The Anonymous Widower

Could Electric Trains Run On Long Scenic And Rural Routes?

In the UK we have some spectacular scenic rail routes and several long rural lines.

Basingstoke And Exeter

The West of England Main Line is an important rail route.

The section without electrification between Basingstoke and Exeter St. Davids stations has the following characteristics.

  • It is just over one hundred and twenty miles long.
  • There are thirteen intermediate stations, where the expresses call.
  • The average distance between stations is around nine miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the sixteen miles between Basingstoke and Andover stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around forty-four mph.

There is high quality 750 VDC third-rail electrification at the London end of the route.

Cumbrian Coast Line

The Cumbrian Coast Line  encircles the Lake District on the West.

The section without electrification between Carnforth and Carlisle stations has the following characteristics.

  • It is around a hundred and fourteen miles long.
  • There are twenty-nine intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around four miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the thirteen miles between Millom and Silecroft stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around thirty-five mph.

There is also high standard 25 KVAC electrification at both ends of the line.

Far North Line

The Far North Line is one of the most iconic rail routes in the UK.

The line has the following characteristics.

  • It is one-hundred-and-seventy-four miles long.
  • There are twenty-three intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around seven miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the thirteen miles between Georgemas Junction and Wick stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around forty mph.

The line is without electrification and there is none nearby.

Glasgow To Oban

The West Highland Line is one of the most iconic rail routes in the UK.

The line is without electrification from Craigendoran Junction, which is two miles South of Helensburgh Upper station  and the section to the North of the junction, has the following characteristics.

  • It is seventy-eight miles long.
  • There are ten intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around eight miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the twelve miles between Tyndrum Lower and Dalmally stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around thirty-three mph.

From Glasgow Queen Street to Craigendoran Junction is electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.

Glasgow To Mallaig

This is a second branch of the West Highland Line, which runs between Crianlarich and Mallaig stations.

  • It is one hundred and five miles long.
  • There are eighteen intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around five miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the twelve miles between Bridge Of Orchy and Rannoch stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around twenty-five mph.

Heart Of Wales Line

The Heart of Wales Line is one of the most iconic rail routes in the UK.

The line is without electrification and the section between Swansea and Shrewsbury stations, has the following characteristics.

  • It is just over one hundred and twenty miles long.
  • There are thirty-one intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around four miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the thirteen miles between Shrewsbury and Church Stretton stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is just under forty mph.

There is also no electrification at either end of the line.

Settle And Carlisle

The Settle and Carlisle Line is one of the most iconic rail routes in the UK.

The section without electrification between Skipton and Carlisle stations has the following characteristics.

  • It is just over eighty miles long.
  • There are thirteen intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around six miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the sixteen miles between Gargrave and Hellifield stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around forty mph.

There is also high standard 25 KVAC electrification at both ends of the line.

Tyne Valley Line

The Tyne Valley Line is an important route between Carlisle and Newcastle stations.

The line is without electrification has the following characteristics.

  • It is just over sixty miles long.
  • There are ten intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around six miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the sixteen miles between Carlisle and Haltwhistle stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around mph.

There is also high standard 25 KVAC electrification at both ends of the line.

A Pattern Emerges

The routes seem to fit a pattern, with very similar characteristics.

Important Local Transport Links

All of these routes are probably important local transport links, that get children to school, many people to large towns for shopping and entertainment and passengers of all ages to see their friends and relatives.

Many would have been closed but for strong local opposition several decades ago.

Because of the overall rise in passengers in recent years, they are now relatively safe for a couple of decades.

Iconic Routes And Tourist Attractions

Several of these routes are some of the most iconic rail routes in the UK, Europe or even the world and are tourist attractions in their own right.

Some of these routes are also, very important in getting tourists to out-of-the-way-places.

Lots Of Stations Every Few Miles

The average distance between stations on all lines seems to be under ten miles in all cases.

This surprised me, but then all these lines were probably built over a hundred years ago to connect people to the expanding railway network.

The longest stretch between two stations appears to be sixteen miles.

Diesel Hauled

All trains seem to be powered by diesel.

This is surely very inappropriate considering that some of the routes go through some of our most peaceful and unspoilt countryside.

Inadequate Trains

Most services are run by trains, that are just too small.

I know to put a four-car train on, probably doubles the cost, but regularly as I explore these lines, I find that these two-car trains are crammed-full.

I once inadvertently took a two-car Class 150 train, that was on its way to Glastonbury for the Festival. There was no space for anything else and as I didn’t want to wait an hour for the next train, I just about got on.

Passengers need to be encouraged to take trains to rural events, rather than discouraged.

An Electric Train Service For Scenic And Rural Routes

What would be the characteristics of the ideal train for these routes?

A Four-Car Electric Train

Without doubt, the trains need to be four-car electric trains with the British Rail standard length of around eighty metres.

Dual Voltage

To broaden the applications, the trains should obviously be capable of running on both 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

100 mph Capability

The trains should have at least a 100 mph capability, so they can run on main lines and not hold up other traffic.

No Large Scale Electrification

Unless there is another reason, like a freight terminal, quarry, mine or port, that needs the electrification, using these trains must be possible without any large scale electrification.

Battery, Diesel Or Hydrogen Power

Obviously, some form of power will be needed to power the trains.

Diesel is an obvious no-no but possibly could only be used in a small way as emergency power to get the trains to the next station, if the main power source failed.

I have not seen any calculations about the weight, size and power of hydrogen powered trains, although there have been some professional videos.

But what worries me about a hydrogen-powered train is that it still needs some sizeable batteries.

So do calculations indicate that a hydrogen-powered train is both a realisable train and that it can be produced at an acceptable cost?

Who knows? Until, I see the maths published in a respected publication, I will reserve my judgement.

Do Bombardier know anything?

In the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Bi-Mode Aventra Details Revealed.

A lot of the article takes the form of reporting an interview with Des McKeon, who is Bombardier’s Commercial Director and Global Head of Regional and Intercity.

This is a paragraph.

However, Mr McKeon said his view was that diesel engines ‘will be required for many years’ as other power sources do not yet have the required power or efficiency to support inter-city operation at high-speeds.

As Bombardier have recently launched the Talent 3 train with batteries that I wrote about in Bombardier Introduces Talent 3 Battery-Operated Train, I would suspect that if anybody knows the merits of hydrogen and battery power, it is Mr. McKeon.

So it looks like we’re left with battery power.

What could be a problem is that looking at all the example routes is that there is a need to be able to do station-to-station legs upwards of thirteen-sixteen miles.

So I will say that the train must be able to do twenty miles on battery power.

How Much Battery Capacity Should Be Provided On Each Train?

In Issue 864 of Rail Magazine, there is an article entitled Scotland High Among Vivarail’s Targets for Class 230 D-Trains, where this is said.

Vivarail’s two-car battery units contains four 100 kWh lithium-ion battery rafts, each weighing 1.2 tonnes.

If 200 kWh can be placed under the floor of each car of a rebuilt London Underground D78 Stock, then I think it is reasonable that up to 200 kWh can be placed under the floor of each car of the proposed train.

As it would be required that the train didn’t regularly run out of electricity, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see upwards of 800 kWh of battery installed in the train.

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

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

So if we are aiming for a twenty mile range from a four-car train with an 800 kWh battery, this means that any energy consumption better than 10 kWh will achieve the required range.

Regular Charging At Each Station Stop

In the previous section, I showed that the proposed train with a full battery could handle a twenty mile leg between stations.

But surely, this means that at every stop, the electricity used on the previous leg must be replenished.

In Porterbrook Makes Case For Battery/Electric Bi-Mode Conversion, I calculated the kinetic energy of a four-car Class 350 train, with a full load of passengers, travelling at ninety mph, as 47.1 kWh.

So if the train is travelling at a line speed of ninety mph and it is fitted with regenerative braking with an efficiency of eighty percent, 9.4 kWh of energy will be needed for the train to regain line speed.

There will also be an energy consumption of between 3 kWh and 5 kWh per vehicle per mile.

For the proposed four-car train on a twenty mile trip, this will be between 240 and 400 kWh.

This will mean that between 240 and 400 kWh will need to be transferred to the train during a station stop, which will take one minute at most.

I covered en-route charging fully in Charging Battery/Electric Trains En-Route.

I came to this conclusion.

I believe it is possible to design a charging system using proven third-rail technology and batteries or supercapacitors to transfer at least 200 kWh into a train’s batteries at each stop.

This means that a substantial top up can be given to the train’s batteries at stations equipped with a fast charging system.

New Or Refurbished Trains?

New trains designed to meet the specification, could obviously be used.

But there are a several fleets of modern trains, which are due to be replaced. These trains will be looking for new homes and could be updated to the required battery/electric specification.

  • Greater Anglia – 30 x Class 379 trains.
  • Greater Anglia – 26 x Class 360 trains.
  • London North Western Railway – 77 x Class 350 trains.
  • TransPennine Express – 10 x Class 350 trains

In Porterbrook Makes Case For Battery/Electric Bi-Mode Conversion, I describe Porterbrook’s plans to convert a number of Class 350 trains to battery/electric trains.

These Class 350 Battery/FLEX trains should meet the specification needed to serve the scenic and rural routes.


I am led to the conclusion, that it will be possible to design a battery/electric train and charging system, that could introduce electric trains to scenic and rural routes all over the UK, with the exception of Northern Ireland.

But even on the island of Ireland, for use both North and South of the border, new trains could be designed and built, that would work on similar principles.

I should also say, that Porterbrook with their Class 350 Battery/FLEX train seem to have specfied a train that is needed. Pair it with the right charging system and there will be few no-go areas in mainland UK.

November 2, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yprkshire Gets Excited About The Borders Railway

The headline of Rail study looks at linking Leeds to Edinburgh along historic line in this article in the Craven Herald says it all.

After all England has its spectacular line in the shape of the Settle to Carlisle Line and linking it to Edinburgh would only be restoring its original purpose, when the route was built by the Midland Railway.

May 13, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

How Times Change

Several hundred years ago, those living in the North of England, would have waited with fear and trepidation at the thought of invasion from those living across the Border.

But not anymore!

According to this article in the Cumbria Crack, which is entitled Settle-Carlisle groups welcome Scottish rail study.

This is said.

Putting this into historical context, Mark Rand, Joint Vice Chairman of the 3500-member Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line said: “People often ask why did the Victorians build a railway line from tiny Settle to the border city of Carlisle. It was part of a much greater whole – the Midland Railway’s main route from London St Pancras to Scotland via Leeds and Carlisle, from where what is today called the Borders Railway continued to Edinburgh. What opportunities the full Edinburgh-Carlisle re-opening would enable! The Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line welcomes this study with open arms.”

Further, the full re-opening would give a railway offering world-class scenery for much of the 211 miles from Leeds to Edinburgh, attracting huge numbers of international tourists, as happens in countries such as Norway and Switzerland, an industry so vital to the UK economy.

Unlike many railway projects, this project only needs the railway to be built, as the trains that would be ideal for Leeds to Edinburgh via Caelisle, were built forty years ago.

What better route would there be to serve with refurbished examples of Terry Miller‘s masterpiece, the InterCity 125?

May 12, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Exploring Skipton Station

Skipton station is more than just the terminus of the Airedale Line from Leeds and Bradford Forster Square stations.

It is the Eastern gateway to the iconic Settle and Carlisle Railway, that after suffering temporary closures in 2015-16 because of Storm Desmond and some of the most challenging reconstruction in recent years, the line is now ready to play its part as one of England’s most memorable tourist attractions.

These pictures show the station and the lines towards Settle.

But Skipton and its station can get more important.

Under Future in the Wikipedia entry for the station, these improvements are mentioned.

More Virgin Services To London

Virgin Train’s new Class 800/801 trains are more flexible than the current trains working to Leeds.

I think we will see two five car trains joining together to form ten-car trains, as this will make better use of the capacity of the railway.

So could a five-car train from Skipton connect with a five-car train from Harrogate and become a ten-car train from Leeds to London?

I suspect the answer is yes, despite the fact that the Harrogate Line is not electrified.

More Capacity On The Airedale Line

This is needed and could be by allowing six instead of four car trains or increased frequencies.

The length increase to six-cars would be necessary for the Class 800/801 to run to Skipton.

More Trains To Carlisle Via Settle

After all the money spent on this line, I can see the line made to work hard to pay back the cost.

More Trains To Morecambe via Lancaster

If one line gets more trains, why not the other?

It also needs better trains than the Class 150 train, I saw going to Morecambe.

Skipton To Colne

SELRAP have been lobbying to reopen the rail link between Skipton and Colne.

There are problems with reopening the line, especially around Colne.

But I think it is one of those projects, that if that keen hill-walker and Prime Minister; Theresa May said go, it would happen.

It certainly, isn’t a crazy project.


April 22, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Scheduled Steam-Hauled Services For the Settle And Carlisle Railway

The iconic Settle and Carlisle Railway has not had a good recent history.

A section in the Wikipedia entry for the line called 2015–16 Temporary Closures, gives full details of the damage wreaked by various storms. The section finishes with this statement.

The £23 million project is now scheduled for completion by the end of March 2017.

This gives an indication of the serious nature of the damage.

Northern obviously feel that some good publicity is needed to tell everybody that the Settle and Carlisle Line is open for business.

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Steam to run timetabled Northern trains on S&C.

It describes how Steam trains in the form of the appropriate  Tornado will be running two return services on each of February 14, 15 and 16.

This is said.

Steam trains formed of Mk 2 carriages will replace DMUs on timetabled trains over the Settle & Carlisle (S&C) route next month.

A1 ‘Pacific’ 60163 Tornado, completed in 2008, will haul the Northern trains over the S&C between Skipton and Appleby on three consecutive days. The first timetabled ordinary main line passenger steam trains to run in England for 50 years are the result of a pioneering modern and heritage industry alliance, formed to help revive the economic fortunes of the beleaguered S&C.

It is certainly a commitment to the future of the route.

January 14, 2017 Posted by | Transport | | 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.


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 | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Is Community Rail A Good Thing?

This article from the BBC is entitled TransWilts rail service made permanent by government.

It would certainly appear that the revived fifty kilometre service across Wiltshire has been a success.

The line may not be as spectacular as Settle-Carlisle, but like that famous line, Transwilts seems to show that Community Rail lines work.

September 30, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Carlisle Station Gets A Makeover

In If Manchester Victoria And Birmingham New Street Were The First Two Courses, Is Carlisle The Third?, I wrote how Carlisle station was going to get a £14.7 million upgrade including a new ETFE roof.

These pictures show the progress.


  • There are two through lines in the station for freight and other trains that don’t stop.
  • The four bay platforms at Carlisle are all electrified to some extent and it wouldn’t be the biggest task to make the station fully-electrified.
  • It looked to me like a lot of the magnificent station building, isn’t being used to its full potential.
  • The welcoming square outside the station needs an upgrade to become a real gateway to Carlisle.

I think that after the makeover, it will be a second very high-class station to mark the border between England and Scotland.

Carlisle could be in a unique position in a few years.

  • It is already the best connected city in the Borderlands.
  • Published plans mean that electric express trains will serve Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Manchester Airport, at least once an hour, with some places getting at least double.
  • As I wrote in Arriva Rail North’s New Trains, new CAF Civity trains will be arriving, in both electric and diesel variants.
  • After the current landslide at Armathwaite  is cleared up on the Settle-Carlisle Line, these new trains will surely be running at least an hourly service to Leeds.
  • The new trains will be providing an improvement in comfort, speed and possibly frequency on the hourly service to Newcastle, on the Tyne Valley Line.
  • The new trains, would surely work their magic on the Cumbrian Coast Line around the Lake District.
  • Scotrail is getting new trains too, and will some be used to provide a better service to Glasgow via Dumfries and Kilmarnock, using the Glasgow South Western Line.

If this doesn’t increase the numbers of tourists taking a rail-based exploration holiday of the Borderlands and the Lake District, I would be extremely surprised.

I’m not the only person, who thinks this way, as in the July 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, Theo Steel discusses options for the increase in traffic on the Settle to Carlisle Line.

In addition, other developments may happen, that will also increase Carlisle’s importance to the Anglo-Scottish  railway system.

  • The events of this winter, where the West Coast Main Line was closed because of bad weather, could see the Glasgow South Western Line improved and electrified to provide a valuable diversion route for train services between England and Glasgow.
  • There could be a need for more Anglo-Scottish freight trains, but the West Coast Main Line is very busy. So will this mean that freight trains will increasingly use  secondary routes like Settle-Carlisle and the Glasgow South Western Line.
  • Carstairs station sits between Carlisle, Edinburgh and Glasgow and I can’t believe that Scotrail won’t use their new trains to improve services through the town. As ever, the improvements in services around Carstairs,  will probably be driven by the need for new housing and commuting to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The big question though, is whether the Borders Railway will ever get to Carlisle. If it does, then Carlisle will be ready with a refurbished and electrified platform, alongside the one currently used for services on the Glasgow South Western Line.

Network Rail seem to deserve a few plaudits for their foresight in preparing Carlisle station for the future.

June 21, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Where Does The Borders Railway Go Next?

My Borders correspondent, who lives near Selkirk, says that the Borders Railway has been generally well received. Certainly if you search Google News for Borders Railway, you don’t find many problems or complaints, except one about the singing of the National Anthem for the Queen.

A friend in Edinburgh has just told me, that the trains are too crowded at times. So what’s new? New railways are always crowded, especially if they fulfil a need.

The most common articles on the web, are ones like this one from the Border Telegraph, entitled Next Stop Hawick….

So what will effect this line in the next few years and what do I think will happen?

The Me Too Effect

Now that Galashiels has a reliable half-hourly service to Edinburgh, I suspect that the inhabitants South of Tweedbank, will say that if Galashiels and Tweedbank can have this, why can’t Melrose and Hawick?


Cross Border Co-operation

The Borders area of Scotland and the neighbouring area of England are very similar and probably have the same strengths, problems and needs.

In some ways they are very economically linked now.

  • Carlisle is economically tied to the Scottish Borders for shopping and transport links.
  • Newcastle is a major airport for the area.
  • There is even a rail service between Glasgow and Newcastle, that goes via Kilmarnock, Dumfries, Hexham and the Metro Centre.
  • Area rail tickets for North West England include Lockerbie.
  • Carlisle and Newcastle are the two major places to catch trains to the South, unless you go North to Edinburgh and Glasgow..

Surely this togetherness should be built on to develop the Borderlands, provided the politicians can be kept out of their way, in their offices in London and Edinburgh.

Increasing Railway Capacity Between England And Scotland

At present, the East Coast Main Line and the West Coast Main Line do not provide enough capacity between England and Scotland, for both passengers and freight.

Tourism And Other Economic Effects

I live in the Dalston area of Hackney, which is an area that has been uplifted by the creation of the London Overground from the rather decrepit railways that used to run through the area.

Unless you have lived through the process, most people will not understand how regular trains, running on a frequency of at least two an hour, can bring economic benefits to an area.

The Borderlands, probably have an economic profile not unlike the areas of East Anglia away from the large towns and cities that I know well.

  • Both areas are ringed by a series of large towns and cities
  • There is a lot of farming.
  • There are a lot of tourism-related businesses of all sizes.
  • In the summer, visitors take days out into the areas.
  • There is a certain amount of specialist manufacture.
  • Housing is being developed for those who have retired, who live and work locally and who commute to major towns and cities nearby.

All of these activities will increase the need for better transport links to the major cities that ring the areas.

The latest East Anglian Rail Franchise will mandate the franchisee to provide much better services all over the area and especially on the branch lines.

I can’t believe that the areas on both sides of the Border would not be worth developing in a similar way to that proposed for East Anglia.

Extending The Borders Railway To Melrose, Hawick And Carlisle

Scottish Borders politicians are all in favour of this extension, as are probably the good citizens of the area. My Borders correspondent and his family certainly appear to be.

Just as I have seen an economic uplift in Hackney because of the London Overground, I think it would be unlikely that the Borders Railway running through Melrose and Hawick, would not increase economic activity in the area.

This extension would certainly happen if Scotland stayed in the United Kingdom, as in some ways, this reopening, would help develop tourism in the wider area of the whole Borderlands, the Lake District and North Yorkshire.

Carlisle is probably the big winner in this activity and becomes a city with important or picturesque railway lines going everywhere.

The Borders Railway provides the missing link in the railways of the Borderlands.

So when the Scottish politicians discuss the project, they should take into account, the positive affects a complete line would have on England!

Should The Borders Railway Be Electrified?

This question could legitimately by asked about all the other lines meeting at Carlisle, that are not electrified.

But as Carlisle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle , Preston and Skipton are all electrified, I suspect all of the Carlisle lines have enough electrification to be run by modern four-car Aventra IPEMU trains, charging their batteries where overhead power is available and running on batteries as needed.

Some of the lines, including possibly the Borders Railway, are probably ready for Aventra IPEMUs now, with a bit of modification to platforms, track and signalling! Some like probably the Cumbria Coast Line would need some electrification or other means to charge the batteries en route.

So the answer to the electrification question must be yes, if Aventra IPEMUs are used.

But it would create a local railway network, as good as any in Europe, in an environmentally-friendly but totally affordable way.

It would be a showpiece of British technology and an attraction to rail enthusiasts from all over the world.

The network also connects to four World Heritage Sites and the Lake District, Hadrian’s Wall and the major cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.

Would An Extended Borders Railway Provide Extra Capacity Between England And Scotland?

The Borders Railway has a limited number of paths for trains and when a steam special is run, one of the diesel multiple units has to give up its slot. Read various criticisms on Wikipedia.

My scheduling experience, does suggest to me, that if the line was run by the faster and better accelerating electric trains, including Aventra IPEMUs, that this might create some extra capacity on the line.

Unless the line was fully electrified, it wouldn’t be a route for using the electric trains that run up the East and West Coast Main Lines.

But it would be able to take services run by Aventra IPEMUs or any diesel-hauled passenger or freight trains.

These capacity arguments would also apply to the Glasgow and South Western Line, so with a bit of selective electrification and Aventra IPEMUs, some extra capacity might be squeezed in.

I certainly think that a railway time-tabling expert could certainly find some extra capacity.

But it might be overnight freight trains?

Are There Any Branches To The Borders Railway That Could Be Created?

The original Waverley route had several branches including to Peebles and Hexham.

Midlothian Council have also thought about a branch to Penicuik.

Extra branches are up to the economics and the politicians.


In my view, not to extend the Borders Railway to Carlisle by way of Melrose and Hawick, would be total stupidity.

The problem is that despite being totally in Scotland, extending the Borders Railway to Carlisle, has substantial benefits for England too!

What will Nicola think?







October 2, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Long Live The Settle And Carlisle

Or as I rode the Settle and Carlisle line yesterday from North to South, should I call it, the Carlisle and Settle?

I’ve never ridden it before and I can’t understand why, as it is a spectacular line running through magnificent scenery.

The weather yesterday wasn’t good as the pictures show.  But that didn’t stop the 15:05 from Carlisle being about two-thirds full. Most seemed to be small groups, whohad had a day out and were returning to Leeds. But judging by their clothes, they weren’t going to stray far into the hills.

If this a typical journey on a wet Tuesday afternoon in late January, there can’t be much wrong with the way the line is managed, as a partnership.  Judging by the age of many of the customers, the ridership is probably a tribute to the Senior and other railcards.

Reading various web sites it would seem that Network Rail have got to grips with the magnificent Ribblehead Viaduct, the track and other structures, and the Settle Carlisle Railway Development Company seem to have been doing their best in restoring stations and other lineside structures. I also found this article on the Network Rail web site about improving communications and signalling.

It would appear too, that there is a lot of enthusiasm and common sense in securing the future of this line.

So what do I think the future will hold?

The Development Company and others want to see more trains on the line. Currently, there are seven trains in both directions between Leeds and Carlisle, with the first leaving at 05:29 from Leeds and 05:50 from Carlisle. If that isn’t a schedule to get people into the hills for a heavy constitutional, then I don’t know what is? The train I rode was one of Northern Rail’s two coach Class 158s. It would be interesting to see how crowded these trains get in the summer! Obviously new trains are out of the question, but with the Manchester-Liverpool-Blackpool electrification, there might be some more of these Class 158s available. If those backing a direct Manchester to Carlisle service over the line, they’ll certainly be needed. But people have said to me, that there is a shortage of decent diesel multiple units in the UK.

Surely though, greater capacity on the line will help to generate tourism in the area and all the much-needed employment it creates!

As I write this note, it has been announced that the West coast Main Line has been closed due to overhead line problems at Penrith.  So like the problems I encountered last Saturday on Greater Anglia, there I suspect, a lot of frustrated passengers and rauilway managers and staff, wondering what is going to happen!

So perhaps one option might be to electrify Settle to Carlisle and the related Leeds to Morecambe line. This would provide a double-tracked by-pass from Carnforth to Carlisle. This option, which could also be used by freight trains is discussed here. Remember that the West Coast Main Line is mainly double-track, so an electrified Settle to Carlisle line, would give some extra much-needed capacity between the North of England and Scotland. Admittedly, it wouldn’t be a 200 kph like the West Coast Main Line. It certainly, is a line that can take heavy trains, as the media is always showing pictures of trains like steam driven excursions using the route.

As I indicated earlier, there is a shortage of diesel multiple units and this is often the reason that drives services on the UK’s railways. Greater Anglia run a deplorable service from Ipswich to Felixstowe using a single coach Class 153. But it’s not their fault that they can’t get hold of something bigger and better.  Nothing else exists!

I have said before that the High Speed Diesel Trains, that will be surplus to requirements after the introduction could be reused on some of the lines in the UK like Settle to Carlisle and Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. As Chiltern have shown, if the Mark 3 coaches are refurbished and returned to their original seat layout, they ride like Jaguars and are some of the finest trains in the world.

On Settle to Carlisle line, they would be ideal to allow the reinstatement of direct Glasgow to Leeds and East Midlands services, which currently go via Edinburgh.

I don’t know what is going to happen in the next few years, but without doubt, something will happen to invigorate the Settle to Carlisle line.

The line will outlive us all!

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments