The Anonymous Widower

Economics Of Very Light Rail Between Cromer And Sheringham

In Very Light Rail Research On Track, I reviewed an article of the same name on Railway Gazzette International.

The article ,mentioned that the route between Cromer and Sheringham stations could be run by very light rail vehicles.

Very Light Rail Vehicles

Very Light Rail vehicles are defined as weighing less than a tonne per linear metre.

  • Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) found the most efficient propulsion system, was diesel-electric hybrid with battery storage. Was it nicked from an LEVC taxi?
  • An eighteen metre long vehicle will hold 56 seating and 60 standing passengers.
  • Will turn round times at the end of a shuttle route be reduced to perhaps two minutes as the driver only has to walk eighteen metres?
  • The article doesn’t give any speed estimates for very light rail vehicles. But I suspect 50-60 mph would be possible, as this is the operating speed of a Class 399 tram-train and very much the speed of typical single-decker buses.

If seated passengers weigh 90 kilograms with baggage, bikes and buggies and standing passengers perhaps 75 kilograms, this gives a vehicle weight of around 27.5 tonnes.

I estimate that a three-car Class 755 train, with the same passenger load would weigh around 108 tonnes or about 98 tonnes empty, which is about a tonne and a half per linear metre. A single-car Class 153 train is about 1.8 tonnes per linear metre.

Very light rail vehicles appear to be considerably lighter.

Cromer And Sheringham Line

This section of the Bittern Line can be considered a branch of the main section of the line, which links Norwich and Cromer stations.

  • It is single-track.
  • There is a simple cross-over outside Cromer station
  • It is just over 3.5 miles long.
  • Sheringham station is a single platform, that has recently been extended to take four-car Class 755 trains.
  • The only intermediate station is West Runton, which is a single platform.
  • Cromer station has two platforms.
  • Trains take eight minutes to go between Sheringham and Cromer stations.
  • The average speed of the train between Sheringham and Cromer is just 26 mph.
  • The maximum speed of the route is given in Wikipedia as 75 mph. As it is fairly straight it could probably be improved.

As four trains per hour (tph) between Cromer and Sheringham would take a total of 64 minutes, it would seem to be impossible to run such a schedule with current trains, given that the driver would have to change ends eight times in an hour.

Cromer Station

This Google Map shows the two-platform Cromer station.

Note the Northern platform, which is directly connected to the route to Sheringham.

A Split Service

Operation of a split service could be as follows.

  • A shuttle using the Northern platform 2 to Sheringham via West Runton.
  • A service to Norwich using the Southern platform 1.

I suspect to save signalling costs, that the Sheringham service could be run for most of the time under the principle of one-train on the line.

Could Four tph Run Between Cromer And Sheringham?

I suspect that a driver in running shoes could squeeze four tph out of a three-car Class 755 train.

Consider.

  • Three-car trains would save 160 metres of walking over four-car trains.
  • The Class 755 trains are designed for quick stops and have fast acceleration.
  • Versions of the trains are to be fitted with batteries.
  • Two crew working together with some automation might mean that the driver doesn’t have to change ends.
  • Three tph would be easier, as it would give more time for the driver to change ends.
  • Automation with the crew having an override could surely be used.

I don’t believe it would be impossible for a system of operation for this shuttle to be run using a Class 755 train.

Certainly, three tph is easier, but four tph is much more passenger friendly.

Could Two tph Run Between Cromer And Norwich?

Currently, trains take fifty-seven minutes between Norwich and Sheringham, which means that two tph would be very complicated, but not impossible.

Running the Cromer and Sheringham section independently, would mean that the time between Cromer and Norwich could be as low as forty-six minutes.

For a start, this means that a single train could work an hourly service between Cromer and Norwich.

It probable means that two trains could run a two tph service, provided that they could pass at a suitable place, where there are two tracks, as at North Walsham or to the South of Hoverton & Wroxham station.

Possible Service Patterns

I think the ideal service pattern would be something like this.

  • Two tph between Cromer and Norwich.
  • Three or four tph between Cromer and Sheringhan.

Currently, there is an hourly service along the whole route, which needs two trains to operate.

Two tph to and from Norwich and a shuttle would only need one extra train.

Savings With Very Light Rail

There are various ways cost savings can be made.

Cost Of The Vehicle

Leasing a single very light rail vehicle will be much less than leasing even an ancient one-car Class 153 train.

Obviously, for a reliable service, a spare will be needed, if a company had several routes that could be developed using very light rail, then the spare could be shared.

It looks like Greater Anglia are also thinking about other routes, so this may be an economic proposition.

One Train On Line Operation

Cromer and Sheringham could be run with a single train shuttling between the two stations and the points set, so that no other train could use the track.

This must surely reduce signalling costs.

Track Access Charges

Lighter trains have lower track access charges.

This could be a substantial saving, especially if there were four tph in both directions.

Cost Of New Infrastructure

Some routes that will be proposed for very light rail operation will need bridges and embankments to be built.

If the maximum weight of the vehicle is lower, this must surely reduce costs, as lighter structures could be used.

Fast Turnround Times

One of the limiting factors in providing frequent services over a short branch line is the time it takes to turn the train at each end of the route.

But in a very light rail vehicle, which is only eighteen metres long, the driver can probably change cabs in under two minutes, which is of the order of the time it takes to load and unload the train with passengers.

The only high frequency shuttle service over a short route in the UK is the one between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town stations.

  • The route is just 0.8 of a mile long.
  • It is served by Class 139 trains, which are just 8.7 metres long and can carry 20–25 seated, 30–35 standing passengers.
  • Trains run every ten minutes
  • The turnround time appears to be about two minutes

It is reputed to be the shortest operational branch line in Europe.

I can’t see why, that in a well-designed very light rail vehicle that is only twice the length of a Class 139 train, that the turnround time could not be the same time of two minutes.

It probably can’t be any shorter, in case several people turn up in wheel-chairs at the same time.

If we look at the Cromer and Sheringham route, I can see the following timing being possible for a well-designed shuttle train on the route.

  • Cromer to West Runton – two minutes
  • Stop at West Runton – one minute
  • West Runton to Sheringham – two minutes
  • Turnround at Sheringham – two minutes
  • Sherington to West Runton – two minutes
  • Stop at West Runton – one minute
  • West Runton to Cromer – – two minutes
  • Turnround at Cromer – two minutes

Note.

  1. The round trip would take fourteen minutes.
  2. I have assumed that the train is running at around 50-60 mph.
  3. The West Runton stop could be by request.
  4. There is only one train on the route at all times.

The round trip could be scheduled at four tph.

It must surely be an affordable way to provide a service.

I would also do the following.

  • As at Stourbridge have a second train on standby, to guarantee a reliable service, rescue a failed train and perhaps double the capacity at busy times.
  • Services between Cromer and Sheringham would be free.
  • Cromer, West Runton and Sheringham would be part of a group called Cromer stations, like Birmingham stations and Manchester station. So to book to any of the stations, you’d buy a ticket to Cromer stations.

If the latter ideas didn’t attract passengers then nothing would.

Greater Anglia would get their revenue on the onward services from Cromer.

Could The Cromer And Sheringham Shuttle Be Extended To Holt?

If the train crosses the level crossing at Sheringham station, the track extends all the way to Holt on the North Norfolk Railway.

This Google Map shows the two stations at Sheringham on either side of the level crossing.

The National Rail station is on the East side, with the heritage railway on the West.

Some heritage railways are certified to be able to run scheduled services to and from the main rail network.

This may even be possible here, to allow a service between Cromer and Holt.

Although the North Norfolk Railway seem to run a frequent timetable, I’m sure if there was the necessary coming together, that a service that was beneficial to all parties could be arranged.

Conclusion

Very light rail could be very exciting!

February 2, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Comparing Ride And Perceived Performance In Class 170 And Class 755 trains

I had intended to go to Norwich and Sheringham today, to take some pictures of Class 755 trains at Sheringham station.

Unfortunately, when I got to Norwich, the Sheringham train was a Class 170 train, so as I was running late, I came back.

But as I had travelled to Norwich in a twenty-year-old Class 170 train and returned in a brand-new Class 755 train, I was able to compare their ride and passenger performance on the well-maintained and straight Breckland Line.

The Class 170 train has a good ride and I’ve never felt to complain, even when travelling at 100 mph on some CrossCountry and Greater Anglia routes.

But I did feel that the Class 755 train had a smoother ride.

I did time the 755 at 90 mph on parts of the route, but at most times it was doing a motr sedate 75 mph.

Could it be that twenty years has enabled train dynamics to have been improved using computer simulation?

Intriguingly, the three-car Class 170 train is twenty percent heavier and has half the power of the four-car Class 755 train, which probably results in more sprightly acceleration for the new train.

Could this acceleration mean that the trains will be faster on a route with lots of stops?

 

November 11, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment