surely happen.
  • Haughley Junction needs to be remodelled.
  • Network Rail are already removing level crossings.
  • There should be an adequate 25 KVAC power supply at Haughley and Peterborough.

I have an extra question.

  • Will the route between Cambridge and Chippenham Junction be electrified?

But there will be benefits.

  • Electric freight between Felixstowe And The East Coast Main Line as far as Scotland.
  • Greater Anglia could run their service between Colchester and Peterborough with a Class 720 electric train.
  • Greater Anglia’s service between Ipswich and Cambridge would do more running under wires.

The electrification might even enable some useful electrified diversion routes.

Route 5C -Helpston to Nuneaton

I don’t know this section of the route, as well as I know the two other sections.

  • The route is double track.
  • There is a busy level crossing in the middle of Oakham.
  • There should be an adequate 25 KVAC power supply at both ends of the route.

It would appear that the route goes through Leicester station on the Midland Main Line.

As the electrification of the Midland Main Line has been postponed, how will this section of the route be handled?

But there will be benefits.

  • Electric freight between Felixstowe And The Midlands
  • Fewer freight trains would need to go via London
  • Some passenger services, like Birmingham-Stansted Airport, could be run using electric trains.

Completing all three sections will open up new possibilities for both freight and passenger services.

Route 6 – Hare Park Junction to Leeds Stourton

This is a freight route , which can be followed this way.

Electrification of this eighteen mile route, would allow freight trains with electric traction to reach the Stourton terminal.

The electrification could also be extended to Leeds station, so that passenger services on the Hallam Line, run by bi-mode trains would have an electrified route into Leeds.

Route 7 – Mountsorrel to Syston Junction and Manton Junction to Corby

Mountsorrel Quarry is one of the biggest granite quarries in Europe. It is not on the railway anymore, but is connected to the Midland Main Line at

Barton upon Soar, by a mineral conveyor.

These two short lengths of electrification connect Mountsorrel to the electrified portion of the Midland Main Line to London and by using the Felixstowe to Nuneaton route, there is access to the East and West Coast Main Lines.

Julian Worth says that thirty trains per day use the route.

Looking on Real Time Trains, they are not the mega-trains of the Mendips, but they seem to go all over England.

Route 8 – Whitacre Junction to Birch Coppice

Birch Coppice is a freight terminal and it is connected to the Birmingham Lawley Street to Nuneaton Line at Whitacre Junction, by a six mile rail link.

As in Julian Worth’s plan, the Birmingham Lawley Street to Nuneaton Line will have been electrified, it will be an logical section of wires to install.

Summarising The Routes

Summarising the routes, you get the following, once all the proposals are added to the UK’s electrified network.

  • There is a major East-West route from Felixstowe to Birmingham, that connects to the two major North-South routes; East and West Coast Main Lines and East Anglia’s Great Eastern Main Line.
  • The Reading to Taunton Line now provides an  route to the South-West for electric trains.
  • The massive quarries in the Mendips and at Mountsorrel are connected to the main electrified network.
  • The ports of Felixstowe, London Gateway and Southampton are connected to the main electrified network.
  • The inland depots of Birch Coppice, Birmingham Lawley Street and Leeds Stourton  are connected to the main electrified network.

Others may well be added.

For instance, an electrified connection to Liverpool2  along the Canada Dock Branch, which runs in places through densely-packing housing and has been looked at for a passenger service by Merseyrail.

Installing The Electrification

Traditionally, electrification schemes have been done using money directly from the Treasury.

To say, performance in recent years has been mixed would be an understatement!

With my experience of project management, I have my theories about the poor performance, but as I have no serious data to back them up, I will not put most of them in this post.

I will say however, that my observations of the electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line have led me to the conclusion, that there are not enough competent engineers, surveyors and technicians to install the current low-level of new electrification.

However, recent statements and documents from Chris Grayling about how the Southern rail access to Heathrow is to be financed, might suggest a model for electrification.

This Press Release on the Department of Transport web site, starts with these two paragraphs.

Private companies have been asked to come forward with ideas to deliver a new southern rail link to Heathrow Airport.

The link will be one of the first projects under government plans to invite third parties – such as local authorities and private sector companies – to invest in the rail network, over and above the £47 billion the government is already planning for the next 5 years.

The idea is that a private consortium would do the following.

  • Design, build and finance a new line, station or other piece of railway infrastructure.
  • Maintain it for a number of years.
  • Charge train operators a charge for using the infrastructure, in much the same way as Network Rail charge every train for track access.

If the sums add up, I suspect it is model that will work for electrification.

I will take the Felixstowe Branch Line, that I know well as an example.

The benefits of electrification on this line could be as follows.

  • Freight trains from the Port of Felixstowe using electrified lines from Ipswich, could be able to use electric haulage, which might be more affordable.
  • Greater Anglia could run Ipswich to Felixstowe services using trains running solely on electricity.
  • There would be less pollution and possibly less noise and vibration.
  • Electrification might allow faster operating speeds on the branch, which in turn would allow more freight and passenger trains.
  • The hourly passenger service between Ipswich and Felixstowe might be able to be doubled in frequency.

Currently, after the dualling at Trimley has been finished, the branch is planned to handle an hourly passenger train and around fifty freight trains per day.

It strikes me that if the contracts and charges have the right balance, that a deal could be struck with a competent consortium.

It would have the following parts.

  • The consortium would design, finance and install the electrification.
  • Installing the electrification would be done, without disturbing the passenger and freight traffic.
  • The consortium would maintain the electrification for an agreed number of years.
  • Electrification access charges would be modelled on track access charges and agreed with a regulator, such as the Office of Road and Rail.
  • Failure to provide a working electrified railway, would incur penalty charges to operators.

I feel the model could work.

  • The consortium would use best practice from around the world.
  • The consortium might encourage innovative design and working.
  • The  consortium would make sure it had the best engineers, technicians and equipment to keep the electrification in tip-top condition, as that is the best way to maximise return on capital, against a fixed income.
  • The Office of Road and Rail would ensure safety, quality and reliability.

I also feel, that one of the ways to get the electrification installed in a professional manner and then operational at an agreed date, is to get the project management right.

Too much of what I’ve seen on electrification in the UK, reminds me of the phrase – It’ll be alright on the night!

A consortium, which has to raise and justify the money it needs, can’t rely on this mantra and must be sure that if a scheme is going to cost £100 million, then.

  • The initial budget must be correct.
  • The electrification can be installed for that sum.
  • Sufficient contingency is included.

Get the first project, seriously wrong and they won’t get another of the many electrification projects in the pipeline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 25, 2018 Posted by | Finance, Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof

Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof is going through a controversial rebuilding called Stuttgart 21, so I had to choose to change trains there, between Karlsruhe and Essen.

The building opened in 1922 and was designed by Paul Bonztz. So it is almost the same age as Waterloo station.

The project is also costing about the same as the Thameslink Programme.

They all make an interesting comparison.

I can’t say that I understand what all the fuss is about.

This article on Deutsche Welle is entitled Stuttgart 21 – Germany’s Other Engineering Fiasco Goes Off The Rails.

This is the first paragraph.

Everyone in Germany has heard the jokes and seen the social media memes about Berlin’s BER airport. But the Stuttgart 21 railway project has also developed into a logistical nightmare — and a sinkhole for public money.

It doesn’t look to be a happy project.

February 15, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Slow Progress On Manchester-Preston Electrification

These pictures show the current state of the electrification of the Manchester-Preston Line at Bolton and Horwich Parkway stations.

It is a sad sight, that I have seen repeated all over England, where electrification is being installed.

As on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line progress has been slow. Except that this scheme is much slower.

It also appears that something like this is happening on electrification.

  1. A team come along and install the foundations for the gantries.
  2. Then everybody takes a long break, whilst it is worked out how to install the foundations that couldn’t be installed or had just been forgotten.
  3. A team then comes along and puts up the gantries.
  4. Then everybody takes a long break, whilst they chase up the gntries that don’t fit or haven’t been delivered.
  5. A team then comes along and decorates the gantries with the various fitments for the overhead wires.
  6. Then everybody takes a long break, whilst they chase up the faults needed to be fixed before the wires to go up.
  7. Finally, the wires are installed.

Only now,the testing can begin!

On the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, they’ve finally got all the way to Stage 7, but it has meant two major closures of the line.

On the Manchester-Preston Line, they’re still blundering around in Stage 1.

Years ago, I used to work with the Greater London Council on various projects. The Head of the Construction Branch told me, to beware of sub-contractors, who had  their fingers in lots of projects, as it inevitably led to all projects being late.

Could it be, that the electrification woes all over the UK, is that there aren’t enough competent engineers and fitters to design and erect the overhead gantries?

As the Manchester to Preston electrification was being carried out by Carillion, that wouldn’t have helped either! This probably explains the very slow progress on this project.

The competent staff are going, where they know they’ll get paid.

Network Rail’s chronic Project Management and forward planning hasn’t helped either. Crossrail has highlighted the poor state of the wires on the Great Eastern Main Line and with all the new trains due to thunder along the line in a few years time, they seem to have decided to replace all the unreliable wiring in East Anglia.

About time too!

But, this job should have been planned, resourced and carried out earlier.

So all the competent engineers and fitters are flocking to better jobs!

Conclusion

Network Rail needs to do the following.

  • Have access to a competent team of engineers and fitters, either in-house or with a reliable engineering firm.
  • Create a plan of new electrification and renewals for the next few years.
  • Stick to it.

But politicians will not allow this!

It should be noted that if the train companies use more bi-mode, hydrogen and battery-powered trains, this will increase the need for small electrification schemes to allow the new trains to run efficiently.

Hopefully, these small schemes will be of vaguely similar natures, so installation won’t be the large scale farces, we’ve seen in recent years.

 

 

 

January 22, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Struggle Continues On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line

This article in the Islington Gazette is entitled New Overground Trains ‘By Spring’ – But Five Months Of cCosures In Crouch Hill.

It appears that the following will happen on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

  • The bridge at Crouch Hill will be rebuilt to allow space for the overhead wires.
  • The diesel trains will continue on the line from the 15th of January.
  • The new electrification will be tested on the line.

Nothing is said, when the much-needed four-car Class 710 electric trains will start running on the line.

Everybody seems to be hoping for Spring, but I suspect that date is optimistic, given Network Rail’s record on this line.

The meeting or missing of the next milestone of the 15th of January, will tell us an awful lot.

I hope the surveyors and managers, who decided that the Crouch Hill bridge didn’t need to be replaced are making a better job of managing their allotments and gardens!

December 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Why Has 319448 Not Been Repainted?

In the November 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is a picture of this Class 319 train passing behind the Ordsall Chord bridge on Page 49.

The train is on the right hand page and appears not to be in the usual Northern Electrics blue.

So why has it not been painted?

319448 Is A Class 319/4 Train

319448 is a Class 319/4 trains, which are probably the best variant of the Class 319 trains, as they have been refurbished a couple of times and have a First Class section, less 2+3 seating and a Universal Access Toilet.

These pictures which show a typical Class 319/4 train, were taken when the trains were being used on Thameslink.

So preparing 319448 for service in the North-West was probably a lot easier, than some of the other Class 319 trains.

Northern probably needed an extra Class 319 train urgently and bringing it into service in Thameslink condition was probably acceptable to customers and their cash-flow.

The exterior painting and the tidying up of the interiors can probably be done later, when there is less pressure on stock numbers.

319448 Is Going To Be Converted To A Class 769 Bi-Mode Train

In the Wikipedia entry for the Class 769 train, the serial numbers of the Class 319 trains to be converted are given.

769424, 769431, 769434, 769442, 769448, 769450, 769456, 769458, 769???, 769???, 769???

Note.

  1. The first three digits identify the train class and the last three digits the train number in that class.
  2. After conversion 319424 will become 769424

According to Issue 834 of Rail Magazine, 319456 and 319434 are in Loughborough for the conversion.

So it looks like 319448 will be converted to 769448.

Northern’s Need For Class 769 Trains

The Wikipedia entry for the Class 769 train, says this about Northern’s initial use of the trains.

Northern have indicated that the use of these trains would be of most benefit on routes that are part electrified, whereby they would be able to use the pantograph for the main part, while being able to operate using diesel power away from the overhead lines. The first route to be confirmed by Northern for the running of Class 769 units was the Windermere branch line between Oxenholme and Windermere in North West England.

Once the current electrification program between Manchester and Blackpool, Preston and Stalybridge is complete, there are several partially-electrified routes, where Class 769 trains might be used in North West England.

  • Blackpool South to Colne
  • Liverpool Lime Street to Chester via Runcorn and the Halton Curve.
  • Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton
  • Manchester Piccadilly to Liverpool Lime Street via Warrington
  • Manchester Victoria to Blackburn via Todmodern and Burnley
  • Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe via Bolton and Blackburn
  • Manchester Victoria to Kirkby
  • Manchester Victoria to Southport
  • Preston to Barrow
  • Preston to Ormskirk

If the trains are a success, then surely more trains will be deployed around the electrical networks in Leeds and Newcastle.

A Possible Conversion Plan

Could the conversion of a Class 319 train to a Class 769 train be something like this multi-stage process.

1. Pre-Service Changes

The Class 319/4 trains have for several years been running without serious problems on the Thameslink route,

However, due to different operational rules, I suspect that there will be some changes that have to be carried out before the trains can run in the North. 319448 has obviously had these changes.

2, Pre-Conversion Test Running

If I’ was going to spend a lot of money converting a train, I’d give it a thorough testing with experienced drivers and engineers to make sure there wasn’t an expensive fault.

Northern have a team of drivers with lots of experience of their current fleet of thirty-two Class 319 trains.

The train could even be used in passenger service, as it is an unmodified Class 319/4 train little different to the others in Northern’s fleet.

3, Conversion To Class 769 Train

The train can then be removed from service and converted to a Class 769 train.

4, Testing And Entry Into Service

The trains can be appropriately tested.

5. Interior Refurbushment And External Painting

Doing this last is probably a lot easier, given that the Class 319/4 trains are generally in a good state cosmetically.

A Production Line Would Be Possible

I believe if you do the Project Management professionally for the conversion of the eleven trains need by Northern and the extra five for Wales, it will be possible to fit together a very orderly and efficient production line.

I can envisage that production of units getting quicker as experience is gained.

 

 

November 20, 2017 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

The Miserable Electrification Saga Of The Gospel Oak To Barking Line Electrification Continues

This article in the Waltham Forest Echo is entitled More Misery For Rail Passengers.

The article describes how yet again the Gospel Oak to Barking Line will be closed for two months to complete the electrification. This is said.

The next closure, to finally complete the work, will now commence from 6.30pm on Saturday 18th November, with trains not running again until Sunday 14th January. Staff from Network Rail, Transport for London and Arriva Rail London, the operator of London Overground, will be available to answer passengers’ questions on Wednesday 1st November at Blackhorse Road and Walthamstow Queen’s Road stations, and on Thursday 2nd November at Leytonstone High Road Station.

It is a downright disgrace and on past form, I doubt it will be the last closure.

It looks like the electrification will be delivered about a year later than planned! By any standards that it is not good project management.

October 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments