The Anonymous Widower

West Anglia Route Improvement – A Level Crossing Replacement Station

We have lots of level crossings in the UK and they are dangerous, hated by drivers of vehicles and trains, and cause all sorts of problems.

When I was writing Works Around Coppermill Junction And Along The West Anglia Main Line, I realised that the West Anglia Main Line has four major level crossings, all of which are at stations.

I’ve also since found that Ponders End used to have a level crossing.

As an example, I’ll consider Enfield Lock station, which needs updating for Crossrail 2.

This is a Google Map of the station.

enfieldlock2

To update the station for Crossrail 2, the following must be provided.

  • Two extra tracks through the station.. They will probably be to the East of the current tracks.
  • Two twelve car platforms for the current tracks, with step-free access to all trains that will call at the station for wheelchairs, buggies and those past their best.
  • Network Rail have said that the level crossing at the station will be closed.
  • New station buildings, as the current ones will be demolished for the new tracks.
  • Full step-free access.

In additions, these features would be welcome.

  • Access from both sides of the tracks.
  • Why not access from both sides of the road?
  • Ability for pedestrians, cyclists and those in wheelchairs to easily cross the tracks.
  • Kiosks accessible to both platforms.

No facilities are needed on the fast lines, except possibly acoustic fences.

Perhaps the solution is to close the level crossing and put a wide pedestrian and cycling underpass under the railway.

It would be of a similar width as the road, accessed by gentle slopes and landscaped to blend in with the surroundings.

The underpass would contain.

  • The booking hall, with perhaps a counter and ticket machines.
  • Secure bicycle parking.
  • A warm waiting room, that would mean passengers don’t have to wait in the cold in the winter.
  • Kiosks and possibly a cafe.
  • Lifts and steps to both platforms.
  • Is there enough space at the top of the slopes for a simple Kiss-And-Ride?

The level crossing has been replaced with a fully-accessible modern station.

I don’t think the idea is truly original, as I might have seen a station like this somewhere in Europe, possibly in the Netherlands or Germany.

Where Would Such A Station Be Built?

But, I do think the concept may have advantages in some situations, where perhaps some of these reasons apply.

  • The level crossing is heavily used by pedestrian and cyclists.
  • The level crossing crosses a large number of railway tracks.
  • Would removing the level crossing allow a needed increase in passenger or freight services?
  • The railway line is very busy and the crossing spends a lot of time closed.
  • There is no space for a bridge.
  • A station is needed in the area.
  • Heritage issues might rule out a conventional station with a step-free footbridge.
  • It’s reasonably easy to dig the underpass.

I think that a prerequisite is that there must be a reasonable diversion for vehicles.

After my observations today, Brimsdown could be a prime candidate.

  • Two new lines are being added through the station.
  • It is very busy with trains and in a few years time could have forty trains per hour.
  • The site has little space.
  • A bridge for vehicles is impossible, but there is an alternative route.

Network Rail and Enfield Council certainly need an innovative solution to remove this level crossing.

A Modular System

I also believe that a factory-built modular system could be designed, which would enable these stations to be installed quickly.

Get the design right and it might also find applications, where no level crossing exists, but good pedestrian and cycling access is needed across a railway, where a new station is also needed.

February 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 4 Comments

Elephant And Castle Station

Elephant and Castle station couldn’t be called a well-preserved architectural gem.

But it certainly could be improved.

It looks like it’s another of those stations, where the arches could be opened up underneath the railway.

February 16, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

A Look At New Station Projects

If as I wrote in Government Focuses On New Stations And Trains, the government is going to promote more stations, how are the various current station projects progressing?

This list of stations is not complete.

But I can make a few simple conclusions.

Some Regions Have More Stations In The Pipeline Than Others

There are probably several reasons for this.

  • Some regions like Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield have gone the light-rail route.
  • Some regions like East Anglia, East Midlands, Kent, Sussex and Teesside haven’t got their plans fully together.
  • Some regions like Bristol, London and Merseyside have got very detailed plans together.
  • Some regions like Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow have already got extensive heavy rail networks.

I think Merseyside is the interesting region.

  • Merseyrail is very much an independent franchise strongly controlled by the region.
  • It runs a frequent four trains per hour (tph) to most destinations.
  • It seems to be run very professionally.
  • It is proposing at least seven new stations.

In lots of areas, it appears that Merseyrail and London Overground are singing the same tune.

I have a feeling when other regions get their acts together, we’ll be seeing a lot more plans for new stations.

Several New Passenger Routes Are Being Created

In the list of stations, the same new routes arise.

  • Aberdeen Crossrail
  • Anglesey Central Railway
  • Borderlands Line
  • Bristol Metro (MetroWest)
  • Camp Hill Line
  • Canada Dock Branch
  • Coventry to Nuneaton Line
  • Devon Metro
  • East West Rail Link
  • Edinburgh Suburban and Southside Junction Railway
  • Harrogate Line
  • Ivanoe Line
  • Leamside Line
  • Newcastle And Ashington Line
  • Ripley Branch Line
  • South Staffordshire Line
  • South Wales Metro

Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter and Merseyside have obviously been planning.

New Trains Stop At A Station Faster

The UK’s most frequent rail line is the Victoria Line, which is gearing up to a frequency of 36 tph or even more.

Crossrail and Thameslink will be running 24 tph through their central tunnels.

Trains like these and Bombardier’s new Aventras and Stadler’s new trains for Merseyrail will be optimised for fast stops.

  • Driver Only Operation
  • Wide doors and lobbies for easy access.
  • Optimum braking and acceleration.
  • Roll across step-free access for wheelchairs, buggies and large cases.
  • Automatic Train Operation as has been working on the Victoria Line since the 1960s

Trains like these will mean that new stations can be inserted on existing lines without degrading the service.

 

 

 

January 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 3 Comments

Cambridge Thinks About More Stations

This article in the Cambridge News has a headline of Support for re-opening South Cambridgeshire railway station is gathering pace.

It talks mainly about the reopening of Fulbourn station between Newmarket and Cambridge.

This is said.

The Reopen Fulbourn Railway Station group is calling for the station to be reinstated as part of a drive to boost rail connectivity in the area.

Later in the article it says that the Council also wants to open a new station at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and reopen the closed station at Cherry Hinton.

A station at Addenbrooke’s Hospital is pencilled in for the East West Rail Link and the other two stations are on the Ipswich to Cambridge Line.

Wikipedia says this about a previous attempt to reopen the station at Cherry Hinton.

Reopening of the station was proposed by Cambridgeshire County Council in May 2013 as part of an infrastructure plan to deal with projected population growth up to 2050. A proposal to reopen the station had previously been made in 1996 but 70% of residents who responded to a Council questionnaire were against it; in any event, a new station was not considered viable at that time.

There are some cynical comments to the article as well.

But circumstances have changed since 1996.

  • Cambridgeshire County Council has more responsibility for this type of spending.
  • As I said in Will We Be Seeing More Railway Stations?, it looks like design, technology, new trains and costs are making it easier to make a good case for a new station.
  • Greater Anglia will be running new high-performance trains through Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton in a couple of years.
  • Network Rail are removing level crossings in East Anglia and there are several in the area, including one at the site of Cherry Hinton station.

The level crossings could be the clincher, as there is a lot of opposition in some places to their removal.

Would Network Rail duck the problems and leave everything as it is?

December 29, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Will We Be Seeing More Railway Stations?

I didn’t put any qualification like UK or London in the title of this post, as it is a question that applies to all railways.

The post was prompted by an article in the January 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Funding Buds For New South Wales Stations.

The article talks of two possible stations.

  • A Cardiff Parkway station near St. Mellions.
  • A Magor Walkway station between Newport and Severn Tunnel Junction stations.

Cardiff Parkway station seems the more conventional of the two and is proposed to support a proposed new business park, with car parking and a bus station,

This article on Wales Online is entitled Plans revealed for huge new development and train station in Cardiff that could create 15,000 jobs, gives more details.

On the other hand, according to The Magor And Undy Walkway Station Website, the second station at Magor Walkway appears to be less conventional.

But the two stations do illustrate two common reasons for developing new stations.

A New Station To Support Development

Cardiff Parkway station falls into this category and there are several for this reason in the pipeline.

We will see a lot more, as having a station at a new development, has many positive effects on the project.

A New Station To Provide Better Transport Opportunities

Magor Walkway station falls into this category and others include.

There are also schemes for airport links to Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds and Luton.

Why New Stations Don’t Get Built

Obviously, some stations don’t get built for reasons of practicality and cost.

The traffic may be there, but the proposed site is difficult, so a new station might be impossible to fit the space available.

When a re-opened station like Lea Bridge is reported to cost £11million, without car parking, new stations don’t come cheap.

So new stations need a good financial case to get built.

Another factor that is often ignored by campaigners for new stations, is the knock-on effects they will have on services through the station.

Stopping trains at a station on a single or double-track line will effectively block the line, thus slowing other traffic in the area.

But Innovation Is Making It Easier To Build New Stations

In the following sections, I shall detail some of the ideas and innovations that will make the building of stations easier.

The Rise Of The Single-Platform Station

Single-platform stations are not that common in the UK, and the first new one of this type I saw was James Cook station, which I wrote about in James Cook Station – The Reinvention Of The Halt .

Other recently built stations in this category include.

Note there is a parkway station on the list and Galashiels is a major train-bus interchange.

A good proportion of the list are also on newly opened lines.

Consider the advantages of a single-platform station.

  • There is no need for an expensive footbridge., that is part of the station.
  • Only one set of shelters, ticket machines and information displays are needed.
  • Single platform stations can be easily made long enough for the largest trains that will call.
  • Interchange to cars, buses and taxis is quick and easy.
  • Modern signalling makes bi-directional operation safe.

There may also be advantages in fitting a station into a restricted space, like shopping centres, airports, sports grounds or an historic town centre.

I think we’ll see a lot more single platform stations in the future.

The Express Stop Train

Next time, you’re on a train, notice how long it takes to perform a stop at a typical station.

It is often not a quick process.

  • Passengers have to lift children, buggies, bicycles and heavy cases over the step up or down between train and platform.
  • Passengers coming on get in the way of passengers getting off.
  • On a crowded train, that is not working under driver-only-operation (DOO) rules, the guard often has to struggle to get in position to open the doors.
  • Older trains without information systems, often mean that passengers aren’t ready to get off, so cause delays at the stop.

But look at the new trains for Merseyrail, I wrote about in Thoughts On Merseyrail’s New Trains.

  • They are designed to eliminate the gap between station and train and for passengers to step or roll across quickly.
  • They will have wide doors and probably ample lobbies, to ease entry and exit.
  • They will be information-rich trains, as are all modern trains.
  • They will be DOO, which avoids guard delays on crowded trains.
  • They will have high performance with respect to braking and acceleration.

I also wonder if braking and acceleration will be automated, so that they are fast, smooth and very safe in all weather and track conditions.

On Merseyrail, this will result in faster trains and a saving of nine minutes between Southport and Hunts Cross is quoted.

New trains on Greater Anglia, will also give substantial help in enabling a headline-grabbing Norwich in 90 and Ipswich in 60 service for all trains.

I suspect that as new trains improve their stop times, it will make it easier for a new station to be fitted into an intense schedule on a main line with extensive services.

Stations Without Electrification

Often electriofying stations is an expensive business, in planning, execution and in operation.

With the development of bi-mode and battery trains and especially ones that can switch mode automatically, I think we’ll see a lot more stations left without electrification, thus eliminating health and safety and heritage issues, whilst reducing costs.

The Station On A Train

Merseyrail’s new trains will be DOO and from the reports, it appears that all the CCTV needed for safe operation will be on the train, rather than the station.

So will this allow Merseyrail to simplify their stations, with the only CCTV needed on stations being only that for passenger and station security.

I wonder if the driver will have access to a station’s CCTV as he approaches. Being able to assess crowd density in a station on approach must be to the driver’s advantage.

Ticket Machines On A Train

Operators might even put a card-only ticket machine on the train, so the number of machines in stations can be cut to save costs.

I have seen this is in several places in Europe, but never in the UK.

Tram Style Operation Of Local Trains

There are two basic types of through platforms  in the UK, served by local or regional passenger trains.

  • Platforms where some freight and passenger trains pass through without stopping.
  • Platforms where all trains stop.

Merseyrail’s Northern Line and some of the branches of the Wirral Line would be examples of the second.

What would be the implications for station design, if say a branch line worked exclusively by one type of train ran to say a tram speed limit and the visual rules a tram driver would obey in the centre of Birmingham, Manchester or Nottingham.

Could we see new two platform stations built like say this station on the Croydon Tramlink?

Gentle Ramps To the Platforms

Passengers would just walk across the tracks to get to the other side.

I believe that Merseyrail’s new trains could work in this way.

Consider.

  • Stadler have enormous experience of trams and tram-trains.
  • Merseyrail’s new trains can be fitted with batteries, so for perhaps fifty metres either side of the station, the third rail can be removed.
  • The new trains look like trams, although they are trains.
  • There will always be a driver in the front of the train with a big horn, as the train enters the station.
  • Trains would be restricted to tram speeds in the station area.

Imagine a station on a network like Merseyrail or perhaps a branch line like the Walton-on-the-Naze Branch of the Sunshine Coast Line.

A train stopping at the station would go through the following procedure.

  • A safe distance from the station, after ascertaining, that the line in the station is clear, the driver initiates the automatic stop procedure or halts the train.
  • The train slows automatically from line speed to the tram speed perhaps fifty metres from the station.
  • The train proceeds automatically to the station at tram speed using onboard stored energy, as there is no electrification.
  • The driver would open the doors, so that passengers and their belongings can be unloaded and loaded.
  • Once everything is ready, the driver closes the doors and initiates the automatic leave sequence.
  • The train leaves the station at tram speed.
  • Once electrification starts and the train is connected, the train automatically accelerates back to line speed.

Note.

  1. The train is not at line speed anywhere near the station.
  2. The driver can take control at any time.
  3. The procedure is not very far removed from that used on the Victoria Line since 1967!

Effectively the operation of the train through the station is train-tram-train.

I wonder if Merseyrail have been thinking this way to create a tram-train link to Liverpool Airport.

Conclusion

Various innovations will mean that stations will cost less.

  • Simpler design.
  • Step-free without footbridges.
  • Less expensive features.
  • Equipment moved from station to train.

In addition, trains will find it easier to fit stops into busy timetables.

This will mean that the available station budget will go further and more stations will be built.

 

December 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The New Beam Park Station

Beam Park station is a new station that is to support a large housing development of the same name, which will be built on the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, between Dagenham Dock and Rainham stations.

This map shows the development, with the station numbered at six.

Beam Park

Beam Park

The station is the Westernmost number on the Southern boundary of Beam Park.

  • It is possibly located where Kent Avenue crosses over the railway.
  • Note that some sources call it Beam Reach station.
  • With up to 5,000 new homes in the area, I would think that the station is needed.

I think it is interesting that London is getting two new stations; Barking Riverside and Beam Park, in the same area of London.

October 17, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Around Blackburn Station

I stayed in the Premier Inn by Blackburn station and I took these pictures of the area around the station and the nearby Blackburn cathedral.

It is an arrangement, that gives the visitor a good welcome to the town. It has the scent of the unexpected about it.

Note these points about the station and the trains.

  • The station has recently been rebuilt, but the new trains won’t arrive for a couple of years.
  • There are a lot of direct trains across the North from the station to places like Blackpool, Leeds, Manchester, Preston and York, with a couple of rural branch lines in the interesting category.
  • Station staff are not very numerous, when you need them.
  • You’ll have to hunt the ticket machine.
  • There is a Booking Office for buying Ranger and Rover tickets.
  • Some parts of the station are showing poor quality construction.
  • A return ticket up the Clitheroe Line to Clitheroe cost me £2.50 with a Railcard.

I think with the new trains and some more services, things can only get better.

I might even close the Booking Office, put two ticket machines on each main platform group; 1 to 3 and 4, and get the staff more visible.

In the morning, I had a walk around the part of the town centre nearest to the station.

  • There are no maps and just a few finger posts, but it’s not really a place to get lost.
  • I bought my paper in a convenient Morrisons about two hundred metres from the station.
  • I made the mistake going into the large Shopping Centre, but it was designed like a maze and I didn’t find what I was looking for.
  • One gem, I did find later was Cafe Northcote in the Cathedral, where I had an extremely delicious gluten-free egg sandwich.

You could certainly waste an hour or so enjoyably in Blackburn, whilst waiting for a train.

If I compare it to various mid-size towns and cities, where you might miss an hourly train home or get seriously delayed, you get the following.

  • Brighton, Cambridge, Liverpool Lime Street, Oxford and Reading – Acceptable for everybody including gluten-free, as there’s an M&S Simply Food in the station.
  • Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich – Except for hot drinks and sandwiches, there’s nothing. And you’re away from the centre!
  • Derby, Doncaster, Leicester, Nottingham and York – Dreadful, if like me you’re gluten-free.
  • Rochester – You’re just across the road from the centre.
  • Romford and Southend – You’re in the large town centre, with an M&S, pubs and cafes nearby.

In addition to being better than many in my list, in my view, Blackburn is certainly a better place to get stuck than Blackpool, Burnley or Preston.

Blackburn has certainly raised the stakes about creating a welcoming station.

 

October 16, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Manchester Oxford Road Station

Manchester Oxford Road Station, is that rareanimal, a modern station with a Grade II Listing.

Probably, the most significant thing about the listing of Manchester Oxford Road station, is that there are few stations, built in the 1960s, worthy of any merit.

October 16, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | 1 Comment

Passing Through Shrewsbury Station

Returning from Ludlow, I came back via Shrewsbury station.

For a important place and railway interchange, the station is really not up to much, with the only facilities being toilets and a Starbucks.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | 3 Comments

Changing Trains At Carmarthen Station

Carmarthen station is on a spur from the West Wales Line from a triangular junction.

This Google Map shows the station and the junction.

Carmarthen Station

Carmarthen Station

My train from Swansea arrived in the station and I crossed the tracks to the other platform to get my onward train to Pembroke.

These are some pictures of the station.

There aren’t many stations, where passengers are allowed to cross the lines.

This Google Map shows the station layout in detail.

Carmarthen Station Layout

Carmarthen Station Layout

It is a good example of how a reversing siding works.

Note in the larger map, the railway crosses over the River Towy, as it goes to the West.

There is a lifting bridge over the river called Carmarthen Bridge.

This web page on Movable Bridges, describes the bridge and has a picture.

The bridge was built in 1911 and hasn’t worked since about 1956.

October 7, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment