The Anonymous Widower

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 | , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 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