The Anonymous Widower

Liverpool’s Vision For Rail

This document on the Liverpool City Region web site is entitled Metro Mayor’s Vision Of A Merseyrail for All Takes Vital Step Forward With Successful Trial Of New Battery-Powered Trains.

It makes these points in the first part of the document.

  • Game-changing technology paves way for Merseyrail network expansion across the Liverpool City Region and beyond
  • Merseyrail services could reach as far as Wrexham and Preston
  • City Region is at the forefront of the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology.

The new battery-powered trains would certainly go a long way to  enable, these objectives.

  • Battery-powered trains would need a range of 26.9 miles to go between Bidston and Wrexham stations.
  • Battery-powered trains would need a range of 15.3 miles to go between Ormskirk and Preston stations.

This link is to the North Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter for Spring 2021.

This is said about battery range of the new Class 777 trains.

Later model Class 777’s have the ability to leave the 3rd rail and operate under battery power for 20 miles or more with a full load thus
permitting expansion of the Merseyrail network beyond its current limits.

I suspect they will also have regenerative braking to batteries, which will increase the range and allow Preston and Wrexham stations to be achieved without charge.

It certainly sounds like Preston and Wrexham and all the intermediate stations,  will be added to the Merseyrail network.

As to the third point above about the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology, I suspect this is mainly regenerative braking to batteries and replacement of elderly worn-out power supply equipment.

There is more in the Liverpool City Region document.

Expanding Merseyrail

This is said.

The game-changing technology could allow the Merseyrail network to extend across all six city region boroughs to places like Rainhill in St Helens, Woodchurch on the Wirral and Widnes in Halton.

It could also allow the new fleet to operate as far afield as Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn.

Note.

  1. A 25 KVAC capability could well be needed. But that is built into the Class 777 trains.
  2. Chargers could be needed at some of these stations. I suspect Stadler have a Swiss manufacturer in mind.

In the run-up to May’s elections, the Mayor pledged to deliver ‘Merseyrail for All, a commitment to connecting under-served communities to the Merseyrail network.

New Stations

Initially the battery-powered trains, which are considerably greener, using up to 30% less energy than the existing fleet, are set to run on services to a planned new station at Headbolt Lane, Kirkby.

The wider Merseyrail for All programme could ensure every community is well served by an integrated public transport network and new and refurbished train stations are also high on the agenda.

They could include:

  • The Baltic Triangle in Liverpool
  • Carr Mill in St Helens
  • Woodchurch on the Wirral

Note.

Tram-Trains And Trackless Trams

The document says this.

Tram-Train technology and trackless trams will also be looked at as potential means of extending the Merseyrail network into hard-to-reach places. The technology could benefit areas such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Speke, Kirkby Town Centre, Southport Town Centre, Wirral Waters and the Knowledge Quarter.

Tram-trains built by Stadler in Valencia are already running in Sheffield and in the next few years they should be deployed on the South Wales Metro.

TStadler are also building Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains, so I suspect they’ll go together like peaches and cream.

The Belgian firm; Van Hool have a product called Exquicity. This video shows them working in Pau in France.

These tram buses run on rubber types and are powered by hydrogen.

Similar buses running in Belfast are diesel-electric.

Could these be what the document refers to as trackless trams?

Battery Train Trials

The article finishes with this summary of the battery train trials. This is said.

Under the battery trials, financed by the Transforming Cities Fund, one of the new class 777 trains fitted with the battery technology was tested on the Northern line.

The batteries exceeded expectations with the trains travelling up to 20 miles per run without the need for re-charging.

The battery trains would remove the need for the third ‘electric’ rail, enabling the trains to travel beyond the existing network without major track investment.

The units passed all tests during four weeks of trials on the City Region’s rail network in May and June.

The Combined Authority and partners are still assessing the full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the programme and will provide more information regarding the roll out as soon as it has been agreed.

It looks to me, if all these plans get implemented successfully, Liverpool City Region will have one of the best public transport systems of any similar-sized cities in the world.

The Full Plan As A Map

This article on the BBC is entitled Battery-Powered Trains Part Of Merseyrail Expansion Plan.

The article contains this map.

There is no key or explanation, but it appears that the pink lines are new routes, where Merseyrail will run trains.

Before I discuss each of the possible routes, I will discuss two big factors, that will affect a lot of my thinking.

The West Coast Main Line

Avanti West Coast have the following stops in trains per hour (tph)  at these stations on the West Coast Main Line as its trains pass the East of Merseyside to and from London Euston.

  • Crewe – At least 5 tph
  • Warrington Bank Quay – At least 2 tph
  • Preston – At least 1 tph

These frequencies are in addition to these direct trains from London Euston.

  • 1 tph to Liverpool Lime Street, which will rise to 2 tph in the December 2022, with a call at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Occasional services to Chester throughout the day.

Passengers do not have to go via Liverpool Lime Street to travel to London.

In addition. there are useful services run by TransPennine Express between Liverpool Lime Street and Scotland, that call at Preston.

In Future; High Speed Two

This will call at Crewe, Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway, Preston and Warrington.

Northern Trains

Northern Trains were in all sorts of troubles and the service is now run directly by the Government’s Operator of Last Resort. I suspect that any reasonable offer to takeover over a service will be looked at favourably.

I will now look at Merseyrail’s new routes.

Ormskirk And Southport Via The Burscough Curve

Consider.

  • This route has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • A curve between Burscough Bridge and Burscough Junction will have to be rebuilt on a former alignment.
  • Southport and Ormskirk are about 13 miles apart.
  • Southport and Ormskirk have third-rail electrified lines to Liverpool and the South.

It would be an ideal route for battery-electric trains with a range of 20 miles.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near five stations a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It gives Southport a town of over 91,000 people more capacity to the city of Liverpool for jobs, leisure and shopping.
  • Will it open up more opportunities for new housing in villages like Burscough?

It will certainly give Merseyrail operational advantages to Southport.

Ormskirk And Preston

Consider.

  • Takeover of this Northern Trains route has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • Preston and Ormskirk are about 15.3 miles and 32 minutes apart.
  • Omskirk has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Preston has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near the Ormskirk and Preston Line a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between North Liverpool and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced to under thirty minutes.

As football is so important to the Liverpool economy, would a time around forty-five minutes between Preston and Sandhills station tempt football supporters going to Anfield and Goodison Park to use the train and then perhaps a trackless tram to the stadium?

This Google map shows the location of Anfield, Goodison Park and Sandhills station.

Note.

  1. Anfield is in the bottom-right corner of the map and is marked by a red arrow.
  2. Goodison is in the top-right corner of the map, slightly to the West of Anfield.
  3. Sandhills station is in the bottom-left corner of the map.

Both stadia are around a mile and a half from the station.

Southport And Preston

Once the Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston services are up and running, it would surely be possible to run a Southport and Preston service.

  • There would be a reverse at Ormskirk.
  • The two sections of Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston would both need battery power.
  • Whilst the driver changed ends at Ormskirk, the train would be recharged using a fast and efficient charger.
  • Times between Southport and Preston would be under an hour.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living in Southport, a direct link to Preston.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between Southport and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.

This service could be very valuable for passengers, but I suspect the route could be implemented with minimal infrastructure changes at Ormskirk station.

Ormskirk Station

This picture shows Ormskirk’s single platform from the Merseyrail end.

Note.

  1. The Liverpool train in the foreground.
  2. The Preston train in the background.
  3. The solid barrier between the trains.

 

I wonder if the following would be possible with the barrier removed.

  • The long platform would be treated as one platform divided into two.
  • Perhaps they will be the Liverpool and Preston/Southport platform,
  • Trains that will leave the station for Liverpool will stop in the Liverpool platform.
  • Trains that will leave the station for Preston or Southport will stop in the Preston/Southport platform.
  • Through trains between Liverpool and Preston or Southport would be possible.
  • A train between Preston and Southport could reverse in the Preston/Southport platform, whilst trains for Liverpool used the Liverpool platform.

It looks like it’s an efficient layout borrowed from somewhere else. and Stadler have probably seen it before.

Headbolt Lane Station

In Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through, I described the new Headbolt Lane station.

This screen capture is from the video in that post,

Note.

  1. Two platforms going away from the camera and one platform and what looks to be a siding going towards the camera.
  2. There appears to be no direct connection between the two different sets of tracks.

Until proven wrong, I believe that the camera is looking towards Liverpool, as it would mean that Liverpool services had two platforms. But they currently make do with one at Kirkby.

There is a walk through between the tracks, which

  • Enables passengers to access the second platform.
  • Allows passengers to enter the station from the other side.
  • Allows non-passengers to cross the tracks on the level.
  • Avoids the need to build a bridge.

It is certainly an innovative design.

If occasional trains need to go through, could there be a lift-out section of the walk-through?

But as there are buffer stops on the tracks in the three platforms, that are either side of the walk-through, I suspect it will never happen, as it’s too much hassle.

In the Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station this is said.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority announced in July 2021 that a trial of a battery electric multiple unit (BEMU) version of the new Class 777 will serve the new station, when it opens. This will not require all of the line extension to Headbolt Lane to be electrified.

Merseyrail would appear to have neatly side-stepped, the Office of Road and Rail’s policy of no more third-rail electrification.

But I’m sure Merseyrail could put an approved train-charging system in the station.

  • They would need one if a Class 777 train arrived with a flat battery.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Wigan Wallgate service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.

The system could be based on a short length of overhead wire and a slim pantograph or a system like Railbaar from Furrer and Frey.

But does it give any clues as to the orientation of the station in the video?

  • As there are three platforms and a siding, that meet at Headbolt Lane station, all could be fitted with chargers. to make sure the services are reliable.
  • Liverpool services could be handled at either end, as it only needs one platform.
  • Skelmersdale and Wigan services could probably share a platform, but they would be better surely using two platforms.
  • The siding could be created into a platform for extra services to be added to the Merseyrail network

So there is no pressing reason, why the station cannot be North or South of the railway.

I suspect road layout and land use issues will eventually decide, the orientation of the station.

Headbolt Lane And Skelmersdale

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail and Lancashire County Council.
  • Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale are just a few miles apart.
  • Direct running between Liverpool and Skelmersdale will not be possible, but it will be a step-free change between trains.

The Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station seems to indicate a proposed extension of the Northern Line with the next stop being the existing Rainford station. This would surely not add greatly to costs and bring Merseyrail to more fare-paying customers.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • Skelmersdale is a town of nearly 39,000 and is said to be one of the largest towns in England without a rail connection.
  • At Headbolt Lane passengers will be able to change for Liverpool or Manchester.

A lot of passengers will have received a modern train service.

Headbolt Lane And Wigan

Consider.

  • This service is currently run by Northern trains.
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate stations are just over twelve miles apart.
  • Someone, who should know told me that by the time High Speed Two starts running through Wigan at a frequency of two tph, the two Wigan stations will have been combined.
  • Headbolt Lane station could be the drop-off point for those needing to go to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London on both the current West Coast Main Line and the future High Speed Two.

What better way to start that journey than on one of Merseyrail’s battery-electric Class 777 trains.

What would it do for passengers?

With modern battery-electric trains linking Headbolt Lane station to the combined Wigan station complex, this route could be the zero-carbon route between large parts of Liverpool and cantres of tourism and employment along and to the East of the M6 and the West Coast Main Line.

Liverpool South Parkway And Warrington Central

Consider.

  • This would be takeover of part of the current Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road service.
  • The map shows the service going at least as far as Warrington Central station.
  • Stations between Hunts Cross and Warrington Central include Halewood, Hough Green, Widnes, Sankey and the new Warrington West stations.

Distances are as follows.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street – 5.5 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Warrington Central – 12.7 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Trafford Park – 25.4 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Manchester Oxford Road – 28.7 miles

The following sections of the route have 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street
  • East of Trafford Park.

With a bit more electrification at either end, the whole route should be in range of a battery-electric Class 777 train.

Or the Class 777 trains could be fitted with bigger batteries!

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • This is a route that has needed decent trains for years and has finally got new Class 195 trains.
  • But, in addition, the battery-electric Class 777 trains would decarbonise the route.

The major problem, though is not infrastructure or trains, but surely Andy Burnham, who is the outspoken Mayor of Greater Manchester and could object to Merseyrail invading his patch.

Merseyrail’s Cheshire Ambitions

This is a section of the map shown on the BBC article, showing Cheshire.

It looks like there could be as many as three routes.

  • Chester and Crewe
  • Chester and Runcorn East
  • Ellesmere Port and Runcorn East

I’ll now cover the routes in detail.

Chester And Crewe

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Crewe are about 21,2 miles and 25 minutes apart.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Crewe has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.
  • There is a proposal, that Beeston Castle and Tarporley station be re-opened.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • If trains will run between Crewe and Liverpool, this creates a second route between the two major stations.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between The Wirral and Crewe, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced by enough to increase service frequency on the route.

I This would be a very useful extension of the Merseyrail network.

Chester And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Runcorn East are about 13.1 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would enable a Merseyrail circular route from Liverpool Lime Street to Chester via Edge Hill, Wavertree Technology Park, Broad Green, Roby, Huyton, Whiston, Rainhill, Lea Green, St Helens Junction, Warrington Bank Quay, Frodsham, Runcorn East and Helsby.
  • After Chester, it could take the Wirral Line back to Liverpool to make it a true Mersey Circular service.

Would a Mersey Circular service be a good idea?

Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the infrequent Northern Rail service.
  • Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East are about 10.8 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Ellesmere Port has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would certainly improve rail transport along the South Bank of the Mersey from Ellesmere Port to Warrington Bank Quay or Runcorn East depending on the Eastern terminus.
  • If the terminal were to be Warrington Bank Quay that would sort out the charging.
  • It could create a direct link in modern electric trains between Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.

I feel that an Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay service would be good for the area.

The Borderlands Line

I’ve left the Borderlands Line to last, as I feel it will be a lot more than commuter and leisure line between Liverpool and Wrexham.

  • It crosses the border between England and Wales
  • The line is 26.9 miles of double track, with a single-track extension of under two miles between the two Wrexham stations.
  • It has over twenty stations with more planned in both countries
  • It crosses a couple of rivers on long steel bridges.
  • It brings commuters to Liverpool and takes workers to the high-tech factories of companies like Airbus and Toyota on Deeside.
  • It connects to a lot of golf courses, one of which is the Open Championship course  at Royal Liverpool.
  • Once in Wales it has two connections to the North Wales Coast Line, which runs between Chester and holyhead.

It is no ordinary railway and is ripe for improvement to bridge passengers to employment sites and leisure areas along its route.

The line has one big problem in that passengers need to change trains at Bidston between Liverpool and Wrexham stations.

  • Between Bidston and Liverpool the Merseyrail electric trains to and from  Hoylake are used and they turn in the Liverpool Loop under Liverpool City Centre calling at four stations before returning.
  • Between Bidston and Wrexham, diesel multiple units are used.

It is a route design straight out of the 1970s of men with minds without imagination. Even British Rail were designing battery-electric trains in the 1950s, which I wrote about in Did The Queen Ever Ride In This Train?.

Merseyrail intend to right the wrongs of the past using battery-electric Class 777 trains.

  • As electric versions of these trains will be used on the Liverpool and Hoylake service, there would be no need to change trains at Bidston if the Liverpool and Wrexham trains were just a battery-electric version of the same train.
  • The Wrexham trains would drive round the Liverpool Loop tunnel as hundreds of trains do every day.
  • The trains would be charged on the existing third-rail electrification at the Liverpool end.
  • I’m fairly certain that a frequency of two tph would be possible on the route, if the Liverpool Loop tunnel signalling could cope,
  • Trains would need to be charged at the Wexham end of the route and I’m sure Stadler have a solution.

It would be an efficient and cost effective way to decarbonise a tricky but useful branch line.

Conclusion

Stadler are playing their full orchestra of ideas on Merseyrail.

When completed, it will be one of the best metros of any urban areas up to a million people in the world.

This metro could do for Liverpool, what the Beatles did for the city in the 1960s.

July 15, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Beeching Reversal – South Fylde Line Passing Loop

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

The Project

This project is described on this page on the web site of the Fylde MP; Mark Menzies, which is entitled Improving The South Fylde Rail Line.

The page lists that these improvements are needed.

Track And Stations

These improvements are listed for track and stations.

The bid involves laying around three miles of track between Lytham and St Annes stations, the creation of a new rail platform at Ansdell and Fairhaven Station, the installation of signalling along the line, and potential platform changes at Preston Station. There is scope for improvements to St Annes and Lytham Stations, should Network Rail decide it would rather include those stations within the passing loop – but that would be decided further along the process.

Services

The objective is to be able to run two trains per hour (tph) between Preston and Blackpool South stations.

Trains

Better trains are needed.

It certainly looks like the Pacers have already gone.

The Route

I shall describe the current route in this section.

Blackpool South Station

The Google Map shows Blackpool South station.

Note.

  1. Entrance to the station is from Waterloo Road, which runs East-West across the map.
  2. There are a pair of bus stops by the station entrance.
  3. There is a lot of car parking close to the station.
  4. I suspect that the single platform can hold a modern eighty-metre four-car train.
  5. This seventy-year-old has no difficulty waking to the football ground or the Blackpool trams from the station.

With two tph and some updated facilities, this would be a very useful station.

I suspect there is even space to add a second platform in the future, if that were felt to be necessary.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach Station

This Google Map shows Blackpool Please Beach station and the nearby Pleasure Beach.

We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of this station. One beautiful late summer Saturday, I was going to see Ipswich play at Blackpool and out of curiosity I had explored the train to Colne station. In those days a decade ago, Colne and Blackpool South was one service and the train from Colne was full of families, by the time it got to Preston. A large proportion, left the train at the Pleasure Beach.

The conductor told me, that the crowds, I had witnessed weren’t untypical.

Squires Gate Station and Blackpool Airport

This Google Map shows Squires Gate station and the nearby Blackpool Airport.

Blackpool Airport after a troubled few years seems to be finding a niche market, with a few business, commercial, offshore and training flights.

But I believe that airports like Blackpool in the future can develop another large niche – electric aviation.

Getting to places like Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales by a nineteen-seat electric airliner will need the following.

  • As short a flight as possible.
  • Close to the coast would help.
  • Good public transport links. Blackpool Airport has both tram and train.
  • Space for aircraft to be parked, whilst charging.
  • Plentiful supplies of renewable electricity. The over-300 MW Burbo Bank Wind Farm is not far away in Liverpool Bay and it will only be joined by more and larger wind farms.
  • Frequent public transport.

Blackpool Airport could tick all these boxes, with a thick green marker.

Some example direct distances from Blackpool include

  • Aberdeen – 238 miles
  • Amsterdam Schipol – 340 miles
  • Belfast City – 128 miles
  • Cardiff – 165 miles
  • Dublin – 134 miles
  • Edinburgh – 150 miles
  • Exeter – 211 miles
  • Geneva – 661 miles
  • Glasgow – 155 miles
  • London Gatwick – 220 miles
  • London Heathrow – 192 miles
  • London Southend – 219 miles
  • Newcastle – 89 miles
  • Paris Orly – 422 miles
  • Isle of Man Ronaldsway – 68 miles
  • Southampton – 208 miles

These distances fit nicely with the range of the nine-seater Eviation Alice electric aircraft, which is predicted to be 620 miles.

St. Annes-on-the-Sea Station

This Google Map shows St. Annes-on-the-Sea station.

Note.

  1. Blackpool is to the North-West and Preston is to the South-East
  2. St. Annes-on-the-Sea is one of those convenient single-platform stations, where you just walk in-and-out on the level.
  3. The passing loop would start on the Preston side of the bridge.

There would need to be no major infrastructure work at the station, although I would expect the facilities could do with a makeover.

Ansdell And Fairhaven Station

In Should The Blackpool South Branch Be Electrified?, I said this about improvements to Ansdell and Fairhaven station.

Ansdell and Fairhaven station is nearest to the course at Royal Lytham.

    • The Open Championship is a very important event on the golfing calendar.
    • Other important golfing events are also held on the course
    • Royal Lytham and St.Annes, last held the Open in 2012 and 2001. So it might come back to Royal Lytham in the mid-2020s.

Ansdell and Fairhaven station used to have two platforms, as described in Wikipedia.

The station was set out as an island platform with tracks on both faces until the singling of the line in the 1980s. Trains now only use the southern face. A disabled access ramp now covers the northern part of the station.

So could a rebuild of the station do the following?

    • Restore two platforms on an island at the station.
    • Put in full disabled access.
    • Create a passing loop.
    • Longer platforms might be a good idea.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note.

    1. The disabled ramp winding away.
    2. The platform is probably about a hundred metres long.
    3. It would appear that there is space at the far end to extend the platform.

I suspect that an ambitious architect with vision, could design a station that met all objectives.

It could be the best Championship Golf Course railway station in the world.

Lytham Station

This Google Map shows Lytham station.

Lytham station will be the Eastern end of the loop and it is likely, that the single-track will change to double at the Western end of the station.

As with St. Annes-on-the-Sea station, I suspect that a good makeover, will be all that will be needed.

Moss Side Station

This Google Map shows Moss Side station.

The only problem here is the level crossing, so do Network Rail want to remove it?

Kirkham And Wesham Station

This Google Map shows Kirkham and Wesham station.

There are three platforms, which from bottom to top on the map are.

  • Platform 1 – Trains to Blackpool South
  • Platform 2 – Trains to Blackpool North
  • Platform 3 – Trains to Preston

All platforms seem to be being electrified in these  pictures. that I took during construction.

Note.

  1. It can’t be described as a station, built down to a small budget.
  2. In the captions to the pictures, I’ve numbered the platforms from left to right.
  3. The last picture looks down Platform 1 and there is an electrification gantry at the Preston end.

Could this comprehensive electrification be so that trains to Blackpool North can use both Platforms 1 and 2?

  • This would allow overtaking of say a local train by a London express.
  • Trains could also be turned back in Platform 1, before the end of its journey, if there was a problem.
  • The electrification is also substantial enough for the longest Class 390 trains.
  • It could even accommodate a classic compatible High Speed Two train.

So does the last point, mean that Blackpool North station is a possible High Speed Two destination? Provided, the platforms at Blackpool North station are long enough, I think it does!

This Google Map shows Kirkham West Junction, where trains to Blackpool North and Blackpool South stations diverge.

Note.

  1. The electrification gantries and their shadows can be seen.
  2. Preston is to the South-East and the route is fully-electrified.
  3. Blackpool North is to the North-West and the route is fully-electrified.
  4. Blackpool South is to the West. The double-track becomes single before Moss Side station.

This picture shows the route going off to Blackpool South.

I took the picture from a train going to Blackpool North station.

So why are wires being run along the first few hundred metres of the Blackpool South Branch?

The Timetable

Currently, trains take the following times to do these journey legs.

  • Run between Ansdell and Fairhaven and Blackpool South stations – 12 minutes
  • Turnback at Blackpool South station – 3 minutes
  • Run between Blackpool South and Ansdell and Fairhaven stations – 11 minutes

As the trains will be running every thirty minutes and the three legs total twenty-six minutes, that means there’s four minutes float.

So hopefully, it should be easily stainable, by an experienced rail timetable creator.

The Trains

I have remarked that I find the electrification at Kirkham & Wesham station, both comprehensive and slightly unusual.

Could The Electrification Have Been Designed For Battery Electric Trains To Blackpool South Station?

But there is one very plausible reason for the electrification layout – The Blackpool South Branch has been designed, so that services on the branch can be rum using battery trains.

  • The distance between Kirkham & Wesham and Blackpool South stations is just over eleven miles.
  • So for a round trip a range of perhaps twenty-five miles on battery power would suffice.
  • There would also be a need for a few minutes of hotel power, whilst waiting at Blackpool South station.

These power needs are well within the capabilities of the average battery train.

  • Trains could be charged on the nine minute run  between Preston and Kirkham & Wesham stations.
  • Changeover between electrification and battery power would take place in Kirkham & Wesham station.

An ideal train would surely be CAF’s four-car battery electric version of the Class 331 train, which I wrote about in Northern’s Battery Plans.

  • According to an article in the March 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, with the same name, these trains will be working between Manchester Airport and Windermere.
  • Class 331 trains without batteries will be running to and from Blackpool North station.
  • Four-car trains are probably the right size for the route.

There would also probably be no need for a charging station at Blackpool South station, if trains could leave Kirkham & Wesham station with a full battery.

Where Would The Trains Terminate In The East?

These would be the obvious choices.

  • Blackburn – Where there is a convenient bay platform.
  • Colne – Where they used to terminate!
  • Liverpool – Merseyrail has the trains and Liverpool has lots of punters and the imagination.
  • Preston – Where they do now!
  • Skipton – If the Skipton-Colne Link is built!

My money would be on Skipton, using a new Skipton-Colne Link, for the following reasons.

  • Politicians of all colours and roses are in favour.
  • Skipton has an electrified route to Leeds.
  • Skipton-Colne would be a valuable by-pass route during the building of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  • Battery-powered trains would be ideal for Skipton-Colne.

Would A Battery Electric Train Be Feasible Between Blackpool South And Liverpool?

Consider.

  • An all-stations service would complement the fast service between Liverpool Lime Street and Blackpool North stations via St. Helens, Wigan North Western and Preston.
  • The service could either go between Liverpool and Preston via Ormskirk or Southport and a reinstated Burscough Chord.
  • The Ormskirk route is 15 miles of unelectrified line and the Southport route is just four miles further.
  • A service via Southport would need to reverse at Southport station.
  • The service would be run using dual-voltage Class 777 trains fitted with batteries.
  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification, is already  installed between Preston and Kirkham & Wesham stations,
  • Using existing electrification, trains would leave Kirkham & Wesham, Ormskirk, Preston and Southport stations with full batteries.
  • A coastal service between Blackpool and Liverpool would surely attract visitors.
  • Liverpool and Blackpool are the two biggest urban areas on the coast.
  • There are several golf courses on the route, including three courses that have held the Open; Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

It may be a bit fanciful. But.

  • Merseyrail will have the trains.
  • Liverpool has the potential passengers.
  • I believe the route could handle a two tph service.
  • In Reopen Midge Hall Station, I showed that it was possible to run a two tph service between Liverpool and Preston, with one tph via each of Ormskirk and Southport.

Liverpool also has bags of ambition and imagination.

Would A Battery Electric Train Handle Preston And Skipton?

I estimate that this route is forty-one miles, with a stiff rise from Rose Grove to Colne station.

So would a battery electric train be able to handle this distance?

Hitachi are talking 56 miles for their Regional Battery Train, so I suspect CAF would want and need to be competitive with a similar specification.

Perhaps the logical service would be to run between Leeds and Blackpool South.

  • The service would go via Preston, Blackburn, Burnley Central, Colne and Skipton.
  • Leeds and Skipton is electrified.
  • Preston and Kirkham & Wesham is electrified.
  • No extra chargers for trains would be needed.

The only new infrastructure needed would be the Skipton and Colne Link.

Electrification Between Preston And Blackburn

Consider.

  • In Colne – Skipton Reopening Moves Closer, I talked about the proposed Huncoat Rail Fright Terminal, that could be built North of Blackburn on the East Lancashire Line.
  • Blackburn is a major hub for passenger services.
  • An electrified Blackburn would allow Manchester and Clitheroe to be run by battery electric trains. Clitheroe is ten miles and Bolton is thirteen.
  • An electrified Blackburn would allow Blackburn and Manchester Victoria via the Todmorden Curve to be run by battery electric trains. The whole route is 39.5 miles.
  • It may be possible for battery electric trains to reach Leeds via Hebden Bridge, as it is only fifty miles away, which is within Hitachi’s range.
  • As the Blackburn area grows, there will be more pressure for a daily London service.
  • Some think, the Calderdale route should be electrified.
  • Preston and Blackburn stations are just twelves miles apart.
  • There is a multiple unit depot at Blackburn.
  • I also feel that battery electric trains fanning out from Blackburn, wouldn’t do the town’s image any harm.

For all these reasons, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a short stretch of electrification added between Preston and Blackburn.

Conclusion

I like this proposal and it could be a big asset to trains across the Pennines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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 | Transport | , , , , | 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 | Transport | , , , , , | 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 | Transport | , , | 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 | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 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 | Transport | , , , , , | 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 | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment