The Anonymous Widower

Iron Ore Miner Orders Heavy-Haul Battery Locomotive

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

Mining company Roy Hill has ordered a Wabtec FLXdrive battery-electric heavy-haul freight locomotive. This will replace one the four ES44ACi diesel-electric locos used to haul its 2 700 m long iron ore trains, and is expected to reduce fuel costs and emissions by ‘double digit’ percentages while also cutting maintenance costs.

The locomotive is scheduled to be delivered in 2023. It will have a capacity of 7 MWh, an upgrade from the 2·4 MWh prototype which Wabtec and BNSF tested in revenue service in California earlier this year.

Note.

  1. It will have a 7 MWh battery.
  2. 2700 metres is 1.6 miles.

It looks to me, that the three diesel locomotives and one battery locomotive are arranged as a massive hybrid locomotive and I suspect that with sophisticated control systems, those double digit cuts in fuel costs and emissions would be possible.

A couple of years ago, I took this picture near Shenfield.

This double-headed train has a Class 90 electric locomotive and a Class 66 diesel locomotive at the front of a long freight train.

  • The Class 90 locomotive has an TDM system for multiple working.
  • The Class 66 locomotive has an AAR system for multiple working.

So does this mean that the two locomotives can’t work together, which if it does begs the question of what is happening.

  • Had the Class 66 locomotive failed and Class 90 was acting as a Thunderbird?
  • Was the Class 66 locomotive being moved from one depot to another for maintenance or repair?
  • Was it an experiment to see if the two locomotives could work together?

I sometimes think that I didn’t see this unusual formation, but then the camera doesn’t lie.

But could we learn from what Wabtec are doing for Roy Hill in Australia?

The Class 93 Locomotive

Rail Operations Group have already ordered thirty Class 93 tri-mode locomotives from Stadler, which have following power ratings.

  • Electric – 4000 kW
  • Diesel – 900 kW
  • Hybrid – 1300 kW

If this locomotive is capable of hauling the heaviest intermodal freight trains out of Felixstowe, Southampton and other ports and freight terminals, it could contribute to substantial  reductions in the diesel fuel used and emissions.

As an example, I will use a freight train between Felixstowe North Terminal and Trafford Park Euro Terminal.

  • It is a route of 280 miles.
  • I will ignore that it goes along the North London Line through North London and along the Castlefield Corridor through Manchester Piccadilly station.
  • There is fifteen miles without electrification at the  Felixstowe end.
  • There is under three miles without electrification at the  Manchester end.

On this service , it could be as much as 94 % of diesel and emissions are saved, if the Class 93 locomotive can haul a heavy freight train out of Felixstowe. A few miles of strategically-placed electrification at the Ipswich end would help, if required.

It must also be born in mind, that the Class 93 locomotive is a 110 mph locomotive on electric power and could probably do the following.

  • Run at 100 mph on the busy Great Eastern Main Line.
  • Run at faster speeds on the West Coast Main Line.
  • Fit in well with the 100 mph passenger trains, that run on both routes.

So not only does it save diesel and carbon emissions, but it will save time and make the freight train easier to timetable on a route with lots of 100 mph passenger trains.

The Class 93 locomotive looks like it could be a game-changer for long-distance intermodal freight, especially, if there were short sections of strategically-placed electrification, added to the electrified network.

Emissions could also be reduced further by using some for of sustainable fuel.

The picture shows a Class 66 locomotive, which is powered by Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil  or HVO.

I can see that all diesel-powered trains and locomotives will be powered by sustainable fuels by the end of this decade.

A Wabtec Battery-Electric Locomotive

Wabtec is building a battery-electric locomotive for Roy Hill in Australia.

This article on Railway Age talks about Wabtec’s FLXdrive battery locomotives and describes some features of the locomotive for Roy Hill in Australia.

It mentions pantographs and overhead wires to charge the batteries.

  • Wabtec’s prototype battery locomotive has a power output of 3.24 MW and a battery size of 2.4 MWh
  • The Roy Hill battery locomotive has a power output of 3.24 MW and a battery size of 7 MWh

I could envisage Wabtec designing a UK-sized battery-electric locomotive with these characteristics.

  • 2.5 MW power output, which is similar to a Class 66 locomotive.
  • A battery size of perhaps 1.8 MWh based on Wabtec’s  FLXdrive technology.
  • A pantograph to charge the batteries and also power the locomotive where electrification exists.
  • 75 mph operating speed.
  • Ability to work in tandem with a Class 66 locomotive.

All technology is under Wabtec’s control.

This locomotive could have a range of at least fifty miles on battery power.

I think this locomotive could handle these routes.

  • Peterborough and Doncaster via the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Line via Lincoln, with some form of charging at halfway.
  • Felixstowe and Nuneaton, with some extra electrification at some point between Peterborough and Leicester.
  • Oxford and Birmingham, with possibly some extra electrification in the middle.

One option for charging electrification, would surely be to electrify passing loops.

I think a battery-electric locomtive based on Wabtec’s  FLXdrive technology could be a very useful locomotive.

Could Wabtec’s Battery-Electric Locomotive Pair-Up With A Class 66 Locomotive?

Roy Hill will use their locomotive to form a consist of three diesel locomotives and one battery locomotive to obtain double-digit savings of fuel and emissions, when hauling iron-ore trains that are 1.6 miles long on a route of 214 miles.

We don’t have massive iron-ore trains like this, but we do move huge quantities of segregates and stone around the country in trains generally hauled by Class 66 locomotives.

So could a Class 66 or another suitable locomotive be paired-up with a battery-electric locomotive to make savings of fuel and emissions?

I would suggest that if it works in Australia, the technology will probably work in the UK.

The biggest problem for Wabtec is that the heavy end of the market may well be a good one for hydrogen-powered locomotives. But Wabtec are going down that route too!

Conclusion

I am convinced that the two decarbonisation routes I have outlined here are viable for the UK.

But I also feel that locomotive manufacturers will produce hydrogen-powered locomotives.

Other companies like Alstom, Siemens and Talgo will also offer innovative solutions.

 

 

 

 

 

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

What Does High Speed Two Mean By Classic Compatible Trains?

The Classic-Compatible trains are described in this section in Wikipedia, by this sentence.

The classic-compatible trains, capable of high speed but built to a British loading gauge, permitting them to leave the high speed track to join conventional routes such as the West Coast Main Line, Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line. Such trains would allow running of HS2 services to the north of England and Scotland, although these non-tilting trains would run slower than existing tilting trains on conventional track. HS2 Ltd has stated that, because these trains must be specifically designed for the British network and cannot be bought “off-the-shelf”, these conventional trains were expected to be around 50% more expensive, costing around £40 million per train rather than £27 million for the captive stock.

The Classic-Compatible trains will share these characteristics with the Full-Size trains.

  • Maximum speed of 225 mph.
  • Cruising speed of 205 mph on High Speed Two.
  • Length of 200 metres.
  • Ability to work in pairs.
  • A passenger capacity around 500-600 passengers.

But what characteristics will the Classic-Compatible trains share with other trains on the UK network?

The Classic-Compatible trains will share some tracks with other trains, according to High Speed Two’s latest plans.

  • On the East Coast Main Line, the trains will run between York and Newcastle.
  • On the Liverpool Branch between Weaver junction and Liverpool Lime Street station.
  • On the Midland Main Line between Clay Cross North junction and Sheffield.
  • On the Midland main Line between East Midlands Hub and Bedford.
  • On the West Coast Main Line, the trains will run between Crewe and Glasgow.
  • On the West Coast Main Line, the trains will run between Stafford and Macclesfield.

As High Speed Two develops, the Classic-Compatible trains could venture off the main routes to places like Aberdeen, Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool, Cleethorpes, Holyhead, Huddersfield, Inverness, Middlesbrough, Redcar, Scarborough, Stirling and Sunderland.

They will need to be able to go anywhere, which is worthwhile to connect to High Speed Two.

The main restriction is the size of the train and so a Classic-Compatible train probably can’t be larger than the largest train on the UK network, with respect to width, height and to a certain extend length.

Widths of typical trains are as follows.

  • Class 319 train – 2.82 metres
  • Class 321 train – 2.82 metres
  • Class 387 train – 2.80 metres
  • Class 700 train – 2.80 metres
  • Class 710 train – 2.77 metres
  • Class 745 train – 2.72 metres
  • Class 800 train – 2.70 metres
  • Mark 4 coach – 2.73 metres

Heights of typical trains are as follows.

  • Class 319 train – 3.58 metres
  • Class 321 train – 3.78 metres
  • Class 387 train – 3.77 metres
  • Class 710 train – 3.76 metres
  • Class 745 train – 3.95 metres
  • Mark 4 coach – 3.79 metres

Note.

  • I find it odd, that the smallest width is one of the newest trains; Hitachi’s Class 800.
  • Length is fairly irrelevant as many trains in the UK are almost 240 metres long.

I suspect that Classic-Compatible trains will have width of between 2.70 and 2.80 metres and a height of around 3.80 metres.

Could A High Speed Two Classic-Compatible Train Go Through The Thameslink Tunnel?

I ask this question, as surely in a post-pandemic world, where we are all flying there may be a case to be made for a train service between the North of England and Gatwick Airport.

But when East Midlands Railway has their new Class 810 trains, it might be possible, if they didn’t use the diesel engines.

Signalling would not be a problem, as in a few years time, all trains will be equipped with the latest digital signalling systems.

If running a Class 810 train, through the tunnel is possible, given that a  Classic-Compatible train will not be larger than a Class 810 train, will High Speed Two’s trains be able to cross London in the Thameslink Tunnel?

As Midlands Connect are planning to run a Leeds and Bedford service using High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains, could this service be extended through the Thameslink Tunnel to Gatwick Airport and Brighton?

I have a feeling that this will be physically possible.

  • It would be under the control of the signalling.
  • There’s no reason, why a high speed train can’t have a precise low speed performance.
  • It would stop at all stations.
  • It would use one of the Bedford and Brighton paths on Thameslink

Passengers would like catching a train at a station in Central London and like being whisked all the way to East Midlands Hub and Leeds.

Could A High Speed Two Classic-Compatible Train Go Through The Crossrail Tunnel?

Consider.

  • It would surely be possible to arrange tracks at Old Oak Common to allow High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains to go between High Speed Two and Crossrail.
  • Crossrail is considering running to Ebbsfleet.
  • It might even be possible to connect in East London.
  • The High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains would be digitally-signalled and controlled through Crossrail without stopping.
  • Platform edge doors would ensure safety, but also prevent the trains from stopping at the existing stations.

I have just looked at the London railway map on carto metro, there are stretches of Crossrail under London, where there is space for a station with 200 metre, if not a 400 metre platforms, to the West or East of current Crossrail stations.

  • To the West of Bond Street
  • To the East of Tottenham Court Road
  • To the West of Farringdon
  • To the East of Liverpool Street
  • To the West of Canary Wharf
  • To the East of Canary Wharf

Would all appear to have the required space and be possibilities for extra High Speed Two platforms.

Effectively, some stations would have two sets of platforms on the tracks beside each other.

  • One pair of platforms would be the existing station, with platform edge doors compatible with Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.
  • The other pair of platforms would be the High Speed Two station, with platform edge doors compatible with High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains.
  • The signalling and train control systems would automatically stop trains in the appropriate platform.
  • Extra passageways would link the new platforms to the existing station.

I suspect when Crossrail was designed, the possibility of adding extra stations to the underground section was considered and there is a method of adding extra platforms in Crossrail’s book of cunning engineering ideas.

Conclusion

I don’t rule out a High Speed service between Birmingham and stations in the North of Great Britain and major cities on the Continent.

  • Crossrail would be used to link High Speed One and High Speed Two.
  • High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains would be used.
  • Stops in London could be Old Oak Common, Bond Street, Liverpool Street, Canary Wharf and Ebbsfleet

It may sound to be a fanciful idea, but I believe it is possible.

 

 

 

August 23, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Thoughts On Phase 2a Of High Speed Two

This map shows the route of Phase 2a of High Speed Two.

Note.

  1. The blue circles are stations.
  2. From the top, the stations are Crewe, Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford, Birmingham Curzon Street and Birmingham Interchange.
  3. The lighter blue track is sections of the West Coast Main Line, that will be used by High Speed Two services.
  4. The darker blue track is Phase 1 of High Speed Two.
  5. The orange track is Phase 2b of High Speed Two to East Midlands Hub, Leeds and Sheffield.
  6. The mauve track is Phase 2a of High Speed Two.

This page on the High Speed Two web site, which is entitled Phase 2a: West Midlands To Crewe, says this about the building and opening of Phase 2a.

It will be built at the same time as the line between London and the West Midlands. High speed services will begin operating between London, Birmingham and Crewe between 2029 and 2033.

It is my opinion, to build Phase 1 and Phase 2a together is a good move.

  • Crewe is a very well-connected station.
  • It will reduce times between Crewe and London Euston by 34 minutes.

But most importantly, it completes a second separate route for the West Coast Main Line between Crewe and London Euston.

Just think what new bypasses and motorways have done for your driving.

These are some thoughts and observations.

West Coast Main Line Benefits

The High Speed Two web page, which is entitled Phase 2a: West Midlands To Crewe, has a section called West Coast Main Line Benefits, where this is said.

Phase 2a unlocks more rail capacity on the West Coast mainline. It will carry six long distance high speed services per hour, freeing up the West Coast Mainline between Lichfield and Crewe. This could see services rise from hourly to half-hourly or better between Crewe and Stoke-on-Trent to Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield and Rugeley, as well as more services from Crewe to Runcorn and Liverpool, as well as via Crewe between North Wales, Chester and London.

It would appear the six long-distance services could be.

  • Train 1 – London Euston and Lancaster – Splits and joins with Train 2 at Crewe.
  • Train 2 – London Euston and Liverpool – Splits and joins with Train 1 at Crewe.
  • Train 3 – London Euston and Liverpool – Single train
  • Train 4 – London Euston and Edinburgh/Glasgow – Splits and joins at Carlisle for Edinburgh and Glasgow
  • Train 5 – London Euston and Edinburgh/Glasgow – Splits and joins at Carlisle for Edinburgh and Glasgow
  • Train 6 – Birmingham Curzon Street and Edinburgh/Glasgow – Serves Edinburgh and Glasgow alternately.

Note that all services use a single or a pair of High Speed Two Classic Compatible trains.

A High Speed Test Route Can Be Created

Consider.

  • At the Northern end of the Phase 2a track is Crewe station.
  • At the Southern end of the Phase 2a track is Birmingham Interchange station.
  • The track between the two end stations will be newly-laid modern high speed track capable of 225 mph running.
  • There will be no intermediate stations or Victorian throwbacks like level crossings.
  • The only junctions are at the end of the route.
  • If the High Speed Two trains are built in this country, there will be a need for somewhere to check them out.

The Phase 2a track will surely make an ideal test track for testing trains and systems and training drivers.

 

August 22, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Should Improvement Needed For High Speed Two On The East And West Coast Main Lines Be Given High Priority?

High Speed Two will bring major improvements in times between London and the North of England and Scotland, with these figures claimed by this page on the High Speed Two web site.

  • London Euston and Carlisle – 2 hours and 23 minutes saving 54 minutes
  • London Euston and Darlington – 1 hours and 50 minutes saving 32 minutes
  • London Euston and Durham – 2 hours and 16 minutes saving 37 minutes
  • London Euston and Edinburgh – 3 hours and 48 minutes saving 31 minutes
  • London Euston and Glasgow – 3 hours and 40 minutes saving 49 minutes
  • London Euston and Lockerbie – 2 hours and 55 minutes saving 43 minutes
  • London Euston and Newcastle – 2 hours and 17 minutes saving 32 minutes

Substantial savings would seem to be possible.

The Recent Record Run On The West Coast Main Line

A few weeks ago, Avanti West Coast ran a Class 390 train between London Euston and Glasgow in three hours and 53 minutes and 1 second. They were trying to beat the record set by the \APT-P in 1984 of three hours and 52 minutes and 40 seconds.

In Lessons From The Record Run in the August 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, Roger Ford makes a big hint in a section called Hint.

Roger starts with this paragraph.

In the virtual race with APT-P, the Pendolino was seven minutes ahead approaching the border, but this was not sufficient to overcome APT-P’s advantage of being able to run faster over lines which, unlike the southern end of the WCML, have not enjoyed the increased speeds further south, such as at Stafford and Crewe.

He then talks of a levelling-up of the infrastructure being needed on the Northern section of the West Coast Main Line.

Roger finishes the section with this paragraph.

Thus, the final message of the run is that if HS2 is to realise its full potential, planning for the West Coast Route Modernisation (North) needs to start now, both for journey time reductions and reliability.

The High Speed Two time between Preston and Glasgow of two hours and 26 minutes, given by their journey time calculator  is in line with current timings.

I am drawn to the following conclusions about services between Preston and Glasgow.

  • I suspect the similar times  could be expected, as the trains will have to cope with other trains on the route.
  • Most of High Speed Two’s savings must be on the new track to the South of Wigan.

It would appear that any savings made between Preston and Scotland will benefit both classic and high speed services.

I certainly agree with Roger’s hint to start planning the upgrade of the Northern section of the West Coast Main Line.

This would surely enable upgrade of the route to start sooner and places at the North of the route would benefit from faster journey times to the South before High Speed Two is complete.

Reducing The Journey Times On The West Coast Main Line

If you look at the average speed between Preston and Glasgow of a typical train, it is just 84.3 mph.

Various average speeds give the following times between Preston and Glasgow.

  • 90 mph – two hours and 8 minutes
  • 100 mph – one hour and 55 minutes
  • 110 mph – one hour and 45 minutes

It would appear there is scope for reductions in journey times to be made.

I have flown my virtual helicopter along the Scottish part of the route and it doesn’t look to be too terrifying.

  • There are tight speed limits at Preston and Carlisle
  • The railway is not hemmed in by development until close to Glasgow.
  • Most of the modern bridges, where the M74 crosses the railway appear to have space for an extra track.
  • Connection of the Borders Railway to the West Coast Main Line could give scope for improvement between Gretna junction and Carlisle.
  • The depot at Annandale, that I wrote about in High Speed Two To Build Stabling Facility In Scotland, may give scope for a shorter, straighter and faster route between Grena Green and Kirkpatrick-Fleming, that could run closer to the M74.
  • North of Lockerbie, there may be scope to put extra tracks between the railway and the M74.
  • The Carstairs area could be ripe for improvement.

I would feel that digital signalling and some well-applied engineering could cut a sensible amount of time from Preston and Glasgow timings.

  • I can certainly say, that the route is not a desert, where possible improvements will be difficult to find.
  • I also don’t feel there are any obvious improvements, that will be controversial.

There is also the M74, which could be invaluable for camouflaging the railway.

Reducing The Journey Times On The East Coast Main Line

Much of the work to speed up the Northern section of the East Coast Main Line is laid out in Northern Powerhouse Rail – Significant Upgrades Of The East Coast Main Line From Leeds To Newcastle (Via York And Darlington) And Restoration Of The Leamside Line, a post I wrote to explain what Northern Powerhouse Rail feel is urgently needed.

Mentioned in the other post are following projects.

  • Full Digital Signalling
  • Phase 2 Of The East Coast Main Line Power Supply Upgrade
  • York to Church Fenton Improvement Scheme
  • Darlington Station Remodelling
  • The North Throat Of York Station Including Skelton Bridge Junction
  • Use Of The Leamside Line

As with the West Coast Main Line, the improvements would benefit both classic and High Speed services.

Conclusion

Improvements to both the East and West Coast Main Lines will help both classic and High Speed services between London and the North of England and Scotland.

I think that planning and design should be started as soon as possible.

Construction should start as early as possible, so that the benefits of faster trains are felt at the earliest date possible.

 

 

August 15, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 11 Comments

Liverpool’s Vision For Rail

This document on the Liverpool City Region web site is entitled Metro Mayor’s Vision Of A Merseyrail for All Takes Vital Step Forward With Successful Trial Of New Battery-Powered Trains.

It makes these points in the first part of the document.

  • Game-changing technology paves way for Merseyrail network expansion across the Liverpool City Region and beyond
  • Merseyrail services could reach as far as Wrexham and Preston
  • City Region is at the forefront of the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology.

The new battery-powered trains would certainly go a long way to  enable, these objectives.

  • Battery-powered trains would need a range of 26.9 miles to go between Bidston and Wrexham stations.
  • Battery-powered trains would need a range of 15.3 miles to go between Ormskirk and Preston stations.

This link is to the North Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter for Spring 2021.

This is said about battery range of the new Class 777 trains.

Later model Class 777’s have the ability to leave the 3rd rail and operate under battery power for 20 miles or more with a full load thus
permitting expansion of the Merseyrail network beyond its current limits.

I suspect they will also have regenerative braking to batteries, which will increase the range and allow Preston and Wrexham stations to be achieved without charge.

It certainly sounds like Preston and Wrexham and all the intermediate stations,  will be added to the Merseyrail network.

As to the third point above about the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology, I suspect this is mainly regenerative braking to batteries and replacement of elderly worn-out power supply equipment.

There is more in the Liverpool City Region document.

Expanding Merseyrail

This is said.

The game-changing technology could allow the Merseyrail network to extend across all six city region boroughs to places like Rainhill in St Helens, Woodchurch on the Wirral and Widnes in Halton.

It could also allow the new fleet to operate as far afield as Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn.

Note.

  1. A 25 KVAC capability could well be needed. But that is built into the Class 777 trains.
  2. Chargers could be needed at some of these stations. I suspect Stadler have a Swiss manufacturer in mind.

In the run-up to May’s elections, the Mayor pledged to deliver ‘Merseyrail for All, a commitment to connecting under-served communities to the Merseyrail network.

New Stations

Initially the battery-powered trains, which are considerably greener, using up to 30% less energy than the existing fleet, are set to run on services to a planned new station at Headbolt Lane, Kirkby.

The wider Merseyrail for All programme could ensure every community is well served by an integrated public transport network and new and refurbished train stations are also high on the agenda.

They could include:

  • The Baltic Triangle in Liverpool
  • Carr Mill in St Helens
  • Woodchurch on the Wirral

Note.

Tram-Trains And Trackless Trams

The document says this.

Tram-Train technology and trackless trams will also be looked at as potential means of extending the Merseyrail network into hard-to-reach places. The technology could benefit areas such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Speke, Kirkby Town Centre, Southport Town Centre, Wirral Waters and the Knowledge Quarter.

Tram-trains built by Stadler in Valencia are already running in Sheffield and in the next few years they should be deployed on the South Wales Metro.

TStadler are also building Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains, so I suspect they’ll go together like peaches and cream.

The Belgian firm; Van Hool have a product called Exquicity. This video shows them working in Pau in France.

These tram buses run on rubber types and are powered by hydrogen.

Similar buses running in Belfast are diesel-electric.

Could these be what the document refers to as trackless trams?

Battery Train Trials

The article finishes with this summary of the battery train trials. This is said.

Under the battery trials, financed by the Transforming Cities Fund, one of the new class 777 trains fitted with the battery technology was tested on the Northern line.

The batteries exceeded expectations with the trains travelling up to 20 miles per run without the need for re-charging.

The battery trains would remove the need for the third ‘electric’ rail, enabling the trains to travel beyond the existing network without major track investment.

The units passed all tests during four weeks of trials on the City Region’s rail network in May and June.

The Combined Authority and partners are still assessing the full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the programme and will provide more information regarding the roll out as soon as it has been agreed.

It looks to me, if all these plans get implemented successfully, Liverpool City Region will have one of the best public transport systems of any similar-sized cities in the world.

The Full Plan As A Map

This article on the BBC is entitled Battery-Powered Trains Part Of Merseyrail Expansion Plan.

The article contains this map.

There is no key or explanation, but it appears that the pink lines are new routes, where Merseyrail will run trains.

Before I discuss each of the possible routes, I will discuss two big factors, that will affect a lot of my thinking.

The West Coast Main Line

Avanti West Coast have the following stops in trains per hour (tph)  at these stations on the West Coast Main Line as its trains pass the East of Merseyside to and from London Euston.

  • Crewe – At least 5 tph
  • Warrington Bank Quay – At least 2 tph
  • Preston – At least 1 tph

These frequencies are in addition to these direct trains from London Euston.

  • 1 tph to Liverpool Lime Street, which will rise to 2 tph in the December 2022, with a call at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Occasional services to Chester throughout the day.

Passengers do not have to go via Liverpool Lime Street to travel to London.

In addition. there are useful services run by TransPennine Express between Liverpool Lime Street and Scotland, that call at Preston.

In Future; High Speed Two

This will call at Crewe, Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway, Preston and Warrington.

Northern Trains

Northern Trains were in all sorts of troubles and the service is now run directly by the Government’s Operator of Last Resort. I suspect that any reasonable offer to takeover over a service will be looked at favourably.

I will now look at Merseyrail’s new routes.

Ormskirk And Southport Via The Burscough Curve

Consider.

  • This route has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • A curve between Burscough Bridge and Burscough Junction will have to be rebuilt on a former alignment.
  • Southport and Ormskirk are about 13 miles apart.
  • Southport and Ormskirk have third-rail electrified lines to Liverpool and the South.

It would be an ideal route for battery-electric trains with a range of 20 miles.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near five stations a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It gives Southport a town of over 91,000 people more capacity to the city of Liverpool for jobs, leisure and shopping.
  • Will it open up more opportunities for new housing in villages like Burscough?

It will certainly give Merseyrail operational advantages to Southport.

Ormskirk And Preston

Consider.

  • Takeover of this Northern Trains route has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • Preston and Ormskirk are about 15.3 miles and 32 minutes apart.
  • Omskirk has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Preston has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near the Ormskirk and Preston Line a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between North Liverpool and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced to under thirty minutes.

As football is so important to the Liverpool economy, would a time around forty-five minutes between Preston and Sandhills station tempt football supporters going to Anfield and Goodison Park to use the train and then perhaps a trackless tram to the stadium?

This Google map shows the location of Anfield, Goodison Park and Sandhills station.

Note.

  1. Anfield is in the bottom-right corner of the map and is marked by a red arrow.
  2. Goodison is in the top-right corner of the map, slightly to the West of Anfield.
  3. Sandhills station is in the bottom-left corner of the map.

Both stadia are around a mile and a half from the station.

Southport And Preston

Once the Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston services are up and running, it would surely be possible to run a Southport and Preston service.

  • There would be a reverse at Ormskirk.
  • The two sections of Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston would both need battery power.
  • Whilst the driver changed ends at Ormskirk, the train would be recharged using a fast and efficient charger.
  • Times between Southport and Preston would be under an hour.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living in Southport, a direct link to Preston.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between Southport and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.

This service could be very valuable for passengers, but I suspect the route could be implemented with minimal infrastructure changes at Ormskirk station.

Ormskirk Station

This picture shows Ormskirk’s single platform from the Merseyrail end.

Note.

  1. The Liverpool train in the foreground.
  2. The Preston train in the background.
  3. The solid barrier between the trains.

 

I wonder if the following would be possible with the barrier removed.

  • The long platform would be treated as one platform divided into two.
  • Perhaps they will be the Liverpool and Preston/Southport platform,
  • Trains that will leave the station for Liverpool will stop in the Liverpool platform.
  • Trains that will leave the station for Preston or Southport will stop in the Preston/Southport platform.
  • Through trains between Liverpool and Preston or Southport would be possible.
  • A train between Preston and Southport could reverse in the Preston/Southport platform, whilst trains for Liverpool used the Liverpool platform.

It looks like it’s an efficient layout borrowed from somewhere else. and Stadler have probably seen it before.

Headbolt Lane Station

In Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through, I described the new Headbolt Lane station.

This screen capture is from the video in that post,

Note.

  1. Two platforms going away from the camera and one platform and what looks to be a siding going towards the camera.
  2. There appears to be no direct connection between the two different sets of tracks.

Until proven wrong, I believe that the camera is looking towards Liverpool, as it would mean that Liverpool services had two platforms. But they currently make do with one at Kirkby.

There is a walk through between the tracks, which

  • Enables passengers to access the second platform.
  • Allows passengers to enter the station from the other side.
  • Allows non-passengers to cross the tracks on the level.
  • Avoids the need to build a bridge.

It is certainly an innovative design.

If occasional trains need to go through, could there be a lift-out section of the walk-through?

But as there are buffer stops on the tracks in the three platforms, that are either side of the walk-through, I suspect it will never happen, as it’s too much hassle.

In the Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station this is said.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority announced in July 2021 that a trial of a battery electric multiple unit (BEMU) version of the new Class 777 will serve the new station, when it opens. This will not require all of the line extension to Headbolt Lane to be electrified.

Merseyrail would appear to have neatly side-stepped, the Office of Road and Rail’s policy of no more third-rail electrification.

But I’m sure Merseyrail could put an approved train-charging system in the station.

  • They would need one if a Class 777 train arrived with a flat battery.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Wigan Wallgate service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.

The system could be based on a short length of overhead wire and a slim pantograph or a system like Railbaar from Furrer and Frey.

But does it give any clues as to the orientation of the station in the video?

  • As there are three platforms and a siding, that meet at Headbolt Lane station, all could be fitted with chargers. to make sure the services are reliable.
  • Liverpool services could be handled at either end, as it only needs one platform.
  • Skelmersdale and Wigan services could probably share a platform, but they would be better surely using two platforms.
  • The siding could be created into a platform for extra services to be added to the Merseyrail network

So there is no pressing reason, why the station cannot be North or South of the railway.

I suspect road layout and land use issues will eventually decide, the orientation of the station.

Headbolt Lane And Skelmersdale

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail and Lancashire County Council.
  • Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale are just a few miles apart.
  • Direct running between Liverpool and Skelmersdale will not be possible, but it will be a step-free change between trains.

The Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station seems to indicate a proposed extension of the Northern Line with the next stop being the existing Rainford station. This would surely not add greatly to costs and bring Merseyrail to more fare-paying customers.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • Skelmersdale is a town of nearly 39,000 and is said to be one of the largest towns in England without a rail connection.
  • At Headbolt Lane passengers will be able to change for Liverpool or Manchester.

A lot of passengers will have received a modern train service.

Headbolt Lane And Wigan

Consider.

  • This service is currently run by Northern trains.
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate stations are just over twelve miles apart.
  • Someone, who should know told me that by the time High Speed Two starts running through Wigan at a frequency of two tph, the two Wigan stations will have been combined.
  • Headbolt Lane station could be the drop-off point for those needing to go to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London on both the current West Coast Main Line and the future High Speed Two.

What better way to start that journey than on one of Merseyrail’s battery-electric Class 777 trains.

What would it do for passengers?

With modern battery-electric trains linking Headbolt Lane station to the combined Wigan station complex, this route could be the zero-carbon route between large parts of Liverpool and cantres of tourism and employment along and to the East of the M6 and the West Coast Main Line.

Liverpool South Parkway And Warrington Central

Consider.

  • This would be takeover of part of the current Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road service.
  • The map shows the service going at least as far as Warrington Central station.
  • Stations between Hunts Cross and Warrington Central include Halewood, Hough Green, Widnes, Sankey and the new Warrington West stations.

Distances are as follows.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street – 5.5 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Warrington Central – 12.7 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Trafford Park – 25.4 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Manchester Oxford Road – 28.7 miles

The following sections of the route have 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street
  • East of Trafford Park.

With a bit more electrification at either end, the whole route should be in range of a battery-electric Class 777 train.

Or the Class 777 trains could be fitted with bigger batteries!

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • This is a route that has needed decent trains for years and has finally got new Class 195 trains.
  • But, in addition, the battery-electric Class 777 trains would decarbonise the route.

The major problem, though is not infrastructure or trains, but surely Andy Burnham, who is the outspoken Mayor of Greater Manchester and could object to Merseyrail invading his patch.

Merseyrail’s Cheshire Ambitions

This is a section of the map shown on the BBC article, showing Cheshire.

It looks like there could be as many as three routes.

  • Chester and Crewe
  • Chester and Runcorn East
  • Ellesmere Port and Runcorn East

I’ll now cover the routes in detail.

Chester And Crewe

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Crewe are about 21,2 miles and 25 minutes apart.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Crewe has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.
  • There is a proposal, that Beeston Castle and Tarporley station be re-opened.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • If trains will run between Crewe and Liverpool, this creates a second route between the two major stations.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between The Wirral and Crewe, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced by enough to increase service frequency on the route.

I This would be a very useful extension of the Merseyrail network.

Chester And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Runcorn East are about 13.1 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would enable a Merseyrail circular route from Liverpool Lime Street to Chester via Edge Hill, Wavertree Technology Park, Broad Green, Roby, Huyton, Whiston, Rainhill, Lea Green, St Helens Junction, Warrington Bank Quay, Frodsham, Runcorn East and Helsby.
  • After Chester, it could take the Wirral Line back to Liverpool to make it a true Mersey Circular service.

Would a Mersey Circular service be a good idea?

Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the infrequent Northern Rail service.
  • Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East are about 10.8 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Ellesmere Port has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would certainly improve rail transport along the South Bank of the Mersey from Ellesmere Port to Warrington Bank Quay or Runcorn East depending on the Eastern terminus.
  • If the terminal were to be Warrington Bank Quay that would sort out the charging.
  • It could create a direct link in modern electric trains between Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.

I feel that an Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay service would be good for the area.

The Borderlands Line

I’ve left the Borderlands Line to last, as I feel it will be a lot more than commuter and leisure line between Liverpool and Wrexham.

  • It crosses the border between England and Wales
  • The line is 26.9 miles of double track, with a single-track extension of under two miles between the two Wrexham stations.
  • It has over twenty stations with more planned in both countries
  • It crosses a couple of rivers on long steel bridges.
  • It brings commuters to Liverpool and takes workers to the high-tech factories of companies like Airbus and Toyota on Deeside.
  • It connects to a lot of golf courses, one of which is the Open Championship course  at Royal Liverpool.
  • Once in Wales it has two connections to the North Wales Coast Line, which runs between Chester and holyhead.

It is no ordinary railway and is ripe for improvement to bridge passengers to employment sites and leisure areas along its route.

The line has one big problem in that passengers need to change trains at Bidston between Liverpool and Wrexham stations.

  • Between Bidston and Liverpool the Merseyrail electric trains to and from  Hoylake are used and they turn in the Liverpool Loop under Liverpool City Centre calling at four stations before returning.
  • Between Bidston and Wrexham, diesel multiple units are used.

It is a route design straight out of the 1970s of men with minds without imagination. Even British Rail were designing battery-electric trains in the 1950s, which I wrote about in Did The Queen Ever Ride In This Train?.

Merseyrail intend to right the wrongs of the past using battery-electric Class 777 trains.

  • As electric versions of these trains will be used on the Liverpool and Hoylake service, there would be no need to change trains at Bidston if the Liverpool and Wrexham trains were just a battery-electric version of the same train.
  • The Wrexham trains would drive round the Liverpool Loop tunnel as hundreds of trains do every day.
  • The trains would be charged on the existing third-rail electrification at the Liverpool end.
  • I’m fairly certain that a frequency of two tph would be possible on the route, if the Liverpool Loop tunnel signalling could cope,
  • Trains would need to be charged at the Wexham end of the route and I’m sure Stadler have a solution.

It would be an efficient and cost effective way to decarbonise a tricky but useful branch line.

Conclusion

Stadler are playing their full orchestra of ideas on Merseyrail.

When completed, it will be one of the best metros of any urban areas up to a million people in the world.

This metro could do for Liverpool, what the Beatles did for the city in the 1960s.

July 15, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Bletchley Viaduct – 5th July 2021

I took these pictures of the new Bletchley viaduct today,

Note that there is now a bridge over the four tracks of the West Coast Main Line.

July 5, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Battery-Electric Class 331 Trains On The Radar

In the June 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article which is entitled Northern Looks To The Future.

This is a paragraph.

Also on the radar is the creation of hybrid Class 331 EMUs fitted with batteries. A proposal has been developed by CAF and owner Eversholt Rail to augment three-car ‘331s’ with a fourth vehicle containing batteries, which would see batteries also fitted to the existing centre car. The Manchester to Windermere route has been touted as a possible location for deployment, with trains switching to battery power on the non-electrified branch from Oxenholme, although the line’s user group still favours electrification of the branch.

I have a few thoughts.

Electrification at Oxenholme

In Surprising Electrification At Oxenholme, I detailed the electrification at Oxenholme station in May 2018.

Consider.

  • Platform 3 used by the Windermere trains is fully electrified.
  • The crossover South of the station used by trains going between the Windermere Branch Line and the West Coast Main Line is fully electrified.
  • The electrification continues for perhaps a hundred metres along the Windermere branch.

I am fairly certain, that this electrification has been designed so that a bi-mode or battery-electric train can perform a reliable power changeover in Platform 3 at Oxenholme station.

What Will Be The Range Of A Four-Car Battery-Electric Class 331 Train?

This is very much a case of how long is a piece of string.

At least we know from the extract above that the train is designed to do a return trip between Oxenholme and Windermere stations, which is a distance of 20.4 miles and a six minute turnround.

We should also note that Hitachi are claiming a range of 56 miles for their Regional Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

As the Class 331 with batteries will compete with the Hitachi Reional Battery Train, I would suspect that the range on easy level ground would be at least fifty miles at a speed of over 80 mph, if not 100 mph.

A Selection Of Possible Routes

These are a selection of other Northern routes where the battery-electric Class 331 trains might be used.

Manchester Airport and Barrow-in-Furness

Consider.

  • This is a sibling route to the Manchester Airport and Windermere route and currently has eleven services to Windermere’s four.
  • This is a 103.7 mile route.
  • All but 28.1 miles is electrified.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Barrow-in-Furness should be able to handle this route.

Lancaster and Barrow-in-Furness

Consider.

  • This is a 34.8 mile route
  • All but 28.1 miles is electrified.
  • Lancaster is a fully electrified station.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Barrow-in-Furness should be able to handle this route.

Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness

This is the 85.7 mile route of the Cumbrian Coast Line of which none is electrified.

Consider.

  • Carnforth is a fully-electrified station.
  • Barrow-in-Furness station could be electrified.
  • It is a fairly level route along the coast.
  • I suspect that electricity supplies are available at Barrow-in-Furness, Sellafield, Whitehaven and Workington to power electrification.
  • Carlisle is a fully-electrified station.
  • Barrow-in-Furness and Sellafield are only 35 miles apart.
  • CAF have produced trams for Birmingham and Seville, that work with discontinuous electrification.
  • There are parts of the route, where there would be those, who would object to the erection of electrification gantries.

I feel it would be possible to electrify the Cumbrian Coast Line using battery-electric Class 331 trains, with a range of at least fifty miles and some short sections of new electrification.

Surely, a battery-electric train along the Cumbrian Coast by the Lake District would be the ideal train for the area

Lancaster and Morecambe

Consider.

  • This is a 4 mile route.
  • None is electrified.
  • Heysham is another four miles past Morecambe.
  • Lancaster is a fully-electrified station.

This route might have been built for battery-electric trains.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

York and Blackpool North

Consider.

  • This is a 105.5 mile route.
  • In a few years about 62 miles will be without electrification.
  • It goes through the picturesque Calder Valley.

As with the Cumbrian Coast Line, I believe that this service could be run using battery-electric Class 331 trains, with a range of at least fifty miles and some short sections of new electrification.

Preston and Colne

Consider.

  • This is a 29 mile route.
  • None is electrified.
  • It is steeply uphill to Colne.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Colne should be able to handle this route.

Alternatively, they could use Newton’s friend to return down the hill.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

As with York and Blackpool North, this route would benefit with electrification between Preston and Blackburn.

Preston and Blackpool South

Consider.

  • This is a 20 mile route.
  • 7.7 miles is electrified.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains  should be able to handle this route.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

In an ideal world, Preston and Blackburn would be electrified and trains would run between Colne and Blackpool South, as they used to do.

Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport

Consider.

  • This is a 45.5 mile route,
  • 26.5 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at both ends.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains  should be able to handle this route.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road

Consider.

  • This is a 34.2 mile route.
  • 26.5 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at both ends.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains  should be able to handle this route.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

Southport and Alderley Edge

  • This is a 52 mile route,
  • 27 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at the Southern end.
  • There is third rail electrification at Southport.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Southport should be able to handle this route.

Could some Class 331 be fitted with third-rail equipment to charge on Merseyrail’s third-rail electrification?

Manchester Piccadilly and Chester

Consider.

  • This is a 45 mile route.
  • 38 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at Manchester end.
  • There is third rail electrification at Chester.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Chester should be able to handle this route.

Could some Class 331 be fitted with third-rail equipment to charge on Merseyrail’s third-rail electrification?

Manchester Piccadilly and Buxton

Consider.

  • This is a 25.5 mile route.
  • 17.8 miles is not electrified.
  • It is steeply uphill to Buxton.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Buxton should be able to handle this route.

Alternatively, they could use Newton’s friend to return down the hill.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

Manchester Piccadilly and Rose Hill Marple

Consider.

  • This is a 13.3 mile route.
  • 8.3 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at Manchester end.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains should be able to handle this route.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

Manchester Piccadilly and New Mills Central

Consider.

  • This is a 13 mile route.
  • Only 2 miles is electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at Manchester end.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains should be able to handle this route.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

Manchester Piccadilly and Sheffield

Consider.

  • This is a 42 mile route.
  • Only 2 miles is electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at Manchester end.
  • It is a scenic route.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a fifty mile range and a charge at Sheffield should be able to handle this route.

Southport and Stalybridge

  • This is a 45 mile route.
  • 27 miles is not electrified.
  • It will be fully electrified at the Southern end, when electrification between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge is completed.
  • There is third rail electrification at Southport.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Southport should be able to handle this route.

Could some Class 331 be fitted with third-rail equipment to charge on Merseyrail’s third-rail electrification?

Manchester Victoria And Kirkby

  • The Kirkby end of this route will change to the new Headbolt Lane station in a couple of years.
  • This is a 30 mile route.
  • 28 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at the Southern end.
  • There is third rail electrification at Kirkby or Headbolt Lane.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Kirkby or Headbolt Lane should be able to handle this route.

Could some Class 331 be fitted with third-rail equipment to charge on Merseyrail’s third-rail electrification?

I would hope that the new Headbolt Lane station is being designed with battery-electric trains from Manchester in mind!

Rochdale And Clitheroe

Consider.

  • This is a 44.7 mile route.
  • There is 10.7 miles of electrification between Bolton and Manchester Victoria.
  • The Clitheroe end of the route has 23.7 miles of line without electrification.
  • The Rochdale end of the route has 10.4 miles of line without electrification.
  • It is steeply uphill to Clitheroe.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains should be able to handle the Rochdale end, but could struggle with the climb to Clitheroe.

But it appears that all services needing to climb the hills to Colne and Clitheroe now stop in Platform 2, which is different to Wikipedia, which says that services to Clitheroe stop in Platform 1.

  • With charging in platform 2 and a fifty-mile range battery-electric Class 331 trains could reach Clitheroe (9.8 miles), Colne (17 miles), and possibly Leeds (50 miles).
  • With charging in platform 4 and a fifty-mile range battery-electric Class 331 trains could reach Bolton (14 miles) and Preston (12 miles)
  • Would a fully-charged train leaving Blackburn be able to go via Todmorden and reach the electrification at Manchester Victoria, which is a distance of 39.4 miles?

Note.

If necessary a few well-planned extra miles of electrification would ensure reliable battery-electric services  in East Lancashire centred on Blackburn.

The closely-related Blackburn and Rochdale and Blackburn and Wigan Wallgate services would fit in well with an electrified Blackburn station, that could fully charge trains.

I certainly believe that electrifying Preston and Blackburn could give extra benefits.

  • Battery-electric trains between Blackpool and Liverpool in the West and Colne, Hebden Bridge, Bradford, Leeds and York in the East.
  • Direct electric services from Euston to Blackburn and Burnley.
  • Fast freight paths across the Pennines.

In addition, it would probably allow battery-electric trains to run to Leeds via a reinstated Skipton and Colne link.

Wigan And Leeds

Consider.

  • The route can terminate at either Wigan North Western or Wigan Wallgate station.
  • This is a 68.2 mile route using Wigan North Western.
  • Wigan North Western is a fully-electrified station.
  • The 16 miles between Wigan North Western and Salford Crescent stations is not electrified.
  • The 5 miles between Salford Crescent and Manchester Victoria stations is electrified.
  • The 37.2 miles between Manchester Victoria and Mirfield stations is not electrified.
  • The 12.2 miles between Mirfield and Leeds will be electrified in the next few years.
  • Leeds is a fully-electrified station.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a fifty mile range should be able to handle this route.

Chester And Leeds

Consider.

  • This is a 89.7 mile route.
  • There is third rail electrification at Chester.
  • The 18.1 miles between Chester and Warrington Bank Quay stations is not electrified.
  • The 21.8 miles between Warrington Bank Quay and Manchester Victoria stations is electrified.
  • The 40.3 miles between Manchester Victoria and Bradford Interchange stations is not electrified.
  • The 9.4 miles between Bradford Interchange and Leeds stations is not electrified.
  • Leeds is a fully-electrified station.
  • There seems to be generous turnround times at Chester and Leeds.

It looks to me that the trains are going to need a full battery charge at Bradford Interchange or perhaps Leeds and Bradford Interchange needs to be fully electrified.

I also feel that it would help if the electrification through Manchester Victoria were to be extended towards Rochdale.

But I don’t think it will be impossible for battery-electric Class 331 trains to work the route between Leeds and Chester with some new electrification and/or charging at Bradford Interchange.

Manchester Victoria And Leeds

Consider.

  • This is a shortened version of the Chester and Leeds route.
  • This is a 49.8 mile route.
  • Manchester Victoria is a fully-electrified station.
  • The 40.3 miles between Manchester Victoria and Bradford Interchange stations is not electrified.
  • The 9.4 miles between Bradford Interchange and Leeds stations is not electrified.
  • Leeds is a fully-electrified station.

My comments would be similar to the Chester and Leeds route.

Leeds And York Via Harrogate And Knaresborough

Consider.

  • This is a 38.8 mile route.
  • Leeds is a fully-electrified station.
  • The Harrogate Line is not electrified.
  • York is a fully-electrified station.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a fifty mile range should be able to handle this route.

There are two other services on the Harrogate Line.

  • Leeds and Harrogate – 18.3 miles
  • Leeds and Knaresborough – 22.1 miles

I have a feeling that a fleet of battery-electric trains could electrify all services on the Harrogate Line with no extra infrastructure.

Summing Up The Possible Routes

I have assumed that the proposed battery-electric Class 331 train has a range of around fifty miles, which is not unlike that for the Hitachi Regional Battery Train.

It would appear that many of Northern’s routes can be run by a train with this range including some that are around a hundred miles.

There are also routes like the Harrogate Line, which would accept a battery-electric Class 331 train tomorrow, if it were available.

Will A  Mix Of Four-Car Electric And Battery-Electric Trains Be Better Than A Mix Of Four-Car And Three-Car Electric Trains?

If the technology is right, I suspect that a four-car battery-electric Class 331 train will be able to substitute for one without batteries on a route that doesn’t need battery power.

This must surely have advantages when trains are in maintenance or otherwise unavailable, as nothing annoys passengers more than an overcrowded train.

Conclusion

The Modern Railways article also says this.

More widely, Northern has previously stated ambitions to acquire more trains, and work was underway last year to identify what this requirement might be.

From my simple analysis on some of their routes, I would look to acquire some four-car battery-electric Class 331 trains, once they have been oroven to work.

May 23, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Through Settle And Carlisle Service Under Consideration

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the June 2021 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph.

Plans for a new Leeds to Glasgow through service via the Settle and Carlisle line are being developed, with CrossCountry and the Department for Transport starting to look at the possible scheme.

It sounds like a sensible idea to me.

The article also suggests the following.

  • CrossCountry is a possible operator.
  • CrossCountry are keen to improve services between Leeds and Glasgow
  • The trains could be InterCity 125s, freed up, by a the arrival of Class 221 trains from Avanti West Coast, when they receive their new Class 805 trains.
  • Maintenance of the trains wouldn’t be a problem, as this could be done at Neville Hill in Leeds or Craigentinny in Edinburgh.
  • Services could start in December 2023.

I have a few thoughts of my own!

The Route

The route between Leeds and Carlisle is obvious, but there are two routes between Carlisle and Glasgow.

Trains would probably choose a route and call at stations to maximise passenger numbers.

These stations are on the various routes.

  • Settle and Carlisle – Shipley, Bingley, Keighley, Skipton, Gargrave, Hellifield, Long Preston, Settle, Horton in Ribblesdale, Ribblehead, Dent, Garsdale, Kirkby Stephen, Appleby, Langwathby, Lazonby & Kirkoswald and Armathwaite
  • Glasgow South Western – Dunlop, Stewarton, Kilmaurs, Kilmarnock, Auchinleck, New Cumnock, Kirkconnel, Sanquhar, Dumfries, Annan and Gretna Green
  • West Coast Main – Motherwell, Carstairs and Lockerbie

There are certainly a lot of possibilities.

 Upgrading The InterCity 125 Trains

CrossCountry appear to have enough InterCity 125 trains to muster five in a two Class 43  locomotives and seven Mark 3 coach formation.

They may not be fully in-line with the latest regulations and there may be a need for a certain degree of refurbishment.

These pictures show some details of a refurbished Great Western Railway Castle, which has been fitted with sliding doors.

Will The InterCity 125 Trains Be Shortened?

Scotrail’s Inter7City trains and Great Western Railway’s Castle trains have all been shortened to four or five coaches.

This picture shows a pair of Castles.

Journey Times, Timetable And Frequency

The current journey time between Leeds and Glasgow Central stations via the East Coast Main Line is four hours and eight minutes with nine stops.

The Modern Railways article says this about the current service.

The new service would be targeted at business and leisure travellers, with through journey times competitive with road and faster than the current direct CrossCountry Leeds to Glasgow services via the East Coast main line.

I would expect that CrossCountry are looking for a time of around four hours including the turn round.

  • Stops could be removed to achieve the timing.
  • The trains could run at 125 mph on the West Coast Main Line.

This could enable a train to have the following diagram.

  • 0800 – Depart Leeds
  • 1200 – Depart Glasgow Central
  • 1600 – Depart Leeds
  • 2000 – Depart Glasgow Central
  • Before 2400 – Arrive Leeds

Note.

  1. A second train could start in Glasgow and perform the mirrored timetable.
  2. Timings would probably be ideal for train catering.
  3. Trains would leave both termini at 0800, 1200, 1600 and 2000.
  4. The timetable would need just two trains.

I also think, if a second pair of trains were to be worked into the timetable, there could be one train every two hours on the route, if the demand was there.

I certainly believe there could be a timetable, that would meet the objectives of attracting business and leisure passengers away from the roads.

Tourism And Leisure Potential

The Settle and Carlisle Line is known as one of the most scenic railway lines in England, if not the whole of the UK.

There are important tourist sites all along the route between Leeds and Glasgow

Many of the stations are used by walkers and others interested in country pursuits.

I believe that it is a route that needs a quality rail service.

Travel Between London and Towns Along The Settle And Carlisle Line

In Thoughts On Digital Signalling On The East Coast Main Line, I said this.

I think it is highly likely that in the future, there will be at least one train per hour (tph) between London Kings Cross and Leeds, that does the trip in two hours.

It may seem fast compared to today, but I do believe it is possible.

With a timely connection at Leeds station, will this encourage passengers to places along the Settle and Carlisle line to use the train?

What About the Carbon Emissions?

The one problem with using InterCity 125 trains on this route, is that they are diesel-powered, using a pair of Class 43 locomotives.

But then there are over a hundred of these diesel-electric locomotives in service, nearly all of which are now powered by modern MTU diesel engines, which were fitted in the first decade of this century.

Consider.

  • The locomotives and the coaches they haul have an iconic status.
  • Great Western Railway and Scotrail have recently developed shorter versions of the trains for important routes.
  • There are over a hundred of the locomotives in service.
  • Companies like ULEMCo are developing technology to create diesel-powered vehicles that can run on diesel or hydrogen.
  • There is plenty of space in the back of the locomotives for extra equipment.
  • MTU have a very large number of diesel engines in service. It must be in the company’s interest to find an easy way to cut carbon emissions.
  • I believe that the modern MTU diesel engines could run on biodiesel to reduce their carbon footprint.

And we shouldn’t forget JCB’s technology, which I wrote about in JCB Finds Cheap Way To Run Digger Using Hydrogen.

If they could develop a 2 MW hydrogen engine, it could be a shoe-in.

I believe that for these and other reasons, a solution will be found to reduce the carbon emissions of these locomotives to acceptable levels.

Conclusion

In this quick look, it appears to me that a Glasgow and Leeds service using InterCity 125 trains could be a very good idea.

May 21, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Would A Mutant Many-Parent Child Help To Solve London’s Transport Problems?

London needs to increase the capacity of its public transport system, as the City continues to get larger and larger.

Current Major Projects

There are only three major rail projects ongoing in London at the present time.

The Bank Station Upgrade

The Bank Station Upgrade appears to be progressing well, albeit perhaps it’s a bit late due to the pandemic.

It is a complex project and from what I have heard and observed, it has been well designed and planned.

The Barking Riverside Extension

As with the Bank Station Upgrade the Overground extension to the new Barking Riverside station, appears to be going reasonably well.

But compared to that project, it is a relatively simple project, built mainly in the open air, with no tunneling.

Crossrail

Crossrail is in trouble, after what many believe was a very good tunnelling phase of the project.

But then tunnels under London usually seem to go well. I can remember the Victoria Line tunnelling and many other under London since the 1960s and all of these tunnels seem to have been dug without trouble. As I write, there don’t seem to be any tunneling problems with the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

Crossrail now has been reduced to a series of station builds and rebuilds, some of which are as large as the Bank Station Upgrade, with other ongoing projects like the testing of trains and systems.

So why are some of these stations running late in their delivery?

If you walk along the route of Crossrail in the City of London and through Clerkenwell and the West End, it is one massive building side as developers raise massive clusters of new developments around and above the Crossrail stations.

The picture shows Farrington station’s Eastern entrance, with a new development on top.

This one wasn’t a big one, but it went up in record time.

These buildings are often funded by Sovereign Wealth Funds, who want their buildings finished ASAP and as they have bottomless pockets, they are prepared to pay more to get the builders and tradesmen they need.

And where did they get the workers from? Other projects, including Crossrail.

This problem happened in Aberdeen at the height of the oil boom in the last century.

I also think that Brexit worsened the problem, as workers from mainland EU moved to large projects closer to home, like Stuttgart 21 and the new Berlin Brandenburg airport, that were both very much in trouble and could have been offering premium salaries as well!

The solution would have been to phase developments so that the limited pool of workers was not exhausted.

But that probably wouldn’t have suited the developers and politicians for all sorts of reasons.

  • An uncompleted building doesn’t bring in money and jobs.
  • Early completion must improve chances of letting the building.
  • Delaying the building would probably have meant fewer holidays for politicians in exotic locations.

Hopefully, a comprehensive enquiry into the lateness of Crossrail will provide answers.

High Speed Two

High Speed Two is to my mind a London local project. But only in a secondary way!

  • Rebuilding Euston station will improve Underground connections and interchange at Euston and Euston Square stations.
  • It is claimed by High Speed Two, that the rebuilt Euston station will create 16000 jobs and 2200 homes.
  • High Speed Two will enable massive development at Old Oak Common, with tens of thousands of homes and jobs.
  • Old Oak Common station will be a very important rail hub in North-West London.

With seventeen trains per hour (tph) between Euston and Old Oak Common will High Speed Two attract local traffic?

  • I suspect High Speed Two between Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly and between Birmingham Interchange and Birmingham Curzon Street will also attract local traffic.
  • I’ve used TGVs between Nice and Antibes.
  • Tourists might visit, just like they did and still do at the Olympic Park.
  • Many Londoners will join High Speed Two at Old Oak Common.

Some wag will suggest putting it on the Tube Map. But is it such a stupid idea?

Where Does London Need More Rail Services?

Having lived in London on and off for over seventy years, I feel the worst areas for rail links are probably.

  • North West London
  • South East London
  • South Central London between Wimbledon and Croydon.
  • South West London

Note.

  1. Over the years, there is no doubt that East and North London have improved considerably, with the development of the East London, North London and Gospel Oak to Barking Lines.
  2. Thameslink has been improved in North London and now it is being supported with improvements to the Northern City Line. Both routes now have new Siemens trains, which give a whole new dimension to using ironing-boards as seats.
  3. Crossrail will produce major improvements in West, East and South East London.
  4. Building of a new Penge Interchange station, which I wrote about in Penge Interchange could improve routes to and from South East London.
  5. Hopefully the work in recent years at Waterloo will improve suburban services out of Waterloo. In An Analysis Of Waterloo Suburban Services Proposed To Move To Crossrail 2, I showed that four tph could be run to Chessington South, Epsom, Hampton Court and Shepperton stations.

It looks like North West and South Central London are missing out.

How Can Services Be Improved In North West London?

There are radial routes from the centre of London to the suburbs.

Starting from the North and going to the West, there are the following lines.

When I used to live at Cockfosters as a child,  to visit my many cousins in North West London, there was no alternative but to use a bus and take well over an hour each way.

There are now some circular rail routes in London but nothing in the North West of the capital.

The Dudding Hill Line And The West London Orbital Railway

But there is the little-used freight route called Dudding Hill Line.

  • It runs between Cricklewood on the Midland Main Line and Acton Central on the North London Line.
  • It is four miles of double-track railway.

This YouTube video shows a cab ride from Acton to Cricklewood.

Plans exist to turn it into the West London Orbital Railway, which will run two services.

  • West Hampstead and Hounslow via Cricklewood, Neasden, Harlesden, Old Oak Common Lane, Acton Central, South Acton, Lionel Road, Brentford, Syon Lane and Isleworth
  • Hendon and Kew Bridge via Brent Cross West, Neasden, Harlesden, Old Oak Common Lane, Acton Central, South Acton

Note.

  1. The proposed frequency of both services is four tph.
  2. There would be some stations to be built, but the track exists.
  3. There would be no new tunnels.
  4. The route is technically feasible.
  5. The route would connect West London to High Speed Two.
  6. There would be little disruption whilst it was built.
  7. The services could be run by dual-voltage battery-electric trains charged on the electrification at both ends of the route.
  8. The scheme represents a high value for money, with a benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 2.2.

On the other hand, the scheme has two serious problems, as far as the current London Mayor is concerned.

  • Transport for London has no money, partly because of London’s Fare Freeze.
  • The project is not in South London.

This important and value-for-money project will not be built, whilst Sadiq Khan is still Mayor of London.

Harlesden Interchange

I believe that if we get the interchanges right on the West London Orbital Railway correct we can do things like.

  • Increase the benefit cost ratio.
  • Link the route to South London to make the Mayor a bit happier about the North London Scheme.

This Google Map shows Harlesden station.

Note.

  1. The Bakerloo Line/Watford DC Line running North-West/South-East through Harlesden station.
  2. The West Coast Main Line in the Southern section of the map.
  3. The Dudding Hill Line running North-South across the map.

Platforms will be built on the Dudding Hill Line to connect that would probably be new or extended platforms in the current Harlesden station to enable interchange between the West London Orbital and the Watford DC Lines.

I also think there is a possibility that platforms could be added to the slow tracks of the West Coast Main Line, so that suburban services into London Euston can also connect to the West London Orbital Line.

It would also enable a connection between Southern’s Clapham Junction and Milton Keynes service and the West London Orbital Railway.

Looking at this from various angles, I think that an architect good at designing three-dimensional structures could develop a quality Harlesden Interchange station.

Neasden Interchange

Like Harlesden, Neasden is another possibility for a comprehensive interchange.

This Google Map shows Neasden station.

Note.

  1. There are a lot of lines going through Neasden station.
  2. The Dudding Hill Line goes across the South-East corner of the map.
  3. There is plenty of space in the area.

This map from cartometro.com shows the lines in the area.

Note.

  1. The Dudding Hill Line is indicated by the former Dudding Hill station.
  2. The red tracks are Metropolitan Line tracks.
  3. The silver tracks are Jubilee Line tracks.
  4. The Southerly pair of lines through Neasden and Dollis Hill stations are Chiltern’s lines into Marylebone.
  5. The Chiltern tracks divide to the West of Neasden station, with the Aylesbury line following the other tracks and the Chiltern Main Line diverging to the West.
  6. London’s largest Underground Depot at Neasden, lies to the North-West in an area of London noted for few merits with the North Circular Road passing through.

I wonder, if the station and the depot offers a unique opportunity to offer large scale additions to London’s housing stock over the top of a rebuilt station and depot.

This Google Map shows the wider area.

Note.

  1. Much of the depot appears to be open-air stabling for trains.
  2. The North Circular Road passes North-South between the depot and Neasden station.
  3. The Dudding Hill Line cuts across the South-East corner of the map.
  4. This corner of the map is labelled as Dudden Hill.
  5. According to Wikipedia, Dudding Hill is considered a more genteel spelling of Dudden Hill and could be as old as 1544.

It looks as if it would be relatively easy to develop over the top of the depot to create housing, industrial or commercial properties.

But why stop there and cover both the North Circular Road and the six tracks through Neasden station?

Neasden station could be rebuilt into a station with platforms on the following lines.

  • Metropolitan Line
  • Jubilee Line
  • Chiltern Lines
  • Dudding Hill Lines

Note.

  1. I estimate that Chiltern has a train about every six minutes, so some could stop.
  2. There might be space for a bay platform for Chiltern.

Neasden could be a major housing and transport hub.

  • There could be large amounts of parking.
  • Road access would be good.
  • It would have good rail connections.
  • It could have a bus interchange.
  • London needs housing.

It might even be an alternative to Chiltern’s plan for a West Hampstead Interchange.

The Mayor of London, Transport for London and the Borough of Brent need to be bold!

Improvements To Chiltern’s Routes

Chiltern Railways have some plans that could improve services in North West London.

Using The Acton-Northolt Line

Wikipedia says this about using the Acton-Northolt Line to access new platforms at Old Oak Common station.

Upgrading the Acton–Northolt line (formerly the “New North Main Line”) to new platforms at Old Oak Common. This upgrade will also extend to London Paddington to increase capacity on the Chiltern Main Line as there is no room to expand the station at Marylebone.

This scheme has merit.

  • The platforms would be connected to the Chiltern Main Line along the route of a partly-disused railway.
  • The route could be double-tracked.
  • There must be space for at least two new platforms.
  • The new platforms could easily handle four tph.
  • There may be a case for some new stations.

The scheme could add valuable extra capacity for Chiltern.

A Chiltern Metro

Wikipedia says this about a  proposed metro service between Marylebone and West Ruislip stations.

  • The Metro would have a frequency of four tph.
  • It would call at Wembley Stadium, Sudbury & Harrow Road, Sudbury Hill Harrow, Northolt Park and South Ruislip.
  • The service would require a reversing facility at West Ruislip.
  • There would need to be passing loops at Sudbury Hill Harrow, and  Wembley Stadium.

Given that the Chiltern Metro was first proposed over a decade ago, perhaps the concept could be increased in scope.

  • Housing and other developments along the route may suggest that a station further out like High Wycombe might be a better terminal.
  • ERTMS in-cab digital signalling is likely to be installed at some time, which would decrease headways between trains and allow more services.
  • Electrification is likely in some form before 2040 and this will improve train performance.
  • If Neasden station were to be rebuilt, as a comprehensive transport and residential development, I believe that this Metro service should also call at Neasden, as it would complement the West London Orbital Railway.

I believe that a review of the Chiltern Metro may mean, that an improved version is worth building.

Improvements To The Milton Keynes And Clapham Junction Service

I feel that this service could be key in improving services between North London and South London via the West London Line and High Speed Two’s station at Old Oak Common.

Currently, this service is as follows.

  • It runs between Milton Keynes and Clapham Junction stations.
  • It has a frequency of one tph.
  • It calls at Bletchley, Leighton Buzzard, Tring, Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead, Watford Junction, Harrow & Wealdstone, Wembley Central, Shepherd’s Bush, Kensington (Olympia), West Brompton and Imperial Wharf stations.
  • The service used to extend to South Croydon via Wandsworth Common, Balham, Streatham Common, Norbury, Thornton Heath, Selhurst and East Croydon.
  • It uses Class 377 trains.
  • It shares parts of the route with the London Overground.

I also think it has various issues and questions with respect to the future.

  • The Class 377 trains are only 100 mph units, whereas the outer suburban trains on the West Coast Main Line are 110 mph Class 350 trains, which will soon be replaced by 110 mph Class 730 trains. Do the slower trains cause timetabling problems?
  • Is one tph enough?
  • The route doesn’t serve High Speed Two at Old Oak Common station.
  • Is the service run by the right operator?
  • What is the ideal Southern terminal?

These are my thoughts on the various issues.

The Service As A North-South Link

A friend, who lives in South London has told me, that if you go to an event at Wembley stadium the route is busy.

On the other hand, I’ve used it at midday on a Tuesday and found the trains empty.

But developed properly it could connect the following.

  • Milton Keynes Central
  • Bletchley for the East West Rail Link
  • Watford for the West Coast Main Line to the North
  • Wembley Central for Wembley Stadium and other entertainments
  • Willesden Junction for the North London Line
  • Hythe Road for High Speed Two, Crossrail and the Great Western Railway
  • Shepherd’s Bush for the shopping.
  • Clapham Junction for most of South London and the South of England

It would be a very useful cross-London route to complement Thameslink and the East London Line.

The Frequency

The current Milton Keynes and Clapham Junction has a frequency of one tph.

This may be enough for some parts of the route, as other services also provide services.

But many would argue, that perhaps South of Watford Junction, the service needs to be increased to connect the area to Old Oak Common and Clapham Junction.

I feel that High Speed Two, Crossrail and the Great Western Railway give so much connectivity, that between Clapham Junction and Willesden Junction needs a frequency of at least eight tph.

As the North London Line and the Watford DC Line are working at a frequency of four tph, this could indicate that a four tph direct service Watford Junction and Clapham Junction be ideal. Perhaps, it could continue North to Milton Keynes with a frequency of two tph.

The Trains

I am absolutely certain, that the full service needs to be operated by dual voltage trains, that are capable of running at 110 mph.

The Class 350/1 trains of West Midlands Trains would probably be ideal for the full service.

  • They are dual voltage trains.
  • They are 110 mph trains.
  • They have a long distance interior.

They are being replaced with new Class 730 trains, so would be available.

If some services were running only as far North as Watford Junction, these could be either Class 378 or Class 710 trains of the London Overground.

The Connection To The West London Line And High Speed Two

This map from Wikipedia by Cnbrb shows the latest iteration of the lines at Old Oak Common station.

Note.

  1. The green route is taken by the Milton Keynes and Clapham Junction trains.
  2. The bright blue is High Speed Two.
  3. The purple is Crossrail.
  4. The orange is the Overground
  5. Hythe Road station is proposed for the West London Line to connect to Old Oak Common station for High Speed Two.
  6. Hythe Road station will have a bay platform to turn trains from the South.
  7. Old Oak Common Lane station is proposed for the North London Line to connect to Old Oak Common station for High Speed Two.

But where is the connection between the Milton Keynes and Clapham Junction service and Old Oak Common station for High Speed Two?

  • Access from the South is not a problem as the Overground can be used to Hythe Road station.
  • Extra services from the South can be run to and from the bay platform at Hythe Road station.
  • Access from the East is not a problem as the Overground can be used to Hythe Road station.
  • How do passengers go between say Wembley Central and Heathrow?

In addition for access from the West is the Overground can be used to Old Oak Common Lane station.

But as things stand at the moment the Milton Keynes and Clapham Junction service bypasses Hythe Road station and the only ways to go from Milton Keynes to Old Oak Common station for either High Speed Two, Crossrail or the Great Western is to do one of the following.

  • Change to the Watford DC Line at Watford Junction, Harrow & Wealdstone or Wembley Central and then change to the Overground at Willesden Junction for either Old Oak Common Lane or Hythe Road station.
  • Continue South to Shepherd’s Bush station, cross over to the other platform and then come back to Hythe Road station.
  • Go via Euston station. OK for High Speed Two, but not for Crossrail or the Great Western.

They cannot be serious!

I hope that there is a cunning plan to enable the Milton Keynes and Clapham Junction service to connect.

Whilst on the subject of connections at Old Oak Common, where is the promised connection of Crossrail to the West Coast Main Line?

Were all these connections just kicked into the long grass and quietly forgotten, as they were deemed too difficult and/or expensive?

I think serious questions need to be asked about the design of Crossrail and High Speed Two at Old Oak Common.

Why weren’t Crossrail and High Speed Two designed to connect directly to the London Overground at Willesden Junction station perhaps by the use of a North South people mover serving the following lines?

  • Bakerloo, Watford DC, West Coast Main and West London Orbital Lines at a rebuilt Harlesden station.
  • London Overground at the high-level Willesden Junction station.
  • High Speed Two
  • Crossrail and the Great Western Railway
  • The new Chiltern platforms.
  • Central Line at East Acton station.

Note.

  1. Hythe Road and Old Oak Common stations would not be needed.
  2. The Milton Keynes and Clapham Junction service would call additionally at the rebuilt Harlesden station.

The current design of Old Oak Common stinks like a horse designed by a committee!

The Northern Terminal

I suggested earlier that some trains use Watford Junction and others use Milton Keynes Central.

Both stations have the capacity and the connectivity.

The Southern Terminal

In the last ten years, South Croydon, East Croydon and Clapham Junction have been used as the Southern terminal.

Thameslink seems to have chosen its various terminals to satisfaction of the travelling public, so perhaps the same method or personnel should be used.

The Operator

The Gibb Report said that this service should be transferred to the London Overground and I wrote about this proposal in Gibb Report – East Croydon – Milton Keynes Route Should Be Transferred To London Overground.

This is one suggestion, but I do wonder, if it should be transferred to West Midlands Trains and run in conjunction with their West Coast Main Line services.

  • The service needs 110 mph trains.
  • Timetabling and operation should be easier.
  • London Overground trains don’t have a long-distance interior.

On the other hand, trains running between Watford Junction and Clapham Junction would probably be better if they were London Overground trains.

Conclusion

I believe that by using the current network and some modern trains and signalling, the passenger services to the West of the capital can be substantially improved.

 

 

 

 

May 1, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Reopening Milton Keynes And Market Harborough Via Northampton

This post was originally part of Shapps Supports Beeching Axe Reversals.

That post takes its name from an article with a similar name in Rail Magazine.

But I now feel it would be better if it became a standalone post.

This route has not been proposed as a Beeching Reversal, but seems to have surfaced from the MP and the local rail group.

I was digging around the Internet looking for the words “Beeching Reversal, I found when this article on the Harborough Mail, which is entitled Harborough Rail Group Says Plan To Reopen Historic Line Is A ‘Excellent Idea’.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Moves to reopen the historic Market Harborough-Northampton railway line are being backed by a local rail passengers’ chief.

The Market Harborough-Northampton Line was only finally closed in 1981.

  • It used to connect the two stations with a double-track railway.
  • It is about fourteen miles long.
  • It is now partly a heritage railway and a walking and cycling route called the Brampton Valley Way.

I have flown my virtual helicopter along the route and can make these observations.

  • There is space for a bay platform at Market Harborough station.
  • Once clear of Market Harborough, the route appears to be across open countryside.
  • The connection to the Northampton Loop Line wouldn’t be too difficult.

The only problem, I can see is that the route into Market Harborough station appears to be tricky.

These are a few of my thoughts.

What Passenger Service Would Be Provided?

Consider.

  • The route could certainly handle an hourly shuttle, as does the nearby Marston Vale Line.
  • Northampton station currently has three trains per hour (tph) to and from London.
  • Timings between Northampton and Market Harborough stations would probably be around twenty minutes.
  • Fast services between Northampton and Euston take about an hour.
  • Four tph between Northampton and London would probably be desirable.

So could a fourth service to and from London, be extended to Market Harborough station? Or perhaps even Leicester, which already has a platform, where the trains could be turned back?

  • I estimate that with a ten minute turnround at Market Harborough, a three hour round trip would be possible and very convenient.
  • A single track between Northampton and Market Harborough station would be enough.
  • The fourteen miles between the two stations could be handled by a battery-electric train, as there will be electrification at both ends of the route.
  • Porterbrook are developing a battery-electric Class 350 train.

At a first glance, this looks to be a very sensible proposition.

This map clipped from Wikipedia, shows the rail line between Milton Keynes Central and Northampton stations.

It is planned to introduce, a service between Marylebone and Milton Keynes Central using the tracks of the East West Rail Link.

  • It could be run by East West Rail or Chiltern.
  • It might be an easier service to operate as trains wouldn’t need to be turned back at Milton Keynes Central station.
  • It might be a better financial option, if services were to be extended to Northampton and Market Harborough.

As the East West Rail Link is being built by a private company, do they have plans to create services between say Leicester and Oxford?

An Alternative Route To Leicester

A London Euston and Leicester service via Watford Junction, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Market Harborough could be run either as a regular service or when there are engineering works on the Midland Main Line.

Bringing Workers To Milton Keynes, Northampton and Leicester

When I moved back to Suffolk forty years ago, trains between Cambridge and Ipswich and Cambridge and Norwich were irregular hourly services using single or two-car trains. The good job prospects available in Cambridge, now mean that Greater Anglia now run four-car Class 755 trains on these routes to an hourly timetable.

Milton Keynes, Northampton and Leicester all need similar connections to stimulate employment.

Could Freight Trains Use The  Northampton And Market Harborough Line?

Consider.

  • A large rail freight interchange is being developed close to East Midlands Airport.
  • The East West Rail Link will be a better route between Southampton Docks and the West Coast Main Line, than the current roundabout routes.
  • Multimodal trains need to travel between the East Midlands and Sheffield and Southampton Docks.
  • Stone trains need to travel between the North Midlands and West London.

If the  Northampton and Market Harborough Line were to be reopened, it would provide a convenient freight route between the Midland Main Line and the West Coast Main Line.

Would the The Northampton And Market Harborough Line Be Electrified?

Consider.

  • It joins the electrified Midland Main Line at Market Harborough station.
  • It joins the electrified Northampton Loop Line at Northampton station.
  • It is only fourteen miles long.
  • Most trains should be able to bridge use the line on battery power.
  • It will be a new well-surveyed railway, which is easier to electrify.

I suspect, whether the line is electrified will be more down to planning issues.

Would the The Northampton And Market Harborough Line Be Double Track?

The line was double-track when it closed and I think that only planning issues will stop it being reopened as a double track.

Is the Opening Of The Northampton And Market Harborough Line Being Driven By The East West Rail Link?

This is a paragraph from the Rail Magazine article.

Asked by Andrew Lewer (Con) at Transport Questions on October 24 whether he would elaborate on plans to open the proposed Market Harborough line as part of the Oxford to Cambridge expressway he said: “I understand that the reopening is at a formative stage, but I am very supportive of it. Indeed, I support the reopening of many of the smaller lines that were closed as a result of the Beeching cuts under a Labour Government, and I should like to see as many reopened as possible.”

Does that mean that The East West Rail Link is driving this project?

Conclusion

The reopening of Northampton and Market Harborough Line would appear to enable the following.

  • Passenger trains between Marylebone and/or London Euston and Market Harborough and/or Leicester.
  • Passenger trains between Oxford and Leicester via Milton Keynes, Northampton and Market Harborough.
  • An increase to four tph between Northampton and Milton Keynes Central.
  • A valuable freight route between Southampton Docks and the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.

It would also provide a connection between the West Coast Main Line and the Midland Main Line.

Reopening of the Northampton and Market Harborough Line  could be a nice little earner for the East West Rail Link, if it hosted the following services.

  • Freight trains between Southampton Docks and the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.
  • Stone trains between the North Midlands and London.
  • Passenger trains between Marylebone and/or London Euston and Market Harborough and/or Leicester.
  • Passenger trains between Oxford and/or Reading and Market Harborough and/or Leicester.

These sections could also be electrified.

  • Basingstoke and Reading
  • Didcot Parkway and Oxford
  • Oxford and Milton Keynes
  • Northampton and Market Harborough

Much of the abandoned Electric Spine would have been created.

The only possible problem I see with this project is connecting the route to Market Harborough station.

April 26, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments