The Anonymous Widower

LNER’s Cheaper Advanced Tickets Can Be Bought Just Before You Travel

Yesterday, I had a ticket on the 15:47 train, back from Doncaster to London Kings Cross. I had bought it on-line a few days ago for £23.50.

But, I was unable to complete what I wanted to do, so found myself at Doncaster station, with three hours to wait for my train.

Usually, I buy open returns, but LNER have stopped that because of the covids!

So rather than wait, I decided to buy another ticket.

A new Off Peak Single with my Railcard would have been £60, but I found the machine could sell me an Advance Single Ticket for £31.

So I got home in time for the cricket. My ticket also got me two seats, including a window.

LNER seem to be getting their act together.

September 17, 2020 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Coronavirus Pushes Switch From Cash To Card Payment

The title of this post is the same as that as this article on Railway Gazette.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Cash sales of tickets on the Metlink transport network in Greater Wellington will end on March 23, in a move which Metlink said was designed ‘to stay one step ahead of Covid-19 and give our passengers and staff more peace of mind’.

Should all buses, trams and trains go cash-free and contactless in the UK?

 

March 19, 2020 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Economics Of Very Light Rail Between Cromer And Sheringham

In Very Light Rail Research On Track, I reviewed an article of the same name on Railway Gazzette International.

The article ,mentioned that the route between Cromer and Sheringham stations could be run by very light rail vehicles.

Very Light Rail Vehicles

Very Light Rail vehicles are defined as weighing less than a tonne per linear metre.

  • Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) found the most efficient propulsion system, was diesel-electric hybrid with battery storage. Was it nicked from an LEVC taxi?
  • An eighteen metre long vehicle will hold 56 seating and 60 standing passengers.
  • Will turn round times at the end of a shuttle route be reduced to perhaps two minutes as the driver only has to walk eighteen metres?
  • The article doesn’t give any speed estimates for very light rail vehicles. But I suspect 50-60 mph would be possible, as this is the operating speed of a Class 399 tram-train and very much the speed of typical single-decker buses.

If seated passengers weigh 90 kilograms with baggage, bikes and buggies and standing passengers perhaps 75 kilograms, this gives a vehicle weight of around 27.5 tonnes.

I estimate that a three-car Class 755 train, with the same passenger load would weigh around 108 tonnes or about 98 tonnes empty, which is about a tonne and a half per linear metre. A single-car Class 153 train is about 1.8 tonnes per linear metre.

Very light rail vehicles appear to be considerably lighter.

Cromer And Sheringham Line

This section of the Bittern Line can be considered a branch of the main section of the line, which links Norwich and Cromer stations.

  • It is single-track.
  • There is a simple cross-over outside Cromer station
  • It is just over 3.5 miles long.
  • Sheringham station is a single platform, that has recently been extended to take four-car Class 755 trains.
  • The only intermediate station is West Runton, which is a single platform.
  • Cromer station has two platforms.
  • Trains take eight minutes to go between Sheringham and Cromer stations.
  • The average speed of the train between Sheringham and Cromer is just 26 mph.
  • The maximum speed of the route is given in Wikipedia as 75 mph. As it is fairly straight it could probably be improved.

As four trains per hour (tph) between Cromer and Sheringham would take a total of 64 minutes, it would seem to be impossible to run such a schedule with current trains, given that the driver would have to change ends eight times in an hour.

Cromer Station

This Google Map shows the two-platform Cromer station.

Note the Northern platform, which is directly connected to the route to Sheringham.

A Split Service

Operation of a split service could be as follows.

  • A shuttle using the Northern platform 2 to Sheringham via West Runton.
  • A service to Norwich using the Southern platform 1.

I suspect to save signalling costs, that the Sheringham service could be run for most of the time under the principle of one-train on the line.

Could Four tph Run Between Cromer And Sheringham?

I suspect that a driver in running shoes could squeeze four tph out of a three-car Class 755 train.

Consider.

  • Three-car trains would save 160 metres of walking over four-car trains.
  • The Class 755 trains are designed for quick stops and have fast acceleration.
  • Versions of the trains are to be fitted with batteries.
  • Two crew working together with some automation might mean that the driver doesn’t have to change ends.
  • Three tph would be easier, as it would give more time for the driver to change ends.
  • Automation with the crew having an override could surely be used.

I don’t believe it would be impossible for a system of operation for this shuttle to be run using a Class 755 train.

Certainly, three tph is easier, but four tph is much more passenger friendly.

Could Two tph Run Between Cromer And Norwich?

Currently, trains take fifty-seven minutes between Norwich and Sheringham, which means that two tph would be very complicated, but not impossible.

Running the Cromer and Sheringham section independently, would mean that the time between Cromer and Norwich could be as low as forty-six minutes.

For a start, this means that a single train could work an hourly service between Cromer and Norwich.

It probable means that two trains could run a two tph service, provided that they could pass at a suitable place, where there are two tracks, as at North Walsham or to the South of Hoverton & Wroxham station.

Possible Service Patterns

I think the ideal service pattern would be something like this.

  • Two tph between Cromer and Norwich.
  • Three or four tph between Cromer and Sheringhan.

Currently, there is an hourly service along the whole route, which needs two trains to operate.

Two tph to and from Norwich and a shuttle would only need one extra train.

Savings With Very Light Rail

There are various ways cost savings can be made.

Cost Of The Vehicle

Leasing a single very light rail vehicle will be much less than leasing even an ancient one-car Class 153 train.

Obviously, for a reliable service, a spare will be needed, if a company had several routes that could be developed using very light rail, then the spare could be shared.

It looks like Greater Anglia are also thinking about other routes, so this may be an economic proposition.

One Train On Line Operation

Cromer and Sheringham could be run with a single train shuttling between the two stations and the points set, so that no other train could use the track.

This must surely reduce signalling costs.

Track Access Charges

Lighter trains have lower track access charges.

This could be a substantial saving, especially if there were four tph in both directions.

Cost Of New Infrastructure

Some routes that will be proposed for very light rail operation will need bridges and embankments to be built.

If the maximum weight of the vehicle is lower, this must surely reduce costs, as lighter structures could be used.

Fast Turnround Times

One of the limiting factors in providing frequent services over a short branch line is the time it takes to turn the train at each end of the route.

But in a very light rail vehicle, which is only eighteen metres long, the driver can probably change cabs in under two minutes, which is of the order of the time it takes to load and unload the train with passengers.

The only high frequency shuttle service over a short route in the UK is the one between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town stations.

  • The route is just 0.8 of a mile long.
  • It is served by Class 139 trains, which are just 8.7 metres long and can carry 20–25 seated, 30–35 standing passengers.
  • Trains run every ten minutes
  • The turnround time appears to be about two minutes

It is reputed to be the shortest operational branch line in Europe.

I can’t see why, that in a well-designed very light rail vehicle that is only twice the length of a Class 139 train, that the turnround time could not be the same time of two minutes.

It probably can’t be any shorter, in case several people turn up in wheel-chairs at the same time.

If we look at the Cromer and Sheringham route, I can see the following timing being possible for a well-designed shuttle train on the route.

  • Cromer to West Runton – two minutes
  • Stop at West Runton – one minute
  • West Runton to Sheringham – two minutes
  • Turnround at Sheringham – two minutes
  • Sherington to West Runton – two minutes
  • Stop at West Runton – one minute
  • West Runton to Cromer – – two minutes
  • Turnround at Cromer – two minutes

Note.

  1. The round trip would take fourteen minutes.
  2. I have assumed that the train is running at around 50-60 mph.
  3. The West Runton stop could be by request.
  4. There is only one train on the route at all times.

The round trip could be scheduled at four tph.

It must surely be an affordable way to provide a service.

I would also do the following.

  • As at Stourbridge have a second train on standby, to guarantee a reliable service, rescue a failed train and perhaps double the capacity at busy times.
  • Services between Cromer and Sheringham would be free.
  • Cromer, West Runton and Sheringham would be part of a group called Cromer stations, like Birmingham stations and Manchester station. So to book to any of the stations, you’d buy a ticket to Cromer stations.

If the latter ideas didn’t attract passengers then nothing would.

Greater Anglia would get their revenue on the onward services from Cromer.

Could The Cromer And Sheringham Shuttle Be Extended To Holt?

If the train crosses the level crossing at Sheringham station, the track extends all the way to Holt on the North Norfolk Railway.

This Google Map shows the two stations at Sheringham on either side of the level crossing.

The National Rail station is on the East side, with the heritage railway on the West.

Some heritage railways are certified to be able to run scheduled services to and from the main rail network.

This may even be possible here, to allow a service between Cromer and Holt.

Although the North Norfolk Railway seem to run a frequent timetable, I’m sure if there was the necessary coming together, that a service that was beneficial to all parties could be arranged.

Conclusion

Very light rail could be very exciting!

February 2, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

London Overground Ticket Office Closures As 2% Of Tickets Are Bought Through Them

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Transport for London has announced that the hours at some London Overground ticket offices will start to change over the next few weeks to match the times customers use them.

That sounds fine by me, as any company or organisation, should make best uses of resources.

It should be born in mind, that London Overground’s policy is to always have staff visible, when the trains are running.

 

January 9, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

Could Suffolk Have It’s Own Version Of London’s Freedom Pass?

London has a travel pass for certain groups of passengers, like the elderly and the disabled called a Freedom Pass.

This is the introduction forthe Freedom Pass from Wikipedia.

Freedom Pass is a concessionary travel scheme, which began in 1973, to provide free travel to residents of Greater London, England, who are aged 60 and over (eligibility age increasing by phases to 66 by 2020) or who have a disability. The scheme is funded by local authorities and coordinated by London Councils. Originally the pass was a paper ticket, but since 2004 it has been encoded on to a contactless smartcard compatible with Oyster card readers.

I have a Freedom Pass, as I am seventy-two and it really gives me freedom, as my eyesight isn’t good enough for me to drive.

Other parts of the UK like Manchester and Newcastle have similar schemes that allow a degree of free travel on local trains, trams and light rail systems.

But generally English counties like Suffolk don’t have such a scheme.

East Anglia’s Rail Revolution

All of Greater Anglia’s trains are being replaced with new Stadler Class 745 and Class 755 trains.

In InterCity Quality For Rural Routes, I said this.

Greater Anglia are purchasing a fleet of 38 trains with a total of 138 carriages to replace 27 trains with a total of 58 carriages.

  • This is a forty percent increase in the number of trains.
  • This is nearly two and a half times as many carriages.
  • The average number of carriages per train is raised from 2.1 to 3.6.

That is a massive increase in train capacity.

I don’t believe that Greater Anglia will park these trains in a siding, but use them to increase frequencies.

Greater Anglia are having signalling problems introducing the new trains, but we have already seen the following in Suffolk.

Four-car Class 755 trains running from Ipswich to Cambridge, Felixstowe and Lowestoft.

As the frequency is still the same and train length has increased from one, two and three cars, this is almost a doubling of capacity.

The UK’s Contactless Ticketing Revolution

London started wide-scale contactless tickerting and in places, it is applied to rural routes like Iver and Reading on TfL Rail’s new Western branch, where frequencies are more Suffolk, than Central London.

I believe in the next few years, the average passenger going between say Newmarket and Ipswich in Suffolk, will touch-in at Newmarket with their credit card and touch-out at Ipswich, just as passengers do now, millions of times all over London, every day of the year.

London’s Freedom Pass looks to the readers in London, as just a different credit card, so it is able to allow passengers through.

I believe that once Suffolk goes contactless with ticketing, then it will be possible to overlay a Suffolk Free Travel Pass on the system.

What Lines Would Be Allowed To Be Used By Passengers With A Suffolk Free Travel Pass?

These are routes that are wholly or partly in Suffolk.

Ipswich And Cambridge

The Ipswich and Cambridge Line currently has one train per hour (tph) and is wholly in Suffolk, except for a short section at the Cambridge end of the route.

Would a Suffolk Travel Pass allow travel to Cambridge?

I suspect that both Cambridgeshire and Suffolk would have reasons for a compromise , as both counties could benefit from visiting Travel Pass holders.

I would include Ipswich and Cambridge in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Ipswich And Diss

The section of the Great Eastern Main Line, between Ipswich and Diss, currently has two tph and is wholly in Suffolk, except for a short stretch at Diss, which is just over the border in Norfolk.

I would include Ipswich and Diss in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Ipswich And Felixstowe

The Felixstowe Branch Line currently has one tph and is wholly in Suffolk.

But this route is planned to be upgraded as I wrote in Could There Be A Tram-Train Between Ipswich And Felixstowe?.

  • Tram-trains would start at Ipswich station and run to \felixstowe.
  • Tram-trains could start on the forecourt of Ipswich station and could run through the streets of Ipswich, via Portman Road, the Town Centre, Christchurch Park, Ipswich Hospital, the proposed new housing at Westerfield and Ransome’s Retail Park before joining the Felixstowe  Branch, in the area, where it crosses the A14.
  • It could even do more street running in Felixstowe to connect to the Town Centre and the Sea Front.
  • Frequency would be four tph.

Removing the passenger service from the rail lines between Derby Road and Ipswich stations, would allow more freight trains to run through the area.

I would include Ipswich and Felixstowe in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Ipswich and Lowestoft

The East Suffolk Line currently has one tph and is wholly in Suffolk.

I believe that this line could be developed by adding a second hourly service to Aldeburgh.

I would include Ipswich and Lowestoft in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Colchester And Peterborough

The current service runs between Ipswich and Peterborough, and is a service of one train per two hours.

Greater Anglia plan to do the folloeing.

  • Increase the frequency to one tph.
  • Extend the route to run between Colchester and Peterborough.
  • It will terminate in a bay platform at Colchester.

The route will be mainly in Suffolk, with thends in Cambridgeshire and Essex.

  • Passengers for the North and Scotland will change at Peterborough.
  • Passengers for London will change at Colchester, Ipswich, Cambridge and Peterborough.
  • Passengers for Stansted Airport, Hertfordshire and West Essex will change at Cambridge.
  • Passengers for Sudbury will change at Colchester.

This route will become a very important connecting service.

Because of this connectivity, I would include Colchester and Peterborough in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Colchester Town And Sudbury

The Gainsborough Line currently has one tph and is an isolated line that is half in Suffolk and half in Essex.

I would include Colchester Town and Sudbury in a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

How Would It Be Funded?

Wikipedia says this sabot the funding of London’s Freedom Pass.

The cost of providing the travel concession is negotiated between London Councils and the local transport operator Transport for London. It is funded through a mixture of national grant and council tax.

Although a similar process could be used for a county like Suffolk, other elements are present, that have effects on use and revenue.

Only One Train Operator

There is only one train operator involved; Greater Anglia.

This must make planning and operation easier.

Greater Anglia Should Benefit From Passengers Travelling Further

Will passengers use their passes to get to Ipswich and Peterborough to travel further?

If they do, then Greater vAnglia won’t be bothering.

Greater Anglia may be able to fill the twelve-car Clsass 745 trains in the Peaks, but filling them in the Off Peak will be more difficult.

Would a Suffolk Free Travel Pass attract passengers to the trains?

Modal Change

This is a big imponderable in any calculation.

If you live near a station, would you be more likely to use the train to go to work, shopping or a meal in Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds or Cambridge, if the train was free?

Only partly, but if the car parking was expensive or always full, that would be a deterrent.

People plan travel against a large range of parameters and cost is one of them.

Would a Suffolk Free Travel Pass take pressure off the roads.

Trips To The Coast

There are only two rail-connected coastal towns in Suffolk; Felixstowe and Lowestoft.

Travel on a sunny day between Ipswich and Felixstowe and the train can be packed with passengers going for a stroll along the sea front.

With more capacity, this usev will increase and especially amongst those who would be eligible for a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Carbon Emissions

People are starting to take notice of carbon emissions.

But they’re not buying electric cars, as they worry about the range.

So taking the train is a sop to the pressure of their conscience or that of their children.

Stansted Airport

There are two tph between Cambridge and Stansted Airport.

Travelling from say East Suffolk to the sun, could start with a train to the nearest airport using a train at Cambridge.

East-West Suffolk Travel

Suffolk is not the largest county in England, but East West travel by road can take longer than the train.

Greater Anglia are planning two East-West services at a frequency of one tph.

  • Colchester and Peterborough via Ipswich, Needham Market, Stowmarket, Bury St. Edmunds and Ely.
  • Ipswich and Cambridge viaNeedham Market, Stowmarket, Bury St. Edmunds and Newmarket.

Note that Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds stations will have a frequency of two tph.

The East-West Railway, currently being built between Oxford and Cambridge is proposing more improvements for Suffolk.

  • A new hourly Manningtree and Oxford service, via Ipswich, Needham Market, Stowmarket, Bury St. Edmunds, Newmarket and Cambridge.
  •  A new A14 Parkway station, where the Cambridge and Peterborough routes divide to the North of Newmarket.
  • Tram-trains at a frequency of four tph between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

Note that Ipswich and A14 Parkway stations willl have a frequency of three tph.

I also think that operationally, there could be another improvement.

Ipswich station has a limited number of platforms and expanding it will be difficult.

But I believe that operations could be eased, if the Ipswich and Cambridge and Ipswich and Lowestoft services were to be combined into a single cross-Suffolk Cambridge and Lowestoft service, with a reverse at Ipswich.

These routes between Cambridge and Suffolk will spread the Cambridge effect across the county and in return Suffolk will provide the housing and other resources that Cambridge needs.

People Will Be Working Longer

We are going through an employment revolution for those past retirement age for various reasons.

  • Economic necessity.
  • Some people l;Ike and/or need the camaraderie of working.
  • Some people have much-needed skills.
  • Some business owners and self-employed prefer working to retirement.
  • Flexible and part-time working is expanding.

A Suffolk Free Travel Pass would be used by a lot of those who are still working and paying Income Tax.

Healthcare

I have no figures, but I suspect in London, Freedom Pass holders are bigger users of the NHS and hospitals.

Healthcare in East Anglia is changing, with increasing dependence on the three largest hospitals at Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich.

This means that going to hospital for a check-up often means a fifty mile drive and a long hassle over the limited parking.

Published plans mean that Cambridge and Ipswich hospitals will be rail-connected at each end of Suffolk.

Would it be easier to use the train from many parts of Suffolk?

It should also be noted, that those with health problems, that need regular hospital visits in London, are issued with a Freedom Pass for travel, as it’s cheaper than sending a car.

Any county bringing in a free travel scheme would surely use it to help those needing to go to hospital regularly.

Greater Anglia’s new trains are all step-free, as this picture shows.

I believe that good rail-connected hospitals can improve the efficiency of the NHS.

Summing Up Funding

All of these developments across Suffolk will see a large increase in Suffolk’s economic activity and the consequent tax take from Council Tax and Business Rates.

I believe that Suffolk could probably afford to fund their share of a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

Given the reduction in carbon emissions, that would probably occur, surely Government would contribute a share.

As Greater Anglia would surely benefit from onward journeys to and from London, they can probably afford to do a good deal for free travel in Suffolk. After all, they’ve already built in the capacity to their business model.

Restrictions On Use

There may need to be restrictions on use, like some routes apply in London.

For instance, using trains to and from London to perhaps travel between Ipswich and Stowmarket, may be restricted in the Peak.

It will all depend on Greater Anglia’s capacity.

Would It Work For A Group Of Counties?

I don’t see why not!

Perhaps instead of Cambridgeshire, orfolk and Suffolk, all having their own Free Travel Passes, would an East Anglian one work better?

Conclusion

If London can have a Freedom Pass, then why not Suffolk? Or other English and Welsh counties for that matter?

I have rambled through several ideas and possibilities.

But I believe that Suffolk with the powerhouse of Cambridge in the |West can see an improvement in economic activity, can go a long way to funding a Suffolk Free Travel Pass.

This in turn could generate further economic activity and the tax revenue that would be generated to pay for the scheme.

Suffolk though is lucky in that it aslready has the rail network and Greater Anglia have purchased enough trains. Only a hanful of extra stations and some branch line reopenings would be needed.

I shall return regularly to this post.

 

 

 

 

December 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Radical Government Would Consider Making Bus Travel Free

The title of this post is taken from the sub-title of the first leading article in today’s Times.

This is the last paragraph.

This is an opportunity for the government to be bold and help those deprived northern areas that voted Conservative for the first time. It should raise spending on buses and force the mainly private companies to provide many more services and routes. It should also encourage them to use electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles. But if it really wants to encourage a better quality of life and improved economic prospects for the north and other regions, it should consider making bus journeys free. At present millions of elderly people and children benefit from free bus passes . Why not extend this to all? That would send a message that this really is a people’s government.

The Times has a point. In fact it has several.

 

 

December 18, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 10 Comments

Reading For Lunch On TfL Rail

On Sunday, TfL Rail took over the services between Paddington and Reading via Maidenhead.

The pictures show that there is still a lot of work to do to get a complete step-free Western Branch of Crossrail.

I walked to Carluccio’s at Reading, which is about a kilometre. It would be closer, if Reading had decent maps like other civilised towns or cities.

These are my comments about the new TfL Rail service.

Competitive Ticketing On TfL Rail

I would expect services on TfL Rail will be competitively priced and some details are given on this page on the TfL web site, which is entitled TfL Rail Will Operate Services To Reading From 15 December.

Freedom Passes

I can use my Freedom Pass all the way to Reading for a cost of precisely nothing.

  • There are lots of places along the line, where holders might go to enjoy themselves.
  • Freedom Pass holders can take children with them on some rail services in London. Will they be able to do this on TfL Rail?
  • Freedom Pass holders like to extract maximum benefit from their passes.

But it won’t be long before canny holders, realise that other places like these are just an extension ticket away.

  • Basingstoke – £4.50
  • Henley-on-Thames – £2.65
  • Marlow – £3.10
  • Newbury or Newbury Racecourse – £4.50
  • Oxford – £6.65
  • Winchester – £11.55
  • Windsor – £1.90
  • Woking – £9.75

I included Winchester, as that is where my granddaughter lives.

Will Freedom Pass holders take advantage?

  • This is not a rip-off offer, but a chasm in the fare regulations.
  • There are some good pubs and restaurants by the Thames.

They will take advantage in hoards.

Reverse Commuters

On my trip to Harrogate, I met a guy, who told me, that Reading has difficulty attracting workers for high-tech businesses.

I suspect that the new service might encourage some reverse commuting.

Will some Freedom Pass holders take advantage?

  • I know a lot of people still working, who commute within London on a Freedom Pass.
  • Not all Freedom Pass holders are pensioners. For instance, I would have been eligible because I lost my Driving Licence, when my eyesight was ruined by a stroke.

As the pictures show, there is a lot of offices going up around the station in Reading.

Access To The Thames

The route between Paddington and Reading gives access to the River Thames at the following places.

  • Windsor from Slough
  • Marlow from Maidenhead
  • Henley from Twyford.
  • Reading
  • Oxford from Reading

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the route being used extensively by leisure travellers to explore and visit London’s principle river.

Connection To Central London

When Crossrail opens to Central London, this must surely result in a large increase in cummuter, leisure and tourist traffic.

Indian Sub-Continent Families

There are a lot of people with roots in the Indian sub-continent living along the route between Paddington and Reading.

Note that Southall station is one of a small group of English stations with bilingual signage. At Southall the signs are in both English and Punjabi.

I feel, that strong family, cultural and religious ties will mean, that this large group will use the trains of TfL extensively in their daily lives.

Train Frequency

It was a Sunday, and the train had perhaps sixty percent of the seats taken.

I have this feeling that this route could suffer from London Overground Syndrome and that passenger numbers will rise much higher than the most optimistic forecasts, because of the factors I outlined in previous sections.

  • Competitive Ticketing On TfL Rail
  • Freedom Passes
  • Reverse Commuters
  • Indian Sub-Continent Families
  • Access To The Thames
  • Connection To Central London

This leads me to predict that this line will need a full four trains per hour (tph) service as far as Reading before the end of 2021 and not just in the Peak Hours.

Connections To The Branches

On my journey to and from Reading,, I didn’t see any trains on the four branches, that have the following frequencies.

  • Greenford – Two tph
  • Windsor – Three tph
  • Marlow – One tph
  • Henley – Two tph

Surely, as the current TfL Rail service has a frequency of two tph to Reading, it should interface better with the Greenford and Henley branches.

It appears to me, that there is scope for a better timetable and increased frequency on some of the branches.

Or is the current timetable geared to making profits in the cafes and coffee stalls at the interchange stations?

My timetable would be as follows.

  • Greenford – Four tph
  • Windsor – Four tph
  • Marlow – Two tph – Timed to be convenient for Reading services.
  • Henley – Two tph – Timed to be convenient for Reading services.

If the Crossrail and branch service are both four tph or better and there are reasonable facilities, I suspect that will work reasonably well.

But the higher the frequency the better!

Train Performance

On my trip, the Class 345 train was stretching its legs to the West of West Drayton and I recorded a speed of 90 mph.

Their performance doesn’t seem to be much slower than Great Western Railways 110 mph Class 387 trains.

Ticketing

From what I’ve seen, ticketing on this line needs to be augmented.

What is currently, in place will work for Londoners and those that live close to the line.

But would it work for tourists and especially those for whom English is not their first language, who want to visit Oxford and Windsor?

There would appear to be a need for a ticket which allowed the following.

  • Use of TfL Rail between West Drayton and Reading.
  • Slough and Windsor
  • Maidenhead and Marlow
  • Twyford and Henley
  • Reading and Oxford

Could it be called a Thames Valley Ranger?

The alternative would be to bring all the routes into London’s contactless payments system.

But would this mean complicated wrangling over ticket revenue between TfL Rail and Great Western Railway?

There certainly needs to be a simple ticketing system at Slough, so that passengers can purchase a return to Windsor.

The only ways at present are.

  • Buy a ticket at Paddington to Windsor.
  • Leave Slough station and buy a return ticket to Windsor.

Something much better is needed.

Crossrail To Oxford

Because of Network Rail’s l;ate delivery of the electrification West of Reading, the services have ended up as less than optimal.

I think eventually, services to Oxford, will be reorganised something along these lines.

  • Crossrail will be extended to Oxford.
  • Fast services to and from London would be the responsibility of Great Western Railway. The frequency would be at least two tph.
  • CrossCountry fast services would continue as now.
  • Stopping services to and from London would be the responsibility of Crossrail
  • Stations between Reading and Oxford, with the exception of Didcot Parkway would only be served by Crossrail.

The Crossrail service to Oxford would have the following characteristics.

  • Four tph
  • The service would terminate in a South-facing bay platform at Oxford station.
  • Pssible battery operation between Didcot Parkway and Oxford.
  • The service would have a dedicated pair of platforms at Reading.

There would possibly be a ticketing problem, but as there would be separation of fast and stopping services, I feel that a good solution can be created, which would allow changing between the fast and stopping services at Reading. So commuters from somewhere like Cholsey could either go Crossrail all the way to and from London or change to a faster train at Reading.

Conclusion

I am led to the conclusion, that this service will be overwhelming popular.

But the ticketing leaves much to be desired.

 

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Blackpool Tramway Is Reaching Towards The Station

On Saturday, I went to Blackpool and rode the Blackpool Tramway to Fleetwood to see Ipswich play.

This Google Map shows the current walking route between Blackpool North station and the North Pier tram stop.

Note.

  1. The station is in the North East corner of the map.
  2. The North Pier tram stop is by the North Pier!
  3. The main tram route passes North-South across the map, close to the shore end of the pier.
  4. The walk is along Talbot Road.
  5. Close to the station is a branch of Wilko.

The new tram tracks will be laid along Talbot Road and these pictures show the current progress of the new tracks.

Note.

  1. The spur is twin-track.
  2. The first two and the last pictures appear to show the tram tracks going into Wilko.
  3. The tram tracks appear to share the road with other traffic.
  4. There is a full triangular junction where the spur meets the main North-South tramway.

A few extra facts and thoughts.

What About Wilko?

The Wilko store will either be demolished or modified and the space will be used by a tram stop.

  • It will be reached by an underpass from the station.
  • I suspect it will have two platforms.
  • One platform might be for trams to the North and the others for trams to the South.
  • There will probably be a few kiosks and small shops.

Done well and it would give passengers a good welcome.

The Track Layout

The track layout with the full triangular junction and a double-track to the station gives a lot of flexibility.

  • Trams can go between the the tram station and the North.
  • Trams can go between the the tram station and the South.
  • Trams could even come from the North, reverse in the station and go out to the South! Or vice-versa!

I also think it has been designed to be ready for expansion of the Blackpool Tramway.

A Tram Stop At Talbot Square

I have found a document on the Blackpool Council web site, that says this.

A tram stop on Talbot Square would be developed while road layouts are being examined so the new scheme would interfere as little as possible with drivers.

There is certainly enough space.

Could Tram-Trains Connect At Blackpool North Station To The Blackpool Tramway?

This Google Map shows Blackpool North station and the nearby Wilko.

I think it would be possible for tram-trains to come straight through the railway station and connect to the Blackpool Tramway.

  • I would suspect that a frequency of between four and six trains per hour (tph) would be possible.
  • The Tram-trains would have a battery capability with a range of perhaps twenty or thirty miles.
  • The tram-trains would obviously come from Preston.
  • But would they go on to Blackburn, Burnley, Clitheroe, Colne, Ormskirk, Southport and/or Todmorden.

The designs of the tracks, Blackpool North station and the proposed Blackpool North tram stop, would not seem to rule out the creation of a tram-train network with the Blackpool Tramway as the Western terminus.

Tram-Trains To The South

The new tram link at Blackpool North station will link the station to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and other attractions South of the North Pier.

To not annoy and discourage visitors, the frequency should be at least six tph or one tram every ten minutes. as little Harry and little Summer won’t late any longer!

Tram-trains to and from Preston and beyond, would have the following effects.

  • A lot of visitors wouldn’t have to change between train and tram.
  • They would reinforce the service between Blackpool North station and the Southern terminus at Starr Gate.
  • They might cut the number of cars needing to park in Blackpool.
  • Blackpool would become the only place in the world where you could see heritage trams, modern trams and tram-trains using the same system.

This tram-train link would surely improve the economy of Blackpool and the \Fylde Coast.

But the tram-trains don’t need to terminate at Starr Gate.

This Google Map shows the Blackpool Tramway’s Southern terminus and depot at Starr Gate and the nearby Squires Gate station.

Note.

  1. Starr Gate Depot on the West side of the map.
  2. The turning loop for the trams outside.
  3. Squires Gate station four hundred metres to the East.

I don’t think it would be difficult to connect the two rail systems.

  • Tram-trains would be able to more freely between the Blackpool Tramway and the South Fylde Line to Kirkham & Wesham and Preston stations.
  • The route between Kirkham & Wesham and Preston stations is electrified.
  • The length of the section without electrification between Kirkham & Wesham and Blackpool South stations is just over twelve miles.
  • The route West of Kirkham & Wesham station is single-track, but could probably be capable of handling more trains per hour, with some improvements like sections of double track.

I can’t see why tram-trains with a battery capability, which could be similar to those destined for the South Wales Metro, couldn’t run an extended service between Preston and the Blackpool Tramway.

  • Tram-trains would change systems at Blackpool North station and Squires Gate/Starr Gate.
  • Tram-trains would call at all stations and tramway stops in both directions.
  • A frequency of at least two tph in both directions would be my preference.
  • Tram-trains could easily handle the section without electrification on batteries charged on the existing electrification.
  • It would provide improved public transport links to the important golf course at Royal Lytham.

I also feel that running battery tram-trains on the South Fylde Line could be an affordable solution to improving public transport in the area.

Tram-Trains To The North

The same arguments that can be used to allow tram-trains to go South along the Blackpool Tramway, will also work, for allowing tram-trains to go to the North.

But there is no railway in good condition to create a loop, as can be done to the South.

Perhaps, two tram-trains per hour could go to Fleetwood Ferry tram stop and use the loop to return to Blackpool North station.

Fleetwood would regain a rail service to Preston, that appears to have been discontinued in the 1960s.

Reinstatement Of The Fleetwood Branch Line

The Association of Train Operating Companies has proposed the reopening of the Fleetwood Branch Line, which would connect Fleetwood with Poulton-le-Fylde on the electrified line to Blackpool North station.

The branch is also being developed for heritage purposes.

I do wonder though, that a tram-train solution, where tram-trains run between Preston and Fleetwood via Kirkham  & Wesham, Blackpool North and the Blsckpool Tramway, may give a higher return.

Obviously, a full study needs to be done.

Other Issues

On my trip to Fleetwood, two other issues were obvious.

A Distinct Lack Of Shelters

I took this picture, as I returned to the trams after the match.

At the time it was chucking it down!

Perhaps, they’d increase ridership, if passengers had some more shelter.

Bank Card Ticketing

I rarely carry cash these days, as I generally use contactless payments, for all payments under thirty pounds.

But on the Blackpool Tramway, you have to use cash!

That is so Nineteenth Century!

Conclusion

Blackpool Tramway can be built into a much more comprehensive and more customer-friendly tram and tram-train network.

 

 

 

 

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simpler LNER Train Fares Will Make A Single Half The Price Of A Return

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in The Times.

This is a paragraph from the article, that explains what is being done.

As part of a trial London North Eastern Railway (LNER) will abolish the £1 price difference for return tickets on some routes and require passengers to buy two singles. It is designed to remove an anomaly whereby singles on some long-distance routes are overpriced in the expectation that most people will buy a return.

I’m all for it, as I often go on a wander around the UK and I’m not sure of the route, that I will take.

A couple of times, I’ve gone up to Scotland on a Sleeper, visited a few places and friends and then turned up in Edinburgh station needing to get home. I don’t generally use an Advance ticket, as I don’t want to be tied to a particular date.

I can think of lots of scenarios, where this new ticketing will be very convenient.

Yesterday, I went to the football in Ipswich.

As I do normally, I bought a zone 6 to Ipswich return to take advantage of my Freedom Pass. Sometimes, a friend brings me back to London, so to be able to buy a single ticket to Ipswich would be very useful.

 

Conclusion

This move by LNER is a good start, but we need a Universal cCntactless Ticketing scheme based on bank cards and mobile devices for the whole of the UK.

As an example, on the short London and Ipswich route, I should be able to use a contactless bank card linked to my Freedom Pass and Senior Railcard, which would automatically charge me for the cheapest fare.

If everybody could get best value Universal Contactless Ticketing with their American Express, Mastercard, Visa or mobile phone, think what the effects would be.

Many Would Not Buy Traditional Tickets

Obviously, if you wanted to buy tickets for a particular train or wanted best value, you could still buy an Advance ticket over the Internet and use it in one of the following ways.

  • As a traditional paper ticket.
  • As a download on your phone, mobile device.

It might also be associated with your bank card.

The Tyranny Of Ticketing Would Be Abolished

Suppose a close relative lived about a hundred miles from where you lived.

Taking a train to visit say your mother, might involve a lot of planning to get a keenly-priced ticket.

If you can just turn up and touch in and out and know the price of the tickets, you will probably be more likely to do the journey by train.

 

Coming back, you would not be limited to a particular train, which could mean cutting a visit short.

More People Would Travel By Train

Contactless travel has certainly boosted the use of public transport in London and it would certainly do the same for the rest of the UK.

More Passengers With Limited Mobility Would Travel

Pensioners are always quick to see a bargain and my generation of pensions are much more tech-savvy than those, who are perhaps ten years older.

Universal Contactless Ticketing will appeal to this large group of travellers.

There Would Be More Train Services And Trains

More passenger would mean that train operating companies would need to run more services and acquire more trains.

Some train operating companies are already obtaining extra trains to increase capacity and frequency.

Many Stations Will Need Updating

Quite a few stations are struggling with current passenger numbers and they are not ready for the increase in passenger numbers, that will surely happen with Universal Contactless Ticketing.

Universal Contactless Ticketing Will Promote Competition Between Train Companies

Suppose you are going from London to Birmingham for a meeting or a leisure activity.

You know because of advertising or past experience, that Chiltern is more comfortable and cheaper, than the faster Virgin.

You might travel up using Chiltern, as you can lay out your paper and give it a good read, but travel back by Virgin, as your want to get home for supper.

Universal Contactless Ticketing will enable the choice of return journey to be made at the last minute.

You might argue that companies like Greater Anglia have no competition.

But in the leisure market, the competition is twofold.

  • The private car.
  • Passengers can spend a day in the countryside or at the coast in places served by other train companies.

If Greater Anglia embraced Universal Contactless Ticketing, travellers would be more likely to use their train services.

Will Train Operating Companies Offer More Special Deals?

In the next couple of years, Greater Anglia have said they will bring in the following new services, amongst others.

  • A third hourly service between London and Norwich via Ipswich.
  • Four direct trains per day between London and Lowestoft.
  • A direct hourly service between Norwich and Stansted.

With Universal Contactless Ticketing, it would be easy to ofer promotional fares or offers to promote these new routes.

Will Fare Prices Go Up Or Down?

London has been able to bring in various cost-saving measures, like the closure of Ticket Offices.

The Mayor has decided to spend all saving and more on a fare freeze. As his decision, was more about politics and winning an election, make of that what you will.

Whether we like it or not, and some politicians on the Left don’t, Universal Contactless Ticketing will happen sooner rather than later.

September 1, 2019 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

An Early Bird Catches A Train!

I needed to go to Norwich today, so I caught the 06:00 out of Liverpool Street.

It cost me just £6.60 and arrives a few minutes early!

I also bought the ticket yesterday afternoon!

July 31, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment