The Anonymous Widower

Could Tram-Trains Be Used To Advantage In Liverpool?

This document discusses the various issues concerning tram, tram-trains and conventional rail in the wider Liverpool area.

It is divided into the following sections.

1. Liverpool Trams And The Merseytram Proposal

2. A Tram-Train To The Airport

3. The Future Of Public Transport In The Wider Liverpool Area

4. Extensions To The Merseyrail Network

5. Train Replacement

6. Increasing Capacity On The Northern Line Through The City Centre

9. Mersey Gateway

1. Liverpool Trams And The Merseytram Proposals

Liverpool doesn’t have trams any more, although it does have a legacy of wide dual-carriageways with a wide grass area in the middle, which was where the trams used to run. These would help with on-street running of a modern tram system.

,Plans for a system called Merseytram are hanging around.

Merseytram Map

Merseytram Map

This map shows the comprehensive nature of the proposal.

In some ways, I’m surprised that Liverpool hasn’t done something to implement a modern system.

Liverpool too, doesn’t have much traffic congestion outside of the city centre and as they’ve just abolished bus lanes without too many protests, it might be assumed, that there is not the need for any more public transport, other than the current extensive buses and trains. The latter of course are undergoing more electrification.

2. A Tram-Train To The Airport

However, there is one place, where a tram-train is being proposed in the area. Look at this Google Earth image, showing the area between Liverpool South Parkway station and John Lennon Airport.

Liverpool South Parkway To John Lennon  Airport

Liverpool South Parkway To John Lennon Airport

I’m not sure of the route and I can’t find anything on the Internet, but I know the area fairly well and those wide dual-carriageways and spare land alongside the railways will help a tram get from Liverpool South Parkway station to the airport, possibly taking in the long-term car parks and Speke Hall on the way. It would appear that compared to other schemes proposed for tram-trains it is very affordable, with the major cost being the new tram-trains, which would also be used to run to the city centre on the train lines.

What makes this proposal even more sensible in my view, is the Liverpool South Parkway, is served by both the City Line and the Northern Line that go to the city centre. Within a few years both lines will be electrified.

This proposal is surely one of several around the country, that will be looked at in great detail, if the Sheffield-Rotherham tram-train trial is a success, which after my experiences in Kassel and Karlruhe, I’m sure it will be.

3. The Future Of Public Transport In The Wider Liverpool Area

Liverpool and Merseyside in general have various plans, problems and decisions to take or solve in the next few years.

4. Extensions To The Merseyrail Network

This map from Wikipedia shows the current network.

Merseyrail Network

Merseyrail Network

A lot of the lines out of the centre end in areas in need of development, at all places on the price scale. Some of these and other places might be better served by using tram-trains, which run on from the current network and then perhaps could even go on a loop at the end of the line before returning to the city centre.

  • The Skelmersdale branch could be reopened from Ormskirk.
  • Could tram-trains run along the coast from Ainsdale, to the north of Southport, to create a tram line serving all of the golf courses and other leisure facilities?
  • Could tram-trains help sort out the problems at Kirkby station, by going in a worthwhile loop around the town?
  • Edge Hill to Bootle is an important freight line, that runs close to Goodison and Anfield football grounds, Network Rail have stated that this line may be electrified. Would using tram-trains with their simpler infrastructure needs make adding passenger services on this line easier?
  • The North Mersey Branch from Bootle to Aintree is another freight line, that also runs close to Aintree racecourse. Like Edge Hill to Bootle, could tram-trains be a more affordable solution to adding passenger services to the line?
  • Liverpool have long had aspirations to build an Outer Rail Loop. The route is safeguarded and could tram-trains enable an affordable passenger service?

5. Train Replacement

Merseyrail has a current fleet of Class 507 and Class 508 electric trains, that work the DC lines and these will need replacement in a few years. At nearly thirty-five years old, they are older than a lot of the dreaded Pacers. But they have certainly worn better.

Should some of the replacement trains, be something like Class 399 tram-trains? Some of these may be purchased anyway, if the tram link between Liverpool South Parkway and John Lennon Airport goes ahead.

They also tick all of the boxes of being dual-voltage, low-floor and with main-line crash protection, so they could work the City, Wirral and Northern Lines. They could probably be easily certified for working in tunnels.

The tram-trains might also be used to connect Liverpool to the Manchester Metrolink, if that network decides to run tram-trains. Technically it would be possible, but would the local politicians allow it?

6. Increasing Capacity On The Northern Line Through The City Centre

This is mentioned as a problem in the Wikipedia entry for Merseyrail under tram-trains. This is said.

Tram-trains would allow street running, providing an alternative route through Liverpool city centre. It could potentially relieve pressure on the busy underground section of the network.

I don’t think you’d take a route in front of Lime Street station, but you could run along the historic water-front, to much the same route as the iconic Liverpool Overhead Railway. Although, you’d probably run at street level, rather than on a viaduct.

The line could run up the Mersey starting from Garston, Liverpool South Parkway or even the Airport in the South, going through the gardens along the river at Otterspool and then move away from the river to go on the landward side of the Albert Dock, the Liverpool Arena and the Three Graces. It would go close to the shops at Liverpool One, James Street station, the Mersey Ferries, the Cruise Ship Terminal and the development at Liverpool Waters, before possibly rejoining the Northern Line.

Liverpool are thinking of creating a new station at Vauxhall, which is between Moorfields and Sandhills stations, which could be a good place for the rejoining. Incidentally, the developers are proposing a monorail link to the city centre for this development, so at least transport is being thought about.

This would be World-class transportation for a city making a reputation for itself as a World-class destination.

4. Connecting To Anfield And Goodison Park

When people think about Liverpool, many think about football. I also think there is an increasing trend for football grounds at the top level to be well-served by trains or trams.

Following on from the previous section about increasing capacity on the Norrthern Line through the city centre, look at this Google Earth image of the area between Sandhills station and Anfield and Goodison Park.

Sandhills Station, Anfield and Goodison Park

Sandhills Station, Anfield and Goodison Park

Sandhills is the station, from where connecting buses leave for football and it is indicated by a red arrow. North of Sandhills you can see Bank Hall station on the Southport branch of the Northern Line and Kirkdale station on the Kirkby branch.

Crossing under the two branches of the Northern Line, just south of Bank Hall and Kirkdale, and then curving away initially in a north-easterly direction before turning south-easterly around the Anfield Cemetery is the Edge Hill to Bootle Line or the Canada Dock branch, which Merseyrail would like to use as a passenger line with a station at Walton and Anfield, which would be about four hundred metres from Goodison Park and another at Breck Road, which would be a little bit further from Anfield. This modified Google Earth image, shows the two football grounds and the stations.

Anfield, Goodison Park and Stations

Obviously, Walton and Anfield is shown with a blue circle and Breck Road with a red one. I don’t know the area very well, as I have only been to Anfield once in the last forty years or so, so it might be that there is a possibility of putting a station at Utting Avenue or the north-east corner of the cemetery to serve both grounds. Both possibilities are shown with white circles.

If tram-trains were to be used on this line running as trams, then it might be possible to use a simple standard station design, as all stations are on bridges over roads. The Disused Stations web site has some more information and pictures, about Walton and Anfield and Breck Road stations.

5. Capacity Problems At Lime Street

Liverpool Lime Street is a station, where capacity is a problem and I’ve read somewhere that Virgin can’t run their longest Pendolinos to the city. Wikipedia says this about work being done to create an extra platform.

The old platform 6A which is located next to platform 7 and is only used as a siding will become the new platform 7 in 2014. Existing platforms 7/8/9 will become new platforms 8/9/10, this will allow new long distance services to start and terminate at Lime Street to Scotland and London starting in 2015 from the new platform 8 & 9 (Virgin Trains).

There is also an idea called the Edge Hill Spur, that has been in the pipeline since the 1970s. This extract from Wikipedia sums it up.

The construction of the Spur would have connected the City Line branches to the east of Liverpool into the electrified Merseyrail network and importantly the underground section in Liverpool’s city centre. An increase in integration and connectivity of the system would be achieved. An additional and substantial benefit was releasing platform space at Lime Street mainline terminus station from urban to mid and long haul mainline routes, as the Spur would divert local urban routes entering the city underground in the city centre.

So everybody would seem to win. Even I would, as one of the proposals now is to have an underground station at my old University of Liverpool.

The accountants certainly win too, as much of the tunnelling required was dug by the Victorians or was enabled when Liverpool sorted out the underground railway in the 1980s.

One of the things that you have to remember as a visitor to Liverpool, is that the city centre slopes down to the Mersey, so it is an easy walk. I can walk up, but those with a lot of purchases in Liverpool One or various movement problems can get a train up from James Street station, a bus or a taxi.

There may be a case for running tram-trains as trams past Lime Street station, but I think if the connection at the station to the underground lines is improved and the train frequency around the loop is increased, then there is a lot less need. As it is frequencies to all destinations on the Wirral Line at Lime Street are four trains per hour, so to get to Central or James Street usually means a wait of no more than four minutes.

Once at Central to go North it’s the same fifteen minute frequency to go all destinations, with a train every five minutes. Going south to Hunts Cross there’s a train every fifteen minutes.

New trains with perhaps four cars and ERTMS, drawing on the experience of Crossrail and Thameslink in London, may be able to increase the capacity through the core.

My scheduling gut-feelings also say that if the number of destinations south of the city centre were increased and this meant that fewer trains were turned back at Liverpool Central, then capacity and frequency would be raised. This section on services at Liverpool Central says that twelve services an hour go north to the various destinations and only four go south to Hunts Cross. So that means eight per hour have to wait. It’s a similar problem to what happened in London with the Circle Line, except there it was an easy solution. They turned the circle into a spiral.

Trains and drivers seem to be wasting their time sitting in the turn back platform at Liverpool Central, when they could be doing something useful, like perhaps running to Runcorn or Warrington.

The Edge Hill Spur won’t help, as because it joins to the north of Liverpool Central station, if another terminus is not added in the south, this will just add to the problems.

Resources must be balanced, so if from Sandhills to Liverpool Central the frequency is twelve trains per hour, the frequency should be planned to be the same from Liverpool Central to Hunts Cross.

6. Expansion Of South Parkway Station

Liverpool South Parkway was built as a transport hub so that travellers to the city,could use the local electric trains to get to all parts of the area, without going into the city centre. This Google Earth image shows how the station is built between the Northern Line and the Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main Line.

Liverpool South Parkway Station

Liverpool South Parkway Station

The Northern Line platforms are at the bottom, with the ones to the right serving the other lines, so it is effectively two stations and a transport hub.

Liverpool want to get more services running from Liverpool South Parkway station and would like to see some Virgin Trains services stop there, but the platforms are too shirt for Pendelinos.

Tram-trains might help grow traffic, as with the airport connection and perhaps other services using the technology, the station could become a hub from where you could get all over Merseyside.

Other factors will also help.

1. As time progresses, quite a high proportion of services from to and from Liverpool Lime Street will stop at the station, so it could become an alternative station from where to catch long distance trains.

2. Merseyrail wants to fully develop the Halton curve, which will give alternative routes to Chester and North Wales. Due to its proximity to the John Lennon Airport, Liverpool South Parkway can only benefit.

3. Merseyrail also have a desire to create an Outer Rail Loop that encircles the city. Nothing has happened much in recent years, but if the North Liverpool Extension Line should be reopened, I’ll ride it, as it goes through places dear to my memory of the wonderful four years I spent in Liverpool. C and myself at one time lived in a rented flat near Gateacre station on the line and regularly drunk in the Black Bull pub in Gateacre. If the line should be reopened and a circular railway is formed around Liverpool, Soputh Parkway station will only gain more traffic.

4. HS2 and HS3, if they reach Liverpool will surely stop at Liverpool South Parkway.

Most Parkway stations in this country are isolated and you need a car to get to them, but Liverpool South Parkway is unique in that it is a transport hub outside of the city centre close to an airport.

I believe that in time South Parkway will become an alternative station to Lime Street. After all, it only takes twenty minutes on a train between South Parkway and Central or Moorfields in the city centre.

Improved trains and a few tram-trains can only hasten the rise of this station’s importance.

7.  The Canada Dock Branch and the Edge Hill Spur

I talked in Section 4 about how the Canada Dock Branch between Bootle and Edge Hill could improve passenger services in an arc in the north-eastern part of the city and in Section 5 about how capacity problems at Lime Street might be improved by the Edge Hill Spur.

Edge Hill station is one of the oldest stations in the country and will only grow in importance, when it receives the new electrified services from Manchester in a few months.

Merseyrail, originally planned to put a hub at Broad Green, but it looks like that hub will be Edge Hill, if the development of the Canada Dock Branch and the Edge Hill Spur go ahead.

8. A Coastal Tramway

Liverpool Airport is on the bank of the Mersey and the current Northern Line goes all the way up the coast to  Southport. The West Lancashire Railway used to continue the line to Preston but was closed in the 1960s. This Google Earth image shows the coasts and major towns around Liverpool.

The Liverpool Coastline

The Liverpool Coastline

This image shows there is a possibility to extend the tramway in the north. If the Blackpool trams and the Northern Line were both extended almost as far as Preston, they could be connected across the River Ribble and you would have a scenic way of getting between Blackpool and Liverpool on a coastal tramway, that took in all range of sites from world class architecture to some of the best links golf courses.

Going west the Wirral Line at West Kirby could be extended down the coast of the River Dee. I don’t think you’d make a direct route, but passengers could change lines at an upgraded James Street station. Its design doesn’t really reflect its importance as a station, but says more about being an economy station station created in the 1970s.

Going south towards Widnes and Runcorn would never have been a possibility, when I lived in Liverpool and worked in Runcorn in the late 1960s, but now all is changing. I believe that it is so significant that it deserves its own section.

9. The Mersey Gateway

The Mersey Gateway is a new bridge being built over the river to the east of the existing Silver Jubilee Runcorn-Widnes Bridge. This Google Earth image shows the Mersey from Liverpool South Parkway station to the massive Fiddlers Ferry Power Station.

Along The Mersey

Along The Mersey

The station is indicated by a red arrow and you can clearly see the existing bridge across the Mersey, next to the Britannia Bridge carrying the Liverpool Branch of the West Coast Main Line. The power station is at the top right or north-east corner of the image.

This is said by Wikipedia about the charging arrangements for the new bridge.

It is envisaged that the new bridge will be a toll bridge, with three lanes in each direction. The Halton Borough Council has also stated that the current bridge will also become a toll bridge, making Halton the only borough in England separated by only toll bridges. It was also put forward that the current bridge may be reduced to one lane in each direction for vehicles, with the other two lanes being converted into cycle lanes and/or pedestrian lanes.

As the current bridge is toll free, it will go down like a lead balloon. Especially with those, who commute across the river to and from Liverpool every day. There is this report on the BBC, saying that Halton residents will be able to use the bridge for free. It would appear there is a strong campaign against the tools from the report.

One good alternative would be to extend the Northern Line from Hunts Cross to Runcorn, but Runcorn station would not have the capacity in its present form. Look at this Google Earth image of the area from the station to the bridges.

Runcorn Station And The Bridges

Runcorn Station And The Bridges

It might be possible to squeeze in the extra platform and junctions that would be needed, or the trains could go on via the Halton Curve to Chester via Frodsham and Helsby. There is also the possibility of tram-trains going in a loop around Runcorn. Obviously, following practice on the Northern Line, there would be an objective of providing four trains per hour to and from Hunts Cross and the centre of Liverpool.

One thing in favour of this plan is that traffic across the Silver Jubilee Bridge will only be one lane each way after the opening of the Mersey Gateway, so this would need a less comprehensive set of access roads. Could the released space allow a proper layout of the Northern Line in the town?

Returning to the North Bank of the river, the first image in this section shows a rail freight line that runs from Liverpool docks to the power station for the transport of biomass via Liverpool South Parkway. This Google Earth image shows the area north of the Mersey around Widnes.



The freight line can be seen going across the image from west to east, passing under the railway and roads linking to the existing bridges, then following on the north side of the dual-carriageway before going southwards to follow the St. Helens Canal.

So could this line be used by extended Northern Line services in the future? I suspect that within a few years, plans will be published for the decommissioning of the power station, as it is now over forty years old, so who knows what will be done with the site. But surely, a good train or tram-train service to the centre of Liverpool in the west and Warrington and Manchester in the east will be essential.

The train line could also have stations or even simple tram stops in the region of both bridges. Unfortunately, due to the design and height of the approaches to the Britannia and Silver Jubilee Bridges, a simple interchange might not be possible, but you could rebuild the station at Ditton, where the two lines meet.

Currently, Widnes is served by trains on the Liverpool to Manchester Line via Warrington, which increasingly looks like it could take some of those trains from the Northern Line.

The Northern Line could grow from a well-used, but limited line, which predominately serves the northern side of Liverpool, to one that goes along the bank of the Mersey and through Liverpool City Centre from Runcorn, Widnes, Warrington and Liverpool Airport in the South, to Southport, Ormskirk and Kirkby in the North. In the future, It might even link Chester to Preston and Blackpool.

But in the short-term, the Northern Line could be used to create a decent commuter service between the two parts of the divided borough of Halton.

The availability of tram-trains may give advantages to doing this, but overall the Mersey Gateway, looks like a project, which has been designed in isolation for road users, when an holistic approach looking at all modes of transport might have been a better way.


Liverpool still has a lot of connecting railways and as it is aquiring a new fleet of electric trains and has aspirations to link the airport to the Merseyside’s electric rail network and other places where a tram-train could be sensibly used to create new services, I would think it would be prudent if the new train order included a number of tram-trains. Services where I think we’ll see tram-trains include.

1. The Airport Connection From South Parkway.

2. The Canada Dock Branch serving the football grounds.

3. An iconic tram running up the river from Garston to Bootle and possibly further.

4. On extensions of the Northern Line.

Liverpool though, does show that you don’t need to have trams to run tram-trains. You just need freight lines where adding passenger services is a good idea.


February 28, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Should Trains Run From Dalston Junction To Hayes?

The East London Line currently runs at 16 trains per hour, but changes to the signalling and lengthened platforms will allow 24 6-car trains per hour, in the near future.

In my speculation about tram-trains in Croydon, I realised that you could get from Dalston Junction to Hayes with just one change at New Cross, in about 64-67 minutes with a delay of about 10-15 minutes caused by the change, although the change going south is just walking across the platform.

So in a few years time, when ERTMS allows us to run trains closer together would it be a good idea to use some of the extra capacity in the East London Line to run trains direct from Dalston Junction to Hayes via New Cross and Lewisham. I believe even two trains an hour would make a lot of difference.

1. Timings between Dalston Junction and Hayes would drop to about 52-54 minutes.

2. It would give people who live North of the Thames easy access to Lewisham, which is well-connected to Kent. Otherwise you need to go to one of the terminals that serve the area. And often that is the dreaded Victoria.

3. Once Crossrail opens, it will also give those South of the Thames a second route to the line by going direct to Whitechapel, instead of going to either Abbey Wood or Woolwich.

4. Hayes to Heathrow by Crossrail changing at Lewisham and Abbey Wood will be around 1:56, whereas just changing at Whitechapel will be 1:33. What also illustrates the speed of this route is West Croydon to Heathrow via Whitechapel and Crossrail could be about 1:26.

5. It would surely give an alternative route under the river and enable people to get home when problems exist on the primary routes.

The East London Line has very much been a quiet success, that has been enjoyed by those who live in the area it serves. So why shouldn’t we widen its catchment area?

Crossrail will bring a tremendous amount of extra passengers into London. So we must develop the infrastructure that links it to as much of London as possible. Thameslink is being upgraded and to many, the East London Line is just as valuable as a North South route.

If you link Hayes to the East London Line, why not link Orpington to it via Lewisham. Two trains per hour to Orpington, would give an excellent four trains an hour to Lewisham.

I obviously don’t know Transport for London’s passenger figures, but in the four years since the East London Line reopened, I’ve only gone to New Cross once, where I wasn’t going to catch a train on from the station.

So is New Cross the least used direct southern destination on the East London Line? Also, was it only included in the East London Line for historic reasons, as it had been a Metropolitan Line destination?

If so, it might be an idea to see if extension of the four trains per hour services terminating at the station is possible. Perhaps two could go Hayes and two to Orpington, which would double the frequency to both places from New Cross.

I think the only objectors would be Southastern.

If nothing else, this analysis shows how complicated London’s rail network is and how difficult it is to get the train patterns right.

February 26, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Could Tram-Trains Be Used To Advantage In Croydon?

The Croydon Tramlink has been around since 2000 and doesn’t get mentioned very often with respect to either expansion or tram-trains.

Tramlink Route 1

The Tramlink Route 1 to Elmers End, does not give much scope for tram-trains as Elmers End is the only station with a rail connection, other than East and West Croydon.

That is unless you wanted to run tram-trains up the Hayes Line to perhaps Lewisham or even Cannon Street.

These pictures show how the tram interfaces to the rail line at Elmers End.

It would appear to my untutored eye, that trams might be able to connect northwards, but southwards looks difficult. This is probably confirmed by this Google Earth image of the station.

Elmers End Station

Elmers End Station

If Route 1 was run by tram-trains, that continued after Elmers End, this would not cause any problem at the Croydon end, as they’d just go round the loop and back to the east.

So it looks like there is little scope to put tram-trains on Route 1 and then run them up and down the Hayes branch.

Tramlink Route 2

The Tramlink Route 2 to Beckenham Junction actually runs alongside the electrified railway between that station and Birkbeck. If that line had been built in France or Germany in the last few years, I think they would have used tram-trains to provide the service.

It is in the area of Birkbeck station, shown here in a Google Earth image that tram-trains could be used to advantage.

Birkbeck To Crystal Palace

Birkbeck To Crystal Palace

Note the red arrow pointing out Birkbeck station, the orange lines denoting the East London Line and the green line denoting Tramlink Route 2.

The Crystal Palace Line and Tramlink Route 2 are both single-track lines from west of Birkbeck most of the way to Beckenham Junction, with the railway carrying just two trains an hour each way.

It has been a long-term ambition of Tramlink to run the trams on-street to Crystal Palace, but with tram trains you only need a small piece of infrastructure.

At the bottom of the image, there is a blue roundel at a kink on the green line denoting Harrington Road tram stop. From here, the line goes northwards and turns to run alongside the railway to Birkbeck station.

The line goes to Crystal Palace station if you could turn left. That station is at the end of the topmost orange line on the map.

Here’s a large scale Google Earth image of the area, where Route 2 joins the main line railway.

Tramlink Route 2 To Crystal Palace

Tramlink Route 2 To Crystal Palace

There is probably enough railway land where the lines meet to create a simple triangular junction that would allow tram-trains to go from Harrington Road to Crystal Palace. As tram-trains are in effect normal trains on the main line, they would use the normal platforms.

The only problem is to decide where they reverse and go back to Croydon.

Looking at the Crystal Palace Line, the tram-trains could even be run all the way to and from Victoria or London Briodge, but that probably wouldn’t give enough capacity. So a bay platform will have to be brought into use somewhere. This is Platform 1 at Crystal Palace station, where it might be possible.

Changing At Crystal Palace

But it would need some good architecture and clever engineering.

Incidentally, the line has an operating speed of sixty miles an hour, so the Class 399 tram-trains would not interrupt any traffic, if they went all the way.

Where the tram-trains terminate will also be determined by passenger statistics.

If a variant of Route 2 was run by tram-trains, that continued to Crystal Palace, this would not cause any problem at the Croydon end, as they’d just go round the loop and back to the east.

The Hayes Line

Closely related to Tramlink Routes 1 and 2 is the Hayes Line.

I get the impression that it is a bit of a nuisance to train operating companies, as it’s always being talked about as a possible new terminus for the Bakerloo Line. Withdrawal of passenger services from the line have also been proposed and rejected in the recent past.

This Google Earth image shows how it crosses the Crystal Palace Line to the west of Beckenham Junction.

Hayes Line Crossing The Crystal Palace Line

Hayes Line Crossing The Crystal Palace Line

The Hayes Line crosses from north to south, but it is not a complete junction, where tram-trains coming from Crystal Palace could access the line. But there would appear to be the space for the necessary infrastructure.

As I said in the section on Tramlink Route 1 it could also be linked to that route at Elmers End.

There may also be advantages in running tram-trains as trams on the Hayes Line.

Remember that if you ran tram-trains from Victoria to Beckenham Junction and/or from Cannon Street to Hayes, you don’t necessarily have to stop running the current trains.

But overall, I  have my doubts about tram-trains on the Hayes branch, without some radical thinking.

Perhaps it is extended to the south past Hayes station as a tram route or Elmers End could be developed as a full interchange for trams and tram-trains, working the two routes.

But as there are more urgent proble,s and proposals on Tramlink, I think nothing much will happen on the Hayes branch.

Tramlink Route 3

The Tramlink Route 3 to Wmbledon has two connections with the rail network; Mitcham Junction and Wimbledon.

I am not knowledgeable about routes and traffic levels in that part of London, to postulate if tram-trains would be any advantage and give better connectivity for rail passengers.

However one of the proposed extensions of Tramlink is to Sutton station. Look at the layout at Mitcham Junction in this Google Earth image.

Mitcham Junction

Mitcham Junction

It might be possible to put a curve between Tramlink Route 3 and the Sutton and Mole Valley Lines that go south to Sutton and Epsom. According to Wikipedia Sutton station used to have a bay platform for local services from Mitcham. Could it be reinstated?

Tramlink Route 4

The Tramlink Route 4 to Elmers End is a partial dupication of other routes.

Proposed Routes

There are several proposed routes for the Tramlink.

I have already dealt with the extensions to Crystal Palace and Sutton and how tram-trains might help.

But could tram-trains help with other extensions. I also think that if anybody suggests more street running of trams, this might get short-shrift from car drivers, so a lot of the proposed extensions might be difficult to get planned.

As to getting to Mitcham Town Centre from Mitcham Junction, they probably won’t help unless another station is added to the line between Mitcham Junction and Mitcham Eastfields. But as the latter station was only opened in 2008, I can’t see that happening.

The route south to Purley would probably be liked by passengers, but it would probably be difficult to fit into Croydon’s crowded town centre.

Croydon Town Centre

Croydon Town Centre

The red arrow points to West Croydon station, with East Croydon station at the right, with the green lines showing the current tram routes.

The only way to go south would probably be with a lot of unpopular street running.

However, a route to Brixton could be fairly easy for a tram-train, by going via either Mitcham Junction or Crystal Palace.

The Tram-Trains Go Anywhere Capability

I am assuming that the tram-trains chosen are something like the Class 399, with the following characteristics.

1. Ability to use third rail or overhead 750 V DC.

2.Double-ended and able to use both tram and train platforms.

3. 110 kph and main line crash protection.


A tram-train with this level of capability could go virtually anywhere in South London, provided the track layout allowed it to get on the full-size railway.

So where could a tram-train go from Croydon?

Brixton – Via Crystal Palace, Gypsy Hill, West Norwood, Tulse Hill and Herne Hill

If the Victoria Line was extended to Herne Hill, this would give South London a very useful tube connection. You could also build a decent station at Brixton to link all the lines together.

Bromley South – Via Beckenham Junction

Epsom – Via Mitcham Junction and Sutton

Clapham Junction – Via Mitcham Junction, Balham and Wandsworth Common

Lewisham – Via New Beckenham, and Catford Bridge

This would link the Tramlink to the DLR

Orpington – Via Beckenham Junction and Bromley South

New Cross – Via New Beckenham, Catford Bridge and Lewisham.

This route actually extends the New Cross branch of the East London Line to Hayes.

Whatever happens in Croydon, I think it would be a good idea if perhaps four trains per hour of the eight extra that could be sent down the East London Line were to be sent to the Hayes Branch or Orpington via Lewisham. It would connect that part of South London to Crossrail at Whitechapel.

February 26, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Could Tram-Trains Be Used To Advantage In Edinburgh?

This might be design by hindsight but after viewing the tram-trains of Kassel, Karlsruhe and Mulhouse, I do wonder if tram-trains could be used to advantage in Edinburgh, alongside the new tram system.

To the west of Haymarket station, the trams and rail lines share a corridor, with the tram tracks to the north. So as the Edinburgh trams run on standard gauge tracks, any tram-trains coming or going to the west could just cross over between the two sets of tracks. This Google Earth image shows the tram stop and the train station at Haymarket.

Trams And Trains At Haymarket

Trams And Trains At Haymarket

Unfortunately, I think the image pre-dates the operation of the trams, but compared to some of the complicated layouts and tunnels in Germany, it should be very simple. As was shown in Paris, tram-trains can be built that run on both the 750 V DC used by Edinburgh trams and the 25 kV AC used on the electrified main line to both Glasgow and London from Edinburgh.

The Edinburgh trams run every 8-10 minutes during the week, so there should be capacity to run some train-trains through the city centre section, without much modification.

But where would they go at the eastern end?

The obvious place would be to go straight on past Waverley station and the Balmoral Hotel and then return to the rail lines to the east of the station, if that was possible. This is a Google Earth image of the area.

Edinburgh Waverley

Edinburgh Waverley

If they ever extend the tram to Leith and Newhaven, that may or may not be a possibility. The Edinburgh trams are built to a very tight specification, which is designed to go round sharp corners and not make too much noise. Running straight between Haymarket and Waverley may be an easier task, than turning sharply on and off Princes Street.

As with Crossrail and Thameslink in London, where tunnels link two railways lines together, thus saving terminal platforms in the city centre, an east-west tram-train across Edinburgh, would reduce the needed platform capacity in both Waverley and Haymarket stations.

I have been looking at Google Earth images of Edinburgh and there are more railways than those that run passenger trains. I would assume they take freight from up the East Coast Main Line through the city. So could some of these lines be used by tram-trains to create much needed public transport routes in the city?

There is one interesting possibility. The Edinburgh Suburban and Southside Junction Railway, runs across the south of the city and is used by freight trains, but no passenger services. According to Wikipedia there is a campaign to reopen the line to Passenger services and also a proposal by Network Rail to electrify the line. Tram-trains could be a possibility for providing the service, as the line links to the main railway across Edinburgh at both ends.

It would probably be more affordable to provide the passenger services using tram-train technology, as the stops would be simpler and you could use an off-the-shelf Class 399 tram-train, if they have been proven to work in Sheffield.

In the Wikipedia for Edinburgh trams, they also talk about a new stop called Edinburgh Gateway, which would link to trains on the Fife Circle Line.

It has been proposed that the Fife Circle Line be extended to Leven by creating the Levenmouth Rail Link.

I’m pretty certain that in Karlsruhe or Kassel, the Germans, would run tram-trains on the Fife Circle and the extension to Leven, probably using 750 DC electrification all the way.

1. The station at Edinburgh Gateway could be a simpler affair, which would only need to accommodate compatible tram-trains and trams which could share platforms. Obviously, if longer distance trains to Glasgow or Aberdeen were stopping at the station, these would probably need their own platforms.

2. Creating a 750 DC tram line between Thornton and Leven, even if parts of the line carried freight trains, must be more affordable, than heavy rail.

3. Edinburgh would have the iconic images of tram-trains going over the Forth Rail bridge, which could be electrified to either system, as the tram-trains won’t care.

4. Operation of the tram-train would be a bit like the proposed tram-train test in Sheffield, where both ends of the line operate as trams, with a section of heavy rail in the middle.

5. Battery technology could also be used between Edinburgh Gateway and Thornton.

I’ve seen everything, I’m proposing here, in the last few weeks.

This musing of a Saasenach, does illustrate the importance of the tram-train trial between Sheffield and Rotherham.

February 26, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Should An Overground Station Be Built At Hythe Road?

Some weeks ago Transport for London (TfL) launched a consultation on transport links and stations in the Old Oak Common area of West London.

A report in the Kilburn Times has said that the public have said that they’d prefer Option C of the TfL consultation, which involves two new Overground stations.

1. Old Oak Common on the North London Line, which would link to Crossrail and HS2.

2. Hythe Road on the West London Line.

This TfL map shows their locations.

Option C Proposal At Old Oak Common

Option C Proposal At Old Oak Common

And this is a Google Earth image.

West London Line At Hythe Road

West London Line At Hythe Road

As TfL are saying that service frequencies on the West London Line will be four trains per hour, which is the same as that of trains to Heathrow on Crossrail, it strikes me that these two new stations will greatly ease access to Heathrow from South London and beyond.

From where I live in Dalston, the two station idea has the benefit that if I want to get on Crossrail to go to Reading or Heathrow, it is just a single change at either of the two stations, depending on where my westbound North London Line train is going. Old Oak Common would appear to be a shorter walk however.

But surely, if you are doing a big development as at Old Oak Common, you need as many connections as you can reasonably afford.


February 26, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

The Saddest Building In London

Others will have their own favourite building vying for this title, but surely Millennium Mills, the derelict flour mill by the Royal Victoria Dock is close to the top of a lot of lists of sad buildings.

For years it has stood there unloved between the dock and the Docklands Light Railway, pleading to be put out of its misery.

One of the problems with the building, is that it is full of asbestos and removal and disposal will cost millions.

But help is at hand according to this article in the Newham Recorder, which details a Government grant to kick-start the development. Here’s an extract.

The former flour factory, which was built in 1905, has been vacant since the early 1980s but will get a new lease of life as a hub for start-up businesses, while homes will be built on the surrounding land..

The £12m, which has come from the government’s Building Foundations for Growth Enterprise Zones capital grant fund, is being used to speed up the redevelopment.

It means work to remove asbestos can get under way much earlier than originally scheduled, speeding up the renovation by five years.

Judging by the picture in the report, it would appear that something positive is at last being done with one of London’s saddest buildings.

February 26, 2015 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Custom House Station – 25th February 2015

I took these pictures today.

The works are showing how long the Crossrail stations will be. As a Crossrail engineer said to me a few months ago, you may get complaints about all the walking the two hundred metres from one end of the train to the other. As she was female, I suspect she was thinking high heels and not her sensible work boots.

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Improving Rail Transport In Warwickshire

Warwickshire doesn’t often feature in rail infrastructure, but I was pleased to see that work is poised to start on a new station at Kenilworth, according to an article in Modern Railways. This will be served by new services on the Coventry and Leamington Line.

The council has even put up a blog. From which I clipped this plan of the new station.

New Kenilworth Station Plan

New Kenilworth Station Plan

Compare this with the area now from Google Earth.

Kenilworth Now

Kenilworth Now


Note that the current pedestrian bridge is retained. It also appears that the line through the station is going to be double-tracked.

Plans are also in place to upgrade the Coventry to Nuneaton Line, with better services and new stations at Coventry Arena and Bermuda Park, for which work has started in October 2014. Does this Google Eart image of the Coventry Arena, show the work site?

Coventry Arena Station Site

Coventry Arena Station Site

There’s an on-line leaflet describing the station improvements on the Nuckle on the Warwickshire County Council web site. The fenced-off com pound, would appear to be in the fright place for the station.

Fom this leaflet, I think that Bermuda Park station is north of the Griff Roundabout, where the B4113 joins the A444. The leaflet shows the station at some point on St. George’s Way, where the rail line goes close.

Bermuda Park Station

Bermuda Park Station

These three new stations and the upgraded lines are the sort of improvements  to be welcomed.

As the Coventry to Nuneaton Line connects two electrified main lines, I wonder how long it is before the line gets wired? Or would this be a classic place to use a battery electric multiple unit?

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

An Ideal Place For A New Station

This map shows the development site at Kirkstall Forge in Leeds.

Kirkstall Forge

Kirkstall Forge

The site is being developed between the A65 and the River Aire and the Leeds to Bradford rail line in a £400million scheme. This is from the developer’s web site.

Kirkstall Forge will be transformed into a thriving mixed-use community in a wooded riverside setting. Ultimately it will deliver new homes, a high quality office park, shops, restaurants, a gym, crèche and other facilities. The scheme will create in the region of 2,400 new jobs, boosting the local economy by more than £5 million per year.

The DfT will provide a maximum of £10.3m towards the £16.9m needed to deliver railway stations on this site and at Apperley Bridge. The remaining 40% of the cost is made up of a local funding package comprising a private sector contribution of over £5m, supplemented by funding from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

Surely, this is the type of development that is good for everyone.

It will be interesting to know the extra return that developers get, by having a rail station in their plans. In London, a station is being provided at Barking Riverside for developments there, but stations in new developments seem to be fairly rare.

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Travel, World | , , | Leave a comment

The US Has 2,000 Level Crossing Accidents A Year

This is a chilling statistic, which is stated in this article on the BBC, about this morning’s train crash in California. As 250 of these accidents involve fatalities they are a major tragedy and illustrate how level crossings should be eliminated or at least made safer.

In this country we still have more than 6,300 and get quite a few accidents. At least Network Rail is trying to cut the risk in several ways.

Having ridden in the cab of a High Speed Train, I’ve had a unique view of the dangers as we sped to Inverness, although nothing untoward happened. But as level crossings came into view, you kept your eyes peeled for something that might happen.

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment


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