The Anonymous Widower

Custom House Station Is Starting To Look Like One

The new Crossrail station at Custom House is started to look like a station.

It is being built in the clean environment of a factory near Sheffield and the quality of the concrete shines through.

On a bus recently, I talked to a young lady, who is involved in the production of this station and she said we’ll be seeing a lot more of these factory-produced Lego-like buildings in the future.

July 22, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Places And Spaces At The Building Centre

I went to this exhibition this morning, which shows how the various stations on Crossrail will look.

It was certainly a good free exhibition and whetted my appetite for what is to come.

July 21, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Is This A Case Of More With Less Electrification?

When asked in the House of Lords about the cost of extending Crossrail to Reading, Baroness Kramer, the Transport minister, said it would save £10million. It’s all reported here in New Civil Engineer. As it has been reported for some time Crossrail and the Great Western Main Line electrification will  share some infrastructure like transformers, I don’t think the cost saving is unexpected.

July 16, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

What Do The French Do For Commuter Trains?

The French equivalent to the Class 345 for Crossrail, also has a version built by Bombardier called the Z 50000 Francilien.

What probably shows more of this train is this excellent YouTube video.

Looking at the video and comparing the images with say travelling in a familiar Class 378 on the Overground, you notice several differences.

The biggest difference is that the French train is wider and taller in cross-section than the British train. This is due to the much more generous Continental loading gauge, which the designers of the train have used to their advantage.

Another big difference is getting into and out of the trains. On the Class 378 and probably the Class 345, it’s just a simple step across, but on the French train, an extra step emerges from the train and it’s a double step into the train. How would the French train cope with platform edge doors, like those that will be installed on Crossrail?  I ask this question as European safety legislation insists on these in all stations in tunnels.

July 10, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Trains For Crossrail And Thameslink

London’s two new cross-town railways; Crossrail and Thameslink will both be fully opened around the end of this decade.

So it would seem logical that the two lines might share the same trains.

But it is not as simple as that!

All sorts of factors like delaying of projects, the slightly different natures of the two lines and the  decision of Siemens, who won the contract for the Thameslink trains, to withdraw from Crossrail, because of a lack of capacity, mean that we now have two separate train fleets; Class 700 for Thameslink and Class 345 for Crossrail.

Although separate train fleets, it does look that the design philosophy of the two trains is very similar. Take this paragraph from the specification issued by Crossrail for their Class 345 trains.

Wide through gangways between carriages, and ample space in the passenger saloons and around the doors, will reduce passenger congestion while allowing room for those with heavy luggage or pushchairs.

From what I have read here on First Capital Connect’s web site, the Class 700 might be very similar.

So it would seem that four of London’s important new train fleets will be walk-through. In addition to the Class 345 and Class 700, the Overground’s Class 378 and the Underground’s S Stock are build to similar principles, although the latter two trains, probably expect more standing passengers.

One advantage of these trains is that they can be designed to line up with the platform edge, as the Class 378 generally do, which enables a simple step across the gap into or out of the train. At some stations, like Willesden Junction, on the Overground, the alignment is bad and you certainly notice the difference. So I will hope that the two new train classes line up with the platforms! As on Crossrail and Thameslink most stations will only be served by one type of train, I suspect that it could be possible.

In my view, if we are to have a step-free railway, then all station-train interfaces, should be a simple step across.

Another advantage of this type of train, is that you can walk inside the train to less-crowded areas or perhaps to your preferred door for exit at your destination. I do this regularly, when I take the short hop from Highbury and Islington to Dalston Junction stations on the Overground, as I get in at the front and get out at the back, due to the layout of the two stations.

This walk-through capability will be essential for Crossrail, where the trains and platforms will be 200 metres long. One of Crossrail’s engineers told me, that she felt some people might not like the trains because of their length and the long walks in stations. I don’t think regular users will mind so much, as they’ll develop a strategy that works for their journey. But will a tourist dragging a heavy case going from say Heathrow to Bond Street, be so happy after walking a long distance to get out the station.

The various proposals for new deep-level Underground trains seem to have through gangways like this proposal from Siemens.

So is a de facto standard for train design emerging, where trains have through gangways, flat floors and wide doors with no-gap step-across access?

I think it is and it will be to the benefit of all rail users, including the disabled and those pushing buggies or dragging heavy cases.

Looking at the pictures I took of Siemens Underground proposal, it seems the design fits such a standard!

A secondary advantage of this design is that it should tighten up stopping time at stations, thus making it easier for trains to keep to schedules.

July 9, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Crossrail To Start Construction At Maidenhead

I think we’ll be seeing lots of little articles like this one from the Maidenhead Advertiser in the next few months. This is the guts of the report.

The first visible phase of building work to prepare Maidenhead Station for the arrival of Crossrail is set to begin.
Network Rail contractors are due to arrive at the site in Braywick Road on Saturday and will be a permanent fixture throughout the summer.
Changes to the station including lengthened platforms to make room for 10-car Crossrail trains, a new lift, enhanced station information facilities, security systems and CCTV equipment.

The article goes on to say that 10,000 people will be working on Crossrail  on 40 sites before the line opens in 2019.

It is a very large project.

 

 

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Crossrail Is Even Now Having A Big Effect On London

Two stories I found today, show the sort of effect Crossrail is going to have on London.

This article from Ealing Today describes how Hanwell is going to get four trains per hour during peak hours of the day. Currently, it would appear it’s less than that. The report says this.

Dr Onkar Sahota, Labour Assembly Member for Ealing & Hillingdon said: “Whether it has been the re-opening of the South entrance to the station or the step-free access to platform level, the good news for Hanwell keeps coming.”

“I am pleased that after so much pressure from across the community, Crossrail have relented and will attempt to deliver four trains during peak hours.”

“I will continue to press the Mayor and Crossrail to ensure that we have a minimum of four trains per hour at all times, and will be watching closely to ensure that Crossrail come good on their pledge to deliver the long awaited Sunday service.”

There is also this report from Easier Property, which discusses how if your near a Crossrail station properties are doing better.  It says this.

According to Hamptons International , transactions for properties within a mile of a Crossrail station grew by 21% in 2013, compared with the London average of 13%, and New Festival Quarter from Bellway Homes certainly echoes this London-wide trend.

And it is still four or five years before the new railway opens.

June 26, 2014 Posted by | Travel, World | , , | Leave a comment

The Future Of Railways In East Anglia

There are several major drivers of growth in the usage of the railways in East Anglia, which for the purpose of this analysis is the four eastern counties of Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.

Freight

The Port of Felixstowe and to a certain extent those of Harwich, Great Yarmouth and London Gateway are going to add considerably to the number of trains trundling around the railways of East Anglia. The interim destinations of these trains for onward journeys to the rest of the country will be London and Peterborough, using either the Great Eastern Main Line, the Ipswich to Ely Line or the London, Tilbury and Southend Line.

The LTS is mentioned as it is being connected to the London Gateway Port by a rail link and not all traffic will be directed through London.

Tourism

East Anglia has always earned a lot of income from a wide variety of tourism, from birdwatching to food and real ale and sailing to horse racing.

Many of the tourism hot-spots for East Anglia like Norwich and Cambridge already have a good rail service, although much of it is London-centric. Other places like Newmarket, Bury St. Edmunds and Great Yarmouth have the rail links, but don’t have frequent trains, but there are tourism hot-spots that are difficult to get to by public transport.

High Technology

Driven by Cambridge, high technology will be a big driver of growth in the area, but how will it effect the railways?

It already has.in that a station is being built at Cambridge Science Park, although I didn’t see any sign of construction, as I passed through yesterday. But the station is scheduled to open in 2016.

Just as with tourism everywhere, the high-technology sector in Cambridge, will generate increased passenger traffic. Just as London uses every place it can find in the South East of England as a dormitory, Cambridge will draw in workers from all the nearby towns.

But the high-technology itself will spill out from Cambridge into the surrounding towns, further increasing demand for rail services in places like Norwich, Peterborough, Newmarket and Bury St. Edmunds and possibly even unfashionable towns like Haverhill and Ipswich.

Thameslink

When Thameslink opens to Cambridge in 2018, it will be a massive feeder of passengers into the western side of East Anglia. The provisional timetable shows four semi-fast 12-car Class 700 trains to Cambridge every hour, as opposed to the two 8-car Class 365 trains at present. This will go a long way to reversing the dominant commuter flow from into London to out of London.

Incidentally, no plans have been published about what happens to the Kings Cross-Cambridge-Kings Lynn service using Class 365 trains after Thameslink opens.

If it is assumed that the current trains still go into Kings Cross, then that would mean about a quadrupling of the number of seats between Kings Cross/St. Pancras and Cambridge in each hour. If they don’t it’ll be a tripling of seats.

I know the line is crowded, but this does seem a hell of a lot of seats.

Crossrail

You might say that an east-west cross-London link won’t have any effect on East Anglia! But it will! And in ways we just don’t expect!

A fellow Ipswich supporter drives up to every home match from near Tonbridge over the Dartford Crossing and up the A12. He has stated that after Crossrail, he’ll drive to Abbey Wood and get the train to Liverpool Street for a fast train to Ipswich. I suspect Crossrail with its direct access to Liverpool Street, Heathrow and Reading will alter the travel habits of many travellers, going to and from East Anglia.

Improved Electrification

To my untrained eye, the overhead electrification being erected in the Liverpool-Preston-Manchester triangle is going up a lot faster and more robustly, than we would have expected a few years ago.

We’re just getting much better at it!

Remember too, that one of the major costs f railway electrification is getting the power to the track. Where electrification is tacked on to an existing system, it is a lot easier and more affordable.

Improved Signalling

Over the next decade signalling will move into the cabs of trains. It is a massive hidden project being undertaken by Network Rail, as is described here. This first two paragraphs say it all.

This tried and tested system will replace traditional railway signals with a computer display inside every train cab, reducing the costs of maintaining the railway, improving performance and enhancing safety.

It will offer a host of benefits to the railway and the application of its cab signalling component, the European Train Control System, ETCS, will spell the end for traditional signalling.

Who’s to say what difference this will make.

If it does nothing else, improved signalling will help slot all those freight trains between the passenger trains.

No More New Diesel Trains

I think it is very unlikely any new diesel trains will be built, although refurbished ones might come available, as lines are electrified.

Are any actually on order at the moment for any line in the UK? There are some Class 66, Class 68 and Class 88 diesel locomotives, but I can’t think of any diesel multiple units in the pipeline.

On the other hand, Thameslink, Crossrail and the London Overground will release a lot of electric multiple units, that will be very good candidates for a full refurbishment.

So what do I think will happen to railways in East Anglia in the near future?

Service Expectations

There are five major stations in East Anglia; Cambridge, Ely, Ipswich, Norwich and Peterborough. The service frequency between Ipswich and Norwich is one train every half hour, so it is probably a reasonable expectation that this is the frequency between any pair of stations

Outlying stations such as Felixstowe, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft generally get an approximately hourly service from the nearest main town, so this should be maintained.

If we insist on half hour service frequency between Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich, then this means that important stations like Bury St. Edmunds, Diss, Newmarket, Stowmarket and Thetford would get a half hour service frequency too.

This would mean that journeys like I did once from Newmarket to Great Yarmouth changing at Stowmarket and Norwich would be a lot easier.

Norwich in Ninety?

I’ve talked about this before here, and so has the BBC.

With the completion of the Bacon Factory Curve, one of the first projects to achieve the Norwich in Ninety goal has been completed. It will be interesting to see if London to Norwich on-time statistics improve, just as I feel they have on the Felixstowe branch.

I’ve just found this Network Rail press release, about improving the track at Colchester, which is work that is going on now. Will be see a lot more of these smaller engineering-led projects over the next few years to achieve Norwich in Ninety?

I think the answer is yes!

Network Rail’s Great Eastern Main Line engineers have lived off table scraps for years. But now that there is a political will to get something done, the fag packets and used envelopes will be retrieved from the bin and over pints of real ale in country pubs, they will be turned into viable projects.

My only question on Norwich in Ninety is that it is a typical project title chosen to ring well in the press.  I wonder what is the minimum time, that has been revealed by the envelopes.

It certainly won’t be ninety!

You do have to wonder if there is anything more to come from the nearly forty-year-old Class 90 engines that push and pull the trains to and from Norwich. The engineers have won awards for the most improved trains, so there can’t be much improvement left. Hopefully any chances in the deterioration of the engines has been minimised.

I certainly look forward to my first sub sixty minute run to Ipswich.

Electrification Of Ipswich To Ely

I would assume, as this line all the way to Peterborough and eventually to Nuneaton has been recently cleared to take the larger freight containers that the line also has sufficient clearance to allow overhead lines to be erected.

So as the number of freight trains on this route is large, this line must be a prime candidate for electrification all the way to Nuneaton. Especially, as it crosses numerous electrifed lines, which would mean getting the power to the line won’t be too difficult.

I also found this article on Railfuture. They say this about creating an East-West electric spine.

Similarly to the already planned Freight Spine from Southampton, one from East to West would also be strategically beneficial. This would involve electrification of the whole line from Felixstowe to Birmingham, already being upgraded to take more freight trains by, for example, the new chord at Nuneaton. Broken down, Felixstowe to Ipswich would also facilitate through electric haulage for freight trains to/through London. Ipswich to Peterborough would gain access to the East Coast Mainline. Peterborough to Leicester (Syston) would do the same in respect of the Midland Main Line. Leicester (Wigston) to Nuneaton for the West Coast Mainline, and Nuneaton to Birmingham for all its freight terminals. A most useful bi-product would be for the Cross Country passenger service from Birmingham to Stansted Airport to convert to electric trains. 

That all seems very sensible. Note the bi-product of releasing some much needed diesel multiple units, which would probably be replaced by larger electric units.

Electrification Of The Felixstowe Branch

As Railfuture said in the extract I used above, if you electrify to Nuneaton, you might as well electrify the Felixstowe branch, as that would virtually make the line electric freight only.

Electrification Of Ipswich To Cambridge

If the main Ipswich to Ely line is electrified, it may seem logical to also electrify the single track Cambridge branch of the line. But this may not be that easy, as there is a tunnel under Warren Hill at Newmarket and the line loading guage of the line hasn’t been updated.

But obviously, if the whole Ipswich to Ely and Cambridge system, it would make it easier to increase passenger capacity due to the easier availability of electric multiple units.

Electrification Of Ely To Norwich

There are no freight reasons to electrify the Breckland Line, but it is effectively fill-in electrification between two electrified lines, which should make it easier.

It is not cleared to a big loading gauge except around Ely, but many of the bridges are new, so I would suspect there wouldn’t be that much expensive bridgework to make the line suitable for electrification.

Unfortunately, the long distance service from Norwich to Liverpool couldn’t be converted to an electric traction, as it will still use non-electrified lines in the Sheffield area, but Nottingham trains could go electric if Nottingham to Grantham was electrified.

Consequences Of Electrification Of Ely To Peterborough

If Ely to Peterborough is electrified and the passenger trains were to run say every thirty minutes, then there would be less need for the diesel trains from Birmingham, Liverpool and Nottingham, to travel to Ipswich or Norwich, as there would just be a simple change to or from an electric train at Peterborough.

Electric services such as Cambridge to Peterborough via Ely could also be as traffic dictated, rather than infrequent as they are now! Peterborough to Cambridge services are important, as many in Cambridge feel that Peterborough could be a high-technology satellite to Cambridge. There have been proposals to extend the Cambridge Guided Busway to Peterborough, but I suspect a rail link might be preferable to passengers. The current rail service takes fifty minutes and runs once an hour, which isn’t good enough for a lot of people.

Would a frequent service between Cambridge and Peterborough, also improve employment prospects in the area?

Electrification Of The Great Yarmouth Branch

When I first moved back to near Ipswich in the 1970s, the London to Norwich trains went on to Great Yarmouth. Even in the 1980s, I can remember taking a direct train to Great Yarmouth from London to see a horse run at the racecourse there.  But now, there are no direct services, except in the summer.

If the line was electrified, it would surely make it easier to more services to the town and possibly direct services to London.

Perhaps if the Breckland Line was electrified and running at the oreferred half-hour service, then every other train could be extended to Great Yarmouth. Or perhaps all of them?

The possibilities are endless.

One benefit of an electrified railway is that it might breathe new life into the outer harbour, which seems to suffer from white elephant syndrome.

Further Electrification

I don’t think any of the other branches would be worth electrifying.

Last year the electried Braintree branch carried about 800,000 passengers, whereas the Sudbury branch carried about 328,000. Felixstowe incidentally carried about 210,000, but whether that branch gets electrified depends on the freight traffic.

New Stations

East Anglia is already getting one new station at Cambridge Science Park, with another proposed for Great Blakenham, if the SnOasis gets built.

A couple of new stations have been added in East Anglia in recent years and I suspect that in the next few years several could open, especially where new housing or other developments are concerned.

New And Reopened Lines

As I said in the post about the North Norfolk Railway, most schemes for new lines have connotations with pie and sky.

Although, there will be conversion of some lines from single to double track and there could be the odd curve to allow trains to go a better route.

The only line which has been mentioned seriously for reopening, is a freight line between Spalding and March. I can’t find much detail, but I suspect it would allow freight trains from Felixstowe to the North to bypass Peterborough and join up with the GNGE, which I talked about here.

Conclusion

After reading this again in the cold light of day, the key is to electrify the main lines and this gives frequent at least half-hourly services between the major towns and cities.

Isn’t this what Essex has got into Liverpool Street? So we’re only continuing what was started after the Second World War and applying to the rest of East Anglia. If we can have a half hour service between Norwich and Ipswich, surely everyone is entitled to at least that.

 

 

 

June 22, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Molley The Runt Of The Litter?

I don’t know what the collective noun is for tunnel boring machines. But if it is litter, then surely Molley is the runt. According to this article in Construction Index she is the smallest machine used in the construction of Crossrail.

TBM Molley will build a new Thames Water sewer in west London. She is just 1.45m in diameter and 3.3m long. The main TBMs digging the train tunnels, by contrast, are 7.1m diameter and 150m long. Molley is too small to carry workers on board so is controlled remotely from the surface.

Molley is being used to build a new sewer, as the current one will be in the way of construction works for the tracks.

June 12, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Thameslink’s Connections To Long Distance Trains

When Thameslink and Crossrail are complete how will this effect those tricky long distance journeys that should be done by train.

Some journeys like Eastbourne to York will become easier, as you’d probably hop along to Brighton and then take a train to Peterborough, for your train to York.

So how do two destinations I know well connect to the main radial routes from London.

I’ll start with Cambridge.

Great Eastern Main Line – Not really a problem, as you’d probably take a local train to Ipswich and Norwich. You could also go direct into Liverpool Street or change onto Crossrail at Farringdon.

East Coast Main Line – You’d still do what you’ve always done and take a train into London. Whether there will be fast trains into Kings Cross itself, has not been said. But travelling to Scotland without the direct Kings Cross trains and a heavy case, would mean lugging it across from St. Pancras Thameslink. If Thameslink improves the service to Stevenage that would be an alternative for the ECML, but train company management, must be wishing that over zealous cuts in the past that left Cambridge with no direct train lines to Peterborough or Bedford, had not been made.

Midland Main Line – This would be a walk or lift up from St.Pancras Thameslink. It would be nice though if there was a lift directly between Thameslink and the MML platforms.

Eurostar -  This would be a walk or lift up from St.Pancras Thameslink.

West Coast Main Line – This is a bad change, as it’s a long walk from St. Pancras Thameslink to the Underground. It’s also difficult with a heavy case.

Great Western Main Line – If the interchange to Crossrail at Farringdon is properly designed, which it should be, you’d use Crossrail to get to either Paddington or Reading.

South Western Main Line – This one is difficult, as it’s either a struggle to the Underground at St. Pancras Thameslink and then a change to get to Waterloo or Clapham Junction. Whatever it is, it’s a nightmare with a heavy case. A better alternative might be to go to London Bridge and then get the Jubilee Line to Waterloo.

Lines from Victoria – As with Waterloo, Victoria is difficult with a heavy case, due to the Underground connections. From Cambridge to Victoria, you are probably better taking a Liverpool Street train to Tottenham Hale for the Victoria line.

Now I’ll look at Brighton.

Great Eastern Main Line – Not really a problem, as you’d just change onto Crossrail at Farringdon for Liverpool Street, Stratford or even Shenfield. Or for perhaps Ipswich and Norwich, you might just go to Cambridge and get a relaxed local train, through the countryside.

East Coast Main Line – This is a connection that will be greatly improved, as you might skip London and go direct to Peterborough, to pick up the train there.

Midland Main Line – This would be a walk or lift up from St.Pancras Thameslink. It would be nice though if there was a lift directly between Thameslink and the MML platforms. Or would you go to somewhere like West Hampstead Thameslink or Luton.

Eurostar -  This would be a walk or lift up from St.Pancras Thameslink.

West Coast Main Line – This is a bad change, as it’s a long walk from St. Pancras Thameslink to the Underground. It’s also difficult with a heavy case.

Great Western Main Line – If the interchange to Crossrail at Farringdon is properly designed, which it should be, you’d use Crossrail to get to either Paddington or Reading.

South Western Main Line – You’d probably do as you do now and take a train direct to Clapham Junction and change there.

Lines from Victoria – These are no problem, as you can get a train to either Victoria or Clapham Junction.

One thing that becomes obvious from this post, is that Euston, Waterloo and Victoria don’t have the best links to Crossrail and Thameslink.

Euston’s problems are mainly because when the station was built in the 1960s, together with the Victoria line, passengers were treated as fit, uncomplaining individuals, who should be satisfied with what the government paid for.

Victoria suffers from similar problems to Euston.

Waterloo’s problems are that to get there from St. Pancras by Underground, requires a change of train.

What doesn’t help any of these transfers is the substandard interchange between Thameslink and the Underground at St. Pancras. It may be step free, but it’s a long walk.

If the interchange with main lines in London to Thameslink and Crossrail are to be improved, the following should be looked at.

Improve the Access to St. Pancras Thameslink

If you’re going up from St. Pancras Thameslink to Eurostar or the Midland Main Line, it isn’t too bad, but the long hike to the Underground is a disgrace. Especially for a station that is only a few years old.

I wonder if it’s possible to create a tunnel between Thameslink and the Northern line at St. Pancras.

Build a Crossrail station at Old Oak Common

This would make it easier to get on trains out of Euston on the West Coast Main Line.

Link Thameslink to Clapham Junction

This would help travellers from the north to get on the lines out of Victoria and Waterloo.

I use Clapham Junction a lot as it is very useful station, and I can get the Overground there easily.

Crossrail 2

This may be the real solution to a lot of the problems, as it is proposed it will link Kings Cross/St. Pancras/Euston to Victoria and Clapham Junction.

It will be interesting to see how Thameslink changes in the first couple of years of operation.

June 9, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

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