The Anonymous Widower

New Merseyrail Train Runs 135km On Battery

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Liverpool Business News.

This paragraph gives the details.

Posting on social media site Linked In, Joaquim Font Canyelles, project leader at Stadler Rail, said: “Our new Merseytravel class 777 IPEMU (Independent Powered Electrical Multiple Unit) proved its strength after running 135 km fully loaded and without external current supply, which is much longer than we expected.

Note that 135 km is 83.9 miles.

These are possible routes, where the battery-electric trains could be deployed.

  • Bidston and Wrexham Central – 27.5 miles
  • Canada Dock Branch – 4.6 miles
  • Chester and Crewe – 21.2 miles
  • Chester and Runcorn East – 13 miles
  • Ellesmere Port and Runcorn East – 10.8 miles
  • Ormskirk and Preston – 15.3 miles
  • Hunts Cross and Manchester Oxford Road – 27.1 miles
  • Kirkby and Manchester Victoria – 30 miles
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate – 12 miles
  • Liverpool Lime Street and Chester via Runcorn  – 27 miles
  • Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road – 31.5 miles
  • Southport and Manchester Oxford Road – 37.8 miles
  • Southport and Stalybridge – 45.5 miles
  • Southport and Wigan Wallgate – 17.4 miles

Note.

  1. All routes could be done both ways with the exception of Southport and Stalybridge and possibly Southport and Manchester Oxford Road.
  2. Southport trains to Wigan and Manchester would charge their batteries at Southport.
  3. Central Liverpool and Wrexham Central would not need the change at Bidston.
  4. Hunts Cross and Preston via Central Liverpool would not need the change at Ormskirk.
  5. A Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road service would be possible.

Batteries can add a lot of range to a city’s railway system.

Conclusion

If Merseyrail can get hold of the routes to Crewe, Manchester, Preston and Wrexham, the Liverpool City Region will have one of the best metros for a city of its size.

 

 

 

 

January 16, 2023 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Would A Lower Cost Rail Link To Skelmersdale Be Possible?

In the Wikipedia entry for Skelmersdale railway station, there is a section called Reopening Proposals, where this is said.

Skelmersdale has been described as the largest town in North-West England that doesn’t have a railway station, although Leigh, Greater Manchester, which also has no station is larger.

This section called 2022, gives the latest status of the proposals to connect Skelmersdale to the UK rail network.

Government reinforces that the station proposals are being considered. Rosie Cooper calls for the new Rail Minister to visit Skelmersdale, in order to aid the DfT’s decision. However, the Department for Transport announced in July 2022 that it was rejecting the Strategic Outline Business Case, throwing the scheme into doubt. The DfT instead suggested that better bus links with the Kirkby–Wigan rail line would be a cheaper way of improving connectivity for Skelmersdale.

This Google Map shows the town of Skelmersdale.

Skelmersdale is a town with an extensive road network, with good links to the M58 motorway.

I would suspect, that those who don’t have access to a car or some other form of personal transport, are second-class citizens.

According to Wikipedia, in the latest statement from the DfT, this was said.

The DfT instead suggested that better bus links with the Kirkby–Wigan rail line would be a cheaper way of improving connectivity for Skelmersdale.

I would simplify the DfT statement by removing the word bus. All transport links should be improved.

Consider.

  • By the end of 2023, there will be five stations between Kirkby and Wigan; Headbolt Lane, Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton.
  • Upholland station is the nearest to Skelmersdale.
  • Headbolt Lane station is being built with approximately 300 car parking spaces.
  • Rainford station has ten car parking spaces.
  • Upholland station has no car parking.
  • Orrell station has no car parking.
  • Pemberton station has no car parking.
  • From Google Maps it doesn’t look promising to add parking at Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations.
  • Only Headbolt Lane station will have bicycle parking.
  • Headbolt Lane station will have direct rail access to Liverpool.
  • Headbolt Lane, Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations will have direct rail access to Wigan and Manchester.
  • Headbolt Lane station will be built with provision for buses.
  • Skelmersdale bus station is at the main shopping centre in the centre of the town.

After Headbolt station opens in 2023, I would do the following.

  • Provide a high-capacity bus service between Headbolt Lane station and Skelmersdale.
  • Provide secure bicycle parking at Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations.
  • Investigate a bus service between Upholland station and Skelmersdale.
  • Monitor all passenger movements in the area, to see whether a rail link is needed.

Once Headbolt Lane station and the new services settle down, it should be possible to make a good estimate of the number of passengers who would use the rail link.

These are my thoughts on a lower-cost service to a new Skelmersdale station.

The Current Plan For A Branch To Skelmersdale

This map from OpenRailwayMap shows the proposed future railway between Skelmersdale and the Wigan and Kirkby Line.

Note.

  1. The new branch to Skelmersdale is shown dotted.
  2. The Northern end of the branch is in the Concourse shopping centre in Skelmersdale.
  3. The branch goes under the M 58 Motorway.
  4. The branch joins the Wigan and Kirkby Line in a triangular junction.
  5. Rainford station is to the West of the junction.
  6. Upholland station is to the East of the junction.

It could be a complete solution.

Will There Be A Direct Service Between Skelmersdale And Liverpool?

I feel the design of Headbolt Lane station precludes this, as there doesn’t appear to be a line through Headbolt Lane station, as all three platforms are terminal platforms, with two serving Liverpool and one serving Wigan and Manchester.

Passengers would need to change at Headbolt Lane station, if travelling between Skelmersdale And Liverpool.

Will There Be A Direct Service Between Skelmersdale And Manchester?

This would appear to be possible.

Could The Original Route Be Used?

The original Skelmersdale Branch ran between Rainford and Ormskirk, with a station on the West side of Skelmersdale.

This Google Map shows the route.

Note.

  1. Skelmersdale town centre and the Concourse shopping centre are in the North-East corner of the map.
  2. The M 58 motoway runs across the top of the map.
  3. The dark green scar of the Skelmersdale branch runs down the West side of the map.
  4. Just below, where the motorway and the old railway cross, there is a large landfill.
  5. Rainford station on the Wigan and Kirkby Line is towards the bottom of the map.

I wonder, if a lower-cost track layout could be slotted in partially using the route of the old railway.

  • It would be mainly single track.
  • The branch would only connect to Headbolt Lane station.
  • A passing loop would be needed to run two trains per hour (tph).
  • It might be possible to slot a single-track through to the centre of Skelmersdale.

Would it be an alternative, if a Park-And-Ride station were built near or on top of the landfill?

What Would Be The Train Service?

Southport station has the following services.

  • Four tph to and from Liverpool
  • Two tph to and from Wigan Wallgate and Manchester

I think reasons of fairness would dictate that Skelmersdale has a two tph service to both Liverpool and Manchester.

It is also worth looking at the services through Wigan Wallgate station.

  • 1 tph – between Southport and Alderley Edge via Westhoughton and Manchester Piccadilly
  • 1 tph – between Southport and Stalybridge via Westhoughton and Manchester Victoria
  • 1 tph – between Kirkby and Blackburn via Atherton and Manchester Victoria

The third service does not run on Sundays. This is surely an omission in the timetable, that should be rectified.

Wigan Wallgate And Skelmersdale Via Headbolt Lane

As I said earlier Headbolt Lane station is a station with three terminal platforms, two of which will have trains to and from Liverpool and the other will have trains to and from Wigan Wallgate and Manchester.

If Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations are connected by a route using the original branch, it would be possible to run a service between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale stations with a reverse at Headbolt Lane station.

Note.

  1. The Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate Line is double-track and all stations have two platforms.
  2. A passing loop on the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale section would probably be needed for two tph.
  3. Passengers between Skelmersdale and Liverpool would change at Headbolt Lane station.
  4. There would be no changes to services between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane stations and they would remain at 4 tph.
  5. Preferably, Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale would operate at two tph.
  6. All stations between Wigan Wallgate and Headbolt Lane would get two tph to Manchester.
  7. I estimate that Wigan Wallgate to Skelmersdale is less than twenty miles.
  8. In Bolton-Wigan £78m Rail Electrification Project Announced, I indicate that Wigan Wallgate station will be electrified.

The service to Manchester could either be direct or with a change at Wigan Wallgate to a Southport service.

A Shuttle Train Between Wigan Wallgate And Skelmersdale Via Headbolt Lane

This may be an alternative to running the Skelmersdale service all the way to Manchester.

  • Services would terminate in the bay Platform 3 at Wigan Wallgate station.
  • Passengers to and from Manchester would catch a Southport train.
  • The frequency of the shuttle train would be two tph.

Using a shuttle would need less trains.

Rolling Stock

The Wikipedia entry for the Kirkby branch line, shows the service being run by a Class 150 train, which are diesel-powered.

Services on the Manchester and Southport Line are run by a variety of diesel multiple units and all Class 769 trains.

If the platforms at Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale are built to handle four-car trains, then Northern have any number of diesel multiple units and the Class 769 trains, which could run the service.

But there is also the possibility of using battery-electric multiple units, like the Class 321 BEMU train, that I wrote about in Eversholt Rail And Vivarail To Develop Class 321 BEMU.

  • The distance between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale is probably about twenty miles.
  • Charging would be needed at Skelmersdale station.
  • Wigan Wallgate would need an electrified route to Manchester.
  • It also appears that the Class 321 BEMU, which will have a 30 minute range could handle the Wigan Wallgate and Southport leg on batteries.
  • If a battery-electric shuttle train is used between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale, it would be charged at both ends of the route.

It appears to me, that if Network Rail electrify between Wigan Wallgate and Manchester, then services between Manchester and Kirkby, Skelmersdale and Southport could be run by Class 321 BEMU trains, which with their Renatus interiors will not be British Rail trains rescued from the scrapyard.

It will also mean passengers between Liverpool and Skelmersdale will be using two smart trains.

Conclusion

Consider.

  • New track should be the minimum possible between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations.
  • Network Rail must electrify between Manchester and Wigan Wallgate.
  • Class 321 BEMU trains should be used between Manchester and Headbolt Lane, Skelmersdale and Southport.

I believe that there is an affordable solution to the provision of electric train services to Skelmersdale somewhere in my ramblings.

 

 

August 26, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bolton-Wigan £78m Rail Electrification Project Announced

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

This is a small electrification project compared to many, but it still includes.

  • 13 miles of electrification.
  • 450 new overhead line equipment stanchions.
  • Modifications to 17 bridges and two level crossings.
  • Platform extensions at Westhoughton, Hindley and Ince stations, so that they can handle six-car trains.

Completion is expected to be 2025.

The numbers indicate it could be be a small project with quite a bit of work.

I have a few specific thoughts.

How Far Will The Electrification Go?

This document on the Government web site is entitled Green Light Given For Wigan To Bolton Electrification.

These are two paragraphs.

The track between Wigan North Western station and Lostock Junction near Bolton will receive a £78 million upgrade, targeted to complete in 2024/2025.

Through electrifying almost 13 miles of infrastructure and lengthening platforms, this investment will ensure that CO2 emitting diesel trains are replaced by electric rolling stock. As longer trains with additional capacity, these will provide passengers with greener, more comfortable and more reliable journeys.

Note.

  1. Lostock junction is on the Manchester and Preston Line which was electrified in 2019.
  2. As is typical, the electrification continues for a short distance from Lostock junction towards the Wigan stations.
  3. Wigan North Western station is a fully-electrified station on the West Coast Main Line.
  4. Wigan Wallgate station is not electrified.
  5. The distance between Lostock junction and Wigan Wallgate station is 6.9 miles.
  6. Lostock junction and Wigan Wallgate station is double-track all the way.
  7. My Track Atlas shows crossovers that allow trains to and from Lostock junction to access some platforms at Wigan North Western.

These facts lead me to these conclusions.

  • As thirteen files of electrification would be 6.5 miles of double-track electrification, the new electrification would create a fully-electrified line between Lostock junction and Wigan Wallgate station.
  • By electrifying the crossovers at Wigan Station junction, electric trains would to able to access both Wigan stations.

But this does mean, that electric trains can’t run past Wigan Wallgate station, as the wires seem to stop there.

Electrification At Wigan Wallgate Station

Mark Clayton has made this comment to this post.

Yes there is a single track connecting from the track through Hindley to the WCML and vice versa, however at Wallgate there are buildings straddling the line and the station itself. Maybe the track could be lowered, but it could well be a major engineering project to get the wires under Wallgate.

The best picture, that I can get of the tracks under Wallgate is this 3D image from Google Maps.

It does seem a bit tight in terms of height.

I have also looked at several videos of trains going trough the station and I suspect that the tracks may need lowering to get the wires through.

Or they could use some of the discontinuous tricks being used on the South Wales Metro.

It could be difficult, but I don’t think it will be impossible.

I do suspect though for operational reasons, Network Rail and the train operators would want the wires to extend to the station.

  • Train operators probably prefer to raise and lower the pantograph in a station, in case anything goes wrong.
  • If battery-electric trains should be used on the line, then if necessary, they could wait in the station to charge the batteries.
  • If the station is wired, then the West-facing bay-platform can also be wired, so that it could be used for a battery-electric shuttle train to Kirkby or Southport.

It looks to me, that for lots of reasons, the engineers will have to find a way of getting the wires under the low bridge under Wallgate.

Services That Use All Or Part Of The Route Between Lostock Junction And Wigan

These services use all or part of the route.

  • 1 tph – Southport and Alderley Edge via Ince (irregular), Hindley, Westhoughton and Bolton
  • 1 tph – Southport and Stalybridge via Hindley, Westhoughton and Bolton
  • 1 tph – Kirkby and Manchester Victoria via Ince (irregular), Hindley, Daisy Hill, Hag Fold, Atherton, Walkden, Moorside, Swinton and Salford Crescent.
  • 1 tph – Wigan Wallgate and Blackburn via Hindley, Daisy Hill, Atherton, Walkden, Swinton and Salford Crescent.
  • 1 tph – Wigan Wallgate and Leeds via Daisy Hill, Atherton, Walkden and Salford Crescent.

Note.

  1. tph is trains per hour.
  2. The two services that terminate at Wigan Wallgate sometimes terminate in Wigan North Western station.
  3. Wigan Wallgate station would appear to get up to five tph to Manchester, via a variety of routes.

I wonder how many of these services could be run by a battery-electric train, with a performance like the Hitachi Regional Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note 90 kilometres is 56 miles.

I will look at each route in detail.

Southport And Alderley Edge

The only section without electrification will be between Wigan Wallgate and Southport stations, which is a distance of 17.4 miles.

With a battery range of 56 miles, a battery-electric train should be able to run a return trip between Wigan Wallgate and Southport stations on battery power and have time for a leisurely turnround in Southport.

The batteries would be charged on the fully electrified section of the line between Wigan Wallgate and Alderley Edge stations.

Southport And Stalybridge

There are two sections without electrification.

  • Wigan Wallgate and Southport stations – 17.4 miles
  • Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge stations – 7.6 miles

With a battery range of 56 miles, a battery-electric train should be able to run a return trip on both sections without electrification.

The batteries would be charged on the fully electrified section of the line between Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Victoria stations.

Kirkby And Manchester Victoria

There are two sections without electrification.

  • Wigan Wallgate and Kirkby stations – 12.1 miles
  • Hindley and Salford Crescent stations – 13.4 miles

With a battery range of 56 miles, a battery-electric train should be able to run services on both sections without electrification.

The batteries would be charged on the two fully electrified sections of the line between Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Victoria stations.

Wigan Wallgate And Blackburn

There are two sections without electrification.

  • Hindley and Salford Crescent stations – 13.4 miles
  • Manchester Victoria and Blackburn stations – 39.4 miles

The first section could be easily run by a battery electric train, but the second section would need a charger at Blackburn station to return to Manchester Victoria station.

The batteries would be charged on the two fully electrified sections of the line between Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Victoria stations.

Wigan Wallgate And Leeds

There are two sections without electrification.

  • Hindley and Salford Crescent stations – 13.4 miles
  • Manchester Victoria and Leeds stations – 50.2 miles

The first section could be easily run by a battery electric train.

But the second section would be very much touch-and-go with a battery-electric train with a range of 56 miles, despite the fact that both Manchester Victoria and Leeds stations are electrified.

It should also be noted that Network Rail has plans in the TransPennine Upgrade to electrify the route between Leeds and Heaton Lodge junction between Mirfield and Brighouse stations. This would reduce the second section without electrification to a more manageable 37.1 miles.

I suspect that by the time the TransPennine Upgrade is complete, battery range would have improved to allow Manchester Victoria and Leeds stations to handle the route.

Battery-Electric Trains That Could Run The Services Through Wigan Wallgate Station

I have used the Hitachi Regional Battery Train as an example of a train that might run the services through Wigan Wallgate station.

  • It has an operating speed of 100 mph.
  • It could be based on a Class 385 train, which have three or four cars.
  • It would have a battery range of 56 miles.

I suspect a demonstration train will run by 2025, which is the expected date of completion of the Lostock and Wigan electrification project.

But other manufacturers and rolling stock companies could also supply trains, with this specification.

  • Alstom could create a battery-electric train based on an Electrostar, like a Class 379 or Class 387 train.
  • CAF are developing a battery-electric train based on a Class 331 train.
  • Porterbrook are developing a battery-electric train, based on a Class 350 train.
  • Stadler could probably deliver a battery-electric Flirt based on a Class 755 train.

Competition would hopefully result in an excellent train, that would be suitable for many routes in the UK.

Northern’s Battery Plans And CAF

I suspect though that CAF could be the front runner as Northern already have forty-three Class 331 trains in service.

In Northern’s Battery Plans, I describe how CAF and Northern are planning to convert a number of three-car Class 331 trains into four-car battery-electric trains.

  • The fourth car would contain batteries.
  • Batteries would also be added to the PTS (pantograph) car.

I suspect that the battery range could be arranged so that all routes suitable for battery-electric operation could be handled.

In this article on Rail Magazine, which is entitled Northern Plans More New Trains After CAF Milestone, this is a paragraph.

A CAF source confirmed that a lot of work was ongoing with Northern, including the continued development of a battery EMU that is planned to be tested on the Oxenholme-Windermere route.

As the article dates from January 2021, things should be progressing.

Possible routes for battery-electric operation could be.

  • Northumberland Line – Under construction
  • Csrlisle and Newcastle – 61.5 miles between electrification at both ends
  • Wigan Wallgate and Leeds via Dewsbury – 50.2 miles between electrification at both ends
  • Manchester Victoria and Leeds via Hebden Bridge – 49.8 miles between electrification at both ends
  • Leeds And Carlisle via Settle – 86.8 miles between electrification at both ends.
  • Leeds and Morecambe – 37.8 miles between electrification.
  • Manchester Airport and Barrow-in-Furness – 28.7 miles from electrification
  • Manchester Airport and Windermere – 10.9 miles from electrification

Note.

  1. The distance is the longest section without electrification.
  2. Some routes have electrification at both ends.
  3. Some need an out-and-back journey at one end of the route.

I was surprised that the Settle and Carlisle Line could be included and as battery technology improves it certainly will be possible.

What a tourist attraction that line would be if worked by battery-electric trains.

Conclusion

This electrification of just 6.5 miles of double-track between Lostock junction and Wigan Wallgate station seems to be one of the smaller electrification projects.

But on closer examination, when linked to a fleet of battery-electric trains with a range of perhaps forty miles, the electrification enables battery-electric trains to run these services.

  • Southport And Alderley Edge
  • Southport And Stalybridge
  • Kirkby And Manchester Victoria

With a charging station in Blackburn station, then the Wigan Wallgate And Blackburn service can be added.

It also looks that with the completion of the TransPennine Upgrade between Huddersfield and Leeds, that it might even be possible to run Wigan Wallgate and Leeds using battery-electric trains.

There will be a long list of stations, previously served by diesel trains, that will now only be served by electric or battery-electric trains.

  • Appley Bridge
  • Atherton
  • Bescar Lane
  • Burscough Bridge
  • Daisy Hill
  • Gathurst
  • Hag Fold
  • Hindley
  • Hoscar
  • Ince
  • Kirkby
  • Meols Cop
  • Moorside
  • New Lane
  • Orrell
  • Parbold
  • Pemberton
  • Rainford
  • Southport
  • Swinton
  • Upholland
  • Walkden
  • Wigan Wallgate
  • Westhoughton

That is a total of twenty-four stations.

Never in the field of railway engineering, has one small section of electrification delivered electric trains to so many stations.

 

September 1, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Kraft Heinz And Freight Innovation

In the UK, we certainly need to get more freight on to the railways.

Recently, KraftHeinz were involved in an experiment. A lot of their product currently comes into the UK in containers, which are then taken by road from the ports by truck.

This report about the experiment was on this page of the Modern Railway’s web site.

KraftHeinz’s distribution centre is in the Orrell district of Wigan, with the Wigan Wallgate to Southport route the closest railway line. The trial involved a container train that was sent from Crewe to the branch on an overnight working, with the notional offloading taking place from the running line close to Gathurst station. Also demonstrated was the feasibility of loco run round in this area. Network Rail signallers helped ensure the success of the trial by facilitating the use of a crossover at Parbold station for the run round (some signal alterations would be likely if this became a regular operation).

This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. Gathurst station is in the North-West corner of the map.
  2. The KraftHeinz Distribution Centre is in the South-East corner of the map.
  3. The Wigan Wallgate and Southport Line runs between the two.

It was all very convenient for some intense  night work.

I have some thoughts.

Where’s The Siding?

Years ago a lot of factories and distribution centres like this, would have had a siding.

Many have been sold off and built over, as many companies preferred to use road transport.

Using The Running Line

This was first used in the UK to load timber on to trains in the North of Scotland for transporting to markets in the South.

Surely, the only thing needed is ground strong enough alongside the track to support a container handling machine.

Were JCB Involved?

JCB are innovators and appeared a few days on this blog, in this a post entitled JCB Finds Cheap Way To Run Digger Using Hydrogen.

Although, that post wasn’t about cargo handling, it shows that the company thinks differently and I’m sure they can come up with a pollution-free container-handler to unload containers at night for companies like KraftHeinz.

Conclusion

Surely, if this freight movement were to be used regularly, the signalling changes and perhaps some concrete should be installed.

We need more cargo-handling experiments like this to get more trucks off the road.

May 24, 2021 Posted by | Food, Transport/Travel | , , , , | 4 Comments