The Anonymous Widower

Beeching Reversal – Reopening Stratford-upon-Avon And Honeybourne-Worcester/Oxford (SWO) Railway Line

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

I covered this route in RSC Urges GWR To Provide Stratford Improvements and came to these conclusions.

There are three ways to improve rail access to Stratford-upon-Avon.

    • The relatively easy and quick, enhancement of the rail services in Warwickshire.
    • Provide better one-change routes using Chiltern Railways.
    • The more difficult re-connection of Stratford to the Cotswold Line at Honeybourne.

As the last project will take years to implement, I feel, it is important that services to Stratford from Birmingham, Coventry, Leamington Spa and the West Midlands are substantially increased.

I also believe that the responsibility of providing a local service between Leamigton Spa and Stratford should be given to West Midlands Trains.

The Case To Reconnect Stratford-on-Avon and Honeybourne Stations

In Where Is London Midland Going?, I wrote this section in July 2017.

The North Warwickshire Line

The North Warwickshire Line links Birmingham with Stratford-on-Avon and has an alternative name of the Shakespeare Line.

Plans exist to extend this line South to Honeybourne station on the Cotswold Line.

Under Possible Future Development in the Wikipedia entry for the Warwickshire Line, this is said.

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group is promoting a scheme to reopen the 9 miles (14 km) of line south of Stratford to Honeybourne where it would link to the Cotswold Line. Called the “Avon Rail Link”, the scheme (supported as a freight diversionary route by DB Schenker) would make Stratford-upon-Avon station a through station once again with improved connections to the South, and would open up the possibility of direct services to Oxford and Worcester via Evesham. The scheme faces local opposition. However, there is a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

I think we’ll see something in the new franchise about developing this line, as there is a lot of potential for a train operator.

    • Direct services between Stratford-on-Avon and Oxford, where there is a connection to Bicester Village. Tourists would love that!
    • Connection of the housing development at Long Marston to Birmingham.
    • Could Stratford-on-Avon or Honeybourne become the terminus of a service from Leamington, Coventry and Nuneaton?

It would also give DB Schenker, their freight diversion.

But we didn’t see anything in the new franchise and the project has turned up in the list of Beeching Reversal projects.

The Route Into Stratford-Upon-Avon

This Google Map shows Stratford-upon-Avon station.

Note.

  1. The station is well-appointed with step-free access and three platforms.
  2. The bridge at the Southern end of the station to allow the railway to go South, appears to be intact.

This second Google Map shows the area of the town from the station to the racecourse.

Note.

  1. Stratford-upon-Avon station at the top of the map.
  2. Stratford Racecourse at the bottom of the map.

The road curving between the station and the racecourse is the track of the former Stratford to Honeybourne railway.

My first reaction, when I saw this was that those, who want to rebuild this railway can’t be serious.

  • Would you want one of DB Schenker’s noisy, smelly and polluting Class 66 locomotives running past your house?
  • Would you want the line to be electrified, so they could use electric locomotives on this short stretch of railway? If so would DB Schenker be happy to change locomotives twice?

I have looked at new railways entering towns and cities all over the UK and Europe and feel there is only two possible solutions for Southern access to Stratford-upon-Avon station.

  • A single-track passenger-only railway run by battery electric trains.
  • A tunnel, which would probably be single-bore for cost reasons.

South of Stratford, the route is easier and it can be picked out on Google Maps until it reaches the Cotswold Line to the East of Honeybourne station.

This Google Map shows Honeybourne station and the junction.

Note.

  1. The Cotswold Line running NW-SE across the map.
  2. The large triangular junction that connected the line to Stratford-upon-Avon station, which is to the North-East.
  3. Another track going South from the junction, can be picked out. This leads to the heritage Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway at Broadway station, with onward connections to Cheltenham Racecourse.

Honeybourne station could be an important rail hub.

Honeybourne Station And Battery Electric Trains

Consider.

  • Hereford and Honeybourne stations are 48 miles apart.
  • Didcot East Junction, where trains switch to and from the Great Western Main Line electrification and Honeybourne stations are 48 miles apart.
  • Trains to Hereford pass through Great Malvern, Worcestershire Parkway and Worcester Foregate Street.
  • Stratford-up-on-Avon and Honeybourne stations would be less than thirty miles apart, if the two stations were to be reconnected by rail.
  • Hitachi’s proposed battery electric trains will have a range of 56 miles on battery power.

If the means to charge battery electric trains were provided in the Honeybourne area, the following services could be run by battery electric trains.

  • London Paddington and Worcestershire Parkway, Worcester Foregate Street, Great Malvern and Hereford.
  • Honeybourne and Stratford-upon-Avon

The charging could be performed, by a ten minute stop at Honeybourne station or a section of electrified line centred on the station.

The two stations either side of Honeybourne are Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh.

  • They are fifteen miles apart.
  • Trains take eighteen minutes between the stations.
  • This would be enough time to charge the batteries.
  • Trains could pan-up and pan-down in the two stations.

I believe modern low-visibility overhead electrification could be used.

See Prototype Overhead Line Structure Revealed for more details on these gantries.

An Oxford And Stratford-upon-Avon Service

My estimates for the timings of the two sections of the route are as follows.

  • Stratford-upon-Avon and Honeybourne – 20 minutes
  • Honeybourne and Oxford – 46 minutes

Perhaps not the best for an efficient services, but I’m sure something could be arranged.

Conclusion

This will be a difficult project to get built.

If it is built, I suspect, it will be a passenger-only route using battery trains.

 

 

July 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Beeching Reversal Fund Bids

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the May 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Bids have been submitted to Government for a share of the £500 million ‘Restoring your railway’ fund launched by the Department for Transport in January. The fund is to be used to support proposals to reinstate axed local services, to accelerate schemes already being considered for restoration and also to promote new and restored stations.

Some of the bids are detailed.

Okehampton And Tavistock

If you were deciding what lines shouldn’t have been closed by British Rail in the 1960s, by hindsight, the Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR, would be a railway that you wouldn’t close.

  • The Northern route  would be a valuable diversion, when the sea and the weather decide to attack Dawlish again. as they did in 2014.
  • When COVID-19 is over, there will be more people going to Devon and Cornwall. A second rail route would be invaluable to get traffic off the roads.
  • Attitudes are changing about zero-carbon travel and this will also nudge passengers towards rail.
  • Four tracks between Exeter and Plymouth would allow more freight services to take trucks off the road.
  • There may be new developments along the Northern route.
  • It may be even be possible to electrify the Northern route.

At least, British Rail left the viaducts and bridges intact.

The Modern Railways article says this.

In the West Country, a new Northern Route Working Group has submitted a bid to the fund to develop a Strategic Outline Business Case for reopeing the former London and South Western Railway Main Line between Exeter and Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock. The proposal is backed by four local MPs and the working group of industry personnel.

These points are also made.

  • The reopening is crucial to the resilience of the network.
  • Reopening is complimentary to the ongoing work at Dawlish.
  • Devon County Council is leading plans to reopen the 5.5 miles between Bere Alston and Tavistock.
  • Devon County Council is pushing for a daily service between Exeter and Okehampton.
  • The previous two developments, would leave the 16 miles between Tavistock and Okehampton to be restored.
  • Much of the route is intact and structures survive, but some track has been sold off.
  • The route will be useful during closure of the coastal route through Dawlish.
  • Journey times might be only six minutes longer.
  • It might be an easier route for freight trains.

As I said earlier, the proposers of the scheme think electrification could be possible.

Stratford And Honeybourne

The Modern Railways article says this.

A bid has been submitted for £75,000 to carry out an Economic Impact Assessment regarding reopening of the Stratford-upon-Avon to Honeybourne route.

These points are also made.

Nothing is said about whether the route will be single or double track or what services will be run on the line.

There’s more on the Shakespeare Line web site.

This is said about train services.

  • A reopened railway could provide the ability to operate orbital train services in both directions between Birmingham-Stratford-Evesham-Worcester-Birmingham providing connections for South Wales and South West at the new Worcestershire Parkway station.
  • The reopened line would provide the ability to operate direct train services with a 12 mile shorter route between Stratford upon Avon, the Cotswolds, Oxford, Reading, Heathrow Airport and London Paddington.

I also think, I’ve read that the line could be used by freight services and heritage services on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, which could link Birmingham and Cheltenham.

It does appear to be a rail link with potential.

Rawtenstall Line

The Modern Railways article says this.

Meanwhile, Rossendale Council has submitted an application to the fund seeking to propose reinstatement of passenger services on the Rawstenstall Line, now part of the East Lancashire Railway.

A study published in 2018 determined that reinstating services along the ELR and then joining the Manchester to Rochdale Line would be feasible.

These points are also made.

  • Rossendale is the only council in Lancashire without a rail link.
  • 60 % of residents leave the borough each day for work.

Tram-trains have also been proposed for this route, as I wrote about in Could A Class 399 Tram-Train With Batteries Go Between Manchester Victoria And Rochdale/Bury Bolton Street/Rawtenstall Stations?

Conclusion

This is the closing paragraph of the article.

In addition to those mentioned, it is likely that other bids will have been submitted to the fund.

It certainly looks like the money in the fund, will be bid for, by worthwhile projects.

 

April 24, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RSC Urges GWR To Provide Stratford Improvements

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 860 of Rail Magazine.

This is the first paragraph.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust have written a joint letter to Great Western Railway Managing Director Mark Hopwood, urging him to improve services between London and Stratford-upon-Avon should GWR retain the Great Western franchise.

Stratford-upon-Avon station may have step-free access, but the services are not of a level for such an important tourist destination.

  • 2 trains per hour (tph) to Birmingham Snow Hill and Stourbridge Junction.
  • 1 train every two hours to Leamington Spa with some continuing to London Marylebone.

It really isn’t enough trains.

Coventry And Stratford-upon-Avon

In 2021 Coventry will be the UK City Of Culture, so surely there should be a direct rail link between one of the most important cities of the West Midlands and one of its biggest cultural attractions.

But no there isn’t a direct link, despite the rail lines being in place.

You have to change at Leamington Spa. But the journey only takes a reasonable 70 minutes.

I have read somewhere, that West Midlands Trains are going to link up these two services.

  • Nuneaton and Coventry
  • Coventry and Leamington Spa

This would create a single service between Nuneaton and Leamington Spa stations..

Could this service be extended to Stratford-upon-Avon?

  • They are acquiring eight Class 172 trains from London Overground, to run services in Warwickshire.
  • All the tracks are in place.
  • The service would connect the West Coast Main Line and the Chiltern Main Line to Stratford-upon-Avon.

How long would it take?

These are current average times for the three legs

  • Nuneaton to Coventry – 22 minutes
  • Coventry to Leamington Spa – 12 minutes
  • Leamington Spa to Stratford – 35 minutes

This totals to 69 minutes.

  • There are thirteen stations stops, one of which is a reverse at Leamington Spa station.
  • There will be a need to add a few minutes for turnround at Nuneaton and Stratford-upon-Avon stations.
  • The Class 172 trains are 100 mph trains, whereas the current Class 153 trains are only 75 mph trains.
  • Much of the track has an operating speed of 100 mph.

If a round trip can be done in under three hours, the following number of trains would be needed.

  • One tph would need three trains.
  • Two tph would need six trains.

The number of trains are actually the same that would be needed, if the routes were run as three separate sections. But by joining them together passengers don’t need to change trains.

With the faster trains, I do wonder if a round trip of two hours is possible, which would mean that just four trains would be needed for a two tph service.

Hopefully, a better service will be in place before Coventry is UK City of Culture.

An Improved Chiltern Service

Chiltern Railways don’t have the capacity on the Chiltern Main Line to run more direct services to Stratford, but I feel they could improve the current service.

If you are going to Stratford from Marylebone, most of Chiltern’s Birmingham services offer a one-change route to Stratford. But it is not always the same interchange station and I have found routes with changes at Birmingham Moor Street, Dorridge and Leamington Spa.

The Chiltern service to Stratford could be improved by just ensuring that to go between Marylebone and Stratford, you always changed at the same station and waited just a few minutes.

This map from Wikipedia, shows the rail connections around Leamington Spa.

Note the lines to Stratford and Coventry.

The direct service to Stratford is one train every two hours, whereas the service to Coventry is two trains per hour running fifteen minutes apart.

As I said earlier, perhaps what is needed is a unified Nuneaton to Stratford service, which ideally should do the following.

  • Run every thirty minutes.
  • Be timed to connect with Chiltern’s London trains at Leamington Spa.
  • Run a bit quicker than the current Class 153 trains.

The problem would be that a Chiltern service would be replaced with one run by West Midlands Trains.

Avon Rail Link

Under Possible Future Development in the Wikipedia entry for Stratford-upon-Avon station, this is said.

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group is promoting a scheme to reopen the 9 miles (14 km) of line south of Stratford to Honeybourne where it would link to the Cotswold Line. Called the “Avon Rail Link”, the scheme (supported as a freight diversionary route by DB Schenker) would make Stratford-upon-Avon station a through station once again with improved connections to the South, and would open up the possibility of direct services to Oxford and Worcester via Evesham. The scheme faces local opposition. There is, however, a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

This is the scheme, that has prompted, the letter from the RSC and SBT to GWR.

The link would connect Stratford to Oxford, Reading and Paddington.

I suspect that you could argue that it would create a useful railway in an arc connecting the Thames Valley to the West Midlands.

A lot of things said about the East West Rail Link, would probably apply to this railway.

Honeybourne station on the Cotswold Line between Worcester and Oxford, would be the Southern end of the Avon Rail Link, where a connection to the privately-owned herotage raily; the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, has been allowed for by Network Rail.

This section entitled North From Honeybourne on the Wikipedia entry for the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, says this about building the extension.

The section between Stratford and Stratford Racecourse has been utilised to improve road access around the town, especially the A4390, making reinstatement of rail to the main station at Stratford extremely difficult.

Given the local opposition, it looks like it will be a struggle to get this line built.

Conclusion

There are three ways to improve rail access to Stratford-upon-Avon.

  • The relatively easy and quick, enhancement of the rail services in Warwickshire.
  • Provide better one-change routes using Chiltern Railways.
  • The more difficult re-connection of Stratford to the Cotswold Line at Honeybourne.

As the last project will take years to implement, I feel, it is important that services to Stratford from Birmingham, Coventry, Leamington Spa and the West Midlands are substantially increased.

I also believe that the responsibility of providing a local service between Leamigton Spa and Stratford should be given to West Midlands Trains.

 

August 31, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 8 Comments