The Anonymous Widower

The Crossrail Era Cometh

This title of this post comes from a comment on the Drapers Online web site.

It discusses the effect Crossrail is going to have on the shops in Oxford Street. This paragraph is typical of the bullish tone of the comment.

The Elizabeth Line is central to ushering in a new chapter for Oxford Street and the wider West End. The line is expected to bring an extra 60 million visits to the area each year, in addition to the current 200 million annual visits. Retailers in the West End will receive a huge boost from two new stations opening at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road.

I wonder when a railway got such a large comment in a magazine or web site, devoted to the fashion business.

September 5, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Do We Spend An Average Price On Food Items?

This may seem a silly question to ask, but I tend to do most of my food shopping in Marks and Spencer and like the convenience of using contactless payment.

But I have found on average, that my average payment is just a few pence over a couple of pounds.

So when I get to fourteen items, unless there is something I have to get, like supper, I stop shopping.

I was surprised how similar the average item cost was each time.

But then I don’t buy much, as I live alone and I’m coeliac. And I do shop elsewhere as well!

One thing I do wonder, is that since I’ve been counting, I seem to be throwing away less food, so perhaps it’s stopped me buying too much!

August 2, 2017 Posted by | Food | , | Leave a comment

Chiltern Railways Must Be Chuffed

This article in the Oxford Mail is entitled One Million Passengers Use New Rail Link Between Bicester And Oxford In First Six Months.

Chiltern Railways spokesman, says they are delighted.

The article also discloses that the proportion of visitors to Bicester Village, travelling by train has gone up from three to ten per cent.

I haven’t been to Bicester Village since C died, but it was always a difficult place to park, so if nothing else the economics of Bicester Village, must be improved, if visitors come by train. That must mean the ratio of shops to parking can go up.

There must be a lot of data about rail-connected shopping centres, as the UK has several.

  • Eastfield at Stratford.
  • Grand Central in Birmingham
  • Meadowhall
  • Metro Centre at Gateshead
  • Oxford Street
  • Westfield at Shepherds Bush

It will be interesting to see what happens after the following.

  • Oxford Street gets two double-ended Crossrail stations at Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street.
  • The Trafford Centre is connected to the Manchester Metrolink.
  • Merry Hill is connected to the Midland Metro.

I don’t think that the rail and tram companies would be making these investments, if they felt they would be losing money.

There must be a very strong link to the bottom line of Shopping Centres.

Consider.

  • Provision of car parking spaces must be expensive.
  • Provision of car parking uses up space that could be used for retail outlets or leisure facilities.
  • Lots of car parking produces traffic jams.
  • Car parking regularly gets full.
  • Cars get broken into and damaged.
  • Increasing capacity on a rail or tram link is not the Shopping Centre’s capital investment.

But most importantly, does a rail/tram link attract people like me, who can’t or don’t drive.

I also think, that Shopping Centres benefit from passing trade from the rail or tram link.

If I’m passing Eastfield or Westfield in London or Meadowhall in Sheffield and need lunch or a gluten-free sandwich from Marks and Spencer, I will often break my journey and have a quick shop.

In many cases, this is easier on a train or tram, than in a car, as the driver parks the former for you and you’re often immediately in the Shopping Centre.

I’m particularly looking forward to the opening of the Western entrance to Tottenham Court Road station when Crossrail opens next year. This entrance will be next door to the flagship Marks and Spencer store at the Pantheon.

 

 

June 15, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier (HSPT)

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which talks about high-value parcel carriers. The article says this.

Think about all those 1980s units that are soon to be made redundant, especially the ones with wide doorways. You could forklift in pallets and move them by hand trolley inside the vehicle (forklift tines would not fit an HST’s doors).

A Class 150 parcels unit, anyone?

There are other reasons for not using a High Speed Train.

  • ScotRail and Great Western Railway have better uses for the trains moving passengers around in style.
  • Their 125 mph capability and large windows might come in handy for heritage tourism.
  • They are diesel trains and some might not like to hear them thundering through the countryside in the middle of the night.

As to the Class 150 train, it has a few disadvantages.

  • It is only two-cars.
  • It has a 75 mph operating speed.
  • It is diesel-powered, which probably means regular refuelling.

But also like all Mark 3-based stock it scrubs up well as I wrote in What Train Is This?

I would refurbish the whole fleet and use them on short branch lines to provide a quality service, where a two or four-car train was all that was needed.

So what would be the specification of an ideal Go-Anywhere Express Parcel and Pallet Carrier?

I was going to call it a GAEPPC in this post, but that’s rather a mouthful, so I’ll call it a High Speed Parcel Train or High Speed Pallet Train, which in recognition of its more famous big brother will be called a HSPT.

For the specification, it might be a good idea to start with the Class 325 train. This is the first paragraph of the train’s Wikipedia entry.

The British Rail Class 325 is a 4-car dual-voltage 25 kV alternating current (AC) or 750 V direct current (DC) electric multiple unit (EMU) train used for postal train services. While the Class 325 bears a resemblance to the Networker series of DMUs and EMUs, they are based on the Class 319 EMU. The Class 325 was British Rail’s newest unit to take over parcels workings on electrified lines.

The requirement might have changed since the 1990s, but the basic specification would be similar.

  • Four-cars
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail operation.
  • The ability to run as four-, eight- and twelve-car trains.
  • It would be available in a range of colours and not just red!

In addition, it would need wide doors for pallets.

It would also be nice, if the HSPT could run on lines without electrification.

Look at this picture of a Class 321 train.

Would a standard size 1200 x 1000 pallet go through this door?

This morning, I measured the door on a Class 378 train and it was about 1700 mm. wide. So yes!

Once inside the systems used in cargo aircraft could be used to arrange the pallets.

Consider, these facts about Class 321 trains.

  • They are four-car electric multiple units, that can also run as eight and twelve car units.
  • They can operate at 100 mph.
  • They are dual voltage units, if required.
  • There are 117 of the trains, of which over a hundred will be released by Greater Anglia and will need a new caring owner.
  • The interior may be wide enough to put two standard pallets side-by-side.
  • They are based on Mark 3 steel carriages, so are built to take punishment.

In Could There Be A Class 321 Flex Train?, I speculated as to whether these trains could be fitted with underfloor diesel engines as in the Class 319 Flex train. After the news reports in the June 2017 Edition of Modern railways, which I reported on in The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769, I’m now convinced that converting other types of train like Class 455 and Class 321 trains is feasible and that the train refurbishing companies are going to be extremely busy.

I have a feeling that Class 319 trains will not be converted to HSPTs, as they seem to be very much in demand to carry more valuable cargo – Namely fare-paying passengers!

But fit diesel engines under a Class 321 train and I think it would make a HSPT, that could travel on nearly every mile of the UK rail network and quite a few miles on heritage railways too!

A Freight Terminal For An HSPT

As the Class 321 train has been designed for passengers, it lines up reasonably well with most of the station platforms in the UK.

So at its simplest a freight terminal for a HSPT could just be a station platform, where a fork lift truck could lift pallets in and out.The freight handling facilities would be designed appropriately.

Supermarket Deliveries

I also think, that if a HSPT were available, it could attract the attention of the big supermarket groups.

In The LaMiLo Project, I described how goods were brought into Euston station in the middle of the night for onward delivery.

If it cuts costs, the supermarket groups will use this method to get goods from their central warehouses to perhaps the centres of our largest cities.

Get the design right and I suspect the supermarkets’ large delivery trolley will just roll between the train and the last-mile truck, which ideally would be a zero-emission vehicle.

In some of the larger out-of-town superstores, the train could even stop alongside the store and goods and trolleys could be wheeled in and out.

This Google Map shows Morrisons at Ipswich.

The store lies alongside the Great Eastern Main Line.

Surely, the ultimate would be if the goods were to be transported on the trains in driverless electric trolleys, which when the doors were opened, automatically came out of the trains and into the store.

Supermarket groups like to emphasise their green credentials.

Surely, doing daily deliveries to major stores by train, wouldn’t annoy anybody. |Except perhaps Donald Trump, but he’s an aberration on the upward march of scientifically-correct living.

Just-In-Time Deliveries

To take Toyota as an example, in the UK, cars are built near Derby, and the engines are built near Shotton in North Wales.

Reasons for the two separate sites are probably down to availability of the right workforce and Government subsidy.

I’m not sure, but I suspect currently in Toyota’s case, engines are moved across the country by truck, but if there was a HSPT, with a capacity of around a hundred and fifty standard pallets would manufacturing companies use them to move goods from one factory to another?

It should be said in Toyota’s case the rail lines at both Derby and Shotton are not electrified, but if the train could run on its own diesel power, it wouldn’t matter.

Refrigerated Deliveries

There probably wouldn’t be much demand now, but in the future bringing Scottish meat and seafood to London might make a refrigerated HSPT viable.

Deliveries To And From Remote Parts Of The UK

It is very difficult to get freight between certain parts of the UK and say Birmingham, London and the South-Eastern half of England.

Perishable products from Cornwall are now sent to London in the large space in the locomotives of the High Speed Trains. Plymouth, which is in Devon, to London takes nearly four hours and I suspect that a HSPT could do it in perhaps an hour longer.

But it would go between specialist terminals at both ends of the journey, so it would be a much easier service to use for both sender and receiver.

Another article in the same June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways is entitled Caithness Sleeper Plan Set Out.

This is said in the article.

Another possibility would be to convey freight on the sleeper trains with HiTrans suggesting the ability to carry four 40-foot and two 20-foot boxes on twin wagons could provide welcome products and parcels northwards and locally-produced food southwards.

A disadvantage of this idea would be that passengers would be required to vacate sleeping berths immediately on arrival at Edinburgh, so that containers could continue to a freight terminal.

The HSPT would go direct to a suitable terminal. In remote  places like Caithness, this would probably be the local station, which had been suitably modified, so that fork lift trucks could move pallets into and out of the train.

One-Off Deliveries

Provided a load can be put on a pallet, the train can move it, if there is a fork lift available at both ends of the route.

It would be wrong to speculate what sort of one-off deliveries are performed, as some will be truly unusual.

Disaster Relief

On the worldwide scale we don’t get serious natural disasters in the UK, but every year there are storms, floods, bridge collapses and other emergencies, where it is necessary to get supplies quickly to places that are difficult to reach by road, but easy by rail. If the supplies were to be put on pallets and loaded onto a HSPT, it might be easier to get them to where they are needed for unloading using a fork lift or even by hand.

International Deliveries

I am sure that Class 319 and Class 321 trains can be made compatible with Continental railway networks. In fact two Class 319 trains, were the first to pass through the Channel Tunnel.

Post-Brexit will we see high value cargoes transported by the trainload, as this would surely simplify the paperwork?

What value of Scotch whisky could you get in a four-car train?

Expect Amazon to be first in the queue for International Deliveries!

Imagine a corgo aircraft coming into the UK, at either Doncaster Sheffield or Manston Airports, with cargo containers or pallets for all over the UK, that were designed for quick loading onto an HSPT.

Conclusion

There is definitely a market for a HSPT.

If it does come about, it will be yet another tribute to the magnificent Mark 3 design!

 

 

 

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hackney Does A Bicester

Hackney is developing a name for being a centre of designer outlet stores.

It’s certainly a lot closer than Bicester Village.

There’s also quite a few railway arches leading towards Hackney Central/Hackney Downs station complex, which could make a whole lot more designer outlets or fashion workshops.

But at least the Council has its finger on the pulse and are consulting about what to do with the area.

Let’s hope they get it right!

 

April 15, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Why Aren’t More High Streets Like Liverpool?

These pictures were taken early on a sunny morning in Liverpool’s main shopping street.

No buses, cars and taxis, only a few deliveries and little street clutter.

Imagine Oxford Street like this. Except you can’t as it’s not wide enough!

Both my local High Streets; Angel and Dalston are even main routes for trucks.

March 24, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

A Nation Of Shopkeepers

The phrase a nation of shopkeepers, has often been said about the British or the English in a derogatory manner by the French and others.

The Fort Kinnaird Retail Park in Edinburgh is according to Wikipedia, the second largest in the UK.

This Google Map shows the layout of Fort Kinnaird.

fortkinnaird

Note the two Borders Railway stations of Brunstane and Newcraighall to the East of the Park, where lines lead to to Waverley station and the Borders .respectively.

But there are other railways in the area.

  • The East Coast Main Line runs North-South, just off the map to the East.
  • Leading away to the West is the Edinburgh Suburban and Southside Junction Railway, which is now a freight-only link across the city.
  • Links exist between the East Coast Main Line and the Junction Railway.

So it could be said that a lot of trains pass Fort Kinnaird.

Plans are in development to open up the Junction Railway to either heavy rail or trams.

Surely, it would be sensible if there were a station at Ford Kinnaird to tie it all together.

If I’m right, the Scots are surely a nation of rail-connected shopkeepers.

 

 

February 5, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Marks And Spencer Have Changed My Life

Coming back today, I went to Marks and Spencer in Waterloo station, which although it is not a full stop, must be one of their bigger Simply Food shops in stations.

These pictures sum up the visit.

Some of the products have only been available in the last year or so.

  • Chicken Pakoras
  • Crisps With Exotic Flavours
  • Gluten-Free Gastropub meals.
  • Humous
  • Kent IPA
  • Pasta Salad
  • Scotch Eggs
  • Snacks Wth Taste

When I was diagnosed nearly twenty years ago, you were lucky to find anything quick to cook in any shop, except eggs and fish.

What would I like to see now?

  • Most ready-meals  made gluten-free and labelled as such on the top.
  • Ravioli, that is gluten-free.
  • Sausages and burgers gluten-free, as in Marks and Sainsburys.
  • More gluten-free real beers.

I think it is true to say, that it’s going my way.

October 30, 2016 Posted by | Food | , , , | 7 Comments

An Unusual Free Gift

I recently bought a metal cable tidy from Ironmongery Direct. I intend to use it to pass aerial cables to y television, through the kitchen work-top.

An Unusual Free Gift

An Unusual Free Gift

As you can see it came with an unusual free gift.

It gives a whole new meaning to adding a little sweetener to a deal.

August 9, 2016 Posted by | World | | 1 Comment

A Good Start To A Day

Yesterday morning, I went to IKEA and ordered the last set of cabinets for my kitchen. Remember, that for some reason, their computer has banned me from buying anything on-line.

What I needed is scheduled for two deliveries this week, as one item isn’t available for home delivery from their Tottenham store, as it has to come centrally.

So imagine my surprise, when the first delivery happened at 08:15 this morning.

But at least, it means I don’t have to wait in all day for a delivery.

August 8, 2016 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment