The Anonymous Widower

A Bid For The Return Of The Tweed Valley Railway Line Is At An Early Stage

The title of this post, is the same as that, of this article on the Southern Reporter.

This is the first paragraph.

A campaign for a multi-billion restoration of the Tweed Valley railway line is at an ’embryonic’ stage, a council committee has been informed.

The aim seems to be to take a restored Tweed Valley Line or Peebles Railway all the way to the Borders Railway at Galashiels station.

This map from Open Railway Map, shows the railway between Peebles and Innerleithen.

Note.

  1. The former Peebles Railway is shown as a dotted line.
  2. Peebles is in the North-West corner of the map.
  3. Innerleithen is in the South-East corner of the map.

This Google Map shows part of the former railway.

Note.

  1. The A72 at the top of the map.
  2. The hotel and the golf course.
  3. The Peebles Railway has been converted into cycling and walking route.
  4. The River Tweed adds a touch of serenity.

From this first glance, it looks like it would be difficult to restore the railway.

This second map from Open Railway Map, shows the railway between Innerleithen and Galashiels.

Note.

  1. The Borders Railway is shown in yellow.
  2. The former Peebles Railway is shown as a dotted line.
  3. Innerleithen is in the West.
  4. Galashiels is in the East on the Border Railway.

This Google Map shows Galashiels.

Note.

  1. The Peebles Railway enters Galashiels from the North-West.
  2. Galashiels station is in the South-East corner of the map.
  3. The Borders Railway is single-track through Galashiels and continues to the terminus at Tweedbank station.

These pictures show the Borders Railway through Galashiels and Galashiels station.

It was certainly a tight fit to rebuild the Borders Railway through Galashiels and there was only room for a single-track railway.

My Thoughts On A Restored Railway Between Peebles And Galashiels

These are my thoughts.

Single Or Double Track

It appears from Wikipedia that Innerleithen station was the only station between Peebles and Galashiels, that had two platforms.

Wikipedia doesn’t say, but I suspect that the Peebles Railway was single-track, except for at Innerleithen station, where there were two tracks and platforms to enable trains to pass.

I would expect that if the railway were to be restored, a similar layout could be used.

After flying my virtual helicopter along the route, I feel that it could be very difficult in some places to thread a double-track railway through the limited space.

As has been proven at Galashiels station, a well-designed single-platform station is step-free, can handle two trains per hour (tph) and is a more affordable option, as there is no bridge with lifts.

Service Frequency

I am fairly sure, that a single-track railway with a passing loop at Innerleithen, could handle two trains per hour.

But as the basic Off Peak service on the Borders Railway is hourly, I suspect that an hourly service between Peebles and Galashiels would be ideal and sufficient, as by intelligent timetabling, the interchange at Galashiels could be convenient for those going between Edinburgh and Peebles.

The Eastern Terminal

Galashiels station may only have one platform, but it is an interchange with buses to all over the Borders and there are some facilities.

One of the problems at Galashiels station, is that there may not be space for a second platform for the Peebles service, which will mean that the Borders Railway and the Peebles service may have to share the same platform.

A convenient service could probably be achieved by clever timetabling or having both trains in a lengthened platform at the same time.

You might see a sequence like this every hour at Galashiels station.

  • XX:18 – Train arrives from Edinburgh and stops in the Southern end of the platform
  • XX:20 – Train arrives from Peebles and stops in the Northern end of the platform
  • XX:22 – Train departs to Tweedbank
  • XX:32 – Train arrives from Tweedbank and stops in the Southern end of the platform
  • XX:34 – Train departs to Peebles
  • XX:35 – Train departs to Edinburgh

Note.

  1. All passengers changing trains get off one and get on the next one going to their desired destination, at the same platform
  2. Passengers going between Peebles and Tweedbank have two minutes to walk along the platform to change trains.
  3. The Borders Railway train is working the current timetable.
  4. The Peebles train is in the station for fourteen minutes, which should be long enough to charge the batteries, if it were a battery-electric train.

But it might be better to extend the service to Tweedbank station, where there are two platforms.

This could possibly make it easier to organise services if the Borders Railway were to be extended to Carlisle.

Journey Times

I estimate journey times could be as follows.

  • Peebles and Galashiels – 21 minutes
  • Peebles and Tweedbank – 25 minutes

Ideally, I suspect, if a round trip to Peebles could be under an hour, this would allow a single train to run the service.

Rolling Stock

Surely,the ideal train for this route would be one of the very light rail trains, proposed for Coventry by Warwick University, that I wrote about in Very Light Rail – A Revolution.

  • These trains are single-carriage, with a capacity of fifty.
  • They can run in pairs.
  • They are battery-electric powered.
  • They would be fast-charged at both ends.
  • They have a speed of 65 mph, with good acceleration and deceleration.
  • They will be highly automated.

But their biggest feature will be that they can run on a lightweight easy-to-install affordable track.

Hopefully, by the time, this railway would be installed, these trains or something similar will probably be a common sight on branch lines.

The Track

If the train can do a round trip between Peebles and Galashiels, including charging, inside an hour, then the track can be single all the way, with simple one-platform stations.

Signalling would be by the well-established principle of One-Train-On-Line, except in Galashiels station.

I also think, that if designers can get a hold on it, then an innovative design could provide all the protection needed to ensure safe operation.

Pedestrians And Cyclists

As parts of the route is now a walking and cycling track, there will probably be protests about converting the track back into a railway.

But if the design is right, I suspect that a track for walkers and cyclists can be provided alongside.

But there are other routes in the UK, where a route could be shared between very light rail, pedestrians and cyclists.

The Sheep

And then there’s the sheep!

One of the funniest scientific documents, I’ve ever seen was a serious study by Liverpool University in the 1960s, which discussed the problem of keeping sheep off the then-proposed M62 motorway. The Veterinary School of the University had done  studies, that had shown sheep could climb six-foot chain link fences.

Hopefully, Scottish sheep are more sensible and better behaved than English ones.

Conclusion

Peebles and Galashiels could be an ideal route for very light rail. But parts of the design would be challenging.

However, get that design right and other routes could be converted to affordable battery-electric railways.

 

 

February 3, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Prototype Revolution Very Light Rail Vehicle Ready For Testing

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Rail Business UK.

It is very much a complete article, which gives full information on the current status of the Revolution VLR very light rail prototype railcar.

  • The railcar is an eighteen metre long bi-directional vehicle.
  • It has capacity for 56 seated passengers and 40 standees. This is more than a double-deck bus load.
  • It has a Cummins diesel-electric power-train.
  • Maximum speed is 65 mph.
  • There is regenerative braking to a battery, which can be used for traction in built-up areas.

I must admit that I am surprised that Revolution VLR is not fully zero-carbon, but as this is a prototype, that is probably a sensible move, as it will be able to test the concept and show the railcar to potential customers.

However, as Cummins are a member of the consortium and they are now embracing hydrogen as an alternative fuel, a zero-carbon hydrogen power-train may be under development, that would be suitable for the Revolution VLR.

When the Revolution VLR consortium was in its early stages I wrote Very Light Rail Research On Track, based on a Railway Gazette article with the same title.

That earlier article did talk about a problem.

However, the drawback of a lightweight vehicle is that its lower crashworthiness could make it unsuitable for mixed traffic lines.

But the consortium felt that the limitation could be overcome by better traffic management and digital signalling.

Mixed traffic running was also flagged up as a problem by the tram-trains running in Sheffield, but touch wood, they seem to be working well!

Hopefully extensive testing of this prototype will identify any limitations of the concept.

August 12, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

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/Travel | , , , , , | 5 Comments

No-Frills Mini Trains Offer Route To Reopening Lines That Beeching Shut

That long title appeared in The Times today above a picture of a stylish single-carriage lightweight train.

This page on the Warwick University web site is entitled Revolution Very Light Rail Project, describes the project on which the Times article is based.

This is said.

The main objective of the project is to reduce the weight and cost of a railcar by half in order to facilitate low cost connectivity of suburban and rural areas. The Radical Train will demonstrate unique self-powered bogies (with integral hybrid propulsion and kinetic energy recovery system) combined with a modular, lightweight body-shell utilising advanced materials. WMG will be transferring expertise in lightweighting technology from the automotive sector into this project. Automotive lightweighting solutions are already employing advanced materials including ultra-high strength steels and fibre-reinforced polymer composites.

Other points from The Times include.

  • 18m. long, but could be 12m. or 9m.
  • 3.8 litre Cummins diesel hybrid engines. Routemaster buses have 4.5 litre Cummins engines
  • Speed of up to 70 mph.
  • Lithium-titanate battery similar to a Routemaster bus.
  • Target price of £500,000

The Times also says that the prototype could be running in 18 months.

So how feasible is what the article says?

The Short Branch Or Connecting Line

The most obvious application is the short branch or connecting line, which is worked by either a single train or perhaps a small number of small trains.

On their web site, Warwick University have an image of the train at St. Erth station, ready to depart on the St. Ives Branch. I wrote about this branch in St. Erth Station And The St. Ives Branch.

St. Erth Station

You have to admire the group in picking a station of character for their web site.

But it would also make a good test site for the train.

  • St. Erth station has two platforms.
  • The line is single track throughout.
  • There is a two trains per hour (tph) service run by a single Class 150 train.
  • The route has a high level of baggage.
  • The Class 150 train takes 14-15 minutes for each journey.
  • A well-designed modern train could save a few minutes.

But above all Cornwall has better weather than many places.

This line probably gets very busy in the Summer and I also suspect that Great Western Railway would like to run four tph on the branch.

They could probably do this with a passing loop around halfway and two trains with a better station calling performance than the Class 150 train. ERTMS, which would probably be fitted to the trains, would ease the problems of signalling on the line.

There are several branch lines in the UK, which are currently run by a single train and perhaps 1-2 tph, that could benefit with a 4 tph service, which these trains could provide.

In A Look At New Station Projects and also in The Times article, there are some branch line projects that may be suitable.

Most of these lines are reopened lines that were closed in the Beeching era.

Are The Trains Big Enough?

At eighteen metres long, I reckon that the capacity of a single unit is slightly less than a twenty-three metre long Class 153 train. An estimate gives somewhere between 50-55 passengers.

But pictures in The Times and on the Warwick University web site show a standard railway coupling, which can be used for the following.

  • Creating longer trains of two or more units working together.
  • Allowing one train to rescue another.
  • Allowing a train to be rescued by a compatible train.

So it would seem that creation of a train with a capacity of around 100 passengers by linking two units together is probably in the specification.

Working With Other Trains

The Times article says that the lightweight design means they can probably only run on captive lines with no other heavy trains.

But it also says that this will change with ultra-safe digital signalling, that enforced separation between trains.

By the time, these trains enter service, ERTMS will have been proven to be safe on UK railways.

I also suspect that the trains will use the most modern automotive industry structures. Pacers they are not!

The Longer Distance Service

A typical longer distance service would be one shown in The Times, which is to run a service between Newcastle station and a new Ashington station in the North East.

  • Most if not all of the track is intact.
  • Stations would need to be rebuilt or built from scratch.
  • To work the desired frequency of two tph would probably need two units.
  • Digital signalling would be needed, as there are freight trains on the same lines.

More details of the route are given on the South East Northumberland Rail User Group web site.

Running Under The Zwickau Model Into A Town Centre

These trains could almost have been designed to run as trams, as the diesel multiple units of the Vogtlansbahn do in Zwickau town centre.

Arrival At Zwickau Zentrum Tram/Train Stop

The picture shows one of the trains at the terminus of Zwickau Zentrum, after arriving at the town centre terminus from the Hauptbahnhof over a tram-style track under tram tram-style rules.

  • Note the tram-style infrastucture with a simple stop and track laid into the roadway.
  • The driver has large windows to keep a good look-out.
  • Horns and other warning devices are fitted.
  • Note the orange warning lights.
  • The train travels at a slow safe speed.
  • The stations or are they stops have no footbridges. Pedestrians and cyclists can cross the track, as they need.

I think that Warwick’s vehicles could travel like this to provide route extensions into a city or town centre of perhaps to an attraction like a theme park.

Have track! Will travel!

Conclusion

I think that Warwick have come up with a fresh design, that shows a lot of innovation and flexibility.

Not only is it affordable to build, but also probably can work with lower-cost infrastructure.

I look forward to seeing the prototype in action.

 

 

 

February 11, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 4 Comments