The Anonymous Widower

Redhill To Ashford International Via Tonbridge

I did this trip to find out what the current service was like after writing Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East.

The journey can be broken into sections.

Changing At Redhill Station

I arrived at Redhill station and took these pictures as I changed to the train for Tonbridge station.

The three services are in Redhill station at approximately the same time.

  • The Southern service to and from Tonbridge used Platform 1a.
  • The GWR service from Reading to Gatwick used Platform 1.
  • The GWR service from Gatwick to Reading used Platform 0.

I think if you’re nippy on the stairs, travellers wanting to go between Reading and Ashford or vice-versa could manage the train, but a direct through service would be preferred by some travellers.

Between Redhill And Tonbridge Stations

I took these pictures as the train ran between Redhill and Tonbridge.

Note.

  1. The train was a smart three-car Class 377 train.
  2. It is a route with a quiet calm along the Downs.
  3. There are new housing and commercial developments along the route.

Some of the stations could do with improvement, which should probably include step-free access, as at Redhill and Tonbridge stations.

Changing At Tonbridge Station

These pictures show Tonbridge station.

Note.

  • The station is step-free with lifts.
  • I had to use the bridge to get from one side of the station to the other to catch my next train.
  • There seemed to be several passengers, who continued their journey from Tonbridge.

After a wait of nearly thirty minutes I was on my way to Ashford International station.

Thoughts On The Service

These are my thoughts on the service.

Battery Electric Trains

Having seen this service in operation, I feel that this must be one of the most suitable services for battery electric trains in the UK.

In Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East, I broke the route down into electrified and non-electrified sections.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Electrified – 26.5 miles – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Electrified – 20 miles – 35 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Gatwick and Redhill – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Redhill and Reigate – Electrified – 2 miles – 4 minutes
  • Reigate and Shalford Junction – Not Electrified – 17 miles – 20 minutes
  • Shalford Junction and North Camp – Electrified – 9 miles – 11 minutes
  • North Camp and Wokingham – Not Electrified – 11 miles – 14 minutes
  • Wokingham and Reading – Electrified – 7 miles and 9 minutes

Note.

  1. Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill, Gatwick, Guildford, Wokingham and Reading are all fully-electrified main line stations.
  2. Most of the route and the two ends are electrified.
  3. All electrification is 750 VDC third rail.
  4. All sections without electrification are less than twenty miles.
  5. The route is more than 75 % electrified.

There are several trains, which have been fitted with batteries, plans to fit them with batteries exist or would be suitable to be fitted with batteries.

All trains have similar specifications.

  • Four cars.
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • All are modern trains.
  • They either have third-rail shoes or can be fitted with them.

In addition, no infrastructure changes would be needed.

I also feel, that the same class of train could be used on these services in the South-East.

  • Oxted and Uckfield
  • Ashford International and Hastings

Why not use one class of battery electric trains for all these routes?

The Three Reverses

The full service between Reading and Ashford International stations will require three reverses at Gatwick and Redhill (twice).

Having seen the current system in operation at Redhill station, I feel the following operation would work, using a version of London Underground’s stepping-up.

From Reading to Ashford International the following sequence would apply.

  • The train from Reading would stop in Platform 1 at Redhill, as they do now.
  • A second driver would step-up into the rear cab and take control of the train.
  • The original or first driver, who’d driven the train from Reading would stay in the cab.
  • The second driver would drive the train to Gatwick.
  • When, the train is ready to leave, the first driver takes control from his cab.
  • The second driver, who’d driven the train from Redhill would stay in the cab.
  • The first driver would drive the train back to Platform 0 at Redhill, as they do now.
  • When, the train is ready to leave, the second driver takes control from his cab.
  • The first driver would step down and probably have a break, before he is needed to drive another train.
  • The second driver would drive the train to Ashford International.

Trains going the other way would do a similar sequence in reverse.

Other than the battery system, the trains may need a communication and safety system between the two cabs.

Hydrogen Trains

Consider these points about using a hydrogen-powered train between Reading and Ashford International.

  • The maximum distance without electrification is just 20 miles.
  • The route is over 75 % electrified.
  • Hydrogen fuelling and supply systems would need to be provided.
  • Hydrogen trains would require changes to maintenance.

In my view, using a hydrogen-powered train would be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Gatwick Connect

Could the service be considered to be a Gatwick Connect service?

The full Reading and Ashford International service would call at these major locations

  • In the West – Reading, Winnersh, Wokingham, Crowthorne, Farnborough, Guildford, Dorking and Reigate
  • In the East – Ashford International, Paddock Wood and Tonbridge.

Both the Eastern and Western legs also call at Redhill.

Could the service be extended in the West?

The obvious destination would be Heathrow.

Once the future of Heathrow is sorted, there will probably be some form of Southern or South-Western access into Heathrow.

Could this service connect Gatwick and Heathrow?

  • Perhaps there would be a reverse at Reading!
  • Or it might use one of numerous schemes put forward to access Heathrow from the West.

In any case, as Reading is one of the best-connected stations in England, passengers will use this connectivity to get to Gatwick.

Could the service be extended in the East?

Like Reading, Ashford International is a well-connected station.

It would be possible to extend the service to perhaps Canterbury or Dover?

There must also be the possibility of running a service to Maidstone West or Strood in the East!

Conclusion

There could be a lot of possibilities for this route.

I also feel, that it is one of the best routes to be run by battery trains in the UK. These trains could also be the same, as those working Oxted-Uckfield and Ashford International-Hastings.

There would be no need for any new infrastructure, as there is electrification at both ends of the route.

 

 

September 27, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Surrey Live.

Despite being reported on Surrey Live and the fact that Gatwick is in Sussex, the plan has been proposed by Kent County Council’s Rail Project Manager.

The plan would extend the existing Great Western railway line – which runs from Reading to Gatwick via Redhill – to mid and east Kent.

The article suggests the service could go between Reading and Canterbury West stations.

This table sums up the connectivity.

I have a few thoughts.

The Terminal Stations

The suitability of the two proposed terminals can be summed up.

  • Reading has been designed as a terminal station, with five bay platforms, three of which can be used by Gatwick services.
  • Canterbury West has not been designed as a terminal station and has no bay platforms.

Perhaps Ashford International station would be a better Eastern terminal?

  • It has Eurostar services.
  • Trains can terminate in Platform 1 and go to Tonbridge.
  • It has lots of car parking.

Dover Priority and Ramsgate could also be possibilities as they have terminal platforms.

Connecting At Gatwick Airport

It looks like a combined service might get complicated in the Redhill/Gatwick area.

  • Trains between Reading and Gatwick go via Redhill station, where they reverse.
  • There is no direct route between Tonbridge and Gatwick, so trains will probably have to reverse at Redhill, to go between Tonbridge and Gatwick.

Would a service between Reading and Ashford, that reversed twice at Redhill and once at Gatwick, be rather tricky to operate? Or even unpopular with passengers?

This Google Map shows Redhill station and the lines leading South from the station.

Note.

  • Redhill station at the top of the map.
  • The Brighton Main Line running North-South in the middle of the map.
  • The North Downs Line to Guildford and Reading curving West from the station.
  • The Redhill and Tonbridge Line to Tonbridge and Ashford leaving the map in the South-East corner.

I suspect that adding extra tracks in a very crowded area will be very difficult.

What Do The Timings Show?

A quick calculation, which is based on current timings, can give a journey time for between Ashford and Gatwick Airport.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Southeastern timing – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Southern timing – 35 minutes
  • Reverse at Redhill – GWR timing – 4 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – GWR timing – 8 minutes

This gives a total of eighty-five minutes.

  • Google says that you can drive it in sixty-three minutes.
  • If you took the train today, between Ashford International and Gatwick Airport stations, the fastest rail journey is around 110 minutes with a change at St. Pancras International.

It does look though that a faster train between Kent and Gatwick Airport could be competitive, as going via London certainly isn’t!

Could Simplification And Automation Provide A Solution?

Consider.

  • The Ashford International and Tonbridge timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • The Tonbridge and Redhill timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • How much time would be saved by only stopping at Tonbridge between Ashford International and Gatwick?
  • Could automation handle a fast reverse at Redhill, where passengers couldn’t board or leave the train?
  • Would a driver in each cab, allow the reverses to be done faster?

Trains going between Reading and Ashford International, would call at the following stations between Guildford and Tonbridge.

  • Dorking Deepdene
  • Reigate
  • Redhill
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Redhill – A quick Touch-And-Go.
  • Tonbridge
  • Paddock Wood

If two minutes a stop could be saved at each of the nine omitted stops and at each reverse, this would save twenty minutes East of Gatwick, which would give the following timings.

  • Gatwick and Tonbridge – 27 minutes
  • Gatwick and Ashford International – 65 minutes

Timings would be compatible with driving.

West of Gatwick, the service would be as the current GWR service.

  • After arriving at Gatwick from Ashford, the train would reverse.
  • En route it would reverse at Redhill, to continue to Reading.

Passengers wanting to go between say Tonbridge and Redhill, would use this reverse at Redhill to join and leave the train.

It would be an unusual way to operate a train service, but I feel it could be made to work, especially with the right automation and/or a second driver.

Trains For The Service

The service can be split into various legs between Ashford and Reading.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Electrified – 26.5 miles – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Electrified – 20 miles – 35 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Gatwick and Redhill – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Redhill and Reigate – Electrified – 2 miles – 4 minutes
  • Reigate and Shalford Junction – Not Electrified – 17 miles – 20 minutes
  • Shalford Junction and North Camp – Electrified – 9 miles – 11 minutes
  • North Camp and Wokingham – Not Electrified – 11 miles – 14 minutes
  • Wokingham and Reading – Electrified – 7 miles and 9 minutes

Note.

  1. Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill, Gatwick, Guildford, Wokingham and Reading are all fully-electrified main line stations.
  2. Most of the route and the two ends are electrified.
  3. All electrification is 750 VDC third rail.
  4. All sections without electrification are less than twenty miles.

This route would surely be ideal for a battery electric train.

As both the Heathrow and Gatwick Express services are run using Class 387 trains and the Stansted Express has used Class 379 trains for the last few years, similar trains to these might be an ideal choice, if they could be fitted with battery power and the ability to use 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

The facts seem to be on the side of this service.

  • There are spare Class 387 trains and some more will be released by c2c in the next few years.
  • Greater Anglia will be replacing their Class 379 trains with new Class 745 trains.
  • A Class 379 train was used to test the concept of battery electric trains.
  • Both class of trains could be fitted with third-rail gear.

Either of these trains could be used for the service.

As they are 100 or 110 mph trains with good acceleration, they might even save a few minutes on the journey.

Infrastructure Changes

I suspect they could be minimal, once it was worked out how to handle the three reverses in the Gatwick and Redhill area.

Conclusion

I think it would be a feasible plan to run an Ashford and Reading service via Gatwick.

I would also decarbonise the route at the same time, as it must be one of the easiest routes in the country to run using battery electric trains.

  • There is electrification at both ends and in the middle.
  • The longest stretch of track without electrification is just seventeen miles.
  • All charging could be done using existing electrification.
  • There are platforms at both ends, where trains can get a full charge.
  • There are trains available, that are suitable for conversion to battery trains for the route.
  • No extra infrastructure would be needed.
  • Battery electric trains would allow extension of the route to Oxford in the West.

How many extra passengers would be persuaded to take the train to Gatwick, by the novelty of a battery electric Aurport Express?

Marketing men and women would love the last point!

 

 

September 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment