The Anonymous Widower

Will We See More Slab Track On UK Railways?

I ask this question, as I’ve just read this article on Rail Engineer, which is entitled Slab Track Austria: Now A Serious Contender?

 Slab track or ballastless track has a Wikipedia entry.

This is said under Characteristics.

In ballastless tracks, the rails are rigidly fastened to a special type of concrete ties/sleepers that are themselves set in concrete. Ballastless tracks therefore offer a high consistency in track geometry, the adjusting of which is not possible after the concreting of the superstructure. Therefore, ballastless tracks must be concreted within a tolerance of 0.5 millimetres. The elasticity of the ballast in the traditional railway superstructure is replaced by flexibility between either the rails and the concrete ties/sleepers or the ties/sleepers and the concrete or asphalt slab as well inherent elasticity within the conglomerate of the tie/sleeper, whereas the concrete or asphalt slab is usually inelastic.

Applications in the UK recently include.

This picture shows some of the slab track on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

I suspect, that slab track was used here mainly because of limited clearance. But low maintenance and long life, must have improved the financial case.

Returning to the Rail Engineer article, it would appear that the engineers behind the slab track, have rethought a lot of the process of building a railway.

Slab Track Austria, which used to be called PORR-STA, seems to offer the following.

  • Factory-build or one-site fabrication.
  • Ease of installation.
  • Accurate alignment
  • Switches and crossing can be fabricated.
  • Transition solutions to ballasted track.
  • Low noise and vibration.
  • Ease of maintenance
  • Sixty year life.

Slab Track Austria would also appear to have worked extensively with Austrian Railways, to get everything as right as possible.

It just shows how much improvement can be squeezed out of some traditional industrial and construction processes.

HS2

TheSlab Track Austria track has also been used extensively on the new Berlin to Munich high speed line, that I wrote about in From Berlin To Munich In Four Hours By Train. This is said about the use of the track on that line, in the Rail Engineer article.

PORR was contracted to design and build three major sections of the railway route. Its patented slab track, STA, was installed over a total length of 320km, in tunnels, on bridges and in open sections. Operations started successfully in December 2015 on the VDE 8.2 section, from Erfurt to Leipzig and Halle. Since December 2017, the sections VDE 8.1.2, from Coburg to Illmenau, and VDE 8.1.3, from Bad Staffelstein to Coburg, have been in operation. Trains have been running on the STA slab track layout at speeds of 300km/h. Prior to commissioning, this slab track was tested at 330 km/h.

So it would appear to be suitable for the 400 kph, that is quoted for HS2, with perhaps a bit of tweaking.

The article also says this about using the track on HS2.

Cost analysis research suggests that the savings made from the reduced maintenance required for STA track will equate to a payback of within 15 to 20 years when compared to ballasted track systems. The opportunity for significant savings, as well as increased network availability due to the reduced maintenance requirement, has to mean that this system is a serious contender for any new railway route, one of which, of course, is HS2.

A dedicated factory producing the slabs would surely increase quality.

But whatever happens, with its numerous, bridges, tunnels and viaducts, I suspect that HS2 will be built using slab track.

In the last quote, a payback time of fifteen to twenty years is suggested, if the track is used on a new railway.

So where else could slab track be used to advantage?

East-West Rail Link

I feel that the East West Rail Link, could be a possibility.

Consider.

  • It will not be initially electrified.
  • It is through terrain that is not very challenging
  • It is fairly close to HS2 and a possible slab track factory.

Building the line with slab track, could help make the East West Rail Link a low-energy and low-noise line for battery or hydrogen trains.

West Anglia Main Line Four-Tracking

Adding two extra tracks to the West Anglia Main Line between Coppermill Junction, which is just South of Tottenham Hale station, and Broxbourne station will be a difficult project.

The line is hemmed in on both sides by housing and slab track might give advantages.

  • Ease to squeeze the tracks in the limited space available.
  • Reduced noise.
  • Speedier construction.

If Crossrail 2 is built, this four-tracking will have to be done.

Calder Valley Line

The Calder Valley Line should be updated to create a quality roue across the Pennines from Preston to Leeds.

Parts of the line would be challenging to improve to say the least, with lots of heritage features around the track.

Using slab track in places, has has been done on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, might help with the following.

  • The construction works needed.
  • Increasing line speed.
  • Lowering noise.
  • Reduced maintenance.

The Wikipedia entry for the Calder Valley Line has a section called Holme Tunnel Engineering Work. This is said.

Holme Tunnel, which lies between Hebden Bridge and Burnley Manchester Road, was closed for 20 weeks from November 2013 until March 2014. This was to allow for major engineering work to fix the distorted shape of the tunnel, caused by movement of the ground through which it passes. The project was budgeted to cost £16.3million. During the works, buses replaced train services. Trains can now pass through at 45 mph.

I don’t think slab track was used in the work in this tunnel, but do we need 45 mph speed limits on Trans Pennine routes? After reading this article on Rail Engineer, it would appear that 75 mph will be possible in the future.

But this project does show some of the major problems on Trans Pennine routes!

It will be interesting to see what happens on this line.

Other Trans Pennine Routes

The other two Trans Pennine routes, the Huddersfield Line and the Hope Valley Line both have similar characteristics.

  • Twisting routes.
  • Several tunnels.
  • Lots of bridges.

They are also busy with passenger and freight traffic.

When the plans for the updating of these lines is published, I suspect that slab track will feature, especially in some of the tunnels.

Across Chat Moss

George Stephenson had difficulty building the Liverpool to Manchester Railway across Chat Moss in 1829. Wikipedia says this about his solution.

 Chat Moss threatened the completion of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, until George Stephenson, with advice from East Anglian marshland specialist Robert Stannard, succeeded in constructing a railway line through it in 1829; his solution was to “float” the line on a bed of bound heather and branches topped with tar and covered with rubble stone. The M62 motorway, completed in 1976, also crosses the bog, to the north of Irlam.

I have talked to drivers, who drive Class 319 trains along the now-electrified line across Chat Moss. They told me, that the soft suspension gives an interesting ride.

Under Timings And Line Speeds in the Wikipedia entry for the Liverpool-Manchester Lines, this is said.

The fastest recorded run was from Manchester Exchange to Liverpool Lime St in 30 minutes 46 seconds by a 1936 built Jubilee 5707 with 7 coaches. An 1882-built compound steam locomotive was timed on the same route in 38 minutes 18 seconds. Until 1968 trains from Liverpool to Manchester by all 3 routes were scheduled to take 40 minutes and often took less. The southern route via Warrington is now restricted to 85 mph and the northern route via Earlestown to 90 mph, with 75 mph over Chat Moss.

It would appear that something needs to be done  to get timings between Liverpool and Manchester, back to those of the 1930s.

Would slab track across Chat Moss be part of the solution?

Tunnels

Various tunnel upgrades have shown how using slab track in tunnels is a very helpful technique.

Many tunnels will need to be updated to increase clearance for freight trains and overhead wires and also to solve structural problems caused by anno domini.

I believe we’ll see a lot more slab track in tunnels on the UK rail network.

Noise Reduction

The Rail Engineer article, says this about Slab Track Austria’s slab track.

The elastomeric layer also helps to reduce vibration and structure-borne noise, thus offering protection to supporting structures and reducing the noise created by passing trains – an important feature in built-up areas and tunnels.

So will we see increasing use of slab track in areas, where noise asnd vibration is a problem?

Other Lines

I see the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, as an example use of slab track that will be very much copied.

Slab track has been used successfully in sections, where clearance is limited and noise is a problem.

The use of slab track, might have meant that several bridges didn’t need to be rebuilt.

How many places in the UK have similar needs.

Conclusion

The rethinking of how we build railways by Slab Track Austria, will benefit our rail network and all those who use it.

We’ll be seeing a lot more slab track!

 

 

March 21, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Bridge In Tottenham Marks The Beginning Of Restoring A Line Lost During The Beeching Era

The title of this post says it all and is the same as this article on Rail Professional.

Some might argue that Beeching got it wrong!

My feelings though are the politicians and British Rail managers of the day  generally didn’t have any vision about how the railways should be simplified to on the one hand save money and on the other perhaps create paths, cycleways and leisure facilities, for the good of everyone.

Harold Wilson’s view that everybody would have their own car and the railways were finished didn’t help either.

The Lea Valley was my childhood playground and I’d regularly cycle to the area. But unlike now, much was closed to the public.

This Google Map shows the location of the bridge.

Note.

  1. The railway line is the West Anglia Mail Line, running South from Tottenham Hale stations.
  2. The bridge carrying the Easter pair of tracks is being replaced.
  3. Tottenham South Junction is North of the bridge and the line going West is the Tottenham South Curve, that links the West Anglia Main Line to the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.
  4. The Markfield Beam Engine is to the West.
  5. The Walthamstow Wetlands are to the East.

The area will get even more complicated in the future, when Crossrail 2 is built.

These are various pictures of the bridge site, taken on different dates

The bridge will be an important link in the development of the railways in the area.

January 12, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is It Possible To Squeeze Two New Tracks Through Tottenham Hale Station?

Now that the area behind the station is more or less cleared and the signalling cables seem to have been rerouted, you can get a better idea.

Will the new tracks be the Slow or Fast Lines?

As the third track is being installed for STAR at the present time, it would appear that the two new lines will be the Slow Lines.

October 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Extra Track Up The Lea Valley

Yesterday, Network Rail released this document on their web site, which is entitled Extra track to be installed in Lee Valley this autumn for a bigger and better railway.

This is the opening sentence.

Work to build a new track between Stratford and Angel Road is being stepped up this autumn as part of the £170m Lee Valley Rail Programme to increase services and boost local regeneration.

Network Rail will carry out the following work as part of its Railway Upgrade Plan:

  • Strengthening the River Lea rail bridge near Tottenham Hale to support the new third track
  • Installing foundations for the new overhead line structures to provide power for trains using the third track
  • Installing foundations for the new island platform and footbridge at Tottenham Hale station to help people move around the station easier
  • Installing foundations for a new island platform at Northumberland Park to allow access to trains that will use the new track
  • To make the most of the closure, track will also be renewed near Lea Bridge station as part of the track renewals programme

It certainly makes my pictures clearer.

I took these pictures yesterday.

Note.

  1. The current platform 1 at Tottenham Hale station will be turned into an island platform.
  2. It will be tight to squeeze everything in at Tottenham Hale.
  3. It looks like the space for the track between Tottenham Hale and Angel Road stations has been cleared.
  4. The current platform 1 at Northumberland Park station will be turned into an island platform.
  5. The level crossing at Northumberland Park station has been closed.

It would appear a good start has been made.

This Google Map shows the footbridge that goes over the tracks and the Victoria Line Depot.

Note that when it comes to squeezing in a fourth track, there is more space than first appears.

 

August 2, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Musings On The West Anglia Main Line

The West Anglia Main Line is the main railway between Liverpool Street station in the City of London and the Scientific Powerhouse of Cambridge via Stansred Airport.

This post started off as The Mother Of All Level Crossing Jams, when I got caught in a jam caused by the level crossing at Enfield Lock station.

It has since grown into a long post of the inadequacies of this important main line.

The Mother Of All Level Crossing Jams

These are pictures I took at Enfield Lock station in mid-morning.

I had arrived at the station at 11:04 and my train had departed on its way at 11:08.

I was in no hurry taking the pictures and I left at 11:22 after eight trains had gone through, without the gates being raised.

In two of the pictures, you can see a discarded broken gate. Was it caused by an irate motorist?

After I got back to the station, the barriers were still going up and down like a whore’s drawers and talking to a fellow passenger, she said it happens all the time.

Improving The West Anglia Main Line

Consider the following, which could effect what happens in the future.

  • Stansted Airport, Greater Anglia, Transport for London, the London Borough of Enfield, Cambridge City Council and the local MPs, all want the line to be four-tracked so that services to Cambridge and Stansted Airport can have their own dedicated fast lines.
  • ,Greater Anglia have ordered lots of new trains and I suspect they want to run much-needed extra services into both Stratford and Liverpool Street stations.
  • Enfield Lock could be a Crossrail 2 station in ten years or so.
  • Crossrail 2 would want to run up to twelve trains per hour (tph).

It is a certainly a case of squeezing a couple of gallons into a pint pot.

Enfield Lock And Brimsdown

To make matters worse there is another equally congested level crossing at the next station to the South; Brimsdown.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. Enfield Lock station is in the North West corner of the map, with Brimsdown in the South West corner.
  2. Mollinson Avenue, which tracks along the railway to its East, is nearly all dual carriageway.
  3. These is a lot of industrial premises in the area.
  4. There are a lot of distribution depots that need road access for heavy trucks.
  5. It is going to use all the ingenuity that Network Rail can muster to squeeze two extra tracks between those two stations.

If ever there was an area that needs an increased rail service it is this stretch of the West Anglia Main Line between Tottenham Hale and Cheshunt stations.

Improving The Lea Valley Lines

I suspect that British Rail foresaw the problem in the 1950s, as by 1960, they had electrified all the Lea Valley Lines including the goods-only Southbury Loop, which is now part of the London Overground, who run two tph on the route.

Both London Overground and Greater Anglia are getting new Aventra trains, which should increase the capacity and speed up services on both routes.

However, this could create a problem, in that they are such good trains, they may persuade more commuters to leave their cars at home and take the trains.

More Frequent Services

London Overground like to run four tph on their various routes.

At present, their Lea Valley services are as follows.

  • 4 tph from Liverpool Street to Chingford.
  • 2 tph from Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, with more services in the Peak and when Spurs are playing at home.
  • 2 tph from Liverpool Street to Cheshunt.

I suspect that they would like to run four tph all day and that after Crossrail opens and releases some platforms at Liverpool Street, this might happen.

However in Increased Frequencies On The East London Line, I publish a table, which says that from 2019, Enfield Town will get four tph.

Greater Anglia must be looking to improve services on the West Anglia Main Line, so that all stations South of Broxbourne get four tph, with perhaps two tph to each of  Liverpool Street and Stratford.

And then there’s STAR, which is a new service between Stratford and Angel Road stations. This article on IanVisits, which is entitled One of London’s quietest train stations set for major upgrade, gives a good explanation of this service, which will provide four tph between Stratford and a rebuilt Angel Road station, which will be renamed Meridian Water.

More Terminal Capacity In London

Adding these services together, I feel that  more capacity is needed at the London terminals of Liverpool Street and Stratford.

There are two short term solutions and one long term one.

Create More Capacity At Liverpool Street

This is the simplest short-term solution.

In the Wikipedia entry for Liverpool Street station, this is said.

Once Crossrail opens, platform 18 at the main Liverpool Street station will be decommissioned to allow platforms 16 and 17 to be extended, enabling them to accommodate longer trains.

I would assume this platform-lengthening is to accommodate the full-length Class 345 trains, that will run the Peak Hour service between Liverpool Street and Gidea Park stations.

I suppose too, having two platforms in Liverpool Street, that are capable of handling Crossrail trains must also be useful in special or exceptional circumstances.

Platform 18 is a curiosity, in that it is used by c2c as a diversion platform, when Fenchurch Street station is closed because of engineering works.

So after the work on platforms 16 and 17 is complete, will it be recommissioned?

That leaves fifteen platforms for Greater Anglia and London Overground to argue over.

If you compare the way Liverpool Street is organised compared to some more modern stations, I suspect that more modern trains can be handled without any expensive modifications to the existing station.

Modern practice means that a single platform can easily handle four tph, so as destinations like Norwich and Southend will only have three tph, could it mean that these destinations can be served by a single platform?

It would certainly make it easy for me, if I knew the fast Ipswich trains always left from platform 9.

I suspect that as London Overground has only three destinations; Cheshunt, Chingford and Enfield Town, whiich have a maximum frequency of four tph, that they could easily manage with four platforms; one for each destination and a spare.

This would give Greater Anglia eleven platforms.

Note this about Greater Anglia’s new trains.

  • The Class 745 trains will be of a fixed formation of twelve cars.
  • Will the three-car and four-car Class 755 trains have the ability to join and split automatically?
  • Will the five-car Class 720 trains have the ability to join and split automatically?

Having seen how Class 395 trains and others can do this in under a couple of minutes and the flexibility of destinations it gives, I will be very surprised if Greater Anglia haven’t specified this capability.

  • As an example, two four-car Class 755 trains could start at Lowestoft and Bury St. Edmunds respectively and then join at Ipswich, before proceeding to London as an eight-car train.
  • Would it be sensible that all trains go into Liverpool Street at maximum length?
  • Trains might split and join at Ipswich, Colchester and perhaps Chelmsford. All that is needed is a long platform.

Perhaps Greater Anglia’s platforms at Liverpool Street could be allocated something like this.

For Flirts (Class 745 and Class 755)

  • Norwich
  • Ipswich/Lowestoft
  • Stansted Airport
  • Cambridge

For Aventras (Class 720)

  • Bishops Stordford/Broxbourne/Hertford East
  • Colchester/Harwich
  • Clacton/Walton
  • Chelmsford/Braintree
  • Southend

On this rough assessment, it would appear that at least for a few years Liverpool Street station could cope.

Developing Stratford As A Second Terminal

Consider these facts about the railway hub at Stratford.

  • Stratford has not been fully developed as a terminal for the West Anglia routes and only handles two tph to and from Bishops Stortford.
  • Stratford has two platforms 11 and 12, that were built to serve the West Anglia routes; the West Anglia Main Line and the Lea Valley Lines.
  • Platforms 11 and 12 are on the High Meads Loop, which would reverse the trains on West Anglia routes.
  • Stratford is well connected to Crossrail, Central and Jubilee Lines of the Underground, the DLR, the Overground , Highspeed services to Kent and Greater Anglia services on the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • Stratford has better connections than Liverpool Street to London Bridge and Waterloo
  • Stratford could have excellent connections to Highspeed services to Kent and Continental services at Ashford International.
  • Stratford will be only a few minutes from Liverpool Street on Crossrail.

Stratford is also a destination in its own right, with the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the massive shopping complex.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the complex at Stratford.

It is very much capable of development.

  • Better connections could be made between Stratford International and the main station.
  • The subways in the complex could be improved.
  • The Hall Farm Curve could be reinstated to give direct connections between Stratford and Walthamstow/Chingford.

I would not be surprised if Greater Anglia increased their services to and from Stratford.

I could also envisage a timetable, where trains alternate between the two terminals., as every passenger will have their favoured terninal.

Crossrail 2

Crossrail 2 is the long-term solution.

Upwards of ten tph will run between Broxbourne and Tottenham Hale, before entering the tunnel to Central and South West London.

It will obviously handle all the local services South of Broxbourne, with just the services from the North continuing to Liverpool Street and Stratford.

Following Abbey Wood, Reading and Shenfield stations on Crossrail, I think that we would see Broxbourne station developed as a simple interchange between longer distance services and Crossrail 2.

Both services would have their own tracks to London.

Conclusion

The West Anglia Main Line urgently needs improvement and this improvement can be broken down into a series of smaller projects, the first three of which have already started and could be completed by 2020.

  1. Creation of STAR – The Stratford-Angel Road Metro – Already started.
  2. Building of new Meridian Water station to replace Angel Road station – Already started.
  3. Rebuilding of Tottenham Hale station – Already started.
  4. Post-Crossrail Improvements at Liverpool Street and Stratford stations.
  5. Removal of level crossings at Brimsdown, Enfield Lock and Waltham Cross
  6. Four-tracking between Tottenham Hale and Broxbourne.
  7. Step-Free Stations
  8. Reinstatement of the Hall Farm Curve.

These projects will also get the main line Crossrail 2-ready.

This process has already started with the creation of STAR, which will create a third track as far as Angel Road station. In the article on IanVisits, this is said.

Along the tracks nearby there are already hi-vis wearing Network Rail contractors clearing the land to prepare it for the Stratford to Angel Road (STAR) rail upgrade project which will see a third railway track added. Passive provision for a fourth track will be included for Crossrail 2.

This work has already closed the level crossing at Nothumberland Park station.

In Innovation In Railway Projects, I describe how Network Rail are aiming to create a pipeline of smaller projects.

I feel that some parts of the updating of the West Anglia Main Line can be done in this way.

 

 

 

August 1, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Could Enfield Lock Station Have A Bay Platform?

In West Anglia Route Improvement – Modern Railways March 2017, I mentioned that Crossrail 2 might like to have turnback platform at Enfield Lock station.

As this morning, I turned back myself at Enfield Lock station, as it’s the Freedom Pass limit, I took these pictures.

This Google Map shows the middle of the station.

If you look at the West side of the station by the Down line, you’ll notice the house, which from the pictures could be a candidate for demolition.

So I do think, it might be possible to squeeze an extra platform, by the Down Line.

This Google Map shows the Southern end of the platforms.

The space available would certainly be enough for an extra platform, but will there be enough for two fast lines between the current Up Line and the houses?

I suspect that there is, if the current lines could be moved slightly to the West.

But as at Tottenham  Hale and Brimsdown, fitting the two fast lines through \Enfield Lock, is going to need a cunning plan.

H

March 20, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment