The Anonymous Widower

Farewell To The Old Gospel Oak To Barking Line

Today is the last day, that you can ride the Gospel Oak to Barking Line to the East of South Tottenham station, until after the wires are erected in a few months time.

So I took some pictures.

I must say I have not been impressed with progress so far.

  • It looks like a large proportion of the piles are in the ground.
  • If the piles are in the ground securely, why aren’t more masts erected?
  • There would appear to be no start on clearing the platform extensions.
  • Only in one place did I see a work-site.
  • I didn’t see anyone actually working.
  • There is masses of litter
  • There’s no sign of how the stations will be electrified.

With my limited experience of looking at large projects that are in trouble, this project has the air of something not being up to scratch.

What has really puzzled me about this project, is that the information coming from Network Rail and especially TfL, has not been up to the usual standard.

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Mutual Blogging

A reader of this blog, who used to be an old Artemis professional, is currently working on a large project, where there are a large number of sub-contractors and a difficult public relations problem with those, who live locally to the project.

They asked me, if a blog could solve some of his problems.

So here goes!

I would suggest, he starts a simple blog, probably using WordPress, as it is generally easily managed by an individual with average computer skills.

  • Only a tight group of individuals would be allowed to add posts to the blog.
  • Posts would be limited to so many a week.
  • Anybody would be allowed to comment, but under a set of behavioural rules and moderation, If the project is controversial, you don’t want the blog to become the focus of discontent.
  • I believe that with a difficult project, it could be a place for constructive discussion.
  • Hopefully, each post would generate comments and discussion, that improved the original post.
  • The blog would also point on its home page to useful sites concerned with the subject of the blog.
  • There would be a contact form.

If you were having a blog like this for say a public infrastructure project like Crossrail, it could be public, but a project like perhaps trialling a new treatment for a controversial-to-some illness like HIV-Aids, might be password-protected.

I think on balance most project blogs would be public.

If a system like WordPress is used, all of what I said is possible. And a lot more too!

North of me, they are electrifying the Gospel Oak to Barking Line and there has been a bit of controversy over noisy piling in the middle of the night.

A simple post apologising for the noise and giving locations may have eased the problems. You might even get comments to the blog from those overlooking the piling, which show the details of the engineering and the generated noise.

You can never be sure, the way that such a blog will develop.

But I’m sure it will work, to improve the smooth running of a project.

May 18, 2016 Posted by | Computing, World | , , | Leave a comment

What Is Happening On The Midland Metro?

I am looking forward to taking a train to Birmingham and then getting on a tram of the Midland Metro at New Street station.

This article in Construction Enquirer is entitled Balfour months late on £127m Birmingham Metro  and gives some details of the delays.

But surely, this project should have been delivered some months ago?

The article also says that the trams will reach Centenary Square in 2019. As these will be battery operated trams, it does seem a rather long time to create just a few stops without any catenary.

Compare the progress of expansion in Birmingham to that in Manchester, where a much more complicated Second City Crossing is being built and you come to some interesting conclusions about Birmingham and the delivery of projects for the Midland Metro..


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

Will There Be An Eight-Month Closure On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line?

This has been stated in several articles on the Internet, but I’ll use this article from London 24 entitled Barking to Gospel Oak Overground line “to close for EIGHT months this year”. This is said.

A closure is necessary so the diesel stock can be replaced with electric trains and to increase capacity on the hugely-overcrowded route.

A £60m contract was awarded to J. Murphy and Sons to electrify the line in September last year but there has been no announcement from the Department of Transport, Network Rail or TfL.

London24 understands negotiations have been ongoing between the organisations over the length and nature of the closure while electrification takes place.

Shutting it will cause mayhem for thousands of passengers who will have to find alternative routes, which will often take longer and be more expensive.

I have also heard from a reliable source that there will be an eight month closure and the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBlin) will open with new trains.

I feel that Murphys are electrifying the line in a novel way and I wrote about it in Are We Seeing A New Approach To Electrification On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line?

I have no specific or private information, but only what I have read in the media or seen with my own eyes.

I will of course be using my own experience of many years of supporting and observing large projects.

What Would Be An Acceptable Closure?

In Summer 2015. the Victoria Line was closed for two months, to replace a cross-over at Walthamstow Central. This was just about acceptable to the locals, but the alternative routes and Rail Replacement Buses coped.

At the right time of the year, I suspect that the residents of North London could endure a closure of perhaps 3-4 months. But of course, they’d prefer it, if there wasn’t any closures, except for odd days at weekends.

At least there are alternative routes.

  • The upgraded Victoria Line can help between Walthamstow and Upper Holloway, with assistance from buses.
  • After the 17th April, there would appear to be no North London Line closures.
  • The Victoria Line to Highbury and Islington can partly replace going to Gospel Oak for the North London Line.
  • There are a couple of out of station interchanges.

Freight trains can be routed via the North London Line.

How Much Work Can Be Done?

The key to doing anything, is the number of hours that work can be done and the amount of resources that can be used.

This is the current list of closures on the GOBlin.

  • Sun 31 Jan 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sun 07 Feb 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 14 Feb 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 21 Feb 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 28 Feb 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 06 Mar 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 20 Mar 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 27 Mar 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 03 Apr 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 10 Apr 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 16 to Sun 17 Apr 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 23 to Sun 24 Apr 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 30 Apr to Mon  02 May 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 07 to Sun 08 May 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 14 to Sun 15 May 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 21 to Sun 22 May 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 28 to Tue 31 May 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 04 to Sun 05 Jun 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 11 to Sun 12 Jun 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 18 to Sun 19 Jun 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 25 to Sun 26 Jun 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 02 to Sun 03 Jul 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 09 to Sun 10 Jul 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 16 to Sun 17 Jul 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 23 to Sun 24 Jul 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking

No long closure seems to have been announced yet!

Note the following.

  • There doesn’t appear to be any working day closures, so it would appear that Transport for London/Network Rail are looking after the passengers! And the revenue!
  • I should also say, that an engineer working on an unrelated station project in London, said that it was typical to work on a twenty-four hour basis. Thus a weekend closure could give over fifty continuous hours for working.
  • There are two longer closures in May at the Bank Holidays, so what is planned for these weekends?
  • None of the work is in tunnels!
  • The line could be blockaded at night to allow work to continue all through the night.
  • Important freight could use the North London Line.
  • The line connects a string of roads together, where there are various facilities like cafes and shops. I bet if someone is peckish at two in the morning, they can get a sandwich.
  • I would suspect, that they will apply some of the lessons learned at Dawlish.
  • J Murphy and Sons have a reputation for using lots of sub-contractors.
  • A lot of the work is taking place close to Murphy’s depot!
  • They can get the lights out and use the summer months to great advantage.
  • Days can be used to get everything ready for the following night’s work.
  • The extension of the line to Barking Riverside can be done later after the GOBlin has reopened.

I think that someone is doing a universe-class project management job and has realised that by clever working practices and selected weekend and overnight closures, there could be masses of time and resources available for the job.

Could this explain, that when the eight month closure is discussed, Mike Stubbs from London Overground is always quoted as saying no final decision has been made?

Perhaps every day, project managers are telling him a smaller and less disruptive figure.

Have the freight companies been told, that the line will be closed to them for eight months, so they can plan accordingly? It would be very sensible and I suspect they have already made alternative arrangements.

I think that Murphy’s orange army will get an amazing amount of actual work done before the end of 2016.

If the electrification gets delivered on time and budget, a great number of men and women, will be telling their grandchildren exaggerated tales about how they rebuilt London’s railways!


One problem is the Class 710 trains, as they can’t be delivered until 2018, so I suspect that opening after the eight month closure with new trains, should be opening with four-car electric trains.

In a section in my related post entitled Where Are The Trains?, I said this.

I believe that the Class 387 trains, are the only acceptable and available trains, that will be available to open the service after an eight-month blockade.

Nothing else except some old trains from British Rail’s dustbin are available.

The Class 387 trains will be available as Bombardier have sorted the production. I wrote about this in Class 387 Trains On Track

Political Considerations

In May we have the London Mayoral Election and if there is an eight-month blockade of the GOBlin, I don’t think it would be to Zac Goldsmith’s advantage.

But supposing by mid-April a plan has been published and evidence of masts and wires is creeping along between Gospel Oak and Barking!

So why has the eight months closure been so widely publicised?

I’m no spin-doctor, but wouldn’t it be better to give people low expectations and then say that there’ll be new electric trains at the end of the year.

A couple of months ago, Modern Railways published an editorial saying Network Rail needed a win to restore their image in the eyes of the general public.

Could this be their strategy to go for a win?

If it fails, it will be an own goal of horrendous proportions.


I am led to the following conclusions.

  • Between now and December 2016, there is a very large number of man-hours available to electrify the GOBlin.
  • The line can be blockaded every night and work could continue under lights
  • Eight four-car Class 387 trains could be borrowed to start the electric service.
  • Zac Goldsmith, Boris Johnson, Network Rail and Peter Hendy, and J. Murphy and Sons have a lot to gain if this line is electrified on time and on budget.

I have a feeling that if we don’t get biblical rain, plague and pestilence, London is in for a surprise.

January 28, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts On The Gospel Oak To Barking Electrification

The electrification of the Gospel Oak To Barking Line (GOBlin), is the closest I’ve been to an electrification project since the nineteen-sixties when I was travelling up and down between London and Liverpool, through the electrification on the West Coast Main Line.

Yesterday, I took a look at the start of work at Gospel Oak station. Thinking about what I saw, it strikes me that everything is much better organised than it has been in some places in the past.

Perhaps, they’re doing their project management in a lot better way.


As an illustration of project performance, I have read that not knowing where signalling cables were buried, was a big problem on the electrification of the Great Western Railway. So out of curiosity, I searched the Internet for any reports about the state of the signalling on the GOBlin.

I found this web page on the Sweett Group web site, which is entitled Gospel Oak To Barking Electrification. This was a brief summary of the work they did.

Sweett Group was engaged by TfL to review and validate the Grip 3 estimate prepared by Network Rail in order to assist TfL in the determination of their funding contribution.

Reading the whole of the report, leads me to the conclusion that TfL wanted to make sure, that the only surprises they get on this project, will be positive ones.

As to signalling, very little is said, except this.

In addition, modifications to existing signalling had to be carried out in order to overcome conflicts with signal sighting caused by OLE support structures and to accommodate the introduction of longer freight trains.

So in answer to my original question on signalling, it looks like most of it is in good order.

Line Closures

Will planned closures of the line tell us anything? This web page from TfL details all their line closures for the next six months.

Those specific to the GOBlin are.

  • Sun 10 Jan 16 – South Tottenham to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 17 Jan 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 24 Jan 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sun 31 Jan 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sun 07 Feb 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 14 Feb 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 21 Feb 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 28 Feb 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 06 Mar 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 20 Mar 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 27 Mar 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 03 Apr 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking until 12:00
  • Sun 10 Apr 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 16 to Sun 17 Apr 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 23 to Sun 24 Apr 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 30 Apr to Mon  02 May 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 07 to Sun 08 May 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 14 to Sun 15 May 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 21 to Sun 22 May 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking
  • Sat 28 to Tue 31 May 16 – Gospel Oak to Barking

There are also a few closures of the North London Line, that start at Gospel Oak.

  • Fri 01 Jan to Sun 03 Jan 16 – Gospel Oak to Stratford from 22:00
  • Sun 21 Feb 16 – Gospel Oak to Stratford
  • Sun 28 Feb 16 – Gospel Oak to Stratford
  • Sun 06 Mar 16 – Gospel Oak to Stratford
  • Sun 20 Mar 16 – Gospel Oak to Stratford

The first is an interesting one, as it is this weekend, when the contractors are known to be piling for overhead wires, late into the night.

On all the other four Sundays, the GOBlin is closed all or part of the day.

Surely, you wouldn’t close both routes across North London, unless you wanted to work on both at the same time!

Could the contractors be wiring up Gospel Oak Junction and Platform 3 at Gospel Oak station?

These are my overall comments.

  1. Monday to Friday passengers won’t have to suffer many replacement bus services.
  2. Something is planned for the Spring Bank Holiday Weekend
  3. As there is no closures scheduled in June, it looks like May 31st will mark a natural break in the project.
  4. Someone has been doing some very good project management.

It will be fascinating to take a look on Mondays for the next few months, to see what has been completed.

Space To Work

I wonder if anybody has ever done any research on the performance of the amount of space available to building projects.

What surprised me yesterday, as my train trundled between Harringay Green Lanes and Gospel Oak stations, was how much space was available and it had all been cleared of vegetation.

I hope this is a sign that they mean to carry on as they’ve started.

Having looked at many large projects in the actuality, I strongly believe that a project with lots of space, that is kept tidy, is more likely to be delivered on time and on budget.

Today, I also followed the line on a Google Map and virtually all the way from Gospel Oak station to Leyton Midland Road station, there are green verges, several metres deep on both sides of the tracks.

Look at this section of the line from Crouch Hill to South Tottenham stations.

Crouch Hill To South Tottenham

Crouch Hill To South Tottenham

Note all the green space, especially where the line crosses the East Coast Main Line, where a chord is to be electrified.

This space must contribute to a successful project.

Obviously towards the east, where the line is on a Victorian embankment is going to be more challenging.

Murphy’s Contract

A lot more detail on the GOBlin electrification is given in this article in Rail Technology Magazine, which is entitled J Murphy & Sons to carry out electrification of Gospel Oak-Barking route. This is said.

J Murphy & Sons Limited will carry out electrification works along the 12-mile line from Gospel Oak to Barking on the Anglia route, after winning the £56.9m contract from Network Rail.

The contract, which was awarded three months later than originally expected, will allow work to start on the ‘Goblin’ project in October. 

In some ways, I was surprised, the contract was awarded to Murphy, as I didn’t think they were noted for doing rail electrification. I know them as a well-respected London contractor, who have been around since my childhood. Their premises are actually close to the line, which must help.

I know it said that the project would start in October and it just made a start in 2015, but at least it’s got going. The article says this about the project timeline.

The electrification contract runs until April 2017 but, if carried out according to the planned timeline, “major on-site works” will commence in June 2016 with services ready to operate a year later. Network Rail’s official classification of the works is for GRIP stages 4-8: ‘Main Works – Civils, Structure, Building, Track, & Bonding’.

This gives the intriguing prospect, that the electrification could take twelve months. This question has to be asked – Have major on-site works already started?

Even if they haven’t, judging by the noise at Gospel Oak something has started and that completion date of April 2017, is starting to look very feasible and just in time for the May 2017 timetable change.


Not all stations can accept the new four-car Class 710 trains or are to the standard passengers expect these days.

  • Gospel Oak – Disabled access, lifts, coffee stall – Platform needs extending.
  • Upper Holloway – Disabled access, ramps – Platforms need extending by reopening closed sections – Road bridge by station is being replaced by the end of 2017.
  • Crouch Hill – Stairs-only access – Platforms need extending by reopening closed sections
  • Harringay Green Lanes – Disabled access, ramps – Platforms need extending
  • South Tottenham – Disabled access, lifts – Platform needs extending.
  • Blackhorse Road – Stairs-only access – Disabled access in planning – Platforms need extending
  • Walthamstow Queen’s Road – Disabled access, ramps – Platforms need extending by reopening closed sections
  • Leyton Midland Road – Stairs-only access – Platforms need extending by reopening closed sections.
  • Leytonstone High Road – Stairs-only access – Platforms need extending by reopening closed sections.
  • Wanstead Park – Stairs-only access – Platforms need extending by reopening closed sections.
  • Woodgrange Park – Stairs-only access – Platforms need extending by reopening closed sections.
  • Barking – Disabled access, lift

So of the twelve stations on the line seven need platforms to be extended by reopening closed section, four need new extensions and six need improvements to the disabled access.

It will be interesting to see what is completed other than the necessary platform extensions, before the electric trains run.


The Rail Technology Magazine article also details the scope of the electrification.

In addition to wiring from Gospel Oak to Barking and both the terminal platforms, the following will be electrified.

  • Carlton Road Junction to Junction Road Junction – Connects to the Midland Main Line
  • Upper Holloway Reception Line
  • Harringay Park Junction to Harringay Junction – Connects to the East Coast Main Line

Note that there is no mention of the extension of the line to Barking Riverside.

Electrification work has obviously started at the easier Gospel Oak end of the line, so I think we can assume that Murphy and a lot of sub-contractors are pulling out all the stops to get this job finished on time.

One problem they don’t have is getting power to the new electrification, as it connects to several electrified lines.

There is also only twelve miles to electrify.

I think we could well be seeing, the electrification completed and the platforms lengthened, before the Class 710 trains are delivered.

Class 710 Trains

The Class 710 Trains ordered for the line are unlikely to arrive before May 2018. But I suspect that TfL will find something to run services.

They could even hire some of Porterbrook’s speculative build of Class 387 trains, or perhaps borrow some of the redundant and very ugly Class 319 trains.

After all, they only need eight trains of four-cars each.

Extension To Barking Riverside

It looks like, that this will be done, after the main project has been completed.


It looks like the following will happen.

  • Due to some rather excellent project management, that finally the Gospel Oak to Barking Line will be electrified and capable of running four-car electric trains.
  • It’s not the biggest of projects, that could be fairly straightforward.
  • The completion of the electrification project could be as early as April 2017.
  • The trains, unless they rustle up some from elsewhere, will probably be delivered later.
  • There will be little if any interruption to the important Monday to Friday service of the line during electrification.
  • More freight trains will be hauled by electric locomotives in the near future.

I can’t see anybody complaining about all that!



January 1, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

What Really Happened At Walthamstow Central

I heard a lot of complaints about the closure of the Victoria Line in August. So I was pleased to see this article in Rail Engineer entitled Life is not a rehearsal… but pumping concrete can be!

As detailed by Transport for London this is a summary of what needed to be done.

Improvement work planned this summer by London Underground (LU) will lead to the operation of 36 trains per hour. From April 2016, this will provide a train every 100 seconds during peak hours, making the Victoria line the UK’s highest frequency railway and comparable with the very best in the world. All peak-time trains will run the full length of the line from Walthamstow Central to Brixton, giving a 40% capacity boost for customers northeast of Seven Sisters.

But it wasn’t that simple to achieve and the Rail Engineer article explains the main problem of a crossing at Walthamstow.

The trackwork kept pace with the times, but wasn’t shiny and, of course, it was out of sight. At Walthamstow – the end of the line – the track arrangement ended in a scissors crossover. For the non-pway engineers, this is a compact and complex track arrangement where terminating trains arriving at the crossover from the south in the northbound tunnel can be routed into either of the two platforms at Walthamstow Central, then routed back from either platform into the southbound tunnel.

Changing it wasn’t simple and they used every trick in the book to do the project.

  • A bespoke overhead crane was installed at the crossover, for ease of working, and after the job was completed it was left behind in the tunnel, so it could be used again if needed.
  • A number of demolition techniques were used to remove the old track and its concrete base.
  • They even wrapped the new track in polythene, so that no concrete got on the rails.
  • They had actually rehearsed the major concrete pouring which required fifty truck-loads of concrete in the open at Acton Depot.

The major outcome is that the speed of trains through the crossing has been raised from 20 mph to 35 mph, which is necessary to achieve thirty-six trains an hour through London.

Read the full article.

This is the sort of project that would make good television!

Except for one thing!

Nothing went wrong and the project was delivered thirty-six hours early.



October 5, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Is Northern Electrification Going To Use Battery Trains?

This report on the BBC is entitled Network Rail to restart electrification of train lines. This is said.

The electrification of two railway lines is to be restarted after the projects were halted so a review could be carried out, the government says.

Work on the TransPennine Express Railway – between Manchester and York – and Midland Mainline – from London to Sheffield – was paused in June.

Sir Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail, said the “temporary pause” had “given us the space to develop a better plan”

The Aventra IPEMU

Looking at the electrification of the two lines in posts over the previous few days, I have come to the conclusion that properly engineered battery trains built by Bombardier in Derby called Aventra IPEMUs (Independently Powered Electrical Multiple Units) could charge their batteries on existing sections of electrification and jump the gaps at speeds of up to at least 110 mph and possibly 125 mph, by running on batteries.

If that sounds like something that is too good to be true, I don’t believe it is! I was impressed when as a paying passenger, I rode the prototype train between Manningtree and Harwich.

For those who think that a battery train is just so-much Mickey Mouse-technology, note that the battery supplier; Valence is linked to Tessla; the electric vehicle manufacturer. A review of their latest car is on Autocar. The biggest problem with the car is not the power, range and performance, but the time it takes to charge the car from a typical supply. In addition to the overhead wire or third rail of the railway, an Aventra IPEMU has to charge the battery, the train will also charge the batteries using the regenerative braking system.

The TransPennine Line

On the TransPennine Line from Liverpool to Newcastle, the only gap in the electrification is the forty-three miles between Leeds and Manchester.

Aventra IPEMUs have a range of sixty miles, so Liverpool to Newcastle would be electric all the way and could be faster by up to thirty minutes on the current three hour journey.

Read Jumping The Electrification Gap Between Leeds And Manchester for full details on what it would entail.

The Midland Main Line

On the Midland Main Line, the electrification reaches from St. Pancras to Bedford.

As Corby, Kettering and Leicester are all within an Aventra IPEMU’s range from Bedford, these places could be served by these trains, once a certain amount of track and station work had been completed.

Read Thoughts On Midland Main Line Electrification for full details.

Delivering The Projects

The BBC article says this about the schedule.

The TransPennine upgrade is expected to provide capacity for six “fast or semi-fast trains” per hour between Manchester, Leeds and York , reducing journey times by up to 15 minutes.

The Manchester to York section of the work is now planned to be completed by 2022.

Once completed, the whole line from Liverpool to Newcastle will be fully electrified, the Department for Transport added.

The electrification of Midland Mainline north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby will now be completed by 2019, and the line north of Kettering to Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and to Sheffield will finish by 2023.

My project management knowledge and observations of Network Rail, say that to get electric trains to Kettering and Corby by 2019, would be a very tight schedule to perform on a working railway using conventional electrification!

But if it were needed to replace the current Class 222 trains with Aventra IPEMUs, it would just be a matter of certifying the line for the new Aventra IPEMUs and training the drivers and other staff.

There would be little or no work outside in the elements and all of the electrification would effectively be done in a comfortable warm factory at Derby!

I also feel that if say Network Rail said that the projects would be delivered on a particular date, that the risk of non-delivery would be very small.

Aventra IPEMUs can’t be delivered earlier, as the Derby factory will be jammed solid with production of Aventras for Crossrail.

On the other hand to prove the concept, would Bombardier modify a Class 387 train to create an IPEMU variant to run in passenger service between St.Pancras and Corby. Note that there have already been rumours of Class 387 IPEMU variants for Great Western Railway.

I wouldn’t be surprised if such a train is created, as it would be a superb way to identify any problems, train staff, prove the credibility of battery trains to a sceptical public and even deliver  electric trains earlier.

A Cunning Plan

There are twenty seven Class 387 trains running on the Thameslink route at the moment, that will be replaced by Class 700 trains between 2016 and 2018.

As the Great Western Main Line won’t be electrified to Newbury, Swindon and Oxford until 2019 or whatever, there does seem to be the possibility of some very new Class 387 trains going into storage.

But as they are very similar to the Class 379 that was used for the IPEMU demonstrator, I do wonder if those clever engineers at Bombardier could convert some of these 110 mph trains into an IPEMU variant that could be used on services on TransPennine and the Midland Main Line.

If there were any spare Class 379 trains, I’m sure that other train companies would find a use for them! Especially, if Bombardier developed a plug-in battery system for the trains, so they could be used to prove if IPEMUs improved the lot of passengers on secondary lines.

You have to make your assets sweat.


I may be wrong, but I can’t see any other way to meet the schedule that has been published, unless some form of IPEMU is used to bridge the gaps in electrification..

It could be said that the North needs fast electric trains now and George Osborne needs them by 2020, as he has an election to win!

It might not matter much to most people if the trains didn’t run until say August 2020, but George Osborne would be unlikely to win an election in May 2020, if the trains were not delivered and running smoothly.


September 30, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Alternative Approach To Provide A Local Metro Network

The UK rail industry is looking at the creation or upgrading of three local metro networks Bristol, Cardiff and Teesside. You could also argue, that they are seriously thinking about local networks out of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The Objectives Of A Metro Network

So what do passengers and train companies want to see in a metro?

I would say that the most successful metro lines we have created in the last few years have been the London Overground lines.

They operate under the following rules and principles.

  • Quality electric trains – Quality diesels would be fine in some places
  • Frequencies of four trains an hour. – Two or three trains per hour might suffice.
  • Clean stations, many of which are step-free.
  • A station improvement program.
  • Reliable service.
  • Visible staff on stations from first to last trains.
  • Extensive and visible information and maps.
  • Touch in and out ticketing with bank cards.
  • Good links to local buses.

The major problem of the Overground is that the trains keep needing to be lengthened, as they get crowded. The Class 378 trains started at three-cars and are now five.

Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Liverpool seem to be using similar principles.

So how do three proposed metro networks stack up?


Let’s look at the electrification of the Cardiff Valleys Lines. According to the Wikipedia, the cost of the electrification is £350million.

I just wonder, if the scheme could be made more affordable, if the project was redesigned to use Aventra IPEMUs. The trains would obviously need sufficient electrification at Cardiff and Newport, so that they would leave the coast for their trips up the valleys with a full charge. Coming down wouldn’t be a problem and as the trains have regenerative braking, they would even charge the batteries.

Extensive testing would be easy once the current is switched on at Cardiff in a couple of years time and the clincher would be if an Aventra IPEMU could take a full load of Welshmen up to Merthyr Tydfil or Ebbw Vale after an international rugby match at the Millennium Stadium.

The scope of work would be greatly reduced.

  • Upgrading all stations to take a four car train.
  • Upgrading of the track layout and signalling, so that four car-trains could use each branch in an efficient manner.
  • There may be a need for some selective electrification, to ensure trains left fully charged, or for other operational reasons concerning diversions from the South Wales Main Line or for freight.

There are advantages to this approach.

  • Passengers get shiny new four-car trains, instead of refurbished hand-me-downs.
  • As money would be spent on trains, track and signalling rather than electrification, this could mean more trains and increased frequencies on the lines.
  • The Aventra trains could also take over some longer distance services to Bristol, Cheltenham, Fishguard and Gloucester.
  • Much of the network, probably only needs minimal upgrades to track and signalling.
  • There would be little or no heavy construction work in difficult places.
  • Much of the construction work on the stations has probably been completed.
  • There would be few line closures during the construction phase.
  • Bridges and tunnels that are not large enough to accept the overhead wires can be left as they are, unless the line is being opened up for freight traffic running to a larger gauge.
  • A higher proportion of the work to do will be general construction, rather than specialist overhead line installation, where there is a chronic shortage of engineers.
  • There is little scope for something to go seriously wrong.
  • The major source of delay would be late delivery of the Aventra IPEMU trains, but this would only mean that the diesel trains that currently work the line, would continue to serve the line for longer.

It strikes me that this approach has only one loser – the construction companies, who have helped create the electrification fiasco we have in this country. Passengers, train companies and the Welsh economy would all benefit!

According to this article on Global Rail News, London Overground’s contract for 45 Aventra trains is worth £260million. This works out at around £5.8million for each train. If the Aventra trains could work the Cardiff Valley Lines, with a little bit extra for the batteries or other energy storage device, twenty trains would probably cost around £140million or £7million a train.

I don’t know how many four-car trains they’d need to work the Valley Lines, but surely there is a trade-off between electrification and Aventra IPEMUs.

I can’t believe that Network Rail are not looking at this alternative approach, where instead of spending money on expensive and difficult electrification, the money is spent on shiny new trains built in a nice warm factory.


The Tees Valley Metro is rather stillborn. The only thing that happened was the creation of James Cook station.

But there are two small electrification projects that could happen in the area in the near future.

  • Hitachi are building electric trains at Newton Aycliffe and this will probably mean that the Tees Valley Line will at least be electrified between the Hitachi factory and the East Coast Main Line at Darlington.
  • Plans exist to electrify between Middlesbrough and the East Coast Main Line, so that the town could benefit from a much improved train service.

If say this electrification were to be sufficient so that Aventra IPEMUs could be fully charged as they travelled from say Saltburn to Bishop Auckland, Phase 1 of the proposed Tees Valley Metro would get the new trains it will need.

Improve the stations and add a few new ones and you’d have a local railway to rival any in the UK.

In some ways if Aventra IPEMUs were used to develop the Metro everything would be in the opposite order to the traditional way of rebuilding a local line.

Normally, you close a line at great inconvenience to everyone, do a lot of construction and then spend months testing the new trains or trams, before a grand opening.

Compare this to upgrading a new line to run Aventra IPEMUs,

  1. Any work on the line to perhaps lengthen platforms and passing loops, and update signalling would be done first.
  2. Provided there is enough electrification to charge the trains, Aventra IPEMUs can be introduced alongside the existing trains, as they arrive from the factory and drivers and other staff have been trained.
  3. Adding new stations, is just a series of small well-defined construction projects, programmed to be done at convenient times and according to the budget.
  4. Other existing lines can be added to the system, if they are within the capability of the train and the platforms, track and signalling can accept the new trains.

A local network can be built by stealth in a series of small steps.

In Teesside’s case, you would certainly add the Phase 2 of the proposed Teesside Metro between Nunthorpe and Hartlepool.

An interesting possibility would be the Esk Valley Line to Whitby, if the Aventra IPEMU could manage the distance. If it couldn’t a Vivarail D-train certainly could.

Looking at the map, I feel that an Aventra IPEMU could be used on the Northern Rail service from Hexham via Newcastle, Sunderland, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough to Nunthorpe. It would charge the batteries running through Middlesbrough and Newcastle, and I don’t think any of the unelectrified stretches of line are more than thirty miles.


Bristol has plans for creating a Metro, based on the two stations at Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway, which will be electrified (hopefully!) in the near future.

There are lines going all over the place providing services from outlying suburbs and towns to the centre.

Bristol has an opportunity to create a metro in the area, by upgrading all of the lines so they can take four-car trains, with longer platforms and updated track, signalling and stations. But in common with the rest of the country, there isn’t really any sensible trains available, although services could be developed using a collection of Pacers, D-trains and dodgy diesel unit.

However, once the two main stations are electrified, when the budget allows, Aventra IPEMUs could be introduced to the network.

So instead of one massive and expensive project, the metro is created in a series of small steps that don’t inconvenience passengers or train companies.

Other Services

When I discussed Teesside, I said this.

Looking at the map, I feel that an Aventra IPEMU could be used on the Northern Rail service from Hexham via Newcastle, Sunderland, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough to Nunthorpe. It would charge the batteries running through Middlesbrough and Newcastle, and I don’t think any of the unelectrified stretches of line are more than thirty miles.

How many other lines and services fall into this category of lengths of electrified line joined by no more than a total of sixty miles of unelectrified line that can easily be bridged by an Aventra IPEMU running on batteries?

I think these lines could fit the profile.

  • Blackpool South to Colne – When Blackpool electrification is finished
  • Carlisle to Newcastle
  • Hexham to Middlesbrough
  • Liverpool and Manchester Victoria to Leeds, York and Newcastle – The gap is just 43 miles
  • Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Oxford Road via Warrington Central

Many are currently served by Pacers and others are served by diesel multiple units like Class 150 or Class 156 trains, that could in turn replace Pacers.

The most significant line is the TransPennine route from Liverpool to Newcastle, which could really transform travel by being run by four-car Aventra IPEMUs rather than inadequate three-car Class 185 diesel trains.

Someone at Bombardier has done a very good job in designing a train to circumvent the problems of electrification in the UK.

Project Costs And Cash Flows

I would be interested to see properly audited figures for the traditional electrification approach and one using Aventra IPEMUs.

There are surely various benefits that the Aventra IPEMU approach will bring to the costs.

  • The costs of the trains will be just a matter of negotiation, whereas the cost of electrification is not so predictable.
  • Enlarging bridges and tunnels to take the overhead wires, is an expensive process and often results in unexpected problems, that cost a fortune to solve. With the Aventra IPEMU, most infrastructure can be left untouched, unless it needs to be replaced anyway.
  • Most construction to accept the new trains, will be small projects, that can be handled by any competent construction company, whereas overhead line installation is a specialist construction job.
  • Electrification often seems to attract those who object to the overhead line equipment spoiling the view of an important rural landscape or cityscape. Aventra IPEMUs only need sufficient to charge the batteries.
  • With the Aventra IPEMU approach some new trains could be working on the network much earlier than they would be under a traditional approach. In some projects, will this have a beneficial cash flow?

I also come to the conclusion, that the Aventra IPEMU approach is more likely to deliver an affordable project on budget to an agreed time-scale, as the risk profile of electrification is so much worse than building a train on a production line in a factory.

One of the benchmarks of good project management is being able to deliver what is agreed. I believe that an Aventra IPEMU approach is much more likely to hit targets, as there is much less to go wrong.

Railways in the UK need a succession of successful projects, that impress engineers, train companies and passengers alike.

What better way to restore their credibility than for Network Rail, to deliver a series of projects that give millions of passengers efficient new electric train services all over the country.



September 22, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is This Rail Project Going Nowhere?

There are no good vibes coming from the Coventry Arena station.

This article on the Coventry Telegraph web site is entitled Ricoh Arena station matchday fiasco could see new train operator take over Nuneaton to Coventry line. This is said.

London Midland says it will have to close the station for an hour after games and major events as it can only provide an hourly service for 75 people due to a lack of trains.

But the DfT has invested about £4.75m towards the £13.6m of improvements along the line and is keen to see the route used to its full potential.

I have used three stations regularly to go to see football in the last year; Ipswich, Norwich and Brighton. These three grounds are all about the same size as the Ricoh Arena and have nearby stations that can cope with large crowds. Both Ipswich and Norwich are commuter stations and run half-hourly eight-coach trains amongst others, away from the grounds. Brighton is a new ground and the service relies on four-coach trains going in both directions to clear the spectators. Of the three Brighton is probably the most crowded.

So I would think that it essential that at least four-car trains should be provided at the Ricoh Arena to ferry passengers to Coventry and Nuneaton.

Six car trains would be better, but as many passengers would just be ferried to Coventry, four would probably be enough.

It strikes me that whoever planned this line, never went to see football or rugby at a stadium close to a rail station. Close to Coventry, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton all have stadiums within walking distance of a station.

Another article in the Coventry Telegraph is entitled London Underground tube trains could be used to sort Ricoh Arena station fiasco.

These Vivarail trains may be a solution, if two three-car units can be coupled together.

But are the platforms long enough to accept a six-car train?

I have found a document entitled Coventry Arena Specific Safety Management Plans, which has been produced by Arup.

In an Appendix, the report details how the fans will be transferred between Coventry and Coventry Arena stations.

An additional shuttle service will operate between Coventry and Coventry Arena on certain event days, at 30 minute intervals. This will provide a 15 minute interval service between the two stations. All services will be scheduled to run from the Up platform at Coventry Arena and platforms 1 or 2 at Coventry (though in times of operational disruption these services can use platform 5). All services will be formed by DMU sets of a maximum of 6 cars. Platforms at Coventry Arena and Platform 5 at Coventry are configured for this length; the other platforms at Coventry can accommodate longer trains.

At least the platforms are long enough!

So it looks to me that no-one told London Midland.


September 13, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Not Much Going On At Oxford Station

Oxford station is being upgraded in two ways.

A New Southern Platform

According to this section on Further Expansion in Wikipedia, a new Southern platform is to be created on the Long Stay car park to the South of the station. This is said.

The new platform was to have been brought into use during 2011.

When I last looked this morning, we are now in 2015.

Project Evergreen 3

Chiltern Railways are implementing Project Evergreen 3 to bring services from Marylebone to Oxford. Wikipedia says that this is being done at Oxford station.

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

All this should be done by 2016. This article on Modern Railways  gives more details about the proposed Chiltern service.

So when I arrived at Oxford station, I expected it to be a hive of activity. These are the pictures I took.

There isn’t even a man in an orange suit trying to look busy! Although the platforms were!

Perhaps this is how Oxford would like to welcome visitors? Hoping perhaps they might stay away!

I think one of the toughest jobs in the world must be a Project Manager in Network Rail. Passengers are rightly complaining that stations are cramped and need building or rebuilding and sometimes it’s impossible to get anything done for whatever reason. Then you have politicians on all sides complaining and saying it’s a total disgrace!

Hopefully Sir Peter Hendy and his new broom will go in to projects like Oxford station with all guns blazing and tell a few home truths.

I’m sure, if Oxford doesn’t want an updated station, then there are some nice projects in Birmingham, where the money would be appreciated.

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment