The Anonymous Widower

Walking Between Glasgow Queen Street And Central Stations

I arranged my trip through Glasgow so that I arrived in Glasgow Queen Street station around lunchtime, so that I could have lunch at a restaurant on my way to Glasgow Central station.

I took the side entrance to Queen Street station and walked to West Nile Street, where I had lunch in Gourmet Burger Kitchen.

From the restaurant, I continued down West Nile Street, before turning right for Glasgow Central station.

This Google Map shows the two stations and the area in between.

There’s probably a cafe or restaurant to suit everybody on the walking route.

Walking the way I did was slightly down hill and parts were in pedestrianised streets.

I know Glasgow’s two main stations fairly well, but there should be a signposted walking route.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Food, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Even Vauxhall Corsas Have 4G Wi-Fi

This is the case according to adverts at the side of the pitch in the England Slovakia game at Wembley tonight.

I don’t drive, so I don’t care, but it appears that this increasingly features on cars.

Bombardier have fitted this feature to Crossrail’s Class 345 trains, so will we see it increasingly fitted to all trains, taxis and buses?

It’ll certainly be something that passengers on public transport will expect.

September 4, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Would It Be Better To Run Some Suburban Trains With Two Drivers?

Reading an article about South Western Railway in the September 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, I read this statement from Andy Mellors of the company.

SWR does not have any intend to reduce staff numbers and sees a strong bernefit in having more than one person on a train, even if some specific duties change.

The plan is to have a second person onboard every train. We know that our customers appreciate that and from time to time regular customers as well as infrequent travellers need that reassurance as well. We plan to have a second person on-board our trains, and we are not committed to any particular method of operation through our bid.

Between Waterloo and Chessington South stations, trains currently take the following times using the current Class 455 trains.

  • Waterloo to Chessington South – 36 minutes
  • Turning train at Chessington South – 15 minutes
  • Chessington South to Waterloo  38 minutes

For an efficient train service, it is essential that the trains can execute the route as fast as possible.

A modern train like a Class 720 train, will decrease journey times because of the following.

  • 100 mph capability
  • Fast acceleration and efficient regenerative braking.
  • Efficient loading and unloading of passengers.
  • Level access for wheelchair users, buggy pushers and those dragging large cases.
  • Driver aids, so that time keeping and other measures are improved.

The trains will reduce the journey times, but how do you reduce the fifteen minutes to turn the train at Chessington South?

If the trains working the branch are ten-car units, a lot of the time at Chessington South will be spent walking from one end of the train to  the other.

Supposing both members of the crew were qualified to drive the train and they shared duties as a team.

  • Each crew member would drive one way, whilst the other looked after passengers, doors and safety.
  • As SWR have said all suburban trains will have a toilet, there may be further efficiencies.
  • The turnback time could probably be reduced by several minutes.

I believe that with the  new trains and a well-thought out method of working, a complete return trip could be made within an hour.

With the current method of working, two trains per hour (tph)  is possible and it needs three trains, due to the ninety minute return trip.

But with two crew sharing duties, four tph could be possible and it would need only four trains.

It should be noted that to speed turnround on the Underground, drivers walk back and then step up on the next train.

Conclusion

Obviously, it’s not this easy, but I believe management and unions can work together to find a working method, that is acceptable to all stakeholders.

 

September 3, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 2 Comments

Improving The UK Rail Network

The BBC is moaning today about the time it takes to get by train across the North.

Somebody has already texted in about the South-West and I suspect that other areas will complain as well.

In Faster Trains For Slower In Scotland, I examined the effects of introducing new Class 385 trains in Scotland, where a lot will replace older electric trains.

These new trains will have the following characteristics.

  • 100 mph maximum speed with faster braking and acceleration.
  • The ability to execute a station stop with the minimum possible dwell time.
  • On-board wi-fi and possibly 4G signal boosters.
  • Regenerative braking, which is possibly handled by onboard energy storage.

I came to the following overall conclusion.

Modern 100 mph trains with the ability to execute fast stops at stations are good for operators and passengers alike.

I will illustrate the importance of new trains like these with a few simple examples.

Waterloo To Chessington South

The current Class 455 trains between Waterloo to Chessington South stations take around 36-38 minutes with nine stops on the journey.

So a typical return journey takes the following times.

  • Waterloo to Chessington South – 36 minutes
  • Turning train at Chessington South – 15 minutes
  • Chessington South to Waterloo  38 minutes

Giving a total time of 89 minutes.

This means that three trains are needed to provide a two train per hour (tph) service on the route.

The new franchise holder; South Western Railway, is going to replace the Class 455 trains with new Class 701 trains

Wikipedia says this about the trains.

The Class 701 will feature regenerative braking, wide gangways between coaches, wide doors for ease and efficiency of boarding and alighting, 2+2 seating arrangement, Wi-Fi and at-seat USB charging points, as well as real-time passenger information screens, air conditioning and accessible toilets for disabled passengers.

Comparing the new and current trains shows.

  • The Class 701 trains are 100 mph trains, whereas the Class 455 trains are only capable of 75 mph.
  • The Class 701 trains will be capable of running under ERTMS, which will allow higher frequencies between Wimbledon and Waterloo.

But most importantly, the Class 701 trains could be able to save between one and three minutes at each station stop.

Also on this route.

  • The outer four stations are on the double-track Chessington Branch Line, so there is probably time to be saved by good driving.
  • Surely, the turnround time at Chessington South can be reduced.

On this example route, I think it is highly likely that the return journey can be reduced to a few minutes under the hour.

This would mean that two trains would be needed for the two tph service and it also opens up the possibility of providing a four tph service on the route with just four trains.

Would four five-car trains per hour, be better than two ten-car trains for both the operators and passengers?

Ipswich To Cambridge

The current Class 170 trains between Ipswich and Cambridge stations take around 80 minutes with seven stops on the journey.

So a typical return journey takes the following times.

  • Ipswich to Cambridge – 80 minutes
  • Turning train at Cambridge – 5 minutes
  • Cambridge to Ipswich 80 minutes

Giving a total time of 165 minutes, which is bulked up to three hours with a generous turn round at Ipswich.

This means that three trains are needed for 1 tph and six trains would be needed to provide a 2 tph service.

Greater Anglia have said they will do the following.

  • Run a train between Peterborough and Colchester at a frequency of 1 tph.
  • This extra service will overlap with the Ipswich to Cambridge service and provide a much-needed 2 tph service between Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds.
  • Replace the Class 170 trains with Class 755 trains.

But a 2 tph service is needed on the whole route.

So how will the new Class 755 trains help achieve this aim?

  • Although the Class 170 trains are relatively modern having been built around the Millenium, the new Class 755 trains will quite likely have an improved dwell time. So expect to see a small saving at each stop.
  • Both trains are 100 mph trains, but the route is probably timetabled for a Class 153 train, which is only a 75 mph train.
  • Greater Anglia have said, they will use electrical power in every place possible.
  • The Ipswich to Cambridge route, shares the track between Ipswich and Haughley Junction with the electrified Great Eastern Main Line, so the trains may well save more minutes on this section with its two stops at Needham Market and Stowmarket.
  • Network Rail can also do their bit, by removing some of the many level crossings and improving the speed limit on the sections of the route without electrification. The Class 755 trains will take advantage.
  • Stadler have been experimenting with onboard energy storage and have committed to supply trains with batteries to Merseyrail. Handling regenerative braking under diesel mode using energy storage would give a fuel saving and improved accelerastion.

I suspect that Greater Anglia’s have to a plan to eventually reduce the journey time between Ipswich and Cambridge to an hour.

This would mean that only two trains would be needed for a 1 tph service or four trains for a 2 tph service.

Having lived along that line for over thirty years, I know that passengers will flock to an enhanced service.

As Greater Anglia have ordered 14 x three-car and 24 x four-car trains to replace about thirty assorted diesel trains, they certainly have ambitious plans.

Manchester Victoria To Huddersfield

The current slow services between Manchester Victoria and Huddersfield stations take around 45 minutes with six stops on the journey.

Northern is replacing the current 75 mph Class 156 trains with new 100 mph Class 195 trains, which have a much shorter dwell time.

So could we see the forty-five minute timing improved to a thirty minutes service, which is achievable by TransPennine Express with their current Class 185 trains?

I think we could, and it could even be fast enough to achieve a two tph stopping service with the same number of new trains.

Summing Up

In these examples, I have applied the following improvements to the current routes.

  • Trains with a 100 mph operating speed.
  • Trains with an improved station dwell time.
  • Trains with regenerative braking using onboard energy storage, where possible.
  • Rewritten timetables assuming faster modern trains are always available.
  • Selective Network Rail improvements like removal of level crossings and improved signalling.

In most cases, this results in the following.

  • Improved journey times.
  • Higher frequencies.

Generally, this can be achieved with the addition of a couple of trains.

In addition there are all the benefits of new or refurbished trains.

  • Better passenger facilities.
  • Wi-fi and increasing 4G connectivity.
  • Reduced fuel and/or electricity consumption.
  • Increased reliability and better timekeeping.
  • New trains generally are longer or have a higher capacity.

I can’t see a loser, if new or refurbished trains are introduced on a route.

Unless of course, the trains introduced are real dogs!

Extensive Fleet Renewal

These are some of the franchises, that have been renewed in the last few years.

All have embarked on extensive fleet renewals.

The reasons are as follows.

  • The current fleet contains a lot of scrapyard specials.
  • The passengers want better facilities.
  • New trains allow faster and more frequent services, as I outlined earlier.
  • Money is freely available at realistic prices, from competitive train leasing companies.
  • Saying you will buy new trains, helps you succeed in your bid for the franchise.

The only problem, is if a franchise promises too much and gets the sums wrong.

Improving The Infrastructure

To get the most of the new and refurbished trains, the infrastructure will need to be improved, in various ways.

  • Improved track layouts, with perhaps new chords and passing loops.
  • Removal of level crossings .
  • Improved signalling.
  • New stations.

There might even have been some elective new electrification.

Conclusions

The trains in this country can be improved significantly, by just getting rid of all the slow trains and improving the infrastructue to cope in small ways.

The train operating companies have realised this and are adjusting their franchise bids accordingly.

 

August 30, 2017 Posted by | Travel | | Leave a comment

Slow Trains Outside The South-East

This article on the Times and Star website is entitled Mind the snores! Snail’s-pace trains four times slower outside South East.

This is said.

Trains connecting Britain’s major towns and cities are up to four times slower outside the South East, according to new research.

Press Association analysis of the quickest possible trains on 19 routes found that services from London travel at average speeds of 65-93mph, compared with just 20-60mph elsewhere.

The slowest route featured in the study was Liverpool Central to Chester, which takes 41 minutes to make the 14-mile journey (as the crow flies) at 20mph.

The example that they give between Liverpool Central and Chester stations, is one that I can use to illustrate the problem.

  • Currently, services on this route are run by nearly forty-year-old Class 508 trains, that are only capable of 75 mph.
  • The speed limit on the Wirral Line is just 70 mph, so the well-maintained elderly trains can’t even stretch their legs properly.
  • The route has thirteen stops.

The timing is dreadful, if you consider that Merseyrail has exclusive use of the line.

The new Stadler Flirt trains are promised to save nine minutes between Southport and Hunts Cross stations, because they are better designed for passenger entrance and exit with faster speed and better braking and acceleration.

Applying this saving to the Liverpool Central to Chester route would reduce the time from 41 minutes to 35 minutes.

If these Swiss trains can get a roll on, I do wonder if they could do the round trip in under an hour, which would mean Merseyrail could run a four trains per hour (tph) service with just four trains. The slower Class 508 trains need six trains.

This logic can apply to a lot of rail lines in the UK.

Conclusion

The reasons for slow trains can be summed up as follows.

  • Trains are timetabled for the slowest trains that work the route.
  • A lot of routes, including quite a few in the South-East are timetabled for elderly scrapyard specials.
  • Line speeds can often be improved by five or ten mph.
  • Modern trains like Merseyrail’s new Flirts are designed to minimise the time it takes to stop at a station. This is referred to as the dwell time.
  • Platforms and trains don’t always match up well.
  • Level crossings can be a nuisance on some lines like the York to Scarborough Line, which has 89 of the little darlings in forty-two miles.

Trains can be speeded up by doing the following.

  • Improving platforms, track and signalling to the highest possible standard and safe line speed.
  • Choose trains that can make use of the good infrastructure.
  • Consign scrapyard specials like Pacers and Class 508 trains to a well-deserved but long-overdue retirement.
  • Make sure that train entry and exit for wheelchair users, persons of reduced mobility, buggy pushers and wheeled-case draggers is level.
  • Have well-trained staff and excellent information on the platform.

This is the London Overground’s philosophy and it looks like Merseyrail are applying it.

August 28, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

An Alternative View On HS3

This article on CityMetric is entitled Is Crossrail For The North The Biggest Priority For The North?

The article presents a lot of information and finishes with this paragraph.

None of which is to say that HS3 (I’m sticking with that name) is a bad idea: the existing trans-pennine links are shocking, and it’s pretty gross that transport secretary Chris Grayling scrapped plans to invest in rail in the north in literally the same week he called for another £30bn railway line for London. But if money is scarce, there may be better things we can do with it.

In Lord Adonis On Crossrail Of The North, I came to this conclusion.

Improvements are much-needed in the North, which could include.

  • A short/medium term plan to deliver the best possible service with the new trains ordered by Northern and TransPennine Express.
  • A long term plan to deliver a genuine 140 mph service across the North of England.
  • A plan to improve the Calder Valley and Hope Valley Lines across the Pennines.
  • A plan to improve some of the poor connections across the North.
  • A strategy to make the best use of the two connections with HS2 at Manchester and Leeds .

A detailed plan is needed that lays down what should be done in the next ten to twenty years.

The plan is also needed as soon as possible.

Perhaps, a high speed route or routes across the North of England could be paired with improved local rail, tram and bus services in all urban areas.

 

August 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Is The BBC Anti-Rail?

Consider.

  • One of the lead stories on BBC Breakfast this morning, is very negative about how there is tremendous disruption because of engineering work this weekend.
  • They keep finding negative stories about the upgrading of Waterloo, when all my observations seem to have been positive.
  • One of the most significant rail events of this month has been the start of running of the Aventra trains for Crossrail has been ignored.

I am going to the football in Ipswich on Saturday and according to the BBC, services out of Liverpool Street are severely disrupted.

But I have looked at the Internet and services appear like any other Saturday.

The BBC would appear to have an agenda.

August 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 2 Comments

Risky Business: Train Fleets In A State Of Flux

The title of this post is the same as this article in Rail Magazine.

The article is certainly in the must-read category and it illustrates the perils of not getting your investments right.

You could argue that rolling stock leasing companies (ROSCOs) are sucking money out of the UKs railways.

I would argue differently.

The cause of the troubles for the ROSCOs is threefold.

  1. Train operating companies would prefer to have lots of similar trains, as this makes, maintenance, training and timetabling easier and more affordable. Some successful companies like c2c, London Overground, Virgin Trains and Merseyrail are one- or two-class companies and others like TransPennine Express and Great Western Railway are moving that way.
  2. New leasing companies have seen the returns, that the three original ROSCOs have made and have entered the market. As they are leasing new trains, they make it more difficult to find homes for existing rolling stock, many of of which have perhaps twenty years of life left and are priced accordingly.
  3. The  ROSCOs have also badly misjudged the technology. Bombardier, CAF and Stadler have come up with innovative solutions to the problems of our unique Victorian-designed railway and the train operating companies have liked what they have seen and ordered them.

It is interesting to note, that few of the large orders for rolling stock have not been financed by the three original ROSCOs; Angel Trains, Eversholt and Porterbrook.

Greater Anglia

As I know Greater Anglia well, I’ll look at their current fleet, which is being replaced train-for-train by new rolling stock.

  • Class 90 locomotives – These are thirty years old and will probably end up pulling freight or be cannibalised for spares.
  • Mark 3 coaches – These do not meet the latest regulations for passengers of reduced mobility and most will probably be scrapped, although one rake has been sold to be used by 60163 Tornado.
  • Driving Van Trailers – I doubt these will find a use and will join the many others in store or they will be scrapped.
  • Class 153 trains – At twenty-five years old, I doubt these single-carriage trains will see serious passenger use again.
  • Class 156 trains – At nearly thirty years old, these two-car DMUs may have use on rural lines, but they will need refurbishment.
  • Class 170 trains – These two- and three-car 100 mph DMUs  will certainly find another operator.
  • Class 317 trains – At thirty-five years old, but in good condition, these 100 mph EMUs will be difficult to place, as newly-electrified lines will inevitably deserve new trains.
  • Class 321 trains – These 100 mph EMUs will be difficult to place, despite some having been recently upgraded.
  • Class 360 trains – These 100 mph EMUs are only fifteen years old and will probably find a new operator.
  • Class 379 trains – These modern 100 mph EMUs are only a few years old and will will certainly find a new operator.

Quite frankly most of this rolling stock is not worth much!

The Class 360 and Class 379 trains will be the easiest to release.

The sheer numbers of Class 317 and 321 trains, with little new electrification planned, mean that something innovative will, have to be done to find them a home. I speculated aboutwhat will happen to all these Mark 3-based multiple units in What Will Happen To The Class 319, Class 455, Class 321 And Cl;ass 317 Trains? I certainly suspect that some will find uses, with the upgraded Class 321 trains probably the first in the queue.

As I said in the article, I feel that some Class 321 trains could become small parcel and pallet carriers.

The Class 707 Trains

The Rail Magazine article talks about the problem of the Class 707 trains, that were ordered by South West Trains and will be returned by South Western Railway.

It suggests they could be converted to run on 25 KVAC overhead working, but that will be expensive and in my view a new Desiro City is far inferior to a new Aventra.

So would a quality Class 317 or 321 be a good alternative for an operator, that needed some new trains to perhaps open a new electrified route?

It looks even more of a bad decision of Angel Trains to fund the Class 707 trains.

Is It Innovate Or Die?

Porterbrook saw problems coming with the Class 319 trains, they were leasing to Thameslink.

But they got together with Northern and designed an affordable bi-mode, which is now the Class 769 train.

Thirteen have been ordered!

In anotherf project, InterCity 125 trains are being shortened and updated to last another decade.

Will we be seeing more developments like this, where redundant trains are turned into useful ones for a different purpose?

We could even be seeing some innovative export deals!

Conclusion

It’s a tough world out there!

But those that innovate will survive and make money!

 

August 24, 2017 Posted by | Finance, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Does The North Get A Raw Deal In Trains To And From London?

In the August 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, this is said, when talking about Great Western Railwat’s new Class 800 trains.

Thus both Bristol Temple Meads And Bristol Parkway will get four trains an hour to London, an even better service than Manchester’s three trains.

Admittedly, the Manchester service is a few minutes over two hours, whereas the Bristol service will be 90 minutes.

So what sort of service do other cities get?

  • Birmingham – 7 trains per hour (tph)
  • Cardiff – 2 tph
  • Edinburgh – 3 tph
  • Exeter – 3 tph
  • Glasgow – 2 tph
  • Leeds – 2 tph
  • Leicester – 4 tph
  • Liverpool – 1 tph
  • Newcastle – 3 tph
  • Norwich – 2 tph going to 3 tph in 2020.
  • Nottingham – 2 tph
  • Sheffield – 2 tph
  • Southampton – 3 tph
  • York – 4 tph

They are an interesting set of frequencies and you can read your own theories into the numbers.

 

August 2, 2017 Posted by | Travel | | Leave a comment

Bury St. Edmunds: A Town With Dreadful Rail Access

If you need to go to Bury St. Edmunds by train from London, it is usually a cross-platform change every hour at Ipswich station.

It is actually, a journey that will get better in the next couple of years, because Greater Anglia are doing the following.

  • Introducing new Class 745 trains between Liverpool Street and Ipswich
  • Running three express trains per hour (tph) between Liverpool Street and Ipswich
  • Reducing Liverpool Street to Ipswich times to sixty minutes.
  • Introducing new Class 755 trains between Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds.
  • Running two tph between Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds.

Journeys will get more frequent and there will be more seats.

A quick calculation on Greater Anglia’s non-electrified routes gives the following.

  • They are currently served by a total of thirty-two coaches in excellent trains like Class 170 trains and twenty-nine coaches in scrapyard specials.
  • They will be replaced by a total of fourteen three-car and twenty-four four-car bi-mode Class 755 trains consisting of a total of one hundred and thirty-eight coaches.

That is a 4.3 to 1 increase, so you can’t accuse Greater Anglia of not making a generous promise.

Greater Anglia have not disclose much about their plans, but I would suspect that they could include.

  • At least two tph on as many routes as possible.
  • A much improved service between Bury St. Edmunds and Cambridge.
  • More services at Cambridge North station.
  • Direct services between Bury St. Edmunds and London.

They’ve certainly got the trains for a major expansion of services and stations like Cambridge, Cambridge North, Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich are excellent transport hubs.

But stations like Bury St. Edmunds let the others down and don’t provide the service passengers expect.

I think to quote any optimistic Estate Agent, it is a building with possibilities.

Consider.

  • I suspect that Greater Anglia wish the track and platform layout was more train operator friendly.
  • There is a cafe on the Ipswich-bound platform.
  • Facilities are limited.
  • The only shop is a barbers.
  • Car parking is limited.
  • The town centre and the bus station is a stiff walk away.
  • There is no shuttle bus to the town centre.
  • It is a Grade II Listed building.

For a town of 40,000 people it is a disgrace.

Improving Access To Trains

I’ve read in several places that Cambridge and Greater Anglia would like to create a frequent service between Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds with several new stations, to help in the development of Greater Cambridge.

For example, a simple triangular route could be run between Cambridge, Ely and Bury St. Edmunds.

To do this efficiently would probably need a West-facing bay platform at the station.

But as this Google Map shows, that would be difficult.

It might be possible to split one or both platforms, as happens at Cambridge.

When you consider, that the space in the middle of the platforms, is large enough for at least one extra track, I’m sure Network Rail have ideas to create a more usable station without spending an enormous amount.

One thing that surely helps, is that it is unlikely that many trains will be longer than four-cars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment