The Anonymous Widower

Possible Regular Services Between West Somerset Railway And Taunton

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Rail Advent.

These are the introductory paragraphs.

Hopes are growing that regular scheduled train services will once more operate between the West Somerset Railway (WSR) and the national rail network.

There is an increasing interest in re-opening long-closed stations and lines on the network. To this end, a partnership working group has been set up to look at the prospects of running scheduled trains between WSR’s Bishops Lydeard station and Taunton, which would safeguard the WSR’s long-term future.

The working group comprises representatives of the Heart of South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Great Western Railway, Network Rail, Somerset County Council, and WSR Plc.

Given the success of the reopened Okehampton station, that I wrote about in Success For The Dartmoor Line, where 2,500 passengers a week have used the trains since last November, I wonder if Somerset is aiming to emulate Devon’s success, with the West Somerset Railway.

There are certainly similarities between the two routes.

Connection To The County Town

Both routes connect to the county town.

  • The Dartmoor Line connects to Exeter, which is the county town of Devon.
  • The West Somerset Railway connects to Taunton, which is the county town of Somerset.

As the county town usually contains important local services like the council offices and the Courts, this is often convenient.

Connection To The Great Western Railway

Both routes could have excellent connections to the Great Western Railway.

Note.

  1. Both stations have connections to Bristol, London and Cornwall.
  2. The two stations are well-connected to each other.
  3. Both stations have six platforms, which include some bay platforms for branch line services.

This Google Map shows the less developed Taunton station.

Note that there appears to be lots of space for development of rail and related development.

Both Branches Were/Are In Use Before Development

Before the Dartmoor Line was reopened, the route was in occasional use for both freight and passenger trains. Great Western Railway have in recent years run InterCity125 trains to Okehampton station.

With reopening the line to Okehampton, there was no major viaduct or bridges to rebuild, although Network Rail took the prudent decision to relay the track.

It would appear that the West Somerset Railway has similar use for both freight and passenger trains. How much work will be needed to bring it up to an acceptable standard.

Great Western Railway Are Providing Initial Weekend Services

On the Dartmoor Line services started between Exeter and Okehampton in 2019 and Wikipedia says this about initial services between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard station.

In 2019, the WSR entered into a partnership with the modern Great Western Railway (GWR) to operate Summer Saturday services to Bishops Lydeard from Taunton beginning on 27 July 2019. The introduction of these GWR services will mark the first time the station has been connected to the rest of the national rail network since its initial closure in 1971.

Is history going to repeat itself?

The First Step

This paragraph from the Rail Advent article, indicates the first step to reopening a service between Taunton and Minehead.

The first task will be to look at the simplest and most effective way in which the link between the WSR and the mainline can be improved, signalled, and operated. An outline business plan will then be developed to estimate how much it would cost.

This Google Map shows the link between the West Somerset Railway and the mainline.

Note.

  1. The large triangular junction.
  2. The Bristol-Exeter railway runs East-West across the bottom of the map.
  3. Minehead is to the North.
  4. Taunton is to the East.
  5. A disused line to Barnstaple is to the West.
  6. The site to the West of the top of the triangular junction is a ballast cleaning site.

It does appear that there could be the space to create an efficient junction linking the two railways.

Initial Regular Services

This was one of the introductory paragraphs.

There is an increasing interest in re-opening long-closed stations and lines on the network. To this end, a partnership working group has been set up to look at the prospects of running scheduled trains between WSR’s Bishops Lydeard station and Taunton, which would safeguard the WSR’s long-term future.

This page on the Railway Touring Company web site is entitled The West Somerset Steam Express.

This paragraph describes the trip.

This series of trains from London Paddington to Minehead features haulage by two steam locomotives in one day.
One steam locomotive will haul our train from London Paddington to the West Somerset Railway at Bishops Lydeard.
The Heritage Railway will then provide a steam locomotive to haul our train to Minehead and back. This provides a truly fascinating day out travelling through beautiful scenery to the Bristol Channel coast.

So it looks like, the initial services on the between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard stations, will duplicate services that are already planned on a very much less frequent basis.

Bishops Lydeard Station

Bishops Lydeard station is the station, where mainline and West Somerset services meet.

This OpenRailwayMap shows the track layout at the station.

Note.

  1. The station is the Southern terminus of the West Somerset Railway.
  2. Track is single to the North and South of the station.
  3. Bishops Lydeard station has two platforms.
  4. There is a passing loop.

If the terminal station has a serious problem, it doesn’t appear to have much parking.

So it would appear, that a link to Taunton might improve the finances of the West Somerset Railway, by attracting more visitors.

Onward To Minehead

This OpenRailwayMap shows the last section of the West Somerset Railway to Minehead.

Note.

  1. Minehead station is in the North West corner of the map.
  2. Minehead station appears to be a well-equipped station, with two platforms.
  3. Minehead station even has a turntable for turning locomotives.
  4. There are four or five stations close to the coast.

The Wikipedia entry for Minehead, says this about the town.

The parish of Minehead has a population of approximately 11,981, making it the most populous town in the western part of the Somerset West and Taunton local government district, which in turn, is the worst area in the country for social mobility.

The West Somerset Railway could become both a useful and a real bucket-and-spade railway. Surely, that could generate revenue and level-up the area.

Financing

If you want something to work well, you must get the finances right.

I have lived in Dalston in London for twelve years now. When I moved here after my wife died and I had had a serious stroke, which left me unable to drive, I relied on an antiquated mainly bendy-bus-based public transport system.

Then along came the Overground and fleets of shiny new buses and Hackney and Dalston in particular was more than levelled up with London’s more salubrious boroughs.

Shopping improved with M & S returning after at least seventy years. There’s even a Pret, which boomed during the pandemic.

Transport for London got the financing for the Overground right and they created a success.

Conclusion

Can the initial working group find a financial model so that the West Somerset Railway can do for West Somerset, what the Overground has done for Dalston and the Dartmoor Line appears to be doing for Devon?

I thoroughly hope so!

 

May 30, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bath Spa Station – 28th July 2020

I took these pictures as I twice passed through Bath Spa station.

These are my thoughts.

Electrification Gantries On The Platforms

As somebody, whose eyesight is on the wane, I am not a lover of electrification, where the gantries are bolted to the platforms. These pictures show some installations of this type at Crouch Hill station.

Would electrification gantries like these, be appropriate in Bath Spa station?

Could Lightweight Electrification Gantries Be Placed Between The Tracks?

These pictures show the wide gap between the two tracks in Bath Spa station.

Could double-track lightweight structures, based on a design like this be placed between the tracks?

These structures are made out of laminated wood and are surely a possibility.

A Makeover For Bath Spa Station

If you look at much of the woodwork and paint in the fabric of the station, it appears tired and in need of refurbishment.

Whether the station is electrified or not, the station will need a high-class makeover.

Services Through Bath Spa Station

Three train companies run services through Bath Spa station.

There are also some freight services hauled by diesel locomotives.

Trains leave Bath Spa station using one of three routes via either.

Most trains seem to go via Bristol Temple Meads station.

  • The distance between Bristol Temple Meads and Chippenham stations are 24.5 miles.
  • The distance between Bristol Temple Meads and Westbury stations are 28.5 miles.

Neither distance is that long.

An Alternative To Full Electrification

When I look at the distances between Bristol Temple Meads, Chippenham and Westbury stations, they tell me that they are within the range of Hitachi’s Class 800 train with a battery electric capability or Regional Battery Train, which is described in this infographic from the company.

The proposed 90 km or 56 mile range would even be sufficient take a train between Chippenham and Bristol Temple Meads stations on a return trip.

Notes for each station follow.

Bristol Temple Meads

Charging facilities would be needed.

Destinations in battery range would include.

  • Bristol Parkway – 6 miles
  • Cardiff Central – 5 miles to the electrified Great Western Main Line.
  • Cheltenham Spa – 41 miles
  • Gloucester – 39 miles
  • Taunton – 45 miles
  • Weston-super-Mare – 19 miles

Note.

  1. Return trips to Bristol Parkway and Western-super-Mare would be possible.
  2. The other destinations will need charging facilities.

Bristol Temple Meads station could become a major hub for battery trains.

All local services and all passing longer distance services could be trains with a battery capability.

I write more about Britol Temnple Meads station as a battery train hub in Bristol Temple Meads Station – 28th July 2020.

Chippenham

A train would leave Chippenham station with a full battery after charging on the fully-electrified route from London.

Chippenham and Weston-super-Mare would be in battery range with a charging facility at Weston-super-Mare station.

It should be noted that every extra mile of electrification past Chippenham, can be added to the distance electric trains with a battery capability can reach.

Westbury

Charging facilities would be needed.

Destinations in battery range would include.

  • Salisbury – 24 miles.
  • Southampton – 49 miles to the electrified South Western Main Line, at Southampton Central station.
  • Weymouth – 53 miles to the electrified South Western Main Line at Dorchester Junction.

Note.

  1. A return trip to Salisbury would be possible.
  2. Trains would need to have the capability to access 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  3. A few extra miles of electrification may make operation South from Westbury station easier, more reliable and allow more destinations to be included.

Westbury station could be a major hub for battery trains.

This Google Map shows Westbury station and the lines around it.

I would probably electrify a few miles either side of Westbury, so that passing trains could be in contact with the overhead wires for perhaps five to ten minutes and take a good long drink.

  • Electrification could be either 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC overhead.
  • Newbury, where the electrification to London starts is 42 miles away and trains can pick it up at speed.
  • Taunton is 47 miles away and could be electrified to Exeter St. Davids.

Great Western Railway could run all their services between London Paddington and the South-West using Class 800 trains with a battery capability.

Conclusion

The prolitical, heritage and engineering problems of electrifying through Bath Spa station can be voided, by electrification and charging facilities at stations like Bristol Temple Meads, Taunton, Westbury and Weston-super-Mare.

July 29, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments