The Anonymous Widower

Faster Trains For Slower In Scotland

In my analysis of the Kentish routes in Kent On The Cusp Of Change, I wrote a post called Elimination Of Slow Trains.

In the post, I said that the 75 mph Class 465 trains, were slowing services and reducing capacity, based on an article called Kent on the Cusp of Change in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

I proposed a minimum specification for trains on Kentish routes.

  • 100 mph capability
  • Designed for a fast station stop with minimum dwell-time
  • Regenerative braking
  • Efficient traction motors
  • Wi-fi in all classes
  • The capability to fit boosters for 4G signals.

Southeastern’s Class 465 trains fail on all points.

In Scotland, there is a new batch of Class 385 trains on order to work the new electrified services between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Under Operation in the Wikipedia entry for the trains, this is said.

The new trains will also operate on the newly electrified Croy, Dunblane and Shotts lines as well as replacing existing stock on the currently electrified Carstairs, North Berwick and Cathcart Circle Lines. This will allow for the replacement of ScotRail’s Class 314 fleet, and allow for the cascading of a number of Class 156, Class 158 and Class 170 units.

The Class 314 trains are even older and less capable than Southeastern’s Class 465 trains.

So what will be effect on services in Scotland, where the Class 385 trains replace the Class 314 trains?

If you look at the North Berwick Line trains between Edinburgh and North Berwick stations take around 33-34 minutes, when run by 100 mph Class 380 trains. Under Rolling Stock in the Wikipedia entry for the North Berwick Line, this is said.

From December 2017, ScotRail services on the North Berwick Line will begin to use new Class 385 units. Services will be formed of six coaches (two 3-car units) following growing passenger numbers (the platform at North Berwick was extended in early 2016 to accommodate these new longer trains). In the short term Class 380/1s (four car) will be removed from the line and two Class 380/0s (three car) used instead until the Summer and back again to four car units until December. Once the new units arrive, The Class 380 units will be cascaded to increase capacity on the Ayrshire and Inverclyde Lines to and from Glasgow making all services on these routes operated by Class 380s.

So could it be that although both Class 380 and 385 trains are 100 mph units, the newer trains have a better station stop performance, which enables the timings on the line to be reduced and possibly allow the doubling of frequency of trains to two trains per hour?

Conclusion

Modern 100 mph trains with the ability to execute fast stops at stations are good for operators and passengers alike.

July 4, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Hitachi Class 385 Trains, Batteries And Charging Stations

This article in the International Railway Journal is entitled JR Kyushu battery EMU to enter service in October.

This is said.

JAPAN’s Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) announced on August 24 that its pre-series Dual Energy Charge Train (Dencha) battery-assisted EMU will enter revenue service on the 11km Orio – Wakamatsu section of the Chikuho Line on October 19.

The two-car 819 series set draws power from the 20 kV ac 60Hz electrification system to feed a bank of onboard batteries, which give the train a wire-free range of up to 90km.

At least it can do 11 km. This is said about the train’s manufacture.

The 819 series is based on the existing 817 series EMU and was built by Hitachi at its plant in Kudamatsu in Yamaguchi prefecture.

Note the word Hitachi!

Hitachi call it a BEC819 train and it is one of their ubiquitous A-trains.

On the Hitachi Rail Europe web site, three new trains are mentioned.

All are A-trains and on all pages, the word battery is mentioned under power supply.

So will Scotrail’s new Class 385 trains have a battery capability?

Probably not initially!

But Hitachi have obviously been doing a lot of research into battery trains and the JR Kyushu is the first practical application.

Scotland’s rail system outside Edinburgh and Glasgow is not electrified, but it is well-known that Scotland’s Government would like more electrified services and also links to places like Leven and St. Andrews.

Both of these places, and there are probably others as well, are a few miles from a main line, that is very likely to be electrified.

So could we see a battery train charged as the JR Kyushu train on a main line, serving these branch lines on battery power?

I feel that the chance of this happening is very high.

Put a charging station, like a Railbaar at the terminal station and it could be done as soon as the train is built.

 

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

The Train Of The Future

This article in Rail |Engineer is entitled ScotRail’s ‘new’ HSTs, gives full details of the modifications ScotRail wukk make to their HSTs, before they enter service in Summer 2018. This is said.

The iconic HST is now over forty years old. It ensured the success of British Rail’s inter-city service and is still the world’s fastest diesel train, although the ScotRail HSTs will have a maximum speed of 100 mph. With around ten million miles on the clock these trains are approaching retirement for long-distance services as they are about to be replaced by IEPs. However, as ScotRail is about to demonstrate with its reincarnation of these trains, there is still much life left in them.

I wrote Edinburgh to Inverness in the Cab of an HST, after a trip to Inverness and it was the trip of a lifetime.

On the trip, you realise that Scotland has a big problem and an asset with railways and it’s called mountains. So a train is needed with bags of grunt and big windows.

An HST has both, coupled with an iconic style, unmatched since the days of steam.

Scotrail’s plan to run the trains between the seven Scottish cities would appear to be a good one.

I wonder, if we’ll ever see the trains going to Kyle of Lochalsh, Thurso and Tweedbank.

The article is worth reading, as it details everything that will be done to create a train worthy of the iconic routes.

If I’m still of this life next Summer, I shall be in Scotland.

I’ve never spent a night in Aberdeen, Dundee or Perth for a start!

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Rail Sleeper Plan Between Caithness And Edinburgh

This is the headline on an article in the John O’Groats Journal.

So is this a good idea?

Some of the comments to the article are cynical it would work, but I feel that it could be a runner.

The Current Service

There are two train services from Edinburgh to Thurso during the day, both of which need a change at Inverness.

  1. The 08:32 from Edinburgh arrives in Thurso at 17:50.
  2. The 13:34 from Edinburgh arrives in Thurso at 22:20.

Both services could be summed up like this.

  • The total time of the journey approaches nine hours.
  • The train is something like a Class 158 diesel multiple unit.
  • Both legs are between three and four hours.
  • There is a long wait in Inverness.
  • The second service does the second leg mainly in the dark.
  • London to Thurso in a day is possible, but it would be dark and tiring.

Although there are quicker routes with more changes, I can think of better ways of spending a day, travelling North from Edinburgh to Thurso.

Coming back, there are three practical one-change services

  1. The 06:50 from Thurso arrives in Edinburgh at 14:22.
  2. The 08:34 from Thurso arrives in Edinburgh at 16:25
  3. The 13:01 from Thurso arrives in Edinburgh at 22:28.

These services can be summed up like this.

  • The first two services are faster than the nine hours going North.
  • On a good day the morning services must give good views.
  • You would certainly be able to do Thurso to London by train in a day.

Certainly, as a practical train service to attract visitors, the Edinburgh-Thurso service is not a service that says you must go, like say Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, which I wrote about in Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh.

The Far North Line

The Far North Line connects Inverness with Thurso and Wick. This introduction from Wikipedia, is a good summary of the line.

The Far North Line is a rural railway line entirely within the Highland area of Scotland, extending from Inverness to Thurso and Wick. It is the northernmost railway in the United Kingdom. The line has many sections of single track, mostly north of Dingwall. In common with other railway lines in the Highlands and northern Lowlands, it is not electrified and all trains are diesel-powered.

The trains are typically Class 158 trains, which provide four trains per day all the way between Inverness and Thurso. Other services give a better service on the Southern part of the line including four trains per day to Kyle of Lochalsh.

Improving The Far North Line

Wikipedia has a section on Future Expansion of the line. This is said.

For many years there have been proposals to bypass the Lairg loop with a line across the Dornoch Firth, linking Tain (via Dornoch) more directly with Golspie. This would involve building a new bridge over the Firth, or making dual-purpose the bridge[5] which now carries just the A9. Discussions have been held concerning the shortening of the Far North Line involving a bridge over the Dornoch Firth and the possible use of the trackbed of the former light railway.[6] Nothing has yet come of these ideas.

But these are expensive developments and is the traffic available.

The John O’Groats Journal has this paragraph.

I have spoken to Caledonian Sleeper and want to investigate the business case for a sleeper combination with freight.

So could Internet and other parcels traffic be a nice little earner for the line.

But then a lot of tourists venturing along the line will be heavily loaded with bicycles and heavy luggage.

Incidentally, In the 1960s, I used to work with a John Baxendale, who used to go surfing off the North Coast of Scotland, as he said it was some of the best surfing in the world.

Do surfboards feature on trains to the North, as they do on trains to Cornwall?

Trains For The North

So perhaps, this line, the Kyle of Lochalsh Line and the Inverness to Aberdeen Line need a fleet of specially configured Highland trains.

  • Four carriages.
  • A good buffet/restaurant car serving proper Sottish food.
  • Lots of space for luggage.
  • Big windows.

Abellio ScotRail are planning to refurbish twenty-six Inter-City 125s for longer routes, which fit this specification, as the rear sections of the Class 43 locomotives can be used for freight and oversized luggage.

Will we be seeing these trains on the routes out of Inverness?

Imagine a tourist day out from Inverness, where the morning train to Thurso and the evening return to Inverness offered the best breakfast, dinner and hospitality that Scotland can provide.

You never say never where Terry Miller’s iconic trains are concerned.

If ever a train will still be in main line service, a hundred years after it was built, it will be these trains.

Given their unique status, if they worked the Far North Line, they might just attract enough passengers to make line improvements worthwhile.

Factors Affecting The Edinburgh-Thurso Sleeper

In the following sections, I’ll detail a few factors that will surely affect ridership of a sleeper train between Edinburgh and Thurso.

Sleeper Trains Are Having A Revival

A few years ago, it was predicted that sleeper trains would be consigned to history in a few years.

But in the UK, the Caledonian Sleeper and the Night Riviera, seem to have ignored this advice, with the Scottish service ordering new rolling stock.

Deutsche Bahn thought sleeper trains were the past and they probably were, given the customer-unfriendly way DB ran them. But Austrian Railways are taking over the sleeper services and investing in new rolling stock.

In Sweden, there’s even their own Far North sleeper train from Stockholm to the Arctic Circle. Check out this map on the Swedish Railways web site.

The Curiosity Factor

Done properly, an Edinburgh to Thurso Sleeper would surely attract those, of which I’m probably one, who like to travel to out of the way places as some form of box-ticking.

My Reason For Using Sleeper Trains

I am one of those lucky people, who can sleep anywhere.

So if I’m coming down from a trip to Scotland, I will often have a full day and then catch the sleeper back down to Euston. If I book at the right time, I often find that my First Class sleeper ticket, is less than staying in say a Premier Inn in Edinburgh or Glasgow and buying a train ticket for the morning. I also arrive in London at a time, that hasn’t wasted half the day.

If say, I had to go to an important event in Glasgow or Edinburgh, if possible, I would take the first train to the North in the morning and then come back on that day’s sleeper.

The Edinburgh To Thurso Day Trip

If you look at the times for a train service between Edinburgh and Thurso, it would not be possible to go up and back in a day and have time for a worthwhile meeting or party.

I once drove from Ipswich to Aberdeen and back in a day, but I was in a Lotus Elan doing speeds at up to a hundred on the way.

But you couldn’t do those sorts of speeds now!

On the other hand, if there was a sleeper service between Edinburgh and Thurso, you’d arrive fresh and ready for the day or you could sleep off the Highland hospitality on the way back. Or of course vice-versa!

Why Not A Glasgow To Thurso Sleeper?

Once all the electric trains are running across the Central Belt, Glasgow to Edinburgh could be 36 minutes, with a train every 15 minutes.

So only one route would be needed, as passengers from Glasgow could just take a train across.

But for operational reasons, the sleeper service might start from anywhere in the Central Belt, like the new Edinburgh Gateway station, which is close to Edinburgh Airport.

Thurso To Edinburgh Airport

An Edinburgh-Thurso service would certainly stop at Edinburgh Gateway station, to give easy access to the Airport.

Suppose you were going on holiday or for business reasons to Caithness or somewhere on the Far North Line.

You would catch a convenient flight into Edinburgh Airport and perhaps board the Sleeper st around nine in the evening for the North.

Coming back, you’d catch the Sleeper in Thurso and arrive at Edinburgh in time for a morning flight.

Caithness Tourism

Tourism to Caithness and the North Coast of Scotland could be a big driver of passengers to an Edinburgh to Thurso Sleeper Service.

This page on the Visit Scotland web site gives more details.

There’s even pictures of surfers.

Conclusion

I feel that not next year, but once Scotland’s rail system is fully developed, with the shortened Inter-City 125s serving the longer routes and electric trains all over the Central Belt, that a Sleeper Train between Edinburgh and Thurso will be viable.

 

March 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Trains Enable Chinese And Other Tourists To Invade Loch Ness?

In my list of possible stations from my friend Nick, there is the innocent station called Ness.

This could be any one of the following.

  • Orford Ness in Suffolk.
  • Bo’Ness near Falkirk in Scotland
  • Bowness in Cumbria
  • Loch Ness

As the others, are probably not destinations that would generate a lot of traffic to pay for the station, I suspect that Ness refers to Loch Ness.

There used to be a Fort Augustus Pier station, at the Southern end of Loch Ness. I assume from the giveaway word in the station name, that this was the transit point for Victorian hunters going to shoot Nessy

The station was the Northern terminus of the Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway. At its Southern end the railway connected to the West Highland Line at Spean Bridge station.

This Google Map shows the area.

Fort Augustus To Spean Bridge

Fort Augustus To Spean Bridge

Loch Ness intrudes from the North and Spean Bridge station is close to Ben Nevis at the bottom.

This diagram shows the various stations on the Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway.

ness2

Surprisingly, the railway has not been completely dismantled and Wikipedia says this.

Some of the line today has been built over by roads and holiday parks, although it mostly survives in a reasonably good, if overgrown, condition. The many bridges and single tunnel are in particularly good condition. Some of the line along Loch Oich has been incorporated into the Great Glen Way, and a further section is proposed to become part of National Cycle Route 78.

A restoration project is (2016) under way at Invergarry Station, the last remaining station that is largely intact. The Invergarry Station Preservation Society plan to create a static museum, with a short length of track and several freight wagons.

It would be an interesting way to get to Inverness, if you could get a boat from Fort Augustus.

February 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Borders Railway Tourist Impact Revealed

The title of this post is the same as this article on the BBC web site.

This is said.

New data has shown a “significant improvement” in tourism levels after the opening of the Borders Railway.

The Scottish Tourism Economic Assessment Monitor (STEAM) statistics compared the first half of 2016 to the same period the year before.

It is the first time in 10 years that every category saw improvement.

The company which produces STEAM data said the most likely source for the rise in tourism activity in the Borders and Midlothian was the railway.

Perhaps now the Department of Transport and the Treasury will believe that funding well-designed schemes is very much worthwhile.

February 2, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

What Next For Class 385 Trains?

Scotrail have ordered a fleet of Class 385 trains, which will be built by Hitachi at Newton Aycliffe in the North-East of England.

If you look at Scotrail’s network, there are a lot of lines, where new trains will be needed in the next decade.

Most of these lines are not electrified, so will the Class 385 train, be available in a version say, that would handle lines like the Borders Railway?

Electrifying all lines will be costly and the Heritage Taliban, may object to overhead gantries marching all over Scotland.

Class 800 And Class 801 Trains

The Class 800 trains are electro-diesel trains with a range depending on the size of the fuel tanks, whereas the Class 801 trains are the pure electric version.

Like the Class 385 trains, they are members of Hitachi’s A-Train family, so I suspect that if asked to supply a bi-mode Class 385 train, that Hitachi know the route to create such a train.

Trains With Batteries

I have written two posts about the Japanese using batteries in electric trains.

The Japanese technology, doesn’t seem as comprehensive as that I wrote about in Bombardier’s Plug-and-Play Train, but I’m sure that Hitachi must be thinking about trains with batteries,

Conclusion

I am inevitably drawn to the conclusion, that Hitachi will come up with a train, that can run say between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, substantially under its own power, aided by overhead electrification where it exists.

 

 

November 18, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Is The Levenmouth Rail Link Going To Be Scotland’s Next New Railway?

I ask this question as this article in Global Rail News was asking the same question, with a title of Levenmouth – Scotland’s next railway?.

According to the article, the figures look good, for the reopening of the Levenouth Rail Link,  with a Benefit Cost Ration of 1.3, which compares well with the figure of 0.96 for the successful Borders Railway.

This is also said in the Wikipedia entry for the Fife Circle Line under Future Services.

A Leven rail link would provide better services to support major industrial sites at Fife Energy Park, Methil Docks, the Low Carbon Park (under construction), Diageo, the businesses along the Leven Valley (including Donaldsons) and major retailers in Leven located close to the line (Sainsbury, B&Q, Argos, etc.). Levenmouth is an area of high deprivation and Fife Council estimates that an hourly train link (using the Fife Circle services)to Edinburgh would increase job vacancies by 500% since commuting for work would become possible.

There is one big difference between the Borders Railway and the Levenmouth Rail Link.

On a journey to Scotland’s capital from Leven, the travellers have to cross the large water.barrier of the Firth of Forth.

Is The Firth Of Forth A Psychological Barrier?

Does the Forth act as both a psychological batter, as well as a physical barrier to travel?

I don’t know for sure, but I hear the same sort of comments from my friends in Edinburgh about Fife, as North Londoners make about South London and probably South Londoners make about the North.

The much larger Thameslink project may get all the publicity and criticism, but London’s most modern cross-river link just keeps on giving.

The East London Line  And The Levenmouth Rail Link

You might argue, what has the East London Line  got to do with the Levenmouth Rail Link?

I believe that because of the geography of the two areas, with a major waterway between two centres of population, that the massive underestimation of passenger numbers, that occurred in East London could also happen across the Forth.

Luckily, that just as Marc Brunel provided a high-quality crossing under the Thames, the Victorians did this for the Firth of Forth.

Although, it could be argued that the Scottish crossing is more iconic and you get a better view.

As an aside, if the Forth Bridge, which opened in 1890 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surely Marc Brunel’s much older Thames Tunnel, should be similarly acknowledged.

Local Rail Services Across The Firth Of Forth

At present the local services across the bridge are four trains per hour on the Fife Circle Line.

That is not a high capacity service, given the line is not electrified.

If the Levenmouth Rail Link were to be rebuilt, it would connect to the Fife Circle  and surely, it would mean that more trains could be timetabled to and from Edinburgh, via the new station at Edinburgh Gateway, which gives access to Edinburgh’s trams, the Airport and services to Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

Would those along the Levenmouth Rail Link respond to a new railway, as those who live in Hackney did to the East London Line?

I would be very surprised if they didn’t!

Rebuilding The Levenmouth Rail Link

The Levenmouth Rail Link is a classic branch line, with not much complication. Published plans show the following.

This Google Map shows the junction with the main line.

glenrothrsthornton

Glenrothes with Thornton station is in the South-West corner of the map on the Fife Circle Line.

  • Trains go West from the station to Edinburgh on the Fife Circle Line via Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline.
  • There is a triangular junction to the East of the station.
  • Trains go South from this junction to Edinburgh via Kirkcaldy.
  • Trains go North from this junction to Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen.

To the North of this junction, the line splits, with trains for Leven, branching off to the East.

This map from Wikipedia shows the stations on the Fife Circle Line

Note that the junction where the Fife Circle Line splits South of Markinch station, is the one shown in the Google Map.

Electrification

The Fife Circle and the Edinburgh to Aberdeen Line are not electrified and there are no scheduled plans to do so, other than the aspiration of having more lines with electric services.

But various factors will effect the types of trains between Edinburgh and Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen.

  • Distances are not hundreds of miles.
  • Virgin’s electro-diesel Class 800 trains will be working between Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
  • Could Hitachi build electro-diesel versions of their Class 385 trains, as they share design features with the Class 800 trains?
  • Will Hitachi add energy storage to Class 385 trains?
  • Abellio are rumoured to be introducing trains with energy storage in East Anglia. Would this expertise be used by Abellio ScotRail?

I think we could see a cost-effective strategy implemented, that included electric trains, but a limited amount of overhead wiring.

  • Edinburgh to Dalmeny – Electrified
  • The Forth Bridge could be left without wires, if it were thought too sensitive for the Heritage Taliban.
  • North Queensferry to Perth – Electrified
  • Ladybank to Dundee – Not electrified
  • Fife Circle via Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline – Electrified
  • Levenmouth Rail Link – Not electrified

Note.

  1. As Stirling and/or Dunblane will be electrified, will Stirling to Perth be electrified?
  2. Between Dalmeny and North Queensferry, diesel or battery power would be used on local services.
  3. I have flown my virtual helicopter round the Fife Circle and it doesn’t look that electrification would be a nightmare.
  4. The Levenmouth Rail Link could be run by battery trains, with a charging station, like a Railbaar, at Leven station.

Appropriate trains would provide all services.

Services

Obviously, what services are introduced depends on passenger traffic.

But after a quick look at the lines, I suspect that the Levenmouth Rail Link fits well with current services on the Fife Circle.

Bear in mind too, that reopening the St. Andrews Rail Link , could be a possibility.

Conclusion

The railways North from the Forth Bridge in the East and Stirling and Dunblane in the West to Perth and Dundee could be much improved. I would do the following.

  • Some short lengths of electrification.
  • Bi-mode or battery versions of Class 385 trains.

All trains going over the Forth Bridge, should have large windows. The Bridge Visitor Centre must also have easy access with perhaps a free shuttle bus from Dalmeny station.

One of Scotland’s major assets, must be made to work for its living.

 

 

November 18, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

ScotRail In Trouble

This article on Rail News is entitled Major improvement plan for struggling ScotRail. This is the first paragraph.

The ScotRail Alliance has unveiled a plan to improve performance, after managing director Phil Verster had described the task of upgrading the network while running trains day-to-day as like ‘performing open heart surgery while doing a marathon’.

After my troubles at the weekend on n Northern Rail with overcrowded trains around Blackburn, I wonder if a pattern is emerging.

Consider.

 

There is a lot of work going on in Scotland to electrify Glasgow to Edinburgh under the EGIP scheme.

There are delays to the electrification.

ScotRail will soon be receiving a a new fleet of Hitachi Class 385 trains.

There has been a union dispute.

 

Similar patterns are seen across the network, including in the following places.

  • Manchester Area
  • Northern England
  • Southwards from London
  • Thames Valley
  • Valley Lines In Wales

I do wonder if the announcement of jam, milk and honey in a few years, prompts people to anticipate the new services and the passenger numbers grow, prior to the new services.

All this probably says, is that we should have a long term plan for the railways, which doesn’t get cut back, the next time government has a budget crisis.

October 21, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Expanding The Scottish Sleeper

There is an article in Rail Magazine entitled New Destinations For Scottish Sleeper Trains?.

Oban and the Far North of Scotland are mentioned, as new destinations for the Caledonian Sleeper.

Oban

Oban station is on a branch of the West Highland Line to Fort William.

One of the attractions of Oban for the operator, is that it is a port.

  • Four ferries go to the offshore islands.
  • It would be so convenient to get off the Sleeper and then get on a ferry to your ultimate destination.
  • The Scottish diaspora would love it.

I suspect that Serco’s Marketing Department have the link to the ferries in mind.

Currently, Euston to Fort William takes twelve hours and forty minutes, with the train dividing into three portions at Edinburgh Waverley station.

To serve Oban, it would probably need the train to spin off an extra section which went to Oban.

At present it would appear, that you would get off the Caledonian Sleeper at Crianlarich at 0745, and wait until 1015  to catch the train to Oban.

If that is actually what happens, it’s not very passenger-friendly.

You can also get to Oban at the same time, by taking the sleeper to Glasgow and changing trains there.

As I suspect that the train operator; Serco are serious about getting more passengers to the Caledonian Sleeper, there would seem to be some ways to get passengers to Oban earlier in the morning, perhaps by timetabling an earlier train to Oban that meets the two sleeper trains better.

Once they knew that sufficient passengers were travelling between London and Oban, Serco could start to think about running a direct service.

But would it be a further split of the Highland service at Edinburgh or a split of the Lowland service at Glasgow?

The current frmation of the Highland Sleeper, is given in this section inWikipedia.

This is said in Wikipedia about the splitting off the train in Edinburgh.

The front two sleeping carriages are for Fort William, being combined at Edinburgh with a further two sitting carriages to make a four-vehicle formation. The middle portion of either six carriages is for Aberdeen, and the rear portion of eight carriages is for Inverness. Both the Aberdeen and Inverness portions usually convey one sitting and one lounge carriage each, with the rest being sleeping cars, all working through to/from London.

It might just be too complicated, to split the train for Oban at Edinburgh

The Far North

Serving the Far North Line to Wick and the intermediate stops may well be an ambition, but running a profitable service will surely have problems.

The sleeper takes eleven and a half hours to Inverness and the current local train takes four and a half hours between Inverness and Wick, which makes sixteen hours for the journey. That is just too long, when you can fly it in four hours.

The New Rolling Stock

The new rolling stock from CAF must be the key to improving the service for both the operator and passengers.

  • The current sleeper trains are not the fastest and are generally limited to 40 mph in the Highlands.
  • But even on the West Coast Main Line, the trains don’t go very quick, taking seven and a half hours for the journey, as opposed to four and a half for the fastest Virgins.
  • I would suspect that the new coaches will probably go faster and still give a good night’s sleep. Not that I have any complaints about the current sleepers.
  • Modern technology would probably improve the time to couple and uncouple the various sections of the trains.
  • The mix of carriages will give the operator more flexibility, with respect to the formation of trains.
  • Wikipedia has section on the new Mark 5 Coaches, which says there are 75 coaches of four types, arranged into four sixteen coach trains, with eleven spares.
  • As new trains and coaches attract interest in a train service, I would not be surprised to see the new coaches attracting more passengers to the Caledonian Sleeper.

Four trains is an interesting figure, as at present they only use two; one to the Lowland and one to the Highlands.

But for the first time in the thirty years since the original Mark 3 coaches were built, if the Caledonian Sleeper needs to increase their number of coaches, there will be a manufacturer, who will probably be happy to oblige.

Ladbrokes wouldn’t give me odds on CAF building new coarches for the Night Riviera.

European Services

The first two Eurostars to Paris leave at 0540 and 0701 and the first to Brussels at 0650. At present the sleeper from Glasgow gets in at 0707, but surely better timings between the two services would attract more passengers, who wanted to have a good night’s sleep and be in Paris or Brussels early.

I doubt there is any great demand for a direct sleeper service between Scotland and Paris or Brussels and the cost of the trains would be prohibitive.

But by interfacing the two services properly, there could be a market to be developed.

The new rolling stock with there more generous performance might mean that this is a lot easier.

Kings Cross

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Sleeper MD Considers King’s Cross Potential.

Apparently, passenger feedback from when King’s Cross is used is very positive because of the station’s better connectivity.

I have this feeling that if they moved the Caledonian Sleeper to King’s Cross. during the rebuilding of Euston, that it would never go back.

Onward From The Sleeper Destinations

If you are coming south and arrive in London around seven in the morning, you have lots of modern, comfortable trains to go onward to your ultimate destination.

When I looked at Oban, it struck me that the connections to the sleeper, weren’t as good as say those in London to Bath, Bournemouth, Cardiff or Paris.

So perhaps one of the things that would help the current service is good onward connections in comfortable trains. Abellio Scotrail are committed to improving train services in Scotland, so they may be doing this.

Cnclusion

There is no doubt that the current Caledonian Sleeper is a valuable and much-loved service.  The fact that Serco are buying new carriages from CAF, is not an act of charity and must be because the company believes that they can improve the profitability of the service.

I believe that although eventually, there may be services to other destinations in Scotland, that in the meantime better onward connections may be a more cost-effective solution.

It also has to be said, if improved services work to Scotland, then they’d surely work between London and Cornwall.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | 2 Comments