The Anonymous Widower

A Trip Around The West Midlands

Today, I did a trip around the West Midlands, using five different trains.

Tain 1 – 19:10 – Chiltern – London Marylebone To Leamington Spa

This was one of Chiltern’s rakes of Mark 3 coaches hauled by a Class 68 locomotive.

I like these trains.

  • They are comfortable.
  • Everybody gets a table and half sit by a big window.
  • There is more space than Virgin Train’s Class 390 trains.
  • They may be slower, but they are fast enough for most journeys I make.

The train arrived seven minutes late at Leamington Spa at 11:32.

Train 2 – 12:02 – West Midlands Trains – Leamington Spa To Nuneaton

This is a new West Midlands Trains service, via the new station at Kenilworth and Coventry.

The trains are Class 172 trains, that used to run on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Note.

  1. The have been repainted and refreshed.
  2. The seat cover on the driver’s seat is a relic of the London Overground.
  3. The train now has a toilet.

The train was about half-full and I got the impression, that the new service had been well-received.

The train arrived on time at Nuneaton at 12:38.

Train 3 – 12:54 – West Midlands Trains – Nuneaton to Rugeley Trent Valley

The train was a Class 350 train and it arrived eight minutes late at 13:29.

These pictures show Rugeley Trent Valley station.

It is very minimal with just a shelter, a basic footbridge and no information on how or where to buy a ticket.

Passengers deserve better than this!

Train 4 – 13:43 – West Midlands Trains – Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street

This is a new West Midlands Trains electric service.

Compared to the Leamington Spa to Nuneaton service, passengers were spread rather thinly in the train.

The train was a Class 350 train and it arrived five minutes late at 14:44.

Train 5 – 15:55 – Chiltern – Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone

Another comfortable Chiltern Railways train back to London, which arrived four minutes late at 17:47.

Customer Service

Customer service and especially that from West Midlands Trains was rather patchy.

  • Leamington Spa station was rebuilding the entrance, but staff were around.
  • Nuneaton station was very quiet.
  • Rugeley Trent Valley station needs a lot of improvement.
  • The two Birmingham City Centre stations were much better.

I actually had to travel ticketless from Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street, as the Conductor on the train didn’t check the tickets.

But Virgin Trains were very professional at Birmingham New Street.

Service Pattern

I have some observations on the service patterns.

  • For comfort reasons, I would prefer that Chiltern ran Mark 3 coaches and Class 68 locomotives on all Birmingham services.
  • In the future, it looks like Leamington Spa and Nuneaton needs at least a half-hourly service.
  • There definitely needs to be more services on the Chase Line.

There also is a serious need for staff and better facilities at Rugeley Trent Valley station.

No-one even a hardened member of the SAS would want to spend thirty minutes changing trains there on a blustery and cold winter’s day.

Conclusion

I tried two new services today, that started on the May 2019 timetable change.

  • A diesel service between Leamington Spa and Nuneaton via Kenilworth and Coventry.
  • An electrified service between Rugeley Trent Valley and Birmingham New Street.

The first would appear to be what passengers want, but the second needs a bit of promoting.

 

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Have Transport for London Got A Plan To Finish Work On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line?

This article on CityMetric is entitled London’s Gospel Oak to Barking Line Might Be About To Lose All Its Trains To Birmingham.

These two paragraphs outline the problem with the Class 172 and Class 710 trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Under Tf’L’s original plans for the GOBLIN, this would have been OK – the current diesel Class 172s were supposed to stay until the new electric Class 710s were in power. But there’s a big shortage of diesel trains in the UK, so the Department for Transport insisted that the 172s went to the West Midlands Railway franchise to boost services around Birmingham. TfL – under the previous mayor, who you may remember from certain gameshows and zipwires – signed up to transfer the trains early.

But the trains aren’t early. Two of the eight 172s on the GOBLIN have already been sent to the West Midlands, which leaves the GOBLIN service a mess because it requires all six trains to run a peak service. TfL is desperately trying to keep the trains running day-to-day by cancelling weekend services.

TfL need to cancel some weekend services, so that they can service the trains properly. I could imagine that of the six trains, that remain in North London, which run in the week, three would work Saturday and three would work Sunday.

Today, they are shuttling between South Tottenham and Gospel Oak stations.

  • The journey takes fourteen minutes.
  • There is a crossover at South Tottenham station, which allows trains to reverse there.
  • I think that two or three trains are providing a two train per hour (tph) service.

I went to South Tottenham station, this morning and there were some fractious relations between customers and staff, but nothing too fractious!

There were also posters on the wall of the station saying that on most weekends until the 20th of January, there would only be services between South Tottenham and Gospel Oak stations.

Closures between South Tottenham and Barking stations are on the following days.

  • 24th December 2018
  • 25th December 2018
  • 26th December 2018
  • 29th December 2018
  • 30th December 2018
  • 31st December 2018
  • 1st January 2019
  • 5th January 2019
  • 6th January 2019
  • 13th January 2019
  • 19th January 2019

The whole line will also be closed on the 20th January 2019.

Note that from now until the 6th January 2019, the trains will only be running for five days out of fourteen. Is this high degree of closure, so that the Class 172 trains can be fully serviced?

It looks to me that TfL are succeeding in providing a two tph service to the West of South Tottenham station.

Note that only Harringay Green Lanes and Crouch Hill stations aren’t direct or out-of-station interchanges.

If you look at the stations to the East of South Tottenham station, you find the following.

To increase services in the area, a Rail Replacement Bus is being run between Walthamstow Central and Barking stations.

The proposed level of service at weekends, should enable.

  • Enough time to maintain the six trains needed for the four tph weekday service on the whole line.
  • Three trains at the weekend to enable a two tph service between South Tottenham and Gospel Oak station.
  • Any outstanding work to be completed on the stations between Barking and South Tottenham stations.

I’m sure that it used to say on Wikipedia, that the new four-car Class 710 trains would be introduced gradually into the fleet.

This would certainly be possible, as the new trains became available and each one that entered service could release a Class 172 train for West Midlands Trains.

 

 

December 24, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 4 Comments

RSC Urges GWR To Provide Stratford Improvements

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 860 of Rail Magazine.

This is the first paragraph.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust have written a joint letter to Great Western Railway Managing Director Mark Hopwood, urging him to improve services between London and Stratford-upon-Avon should GWR retain the Great Western franchise.

Stratford-upon-Avon station may have step-free access, but the services are not of a level for such an important tourist destination.

  • 2 trains per hour (tph) to Birmingham Snow Hill and Stourbridge Junction.
  • 1 train every two hours to Leamington Spa with some continuing to London Marylebone.

It really isn’t enough trains.

Coventry And Stratford-upon-Avon

In 2021 Coventry will be the UK City Of Culture, so surely there should be a direct rail link between one of the most important cities of the West Midlands and one of its biggest cultural attractions.

But no there isn’t a direct link, despite the rail lines being in place.

You have to change at Leamington Spa. But the journey only takes a reasonable 70 minutes.

I have read somewhere, that West Midlands Trains are going to link up these two services.

  • Nuneaton and Coventry
  • Coventry and Leamington Spa

This would create a single service between Nuneaton and Leamington Spa stations..

Could this service be extended to Stratford-upon-Avon?

  • They are acquiring eight Class 172 trains from London Overground, to run services in Warwickshire.
  • All the tracks are in place.
  • The service would connect the West Coast Main Line and the Chiltern Main Line to Stratford-upon-Avon.

How long would it take?

These are current average times for the three legs

  • Nuneaton to Coventry – 22 minutes
  • Coventry to Leamington Spa – 12 minutes
  • Leamington Spa to Stratford – 35 minutes

This totals to 69 minutes.

  • There are thirteen stations stops, one of which is a reverse at Leamington Spa station.
  • There will be a need to add a few minutes for turnround at Nuneaton and Stratford-upon-Avon stations.
  • The Class 172 trains are 100 mph trains, whereas the current Class 153 trains are only 75 mph trains.
  • Much of the track has an operating speed of 100 mph.

If a round trip can be done in under three hours, the following number of trains would be needed.

  • One tph would need three trains.
  • Two tph would need six trains.

The number of trains are actually the same that would be needed, if the routes were run as three separate sections. But by joining them together passengers don’t need to change trains.

With the faster trains, I do wonder if a round trip of two hours is possible, which would mean that just four trains would be needed for a two tph service.

Hopefully, a better service will be in place before Coventry is UK City of Culture.

An Improved Chiltern Service

Chiltern Railways don’t have the capacity on the Chiltern Main Line to run more direct services to Stratford, but I feel they could improve the current service.

If you are going to Stratford from Marylebone, most of Chiltern’s Birmingham services offer a one-change route to Stratford. But it is not always the same interchange station and I have found routes with changes at Birmingham Moor Street, Dorridge and Leamington Spa.

The Chiltern service to Stratford could be improved by just ensuring that to go between Marylebone and Stratford, you always changed at the same station and waited just a few minutes.

This map from Wikipedia, shows the rail connections around Leamington Spa.

Note the lines to Stratford and Coventry.

The direct service to Stratford is one train every two hours, whereas the service to Coventry is two trains per hour running fifteen minutes apart.

As I said earlier, perhaps what is needed is a unified Nuneaton to Stratford service, which ideally should do the following.

  • Run every thirty minutes.
  • Be timed to connect with Chiltern’s London trains at Leamington Spa.
  • Run a bit quicker than the current Class 153 trains.

The problem would be that a Chiltern service would be replaced with one run by West Midlands Trains.

Avon Rail Link

Under Possible Future Development in the Wikipedia entry for Stratford-upon-Avon station, this is said.

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group is promoting a scheme to reopen the 9 miles (14 km) of line south of Stratford to Honeybourne where it would link to the Cotswold Line. Called the “Avon Rail Link”, the scheme (supported as a freight diversionary route by DB Schenker) would make Stratford-upon-Avon station a through station once again with improved connections to the South, and would open up the possibility of direct services to Oxford and Worcester via Evesham. The scheme faces local opposition. There is, however, a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

This is the scheme, that has prompted, the letter from the RSC and SBT to GWR.

The link would connect Stratford to Oxford, Reading and Paddington.

I suspect that you could argue that it would create a useful railway in an arc connecting the Thames Valley to the West Midlands.

A lot of things said about the East West Rail Link, would probably apply to this railway.

Honeybourne station on the Cotswold Line between Worcester and Oxford, would be the Southern end of the Avon Rail Link, where a connection to the privately-owned herotage raily; the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, has been allowed for by Network Rail.

This section entitled North From Honeybourne on the Wikipedia entry for the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, says this about building the extension.

The section between Stratford and Stratford Racecourse has been utilised to improve road access around the town, especially the A4390, making reinstatement of rail to the main station at Stratford extremely difficult.

Given the local opposition, it looks like it will be a struggle to get this line built.

Conclusion

There are three ways to improve rail access to Stratford-upon-Avon.

  • The relatively easy and quick, enhancement of the rail services in Warwickshire.
  • Provide better one-change routes using Chiltern Railways.
  • The more difficult re-connection of Stratford to the Cotswold Line at Honeybourne.

As the last project will take years to implement, I feel, it is important that services to Stratford from Birmingham, Coventry, Leamington Spa and the West Midlands are substantially increased.

I also believe that the responsibility of providing a local service between Leamigton Spa and Stratford should be given to West Midlands Trains.

 

August 31, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 7 Comments

Could Modern Technology And Developments Improve the Abbey Line?

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

It has a few problems.

Frequency

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

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

Elderly Trains

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

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

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

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

Reliability

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

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

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

A Simple Solution

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

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

This Google Map shows Bricket Wood station.

Note the single platform with a single track.

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are some pictures of Bricket Wood station.

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

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

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

A Class 769 Train Solution

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

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

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

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

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

A Class 230 Train Solution

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

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

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

A Tram-Train Solution

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

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

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

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

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

This Google Map shows Watford Junction station

Note.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Developments At Watford Junction Station

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

 

 

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

Kenilworth Station – 1st May 2018

Kenilworth station opened yesterday on the last day of April 2018.

The design is slightly different.

  • There are two footbridges.
  • There are two lifts
  • There is one track and platform, but with obvious space to add a second track and platform.
  • There is adequate car and cycle parking.

But most surprisingly, it has a combined cafe and booking office, where I had a quick cup of quality chocolate and could have used one of the many sockets to charge my phone.

Currently the service at the station is a one train per hour (tph) shuttle using a one-coach Class 153 train between Coventry and Leamington Spa stations.

The capacity of the route will be doubled, when the train is replaced with a two-car Class 172 train, that will be cascaded from the London Overground, when new Class 710 trains can work the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

It could be at least doubled again, by adding the second track and platform through Kenilworth station, which would allow trains to pass and a frequency of at least two tph.

There must also be possibilities to extend the service at both Coventry and Leamington Spa.

Leamington Spa To Nuneaton

It might seem logical to extend the service at Coventry along the Coventry to Nuneaton Line to Nuneaton station, where there is the bay platform, that Coventry lacks.

  • This would mean that the service would have to cross the tracks of the West Coast Main Line.
  • Coventry to Nuneaton takes twenty-two minutes
  • Coventry to Leamington Spa takes nineteen minutes.
  • The Class 172 trains, thatwill be working the route are 100 mph trains, whereas the current Class 153 trains, are twenty-fivw mph slower.

If the problem of crossing the West Coast Main Line could be solved, I suspect that a two tph service between Nuneaton and Leamington Spa stations could be run with only two trains.

CrossCountry

CrossCountry services between Bournemouth and Manchester Piccadilly stations, pass through Kenilworth station.

If the second platform is built at Kenilworth, could these trains stop?

Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle is a ten minute walk from the station.

Will the station bring more visitors?

Conclusion

Kenilworth station will become increasingly important.

 

May 1, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

New Passenger Rail Routes In The West Midlands

Looking for possible privately-funded rail projects, I have come acrossseveral proposed rail route re-openings and improvement schemes in the West Midlands on Wikipedia.

Birmingham-Peterborough Line

The Birmingham-Peterborough Line is a major route between Birmingham and the East.

I am including it, as there are aspirations to add new stations at Castle Bromwich and Fort Parkway.

Between Birmingham and Nuneaton must be a candidate for in-fill electrification, especially as this section has two freight terminals.

Camp Hill Line

The reopening of the Camp Hill Line across Birmingham has been a long term ambition of the City Council for years.

The current status of the proposed development of the Camp Hill Line is given in Wikipedia under Future Plans.

This is the last part of that section.

In 2017, the newly elected Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street pledged to get work started on restoring services to the line by 2020. And officials were said to be investigating the business case for a fourth station at Balsall Heath (previously called Brighton Road) This would mean Lifford and Camp Hill would be the only stations not to be reopened.

In August 2017, West Midlands Trains announced plans as part of their franchise deal that the line would reopen by December 2019 as part of a £1 billion investment in the West Midlands. This included a new station at Moseley.

In February 2018, Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said that the viaduct would not be needed, as Hereford to Birmingham New Street trains could be diverted along this line, meaning that extra capacity at Birmingham New Street was not required to open this line.

Note that the original completion date for this scheme was 2025 and it has now been moved forward to December 2019.

The current scheme seems to include the following.

  • Four new stations at Balsall Heath, Moseley, Kings Heath and Hazelwell.
  • A possible connection into Birmingham Moor Street station.
  • Birmingham New Street to Worcester services would use the Camp Hill Line.

It seems that this scheme provides a rail service to a new part of the city and also releases capacity at Birmingham New Street. I think there’s some Brummie cunning at work and that a simpler scheme is being created, that could involve.

  • The new stations.
  • None or very little new electrification, track and signalling.
  • No connection to Moor Street station.
  • Services from Birmingham New Street to Kings Norton, Redditch and Bromsgrove using new Aventra trains running on batteries on the Camp Hill Line, which would call at all stations.
  • An improved Birmingham New Street to the new Worcester Parkway station using new CAF Civity diesel trains, along the Camp Hill Line.
  • Will CrossCountry’s Cardiff-Nottingham service be rerouted via the Camp Hill Line?

The New Street to Worcester services could be rerouted earlier, if it was necessary to squeeze more capacity out of New Street station.

Note that if all services stopped at Bromsgrove, when it gets its electric service on the Cross-City Line in May 2018, passengers for a lot of destinations, would surely change at Bromsgrove, rather than New Street!

Darlaston Loop

The reopening of the Darlaston Loop has been suggested by Andy Street, who is now Mayor of the West Midlands.

I suspect that this reopening fits within a larger overall scheme.

South Staffordshire Line

Network Rail and Midland Metro, both seem to have aspirations to run services on the South Staffordshire Line.

Re-opening Proposals in the Wikipedia entry gives full details of the proposals. Included are.

  • Freight trains on a single track.
  • Midland Metro on a single track with passing places.
  • National Rail services.
  • Tram-trains sharing with freight trains.

This is the last entry.

In September 2017, the new franchise operators, West Midlands Trains, plans to restore disused railway lines including the South Staffordshire Line which would be an extension of the existing Birmingham to Stourbridge Junction service which it plans to extend to Brierley Hill in the future.

On the Wikipedia entry for the Midland Metro, under Wednesbury and Merry Hill – Extension, this is said.

From Line 1 in Wednesbury, the Brierley Hill Extension (WBHE) would follow the disused South Staffordshire Line, through Tipton to the vicinity of the former Dudley Town station (which closed in 1964 and was later the site of a freightliner terminal), then on-street into Dudley town centre. It would leave Dudley alongside the Southern Bypass to access the railway corridor, leaving it at the approach to the Waterfront/Merry Hill area and Brierley Hill and then on to Stourbridge.

Centro has stated that the WBHE would provide 10 trams per hour, alternately serving Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Journey time from Brierley Hill to West Bromwich was stated as 31 minutes.

There are a lot of possibilities.

Various things might help in the design.

  • There is space for two tracks. It has been suggested that one is for trams and one for freight.
  • Midland Metro’s trams can run on battery power, so no electrification is required, if all other trains are diesel-powered.
  • Midland Metro’s trams and West Midlands Trains’s new diesel trains are both built by CAF, so are they compatible enough to share a track?
  • Modern signalling gets better and better.

I think we might see a very innovative plan for the use of this line.

Sutton Park Line

The Sutton Park Line is another line in the est Midlands area, that could be re-opened.

Re-opening in the Wikipedia entry gives full details of the proposals.

In February 2008 it was announced that Birmingham City Council, Network Rail and Centro were launching a feasibility study to assess the possibility of re-opening the line to passenger services. In January 2015 the line was put on hold for reopening to passenger trains. In April 2017, the proposals were being looked at again as part of a spin-off to the HS2 scheme. In December 2017, it has been proposed that the line could reopen as part of the Governments plans to reopen lines closed in the 1960s and later cuts by British Rail.

I would think, that one of the main reasons, this line is being reopened is that is connects several of the other suburban lines in Birmingham. It also allows freight trains to by-pass Birmingham New Street station.

Walsall-Wolverhampton Line

This is said about reopening a passenger service on the Walsall-Woverhampton Line in Wikipedia under Future Plans.

The West Midlands Combined Authority have announced their intention to restore a passenger service to the line by 2027, along with new stations at Willenhall and Darlaston James Bridge.

Note.

  1. At the present time, this route is for freight.
  2. It has had passenger services on and off for fifty years.
  3. It can be used as a diversion route around engineering works.

If a direct service were to be reinstated it would take just twelve minutes, as opposed to an hour via Birmingham New Street station.

It strikes me that this would be a simple route to upgrade.

Walsall and Wolverhampton stations are electrified.

The route is surely short enough to be handled by a battery-powered train.

Signalling is probably up-to-date.

There is also this report in the Wolverhampton Express and Star, which is entitled Spring Satement: £350m Housing Deal For The West Midlands, which says this.

The deal comes after ministers revealed plans to bring the line between the town and city back into use, including new railway stations at Willenhall and James Bridge, Darlaston.

Things seem to be happening on this route.

Possible New Stations

I’ll summarise the possible new and reopened stations.

Could a common design be created, so that the cost of stations is reduced?

Is There A Plan?

The West Midlands Combined Authority and the train operation company for the area; West Midlands Trains, seem at a first look, taken all the freight and disused routes and seeing how they can be linked into a network to the benefit of Birmingham.

But I think it is more than that!

The trains and trams are a varied fleet.

  • CAF Urbos trams. – Can be fitted powered with batteries
  • Bombardier Aventra trains in three- and five-car units. – Might be possible to be powered with batteries
  • CAF Civity diesel-multiple units in two- and four-car units.

Full details have not been given about the Aventras, but it could be that all trams and trains are capable of moving for perhaps a dozen miles under their own power. Obviously, the CAF Civitiies can go a lot further on diesel fuel.

I have some questions.

  • Could all these trains, mean that the lines can be added to the current network without installing too much electrification?
  • Is it only the South Staffordshire Line and the Darlaston Loop, where new track needs to be laid?
  • CAF are a company noted for innovation, who are opening a factory in Wales. Have they got a Spanish Surprise to help the WMCA create a world-class network?
  • Are architects and engineers working on a unique platform design, that all trains can share?
  • Could the Camp Hill Line and the Walsall-Wolverhampton Line have a passenger service, as soon as there are trains to run the service?

I wonder if there is a plan to bring in new routes continuously!

  • Electric trains  on the Chase Line to Rugeley Trent Valley station and to Bromsgrove station will be first in 2018.
  • Walsall and Wolverhampton using the Wallsall-Wolverhampton Line
  • New Street and Worcester using the Camp Hill Line.
  • New Street and Bromsgrove using new stations on the Camp Hill Line.
  • Coleshill Parkway tand Walsall using the Sutton Park Line.
  • Walsall and Stourbridge Junction using the South Staffordshire Line and diesel trains.
  • Wednesbury and Merry Hill using the South Staffordshire Line and trams.

Note.

  1. The early bonus of the new electrification.
  2. Walsall and Bromsgrove will develop into well-connected hubs.
  3. Euston and Walsall will be introduced by West Midlands Trains.
  4. As the network expands, new trains are delivered.
  5. Stations will be added continuously.
  6. All parts of Greater Birmingham will benefit.

Is this the way, Andy Street will market the network to his customers?

 

 

 

 

March 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vivarail To Supply Three D-Trains To West Midlands Trains

The title of this post is the same as this article on Rail Technology Magazine.

This order has been a long time coming and the three Class 230 trains will be used by West Midlands Trains on the Marston Vale Line, from December 2018.

Whether they will be diesel or battery versions of the Class 230 trains is not stated.

March 1, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Enlightening Facts On Battery Trains

This article In Rail Magazine is entitled Vivarail Targets Summer Running For New Battery Unit.

The article says some enlightening things about the battery version of the Class 230 train.

  • Four batteries are provided on the two-car train.
  • The total battery capacity is 106 kWh. (Note: It has since been disclosed that the total battery capacity is 424 kWh!)
  • An eight minute recharge is needed at the end of each run.
  • A ten minute recharge gives a range of fifty miles.

Nothing is said of the speed and acceleration of the train on battery power.

How would these figures fit Vivarail’s order for three trains from West Midlands Trains to serve the Marston Vale Line?

  • The route is approximately twenty-five miles long.
  • Trains currently take forty-three minutes with ten stops.
  • Overhead electrification could be available at both ends of the line, as both Bedford and Bletchley station are on 25 KVAC  main lines.

Do the sums!

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

What A Waste Of Space!

This picture shows two two-car Class 170 trains working together as a four-car unit.

Look at how much space is wasted in the length of this train, by the two middle cabs!

If these Class 170 trains were to be replaced with a four-car train, this would surely increase the capacity of the train, as there would be more space to put seats!

It should be noted that West Midlands Trains have ordered some four-car CAF Civity trains.

 

December 29, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Big On The Inside And The Same Size On The Outside

This morning, I took a ride in one of London Overground’s Class 378 trains to Shoreditch High Street station, so that I could have Leon’s version of a Full English Breakfast and a real mug of tea, in their restaurant in Spitalfields. And all for £5.25!

Afterwards, I walked the short distance to Liverpool Street station and took one of Crossrail’s new Class 345 trains to Stratford station.

As the Class 345 train was more or less empty, I was able to take these pictures of the inside.

Several design features are noticeable.

  • The wide flat floor
  • The walk-through design of the train.
  • The wide aisle in the centre.
  • The seats cantilevered from the side of the train.
  • The heating under the seats.
  • The spacious lobbies.
  • The large windows.
  • The way the body sides bulge outwards to create more width at just below shoulder height.

The design seems to create more room for passengers and because of the wide aisle and large windows, the room might even look more spacious than it actually is.

It is certainly a more pleasing train to ride in, than the Class 378 train, I rode ealier, which is very much one of the better trains from the previous generation.

Later I rode on one of Thameslink’s Class 700 trains.

  • The lobbies are wide.
  • Seats obscure the view, as they are not aligned with the windows.
  • The heating takes up space along the side of the train.

But as the sides of the train don’t seem to be so curved, the aisle between the seats seems to be narrower. A lady wheeling a case between the seats would have hit people, if anybody had been sitting in the seats.

I should ride in a full Aventra in the Peak and see if my everybody appears to have more space. I did later!

On the 19th of December, I rode from Romford to Liverpool Street in an Aventra during the morning Peak.

  • The train was perhaps three-quarters full.
  • For some parts of the journey, all seats were taken, but the standees didn’t seem to have too much trouble standing in the smooth-riding train.
  • Only a few were strap-hanging and several were using the backs of seats for support.

It did seem to be a better experuience than other commuter trains.

Others ideas and consequences have emerged in recent months.

Aventras Have Underfloor Heating

The Greater Anglia Class 720 trains have underfloor heating as I detailed in Aventras Have Underfloor Heating.

Underfloor heating would appear to release space for passengers. Especially when it is coupled with seats cantilevered from the sides of the train.

Aventras Have No Doors Between Cars

Tthis article on Global Rail News, which is entitled First look around Greater Anglia’s Bombardier Aventra mock-up, says this.

There will be no doors separating vehicles.

There is just a wide lobby, where the cars are joined together.

This shows the join in a Class 345 train.

Regularly in busy times on London Overground’s Class 378 trains or London Underground’s S Stock, similar areas are full with people.hanging on to the vertical handles or wheelie cases.

It’s a design that seems to work well and again it makes more space available for passengers.

Aventras Can Have 2+3 Seating

This picture shows the inside of Greater Anglia’s Aventra mockup.

Could the 2+3 seating be wider and more comfortable, as Aventras seem to be wider inside at shoulder height, due to the innovative body design?

Note the power sockets in the front of the seats.

Aventra Car Length And Number of Cars Is Flexible

The first two fleets of Aventras ordered had different length cars and different number of cars.

Orders have now been placed for trains with twenty and twenty-two metre length cars and three, four, five, seven, nine and ten cars.

It also seems that it is very simple to change train length by adding and removing cars as required.

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia have stated that they are ordering ten-car Aventras with similar train lengths to twelve-car sets of their current rolling stock.

Lengths and passenger capacity are given as follows in Wikipedia.

  • Ten-car Class 720 – 243 metres – 1,145 seats
  • Twelve-car Class 321 – 239.4 metres – 927 seats
  • Twelve-car Class 360 – 244.08 metres – 840 seats

This looks like an over thirty percent increase in seats in a train around the same length, with the following advantages

  • Little if any expensive platform extensions. Especially at Liverpool Street station.
  • Trains will fit existing depots and sidings.
  • Nearly all trains will be fixed formations.

The only disadvantage is that Greater Anglia won’t be providing any First Class seats. Judging by the lack of complaints, few seem to be bothered.

But being less complicated, it would probably be a more affordable train to run and maintain.

In this Greater Anglia example, another factor helps.

The Aventra will only have two cabs, whereas three Class 321 or Class 360 trains will have six.So the length released by four cabs is available for passengers.

c2c

It would appear that the c2c order, where ten-car Aventras replace twelve-car Electrostars, is another application of the same philosophy, that was used by Greater Anglia.

This is an extract from c2c’s Press Release.

The Aventra is one of the fastest-selling trains in the UK rail industry, and these new trains will be manufactured at Bombardier’s factory in Derby. Each new train, which will operate in a fixed set of 10-carriages, will include over 900 seats, plus air-conditioning, wifi, plug sockets and three toilets onboard. Each new carriage is larger and contains more seats than on c2c’s current trains, so each 10-carriage new train provides capacity for 15% more passengers onboard compared to a current 12-carriage c2c train.

So three x four-car trains working as a twelve-car train are replaced by one ten-car train, just as with Greater Anglia. Note the claimed fifteen percent capacity increase!

West Midlands Trains

West Midlands Trains have ordered three sets of Aventras.

  1. 16 x five-car 110 mph trains for long-distance services.
  2. 29 x five-car 110 mph trains for electrified suburban services.
  3. 36 x three car 90 mph trains for Redditch to Lichfield Trent Valley.

Consider.

  • Fleet 1 will probably be used to augment the Class 350 trains in pairs on long distance services.
  • Could these work in pairs that split and join en route to save paths into Euston?
  • Fleet 3 will be direct replacements for the Class 323 trains and will probably work in pairs.
  • Would a five-car train have a similar capacity to two three-car trains working as a pair?
  • Would some of the five-car trains in Fleet 2 be fitted with diesel powere-packs or batteries, so they could run services on lines without electrification?

West Midlands Trains must have a plan, or there will be a large number of trains sitting in sidings.

Conclusion

It looks to me like Bombardier have designed a train, where more passengers can be accommodated, without sacrificing passenger comfort.

December 18, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments