The Anonymous Widower

Network Rail Go Diving Again

After the Acton Dive-Under and the Bermondsey Dive-Under, in the April 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Dive-Under To Radlett SRFI (trategic Rail Freight Interchange).

This Google Map shows the location of the controversial Radlett SRFI.

It is sited on the old Handley-Page aerodrome at Radlett to the East of Park Street station on the Abbey Line and the West of the Midland Main Line.

The dive-under will go under the Midland Main Line to provide access to the slow lines on the East side of the Midland Main Line.

 

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Train Of The Future

This article in Rail |Engineer is entitled ScotRail’s ‘new’ HSTs, gives full details of the modifications ScotRail wukk make to their HSTs, before they enter service in Summer 2018. This is said.

The iconic HST is now over forty years old. It ensured the success of British Rail’s inter-city service and is still the world’s fastest diesel train, although the ScotRail HSTs will have a maximum speed of 100 mph. With around ten million miles on the clock these trains are approaching retirement for long-distance services as they are about to be replaced by IEPs. However, as ScotRail is about to demonstrate with its reincarnation of these trains, there is still much life left in them.

I wrote Edinburgh to Inverness in the Cab of an HST, after a trip to Inverness and it was the trip of a lifetime.

On the trip, you realise that Scotland has a big problem and an asset with railways and it’s called mountains. So a train is needed with bags of grunt and big windows.

An HST has both, coupled with an iconic style, unmatched since the days of steam.

Scotrail’s plan to run the trains between the seven Scottish cities would appear to be a good one.

I wonder, if we’ll ever see the trains going to Kyle of Lochalsh, Thurso and Tweedbank.

The article is worth reading, as it details everything that will be done to create a train worthy of the iconic routes.

If I’m still of this life next Summer, I shall be in Scotland.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Heritage Railways And Class 319 Flex Trains

Heritage Railways In The UK

Wikipedia introduces their Heritage Railway entry by saying this.

A heritage railway is a railway kept to carry living history rail traffic in order to re-create or preserve railway scenes of the past. Often heritage railways are old railway lines preserved in a state which depicts a certain period, or periods, in the history of railway systems.

But that doesn’t mean heritage railways in the UK are not run to the best professional standards.

The Class 319 Flex Train

The Class 319 Flex Train is an electro-diesel  version of the Class 319 Train, originally built in the 1980s to serve the Thameslink routes.

These trains are almost as old as the classic Range Rovers., but they have probably been looked after to much higher standards.

Some trains have recently undergone a light refurbishment and are now working electric services for Northern in North-West England.

Northern would run more of the trains, if Network Rail had been able to stick to their electrification timetable.

So Northern and the train rolling stock leasing company; Porterbrook have decided to create the electro-diesel version by installing two rail-proven MAN diesels and an ABB alternator. The train will be able to generate its own electricity and thus work lines without electrification.

I have seen an advance copy of the brochure and the train combines the 100 mph capability of the original trains with the ability to work the very stiff Buxton Line.

Porterbrook describe the train as a Go-Anywhere Solution.

Through Services Onto Heritage Lines

I don’t know how many heritage lines run services that are habitually used by commuters going to school, college or on business, but there have been and might still are be heritage lines where this happens.

The next sections give my thoughts on possible connections and services.

Severn Valley Railway

The Severn Valley Railway runs for a distance of 16 miles between Kidderminster Town and Brignorth stations.

At Kidderminster, there is a connection to the Birmingham to Worcester Line.

This Google Map shows the two adjoining Kidderminster stations.

There is a section called Other Operational Extensions in the Wikipedia entry for the Severn Valley Railway, where this is said.

The General Manager, Nick Ralls has confirmed that Chiltern Railways have approached the Severn Valley Railway with a view to extending a number of its peak-time Marylebone to Kidderminster services to Bewdley to alleviate road congestion in the Kidderminster/Stourport/Bewdley area. This has raised questions regarding car parking limitations near Bewdley station. Should this go ahead the distinction between a heritage railway and a contemporary railway operation would be blurred. In conjunction with this there have been suggestions for locating a Park and Ride facility near Foley Park Halt. Investigations are in-hand to construct a station to serve a conference centre and hotel to be located at the West Midlands Safari Park.

Consider.

  • According to Wikipedia, it is a future aspiration of Network Rail to electrify the entire Birmingham to Worcester via Kidderminster Line, as well as the Chiltern Main Line to London Marylebone.
  • If Chiltern Railways could run to Bewdley station, surely a Class 319 Flex train could run a service to the Severn Valley Railway from anywhere between Kidderminster and Birmingham.
  • If the electrification ever happens, a Class 319 Flex train could run under the wires to Kidderminster and then use diesel power to Bewdley or even Brignorth.

When does a heritage and tourist railway become a commuter route?

 

Swanage Railway

The Swanage Railway are working on  a connection to the main line at Wareham station.

This Google Map shows Wareham station in the North East corner, with the South Western Main Line running across the image.

Wareham Station And The Swanage Railway

Wareham Station And The Swanage Railway

In the South West corner of the map, a junction can be seen, where the Swanage Railway joins from the South.

As the Class 319 Flex train would probably be a train fully-certified to go on any line, where the Class 319 train can run, it could run from say Poole or Bournemouth stations to the terminus of the Swanage Railway at Swanage via the iconic Corfe Castle.

  • I think that Bournemouth station could turnback a local service to Swanage station.
  • The Class 319 Flex train would use the third-rail electrification on the main line.
  • On the main line, it would be a 100 mph train, just like the Class 444 trains working the line to Waterloo.
  • The train would use diesel power to Swanage.
  • I don’t think much new infrastructure would be needed, once the connection at Wareham is finished.Is a Class 319 train old enough to count as heritage? I suppose it’s fake with a couple of modern German diesels!

It could work as both a local train service and a tourist attraction.

 

March 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rail Sleeper Plan Between Caithness And Edinburgh

This is the headline on an article in the John O’Groats Journal.

So is this a good idea?

Some of the comments to the article are cynical it would work, but I feel that it could be a runner.

The Current Service

There are two train services from Edinburgh to Thurso during the day, both of which need a change at Inverness.

  1. The 08:32 from Edinburgh arrives in Thurso at 17:50.
  2. The 13:34 from Edinburgh arrives in Thurso at 22:20.

Both services could be summed up like this.

  • The total time of the journey approaches nine hours.
  • The train is something like a Class 158 diesel multiple unit.
  • Both legs are between three and four hours.
  • There is a long wait in Inverness.
  • The second service does the second leg mainly in the dark.
  • London to Thurso in a day is possible, but it would be dark and tiring.

Although there are quicker routes with more changes, I can think of better ways of spending a day, travelling North from Edinburgh to Thurso.

Coming back, there are three practical one-change services

  1. The 06:50 from Thurso arrives in Edinburgh at 14:22.
  2. The 08:34 from Thurso arrives in Edinburgh at 16:25
  3. The 13:01 from Thurso arrives in Edinburgh at 22:28.

These services can be summed up like this.

  • The first two services are faster than the nine hours going North.
  • On a good day the morning services must give good views.
  • You would certainly be able to do Thurso to London by train in a day.

Certainly, as a practical train service to attract visitors, the Edinburgh-Thurso service is not a service that says you must go, like say Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, which I wrote about in Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh.

The Far North Line

The Far North Line connects Inverness with Thurso and Wick. This introduction from Wikipedia, is a good summary of the line.

The Far North Line is a rural railway line entirely within the Highland area of Scotland, extending from Inverness to Thurso and Wick. It is the northernmost railway in the United Kingdom. The line has many sections of single track, mostly north of Dingwall. In common with other railway lines in the Highlands and northern Lowlands, it is not electrified and all trains are diesel-powered.

The trains are typically Class 158 trains, which provide four trains per day all the way between Inverness and Thurso. Other services give a better service on the Southern part of the line including four trains per day to Kyle of Lochalsh.

Improving The Far North Line

Wikipedia has a section on Future Expansion of the line. This is said.

For many years there have been proposals to bypass the Lairg loop with a line across the Dornoch Firth, linking Tain (via Dornoch) more directly with Golspie. This would involve building a new bridge over the Firth, or making dual-purpose the bridge[5] which now carries just the A9. Discussions have been held concerning the shortening of the Far North Line involving a bridge over the Dornoch Firth and the possible use of the trackbed of the former light railway.[6] Nothing has yet come of these ideas.

But these are expensive developments and is the traffic available.

The John O’Groats Journal has this paragraph.

I have spoken to Caledonian Sleeper and want to investigate the business case for a sleeper combination with freight.

So could Internet and other parcels traffic be a nice little earner for the line.

But then a lot of tourists venturing along the line will be heavily loaded with bicycles and heavy luggage.

Incidentally, In the 1960s, I used to work with a John Baxendale, who used to go surfing off the North Coast of Scotland, as he said it was some of the best surfing in the world.

Do surfboards feature on trains to the North, as they do on trains to Cornwall?

Trains For The North

So perhaps, this line, the Kyle of Lochalsh Line and the Inverness to Aberdeen Line need a fleet of specially configured Highland trains.

  • Four carriages.
  • A good buffet/restaurant car serving proper Sottish food.
  • Lots of space for luggage.
  • Big windows.

Abellio ScotRail are planning to refurbish twenty-six Inter-City 125s for longer routes, which fit this specification, as the rear sections of the Class 43 locomotives can be used for freight and oversized luggage.

Will we be seeing these trains on the routes out of Inverness?

Imagine a tourist day out from Inverness, where the morning train to Thurso and the evening return to Inverness offered the best breakfast, dinner and hospitality that Scotland can provide.

You never say never where Terry Miller’s iconic trains are concerned.

If ever a train will still be in main line service, a hundred years after it was built, it will be these trains.

Given their unique status, if they worked the Far North Line, they might just attract enough passengers to make line improvements worthwhile.

Factors Affecting The Edinburgh-Thurso Sleeper

In the following sections, I’ll detail a few factors that will surely affect ridership of a sleeper train between Edinburgh and Thurso.

Sleeper Trains Are Having A Revival

A few years ago, it was predicted that sleeper trains would be consigned to history in a few years.

But in the UK, the Caledonian Sleeper and the Night Riviera, seem to have ignored this advice, with the Scottish service ordering new rolling stock.

Deutsche Bahn thought sleeper trains were the past and they probably were, given the customer-unfriendly way DB ran them. But Austrian Railways are taking over the sleeper services and investing in new rolling stock.

In Sweden, there’s even their own Far North sleeper train from Stockholm to the Arctic Circle. Check out this map on the Swedish Railways web site.

The Curiosity Factor

Done properly, an Edinburgh to Thurso Sleeper would surely attract those, of which I’m probably one, who like to travel to out of the way places as some form of box-ticking.

My Reason For Using Sleeper Trains

I am one of those lucky people, who can sleep anywhere.

So if I’m coming down from a trip to Scotland, I will often have a full day and then catch the sleeper back down to Euston. If I book at the right time, I often find that my First Class sleeper ticket, is less than staying in say a Premier Inn in Edinburgh or Glasgow and buying a train ticket for the morning. I also arrive in London at a time, that hasn’t wasted half the day.

If say, I had to go to an important event in Glasgow or Edinburgh, if possible, I would take the first train to the North in the morning and then come back on that day’s sleeper.

The Edinburgh To Thurso Day Trip

If you look at the times for a train service between Edinburgh and Thurso, it would not be possible to go up and back in a day and have time for a worthwhile meeting or party.

I once drove from Ipswich to Aberdeen and back in a day, but I was in a Lotus Elan doing speeds at up to a hundred on the way.

But you couldn’t do those sorts of speeds now!

On the other hand, if there was a sleeper service between Edinburgh and Thurso, you’d arrive fresh and ready for the day or you could sleep off the Highland hospitality on the way back. Or of course vice-versa!

Why Not A Glasgow To Thurso Sleeper?

Once all the electric trains are running across the Central Belt, Glasgow to Edinburgh could be 36 minutes, with a train every 15 minutes.

So only one route would be needed, as passengers from Glasgow could just take a train across.

But for operational reasons, the sleeper service might start from anywhere in the Central Belt, like the new Edinburgh Gateway station, which is close to Edinburgh Airport.

Thurso To Edinburgh Airport

An Edinburgh-Thurso service would certainly stop at Edinburgh Gateway station, to give easy access to the Airport.

Suppose you were going on holiday or for business reasons to Caithness or somewhere on the Far North Line.

You would catch a convenient flight into Edinburgh Airport and perhaps board the Sleeper st around nine in the evening for the North.

Coming back, you’d catch the Sleeper in Thurso and arrive at Edinburgh in time for a morning flight.

Caithness Tourism

Tourism to Caithness and the North Coast of Scotland could be a big driver of passengers to an Edinburgh to Thurso Sleeper Service.

This page on the Visit Scotland web site gives more details.

There’s even pictures of surfers.

Conclusion

I feel that not next year, but once Scotland’s rail system is fully developed, with the shortened Inter-City 125s serving the longer routes and electric trains all over the Central Belt, that a Sleeper Train between Edinburgh and Thurso will be viable.

 

March 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Should Greater Manchester Have More Control Of Its Stations?

I ask this question because of this article in Global Rail News, which is entutled Manchester Seeks Station Devolution.

I don’t think there is a simple answer to this question.

As an example take the case of Haggerston station, near to me in London.

The station is owned by Transport for London and managed by London Overground, who also put their names on the trains.

But the actual operator is Arriva Rail London, who are paid a fee to run everything by London Overground.

It sounds complicated, but if Transport for London want to add a station, which they haven’t yet, they would decide this with the various London politicians.

Transport for London may not have added a station, but they have promoted the extension of the Northern Line to Battersea Power Station and they are putting the funding together to extend the Bakerloo Line to Lewisham.

Merseyrail works under a similar model and they’ve just announced the construction of Maghull North station and the purchase of a fleet of new Stadler trains.

So why shouldn’t Manchester and a few other cities have control of their stations?

This is a quote in the article from Jon Lamonte, TfGM’s chief executive.

The recent redevelopment of Irlam rail station has already showcased how our vision can become a reality, demonstrating just what can be achieved when local stations realise their full social and economic potential.

In some ways the local knowledge and control is what is important. If everything is under an elected figurehead like a Mayor or Transport Commissioner, then if it all goes wrong, they will feel the wrath of the electorate.

The problem with ,local control comes, when a decision involves other Local Authorities of perhaps a different political hue.

Suppose in Manchester that for their own perfectly valid reasons, Manchester wanted to move some Liverpool services between Manchester Victoria and Manchester Piccadilly stations.

Liverpool might not like this and the problem could rumble on and on.

So who has control of the regional stations has to be chosen with care.

In some ways, it would be a great advantage to both Liverpool and Manchester, if they both ran their stations using the Merseyrail model.

March 20, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

West Anglia Route Improvement – Angel Road Stations – 20th March 2017

I took these pictures.as I walked from the current Angel Road station to the works, which could be the construction of the new Meridian Water station.

There is obviously a lot of serious work going on in the area, as some of the trains seem to be slowing appreciably.

But most of the work so far, seems to have been setting up the site, moving the signalling cables and generally clearing up the rubbish.

March 20, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

From Stockport Station To Liverpool Lime Street Station By Train

In a comment a friend said this about going by train from Stockport to Liverpool.

When we first moved here, there was no direct train to Liverpool, we had to go into Piccadilly, cross to Victoria and get a train to Liverpool. And before the trams that was a complete pain!

So how is it now?

Using National Rail Enquiries, I find that every hour there is a direct train from Stockport station to Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street stations at around twenty-five minutes past the hour, that takes a few minutes over the hour to get to Liverpool Lime Street.

They seem to be run by East Midlands Trains, so they will be a Class 158 train, which is fine.

If say you were to drive to Manchester Airport first, you can get a refurbished electric train, that takes virtually the same time to Liverpool.

Stockport To Manchester Airport

Until I wrote this, I hadn’t realised that Airport trains don’t go via Stockport, but they use the Styal Line that by-passes Stockport.

Looking at maps of the area, it would appear that there might be a way of trains going from Manchester to the Airport via Stockport.

Trains might take the Mid-Cheshire Line and then access the Styal Line at a new junction North of Gatley station.

This Google Map shows the area where the railway lines cross.

Gatley station is at the South-West corner of the map and the Styal Line runs Northwards past the motorway junction between the M60 and the A34.

The Mid-Cheshire Line runs across the map South of the motorway junction and the Alexandra Hospital.

I suppose the cost was too high, but then how do you put all the travellers’ cars on the train?

The fact that the rail link between Stockport and Manchester Airport wasn’t created at the same time as the motorway junction is a design crime of the highest order.

It looks to me that there is even space for a Park-and-Ride for Stockport and Manchester in the area.

The Ordsall Chord

The Ordsall Chord, will link Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly stations with a huge bridge across the Irwell, before the end of 2017

It will have four trains per hour (tph) in both directions, between Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly, Oxford Road, Deansgate, Salford Central and Manchester Victoria stations. There is probably capacity for this service to go to eight tph,

Initially, trains will be refurbished four-car Class 319 electric trains, that currently work Liverpool to Manchester services.

These trains are no suburban trundlers, but will be able to cruise near to 100 mph on parts of the journey, thus knocking a few minutes off the time between Manchester Piccadlly and the Airport.

What Will The Ordsall Chord Do For Stockport?

I have to ask this question and until the timetables are published late this year, everything I say here will be speculation.

  • I would be very surprised if there wasn’t at least 1 electric tph that went to Manchester Victoria station.
  • Eventually, this service could be made more frequent and perhaps extended to Blackburn, Burnley, Huddsersfield or Stalybridge.
  • If Manchester Victoria has been designed right, there should be same-platform interchange at the station to TransPennine services to places like Hull, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  • I also suspect train companies will use the chord to provide new services like perhaps Chester to Leeds, that could go through Stockport.

Forget HS3 for the moment, this is the reality of 2017.

Liverpool to Manchester Airport

Several stations in Liverpool have an hourly service to Manchester Airport and this will probably get better as more Class 319 and Class 319 Flex Trains are brought into service.

It’s rather ironic, but from what I have found, that it would appear that Liverpool gets at least as good a service to Manchester Airport as does the much Stockport!

And Liverpool’s service is likely to double in frequency in the near future!

The Liverpool and Stockport services to Manchester Airport, do have one thing in common though! Both have  intermediate stops at Manchester Piccadilly!

But why would you want to go to Manchester Piccadilly, when you’re just going a few miles down the road? Especially, as if you’re going to Manchester Piccadilly, you already have in excess of four tph.

Leeds To Manchester Airport

Currently, Leeds to Manchester Airport has a two tph service via Huddersfield.

When the Ordsall Chord opens that Leeds to Manchester services will go to a higher frequency via Manchester Victoria, thus improving the service to the Airport from Leeds, by giving Leeds passengers access to Manchester local tram and train services to the Airport.

Conclusions

Services from Stockport through Manchester will improve, due to the opening of the Ordsall hord and other electrification works.

But, Stockport needs a quick non-stop service to the Airport with a frequency of at least two tph for economic prosperity.

Perhaps to get a good service to Manchester Airport, your city must begin with L or M.

 

March 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Metropolitan Reversible Line

When you read some of Network Rail’s published documents, you sometimes get snippets of information that point to their thinking.

This page on the Network Rail web site, allows you to download the Kent Route Study.

The study talks about the Metropolitan Reversible Line, which allows trains to access Cnnon Street station from the West.

Network Rail want to replace the line with a 12-car siding, to support operations at Peak times. This is what they say.

Replace the Metropolitan Reversible line with a single 12-car siding to serve
London Cannon Street.

The line currently allows empty coaching stock movements between
London Cannon Street and London Blackfriars, but will become redundant
following implementation of the revised Thameslink service in 2018. It is
therefore proposed that the Metropolitan Reversible line be modified into
a single 12-car siding to facilitate peak services into London Cannon Street station.

 

They even supply a nice map in the document.

Hopefully, they aim to get this work completed by 2024 at a cost of up to £10million.

This is a Google Map of the area.

I don’t know what the land around the Metropolitan Reversible Line is used for, but it does strike me that the location of the line could be a lucrative development site.

So perhaps a sympathetic developer could build a new housing or office complex and put the required siding in the basment as a sweetener for Network Rail.

Development of this simple siding, could be a win for a lot of stakeholders.

I took these pictures as I walked from the Market Porter public house to Southwark Street.

I don’t know what development is happening in this particular area, but it can certainly be improved.

If money was no object, which of course it never is, I would do the following.

  • Replace the rather plain bridge over Park Street with something better.
  • The arches must be filled in so they can have a valid commercial purpose or opened up, so they can be used for cafes or just walking through to Borough Market.
  • The massive girder bridge over Southwark Street is not a beautiful object and it was built to carry a lot more weight than it will, when the Metropolitan Reversible Line is converted into a siding. So perhaps the bridge can be remodelled to improve its dreadful looks.

It is worth looking at this Google Map of the Southern part of the Metrolitan Reversible Line.

The Metrolitan Reversible Line starts at the top of the map, curves to the West and goes out the South-West corner.

Note, how only a small space on the viaduct and the bridges is used for track. The siding will use no more space than now!

The rest has the distinctive greenish tinge of grass.

I believe that this piece of free land in the sky, should be used for a positive purpose.

I said about putting the siding in the basement. But really, I meant putting the siding in a garage on the ground floor under the building, which if it was designed correctly, it wouldn’t interfere with the views of London’s disgrace; the Shard. You usually only get buildings as bad as that built with friends in the right places!

But seriously, if the design of the siding development was right and it was only a few storeys high, it would be hidden from view by the railway lines crossing all over the place.

The space could even become a spectacular cycling superhighway or walkway stretching along the side of the railway from Waterloo to the South Bank or even across Cannon Street railway bridge to the City.

Network Rail are converting the Metropolitan Reversible Line into a siding to increase the capacity of services into Cannon Street station.

I believe that if this creation of a siding is done with imagination, then other developments can be enabled, that would be to the benefit of all those living, working anf enjoying themselves in the area.

 

March 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Reopening The Anglesey Central Railway

The Anglesey Central Railway is a disused branch railway, where the track-bed is intact although overgrown, that runs across the Island of Anglesey from the North Wales Coast Line to the port town of Amlwch.

It carried freight until 1993 and is one of those remote lines, where a case can be made for reopening., using simple station designs and affordable trains.

On its route it serves the County Town of Llangefni and these stations are proposed, either on the branch or the island

With the existing stations on the North Wales Coast Line, a useful local railway could be created.

But would it be value for money?

March 17, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Developing The Ebbw Valley Railway

There are various developments proposed for the Ebbw Valley Railway.

A Second Hourly Service To Newport

In Proposed Additional Services in the Wikipedia entry for the line, this is said.

A second hourly service to Newport is proposed for the line. A South East Wales Transport Alliance (Sewta) report in 2006 noted that additional infrastructure work would be required to enable the service to become half-hourly (one train running to Cardiff and another to Newport). An additional seven miles (11 km) of double track would be needed between Aberbeeg Junction and Crosskeys and additional platforms at Newbridge and Llanhilleth stations would be required.

Network Rail says additional work needs to be done, but from various news reports, the service from Ebbw Vale Town to Newport is some years away, but could be completed in 2018.

Possible Stations

In A Look At New Station Projects, I’ve found several.

  • Aberbeeg has  been proposed for reopening.
  • Abercarn has been proposed for reopening.
  • Abertillery has been proposed for reopening on a new branch.
  • Cwm has been proposed for reopening.

I’m sure there could be others.

 

March 17, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment