The Anonymous Widower

We Just Get Leaves On The Line

But the Norwegians have just suffered a bigger problem!

See this article on Global Riail News, which is entitled Tank Removed From Railway Line In Norway.

It reportedly fell of the back of a train.

November 12, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

A College For Train Drivers

One of the successes of Crossrail has been TUCA or the Tunneling And Underground Construction Academy in Ilford, which I wrote about in Open House – TUCA, after my visit in 2012.

Since then a couple of other specialist colleges have opened to deal with other skill shortages in the rail industry.

So now another college is to open that will train drivers, replacing the rather ad-hoc system that currently operates.

It is reported in this article in the Daily Mail. They summarise the plan as follows.


  • National academy will establish an apprenticeship providing train driving skills
  • It is hoped the move will create more recruits to lower reliance on overtime
  • Rail services have been hit by industrial action, leading to staff shortages
  • Transport Secretary Chris Grayling could announce the plans next week


The Times also has details and their article says.

  • The college will establish an apprenticeship to A-level standard.
  • There will be classroom-based courses using simulators.
  • Hopefully, it will cut train delays, as according to the Office of Rail Regulation, crew shortages are responsible foe one-in-ten train delays.
  • Chris Gibb’s enquiry into the problems at Southern, called for a driver recruitment program to reduce reliance on overtime.
  • The academy will be led by the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and the Institute of Rail Operators, the professional body.
  • Funding will be from the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
  • It is supported by the union; ASLEF.

It certainly sounds like a well-thought out plan, that should have happened some years ago.

A steady supply of well-trained drivers, might mean that certain train companies would change their method of working, to improve and increase services.


If you look at the Victoria Line on the London Underground, method of working called stepping-up is used.

The driver of a train arriving at Brixton or Walthamstow Central stations doesn’t change ends, as they would do on many commuter lines. Another driver gets into the other cab and drives the train to the other terminus, when everything is ready.

The first driver, then walks to the other end of the platform, takes a break and then gets ready to step-up for their next scheduled journey across London.

The process obviously works well, but it does mean that you need more drivers than trains.

Some of the intensive services proposed by new train operating companies will probably need more services will be operated in this or some similar way, which will mean more drivers.

Two Drivers On A Train

In Would It Be Better To Run Some Suburban Trains With Two Drivers?, I’ll admit I was speculating, but I did have an e-mail from a driver, who said it would certainly increase services on the route they worked, without needing any more trains.


I can’t see any drawback to this College for Train Drivers.


October 1, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Meridian Water Station – 27th September 2017

I took these pictures from the top deck of a 341 bus, as it passed the site of Meridian Water station.

It doesn’t look like it will be a small station.

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

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.


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 | , | 3 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.


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.


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?


  • 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