The Anonymous Widower

Beeching Reversal – Light Railway Extension To The Barnstaple Branch (Chivenor Braunton) “TawLink”

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

This is an unusual project for two reasons.

  • It is based on light railway or tram technology.
  • The case for the extension is fully set out in the Taw Link web site.

None of the other projects, that I have documented have such a comprehensive statement of their case for acceptance.

The Introduction

This is taken from the home page of their web site.

Combe Rail CIO is proposing a modern, light railway between Barnstaple and Braunton. The North Devon Local Plan already urges the protection of former railway routes, to allow for future re-instatement. This former railway route is 98% intact, with sufficient width to accommodate a new single-track railway line alongside the Tarka Trail and South West Coast Path.

It’s now accepted that new and re-opened railways unlock economic growth. The success of the Borders Railway in Scotland is a spectacular example of this. The challenge of North Devon’s ever-growing population demands similar, forward-looking infrastructure planning.

Some of the other projects, that I have documented, could do with such a clear Statement of Intent.

The Route

This graphic from the Route page on web site shows the route.

And this Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. Braunton is in the North-West corner of the map.
  2. Barstaple is in the South-East corner of the map.
  3. The River Taw runs East-West across the map.
  4. The runways of the former RAF Chivenor, which is now a Royal Marine Base, can be found.

If you enlarge the map by clicking on it, many of the stations on the TawLink can be picked out.

This paragraph from the Route page describes the route.

Starting from Caen Street in Braunton, it will run tramway-style along Station Road, and then use the old railway formation all the way to the Civic Centre car park in Barnstaple. It will then street-run past the front of the former Town Station and along Castle Street to The Strand in the heart of Barnstaple. There are two options for crossing the river Taw – either to street-run along Long Bridge, or to share the proposed reinstated (former railway) bridge. The line will then street-run along Stickelpath Terrace to re-connect to the National Rail Network at Barnstaple (Mainline.) Intermediate stations will be provided at Velator, Wrafton (for Perrigo),  Chivenor (Business Park and The Landings), Ashford (Garden Centre and Braunton Inn) Pottington (Business Park) and Barnstaple Park-and-Ride (near the A39 downstream bridge – which could potentially have a huge catchment area.)

As the proposals for the Reinstatement Of The Bodmin-Wadebridge Railway, are doing, these proposals are replacing a walking and cycle path with a walking/cycling/single-track rail route.

This pair of South-West proposals could set an important design precedent, that can be applied in other places across the UK.

Are These Two Routes Substantially Level?

Thinking about this similar design, were the two original rail routes built as level as possible, so they are now easy walking and cycling routes?

I suspect, that there’s only a couple of metres difference between the two ends of this route at Barnstaple. So it could be the case here!

If thar is the case, it would mean that less energy would be needed to travel the route!

The Trams

This paragraph from the Trams page on the web site describes the trams.

This will be a modern community- and commuter railway, which will run throughout the year. Its scenic location will also make it highly attractive to tourists. It will use lightweight, battery-electric vehicles – like traditional trams, but without the overhead wires – capable of running safely on-road, and quickly off-road. These vehicles are environmentally-friendly, and very quiet. Visually, and in terms of infrastructure, the railway will be low-impact.

I have liked the concept of coastal trams, even since I rode in the one along the Belgian coast, which I wrote about in Riding The Coast Tram.

A Level Route Would Be Beneficial

If I am right about the level nature of the route, this would mean smaller and lighter batteries would be needed to power the trams.

Through-Running

I suspect through-running would not be possible, unless the Tarka Line between Exeter and Barnstaple is electrified, as it is a rather challenging route for a light rail vehicle.

The vehicles also don’t probably have enough capacity, for what can be a busy route in the Peak.

Conclusion

I like this proposal and I have a feeling it will be imitated in the future.

 

 

 

August 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts On Very Light Rail

The article on Railway Gazette International, which is entitled Very Light Rail Research On Track, a list of thirty-five rail lines, that could use the technology are given.

These are some of my thoughts.

Multiple Working

These are some examples of branch lines, where very light rail my be used.

  • Cromer  to Sheringham – 226,000
  • Liskeard to Looe – 118,000
  • St Erth to St Ives – 750,000
  • Twyford to Henley-on-Thames – 771,000
  • Maidenhead to Marlow – 300,000
  • Slough to Windsor & Eton Central – 2,024,000
  • Watford to St Albans Abbey – 167,000

Note.

  1. The first station is on the main line and the second is the terminus of the branch line.
  2. The figure is the number of passengers, who used the terminal station in 2018-2019

The numbers have quite a range and I’m sure that a single eighteen metre vehicle carrying 56 seated and 60 standing passengers, will not be big enough, even if it runs at a frequency of four trains per hour (tph) on some routes.

 

So I am convinced that the vehicles must be able to work in multiple.

One picture on this page on the Transport Design International web site, shows the vehicle with a coupler.

Increasing Passenger Numbers, Festivals And Sporting Events

Forecasting passenger numbers on a new rail service, is a very inexact science. I talk about London Overground Syndrome, which seems to occur regularly.

There are also the problems of festivals and sporting events of various kinds, where perhaps for a week or so traffic is much higher.

Extra very light rail vehicles can be added to the trains as required or even drafted in at times of high demand.

Automatic Coupling And Uncoupling

They must also be able to couple and uncouple quickly and automatically, as needs vary throughout the day and to rescue a stranded unit.

Transit Mode

Suppose a large event, like say the Open Golf was taking place near a station with an inadequate train service and for the duration of the event, a dozen very light rail vehicles were to be running a shuttle to the nearest major rail hub.

A method must be developed to bring the vehicles to the event. I suspect Rail Operations Group, who are the experts in rolling stock movements would have a simple solution, perhaps by using a diesel locomotive to tow them to and from central warm storage.

It could probably be argued, that a capability to build temporary stations is needed.

Automation

These very light rail vehicles are prime candidates for automation.

I can envisage a lot of routes being run automatically, with the driver in a supervisory role, very much as the Victoria Line has been run since it opened in 1968.

  • At each station, when they had ascertained that the passengers had all left and boarded the train safely, they would close the doors and activate a control to start the vehicle.
  • It would then move to the next station and stop in the right place.
  • The doors would then be opened automatically or by action of the crew.

Dear old Vicky has been doing this for over fifty years!

I also think, that with automation and CCTV, a system could be devised, where the driver stays in one cab all the time.

This would speed up operations.

Procedures For Running On Shared Tracks With Freight, Private And Heritage Railways

These suggested routes for very light rail are either freight, private or heritage railways.

  • Bodmin Parkway to Bodmin General
  • Kidderminster to Stourport
  • Ashington to Blyth
  • Sheffield to Stocksbridge
  • Paignton to Brixham
  • Totton to Hythe

I’m sure procedures can be devised, so that all traffic can run safely.

 

February 3, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Economics Of Very Light Rail Between Cromer And Sheringham

In Very Light Rail Research On Track, I reviewed an article of the same name on Railway Gazzette International.

The article ,mentioned that the route between Cromer and Sheringham stations could be run by very light rail vehicles.

Very Light Rail Vehicles

Very Light Rail vehicles are defined as weighing less than a tonne per linear metre.

  • Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) found the most efficient propulsion system, was diesel-electric hybrid with battery storage. Was it nicked from an LEVC taxi?
  • An eighteen metre long vehicle will hold 56 seating and 60 standing passengers.
  • Will turn round times at the end of a shuttle route be reduced to perhaps two minutes as the driver only has to walk eighteen metres?
  • The article doesn’t give any speed estimates for very light rail vehicles. But I suspect 50-60 mph would be possible, as this is the operating speed of a Class 399 tram-train and very much the speed of typical single-decker buses.

If seated passengers weigh 90 kilograms with baggage, bikes and buggies and standing passengers perhaps 75 kilograms, this gives a vehicle weight of around 27.5 tonnes.

I estimate that a three-car Class 755 train, with the same passenger load would weigh around 108 tonnes or about 98 tonnes empty, which is about a tonne and a half per linear metre. A single-car Class 153 train is about 1.8 tonnes per linear metre.

Very light rail vehicles appear to be considerably lighter.

Cromer And Sheringham Line

This section of the Bittern Line can be considered a branch of the main section of the line, which links Norwich and Cromer stations.

  • It is single-track.
  • There is a simple cross-over outside Cromer station
  • It is just over 3.5 miles long.
  • Sheringham station is a single platform, that has recently been extended to take four-car Class 755 trains.
  • The only intermediate station is West Runton, which is a single platform.
  • Cromer station has two platforms.
  • Trains take eight minutes to go between Sheringham and Cromer stations.
  • The average speed of the train between Sheringham and Cromer is just 26 mph.
  • The maximum speed of the route is given in Wikipedia as 75 mph. As it is fairly straight it could probably be improved.

As four trains per hour (tph) between Cromer and Sheringham would take a total of 64 minutes, it would seem to be impossible to run such a schedule with current trains, given that the driver would have to change ends eight times in an hour.

Cromer Station

This Google Map shows the two-platform Cromer station.

Note the Northern platform, which is directly connected to the route to Sheringham.

A Split Service

Operation of a split service could be as follows.

  • A shuttle using the Northern platform 2 to Sheringham via West Runton.
  • A service to Norwich using the Southern platform 1.

I suspect to save signalling costs, that the Sheringham service could be run for most of the time under the principle of one-train on the line.

Could Four tph Run Between Cromer And Sheringham?

I suspect that a driver in running shoes could squeeze four tph out of a three-car Class 755 train.

Consider.

  • Three-car trains would save 160 metres of walking over four-car trains.
  • The Class 755 trains are designed for quick stops and have fast acceleration.
  • Versions of the trains are to be fitted with batteries.
  • Two crew working together with some automation might mean that the driver doesn’t have to change ends.
  • Three tph would be easier, as it would give more time for the driver to change ends.
  • Automation with the crew having an override could surely be used.

I don’t believe it would be impossible for a system of operation for this shuttle to be run using a Class 755 train.

Certainly, three tph is easier, but four tph is much more passenger friendly.

Could Two tph Run Between Cromer And Norwich?

Currently, trains take fifty-seven minutes between Norwich and Sheringham, which means that two tph would be very complicated, but not impossible.

Running the Cromer and Sheringham section independently, would mean that the time between Cromer and Norwich could be as low as forty-six minutes.

For a start, this means that a single train could work an hourly service between Cromer and Norwich.

It probable means that two trains could run a two tph service, provided that they could pass at a suitable place, where there are two tracks, as at North Walsham or to the South of Hoverton & Wroxham station.

Possible Service Patterns

I think the ideal service pattern would be something like this.

  • Two tph between Cromer and Norwich.
  • Three or four tph between Cromer and Sheringhan.

Currently, there is an hourly service along the whole route, which needs two trains to operate.

Two tph to and from Norwich and a shuttle would only need one extra train.

Savings With Very Light Rail

There are various ways cost savings can be made.

Cost Of The Vehicle

Leasing a single very light rail vehicle will be much less than leasing even an ancient one-car Class 153 train.

Obviously, for a reliable service, a spare will be needed, if a company had several routes that could be developed using very light rail, then the spare could be shared.

It looks like Greater Anglia are also thinking about other routes, so this may be an economic proposition.

One Train On Line Operation

Cromer and Sheringham could be run with a single train shuttling between the two stations and the points set, so that no other train could use the track.

This must surely reduce signalling costs.

Track Access Charges

Lighter trains have lower track access charges.

This could be a substantial saving, especially if there were four tph in both directions.

Cost Of New Infrastructure

Some routes that will be proposed for very light rail operation will need bridges and embankments to be built.

If the maximum weight of the vehicle is lower, this must surely reduce costs, as lighter structures could be used.

Fast Turnround Times

One of the limiting factors in providing frequent services over a short branch line is the time it takes to turn the train at each end of the route.

But in a very light rail vehicle, which is only eighteen metres long, the driver can probably change cabs in under two minutes, which is of the order of the time it takes to load and unload the train with passengers.

The only high frequency shuttle service over a short route in the UK is the one between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town stations.

  • The route is just 0.8 of a mile long.
  • It is served by Class 139 trains, which are just 8.7 metres long and can carry 20–25 seated, 30–35 standing passengers.
  • Trains run every ten minutes
  • The turnround time appears to be about two minutes

It is reputed to be the shortest operational branch line in Europe.

I can’t see why, that in a well-designed very light rail vehicle that is only twice the length of a Class 139 train, that the turnround time could not be the same time of two minutes.

It probably can’t be any shorter, in case several people turn up in wheel-chairs at the same time.

If we look at the Cromer and Sheringham route, I can see the following timing being possible for a well-designed shuttle train on the route.

  • Cromer to West Runton – two minutes
  • Stop at West Runton – one minute
  • West Runton to Sheringham – two minutes
  • Turnround at Sheringham – two minutes
  • Sherington to West Runton – two minutes
  • Stop at West Runton – one minute
  • West Runton to Cromer – – two minutes
  • Turnround at Cromer – two minutes

Note.

  1. The round trip would take fourteen minutes.
  2. I have assumed that the train is running at around 50-60 mph.
  3. The West Runton stop could be by request.
  4. There is only one train on the route at all times.

The round trip could be scheduled at four tph.

It must surely be an affordable way to provide a service.

I would also do the following.

  • As at Stourbridge have a second train on standby, to guarantee a reliable service, rescue a failed train and perhaps double the capacity at busy times.
  • Services between Cromer and Sheringham would be free.
  • Cromer, West Runton and Sheringham would be part of a group called Cromer stations, like Birmingham stations and Manchester station. So to book to any of the stations, you’d buy a ticket to Cromer stations.

If the latter ideas didn’t attract passengers then nothing would.

Greater Anglia would get their revenue on the onward services from Cromer.

Could The Cromer And Sheringham Shuttle Be Extended To Holt?

If the train crosses the level crossing at Sheringham station, the track extends all the way to Holt on the North Norfolk Railway.

This Google Map shows the two stations at Sheringham on either side of the level crossing.

The National Rail station is on the East side, with the heritage railway on the West.

Some heritage railways are certified to be able to run scheduled services to and from the main rail network.

This may even be possible here, to allow a service between Cromer and Holt.

Although the North Norfolk Railway seem to run a frequent timetable, I’m sure if there was the necessary coming together, that a service that was beneficial to all parties could be arranged.

Conclusion

Very light rail could be very exciting!

February 2, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Very Light Rail Research On Track

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette International.

It details the progress on very light rail, which is defined as a vehicle with a weight of less than one tonne per linear metre.

It is a thorough article and very much a must-read.

It also details thirty-five rail routes in the UK and several cities, where the technology could be employed.

Some of the routes mentioned include, ones that I’ve covered on this blog, including.

  • Cromer – Sheringham – Part of Greater Anglia
  • Saxmundham – Aldeburgh – Part of Greater Anglia
  • Coventry – Nuneaton – Part of West Midlands
  • Liskeard – Looe – Part of Great Western
  • Plymouth – Tavistock – Part of Great Western
  • St Erth – St Ives – Part of Great Western
  • Henley-on-Thames – Twyford – Part of Great Western
  • Maidenhead – Marlow – Part of Great Western
  • Slough – Windsor & Eton Central – Part of Great Western
  • Truro – Falmouth- Part of Great Western
  • Watford – St Albans Abbey – Part of London Midland
  • Ashington – Blyth
  • Fleetwood – Poulton-le-Fylde

Note.

  1. On reading the full list, I wondered why Greenfood – West Ealing and Southall – Brentford weren’t included, but it’s probably because freight uses the lines.
  2. I particularly like the inclusion of Saxmundham – Aldeburgh and Watford Junction – St. Albans Abbey.

You can understand why the rail leasing company; Eversholt, has got involved, as they must see quite a few possible sales.

There is more information on the concept call Revolution on this page on the Transport Design International web site.

Some points that can be gleaned from this page.

  • One picture shows a coupler on the front of the vehicle. So can they work in multiple?
  • Vehicles will have low axle weights (around 4 tonnes),
  • Self-powered vehicles, with energy recovery and storage systems as standard,
  • Reduced infrastructure costs for installation, operation and maintenance.

The consortium is also aiming for a sub million pound price tag.

Conclusion

It is a bold plan, which is backed by some large companies and organisations with deep pockets.

 

 

 

January 31, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Was It Wrong To Cancel The Northern Heights Plan?

The Northern Heights Plan was a pre-Second World War project to extend the Northern Line  onto the steam-haled suburban lines of the London and North Eastern Railway.

This map from Wikipedia shows the Northern Heights routes North of Archway station.

Note.

  1. The branches would have been converted to electric operation.
  2. Terminals would be Alexandra Palace, Bushey Heath, Edgware and High Barnet.
  3. A new deep-level Highgate station would be created.

But the war broke out and the much-simplified layout, that we have today was opened during and after the war.

  • The extension to Bushey Heath didn’t fit in with post-war Green Belt plans, so was scrapped.
  • Traffic on the Alexandra Palace branch suffered badly through competition with the new electrified High Barnet branch, buses and cars.
  • Mill Hill East became the end of a single-track branch instead of a station on a double-track line between Finchley Central and Edgware.
  • Eventually the Alexandra Palace branch was turned into a Parkland Walk.

As a teenager cycling around the Barnet and Edgware area, you sometimes came across the remains of the network.

I particularly remember, the remains of a half-completed viaduct sitting by then A41 in Edgware.

Note the series of holes to the North East of the roundabout. These are the remains of the viaduct.

Green Lane at the bottom of the map, was the road where my Uncle Leslie and Auntie Gladys lived.

Intended Service Levels

Wikipedia has a section, which gives the Intended Service Levels.

The peak-hour service pattern was to be 21 trains an hour each way on the High Barnet branch north of Camden Town, 14 of them via the Charing Cross branch and seven via the Bank branch. 14 would have continued on beyond Finchley Central, seven each on the High Barnet and Edgware branches. An additional seven trains an hour would have served the High Barnet branch, but continued via Highgate High-Level and Finsbury Park to Moorgate, a slightly shorter route to the City. It does not seem to have been intended to run through trains to the ex-Northern City branch from Edgware via Finchley Central. Seven trains an hour would have served the Alexandra Palace branch, to/from Moorgate via Highgate High-Level. In addition to the 14 through trains described, the ex-Northern City branch would have had 14 four-car shuttle trains an hour.

As I read it, this surely means that the following services would have been run in the Peak.

  • Twenty-one trains per hour (tph) between Camden Town and Finchley Central, of which seven tph continued to each of Edgware and High Barnet, with presumably the other seven tph terminating at Finchley Central.
  • Of these twenty-one tph, fourteen would have used the Charing Cross Branch and seven would have used the Bank Branch.
  • Seven tph would have run from both Alexandra Palace and High Barnet via Highgate High-Level and Finsbury Park to Moorgate.
  • A fourteen tph shuttle on the Northern City Branch.
  • As it is not mentioned, should it be assumed, that an independent service with an appropriate frequency serves the Edgware Branch directly from Camden Town.

It looks to me that two aims of the service levels were to provide.

  • A 28 tph service from Moorgate to Finsbury Park.
  • A by-pass to the East of Camden Town.

It looks to have been a well-thought out plan.

My Recent Experiences

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had cause to visit the Northern Heights’ territory on a number of occasions.

Going to and from Central London, from areas like Barnet, Edgware and the Western parts of Enfield and Harringey has much improved since I lived in Cockfosters as a child.

  • Trains and Underground have a higher frequency.
  • Northern City services provided a  big improvement in the late 1970s.
  • Thameslink and Northern City will provide extra services in the next few years.
  • There appear to be more bus feeder services.
  • Modern ticketing is probably much more convenient and affordable.

Circular routes were the real problem, as I wrote about in The Cross Barnet And Enfield Express.

So would a full Northern Heights  Plan helped my journeys?

The Bushey Heath Branch

This Google Map shows where the Bushey Heath Branch would have run.

Note.

  1. Bushey Heath in the North West corner of the map.
  2. Centenial Park is on the site of the Aldenham Works, where the trains would have been stabled.
  3. Edgware station in the South East corner of the map.
  4. Stanmore station is also incorrectly shown with both rail and Underground logos.

The change of Green Belt policy probably did most to kill off the branch, but improvements in public transport and the growth of car ownership since the 1950s, have probably squashed any need for revival of the plan for the Bushey Heath Branch.

Finchley Central To Edgware Via Mill Hill East And Mill Hill (The Hale)

This short route was probably never completed, as after cancellation of the Bushey Heath Branch, it was an easy way to cut costs.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the route.

Note.

  • The sidings at Edgware station.
  • The closeness of Mill Hill (The Hale) station to Mill Hill Broadway station.

It could prove a useful link between the two branches.

From the service levels given earlier, it would appear that this route would have been served with seven tph, which is better than the current train every 11-15 minutes.

I doubt that the connection will ever be completed, but various plans  involving property development arise from time to time.

The Alexandra Palace Branch

As with the Finchley Central to Edware route, much of this route is still visible on Google Maps.

But housing and other developments probably mean that reinstatement is impossible.

As with the previous link, I doubt it will ever be completed.

A Very Light Rail Alternative

Perhaps the only transport system that might work would be a very light rail system, such as is used between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town stations.

 

 

 

February 23, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments