The Anonymous Widower

Why Can’t A Train Be More Like A Tram?

This is the title of a two-part article by Ian Walmsley in the May 2017 edition of Modern Railways.

Part 1 – How Hard Can It Be?

In the First Part, which is entitled How Hard Can It Be?, he contrasts tram operation with typical heavy rail operation.

He starts the First Part with this paragraph.

After a career in trains, I wish they could be more like trams, at least for the short-distance commuting market. Big windows, low-back seats, super-cool looking front ends, terrific acceleration and braking, all at half the price. Meanwhile commuter trains are bogged down with legislation, defensive driving and restrictive practice.

He also compares trams and heavy rail with the London Underground, which has the frequency and speed of a tram to get the needed capacity. This is another quote.

Heavy-rail’s answer to capacity is to take a few seats out or declassify a First Class compartment, going faster is too difficult.

These points are also made.

  • A turn-up-and-go frequency is made possible by a continuous stream of trams doing the same thing, uninterrupted by inter-city or freight intruders.
  • Frequent stops on a tram mean rapid acceleration is essential, so a high proportion of axles must be motored.
  • In many heavy rail services, the culture of caution has removed any urgency from the process.
  • Separation of light from heavy rail is essential for safety reasons.
  • Trams can take tight corners which helps system designers.
  • Trams save money by driving on sight.
  • Lots of safety regulations apply to heavy rail,but not trams.

He also uses a lot of pictures from the Bordeaux trams, which I wrote about in Bordeaux’s Trams. These trams run catenary-free in the City Centre.

High-Cacapity Cross-City Heavy Rail Lines

It is interesting to note that cross-city heavy rail lines are getting to the following ideals.

  • High frequency of upwards of sixteen trains per hour (tph).
  • High-capacity trains
  • Heavy-rail standards of train and safety.
  • Slightly lower levels of passenger comfort.
  • Step-free access.
  • Several stops in the City Centre.
  • Interchange with trams, metros and other heavy rail services.
  • Separation from freight services.
  • Separation from most inter-city services.

Have the best features of a tram line been added to heavy rail?

Worldwide, these lines include.

There are obviously others.

Crossrail with up to 30 tph, platform edge doors, fast stopping and accelerating Class 345 trains, and links to several main lines from London could become the world standard for this type of heavy rail link.

30 tph would be considered average for the London Underground and modern signalling improvements and faster stopping trains, will raise frequencies on these cross-city lines.

All of these lines have central tunnels, but this isn’t a prerequisite.

Manchester is achieving the same objective of a high-capacity cross-city rail link with the Ordsall Chord.

Part 2 – Tram-Train, Are You Sure You Really Wnt |To Do This?,

In the Second Part, which is entitled  Tram-Train, Are You Sure You Really Wnt |To Do This?,

Ian starts the Second Part with this paragraph.

Anyone with a professional interest in public transport must have been to Karlsruhe in Germany, or at least heard of it.

He then wittily describes an encounter with the diesel tram-train in Nordhausen, which I shall be visiting within a week or so.

He was not impressed!

I like the concept of a tram-train, where the same rail vehicle starts out in the suburbs or the next town as a train, goes through the City Centre as a tram and then goes to a destination on the other side of the city.

But you could also argue that Merseyrail’s Northern Line and London Underground’s Piccadilly and Central Lines achieve the same purpose, by running at all times as a rail line, with the centre section in a tunnel under the City.

The Sheffield Tram-Train Project

Ian then goes on to talk about the Sheffield Tram-Train Project. He says this about the route extension from Meadowhall to Rotherham.

This route extension runs just over three miles and after a series of delays, it will not open until 2018, 10 years, after the first proposal, six after the scheme approval. The cost is £58million. That’s 21 million Rotherham – Meadowhall single fares, for which the existing journey time is six minutes. Bargain.

He also says that because Nick Clegg was a Sheffield MP, the project should stay in Sheffield.

I will add some observations of my own on the Sheffield -Rotherham tram-train.

  • The Class 399 tram-train is a variant of the tram-trains used in Karlsruhe – Good
  • The route, doesn’t connect to Sheffield station – Bad
  • The frequency is only a miserly three tph – Bad
  • The route is too short – Bad

Hopefully, the bad points don’t result in a system that nobody wants.

The Expert View Of Rotherham’s Problems

There is an article in the Yorkshire Post, which is entitled Rotherham could get new rail station, which gives detail from a consutant’s report of how to improve services in the town.

  • Rotherham Parkgate station should be developed as an inter-regional station, at a cost of up to £53.2 million
  • Rotherham Central station would be be more about local services.
  • Rotherham should have one tph to Leeds and Manchester, three tph  to Doncaster and six tph to Sheffield.

The consultant’s estimate was that this investment could benefit the area by up to £100million.

Ian’s Conclusion

Ian says this and I am coming to agree with him.

I, like many others, have been a fan of tram-train, but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The more I think about it, the more I think trams and trains have their place and mixing them up is fraught with problems.

As I said earlier, I’m off to Karlsruhe ad I’ll see how they’re getting on with the enormous hole in their budget; the new tunnel on the Karleruhe Stadtbahn.

Imagine building a cut-and-cover down Oxford Street in London.

Train Like A Tram

Ian finishes with two further sections, the first of which is Train Like A Tram.

He says this.

Heavy rail needs to recaspture a sense of urgency and realise that more speed = more trains = more capacity. Risk analysis should allow the use of low-back seats and plastics; based on the lower average speeds. All axles need to be motored for tram-like acceleration and lots of regenerative braking.

I agree with what he says, but I’m surprised that he doesn’t mention Zwickau.

In that German town, an extension was built from the Hauptbahnhof to a new station in the town centre. I wrote about Zwickau’s unique system in Riding The Vogtlandbahn 

Standard two-car diesel multiple units, run alongside Zwickau’s trams on a dedicated route according to similar operational rules on the three kilometre route.

Surely, there is scope to do this in the UK, on existing and new branch lines or spurs.

  • The route must be short.
  • All stops would be built like tram stops.
  • Trains would be independently-powered by diesel, battery or fuel cell.
  • Signalling would be heavy-rail.

In my view this sort of system would be ideal for serving Glasgow, Leeds-Bradford and Liverpool Airports, where off main line running would be done across open country that could be appropriately fenced.

Tram Like A Train

Ian finishes his final section, where he talks about the likelihood of more tram-train systems following Sheffield, with this.

I suspect that the number of follow-on vehicles in the foreseeable future will be about the same as the number of battery EMUs based on the last research trial. 

Don’t feel too bad though; do we really want the national rail system full of 50 mph-limited trams?

I feel that Ian and myself would have different views about battery EMUs.

What Do You Do With A Problem Like Rotherham?

I mentioned a consultant’s report earlier and the easiest way to get their recommended frequency of trains through Rotherham would be to expand the electrification network, by wiring the following lines.

  • Sheffield to Doncaster
  • Leeds to Colton Junction
  • Leeds to Selby
  • Fitzwilliam to Sheffield

As some of these lines were built or rebuilt recently for the Selby Coalfield, I suspect electrification would be starting from decent documentatyion.

Until the electrification is complete Class 319 Flex trains could work the routes.




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

Could A Class 172 Train Run As A Tram?

I am using a Class 172 train as an example, but it could equally well be any two or three-car train capable of running on the UK network.

This Class 172 train on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is probably only a tiny bit bigger than your bog-standard modern tram, that you’re starting to see all over the UK. This train is.

  • Modern
  • Diesel-powered.
  • Two cars.
  • Good passenger access.
  • The driver has good visibility.

But it could be better, if a train like this was to be built today.

Consider what an ideal rail line for a train of this type, perhaps to run between Saxmundham and Aldeburgh would look like.

  • Only one train would be allowed on the line at any one time.
  • Freight trans to Sizewell would be allowed under very strict rules.
  • Slow speed limit.
  • Single or double track.
  • Clear colour light signalling, that every passenger understands.
  • Platform-train access would be step-free.
  • Step-free ramp access to the platforms.
  • Passengers can walk across the tracks.

Imagine how Ipswich to Aldeburgh service would work.

  • The train would run to Saxmundham under normal rail rules.
  • From Saxmundham to Aldeburgh and back, the train would proceed at a slow tram-like speed, with the driver keeping an extra vigilant look out
  • Once back at Saxmundham, the train would return to Ipswich.

I can’t see why, it wouldn’t work on lots of branch lines.

It would of course be better with an electric train, so could we see a dual-voltage 25 KVAC/1500 VDC three car train, that could use tram style electrification on the tram-style section?

But it is effectively a small train, that can just run slowly like a tram.

The Class 172 train would do the job, but it would be better if it was a modern version

Something like Stadler’s train with the engine in the middle might do it.

Looks like a tram! Goes like a tram! o it must be a tram! Wrong! It’s a train!

Our small and sometimes annoying loading gauge has its advantages.

Who needs a specialist tram-train?


March 9, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Tram 18, Where Are You?

This article in Rail echnology Magazine is entitled Midland Metro tram shipped to Spain for battery fit-out ahead of OLE-free operation.

It describe how Tram 18 is on its way to Zaragoza to be fitted with lithium-ion batteries, so that the UK’s first battery tram can start running in 2019, after the track is laid to Victoria Square in Birmingham and the railway station in Wolverhampton.

February 15, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring The Route Of The Midland Metro Extension To Victoria Square

The extensions at both ends of the Midland Metro in Birmingham and Wolverhampton City Centres will be a first for the UK, in that they will be catenary-free and the trams will run on battery power.

This Google Map shows the area, where the initial extension will go in Birmingham City Centre.


Places of interest are.

  • The cathedral is in the North-East corner.
  • New Street station is in the South-East corner.
  • Victoria Square and the Town Hall are just to the East of the middle.
  • Centenary Square is towards the West side.

This description comes from this page on the Metro Alliance web site.

840m of twin track from Birmingham Grand Central at Stephenson Street, up Pinfold Street through Victoria Square, Paradise St, past Paradise Circus into Centenary Square at Broad St.There will be an intermediate stop outside the Town Hall in Victoria Square, and we will interface with the Navigation Street link.

One of the problems at the moment, is that the development of Paradise Birmingham, seems to sit in the middle of the route.

These pictures show the area of Victoria Square and the route up from New Street station.


  • The steep hill of Pinfold Street.
  • The route seemed to have been prepared ready for the track to be fitted into the road surface.
  • Utilities seemed to have been moved.
  • When I took the pictures, the Midland Metro had parked a tram at the limit of the current track at the bottom of Pinfold Street.

Climbing The Hill

You can’t accuse Birmingham of lacking ambition, as Pinfold Street is a proper hill.

But then!

  • It is the only steep hill on the route to Centenary Square.
  • The tram will start the ascent with full batteries.
  • There will be no problems coming down.
  • This extension is only 840 metres in length.
  • The MetroCentro in Seville has used similar technology on a 1.4 km. route since 2007.
  • CAF have technology that charges batteries fast.
  • Battery technology has moved on in the last ten years.

If in practice, it does prove a difficult climb, overhead wires could be put on sufficient of the lower part of the up-track on Pinfold Street.

These wires wouldn’t be visible from Victoria Square, so wouldn’t effect the architectural integrity pf the area.

Onward to Edgbaston

According to this article in Rail Technology Magazine, the further four kilometre extension to Egbaston, is also intended to be catenary-free.

As the trams could be charged at Edgbaston, I think this could be possible.

But I doubt CAF would propose the use of batteries, if they hadn’t already proven the range, which is not outrageous.

The Next Step

I looked at a lot of the route of the first section to Victoria Square today, and it would appear that the roadway has been prepared for fitting the track.

So could we see an accelerated development of the first part of the extension?

It would be a good test of the technology, with little risk to the Midland Metrolink!

If the trams can’t make the hill on baqtteries, it would need to be wired, but you could always blame Spanish engineering.


It is a very well-designed scheme.

I wonder, if we’ll see Edinburgh batteries on their CAF trams?




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

The Cost Of Tram Batteries

This article in Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Midland Metro tram shipped to Spain for battery fit-out ahead of OLE-free operation.

One Midland Metro tram has been sent back to the factory in Zaragoza to be fitted with two roof-mounted lithium-ion cells and after testing it will be returned to the West Midlands in the Autumn, where more testing will be performed, prior to starting running on the catenary-free streets of Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

After a successful completion of testing on the first tram, the other twenty trams will be converted.

This is said in the article about costs.

The total cost to the WMCA of fitting out the fleet will be £15.5m, but the authority says that it will save £9.24m on infrastructure costs on the first four extensions to the Metro network alone, with further infrastructure savings planned as future extensions take place.

So the savings can go a long way to help pay for the trams to run on the four extensions.

The cost of the modifications to each tram is £738,000, but if the infrastructure savings are factored in, the modifications cost just £298,000 per tram.

I also wonder if the layout of the Midland Metro, with a fairly long wired central section and a catenary-free section at either end is ideal for battery operation, as the trams will have a long section to fully charge the batteries.

But it looks like trams will reach Victoria Square and Wolverhampton station in 2019, Edgbaston in 2021 and the Eastside extension to Curzon Street will be completed in 2023.

Perhaps, the most interesting section in the article is this paragraph.

The WMCA is also evaluating a proposed Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension to identify the viability of catenary-free sections.

Could this mean that the South Staffordshire Line, which will be used for the extension will be without catenary? As the tram does small detours into Dudley and at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, then these sections could be wired to charge the batteries, leaving the South Staffordshire Line without any wires. I estimate that the distance the tram would travel would be about seven miles each way.

As Network Rail want to run both trams and freight trains on the South Staffordshire Line, this might allow both to share an unelectrified line, if they have the right wheel and track profiles.

There certainly seems to be some very innovative ideas around, when it comes to using trains and trams in City Centres.



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

Were The New Merseyrail Trains Designed In A South London Pub?

In Thoughts On Merseyrail’s New Trains, I postulated that the new Stadler trains could work as trams on appropriate infrastructure.

I looked at the pictures in The Design Of Tram Or Tram-Train Stations, which I wrote in March 2015 and came to the conclusion, that Merseyrail’s new trains might be able to run on the London Tramlink with some modifications.

  • The ability to run on 750 V DC overhead electrification.
  • Precise adjustment to the platform height.
  • Tram lights and signalling to make the vehicles comply with regulations.

So why do I say that the new Merseyrail trains were designed in a London Pub?

  • Both Merseyrail and South London have networks with third-rail electrification.
  • Merseyrail need a train to match their tunnels and platform heights, which are sized to the current Class 508 trains.
  • South London has the London Tramlink, which runs Stadler Variobahn trams.
  • The London Tramlink has strange infrastructure between Birkbeck and Beckham Junction stops, which could be improved if trams and trains could share lines and platforms.
  • The London Tramlink would like to extend to Bromley South station.
  • Merseyrail have been talking about running a tram-train to Liverpool Airport.
  • Stadler have experience of trams, trains and the very special experience of Zwickau, where Stadler DMUs share tracks with electric trams.
  • Stadler builds the tram-trains for Karlsruhe, Chemnitz and Sheffield.
  • Karlsruhe has a problem of two different sized tram-trains, which has been solved, by clever design of the vehicles and the platforms.
  • Every Stadler train seems to be different, with different car dimensions to fit the customers tracks and different power systems to give them the required performance.

I think that a Stadler engineer or perhaps more came over to look at both London and Liverpool’s problems and after riding round South London, they ended up in a local hostelry and lots of alcohol was added to the mix to see what would happen.

The result was a concept, which I think of as a train-tram with the following features.

  • The ability to run as a speedy commuter EMU train on either 750 VDC third-rail, 750 VDC overhead   or 25 kVAC overhead electrification.
  • The ability to run as a tram on 750 VDC overhead electrification.
  • The ability to run on energy stored in an onboard energy storage device.
  • It could be built to fit any of the tram gauges and platform sizes in the UK and quite a few around the world.
  • Level access to the vehicle from platforms of the correct height at all times.
  • Signalling would either be using traditional signals or in-cab displays. The second would be preferable, as it could display the same format at all times.
  • The ability to run the Glasgow Airport Rail Link, in a city where Stadler are providing trains for the Subway.
  • The ability to run on the other tram lines in the UK, if the vehicle were to be built to the correct size.
  • The ability to run on standard heavy rail infrastructure.

If you see the Zwickau DMU in a train station, you think it’s a train, if you see it at the stops in the centre of Zwickau, you think it’s a tram.

Get the dimensions and the look of the vehicle right and no passengers will bother that it’s a train, when running in tram mode.

The big advantages come with certification.

  • As it’s a train, certification for heavy rail and lines without electrification is the same for any new train.
  • Adding the vehicles to a tram network, would be like adding any new tram type to any existing tram network.

Merseyrail have got in first with an order, but I wouldn’t rule out something similar used to extend the London Tramlink or vehicles for the Glasgow Airport Rail Link.

Where could you run a train-tram with onboard energy storage on London’s third-rail network?

  • Extend Ttranlink from Beckenham Junction to Bromley South
  • Abbey Wood to Thamesmead
  • Grove Park to Bromley South via Bromley North and Bromley town centre.
  • Greenehithe to Bluewater.
  • Chessington South to Chessington World of Adventure.

These are just for starters.

I also didn’t include short branch lines and routes without electrification, but close to 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

December 20, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

How Can We Deal With Air Pollution In The UK?

This article on the BBC is entitled Green group wins air pollution court battle.

This is the start of the article.

Campaigners have won the latest battle in legal action against the UK Government over levels of air pollution.

A judge at the High Court in London ruled in favour of environmental lawyers ClientEarth.

The group called air pollution a “public health crisis” and said the government has failed to tackle it.

The ruling in the judicial review called the government’s plan “woefully inadequate”.

As my mate Brian would have said, the \government has been screwed, glued and tattooed, by the Judge.

Does Pollution Affect Me?

I feel very strongly about this, as in the 1940s and 1950s, I suffered badly from the pollution of the time.

Now pollution levels are cutting out the vitamin D producing UVB rays of the sun. Could this be the rason for my low vitamin D levels?

No Magic Bullet

So what can the Government do to meet the European Emission Standards?

There is no magic bullet, but I believe that a raft of measures can gradually bring the levels of pollution down.

Reduction Of All Road Transport

One of London’s problems is that the amount of traffic in the city, means that a lot of the vehicles are stationery and just causing pollution.

I suspect this is a problem in many other cities.

So measures must be taken to reduce the level of all traffic.

  • London needs more Park-and-Ride sites. Do other cities?
  • Differential congestion charging and residents parking, so the polluter pays.
  • More cycling superhighways to encourage cycling.
  • City centre parking must be taxed, with the money funding public transport.
  • Aggressive illegal parking control.
  • Automatic box junction enforcement.
  • 20 mph speed limit to make walking easier.
  • Area average speed control.
  • Reduction of the number of taxis and mini-cabs.

I particularly like the concept of having a grid of linked speed cameras in a city and then issuing a ticket automatically, if the limit is exceeded between two cameras.

Reduction Of Diesel-Powered Transport

As nitrogen dioxide from diesels is the main source of the pollution, we should aim to eliminate as many diesel-powered vehicles, as is practical.

  • Reduction of diesel vehicles will need legislation, probably backed up with government money.
  • Buses, taxis and local delivery vehicles will need to be hybrid or electric.
  • There must be progressive bans for diesel vehicles not meeting the latest standards.
  • Diesel scrapping schemes have been introduced in certain places.

I particularly like the idea, where in an experiment involving Sainsburys, supplies for the supermarkets were delivered by train into Euston at three in the morning and then delivered around Central London by low-emission vehicles.

Increase In Electrically-Powered Transport

This is the key to reducing a lot of pollution in cities.

  • Electric and hybrid vehicles.
  • Trams to replace buses.
  • Development of electric rail lines.
  • More cross-city rail lines like Crossrail 2 and the Camp Hill Line.

I also think we’ll see some innovative solutions, like the PRT system, I wrote about in A Visit To Heathrow Terminal 5.

The problem of improving transport systems is well-illustrated in Chelsea, where some selfish locals don’t want Crossrail 2, as it might hinder them driving their tractors.

More Details

I shall now expand a few of those topics and add a few more ideas.

They are in alphabetical order.

Battery Trains

Battery trains are an alternative to full electrification, where one or both ends of the line to be electrified, already have electrification.

The Greenford Branch is an obvious possibility.

  • The line is only 4.3 km. long.
  • The bay platform at West Ealing station could be easily electrified to charge the trains.
  • Either a new train or a refurbished one with batteries could work the line.
  • Two trains would be needed to run the promised four trains per hour service.
  • Little new infrastructure would be needed.

I believe that battery trains are an affordable alternative to full electrification.

Battery Trams

Battery trams are being introduced into Birmingham to extend the Midland Metro. This article in the Railway Gazette, which is entitled Midland Metro trams to be converted for catenary-free operation, gives full details.

  • The only construction required is to lay the rails, build the stops and install the signalling.
  • Putting up overhead wires in a historic or sensitive city centre can be a legal and logistical nightmare and very expensive.
  • Battery trams work in Seville and Nanjing.
  • Trams charge the battery at either a charging station or when running under wires outside of the centre.

I can see a time, when in city centres, most trams will be battery-powered.

It will be interesting to see how Brummies take to their battery trams.

Connectivity Improvements

Compare arriving in Birmingham New Street and Euston stations, needing to go a few miles to say Centenary or Trafalgar Squares respectively.

At Euston, you go to the nearest bus stop, look up the spider map with all the destinations from Euston and it tells you how to get to about a hundred locations. Job done!

But in Birmingham, the brand new station doesn’t have that information on display in an easy-to-understand form.

Birmingham isn’t too bad and is certainly better than Manchester, but why can’t cities copy the London system.

You may get to these places easily, but the connecting and ticketing arrangements, tell you to bring your car next time.

Contactless Bank Card Ticketing

London now allows anybody to use their contactless bank card, as a ticket on all modes of public transport.

I don’t have the figures, but I believe that every time a new feature is added, like the new Bus Hopper, there is an increase in public transport usage.

After London’s experiences, I have no doubt, that contactless bank card ticketing increases the use of public transport and removes traffic from the roads.

Introducing contactless bank card ticketing, should be a condition of Central Government finance for public transport projects.

But every city in the world will introduce this form of ticketing!

Not doing it, will make sure visitors don’t come back and tell their friends what a crap place they’ve visited.

Cross-City Railways And Trams

A lot of cities and conurbations have a lot more traffic and the resulting pollution, as getting from one side of the city to the other is not easy, without driving through the city centre.

As an example, Crossrail will improve access to Heathrow from East and South-East London, where the alternative is a drive round the M25 or through the city centre, on congested roads. But Crossrail is only one of many successful cross-city routes in the UK.

  • The Central, District, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines of the London Underground.
  • The East, North and West London Lines and the Gospel Oak to Barking Line of the London Overground.
  • Thameslink in London
  • The Northern Line in Liverpool.
  • The Cross-City Line and Snow Hill Lines in Birmingham
  • The East and West Coastway Lines in Brighton.
  • The Metro in Newcastle.
  • The Nottingham Express Transit in Nottingham.
  • The Valley Lines in Cardiff

All of these lines are well-used and there are plans to upgrade those, not to the standard of the London Overground.

Efficient Deliveries

If I have my window open, I can sometimes hear several delivery trucks call at my various neighbours in a short period of time.

This is not efficient and surely something better can be done.

I was once offered delivery of a small parcel to my Local Sainsburys, which is about a hundred metres away.

Organised properly with enough drop points, that must be more efficient and convenient.

This is one we don’t need to worry about, as the big shopping groups will make it happen as they go for greater sales and more profits.


Park-and-Ride is a good way of keeping, passenger cars away from City Centres.

Nottingham may be a lot smaller than London, but it is a city that has designed the Nottingham Express Transit with several Park-and-Ride sites, at the edges of the city.

Compare that with the non-existent Park-and-Ride provision on Crossrail, which I wrote about in Crossrail’s Park-And-Ride Facilities.

Railway Electrification

Electrification of rail routes across cities and replacing diesel trains with electric ones, is always an option to cut pollution.


  • London is currently electrifying the Gospel Oak to Barking Line and this will also allow noisy and polluting Class 66 diesel locomotives to replaced with electric ones on freight trains on this route.
  • Lines in Liverpool and Birmingham are also being electrified.
  • Electric trains also seem to be passenger magnets as the Class 378 trains of the London Overground have shown.

But remember, that every passenger on an electric train, can’t be using their car and is rteducing their pollution footprint.

Rewards For Going Car-Free

I have met several people recently, who have given up owning a car in Central London.

So could those, who don’t bring their car into the congested area, receive some form of reward.








November 2, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Manchester Metrolink Will Be Going To The Trafford Centre

According to this article on Global Rail News, the Manchester Metrolink has been given permission and funding to build the Trafford Park Line.

This is a map of the line.

Trafford Park Line

Trafford Park Line

It calls at these stops.


This Google Map shows Pomona tram stop.

Pmona Tram Stop

Pmona Tram Stop

The stop is at the far right and the rightmost bridge carries the tram over the water.

This second Google Map shows Note how the stop has been built to allow a junction with the Trafford Park Line.

Pomona Tram Stop In Detail

Pomona Tram Stop In Detail

The Trafford Park Line appears to continue along the edge of the water.


This Google Map shopws the location of the Wharfside tram stop close to Old Trafford.

Wharfside Tram Stop

Wharfside Tram Stop

It is on Trafford Park Road, probably between the water and the Premier Inn.

Note Old Trafford in the bottom-left corner.

Imperial War Museum

ThisGoogle Map shows the route between Wharfside and the Imperial War Museum tram stop.

Imperial War Museum Tram Stop

Imperial War Museum Tram Stop

The stop appears to be on Trafford Park Road, by the footbridge at the top of the map..


This Google Map shows the route between the Imperial War Museum and the Village tram stop.

Village Tram Stop

Village Tram Stop

The Imperial War Museum is at the top of the map and the Village tram stop will be on the road leading .West from the rpundabout at the bottom.


This Google Map shows the route between Village and the Parkway tram stop.

Parkway Tram Stop

Parkway Tram Stop

The Parkway stop is in towards the Southern side of Parkway Circle, which is the circle at the top towards the left.

Village tram stop is to the West of the other circle and the tram line goes along Village Way to Parkway Circle before going South West.

A Park-and-Ride could be built at this stop.


This Google Map shows the route from Parkway to the Trafford Centre.

From Parkway To The Trafford Centre

From Parkway To The Trafford Centre

The EventCity tram stop is I suspect by EventCity, which is the big building in the centre of the map.

Trafford Centre

Finally, according to current plans the tram goes on to the Trafford Centre stop.

On To Trafford Waters

This article in the Manchester Evening News is entitled Huge £1bn Trafford Waters development on banks of Manchester Ship Canal given go-ahead.

This Google Map includes Trafford Waters, which is between the Trafford Centre and Manchester Ship Canal.

Trafford Waters

Trafford Waters

According to Wikipedia there will be a Trafford quays tram stop, to serve the new development.

Finally To Salford Reds And Port Salford

These two final tram stops; Salford Reds and Port Salford are named on Wikipedia..

This Google Map shows the location of these two stops.

Salford Reds And Port Salford Tram Stops

Salford Reds And Port Salford Tram Stops

Salford Reds is on the North Bank of the Manchester Ship Canal, to the West of the M6 Motorway.

Fort Salford is a freight terminal on the banks of the canal.

This is said on the FAQ page of Port Salford web site in answer to the question What are the plans to bring Metrolink to Port Salford?

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) who manage the Metrolink infrastructure, aspire to build a new Metrolink line to the AJ Bell stadium and potentially beyond to Port Salford, via Trafford Park and Trafford Centre. Therefore, the new dual carriageway and lift-bridge have been future proofed to eventually accommodate a Metrolink tram line.

That certainly gives one way for the Trafford Park Line to cross the Manchester Ship Canal.

Western Gateway Infrastructure Scheme

The Western Gateway Infrastructure Scheme is designed to bring better connectivity between Port Salford on the North side of the Manchester Ship Canal and Trafford and Trafford Park on the other side. Wikpedia says this.

As part of the Western Gateway Infrastructure Scheme (WGIS), a new link road was constructed in connection with the Port. The existing A57 road was redirected closer to the Salford City Stadium, and a mile-long new dual carriageway link to Trafford Way and a new lift bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal was constructed to the east of the M60 bridge.

This video shows more.

But all is not going well as this report from the Manchester Evening News shows.



These are my thoughts on what has been published.

  • There is a lot of development going on along the Manchester Ship Canal.
  • There will probably have to be at least one tram crossing of the Manchester Ship Canal between Trafford Centre and Port Salford.
  • The design of the tram route hasn’t be finalised yet and changes can be expected.

I am also surprised that the rail link from the North into Port Salford doesn’t include a rail station.

This would allow travellers from the West to have access to the Trafford Park Line, without going all the way to Manchester Piccadilly.

If you look around the UK and Europe, it is probably important that there is a good interface between the tram network and trains, cars and bicycles.

Manchester Metrolink has some good interchanges to rail, but it needs more.

For completeness this Google Map shows Trafford Park from Port Salford in the West to Pomona in the East.


The waterway curving across the map is the Manchester Ship Canal.

Both Port Salford and Pomona are at the edges of the map.


It’ll be interesting to see how this project develops.

Developments on the Trafford Park Line can now be followed on the line’s own Wikipedia entry.








October 19, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 7 Comments

Something Must Be Done About Cambridge Station

Cambridge station used to be an easy station to use, in that, when you arrived, you either got a taxi from outside the station or walked across the road to get a bus to the centre.

Since the dreaded busway has been built, the buses are about as well-organised as the Labour Party, with information designed to confuse visitors.

Yesterday, it was particularly bad, when I decided to pop in to the City to have a coffee with a friend, on my way to football at Ipswich. There wasn’t a bus in sight and the queue for the taxis was totally blocking pedestrians wanting to get out of the station.

In fact, I took about five minutes to actually get off the platform as it was so busy.

In the end, I walked into the City Centre.

Getting back, I was running late, so I decided to take a bus. But could I find one? No!

So in the end, I took a taxi, which had to take a very roundabout route. Getting into the station was just as bad as getting out had been, but I caught my train with a couple of minutes to spare.

The train is the big improvement on the line between Cambridge and Ipswich.

In 2010, this was a typical train on the route.

Gerald Fiennes and Delia Smith at Dullingham

Gerald Fiennes and Delia Smith at Dullingham

At least that day, it was two Class 153 trains, when often it was just one crowded carriage.

Yesterday, the train was a comfortable three-car Class 170 train.

The First Ipswich-Cambridge Class 170 at Cambridge

The First Ipswich-Cambridge Class 170 at Cambridge

This is a lot better and with the new franchise in October, I think it could be signalled, as getting better again.

But all of this increase in capacity, is straining Cambridge station even further.

At present, the problems at Cambridge seem to be caused by too many people going in different directions, whose routes seem to conflict with each other. Many of these are first time visitors and foreign topurists, who just wander aimlessly around, causing even more conflict.

Cambridge North station, when it eventually opens, might help, as many will cycle and drive to the new station. It will also make it a lot easy to get to the North of the City.

I think, that if most Cambridge trains serve both stations in the future, I’ll go to Cambridge North and get a bus into the City Centre to avoid the scrum at Cambridge station, which I’m sure will get worse, as more and more trains are scheduled between London and Cambridge. At least Thameslink have decided to go to Cambridge North.

One of the problems is that Cambridge station is on a cramped site, which is not an easy walk to the City Centre for the average visitor.

Cambridge Station

Cambridge Station

The walking route to the centre is along Station Road and then Hills Road, where the payments are crowded and not very wide.

It is my view that something radical needs to be done.

But Cambridge’s problem is not unique and getting from the station to the town or city centre is a problem in many places like Bristol, Leicester, Norwich and Oxford to name just four. Nottinghamd Sheffield have used trams to solve the problem, but I don’t think that woiuld work for everyone, as the disruption of building would be just too much.


So what would I do at Cambridge?


It must be a nightmare living on the South-East side of the station opposite to the main station buildings. An entrance on the other side of the station would surely help.

If you take Euston, Kings Cross, Liverpool Lime Street, Sheffield and a few other stations, the area in front of the station has been turned into a public space, so that people can gather their thoughts and plan their next move. It would appear from the amount of building at Cambridge station, that this is now impossible.

I decent walking and cycling route to the centre must be created.


In the future, I feel that Cambridge probably needs an innovative Street Tram, as do many other places.

It would have the following characteristics.

  • It would be battery-powered and charged at each end of the route.
  • It would be double-ended, so it would just reverse at the end of the route.
  • It could be on rails or rubber tyres on a single-line segregated track.
  • The vehicle would have three or four segments to give a high capacity.
  • It doesn’t have to be single-deck vehicles.
  • Why not double-deck vehicles with panoramic windows for tourists?
  • It would be free.

If a passing loop could be built at half-way then the route could be run by two vehicles. Or in Cambridge’s case perhaps a different route could be used in each direction.

The nearest thing to what I have described is the 1.4 km long MetroCentro in Seville.

I would feel that a track-less solution based on bus-technology might be better, as in a congested City Centre ;like Cambridge the route could be flexible.

August 7, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

When Is A Train Not A Train?

Take a modern train, say something like a Class 172 DMU or a two-car version of say a Class 710 EMU.

The size and weight of these are very similar to that of one of Sheffield’s trams.

Many, if not all, trams in the UK run to a set of rules, which allow the following.

  • Running at up to 50 mph on a dedicated track, which can be either single or double track.
  • Running at slower speeds through City Centres and amongst pedestrians, as they do through Birmingham, Blackpool, Croydon, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield
  • Trams are driven, by a trained driver, who takes notice of everything and everybody around the tram.
  • Passengers can cross the track in designated places provided they keep a good look-out.
  • Passengers can only board a tram at a designated stop.
  • All rail vehicles run to the same rules.

The rules must work, as you don’t often hear of trams having accidents with pedestrians. In fact fourteen people have died in accidents with modern trams in the UK since 2000. The rate seems to have dropped in recent years, so are drivers getting better and pedestrians learning how to live with the trams?

I believe that in Zwickau in Germany, local trains, run on the tram tracks in the City Centre. There’s more on it under Vogtlandbahn in Wikipedia.

So could some branch lines be run according to tram rules, but using standard modern trains, like Class 172 or Class 710 trains?

In A First Visit To Clacton, I said this about the Walton-on-the-Naze branch of the Sunshine Coast Line.

I do wonder whether some branches like the short one to Walton-on-the Naze could be run to tram rules using on-board energy storage. It might enable stations to be built step-free without electrification, lifts and bridges, provided trains kept to a safe slow speed.

In an ideal system, the rules could be.

  • No electrification. Zwickau uses diesel vehicles, but ones using on-board energy storage would be ideal.
  • Trains do not exceed an appropriate slow speed. Zwickau uses 80 kph.
  • Step free access from platform to train.
  • All trains on the line run to the same rules.
  • No freight trains.

The advantages would be.

  • There is no electrification.
  • Signalling is standard railway signals and rules. Often routes would run under One Train Working, which is very safe and well proven.
  • Many routes could be built as single-track without points and like the Sudbury branch trains would go out and back.
  • DMUs would be exactly, the same as others of their type.
  • EMUs would be too, but would have on-board energy storage.
  • Extra stations could be added to the line, by just building platforms.
  • The line could perhaps be extended past its current terminus.

I must get to Zwickau and see how the Germans do it.

A few examples of lines that could run to these rules include.

Whether some of these would need it, is doubtful. Some though, like Sudbury and St.Ives, terminate as a single platform in a car park.

The Felixstowe Branch certainly couldn’t as it has lots of freight trains, although the final section, from where it branches off the line to Felixstowe Port could.

I said that no freight trains could run on the routes, but those devilish Germans have designed a freight tram that runs in Dresden to supply  the Volswagen factory in the city. It’s called a Cargo Tram.

Could this be a way of bringing freight into a City Centre? as I said in The LaMiLo Project, this type of thinking is in the minds of planners.



July 16, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments