The Anonymous Widower

Could The Northern Section Of The Bakerloo Line And The Watford DC Line Be Combined?

The Bakerloo and Watford DC Lines to the North of Queen’s Park station annoy me.

There are two very different classes of trains.

Which are different sizes and ideally need different platform heights for step-free access between train and platform.

Often, you need to step up and down into the trains.

The pictures show a typical steps on Bakerloo Line and Class 710 trains.

They give a new meaning to Mind The Gap.

It would be so much easier, for passengers in wheelchairs or those pushing buggies or trailing heavy cases for there to be no step between train and platform.

I once remarked to a station guy, not in the first flush of youth, as he manhandled a ramp into place, that what he was doing must be the worst part of his job. He smiled and agreed.

Surely in this day and age, we can create a railway, where everything is as efficient as possible.

These are a few of my thoughts.

Could The Two Lines Be Run By A Unified Fleet Of Trains?

If the two lines were to be run using the same trains, this would give advantages.

  • All trains could be maintained together.
  • Platform-to-train access would be much easier to make step-free.
  • Staff would only deal with one type of train.
  • A certain amount of automatic train control could be used to increase frequencies.

Obviously, a National Rail-size train couldn’t use the Bakerloo Line tunnels, but a train built for the Underground could use the current Watford DC Line into Euston.

Siemens are designing a New Tube For London and this will be used on the Bakerloo Line.

I suspect, that they could design a train that would easily run into Euston.

Would An Underground Train Provide Enough Capacity Into Euston?

The current trains on both lines have the following capacity and length.

  • The 1972 Stock on the Bakerloo Line are 113 metres long and have a capacity of 851 passengers
  • The Class 710 trains on the Watford DC Line are 82 metres long and have a capacity of 678 passengers.

Now there’s a surprise! The smaller Underground trains hold more passengers.

This picture shows the spare platform length at Euston, after a Class 710 train has just arrived.

I don’t think capacity or platform length will be a problem!

What Would Be The Frequency Into Euston?

Consider.

  • The current Watford DC Line service into Euston uses a double-track line terminating in Platform 9 at Euston station.
  • The service frequency on this route, has recently been increased from three trains per hour (tph) to four tph.
  • The Overground is soon to start to run six tph on routes with a similar track layout.

I believe that a six tph service could be run between Euston and Watford Junction stations.

What Would Be The Frequency In The Bakerloo Line Tunnel To Elephant & Castle And Lewisham?

Note that I’m assuming an extended Bakerloo Line runs to Lewisham, although, it could run to Hayes station.

Dear Old Vicky (aka the Victoria Line) handles a train every hundred seconds or thirty-six tph.

I can’t see any reason, why all parts of the Watford Junction to Lewisham route can’t be designed to handle this frequency.

If six tph went to Euston, then this would mean the service South of Queen’s Park station would be as follows.

  • Up to thirty tph or a train every two minutes between Queen’s Park and Lewisham stations.
  • It would connect the National Rail stations of Paddington, Marylebone, Charing Cross, Waterloo, Elephant & Castle, New Cross Gate and Lewisham.
  • A high capacity pedestrian link to Crossrail at Paddington, will be ready to open with Crossrail.
  • Connections to the Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines of the Underground.
  • Oxford Circus would have a high-capacity cross-platform interchange between the Bakerloo and Victoria Lines, both running in excess of thirty tph.

It would be a much needed capacity upgrade to the Underground.

Would Stations On The Combined Line Be Made Step-Free?

The combined route will have a total of 34 existing stations and four new stations.

I suspect the new stations will be step-free.

Of the existing stations, the following are fully or partially step-free.

  • Watford Junction
  • Bushey
  • Carpenders Park
  • Harrow & Wealdstone
  • Wembley Central
  • Willesden Junction
  • Queen’s Park – Scheduled to be made step-free.
  • Paddington – Will be step-free, when Crossrail opens.

The Bakerloo Line must be one of the worst lines for step-free access on the London Underground.

But then it has some of the oldest and least-capable trains and has been neglected for decades.

The station most in need of step-free access is probably Oxford Circus, where the Bakerloo and Victoria Lines have a cross-platform step-free interchange.

I lay out ideas for this station in Thoughts On Step-Free Access At Oxford Circus Station.

Upgrading The Lines

I think that Transport for London have a unique opportunity with the upgrading of the Bakerloo Line to Extension From upgrade the line as a series of separate projects, phased to be delivered in a continuous stream, rather than as one big launch, which was tried and failed with Crossrail.

Extension From Elephant & Castle To Lewisham Or Hayes

This project can be built independently, just like the Battersea Power Station Extension of The Northern Line. I detailed the latest thinking on this extension in TfL Moots Bakerloo Line To Hayes.

  • It is the only project that needs substantial tunnelling.
  • It probably needs a depot to be relocated.
  • Lewisham station would need some rebuilding.
  • It would need more trains to be delivered before it opens.

It could even be the last project to be delivered, which would allow time for the trains.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments

Hertfordshire County Council’s Aspiration For A Watford Junction And Aylesbury Service

This article on Ian Visits is entitled Watford Junction Station Could Become A “Super-Hub”.

This is the introductory paragraph.

A new Watford Junction to Aylesbury rail service, along with a new link between Stevenage and Luton are two of the proposals being put forward by Hertfordshire Council.

The proposals are contained in this document on the Hertfordshire County Council web site, which is entitled Rail Strategy.

In TfL Seeks New Procurement Plan For Metropolitan Line Extension, I proposed a service run by Chiltern Railways between Watford Junction and Amersham stations.

The rest of this article is a rewrite of part of that linked post, which explores the possibilities of a service between Watford Junction and Aylesbury stations.

This Was My Original Simple  Proposal

I think it would be possible to design a simpler link with the following characteristics.

  • Watford station would remain open.
  • A four trains per hour (tph) link would run all day between Watford Junction and Amersham stations.
  • Stops would be at Watford High Street, Vicarage RoadCassiobridge, Croxley, Rickmansworth, Chorleywood and Chalfont & Latimer.

No-one would get a worse service than currently and the new stations of Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road, would make rail an alternative for many travellers.

The cross-Watford service would give access to these London services.

  • Chiltern at all stations between Croxley and Amersham.
  • London Midland at Watford Junction.
  • Metropolitan Line at Croxley, Rickmansworth and Amersham.
  • Virgin Trains at Watford Junction,
  • Watford DC Line at Watford High Street and Watford Junction

The Bakerloo Line at Watford Junction and Watford High Street, could possibly be added, if the line is extended. Which I doubt, it will be!

Hertfordshire is proposing the terminal is Aylesbury, which seems to be a good idea. But I’ll examine that later.

The next few sections, will cover various issues with the route.

New Track

There would need to be new track between Croxley and Watford High Street stations.

Will The New Stations Have Two Platforms?

All proposals have shown new stations on the new track at Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road.

I believe that money can be saved by creating two much simpler stations.

  • Only one platform, but probably an island platform with two faces like Watford High Street station.
  • No expensive footbridge if possible.
  • Only one lift.

Cassiobridge would be more complicated because of the viaduct connecting the line towards Croxley station.

This visualisation shows the viaduct and the location of Cassiobridge station.

croxley-rail-link-proposed-viaduct-connecting-the-existing-metropolitan-line-with-disused-croxley-green-branch-line

Cassiobridge station will be behind the trees towards the top-right of the image.

Would The New Track Be Single Or Double-Track?

There is space for double-track and the two ends of the route are already electrified double-track.

But surely the viaduct shown above would be much more affordable, if it were to be built for only one track!

Trains would need to pass at places East of Croxley station, but then if the line was double-track through and to the East of Cassiobridge station, trains could pass with impunity.

Consider.

  • The Borders Railway looks to have too much single-track
  • The Barking Riverside Extension is being built with a double track.

Too much single-track is often regretted.

Why Four Trains Per Hour?

Four trains per hour (tph) is becoming a standard, as it encourages Turn-Up-And-Go behaviour from travellers.

It also fits well with keeping the four tph Metropolitan Line service to Watford station, as this could give a same platform interchange at Croxley station.

Would The New Track Be Electrified?

The only part of the route that is not electrified is the about three miles of new track between  the Watford Branch and the Watford DC Line.

All current electrification is either third-rail or to the London Underground standard. and any future electrification would probably be to the London Underground standard, so that S Stock can work the route.

I believe that the Class 710 trains will have a limited onboard energy storage capability, which could enable the trains to bridge the cap in the  electrification between Watford High Street and Croxley stations.

How much would not electrifying the new track save?

How Long Will A Journey Take From Amersham Or Aylesbury To Watford Junction?

Consider.

  • Amersham to Croxley takes about 30 minutes, but it does involve a change to a bus.
  • The Overground takes three minutes between Watford Junction and Watford High Street stations.
  • Chiltern Railways achieve a twelve minute time between Amersham and Rickmansworth.

I suspect that a modern train like one of London Overground’s Class 378 trains could do the journey in a few minutes under half-an-hour.

As Amersham to Aylesbury takes about sixteen minutes, that looks like a trip between Aylesbury and Watford Junction would take about forty-five minutes.

Amersham Or Aylesbury?

My original plan used Amersham, as it has a turnback facility.

But Aylesbury looks to have space as this Google Map shows.

It should also be noted that the forty-five minute journey time between Aylesbury and Watford Junction stations, would give a two hour round trip, with relaxed fifteen minute turnround times.

This would allow time to top-up the batteries.

What Class Of Train Could Be Used?

Four-car Class 378 trains or the new Class 710 trains would be ideal. As the Class 378 train is out of production, it would have to be Class 710 trains or something similar from Bombardier. But other manufacturers might have a suitable train.

Battery power would be required, but that is becoming a standard option on metro trains like these.

How Many Trains Would Be Needed?

If the trains could do an Out-and-Back journey in an hour, then four trains would be needed to provide a four tph service.

A two-hour time would need eight trains.

Will The Link Have Any Other Services?

I have seen to plans to use the line for any other passenger or freight services.

Will There Be Infrastructure Issues At Existing Stations?

As all of the trains, I’ve mentioned and the London Underground S Stock trains, share platforms all over North West London, the answer is probably no, with the exception of a few minor adjustments to signs and platforms.

Croxley Station

Croxley station would be unchanged.

But in addition to the 4 tph between Baker Street and Watford, there would be 4 tph between Watford Junction and Amersham.

Platform 1 would handle.

  • Baker Street to Watford
  • Amersham to Watford Junction

Platform 2 would handle.

  • Watford to Baker Street
  • Watford Junction to Amersham

This would mean that if the trains alternated, the maximum wait for a connection would be about 7.5 minutes.

What I feel would be the two most common connections, would just involve a wait on the same platform.

I suspect that those, who timetable trains, would come up with a very passenger-friendly solution.

Watford Station

A property developer once told me, that the most profitable developments, are those where a railway station is involved.

The Platforms At Watford Station

So would the development of the extension involve a rebuild of Watford station to provide the following?

  • A modern future-proofed station, with all the capacity that might be needed in the next forty years or so.
  • Appropriate housing or commercial development on top of the new station.
  • Sensible amounts of parking for travellers.

With four tph to and from London in the basement, it would surely be a profitable development.

Watford Junction Station

Watford Junction station has four bay platforms 1-4, that handle the three tph service on the Watford DC Line.

At stations like Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, Dalston Junction, Highbury and Islington and New Cross, single platforms handle four tph with ease for London Overground services.

This means that handling four tph to Amersham in addition to current services would not be difficult.

The only work, that I think should be done, is make sure that these platforms are long enough to take two of the future Class 710 trains working as an eight-car train.

There could even be two platforms left for Bakerloo Line services, if it were to be decided, that these services would go to Watford Junction.

Elton John Plays Vicarage Road Stadium

This or some football matches at Vicarage Road Stadium, would be the biggest test of the Link.

Note the following.

  • Some stations  like Watford High Street can already handle longer trains than the hundred metre long, five-car Class 378 trains they currently do.
  • Some stations like Croxley can handle the 133 metre long S Stock trains used on the Metropolitan Line.

So to future-proof the Link for massive one-off events would it be sensible to make the platforms long enough for eight-car trains or two Class 710 trains working as a pair?

Benefits

The benefits of this approach are as follows.

  • Watford station keeps its current service to London.
  • Watford gets a four tph link across the South of the town, serving the Shopping Centre, the Hospital and the Stadium.
  • Amersham or Aylesbury to Croxley stations get a link to the West Coast Main Line.
  • It could be built as a single track line without electrification.
  • Trains to run the services could be more easily available.
  • Simple island platform-based stations could be built at Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road.

In addition, Chiltern Railways, London Midland, London Overground and Underground, all gain a feeder railway bringing travellers to their services to and from London.

Cost Savings

Note.

  1. Transport for London needs cost savings on this project.
  2. Redevelopment of Watford station as a station with oversite development could raise a lot of money.
  3. The Croxley Link could be built as a single-track link without electrification and run initially using battery-electric trains.

I also feel, that building the line this way would deliver it earlier, thus improving cash-flow.

The simple link would need at the minimum.

  • A single- or double-track railway without electrification between Croxley and Watford High Street stations.
  • Two stations with island platforms at Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road
  • A viaduct to connect Cassiobridge station to the Watford Branch.
  • Some Class 710 trains or similar.

If skates were worn, the link could probably open in 2025.

December 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A London Overground Replacement For Southern’s East Croydon And Milton Keynes Service

In July 2017, I discussed this suggestion by Chris Gibb in Gibb Report – East Croydon – Milton Keynes Route Should Be Transferred To London Overground.

In an article, in the July 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, , which was entitled ‘710s’ Debut On Goblin, this was this last paragraph.

On the West London Line, TfL is curremtly working with the Department for Transport on options for the devolution of services originally suggested in Chris Gibb’s report on the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise, which could lead to ‘710s’ being deployed here.

It made me think, that further investigation was called for.

An Apology

I apologise, if you think I’m repeating myself.

What The Gibb Report Says

The Gibb Report, says this about the current service between East Croydon and Milton Keynes Central stations.

I believe there is an option to transfer the East Croydon – Milton Keynes operation to TfL and it’s London Overground concession in 2018.

TfL may decide to change the service, for example by not running it north of Watford Junction, or running it to an alternative southern destination other than East Croydon. They could also develop the combined West London line service to better match available capacity to demand.

They would have a number of crewing and rolling stock options, but should be able to operate the service more efficiently than GTR in the longer term, without the involvement of Selhurst.

Selhurst TMD is the depot in South London, where the current Class 377 trains are based.

A few of my thoughts.

The Trains

Using Class 710 trains  as suggested in the Modern Railways article, would surely offer a suitable  crewing and rolling stock option for the route, if they were based at the convenient Willesden TMD, where the fleet of up to twenty-five dual-voltage Class 710/2 trains are stabled.

The Northern Terminus

Chris Gibb suggested the service might not go past Watford Junction.

I think that could be difficult.

  • The longitudinal seating of the Class 710 train, is probably not suitable for outer suburban services North of Watford.
  • East Croydon to Watford Junction takes 69 minutes, which is not a good journey time to create an efficient service.

It would also appear to be tricky for a train to transfer between the West London Line and the Watford DC Line.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the complicated track layout in the Willesden Junction area.

Note.

  1. The two Willesden Junction stations, labelled High Level and Low Level.
  2. The Watford DC Line, which is shown in black and orange, passing to the North of Willesden TMD. and through the Low Level station.
  3. The four tracks shown in black are the West Coast Main Line, with Watford to the West and Euston to the East.
  4. The North London Line to Richmond and the West London Line to Clapham Junction splitting at Wilesden High Level Junction.

The current service between East Croydon and Milton Keynes, is only one train per hour (tph) and uses a succession of flat junctions to take the slow lines to and from Watford.

This is not a good operational procedure and I suspect Network Rail and various train operators, would like to see it discontinued.

So if trains in a new London Overground version of the service, don’t go up the Watford DC Line or the West Coast Main Line, where do they turn back?

Note the siding to the East of the High Level platforms, which is labelled Willesden Junction Turnout.

This is regularly used to turnback London Overground services on the West London Line.

I feel that London Overground will be turning their replacement service in Willesden Junction High Level station.

Current train services at the station include.

  • For passengers, who want to go further North, there is a good connection to the Watford DC Line for Wembley Central, Harrow & Wealdstone and Watford Junction stations.
  • The Watford DC Line can also take you to Euston.
  • The Bakerloo Line between Stonebridge Park and Elephant & Castle via Central London.
  • Frequent North London Line services between Stratford and Richmond.

The station has kiosks, coffee stalls, toilets and waiting rooms.

There are certainly worse places to change trains.

The Southern Terminus

Obviously, existing travellers on the route would like to see as few changes as possible.

East Croydon station must be a possibility for the Southern terminus, as it is the currently used.

But East Croydon is a busy station and perhaps it is not a convenient station for trains to wait in the platform.

On the other hand, West Croydon station offers some advantages.

  • The station has a long bay platform, which might be long enough for nine or ten cars.
  • There is a separate turnback siding.
  • It has space to add another bay platform, but this may have been sold to a developer.
  • It already has a four tph London Overground service to Highbury & Islington station.
  • Using West Croydon avoids the crowded lines to the North of East Croydon station.

It is also managed by London Overground, so the landlord would be co-operative.

How Many Trains Would Be Needed For A West Croydon And Willesden Junction Service?

West Croydon station has two possible routes, that trains could take to Willesden Junction.

  • Via Norwood Junction and Clapham Junction in 55 minutes.
  • Via Selhust and Clapham Junction in 45 minutes.

These times mean that a two-hour round trip between West Croydon and Willesden Junction should be possible.

Trains required for various frequencies would be as follows.

  • One tph – Two trains.
  • Two tph = Four trains.
  • Four tph – Eight trains.

They would need to be dual voltage Class 710/2 trains, as are now running on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Compare the figures with those for the current East Croydon and Milton Keynes service, which needs four pairs of four-car trains for an hourly service.

What Would Be The Frequency?

I think one, two and four tph are all possibilities!

One tph

One tph would be a direct replacement for the current service. But is it enough?

Services at West Croydon could probably share the bay platform with the existing Highbury & Islington station service.

Two tph

Two tph could be a compromise frequency.

Two tph could probably still share the current bay platform with the Highbury & Islington service.

Four tph

Four tph would be a full Turn-Up-And-Go service,

  • It would probably be London Overground’s preference.
  • It would give a very passenger-friendly eight tph between Willesden Junction and Clapham Junction stations.
  • The two services would call at opposite sides of Clapham Junction station.
  • It would give a four tph link between Croydon and High Speed Two.
  • Westfield wouldn’t mind all the extra shoppers at Shepherds Bush!

But there could be downsides.

  • The service could need an extra bay platform at West Croydon.
  • Would it be possible to turn four tph at Willesden Junction?
  • Will the train paths be available through South London.

But four tph would probably would be London Overground’s preference.

It will be interesting to see the reasons, why Transport for London choose a particular frequency.

A Trip Between Imperial Wharf And East Croydon Stations

Today, I took a trip between Imperial Wharf and East Croydon stations at around 11:30.

  • The train was  two four-car Class 377 trains working as an eight-car train.
  • After Clapham Junction it wasn’t very busy.
  • I was in the last car, which was empty, except for myself.

I came to the conclusion, that an eight-car train was too much capacity for the Southern section of the journey.

I suspect that Transport for London have detailed passenger estimates for this route, so they should be able to determine the frequency and length of replacement trains required.

The Upgraded Norwood Junction Station

In Major Upgrade Planned For Norwood Junction Railway Station, I talked about a plan to upgrade Norwood Junction station.

The idea behind the upgrade is to improve connectivity and capacity in the crowded Croydon area.

If the West Croydon and Willesden Junction service, was routed via Norwood Junction station, the upgraded station would give easy access to both East and West Croydon stations.

Conclusion

I’ve always liked Chris Gibb’s suggestion of the transfer of the service between East Croydon and Milton Keynes stations to the London Overground and I can now start to see flesh on the bones!

At the present time and until better data is available, I think the replacement service should be as follows.

  • The Northern terminus should be Willesden Junction.
  • The Southern terminus should be West Croydon station, where there are good tram and train connections.
  • The route would be via Shepherds Bush, Kensington Olympia, West Brompton, Imperial Wharf, Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Common, Balham, Streatham Hill, West Norwood, Gipsy Hill, Crystal Palace and Norwood Junction.
  • Going via Gipsy Hill, rather than the current route via Selhurst, would give access to the connectivity at Norwood Junction.
  • The frequency should be four tph.
  • Trains will be four- or five-car Class 710 trains.

The benefits would be as follows.

  • The rail hubs of Clapham Junction, Norwood Junction, West Croydon and Willesden Junction would be connected together by a Turn-Up-And-Go service.
  • The proposed four tph service would need eight Class 710 trains, whereas the current one tph service needs eight Class 377 trains. Would this be better value?

In the future with a connection to High Speed Two in the Old Oak Common area, the benefits would increase.

  • There would be a simple interchange with High Speed Two.
  • South London from Clapham to Croydon, would get a direct service to High Speed Two.
  • There would also be a better connection to Heathrow Airport and other rail services through Old Oak Common.

I think that the connection to High Speed Two trumps everything else.

July 1, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘710s’ Debut On Goblin

The title of this post is the same as an article in the July 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

The article is mainly about the introduction of the Class 710 trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

But the last sentence of the article is worth more investigation.

On the West London Line, TfL is curremtly working with the Department for Transport on options for the devolution of services originally suggested in Chris Gibb’s report on the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise, which could lead to ‘710s’ being deployed here.

I investigate it fully in A London Overground Replacement For Southern’s East Croydon And Milton Keynes Service.

This was my conclusion.

At the present time and until better data is available, I think the replacement service should be as follows.

  • The Northern terminus should be Willesden Junction.
  • The Southern terminus should be West Croydon station, where there are good tram and train connections.
  • The route would be via Shepherds Bush, Kensington Olympia, West Brompton, Imperial Wharf, Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Common, Balham, Streatham Hill, West Norwood, Gipsy Hill, Crystal Palace and Norwood Junction.
  • Going via Gipsy Hill, rather than the current route via Selhurst, would give access to the connectivity at Norwood Junction.
  • The frequency should be four tph.
  • Trains will be four- or five-car Class 710 trains.

The benefits would be as follows.

  • The rail hubs of Clapham Junction, Norwood Junction, West Croydon and Willesden Junction would be connected together by a Turn-Up-And-Go service.
  • The proposed four tph service would need eight Class 710 trains, whereas the current one tph service needs eight Class 377 trains. Would this be better value?

In the future with a connection to High Speed Two in the Old Oak Common area, the benefits would increase.

  • There would be a simple interchange with High Speed Two.
  • South London from Clapham to Croydon, would get a direct service to High Speed Two.
  • There would also be a better connection to Heathrow Airport and other rail services through Old Oak Common.

I think that the connection to High Speed Two trumps everything else.

I will keep returning to this vital link down thw West London Line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 30, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Abbey Line Passing Loop Proposed

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the June 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

Bricket Wood station used to be an important station on the Abbey Line, with grand buildings and a passing loop to allow trains to run a teo trains per hour (tph) service as opposed to the current inconvenient train every forty-five minutes.

Consultants have now said that a traditional passing loop, with a second platform and a bridge would cost up to £10million, which is probably not viable.

The Penryn Solution

The article says this about the consultants’ alternative solution.

The platform at Bricket Wood be lengthened such that trains stop at different ends of a single platform, similar to the solution adopted in Penryn on the branch line from Truro to Falmouth, which would help to minimise costs.

This Google Map shows Penryn station.

Note the long single platform in the station.

This section in the Wikipedia entry called Signalling, gives a full explanation of the method of operation at Penryn.

Truro-bound trains use the northern end of the station (Platform 2), arriving before the Falmouth-bound train, which will pass through the new loop and to the southern end of the platform (Platform 1), allowing the Truro-bound train to continue its journey north. This gives a rare situation in the United Kingdom where trains run on the right, instead of on the left as is usual in this country. Trains are scheduled to depart simultaneously for Truro and Falmouth.

Bricket Wood station already has a platform, that can take a comfortably take a four-car Class 319 train, as this Google Map shows.

Consider.

  • I estimate from Google Maps, that the single platform at Bricket Wood station is currently around 190 metres long.
  • Looking at the map, it might be possible to add another ten metres or so to the platform length.
  • The current Class 319 trains are 79.5 metres long or 159 metres for a pair.
  • It wouldn’t matter, if for reasons of safety, the front of the trains were allowed to extend for perhaps ten metres past the end of the platform.
  • There also appears to be space to put a second track alongside the current single track.

I also suspect, that Network Rail have track design software, that can precisely calculate the size and position of the points, so that the manoeuvre can be safely executed every time.

I very much feel, that a design can be produced, that will staff, passengers and regulators.

Can This Proposal Handle More Than Two tph?

If you look at the timings of the train, it takes eight minutes to run these legs.

  • Watford Junction and Bricket Wood
  • Bricket Wood and St. Albans Abbey

The times are identical, irrespective of direction.

If times are the same after installation of the novel loop. A train will take sixteen minutes plus however much time, it takes to turnback the train to get back to Bricket Wood.

As trains will be running every thirty minutes and both trains will leave Bricket Wood at the same time, the train must be able to run the out-and-back journey from Bricket Wood in thirty minutes or less.

  • The out and back legs both take eight minutes.
  • This means that the turnback time must be less than fourteen minutes.

Currently, turnback times are fourteen minutes or less.

  • If you look at four tph, there is a train every fifteen minutes. As each leg is eight minutes long, it would appear another method of operation will have to be used.
  • If you look at three tph, there is a train every twenty minutes. Would it be possible to turn back the trains in under four minutes? It might be possible, but it would be a tough call.

I would suspect, that for a reliable service, the proposed method of operation has a maximum frequency of two tph.

I suspect, that the only way to get more than two tph, would be to fully double track the route, with two platforms at all stations on the route.

Does The New Track Need To Be Fully-Electrified?

There would be around two hundred metres of new track and if electrification were to be installed, a pair of the current Class 319 trains could provide a two tph service.

Surely Network Rail can manage to put up this amount of new electrification without massive cost and time overruns?

Despite being over thirty years old, the Class 319 trains scrub-up well as these pictures show.

But what could be done if electrification was deemed to be outside the budget? Or it was decided that new zero-carbon trains should be used on the Abbey Line?

Battery trains are coming and there are several trains that can use both electric and battery power under development, in the UK, Europe, China and Japan.

Battery Power On The Abbey Line

Bricket Wood station is 3.5 miles from the Watford Junction end of the Abbey Line and perhaps three miles from the St. Albans end.

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch, which is not very challenging, as is the Abbey Line.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

So if a four-car electric-battery hybrid train was to handle the whole of the 6.5 mile route, it would need a battery of between 156-260 kWh to go between Watford Junction and St. Albans Abbey stations and back. It would also need charging at one or both ends of the route.

But supposing trains used the current electrification between Watford Junction and Bricket Wood stations to both power the train and charge their batteries.

  • The trains would only be doing six miles on batteries, so the battery would be between 72-120 kWh.
  • Trains would raise and lower their pantographs at Bricket Wood station.
  • No new electrification would be required.
  • If trains needed to top-up their batteries, they would do this using the electrification in the two terminal stations.

It might even be preferential to remove electrification between St. Albans Abbey and Bricket Wood stations to save maintenance costs and improve safety.

Could West Midlands Trains’ Class 730 Trains Be Used?

The current franchise holder; West Midlands Trains has ordered a large fleet of Class 730 trains for services between London and the West Midlands and for local electric services in the West Midlands.

Included are thirty-six three-car trains for working suburban services across Birmingham. These have twenty-four metre long cars, so are eight metres shorter than the four-car Class 319 trains, so they are another possibility, unless their longer car length would cause problems in the Bricket Wood manoeuvre.

Should The Abbey Line Be Transferred To Transport for London?

There have been suggestions in the past, that the route be transferred to Transport for London.

I’ll leave the politics aside, but electric-battery hybrid versions of London Overground’s Class 710 trains, which will soon be serving Watford Junction station would probably be ideal.

As they are dimensionally similar to the Class 319 trains, they may also be able to work the route under electric power.

Conclusion

There are certainly, several affordable ways to improve the Abbey Line.

My preferred solution would be go for the Penryn solution, using a fleet of Class 319 trains.

  • Penryn seems to be working well.
  • Track would need to be re-laid through Bricket Wood station, to add the passing loop.
  • About two hundred metres of extra electrification would need to be erected.
  • There would probably need to be some modification to the signalling, as there was at Penryn.
  • Three trains as a minimum, would be needed, two for the service and one as a spare or as maintenance cover.
  • West Midlands Trains already have fifteen Class 319 trains, so finding a viable fleet in top-class condition, shouldn’t be difficult.
  • If slightly shorter trains could be needed, the trains might be able to be shortened to three-car trains.
  • Staff training would be minimal.
  • The current trains are liked by drivers.
  • The trains would be zero-carbon.
  • The current trains are in very good condition.
  • The current trains even have toilets, which are probably not needed on a six-and-a-half mile journey
  • If say in ten years time, new trains are needed, I suspect there will be fleets of suitable electric multiple units, less than eighty metres long.

It is probably the most affordable solution.

 

 

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Could Modern Technology And Developments Improve the Abbey Line?

The Abbey Line runs between Watford Junction and St. Albans Abbey stations.

It has a few problems.

Frequency

The track layout means that trains generally run every forty-five minutes, which is not very passenger friendly.

The line needs at least a half-hourly service and it would appear from Wikipedia and other sources, that this could be achieved by re-instating the passing loop at Bricket Wood station.

Elderly Trains

West Midlands Trains have promised new trains for the line, to replace the current Class 319 train.

Although, these Class 319 trains are much better than their arge, as I said in A Very Smart Class 319 Train.

As West Midlands Trains, use these trains for services on the West Coast Main Line, it probably helps with staffing and maintenance.

But these trains are being replaced by five-car Class 730 trains. Will the shittle train be replaced by another Aventra?

Reliability

Search the Internet for “Abbey Line St. Albans” and you find news stories with headlines like these.

  • No Abbey Flyer Trains Between St. Albans And Watford
  • Abbey Line Breaks Down Again
  • St. Albans Abbey Flyer Users Fund Raising To Improve Train Line
  • No Trains On St Albans Abbey Flyer Line After Fault With Shut

It would appear that the Abbey Line has a reliability problem.

A Simple Solution

The simplest possible solution to improve the line with a half-hourly service would be as follows.

  • Reinstate the passing loop at Bricket Wood station.
  • Acquire a fleet of three Class 730 trains of an appropriate length.

This Google Map shows Bricket Wood station.

Note the single platform with a single track.

There would appear to be plenty of space for a passing loop on the opposite side to the platform..

The Class 730 trains are Bombardier Aventras and I believe strongly, that all Aventras have batteries. So surely this is just the place to be innovative, with the use of battery technology?

The loop would be built without electrification and the track layout would be such that two trains could easily pass using battery power. Pantographs would be raised and lowered as required.

Suppose the loop started in the middle of the platform and perhaps extended for two hundred metres in the Watford direction..

  • The two trains would arrive at the station, with one on each side of the entry to the loop.
  • The Watford-bound train, would switch to battery power in the station and use the loop to pass the other train to continue towards Watford.
  • The Watford-bound train could either switch back to overhead power as soon as it regained the electrified track or wait until it is safely in the next station.
  • When the line is clear, the St. Albans-bound train would continue on its way, using overhead power.

It might also be possible for trains to go towards St. Albans using the overhead power and towards Watford on battery power, with all changeovers of power source taking place at the terminal stations, where turn-round time will be several minutes.

These are some pictures of Bricket Wood station.

My only worry is that the platforms may only be big enough for six-car trains.

Perhaps, to avoid lengthening the platforms at Bricket Wood station, two three-car Class 730 trains could be used?

Use of the five-car trains would probably require electrification of the loop, a second platform and a footbridge, which would be a much more expensive solution.

A Class 769 Train Solution

The Class 769 train is a bi-mode version of the Class 319 train. So could these work the simple passing loop without electrification?

At four-cars, they may be short enough to work the route without building a second platform at Bricket Wood station.

But the solution would probably need the current platform to be extended to accommodate two trains.

They would use diesel power to go through the passing loop.

Passengers would effectively get a twice as frequent service, using similar trains to the current ones.

A Class 230 Train Solution

As West Midlands Trains are also using Class 230 trains on the Marston Vale Line, which can work on electric, diesel and battery power, I can’t see any reason, why these trains couldn’t be used on the Abbey Line.

They would use diesel or battery power to navigate the loop without electrification.

These trains are affordable, short in length and are designed for remote servicing, but is capacity  and speed sufficient?

A Tram-Train Solution

The same Stadler tram-trains with batteries, that are being used on the South Wales Metro could also be used on the Abbey Line.

They would operate as trains, in the same ways as the Aventras, using batteries to navigate a passing loop without electrification.

This solution would have the disadvantage of West Midlands Trains introducing another type of train, but the tram-trains could go walkabout in Watford and/or St. Albans at the two ends of the route.

Under Past Proposals in the Wikipedia entry for the Abbey Line, this is said about a possible conversion to light rail.

In October 2009 Secretary of State for Transport Lord Adonis announced a plan to increase frequency on the line by allowing Hertfordshire County Council to lease the line from Network Rail and converting it to light rail from 2011. It was hoped that this would be possible for the same amount of subsidy the line received, as the new infrastructure required, such as a passing loop would be cheaper for light rail than heavy rail. Longer-term proposals envisaged extensions into Watford town centre via Clarendon Road and High Street, and St Albans city centre, possibly as far as St Albans City railway station, and possible re-instatement of the line to Hatfield.

This Google Map shows Watford Junction station

Note.

  1. The Abbey Line leaves the map in the North East corner.
  2. Clarendon Road runs South from the middle of the map.

I think it would be possible to build a bridge to take the trams over the railway.

There could even be a high-level platform for the tram-trains above the station with connections to the current heavy rail platforms.

What I have outlined here, is a classic use of a tram-train to allow trains on a heavy rail route, to extend to a town or city centre, by operating as trams.

Could Thr Abbey Line Be Linked To The Troubled Croxley Rail Link?

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at Watford Junction.

Note.

  1. The Abbey Line goes North from Platform 11.
  2. The lines shown in orange are the Watford DC Line of the London Overground, that go to London via Watford High Street station.
  3. The dotted purple line is the proposed route of the Croxley Rail Link.

I can’t find any references on the Internet to the possibility of a connection between the Abbey Line and the Croxley Rail Link.

I doubt that Metropolitan Line trains could go to St. Albans.

  • They are too long at 133 metres.
  • Extensive modifications to the track and platforms would be needed.
  • They lack the batteries to navigate the proposed passing loop.

But Stadler’s tram-trains might be able to go to Croxley station.

  • They are under forty metres long.
  • They weigh under seventy tonnes, which could help in the bridge design.
  • They could work the Abbey Line using the overhead power.
  • Batteries would enable using the proposed passing loop at Bricket Wood station.
  • I’m sure that Stadler’s innovative engineers could make their tram-trains run on third and London Underground rail electrification.
  • Battery power could be used on some of the route between Watford High Street and Croxley stations.

I’m sure that after sorting out Cardiff Bay, Stadler’s engineers will welcome the challenge of Watford Junction.

Developments At Watford Junction Station

Over the last few years, there have been various plans about improving train services through Watford Junction station.

  • It has been proposed that Crossrail is extended through the station.
  • The Bakerloo Line will be extended and it has been proposed that it terminate at Watford Junction.
  • West Midlands Trains will add extra services.
  • How will HS2 affect services on the West Coast Main Line?

In addition there are plans for more car parking and other developments at the station.

It strkes me that there is a possibility that an innovative architect will come up with a striking scheme, that could enable bridges for trams across the West Coast Main Line.

Conclusion

There are various possibilities to improve the Abbey Line, brought about by recent innovations in the use of batteries on trains and tram-trains.

In all cases, the line gets a half-hourly frequency from new trains.

On the other hand, as with the Croxley Rail Link, there seems to be a lot of ideas and plans in Watford, but no real leadership to get anything built at an affordable cost!

 

 

June 24, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Gibb Report – East Croydon – Milton Keynes Route Should Be Transferred To London Overground

The Gibb Report, says that the East Croydon – Milton Keynes route should be transferred to the London Overground.

By 2020 London will have two high-capacity and two medium-capacity cross-London heavy rail routes, backed up by several cross-London Underground Lines.

One line is missing from this list; the West London Line, which has a rather pathetic four tph between Clapham Junction and Willesden Junction stations.

Until Southern got embroiled in their Driver Only Operation dispute, there used to be a very useful one tph service between East Croydon and Milton Keynes Central stations.

The Gibb Report says this about the service.

I believe there is an option to transfer the East Croydon – Milton Keynes operation to TfL and it’s London Overground concession in 2018.

TfL may decide to change the service, for example by not running it north of Watford Junction, or running it to an alternative southern destination other than East Croydon. They could also develop the combined West London line service to better match available capacity to demand.

They would have a number of crewing and rolling stock options, but should be able to operate the service more efficiently than GTR in the longer term, without the involvement of Selhurst.

Selhurst TMD is the depot in South London, where the current Class 377 trains are based.

I think that this is a good proposal for the following reasons.

  • As was seen on the Chingford Branch Line, London Overground have a reputation for making a good fist of taking over services that need improvement.
  • As the Gibbs Report says, the combined West London Line service could be developed.
  • I have net quite a few people, who use this West London Line route to get to and from events at Wembley stadium.
  • The service could call at Old Oak Common station to connect to Crossrail and HS2.
  • A variant of London Overground’s new Class 710 trains,  could probably work the shortened route, as either four or eight-car trains.
  • The Class 710 trains could be based at the convenient  Willesden TMD, along with the rest of the fleet.

Being practical, a service of just two tph would give a train every ten minutes on the West London Line.

The Current Service

The current service is supposed to stop at the following stations.

Note.

  1. Stations between Watford Junction and Clapham Junction, already have a substantial Overground presence.
  2. London Overground already run three tph on the Watford DC Line between Euston and Watford Junction stations.

But would this be the ideal route?

The Northern Terminal

The West Coast Main Line is very busy and stations between Watford Junction and Milton Keynes are well-served by London Midland and Virgin Trains.

So would it be sensible to continue a slower local service North of Watford Junction?

It should also be remembered, that Southern introduced the original service to give better access to Gatwick Airport. Surely, this need is now satisfied by services from Clapham Junction and East Croydon.

As Watford Junction station probably has platform capacity, surely Watford Junction should be the Northern terminal

Could The Service Use The Watford DC Line?

If this were possible, this must surely give advantages, especially if Watford Junctio is the Northern terminal.

  • Dual-voltage Class 710 trains could work the route.
  • The service level on the Watford DC Line would be increased.
  • There would be no problem accessing the bay platforms at Watford Junction station.
  • There would be no requirement for any paths on the West Coast Main Line.

I think the answer to whether the Watford DC Line could be used at the present time is that trains going from the West London Line to Watford Junction must use the West Coast Main Line.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines around Willesden Junction..

 

As it is all railway land, I suspect that the connection can be created.

The one problem, is that some of the Watford DC Line is shared with the Bakerloo Line.

But as the Bakerloo Line is being extended to the South and the Northern end will probably be improved, then surely creating an optimal solution to the Watford DC line, the Bakerloo Line and Overground services to Watford, makes a lot of sense.

The Southern Terminal

Various stations have merits and problems to be used as the Southern terminal for the service.

Clapham Junction

Clapham Junction would appear to have a strong case, but London Overground had enough problems squeezing in their current services.

As the station is now substantially step-free and has typically three tph to Gatwick Airport, Clapham Junction offers a good route to the airport.

Balham

Balham has been used as a terminal in the past and connects to the Northern Line. If redeveloped for Crossrail 2, it could be a possibility.

Steatham Common

Streatham Common could be developed as a major interchange and if this happens, then surely is is a possibility.

East Croydon

East Croydon would have a strong case, as it is a busy and well connected station, but there probably isn’t a suitable platform.

I think that any station South of East Croydon is probably too far.

My money would be on the new interchange station at Streatham Common, with Balham as an alternative.

Schedules And Trains

I estimate that a train doing a return journey between Watford Junction and Streatham Common would take under three hours, using the Watford DC Line. This would mean that three trains would be needed for an hourly service and six trains for a half-hourly service.

Conclusion

Transferring the East Croydon – Milton Keynes route to the  London Overground looks feasible.

 

 

July 7, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 12 Comments