The Anonymous Widower

Northern’s Plans For Between Preston And Ormskirk

The service on the Ormskirk Branch Line between Preston and Ormskirk stations is an infuriating one.

  • The Class 153 trains that run the service seem to be unreliable when I use it.
  • The frequency is roughly hourly and not clockface by any means.
  • Sometimes the trains are very full.
  • The signalling appears to be old-fashioned.

But it seems that from May 21st, things will be getting better.

The timetable shows the following.

  • Trains leave Ormskirk hourly from 07:01 until 23:11 and take 31 minutes to get to Preston.
  • Trains leave Preston hourly from 06:26 until 21:26 and take 30 minutes to get to Ormskirk.

Journey times are actually similar to now, so I would assume they are for a Class 153 train.

What a pity, that the round trip will take over an hour.

Northern will need two trains to run this service, but if they could do a round trip in an hour, only one train would be needed.

Consider.

The Class 153 train is only a 75 mph train.

Part of the journey is along the electrified West Coast Main Line.

Northern have or soon will have faster trains in their fleet

I suspect that any one of these trains could achieve the hourly round trip.

All would offer increased capacity and better quality interiors.

The Class 769 train would handle the route with ease.

  • The train could use the electrification on the West Coast Main Line.
  • The train is faster.
  • It is a four-car train.

I doubt it will happen, but the trains could continue on the Merseyrail network, if their third-rail electrification shoes, were to be refitted.

But who knows what will happen if Merseyrail and Northern decide to bring the railways between Blackpool, Kirkby, Ormskirk, Preston, Southport and Wigan into the twenty-first century?

There’s certainly a lot happening in the area at the timetable change on May 20th.

  • Blackpool to Liverpool gets an electric hourly service.
  • Blackpool to Manchester Airport gets an hourly service, which will go electric in time.
  • Ormskirk to Preston gets a proper hourly service.
  • Wigan North Western to Alderley Edge gets a new service using Class 769 trains.
  • Wigan North Western to Stalybridge gets a revamped service using Class 769 trains.

Porterbrook’s affordable bi-mode Class 769 train seems to be fully involved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Extra Services To Southport On Merseyrail’s Northern Line

Local interests have ambitions to connect Ormskirk and Southport stations, as is detailed in Wikipedia under Future Developments in the Wikipedia entry for Ormskirk station.

There have been calls from local authorities and the local rail user group to reopen both curves at Burscough to allow the reinstatement of through trains from here to Southport, as well as to reinstate through services between Preston & Liverpool via Ormskirk and to rebuild & reopen the Skelmersdale branch.[7] Merseytravel’s 2014 ‘Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy’ does not back plans for an Ormskirk to Skelmersdale route (instead proposing that the link be provided from the Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate line), though it does suggest that a new bi-level interchange at Burscough Bridge could be built to provide improved interchange facilities between the Ormskirk branch and the Wigan to Southport line in addition to reopening the curves and extending electrification through to Preston & Southport.

, To connect the two stations would mean doing at least the following.

  • Reinstate the South Burscough Curve as a single track
  • The South Burscough Curve would have bi-directional signalling and third rail electrification.
  • Remodel Ormskirk station.

This picture shows what remains of the second platform at Ormskirk station.

The second platform could probably be reinstated reasonably easily, but I wonder if a clever station designer and train scheduler could organise Liverpool, Preston and Southport services around a single long platform?

The current layout could be actually considered to be two platforms, as one end serves Liverpool trains and other Preston trains.

So in this explanation, I’ll refer to them as the Liverpool Platform and the Preston Platform.

  • The Liverpool platform would be long enough to take two new Stadler trains.
  • The Preston platform would be long enough for the longest train likely to work an Ormskirk to Preston service.
  • An electrified passing loop starting from between the two platforms and extending towards Burcough Junction station would be installed.

Consider.

  • Trains arriving and returning to Liverpool would operate as they do now using the Liverpool platform.
  • Trains arriving and returning to Preston would operate as they do now using the Preston platform, but stop within the passing loop.
  • Passengers changing between Liverpool and Preston services would change trains as they do now, by walking along the platform.
  • Liverpool to Southport and Liverpool to Preston services would use the Liverpool platform and would either go through the Preston platform or use the passing loop as appropriate.

Two parallel platform stations are so nineteenth century!

These modifications between Ormskirk and Southport  would improve train services in the following ways.

  • Create more capacity between Liverpool and Southport.
  • Allow travellers to go between Southport and the Ormskirk Branch of the Northern Line , without going via Sandhills station.
  • Allow access to Manchester services at Burscough Bridge station
  • Add direct Liverpool services to those to Manchester and Southport to all the new housing that seems to be under construction around the Southport to Manchester Line.
  • Enable the construction of one or more new stations, like Kew Gardens in Southport, which is close to the hospital.

You can certainly understand why Merseyrail appears to be keen.

There are lots of ways to organise services.

I suspect one of the most efficient ways will be to run the trains in a loop going to and starting from Hunts Croos and going to Liverpool Central via Liverpool Central, Southport, Burscough Bridge, Burscough Junction and Ormskirk. Four trains per hour (tph) would go in one direction and four tph in the other.

Timing with the current trains are as follows.

  • Hunts Cross to Southport – 64 minutes
  • Southport to Burscough Bridge – 22 minutes
  • Burscough Bridge to Ormskirk – 9 minutes – estimated
  • Ormskirk to Liverpool Central – 34 minutes
  • Kirkby to Liverpool Central – 18 minutes.

These timings are not the easiest to put together to make a four tph schedule.

As an example, if you want a current Class 508 train to go from Hunts Cross to Southport and back again, it will take 128 minutes plus whatever it takes to turn the train at each end. Allowing eleven minutes at each end gives a time of two and a half hours, which means ten trains are needed for a full four tph.

Ormskirk to Liverpool central will also need trains. If they could do Liverpool Central to Ormskirk and back in under an hour, that would need four tph..

The new Stadler trains have been designed to do the journey nine minutes quicker, which means that if the turnrounds are a bit quicker, it could be possible to do the round trip in two hours, which would mean only eight trains would be needed for a full four tph.

Ormskirk to Liverpool central will also need trains. If they could do Liverpool Central to Ormskirk and back in under an hour, that would need four tph..

If you look at the full loop with the current trains, this takes 258 minutes plus perhaps 30 minutes for the two reverses at Southport and the one at Liverpool Central. So we get a time of probably three hours and a requirement of 12 trains to run 4 tph to both Ormskirk and Southport and provide a four tph service between the two current termini.

As the current services need ten trains for Hunts Cross-Southport and four for Liverpool Central-Ormskirk, the loop saves two trains.

With the new Stadler trains, I suspect they could do the loop diagram in under two hours, which would mean just eight trains for a full four tph.

Thus, extra services can be provided between Ormskirk and Southport with a requirement of four less trains than running the lines individually.

Services to Southport and Ormskirk from Liverpool would be as follows.

  • Southport to Hunts Cross via Formby – 4 tph
  • Southport to Liverpool Central via Ormskirk – 4 tph

But the big difference is most stations on the Northern Line are served by four tph from Hunts Cross and Southport and all the other stations need a single change and a wait of a few minutes.

To operate the loop service, it would need Ormskirk to Southport to be fully electrified.

Southport To Manchester

You then have the situation if a Class 319 Flex train were to work Southport to Manchester, that it would work as follows.

  • Southport to Burscough Bridge – using third-rail electrification when installed.
  • Burscough Bridge to Bolton – using diesel power.
  • Bolton to Manchester – using overhead electrification.

Southport would become an all electric station.

To get a full electric service to Manchester, it would only be necessary to electrify between Manchester and Burscough Bridge, where the chsngeover would take place.

I have followed this line in my helicopter and there are only three small bridges and a level crossing between Burscough Bridge and Wigan Wallgate stations.

So I suspect electrifying from Wigan to Burscough Bridge could be an easier electrification than most.

Conclusions

I have come to the following main conclusion.

Combining Southport and Ormskirk services in a loop via a reinstated South Burscough Curve, means the following.

  • Southport gets eight trains per hour (tph) to and from Liverpool.
  • Ormskirk gets four tph to and from Liverpool.
  • All stations on the Northern Line get four direct or single-change tph from Hunts Cross, Southport and Liverpool Central.
  • Ormskirk to Southport and all intermediate stations get 4 tph in both directions.
  • The service can be run by less trains than needed for independent operation to Southport and Otmskirk.

Southport to Ormskirk needs third-rail electrification.

There were a some subsidiary conclusions.

  • Ormskirk station can be based on a single platform with a passing loop, which could allow Liverpool-Preston services.
  • Ormskirk station could still run the current Ormskirk to Preston service.
  • The third-rail electrification between Southport and Burscough Bridge stations could be used by Class 319 Flex trains working services between Southport and Manchester.
  • Southport could become an all electric station.

I suspect that others could do much better.

 

 

March 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Southport Station

Southport station is surprisingly large with six platforms, as these pictures show.

It would certainly have sufficient capacity, if Merseyrail decided to extend their Ormskirk services to Southport.

March 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Interchange At Burscough

Burscough in Lancashire is a large village, where the Manchester to Southport Line and the Ormskirk Branch Line cross.

This Google Map shows the two stations; Burscough Bridge on the line to Manchester and Burscough Junction on the line through Ormskirk.

The maps show shadows of railway embankments, which are the remains of the Burscough Curves, that once connected Ormkirk station in the South and Preston station in the North to Southport in the West.

In Extra Services To Southport On Merseyrail’s Northern Line, my calculations brought me to the following conclusions.

Combining Merseyrail’s Northern Line services to Southport and Ormskirk in a loop via a reinstated South Burscough Curve, means the following.

  • Southport gets eight trains per hour (tph) to and from Liverpool – 4 tph via Formby and 4 tph via Ormskirk.
  • Ormskirk gets four tph to and from Liverpool.
  • All stations on the Northern Line get four direct or single-change tph from Hunts Cross, Southport and Liverpool Central stations.
  • Ormskirk to Southport and all intermediate stations get 4 tph in both directions.
  • The service can be run by less trains than needed for independent operation from Liverpool to Southport and Otmskirk.

Southport to Ormskirk needs third-rail electrification.

There were a some subsidiary conclusions.

  • Ormskirk station can be based on a single platform with a passing loop, which could allow Liverpool-Preston services.
  • Ormskirk station could still run the current Ormskirk to Preston service.
  • The third-rail electrification between Southport and Burscough Bridge stations could be used by Class 319 Flex train,.working services between Southport and Manchester.
  • Southport could become an all electric station.

I suspect that others could do much better.

So it does show that British Rail dropped everyone deep in the doo-dah, by closing the South Burscough Curve to passenger trains in 1962.

Walking Between Burscough Bridge And Burscough Junction Stations

This set of pictures shows how I walked between to Burscough Junction station from Burscough Bridge station after arriving from Southport.

I did the walk in time, but with one tph between Ormskirk and Preston, I wonder how many people try it and then wait for nearly an hour to catch a train.

Pictures Of The Burscough Curves

From the train, I took these pictures of the Burscough Curves.

At least the bridges appear to be there.

Electrification Of The Burscough Curves

There are three bridges in the tangle of lines around Burscough, that could have electrified lines go underneath.

  1. The bridge at Burscough Bridge station.
  2. The bridge at Burscough Junction station.
  3. The bridge where the two rail lines cross.

Looking at the pictures of bridges 1 and 2, I think that they would have to be rebuilt for 25 KVAC overhead electrification, but only at great inconvenience to the local community.

I also suspect that bridge 3 is rather old but in good condition. Is it low as well?

Third-rail electrification around the South Burscough Curve to allow Southport to Ormskirk services, would be fine, if Health and Safety would allow it as an extension to Merseyrail’s Northern Line.

The Class 319 Flex Train

I must give a brief list of the characteristics of the Class 319 Flex train.

  • Four cars
  • Full dual-voltage electrical system, enabling running on 750 VDC third-rail or 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • On-board rail-proven diesel engines for lines without electrification.
  • The Class 319 Flex is a 100 mph train using electrification.
  • The Class 319 Flex is a 90 mph train using diesel.
  • It is probably reasonable that at each stop, they save at least a minute compared to a Pacer or a Class 150 train.
  • They can deputise for electric Class 319 trains on electrified lines.

They are compatible with the West Coast Main Line and Merseyrail’s third-rail network.

Electrification Of Southport To Manchester

If Burscough Bridge to Southport were to be electrified using third-rail for Merseyrail, then it would probably be sensible to use it for the trains on the Manchester to Southport service, on the section of line they would share.

Currently trains take the following times.

  • Southport to Burscough Bridge – 12 minutes.
  • Burscough Bridge to Wigan Wallgate – 16 minutes.
  • Wigan Wallgate to Bolton – 17 minutes
  • Wigan Wallgate to Salford Crescent via Atherton – 34 minutes

By the end of this year, Bolton should be electrified to Manchester Piccadilly, Victoria and Airport stations.

Dual voltage Class 319 trains could probably work from Manchester to Southport with a voltage changeover at Burscough Bridge, if overhead electrification went that far.

But that is unlikely to happen in the near future.

Southport To Manchester By Class 319 Flex

But as Northern will have Class 319 Flex trains with a dual-voltage capability and on-board diesel engines to bridge any electrification gaps, we could be seeing Southport to Manchester services running as follows.

  • Southport to Burscough Bridge – 750 VDC third rail.
  • Burscough Bridge to Bolton or Salford Crescent – diesel.
  • Bolton or Salford Crescent to Manchester – 25 KVAC overhead.

Hopefully, extra electrification in the  future, will shorten the diesel leg.

Southport To Wigan Wallgate By Class 319 Flex

Before looking at times for the full journeys from Southport, I will look at the possible times that can be achieved by a Class 319 Flex train between Southport and Wigan Wallgate.

For this estimate, I will use or assume the following.

  • Current timings betweens Southport to Wigan Wallgate are probably timed for a 75 mph Pacer.
  • Fast services, which go to Manchester Airport,  take 28 minutes and stop five times
  • Slow services, which go to Manchester Victoria, take 36 minutes and stop eight times
  • There is no electrification .
  • The service will be run on diesel power.
  • There are no other services between Southport and Wigan Wallgate.

I have taken a detailed look at the line on a map and it is a fairly straight double track railway with a couple of level crossings.

It is reasonable to assume that the Class 319 Flex train with its faster stops could save five and eight minutes for fast and slow services respectively.

This compares with five and six minutes if you adjust times by the speed of the trains.

So it would be reasonable to assume that a fast service between Southport and Wigan Wallgate will take perhaps between 22-23 minutes, with a slow service taking 28-29 minutes.

If Southport to Burscough Bridge were to be electrified for Merseyrail Northern Line services, I think it is reasonable to assume that these figures could be reduced by a couple of minutes.

Add in a few selective improvements and the removal of the level crossings and I would expect that Class 319 Flex trains could achieve the following times between Southport and Wigan Wallgate.

  • A fast service with five stops in twenty minutes, which is a reduction of eight minutes.
  • A slow service with eight stops in twenty-five minutes, which is a reduction of eleven minutes.

Would Northern be tempted to run four tph on the route?

Kirkby To Wigan Wallgate By Class 319 Flex

Can the same logic, that I have applied to the Southport to Wigan Wallgate route be applied to Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate?

For this estimate, I will use or assume the following.

  • Current timings betweens Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate are probably timed for a 75 mph Pacer.
  • Services take 24 minutes and stop four times
  • There is only one tph, which after Wigan Wallgate goes on to Manchester Victoria.
  • There is no electrification .
  • The service will be run on diesel power.
  • There are no other services between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate.

I have taken a detailed look at the line on a map and it is a fairly straight railway with a mixture of single and double track, a longish tunnel and some stone overbridges. It could be difficult to electrify.

It is reasonable to assume that the Class 319 Flex train with its faster stops could save four minutes on the jorney.

This is the same, if you adjust times by the speed of the trains.

A time of twenty minutes between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate, should be easy to attain.

Southport To Manchester Airport By Class 319 Flex

For this estimate, I will use or assume the following.

  • On current timings Southport to Manchester Airport takes 88 minutes, which is probably timed for a 75 mph Pacer.
  • Manchester to Preston electrification via Bolton is completed.
  • The service goes via Bolton
  • Southport to Bolton will be run on diesel.
  • Bolton to Manchester Airport will use the wires.
  • Southport to Wigan Wallgate can be done in twenty minutes.

From Wigan Wallgate  to Bolton, consider the following factors.

  • There will only be a maximum of two scheduled passenger trains between Southport and Bolton on any part of the route, if you include Kirkby services.
  • There is just two stops.
  • The current time is 17 minutes.

Dropping the time in proportion to the train speed gives about 14 minutes

But the biggest savings will come out of the 43 minutes from Bolton to Manchester Airport, which will be electrified.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any reliable estimate of the electrified timing between Bolton and Manchester Airport.

An estimate based on train speed, says that a Class 319 running using electricity could do the journey in 36 minutes.

Adding up the various legs gives 20+14+36=70

So we could be looking at a saving of a eighteen minutes or so from Southport to Manchester Airport.

Currently, the service takes 88 minutes, which means an out-and-back service is probably twenty minutes or more over three hours.

But knock a eighteen minutes off each leg and the out-and-back time could be well under three hours.

An hourly service between Southport and Manchester Airport could probably be achieved with just three trains in a time dropping around seventy minutes.

Northern would love that!

Southport To Manchester Victoria By Class 319 Flex

For this estimate, I will use or assume the following.

  • On current timings Southport to Manchester Victoria takes 79 minutes, which is probably timed for a 75 mph Pacer.
  • The service goes via Atherton
  • Wigan Wallgate to Manchester Victoria takes 41 minutes with 8 stops.
  • Southport to Salford Crescent will be run on diesel.
  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Victoria will use the wires.
  • Southport to Wigan Wallgate can be done in twenty minutes, which means that 61 minutes is possible for Southport to Manchester Victoria

There isn’t the scope for saving time because of electrification, as the wired area is short,

But consider.

  • The Class 319 train was designed as a 100 mph commuter special, so it must be able to save at least a minute at most of the stops, by good driving making use of the train’s excellent brakes and acceleration.
  • Southport to Salford Crescent via Atherton only carries two tph, if you include the Kirkby services.

Two estimates can be generated.

  • Saving a minute a stop gives a time of 53 minutes.
  • Applying a rough calculation based on the increased performance of the Class 319 Flex train gives a time of 54 minutes.

If I were the boss of Northern, I’d be dreaming of a journey time of sixty minutes between Southport and Manchester Victoria.

It’s not impossible, providing that the Class 319 Flex trains can cut the time on the Southport end of the line.

Why Not Electrify Both Routes To Wigan Wallgate From Manchester?

There are two routes between Manchester and Wigan Wallgate station.

  • The soon to be partially-electrified route via Bolton.
  • The Atherton Line from Salford Crescent.

If these routes were to be electrified, it would mean that all Southport and Kirkby services to and from Manchester would be electrified South of Wigan Wallgate.

This would mean various service improvements.

  • All Southport and Kirkby services would be run by four-car Class 319 Flex trains.
  • Southport to Manchester Airport would be under seventy minutes.
  • Southport to Manchester Piccadilly would be under sixty minutes.
  • Southport to Manchester Victoria could be around fifty minutes.
  • Kirkby to Manchester Victoria could also be around fifty minutes.
  • Extra services could probably be run to intermediate stations, to give a highly-desirable four tph.

I don’t known how much freight and other traffic there is on these routes, but as they are both electrified at their Manchester ends, I don’t think that electrification would be that difficult.

Electrification from Manchester to Wigan Wallgate and using Class 319 Flex trains might be a simpler and more affordable strategy than electrifying all the way to Southport and Kirkby.

As both routes connect Salford Crescent and Wigan Wallgate stations, there’s even scope to divert services during any blockades, needed for the electrification.

How Will Ormskirk To Preston Services Be Affected?

The first part of this section starts with a repeat of what I said in Could Kirkdale Station Become A Busy Interchange On Merseyrail?

The current service between Ormskirk and Preston, is an occasional hourly train along the line. Often it is just a single Class 153 train, although last time it was two.

It was also surprisingly clean and full.

But the line deserves better.

  • The frequency of trains should be at least 2 tph to Preston
  • They should also connect better with trains to Liverpool and Southport.
  • Could the trains go beyond Preston?

Perhaps the solution is to link trains between somewhere like Kirkdale and Colne or Blackpool.

I suspect that Merseyrail have their own ideas.

The current service takes 30 minutes between Ormskirk and reston and its likely with some track improvements, that a Class 319 Flex train could reduce this time to perhaps 20-22 minutes.

This time saving would be an advantage, as it would allow a train to shuttle between the two stations maintaining an hourly clockface schedule, which could be timed to arrive at a convenient point in the schedule of trains going between Liverpool and Southport.

There are probably three main patterns for the Preston train.

  1. They shuttle Preston-Ormskirk-Southport-Ormskirk-Preston using reverses at Ormskirk(2) and Southport.
  2. They shuttle Preston-Ormskirk-Southport-Preston using reverses at Ormskirk and Southport and a reinstated North Burscough Curve.
  3. They shuttle between Preston and Ormskirk as now.

Option 1 would just take longer than an hour to return to Preston and the driver would have to do a lot of walking.

Option 2 would probably have the problems of Option 1 and the expense of reinstating the North Burscough Curve.

Option 3 would probably work with perhaps a passing loop added to the current platform layout, as I proposed in Extra Services To Southport On Merseyrail’s Northern Line.

In the following consider that the long platform at Ormskirk is divided into two.

  • The Liverpool platform is the part of the platform that handles trains to and from Liverpool
  • The Preston platform is the part of the platform that handles trains to and from Preston

This could be the sequence of arrivals and departures.

  • xx:00 – Train arrives from Preston into the Preston Platform and drops passengers for Liverpool and Southport.
  • xx:04 – Train arrives from Southport and waits at the entry to the passing loop behind the train from Preston.
  • xx:05 – Train arrives from Liverpool into the Liverpool Platform and departs for Southport after dropping and picking up passengers.
  • xx:08 – Train from Southport uses the passing loop to move to the Liverpool Platform and departs for Liverpool after dropping and picking up passengers.
  • xx:10 – Train departs for Preston from Preston Platform, after picking up passengers from Liverpool and Southport.

In this set of movements, the only driver who has to change ends, would be the driver of the Preston shuttle train and they would have ten minutes or so in which to do the walk.

Get the sequence right and passengers would only wait for a few minutes, whilst changing trains.

The only complication would be that the train from Liverpool would have to pass the train from Southport waiting to enter the station.

It would need some form of double passing loop, which is probably standard practice.

There are obviously other solutions, that use the current single platform at Ormskirk, without the need to add any new infrastructure at the station except for some appropriate track and signalling changes.

Conclusions

To my untrained eye, it looks like reinstating the two Burscough Curves wouldn’t be the most difficult of projects.

But electrifying through the area, could be tricky for the following reasons.

  • Some of the bridges might need to be rebuilt for overhead electrification.
  • Merseyrail would want third-rail electrification to allow Ormskirk and Southport services to be run as a loop for maximum efficiency.
  • Health and Safety.

And critics wonder why Network Rail are so costly and slow with electrification.

But there is one place for more electrification.

Services to Southport and Kirkby would be improved, if the routes to Wigan Wallgate from Bolton and Salford Crescent were both both fully electrified.

This would bring Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria within an hour of both Southport and Kirkby.

To sum up the following should be done.

  • Reinstate the South Burscough Curve.
  • Electrify Ormskirk to Southport using third-rail electrification.
  • Electrify Bolton to Wigan Wallgate using overhead electrification.
  • Electrify Salford Crescent to Wigan Wallgate using overhead electrification.
  • Northern would also need to acquire some more Class 319 Flex trains.

In the interim, it looks like that just running the services between Manchester and Southport using the Class 319 Flex trains will give Northern and its customers a lot of benefits.

In the future, Northern might like to replace the stop-gap Class 319 Flex trains with bi-mode versions of their new Class 331 trains.

 

March 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Sensible Large Map

This map was at Southport station and shows the two lines that meet there.

Like several Merseyrail stations, Southport has a combined ticket office and shop.

Several other train operators could do worse than copy some of Merseyrail’s ideas.

I sdhould say that Southport station is particularly well appointed, as it has an entrance into the nearby large Marks and Spencer.

 

 

March 24, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sorting Out The Kirkby, Ormskirk And Southport Branches Of Merseyrail’s Northern Line

A Lot of changes will and could happen at the Northern end of Merseyrail‘s Northern Line in the next few years.

  • New bespoke Stadler trains will be introduced, that will run services from Liverpool to Kirkby, Ormskirk and Southport stations.
  • Class 319 and Class 319 Flex trains will start to appear at stations like Kirkby, Ormskirk and Southport, where Merseyrail’s network joins Northern Rail’s lines from Bolton, Manchester, Preston and Wigan.
  • A new station at Maghull North will be built.
  • Skelmersdale, which is one of the largest towns in the North-West without a rail connection, could be linked to Merseyrail’s  network.
  • A new Headbolt Lane station could be built to create a proper connection between Merseyrail and Northern’s trains using the Kirkby Branch Line to Wigan Wallgate station and onwards to Bolton, Manchester and Manchester Airport.
  • Ormskirk station could be remodelled to allow direct services Liverpool and Preston.
  • The Canada Dock Branch could be electrified and be opened to passenger trains.
  • The Burscough Curves could be reinstated.
  • The Southport to Manchester Line could be electrified.
  • Everton could be building a new stadium at Bradley Moore Dock.

In the next series of sections, I will cover some of these changes and issues raised in more detail.

Turn-Up-And-Go Services

Where I live in Dalston in East London, the London Overground run services at what they call a Turn-Up-And-Go service of four trains per hour (tph).

Merseyrail use this frequency on some of their lines, as do Birmingham and Leeds.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on some more routes in the North-West, where there is sufficient demand.

Can Stadler’s New Trains And Class 319 Trains Share The Same Tracks and Platforms?

I’m not sure about this, as until we see the new trains and/or their specification making a comparison is difficult.

  • Both trains can run on third rail electrified lines, although most of the current Class 319 trains working in the North West have had their third rail equipment removed.
  • The Stadler trains must be designed to work with the current Class 507 and Class 508 trains, which they probably must do during the introduction phase.
  • So could there be size problems between Stadler’s and the Class 319 trains?

But seeing how Stadler are always a company for the main chance, I wouldn’t put it past their engineers to design a train, that can work the same routes as all variants of the Class 319 trains, as replacing them in a few years time would be a nice little earner.

There is also plenty of words in the media, which state that 25 KVAC overhead capability can be added to the Stadler trains, so they can work lines out of Liverpool Lime Street.

As an aside here, I should mention the Halton Curve, which is to be upgraded to create a new route between Liverpool and Chester.

Under Upgrade in the Wikipedia entry for the Halton Curve, this is said about the building of the curve and its future services.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority approved the work in April 2016, utilising Government’s Local Growth Fund (LGF) funding £10.4 million, adding an additional £5.67 million from the city’s LGF. Work is hoped to start in June 2017 and to be completed in May 2018. This should lead to an hourly service between Liverpool and Chester from December 2018 along the curve with some services extending into North Wales.

With their dual voltage and electro-diesel capability, the Class 319 Flex trains must be an ideal train to work services to Chester and North Wales via the Halton Curve.

So I suspect there could be a lot of compatibility between the current Merseyrail trains, the new Stadler trains and the Class 319 trains, as otherwise it could be tricky to work the Halton Curve to Chester, until the new Stadler trains are delivered.

This leads me to say that  there should be no problems with both sets of trains sharing platforms and tracks on the surface branches of the Northern Line to Kirkby, Ormskirk and Southport.

I suspect that the Class 319 trains could also work the Northern Line tunnels, but I suspect that would be a step too far for Merseyraiil and they would prefer their network to be reserved for their new Stadler trains as much as possible.

Canada Dock Branch

The Canada Dock Branch will have a large influence on what happens  to the rail services in the North of Liverpool.

There will be a massive increase in capacity of Liverpool Docks after the completion of Liverpool2.

Under Freight Use in the Wikipedia entry for the Canada Dock Branch, this is said.

Due to the construction of Liverpool2 container terminal at the port of Liverpool the line will increase in freight traffic. In May 2016 it was announced that the line’s final section into the dock estate would be upgraded to double track from single track to increase capacity to the port. Combined with improved signalling at Earlestown, the improvements will enable up to 48 trains a day to enter the port. Work on the line is expected to be completed by 2019.

How many trucks is that going to remove from the M62?

Under Passenger Use in the Wikipedia entry for the Canada Dock Branch, this is said.

The line is also being seriously assessed for reopening to passengers with Everton F.C. and Liverpool F.C. stadia both located on the line’s route.

On 16 July 2007 the Liverpool Daily Post reported that Liverpool F.C. may partially fund the reopening of the line to passenger services providing a direct rail link to the proposed Stanley Park Stadium however this project has since been dropped by the club. This was highlighted on the Network Rail North West development plan as a potential project to be undertaken by Network Rail, rather than Liverpool F.C..

The Department for Transport’s Rail electrification document of July 2009, states that the route to Liverpool Docks will be electrified. The Canada Dock Branch Line is the only line into the docks.

Add this to 48 freight trains per day running into the Docks and this must surely result in the Canada Dock Branch being electrified between Liverpool Docks and where the Branch joins the electrified Liverpool and Manchester Lines at Wavertree Technology Park station.

This is also said about passenger services.

The electrification of this branch line would greatly assist in recommissioning passenger trains, as costs would be reduced. The electrification of the Liverpool and Manchester line will reduce travel time from around 45 minutes to 30 minutes between the two cities due to the greater acceleration achieved by electric trains in clearing lines quickly, and the raising of the speed limit along the line from 75 to 90 mph. These advantages will cascade onto the Canada Dock branch line. Class 319 dual-voltage, 3rd rail and overhead wires, EMUs will be fully refurbished and transferred from the Thameslink route to operate between Liverpool, Wigan and Manchester. The dual voltage trains can operate on Merseyrail’s 3rd rail network giving greater scope for route planning.

There is also a serious suggestion to introduce passenger services on this line in the Local Transport Plan for Merseyside. This was again mentioned in Merseytravel’s 30-year plan of 2014.

Putting the comments about electrification, passenger services and 319 trains together with Network Rail’s performance as regarding electrification in the North-West, I now feel that Porterbrook, Northern Rail and Rail North have thrown a very large drum of lubricating oil into the mix in the shape of the Class 319 Flex train.

A passenger service could be run along the Canada Dock Branch, as soon as the following conditions are met.

  • Some stations have been built or reopened.
  • The route is appropriately signalled, tested and certified.
  • A small number of Class 319 Flex trains are available.

Electrification can come later.

 

This Google Map shows Kirkdale  station on the Merseyrail Northern Line.

Note the dark cutting going North-East to South-West across the map. With a more detailed resolution, I can see railway tracks in the bottom.

This is the Canada Dock Branch.

So what do I think will happen and where would I put my money?

  • Electrification
  • A passenger service.
  • A station to serve Liverpool and Everton Football Clubs
  • Some other stations
  • An interchange at Kirkdale station between the Canada Dock Branch and the Northern Line.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Canada Dock Branch.

Headbolt Lane Station

Headbolt Lane station is Merseyrail’s solution to connecting the single-track Kirkby Branch of the Northern Line to the double-track Kirkby Branch Line from Wigan  Wallgate station in an efficient manner.

I wrote about this station in An Overview  Of Headbolt Lane Station

 

Kirkby Or Headbolt Lane To Manchester

In this section, by Kirkby, I mean Kirkby and/or Headbolt Lane. The former would apply now and the latter, when it is built.

Currently, a train running between Kirkby and Salford Crescent stations takes around 60 minutes, via Atherton.

If I apply Irene’s Law, which admittedly applies to London Underground journeys, but seems to work in a rough manner on intensive urban and suburban lines, I reckon that an electric train can do the following.

  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Piccadilly – 6 minutes
  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Victoria – 4 minutes

So it leads me to think that a Class 319 Flex train, which is faster than the current Class 156 train, could probably do Kirkby to either of the two Manchester stations in under an hour.

This would mean the following.

  • To provide a two tph service  to Manchester would require four trains.
  • To provide a four tph service  to Manchester would require eight trains.

Where the benefits come, is when all the lines are electrified, which means faster speed and quicker stops.

Take the four tph service between Dalston Junction and New Cross. As the service takes 22 minutes, the round trip can be done within an hour, giving drivers time to turn the train and have a comfort break or a coffee.

So this shorter route will only need four trains to porovide a four tph timetable.

Anything that can be done to reduce the journey time, means the required frequency can be attained with a smaller number of trains.

Going back to the Kirkby to Manchester service.

There is a bay Kirkby/Southport-facing platform at Wigan Wallgate station, which is shown in this Google Map.

And here’s a picture of the platform.

According to Wikipedia, the bay platform is for trains for Southport and Kirkby.

Wigan to Kirkby is currently scheduled at 24 minutes, which I suspect is so that a Class 142 Pacer can do a complete trip within the hour.

So this would mean the following.

  • 2 tph between Kirkby and Manchester would need 4 trains.
  • 2 tph between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate would need 2 trains.

So two trains have been saved.

But Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate is run at a Turn-Up-And-Go  frequency of 4 tph, where the trains have cross-platform access to Liverpool to Kirkby trains with the same frequency.

Southport To Manchester

I wasn’t intending to look at Southport to Manchester now, but as I’ve just looked at Kirkby to Manchester and the two routes both go through Wigan Wallgate station, I’ll do it to follow the Kirkby analysis.

Currently, a train running between Southport and Salford Crescent stations takes just over 60 minutes, via Atherton, with Southport and Wigan Wallgate taking thirty minutes.

So at a quick look, it would appear that

So this would mean the following.

  • 2 tph between Southport and Manchester would need 4 trains.
  • 2 tph between Southport and Wigan Wallgate would need 2 trains.

If the timings were aligned, every inbound Wigan Wallgate service from both Kirkby and Southport would arrive at Wigan Wallgate, in front of a Manchester service, which could take them to where they wanted to go, if it was beyond Wigan.

So with 12 trains, the following lines could get these services.

  • 4 tph Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate
  • 4 tph Southport to Wigan Wallgate
  • 2 tph Wigan Wallgate to Salford Crescent via Bolton
  • 2 tph Wigan Wallgate to Salford Crescent via Atherton

From Salfrord Crescent, passengers will after the Ordsall Chord and the related works have been completed, be able to get easily to Deansgate, Hazel Grove, Manchester Airport, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria, Salford Central, Stockport and probably a few others too.

Obviously, there are other and better patterns.

But it just shows what can be done, by creating a network of electrified and pseudo electrified lines into Manchester and funnelling them through a series of interchanges.

The Burscough Curves

There were some good thngs done by British Rail in the 1960s and 1970s, but there were some supreme examples of crap design.

This Google Map shows trhe Burscough Curves, which I suspect were originally designed to make operation of trains to the South East of Southport a lot more efficient.

There are two railway lines on the map.

Connecting them are the North and South Burscough Curves.

This description of the Burscough Curves, is a simplified version of that in Wikipedia.

During the rail restructuring of the 1960s and 1970s, the “Burscough Curves”, which formed a link between the Ormskirk-Preston and Southport-Wigan lines were removed, although the formation survives. The North Curve was taken out of use and severed in July 1969, being lifted in 1973: it was last used for a Saturdays only empty train from Blackpool to Southport. The South Curve was singled in 1970, but remained in use to serve the extensive sidings at the MOD depot located just to the north of Burscough Junction station. It saw its last train in 1982.

The passenger service from Ormskirk to Burscough Junction and on to Southport, which used the southern curve, was withdrawn in 1962

Pressure from local transport groups,  has not so far persuaded Network Rail to reinstate the curves. Various schemes have been proposed, including the full electrification of the line from Southport via Burscough to Ormskirk using the same third rail system as Merseyrail. This proposal would allow users of the Ormskirk branch of Merseyrail’s Northern Line to reach Southport directly.

Wikipedia also says something of how they might be used in the future.

A new study being conducted by Merseytravel could see demand for a potential reinstatement and electrification of the curves in the near future. The uses of the curves in a new service pattern has been identified by Network Rail, if electrified along with the through lines.

One factor more than any other will decide what happens to the Burscough Curves and the possible opening of a through route from Ormskirk to Preston and that is new housing developments in the area.

It has already contributed to the need to open Maghull North station to relieve pressure on Maghull station

Midge Hall on the Ormskirk Branch Line could be the next to open.

Ormskirk To Southport

This is mentioned in my extract from Wikipedia’s entry for the Burscough Curves.

I suspect that any reinstatement of the Burscough Curves would develop this alternative route from Liverpool to Southport.

Ormskirk To Preston

If you take one of the new Northern Electrics from Liverpool Lime Street to Preston, it’ll take you 58 minutes.

If you go the other way by taking a Merseyrail train from Liverpool Central  to Ormskirk and then a train for Preston, it will only take you just seven minutes longer.

The time could and probably will be reduced in the next few years.

  • When the new faster Stadler trains are running to Ormskirk, it is likely that 6-7 minutes will be taken off the time.
  • Eliminating the change of trainat Ormskirk could reduce the time.
  • But new modern trains could go much faster on an improved Ormskirk Branch.

I would estimate that times of forty minutes could be achieved, with perhaps a frequency of two tph.

Higher frequencies like 4 tph, would probably need full restoration of the second track between Ormskirk and Preston.

This fast time would attract passengers and especially those living in the North of Liverpool and on the coast to Southport.

But other factors would also help.

  • Fast trains to the North and Scotland will call at Preston and going via the Ormskirk  Branch may be more convenient for many.
  • Aintree station is five stations South of Ormskirk, so  the route may offer a quick way to the races.
  • The Open is at Royal Birkdale this year.

I have a feeling that extending the Northern Line from Ormskirk to Preston, with a well-thought out treatment of the Burscough Curves, may produce lots of passengers that the train companies didn’t think existed.

Everton’s New Stadium

Everton may well be building a new stadium at Branley Moore Dock, which is between Sandhills station and the City Centre.

For a new sports ground, that could be the centrepiece of a Commonwealth Gales in 2022 or 2026, it is well-placed and not far from Merseyrail’s Northern Line.

I have discussed this project in Everton’s New Stadium.

Except for possibly changes of services at times, it should not affect operation of services on the Northern Line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 18, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment