The Anonymous Widower

A Side-Effect Of Northern’s Plan To Use Class 769 Trains Across Manchester

It would appear that Northern will use some Class 769 trains on routes across Manchester’s electrified core to connect two lines without electrification.

I think that one route could be to connect Clitheroe on the Ribble Valley Line to Buxton on the Buxton Line.

These two branches could be connected by an electrified line between Hazel Grove and Bolton stations, outside of which they’d generate their own power using on-board diesel alternators.

Pacers, Class 150 trains or Class 156 trains currently work the two lines without electrification, but if it was designed to create a North-South cross-Manchester service, Class 769 trains could easily handle the extended route.

Northern have around a hundred Pacers and have pledged to remove all of them from service. Probably, most will go to the scrapyard, but some might end up with enthusiasts or masochists, or in strange export markets.

  • A 75 mph two-car train like a Class 150/156 train or a Pacer would be replaced with a 90 mph four-car train. Which must speed up and improve the service.
  • Capacity would be increased by at least one car in each replacement train.
  • If a Pacer is replaced on the route, it goes out of service.
  • If a Class 156 train is replaced it goes elsewhere to kick a Pacer out of service.
  • If a Class 150 train is replaced, it probably gets a good refurbishment to kick a Pacer out of service.

So as each new Class 769 train enters service, it can push a Pacer out of service and replace it with a better train.

The same probably occurs when a Class 319 train enters service on the Northern network, if it directly replaces another train.

Passengers on their local line, might not see a new electric train, but their Pacers will gradually be replaced with better stock.

Then as the brand-new trains from CAF get introduced in a couple of years, everybody will see better trains.

In some businesses, you might think it a way to con the customers. But here, they’ll just see a process of continuous improvement of the rolling stock on their regular journeys.

December 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Could Platform 13 And 14 At Manchester Piccadilly Station Be Improved?

I took this picture on the island platform 13 /14, at Manchester Piccadilly station on my trip to the North last week.

I actually took the picture, as I wanted to check if the lines were electrified, which can be seen.

Services Through Manchester Victoria, Manchester Piccadilly and Salford Crescent Stations

After the current works on the Ordsall Chord has been completed, Manchester Victoria, Manchester Piccadilly and Salford Crescent stations will form a triangle of lines and stations, through which services passing through Manchester will travel. This map from Wikipedia shows the lines in a simplified form.

Note the lines to Leeds, Bolton, Liverpool, Warrington, Stockport. It is a real Crossrails of the North.

The only similar intensive set of railway junctions in a city with multiple terminal stations is be the tangle of lines across the South Bank of the Thames in London encompassing London Bridge, Cannon Street, Blackfriars, Waterloo East and Charing Cross stations. This map from Wikipedia shows the lines in a simplified form.

Simple it is not!

As an aside it should be noted that Thameslink is planned to run twenty-four trains per hour (tph), through the central core tunnel, of which sixteen tph stop at both Blackfriars and London Bridge stations. Add in the 14 tph terminating at Charing Cross and the 16 tph terminating at Cannon Street, all of which stop at London Bridge and you get a measure of the capability of modern signalling.

Northern Electric Services To Manchester Airport

As I write this, Northern Electrics trains from Liverpool Lime Street, Edinburgh via Wigan North Western and Blackpool North via Bolton are all scheduled to call in Platforms 13 at Manchester Piccadilly station within the next hour on their way to Manchester Airport. Only the Liverpool service is run by an electric train, which is one of the 100 mph Class 319 trains.

But after the Manchester to Preston Line via Bolton and the Blackpool Branch Lines are electrified and the Ordsall Chord is opened, which will hopefully happen late in 2017, there could be more Northern |Electrics services through these platforms going to Manchester Airport from these and other stations.

Stations marked with Flex will be run by Class 319 Flex trains, but as they will be running on the overhead wires through these platforms to and from the Airport, they can be considered to be the same as the electric Class 319 trains.

If you look at the current service between Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Airport stations, the frequency is something like eight trains per hour.

So there will be a large number of electric trains going through Platforms 13/14 at Piccadilly! And the trains will be getting longer, with the minimum train size being four-cars and surely eight-cars are possible on some routes.

All of these services will bring passengers to and from Platforms 13 /14 at Piccadilly.

Manchester’s New Urban Link

Across the South Bank of London most people take the Jubilee Line!

But I don’t!

Between say London Bridge and Charing Cross, I will use Southeastern’s 14 tph service between the two stations, as it’s quicker, the views are better and there’s less walking in tunnels underground.

And according to some of their Customer Service people, I’m not the only one.

Manchester will also be getting a new similar high capacity urban link from Manchester Piccadilly station across the city, that will serve.

Before splitting into two branches.

As there is also a line that joins Salford Crescent to Manchester Victoria via Salford Crescent, train planners will have a lot of scope for improving services.

  • Liverpool and Manchester services have a choice of Manchester terminals and a variety of routes.
  • A service linking Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester Victoria, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport would be possible. Current services go via the West Coast Main Line.
  • Inwards to Manchester, an improved Salford Crescent station could be a cross-platform interchange with Salford Central/Victoria services on one platform face and Deansgate/Oxford Road/Piccadilly/Airport services on the other.
  • Similarly, outwards from Manchester, Salford Crescent station could be a cross platform interchange between services.

I think that this could lead to the Metrolink being connected to one or both of the two Salford stations.

To sum everything up, there will be lots of trains going through the three stations of Manchester Victoria, Manchester Piccadilly and Salford Crescent.

And all those trains using the Windsor Link and the Ordsall Chord will be coming through Platform 13 or Platform 14 at Manchester Piccadlly station.

Overcrowding At Platform 13 and 14 At Manchester Piccadilly Station

Overcrowding at these two platforms is bad enough already and it’s going to get worse if more and longer trains are running through the platforms.

Looking at the picture, the platforms are not overly-wide either.

But at least there are solutions, as I’ll discuss now.

The Alternative Route

Londoners are world-champions at ducking-and diving and will find the route that is quickest after a few weeks of a new rail line or bus route opening. It’s probably one of the reasons that Transport for London, placed the forecast for the passenger usage on the London Overground on the low side.

I don’t know how Mancunians will react to the Ordsall Chord and the new Northern Electrics services, but if they quickly suss-out the best route for their personal journey, this may mean that passengers avoid using Platforms 13/14 at Piccadilly.

There are a quite a few interchange stations on the Piccadilly-Salford Crescent and Piccadilly-Victoria routes through the City.

Better Access To The Island Platform 13/14

Access to the island platform is not good and perhaps more escalators and lifts will help.

Whatever is done to improve the through route, improvement of the access will be on the list of projects to perform.

A Bigger Island Platform 13/14

Looking at the picture in this post, I wonder if the island platform could be made bigger.

If it was wider, this would need the tracks to be moved apart and if this is possible another metre on the platform width would help.

I was on Platform A at St. Pancras Thameslink station this morning and it is very long platform, with the trains stopping vaguely in the middle, thus leaving spare platform space at each end.

So if the platform could be lengthened would this help with the overcrowding?

This Google Map shows the Western end of Platform 13/14.

Platform 13/14 is the pointy one in the middle.

And this one the Eastern end.

Again Platform 13/14 is the one in the middle.

It’s all very tight and I estimate Platform 13/14 isn’t much more then ten metres wide at any point.

Access to Platforms 13/14 From Below

I don’t know whether this is possible, but the platforms sit on a large viaduct and in many stations like this escalators and lifts are used to access the platforms from below.

This picture shows the Platforms on the viaduct.

Platform 14 is closest to the camera.

I think that with imagination, access might be possible from this side.

A New Bridge To Platforms 13/14

This Google Map shows the London end of the platforms at Piccadilly.

Platform 13/14 is at the bottom of the picture.

I think there is space to put a second bridge over the platforms here and it could reach all the way to the new HS2 platforms on the other side of the station.

Platforms 15 And 16 At Manchester Piccadilly Station

Building two new platforms 15 and 16 has been touted as a solution.

I think that the key to whether four through platforms is needed, is how many trains will be going through.

In a few years time the two track cross-London lines; Crossrail aqnd Thameslink will be handling 24 tph, with a third; the East London Line handling 20 tph.

Also at London Bridge, 54 tph in both directions are handled by nine platforms, which means that an average of 12 tph go through each platform.

If you look at the Y-shaped line through Manchester, Thameslink could be overlaid on the top.

  • Blackfriars would be Platforms 13/14 at Piccadilly.
  • St. Pancras Thameslink would be Deansgate.
  • West Hampstead Thameslink would be Salford Crescent.
  • Finsbury Park would be Victoria.

Other conditions would be needed for a throughput approaching that of Thameslink.

  • All trains must be modern electric trains, capable of making quick stops.
  • All trains must be fitted with modern signalling.
  • No trains terminating at Manchester Oxford Road
  • Some services from the North linked back-to-back with services to the South to free up platform space at Victoria and Piccadilly.

Thameslink is aiming for 24 tph and currently runs 14 tph.

I can’t see, if everything is done correctly, that Platform 13/14 at Piccadilly can’t handle somewhere between 14-24 tph.

And as Thameslink manages 14 tph with a proportion of Class 319 trains, I would be very surprised if this figure is not attainable.

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

The Ordsall Chord will provide a direct link between Piccadilly and Victoria stations, allowing trains from Manchester Victoria and the east to continue to Piccadilly. On completion the chord will allow four trains per hour to travel between Manchester Airport/Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria in each direction, eight trains per hour from Manchester Victoria towards the west via Chat Moss, and six trains per hour from Manchester Piccadilly towards either Chat Moss or Bolton and Preston. Other trains will travel from Manchester Piccadilly via Warrington.

This appears to say that only the following trains would use Platform 13/14 at Piccadilly.

  • 4 tph Manchester Airport/Piccadilly to Victoria
  • 6 tph Piccadilly to Chat Moss or Bolton/Preston

So that is just 10 tph.

Currently, in the Peak, it appears that the frequency of trains between Oxford Road and Piccadilly is 10 tph.

I have a feeling that with a bit of reorganisation of services, the rather difficut problem of building Platforms 15/16 can be delayed for ten years or more, if not for ever.

Manchester Airport From The South

How would people from Birmingham, London and the South get to Manchester Airport?

There are two routes.

  1. Change at Manchester Picaadilly to any of the several tph to Manchester Airport
  2. Change at Crewe to the Crewe-Manchester Line.

I would use the second option as it’s fifteen minutes quicker and avoids Platform 13/14 at Piccadilly.

I suspect that the train companies will reorganise their services from Crewe to Manchester via the Airport to take advantage of the Ordsall curve and the new electrification North of Manchester.

HS2 Arrives At Crewe

HS2 will have various effects, when it arrives at Crewe in 2027!

One interesting idea, borrowed from the French, would be to split and join, shorter HS2 trains at Crewe. So perhaps two or even three shorter units would work as a larger unit between London and Crewe.

The advantage of this is that anywhere that is electrified and has a platform long enough could get a high-speed service to London and the South, if the market was there.

According to this page in the Guardian, Crewe will be just 58 minutes from London, instead of the fastest time of 97 minutes today.

Currently Crewe to Manchester Airport takes thirty minutes in a Class 323 train. If as I suspect HS2 trains can run efficiently on classic lines, the following times might be possible using the 110 mph Crewe-Manchester Line to complete the journey.

  • Manchester Piccadilly – 88 minutes instead of the current 127 minutes.
  • Manchester Airport – possibly 78 minutes instead of 144 minutes.
  • Stockport – 76 minutes instead of 115 minutes

No services would need any changes.

But a train might leave London, do a quick stop at Crewe, where it divided with one portion going to Manchester Airport and the other to Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly.

The operator would be able to run short HS2 trains on the classic lines to the North and East of Manchester using the lines now being electrified.

Currently, Huddersfield to Manchester Piccadilly takes 33 minutes, so a modern electric train must be able to do the journey in 20 minutes.

On my estimate of 88 minutes to Piccadilly using HS2, on the electrified existing tracks Huddersfield could be reached without a change in 108 minutes.

The current fastest time is 175 minutes with a change at York.

Running HS2 trains through platforms 13/14 at Piccadilly would have no effect on the design of the platforms, as the HS2 trains will be designed to run to any electrified platform, that is long enough.

The interesting destination of a portion of a train would be Blackburn, if the electrification was extended to the town.

I estimate it could be done in 133 minutes without a change as opposed to 162 minutes today with a change at Preston.

Until 1964, the Ribble Valley Line used to host a Manchester-Glasgow express and now I believe it could have a HS2 service to and from London.

Conclusion

Manchester and its environs will get a much better rail system.

But I suspect it will be some years before Piccadilly gets Platforms 15/16

 

 

 

 

March 16, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?

Hellifield station, which connects to the Settle and Carlisle Line, is the Northernmost station on the Ribble Valley Line from Manchester and Blackburn.

I’ve not been there, as you need to get there from Blackburn on a Sunday, but surely, as a conductor told me, Northern Rail should provide a service seven days a week.

The Track To Hellifield

This is an extract from an e-mail from Ribble Valley Rail.

The line north of Clitheroe to Hellifield is entirely double track (in use) with a double track junction on to the S&C line at Hellifield South Junction at the south end of the station.  Approximately 19 sets of points and a large amount of trackwork were renewed at Hellifield a few years ago.

They also said, that there is one small addition, they would make at Hellifield, but if services to Hellifield get a lot more numerous, I’m sure Network Rail would do what is necessary.

As the line is double-track from Blackburn to Hellifield, this would mean that running more trains on the line is determined by the number of passengers and the revenue and profit generated, rather than some quirky passing loop by a level crossing or some of British Rail’s pitiful attempts to save money.

Blackburn to Hellifield is a real railway.

Platform Lengths

The e-mail from Ribble Valley Rail, also said this about platform lengths.

All Ribble Valley intermediate stations were lengthened a few years ago and can now accommodate 4-car class 150s which now operate quite regularly, especially on Sundays.    4-car class 156 do overhang and involve locking some doors out-of-use until Blackburn or Clitheroe.

So how long is a four-car formation of the various trains?

I included the Class 172, as it’s a typical modern diesel multiple unit.

So Porterbrook’s new train has an advantage in that British Rail made the Bedpan Specials, a little bit shorter, to save steel and other materials.

I’ve just received another e-mail where this is said.

Despite the lengthening of the Ribble Valley line intermediate stations, because of various constraints with adjacent bridges they have finished up different lengths.  The shortest is the Down platform at Ramsgreave & Wilpshire which I am told is79 m.  However a 4-car class 150  does fit on with careful stopping, all doors on the platform and only a slight overhang of the train at each end.

Look at this picture of a Class 319 train.

The end passenger doors would appear to be several metres back, so the train fits a platform, that is a few metres shorter than the train. Was this British Rail’s solution to the non-invention of selective door opening?

Health and safety might want a little fence on the platform, but it looks like the Class 319 trains were designed so that British Rail could get away without lengthening platforms on Thameslink.

Current Timings On The Route

These are timings of the various sections of the whole route from Buxton to Hellifield.

  • Buxton to Hazel Grove (up) – 37 minutes
  • Hazel Grove to Buxton (down) – 33 minutes
  • Hazel Grove to Stockport – 9 minutes
  • Stockport to Bolton – 48 minutes
  • Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly – 22 minutes for a Hazel Grove to Blackpool North train via Bolton
  • Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly (fastest) – 9 minutes
  • Bolton to Manchester Piccadilly (fastest) – 22 minutes
  • Bolton to Blackburn (up) – 29 minutes
  • Blackburn to Bolton (down) – 26 minutes.
  • Blackburn to Clitheroe (up) – 26 minutes
  • Clitheroe to Blackburn (down) – 23 minutes
  • Clitheroe to Hellifield (up) – 25 minutes
  • Hellifield to Clitheroe (down) – 11 minutes

Note the differences between up and down times.

Based on these timings, I reckon that these timings are possible now with a Class 150 or Class 156 train.

  • Buxton to Blackburn – 102 minutes
  • Blackburn to Buxton – 103 minutes
  • Buxton to Clitheroe – 128 minutes
  • Clitheroe to Buxton – 126 minutes
  • Buxton to Hellifield – 153 minutes
  • Hellifield to Buxton – 137 minutes

This would give round trip times something like these.

  • Buxton to Hellifield – 290 minutes
  • Buxton to Clitheroe – 254 minutes
  • Buxton to Blackburn – 205 minutes

Obviously, the two turnround times would have to be added.

But various factors would reduce the times, if a Class 319 Flex were to be used from December 2017.

  • The route will be fully electrified between Bolton and Hazel Grove stations.
  • Two trains per hour will be possible between Bolton and Blackburn from December 2017.
  • The Class 319 Flex is a 100 mph train.
  • As the Class 319 Flex has been optimised to climb the hills, it must be faster on the uphill sections.
  • Drivers have told me, that the Class 319 train has excellent brakes, so they may be faster coming down.

The Bolton to Hazel Grove route is currently timetabled at 48 minutes. But surely a 100 mph electric train can knock quite a few minutes off that, when the route is fully electrified.

If this section could be done in thirty minutes, which I suspect is possible, this brings the round trip times down as follows.

  • Buxton to Hellifield – 254 minutes
  • Buxton to Clitheroe – 218 minutes
  • Buxton to Blackburn – 169 minutes

In some ways the interesting one is the round trip from Buxton to Clitheroe, which allowing ten minutes for each turnround at Clitheroe and Buxton means that the round trip is under four hours.

This means that an hourly Buxton to Clitheroe service would need four trains and two trains per hour would need eight trains.

The Blackburn Service From December 11th 2017

On this day Northern  introduced two trains per hour between Manchester Victoria and Blackburn along the Ribble Valley Line, with one train per hour exytending to Clitheroe.

If the service went to Buxton instead of Manchester Victoria, I think this service would require seven trains. If the Clitheroe service was extended to Hellifield, that would need another two trains.

Conclusion

I wonder when the real timings are obtained using Class 319 Flex trains, what cunning plan Northern Rail will come up with, to satisfy their passengers, staff and profits.

Marketing says that running between Hellifield and Buxton on a 24/7 basis, even at one train every two hours could be a very popular route.

March 14, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts And Facts About Class 319 Flex Trains From Manchester And Blackburn Into The Hills

On Thursday and Friday last week, I spent two days in the Premier Inn at Blackburn and explored the rail lines around the town with journeys all over the area that should by now have been fully electrified.

Class 319 Flex Trains

The main reasons to go was to see some Friends In The North and to see Ipswich play at Barnsley, but I also wanted to explore some of the hilly routes in Lancashire.

Porterbrook in their brochure for the Class 319 Flex trains says that the objective for the train is that it can run from Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton on the Buxton Line, under the power that is available, which is electrification only as far as Hazel Grove station.

The Routes With Hills

There are three routes from Manchester and Blackburn that climb into the hills.

The lines are not for low-powered trains and the  current Class 150 or Class 156 trains struggled on the three climbs I did.

  • Hazel Grove to Buxton in the afternoon.
  • Blackburn to Clitheroe early in the morning.
  • Bolton to Blackburn, crush-loaded in the rush hour.

Someone told me, that leaf fall can be a problem in the Autumn.

In no particular, these are my thoughts and some facts from other sources and my observations.

Blackburn Depot

A conductor told me that Northern Rail will be creating a depot and basing train crew at Blackburn.

This article in the Lancashire Telegraph is entitled Multi-million pound train depot set for Blackburn.

This is said.

Blackburn is to get a new multi-million pound train depot as the latest stage of East Lancashire’s rail revolution.

The stabling, maintenance and cleaning centre will include an office block and new connection to the existing Bolton junction where the tracks to Preston and Darwen divide.

If as I believe the Class 319 Flex trains could serve Clitheroe/Hellifield and Colne, then it could be an ideal location. Especially, if the Clitheroe/Hellifield and Buxton services were run back-to-back across Manchester.

Double Track Most Of The Way

The three lines have the following track layouts.

  • The Ribble Valley Line has a large proportion of double track, which stretches to Hellifield.
  • The Buxton Line is double-track.
  • The East Lancashire Line is single-track from Rose Grove station to Colne station.

So hopefully, if two trains per hour (tph) were to be run on these three branches, passing would be possible.

Hellifield

Hellifield station is where the Ribble Valley Line connects to the Settle-Carlisle Line.

A conductor told me that he’d heard that Northern would like to serve Hellifield more regularly.

Since I first wrote this, I’ve heard that the tracki at Hellifield has been recently replaced and is in good condition.

Housing And Other Property Development

As I travelled along the lines to Clitheroe and Buxton, there was a lot of housing development along the line, at places like Clitheroe, Hazel Grove, Whalley to name just three.

The crowded trains I used in the Peak to Blackburn are going to carry even more passengers and the need for capacity with power on these lines will increase.

Tourism Issues

Buxton, Clitheroe Colne and Hellifield all have reasons for tourists and especially those that enjoy visiting the hills.

I have no figures to back it up, but I suspect leisure passengers often go loaded with children in buggies, bicycles and heavy rucksacks and cases. They certainly do in the Summer on the trains of East Anglia and that is flat.

Add in the weather forecast and the effects of new trains and at times, there could be a large increase in leisure and tourism-related travel.

If the trains connected the Settle and Carlisle Line at Hellifield to Blackburn, Manchester and perhaps Buxton, this would surely open up a tourist train route, that Doctor Beeching wouldn’t have thought was the least bit feasible.

Future Train Frequencies

Train frequencies to Manchester could possibly grow to the following.

  • Blackburn – 2 tph to Manchester Piccadilly
  • Blackburn – 2 tph to Manchester Victoria
  • Buxton – 2 tph
  • Clitheroe – 2 tph
  • Hazel Grove – 4 tph

In addition, the intersecting route from Blackpool South to Colne via Preston and Blackburn, could be running 2 tph.

I do suspect though, that 1 tph to and from Hellifield will be enough. But who knows? I could just be as wrong as Beeching.

The lines probably have a Peak problem, that is fairly unusual in the UK, but probably is common in countries with real mountains like Austria, Japan and Switzerland. One direction of Peak travel is downhill, but the other is up a very steep railway.

On train frequencies, this is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Ribble Valley Line.

A six-week engineering blockade saw the existing passing loop there extended by 1 mile (1.6 km) at each end and signalling improvements made to add capacity on the line and allow for service frequencies between Bolton & Blackburn to be doubled to two trains per hour each way throughout the day from December 2017.

Could this be why, Porterbrook are planning to deliver four refurbished Class 319 Flex trains by the end of 2017, according to their brochure?

Some powerful extra trains will probably be needed to achieve the objective of 2 tph to Blackburn and four Class 319 Flex will help.

Future Train Capacity

I did two journeys in the Peak to Blackburn; in the first I took the slower service via Todmorden and Burnley in a two-car train and in the second, I took the direct route via Bromley Cross, in a four-car formation.

The second was the most crowded, but it was Friday. It also struggled up the hill from Bolton to Blackburn.

Northern’s decision to go for a four-car Class 319 Flex train which could be used on some of these routes, is understandable.

Blackburn To Huddersfield

I travelled to Huddersfield station from Manchester Victoria and didn’t see any signs of electrification on this important route.

Returning to Blackburn from Huddersfield, my train was a direct service which travelled via Manchester Victoria, Bolton and Bromley Cross.

This would be an ideal service to run using a Class 319 Flex train, until Network Rail get their act together and electrify Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield. Even if they only get the wires as far as Stalybridge, the Class 319 Flex would be an enormous improvement compared to the asthmatic Class 156, that struggled with its full load of passengers to Blackburn.

The Calder Valley Line

The Calder Valley Line goes through very picturesque countryside between Preston and Leeds.

I think that full electrification of this line could never happen.

  • The line has large numbers of stone and brick viaducts and bridges, which would be very expensive to modify for electrification.
  • The station at Hebden Bridge is Grade II Listed.
  • There is electrification between Leeds and Bradford, which could probably be extended as far as Halifax.
  • Preston is fully electrified and affordable electrification to Blackburn or perhaps Rose Grove or Burnley Manchester Road stations should be possible.
  • Electrification to Rose Grove would mean that the service between Blackpool South and Colne could be run using electricity between Rose Grove and Kirkham and Wesham stations.

But the biggest problem would be the opposition to overhead gantries in the hills.

The distances are revealing.

  • Burnley to Halifax is just over twenty miles
  • Blackburn to Halifax is just over thirty miles.

If Halifax to Bradford wasn’t electrified then that adds another ten miles.

All distances would be within range of a modern bi-mode train, including a Class 319 Flex.

Other Destinations

From Hazel Grove, it is possible for diesel trains to access the Hope Valley Line towards Sheffield.

There must be stations on this line that are possible destinations for a Class 319 Flex train.

Chester and Windermere have also been mentioned as future destinations for the train.

Electrification

Electrification has been painfully slow in the North-West, as it has in most places in the UK.

It looks like that by the end of 2017, Manchester to Preston via Bolton and the Blackpool Branch to Blackpool North station will be electrified.

The advantage of the Class 319 Flex is that it can use this electrified set of lines to run services to stations like Barrow, Blackburn, Blackpool South, Burnley, Chester, Hebden Bridge, Sellafield and Windermere, that are off the electrified network in conjunction with the Class 319 trains.

The Need For A Train To Climb The Hills

From this brief analysis and my observations, it would seem that Northern need a few four-car trains with adequate power to get up the hills at a speed, that enables an efficient timetable. As some of the routes from Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria are electrified, the ideal train would need the capability to use the wires.

If ever, there was a series of routes that need a bi-mode train, then it is these routes.

The Class 319 Flex And The CAF Civity

The Class 319 Flex has according to the brochure I’ve seen been designed to run from Manchester to Buxton with a full load of passengers in the Peak or perhaps after a City-United Derby.

But Northern have ordered new CAF Civity trains in the following versions.

This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 331 trains.

In early 2016 it was confirmed that Spanish rolling stock manufacturer CAF would construct the new electric powered trains which are planned to operate in West Yorkshire to replace Class 321 and Class 322 trains and work alongside the current fleet of Class 333 units. The four-car Class 331 units will be deployed on electrified services from Manchester Piccadilly to replace the Class 323 units which are due to return to Porterbrook at the end of their current lease in 2018.

So it would appear that the Class 319 trains will continue to operate for a few years yet! Hopefully with better seats, wi-fi and a few other smaller improvements.

I think that Northern have decided that until the Class 195 trains arrive that the Class 319 Flex trains are the best short-term solution. But given the overcrowding on the routes will the future three-car trains have enough capacity?

So I suspect, if Northern go the CAF Civity route, I feel that Northern will acquire some longer diesel trains or even some dual-power Civitys.

But at least running Class 319 Flex trains on the route will effectively produce the specification for these hilly routes.

 

 

March 13, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is There Anywhere A Class 319 Flex Train Can’t Go?

I have just seen an early copy of Porterbrook’s brochure for their new Class 319 Flex train.

This is an extract.

Porterbrook determined that the most arduous route would be Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, which has a steep gradient and multiple stops along its 25 mile route 9(8 miles of which is electrified). This anlysis was included to give confidence that the Class 319 Flex would be comparable to existing Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology across a range of different routes, stopping patterns and gradients.

So I took a quick look at the Buxton Line on Wikipedia.

This is said.

Due to steep gradients on this line, Class 142 and Class 153 DMUs are banned from the section of line between Hazel Grove and Buxton. Therefore, services to Buxton are worked by Class 150 and Class 156 DMUs. Also Class 158 DMUs were once blocked from operating on the line to Buxton due to the possibility of the large roof-mounted air vents striking low bridges on the route.

Note the two extracts both say “to Buxton”, as obviously, the trains can use the free power boost of gravity on the way down.

To back this up, trains are currently timed to take 37 minutes to climb from Hazel Grove station to Buxton and 33 minutes for the gravity-assisted return.

A driver once told me, that the brakes on a Class 319 train are up there with the best. So there’s little chance of runaway train syndrome.

Train Services To And From Buxton And Hazel Grove

Under Services in the Wikipedia entry for Buxton, this is said.

There is generally an hourly service daily (including Sundays) between Buxton and Manchester Piccadilly, taking about one hour. The service frequency is enhanced to about half-hourly in the morning and evening peaks. A limited number of trains (currently seven on weekdays in total) work through beyond Manchester, with one train each of to/from Blackpool North, Clitheroe, Barrow-in-Furness, Wigan North Western, Wigan Wallgate, Preston and Bolton.

Note.

  • Of these destinations, several are not likely to be electrified in the near future, but could be reached by a Class 319 Flex.
  • Some would also allow the trains to stretch their legs under the wires of the West Coast Main Line or the Manchester to Preston Line.
  • As the Buxton Line is double-tracked would a more powerful train enable more frequent trains?
  • Buxton station may have had improvements to ease turning trains.
  • At present, Northern don’t seem to run any trains further than between Manchester Piccadilly and Buxton stations, but with the opening of the Ordsall Chord at the end of 2017, running trains past Piccadilly could ease the load on one of Manchester’s main stations.
  • Despite Manchester Piccadilly to Hazel Grove being electrified, at present, no electric trains serve the route.
  • ,Clitheroe station  is probably the most interesting destination, as like the Buxton Line, the Ribble Valley Line  needs trains with some qualities common in mountain goats.

It looks like Buxton is going to get a much improved train service.

It should also be noted, that once the Manchester to Preston line is electrified, all services from Hazel Grove to Manchester and Preston could be run by Class 319 trains, whether they are the Electric or Flex variant.

Can and will the service between Manchester and Hazel Grove via Stockport be a Turn-Up-And-Go four tph electric service from the December 2017 Timetable change?

Range On A Full Tank Of Diesel

Or that might be two tanks, as is there one in each driver car for each engine?

The brochure says.

The Class 319 Flex unit would have the capacity to make five return trips per day for two days before refuelling is required.

That surely is more than adequate.

Could The Buxton Line Be Electrified?

It would be assumed that the Germans, French or Italians would electrify a line like the Buxton Line.

But this is not always the case and I’ve used lines in Germany to reach towns the size of Buxton and the lines are not all electrified.

Electric trains on an electrified line have the advantage of bags of grunt and would handle the route with ease.

But it would cost and it wouldn’t be the easiest of engineering projects. I suspect too, that there would be objections to gantries marching sall over the Peak District

I think with modern technology there might be a better and more affordable way.

The Class 319 Flex is just a first solution.

Comparison With The New Class 195 Trains

I suspect it is unlikely that the new Class 195 trains ordered by Northern will be unable to reach Buxton, but they won’t be in service for a few years.

Comparing the two train types, it would appear.

  • Installed power is about the same.
  • But what about the weight?
  • The Class 319 Flex has 12 First Class seats and 255 Standard Class seats in the brochure, as against 204 seats in a three-car Class 195 train.
  • The Class 319 Flex is a bi-mode that can use electric power, between Manchester and Hazel Grove.

It will be an fascinating comparison: A thirty-year-old British Rail-built train with a bi-mode upgrade against a new Spanish-built diesel multiple unit.

Along The Hope Valley Line To Sheffield

The Hope Valley Line between Manchester and Sheffield has two electrified links at the Manchester end to Piccadilly.

  • Via Hazel Grove and Stockport, where electrification reaches to Hazel Grove
  • Via Guide Bridge, where electrification reaches almost to Hyde North, to serve the electrified Glossop Line.

Theis important route between Manchester and Sheffield has been marked down for new Class 195 trains, but I suspect that the distance is within range of a Class 319 Flex.

The Manchester end of this route could be a fertile area for using Class 319 Flex trains. As a simple example, they could be used to bridge the gap between the electrification on the Glossop Line and Rose Hill Marple station.

Conclusion

Manchester Piccadilly and Buxton may be a tough route, but if a train can can climb to Buxton crush loaded with passengers, there are a lot of benefits to the operator.

  • Electric trains between Manchester Piccadilly and Hazel Grove.
  • Releasing of platform space in Piccadilly when the Ordsall Chord opens.
  • Back-to back services between Buxton and Blackpool, Barrow, Clitheroe and Wigan. I suspect there’s a lot more.
  • A possible two trains per hour to Buxton.
  • Two electric trains per hour to Rose Hill Marple.

And that’s just for starters!

 

March 3, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Excursion To Clitheroe

On Saturday morning before the football, I took a train along the Ribble Valley Line to Clitheroe and back to have a look.

On the way back I stopped to have a look at the 48-arch Whalley Viaduct. Whalley is also a village with an ruins of an abbey.

Clitheroe reminded me very much of a Lancashire version of several I know well in Suffolk.

From the new houses, that I saw in the area, I suspect it’s becoming more important as a dormitory town.

The later history of the Ribble Valley Line between Manchester Victoria and Hellifield via Bolton, Blackburn and Clitheroe, is one of closure and reopening.

  • Blackburn to Hellifield was closed to passengers in 1962.
  • The only train, other than freight and diversions, was a once a week train between Manchester and Glasgow, which stopped in 1964.
  • Blackburn to Bolton was reduced to a single-track.
  • Public pressure led to a service between Blackburn and Clitheroe in 1994.
  • Later a Sunday service was started between Blackburn and Hellifield.
  • The line became a community rail line in 2007.

In the last few years, Network Rail have spent millions of pounds on improvements.

  • A five million scheme renewed the permanent way between Blackburn and Clitheroe in 2008.
  • Sections of single track have been doubled.
  • Signalling has been improved.
  • Line speed has been increased.
  • Platforms have been lengthened.
  • The passing loop at Darwen has been lengthened.

Builders certainly seemed to have been at work on the stations between Clitheroe and Whalley.

It All Happens In 2017

All of this should mean that two trains per hour (tph), can run between Manchester Victoria and Clitheroe in December 2017.

Probably by design rather than co-incidence, December 2017 is also given as the opening date of the Ordsall Chord and the completion of the electrification of the Manchester to Preston Line.

A year later, in December 2018 there could be the extra two through platforms into use at Manchester Pioccadilly, which will help alleviate  capacity problems.

I don’t think we’ll see direct services between Clitheroe and London, but an improved Ribble Valley Line connecting with Manchester’s new cross-city line can only be good for passengers.

Things that could or should happen include.

  • Two tph between Manchester Victoria and Clitheroe has virtually been promised.
  • The service will become faster because of track improvement and new trains in a few years. Applying a conservative estimate reduces the end-to-end journey time from seventy-five to somewhere  around fifty minutes.
  • The Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe service could probably run two tph each of four carriages by December 2018. It all depends on rolling stock deliveries.
  • TransPennine services will go through Manchester Victoria and any sensible train planner would arrange a decent link between Clitheroe and TransPennine services.

It will certainly be a big improvement.

Manchester Airport And Clitheroe

One journey that illustrates how the Ordsall Chord will improve services, is getting between Clitheroe and Manchester Airport.

Currently, these are typical timings.

  • Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria – 75 minutes
  • |Cliteroe to Manchester Airport via Bolton – 126 minutes
  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Victoria – 9 minutes
  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Airport – 30 minutes

As Manchester Victoria to Manchester Airport, is effectively via Salford Crescent with the train taking a short cut, it’s probably reasonable to assume that Manchester Victoria to Manchester Airport won’t be more than 39 minutes.

Current services take about twenty minutes from Manchester Piccadilly, but it’s not a proper airport service, which the full route to Victoria could be.

  • It doesn’t use the same platforms every time.
  • The trains are not built for heavy luggage.

The service certainly doesn’t say Manchester is open for business.

Wikipedia says this about services to Manchester Airport after the Ordsall Chord opens.

On completion, it is anticipated that the chord would allow four trains per hour to travel between Manchester Airport/Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria in each direction, with a further eight trains per hour possible from Manchester Victoria towards the west via Chat Moss, and six trains per hour from Manchester Piccadilly towards either Chat Moss or Bolton and Preston.

So this means that even if you just miss the connection at Manchester Victoria, you’d only wait a maximum of fifteen minutes for the next train to the Airport.

As I think we can reasonably assume that there will be a Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria time of around fifty minutes, this means that Clitheroe to the Airport could be about ninety minutes plus how long you wait at Victoria for the Airport train.

But I suspect there could be a better connection for Manchester Airport at Bolton.

If you opt for a route with only one change, then the journey takes a few minutes over two hours, often with a wait of thirty-five minutes, whilst trains are changed at Bolton.

  • A  route with only one change at Bolton, takes a few minutes over two hours, often with a wait of thirty-five minutes at the change.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clitheroe to Manchester Airport in under ninety minutes via Bolton, with the current trains, after the Ordsall Chord is opened.
  • But hopefully in |December 2017, Bolton to Manchester Airport will be served by 100 mph electric trains.
  • December 2018 could bring the extra two through platforms into use at Manchester Pioccadilly.

Incidentally, various web sites, say it takes an hour to go by car.

One project that will speed up these services is the updating of Bolton station. I showed pictures and made some small assumptions in this post called Bolton Station.

I think it would be possible to have same- or cross-platform interchange between the following services.

  • Clitheroe and Manchester Victoria.
  • Preston and Manchester Piccadilly/Airport
  • Preston and Manchester Victoria
  • Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Piccadilly/Airport

This happens to a certain extent at Bolton already, as the Windsor Link Line  allows trains to go direct from Bolton to Manchester Piccadilly and onto Manchester Airport.

If it could be arranged that the frequency between Bolton and Manchester Airport was 4 tph, then this would mean a maximum wait of fifteen minutes.

Currently, the frequency is a miserly 2 tph, which explains the long waits at Bolton.

Manchester Piccadilly

I suspect that because even with the Ordsall Chord built, that Piccadilly with its completion date a year later could be the main bottleneck.

You could say run twelve-car semi-fast  Class 319 trains from Preston to Manchester Airport,, but if Mancunians are anything like Londoners for ducking and diving, then this could just add to the congestion at Manchester Piccadilly.

It all shows the problems of how the adding of the two extra platforms 13 and 14 in the 1960s was not a project that had any degree of future proofing.

When I see those draded numbers 13 and 14 against my train to or from Manchester Piccadilly, I breathe a sigh and ask myself, why I came this way.

Trains always seem to be late through the platforms and sometimes, I feel the platforms aren’t the safest.

Onward From Clitheroe

I have not taken the line northward from Clitheroe to Hellifield, where it joins to the Leeds to Morecambe Line with its connections to the Settle and Carlisle Line.

At present the historic Settle route is closed after last winter’s storms, but Network Rail is spending £23million to bring it back into top condition.

With the new franchise saying it will run extra trains on this route, I feel that the Settle route will have a busy future.

Blackburn to Carlisle via Settle is certainly a trip I want to take.

You have to ask the following questions about the current services to Clitheroe

  • When two tph are going from Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe, should one tph go on to Hellifield?
  • Given rivalry across the Pennines, do loyal Lancastrains feel that Leeds has no right to services along the Settle route and some should start in the county of the red rose?

From what I saw of the Ribble Valley Line at Blackburn, Whalley and Clitheroe, the track and stations would certainly be up to the increased footfall.

All the line needs is modern trains.

Conclusion

Without doubt, the Ribble Valley Line is ready to take its place in that group of secondary and rural rail lines across the North, that will take be good for the locals and will attract tourists to the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 16, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment