Sunday, 21 September 2014

Post Referendum Blues

Well the No campaign won the Scottish referendum and a majority of Scots self determined to stay part of the Union and the various parties are now talking about greater devolution for Scotland and for the rest of the UK, so as far as I am concerned wins all round. My position was and still is, that a federal UK is the best.

There was the predictable Rangers Unionists disorder after the victory, seems to have been pretty minor, but according to the some in Yes campaign, it was something approaching Armageddon and complained about BBC Bias in not covering it. I wonder how many of them heard of 500 youths in town centre disorder.

I followed several twitter accounts during the run up, and it was clear that a lot of the Yes supporters were only talking amongst themselves. There would be a local meeting organised to give out the Yes message and surprise, surprise it would be full of Yes voters. None of the individuals I followed seemed to understand that they were moving amongst groups of the converted not the general population. This led to claims about the bias in the polls.

Since the result has been announced there is a very great feeling that the Yes campaigners where somehow cheated and as such are not bound by any of the agreements they entered into. One claim is that by resigning Salmond has given the next first minister a mandate to call a vote again if the next elections is won, as the agreement was signed by him it only applied to him. This is an incredible view Salmond signed as first minister there by for and on behalf of the Scottish state This is not the official view, but it is the view of some of the political naives  that this campaign has  energised. They had never had much interest in politics before the vote, from the sound of some of the comments they may never have voted, they don't like that they lost but that is democracy, sometime your side doesn't win. When that happens democrats respect the result and get on with life, looking for another opportunity to persuade the electorate of the merits of the path they are proposing.

However, through history there have been groups, that while in a minority have thought it ok to seize control and by one means or another use other means to get their way. These range from simple acts of civil disobedience, such as not paying your TV license, through too attempts at armed revolution. Often it starts as the first and depending on the reaction of TPTB either peters out or moves to a very great state of violence. Even when the significant protest is the civil kind, someone will do a Wolfie Smith and others will burn down the odd holiday home.

At this moment all options in Scotland seem to be open. We may yet find that giving the vote to 16 year olds is bad not because they cannot make up their mind but because they are bad losers.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Liverpool to Norwich via the 1980s

While considering Merseytravel's 30 year plan, considerations can be found here, I looked up the numbers for the Liverpool to Norwich service, as it was mentioned.
Here is what I said
"The Liverpool to Norwich route is mentioned in the document. While the route provides useful connections for places along its route, it is of little use to anyone travelling the whole length from Liverpool, anyone travelling beyond Nottingham will often find that the quickest service is not the direct one and beyond Grantham they definitely will.
The fastest direct journey, all the way, is 5:20, going via London is 4:50 and the RAC route planner claims 4:45 for the 257 mile journey."

I then suggested an alternate route, which I shall explore later.

The problem

It can hardly be that the route is designed to link the economies of Liverpool and Norwich, which can be seen from the table below:

Direct Service Via London

Lvl->Nrw Nrw->Lvl Lvl->Nrw Nrw->Lvl
Depart 06:47:00 15:48:00 05:27:00 18:30:00
Arrive 12:15:00 21:36:00 10:50:00 23:33:00

05:28:00 05:48:00 05:23:00 05:03:00
Time in Norwich

The journeys via London includes include a relaxing hour crossing London from Euston to Liverpool Street.
In the mid 80s I made the journey from Liverpool to near Norwich on several occasions. There were no direct trains even then, however all I had to do was get the train to Birmingham and then the train to Norwich, on some occasion I had to change at Ely to get off at the right intermediate station. The trains to Birmingham were also faster than today's Midland Trains
To get back I'd get a train to Ely, then the to Peterborough and change at Nuneaton to get the Irish mail train, it was a bit slower than the way out but was the latest possible journey.

The Route

Railway lines between Liverpool and Norwich
There are enough trains to Birmingham so I decided to avoid it, it doesn't make anything simpler but it does shorten the distance. There are also enough Liverpool Stafford trains, that another isn't needed. However, there is a need to stops on the way, so I have offered several starting sections, they common up at Nuneaton. I did want to go via Stoke  so that in addition to direct traffic to Leicester, Peterborough & Norwich a direct Liverpool Stoke route is created. While I think it might be nearly as efficient as going via Stafford there is less data available for me to work from.
After Nuneaton the route is most only what are termed secondary lines.
I wouldn't stop at Nuneaton the next stop would be at Leicester, the actual path through Leicester is northbound on the MML and is for that section electrified. From Lester the route carries on to Peterborough, where the ECML is used this time south bound. This would be the last stop before Norwich.
Between Peterborough and Ely is the slowest track section with a maximum speed of 75mph. We don't actually go to Ely but use the avoiding loop to head straight for Norwich, on the Breckland Line, where we are back on lines with speeds between 75-100 mph. When we arrive at Norwich the last mile is on the Great Eastern Main Line(GEML) from London.



The best source of timings I could find was the Trainline. In order to get the timings for Liverpool Nuneaton the first thing to do was as anyone would normally do, enter start and finish. I then looked for the fastest journey. In this case it had 1 change at Stafford. As the planned route is direct the time on the platform could be discounted.
I could then go on and break the rest of the journey up into smaller chunks.
The total number of separate journey was 5

Distance Max(mph) T(Max V) T(actual) efficiency mph(avg) stops
LVL→STF 60.15 105 34.37 55 62.49% 65.62 2
STF→NUN 36.41 125 17.48 39 44.81% 56.02 4
NUN→PBO 71.23 100 42.74 82 52.12% 52.12 4
PBO→ELY 30.55 75 24.44 32 76.38% 57.28 0
ELY→NRW 53.74 90 35.83 54 66.35% 59.71 1

02:34:51 04:22:00 59.10%

The total time for the journey would be 4 hours 22 minutes. This is over an hour quicker than the current journey and even the very very best via London time is 40 minutes worse.
In terms of distance the shortest route is 236 miles is the shortest possible route according to RailMiles Mileage Engine. The current direct route is slightly longer at 248 because of change of direction at Sheffield. The above route is 252 but a further 3 miles can be saved by avoiding Ely and using the Ely avoiding line.



However, there are some stops we could lose. Say we cut it down to just Runcorn, Crewe, Nuneaton,Leicester & Peterborough. In addition to the explicit 11 stops, we also have the 4 stops between the sub routes giving a total of 15. With the shortened list we can save eliminate the time for 10 stops. This isn't just the time at the platform but the cumulative loss during deceleration and acceleration, as a minimum this is going to be at least 3 minutes. So we could be down to 3:52, which represents a clear improvement, giving over 2 hours extra time in Norwich on a day return.
While the first leg to Stafford is via Pendolino the rest of the journey is via various DMU. It is quite likely that in reality the Stafford Nuneaton run is actually quicker, and according to some some tables I found at Realtime Trains, it is. If there is no stop at Stafford it is about 21 minutes. So that's a further improvement of 6 minutes.

Base Time

Stops(-) 10 00:03:00 00:30:00



Train Improvements

The lack OHLE post Nuneaton makes the use of an electric train for the entire route impossible, but a Voyager or Super Voyager could do the job nearly as well. The super Voyager would be of most benefit of the lines could be clear for titling, whether this is a simple matter, I couldn't say, but like the WCML, which is cleared for tilting, all of the track is of the W10 load gauge, or bigger.
In order to allow tilting the a Tilt Authorisation and Speed Supervision(TASS) System needs to be installed, this can be quite expensive and involves the installation of track-side balises. I'm not sure whether the expense is in the balises or the addition survey and modification.
However, there is a weight penalty with tilting which reduces acceleration, so a route with a few stops is better suited to tilting, while with many stops the higher acceleration of the non tilting train is preferred. The next generation of tilting trains will use an electrical system rather than hydraulic, this should save some weight.


Route Improvements

To enable tilt may need some track improvements, but there are more simpler improvements that can be made. The most obvious being electrification, which would allow better acceleration. This has been suggested several times. In the late 70s British Rail produces plans to electrify the line between Birmingham and Peterborough. This indicates that electrification has some merit. With the proposed electrification of the MML it would make even more sense to have this line electrified.
Between Nuneaton and Peterborough there are 3 passing points at Leicester, Melton Mowbray and Barley-Thorpe, after Peterborough there is March, the Ely avoiding line serves as a passing point. There no real passing point from Ely to Norwich but there is place to construct two at Brandon and Wymondham. Whether this is enough, I don't know, but there are many places that one can be constructed.
There are some strange speed limits on the route, after leaving Leicester on the MML as soon as the line diverges the speed limit falls dramatically for no obvious reason. The Peterborough-Ely section is made up of two 15 mile straight sections, with a maximum speed of 75 mph.
There have been some improvements in the line between Ely and Norwich recently, but they don't seem to be reflected in train times yet. So quantifying any possible speed improvement is not going to be possible.



Without any changes this route is at it worse 1:15 quicker than any other route. It represents a mean speed of 66 mph. To get down to a 3 hour journey the 85 mph is needed, which would require every possible alteration to the track including the removal of many level crossings and installation of tilting with a line speed of 125 throughout.
The obviously is not going to happen any time soon, but as it would be useful as a trans-midland line from Bristol to Norwich linking all the English mainline, improvements need to be seriously considered.
There are two starting points that seem obviously the most important is the electrification of the Birmingham to Peterborough section, the second is an increase in the line speeds between Peterborough and Ely.

Without HS2 there will simply not be enough slots to run the WCML part of this route, it services like this which will benefit most from HS2 taking traffic away from the WCML.

If you would like the Google Earth Data for that produced the map in this blog they are here.

Monday, 8 September 2014

The train to the future.

I got to read Merseytravel's 30 year plan. It comes in two bits are available here Long Term Rail Strategy and Enc. 1 for Long Term Rail Strategy.
In general I'm impressed, though there are at least some bits I cannot make sense of, which probably says a bit about me and a bit about the distance some of these things are in the future.

Around LCR

Within the LCR the report provides a good oversight into producing an expanded system and efficiently reusing redundant infrastructure. However, several pieces of infrastructure most notably the outer loop are not mentioned at all.



The Airport link is quite intriguing as the diagram shows a spur leaving the CLC line after Liverpool South Parkway and then making its way to the airport before returning to the WCML spur. Given the relative heights of the line I suspect this would mean that the new spur was, at least initially, underground at least as far as passing under the WCML. The section from the CLC line to the airport must pass some well developed areas and I can see no clear surface route for it, all the plans I had considered were based on using Tram-Trains and running on the surface. With a junction on the CLC does confirm some benefits as it would allow access from both Lime Street and Central via existing infrastructure.



The idea of converting Burscough bridge into a dual level station is interesting, but I have absolutely no idea what this means in terms of structure and alignments. I don't think that the usage of the Southport Wigan line is so high that having trains use the same level and change direction is not an option. From a simple energy conservation point of view, having the Preston-Ormskirk platforms on a bridge over the line would be sensible, if the stop is below then it means braking down hill and then accelerating up.
Given the proximity of the crossing point might it not be simpler to consider building a new 2 track station there?


St Helens to Widnes

The lack of decent rail services between these towns is not really addressed, the route between St Helens and Widnes is non existent, and is a possible candidate for Train-Trams.

Runcorn to Widnes & St Helens

The lack of decent rail services between these towns is not really addressed another possible candidate for Train-Trams.



The potential of Tram-Trains does not seem to have been considered. Whether this is because of some doctrinal policy of Mersytravel or an aversion cause by the Merseytram project is unclear. However, I believe that considering TrainTrams to come within the remit of Merseyrail is an important step. In Tram mode these vehicles can go the final mile. In Southport reusing the some of the redundant infrastructure in the centre could provide access for area in the north of the town such as Churchtown, as the link could be stitched together with sections running on roads. Also areas to the East such as Shirdley Hill could be considered.


National Routes


The use of the Halton curve to provide access to North & South Wales shows what services could be available with the replacement of short sections of track. It would provide services directly from Liverpool to a quarter of the island currently not directly served.


Provision of services to Hull seems somewhat lacking and consideration and evaluation of such a connection would be sensible.
Other areas which seem to lack direct connectivity is the area between Swindon, Reading and Southampton.


The Liverpool to Norwich route is mentioned in the document. While the route provides useful connections for places along its route, it is of little use to anyone travelling the whole length from Liverpool, anyone travelling beyond Nottingham will often find that the quickest service is not the direct one and beyond Grantham they definitely will.
The fastest direct journey, all the way, is 5:20, going via London is 4:50 and the RAC route planner claims 4:45 for the 257 mile journey.
If the route Liverpool -> Manchester -> SoT -> Nuneaton -> Leicester -> Peterborough -> Norwich was used in combination with dual-mode trains such as BritishRail Class 800, this would produce a considerable reduction in travel times without the cost of electrifying the entire route. In the mean time a Class 221 Super Voyager would be a suitable train, especially if the route could be cleared for tilting.
It would have little effect on the current direct service is that is already outclassed.
A faster service would provide not only access to Norwich but via hub at Perterborough quicker access to places such as Cambridge.  Merseytravel should consider using it influence to facilitate faster connections to the East Anglian region via this or some other route, in order to produce journey times that are shorter than going via London, somewhere in the 3 hour region should be possible, with some track work. (Update) Since I made that 3 hour statement, I have found it is a bit more optimistic than I thought for details see Liverpool to Norwich via the 1980s.


While encourage the continued electrification of the network is a very good thing, more consideration needs to be given to producing a vehicle capable of extracting the greatest performance from the current alignments, this inevitably involves tilting to allow great speed in corners. This in conjunction with improved braking and the in-cab signalling, that will be coming online soon with GSM-R ,offers the opportunity to realise the performance offered by the APT project of the 70s.
Given the apparent success of the Intercity Express Programme it may be possible to start an Advanced Intercity Programme to incorporate the required tilting and braking, possibly with the increased use of composites, to provide reduced weight and even the use of superconducting motors such as and to increase performance.The development of such a train is in the interest of LCR as it would make the most of direction connection to cities, other than London, it would of course not only be useful to LCR but to every city that is not London.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Mersey 30 Map

My first stab at a map detailing some of the changes outlined in the Echo's article Merseytravel plan to open or reopen host of new stations
I haven't seen the plan so I have had to make some guesses about how the connection to the airport will be made and exactly which bits of the Wapping Tunnel will be used. Also the details of the Skem link are rather vague I have left the Stock Interchange Line between James Street and Central in.

A PDF that details some of the infrastructure in the region and an explanation of some of the technologies can be found at Merseytravel Plan.

And some thoughts on HS2/HS3 From Lymm to Lime Street.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Merseyrail Plus

As we wait with bated breath for Merseyrails 30 year plan got to ask why we haven't seen it yet? See Echo article here.

Train Tram Routes to Liverpool Airport

A possible map for an expanded Merseyrail

A PDF that details some of the infrastructure in the region and an explanation of some of the technologies can be found at Merseytravel Plan.

And some thoughts on HS2/HS3 From Lymm to Lime Street.

Some of the old lines have very little use, but if you include all of them and add a bit of imagination then you get the map below. There really should be a link between Sefton and Maghull and Old Roan, but just a bit too much trouble. It is worth keeping in mind you could do it all for 1/4 the price of London's Crossrail.

Sunday, 24 August 2014


The terror of being trapped without access to air travel seems to be gripping the nation as an Icelandic volcano rumbles a bit. Bárðarbunga is by no means a small volcano and one that has in the past produces some big eruptions, big enough to have an effect on the climate in the north Atlantic. Effects like those of Laki in 1783 are possible today and because of the greater population the results could be just as disastrous. The tell tale of events in about 1258 have been found in burial pits in London though the volcano itself have still not been located, it was far further away than Iceland as it must have been in the tropics.
These events fell upon Great Britain and Ireland with no warning and also no explanation, unsurprisingly given the beliefs at the time all sorts of religious explanations were put forward. Today I can sit and get a list of the volcanic activity going on in Iceland, with a delay of only a few seconds, via this website. Even without that if a major eruption was to occur there would be news flashes on all broadcast media, twitter would explode with a force similar to that of the volcano.
The amount of airspace that was closed as a result of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010 caught a lot of people by surprise, it wasn't just the size of the eruption, which was given as VEI 4, but its location close to so many major air routes.
Bárðarbunga eruption of 1477 was a VEI 6, as was Laki's 1783, this represents a 100 fold increase in ejecta over that 2010 event. The effect of such an eruption is global on a scale similar to the biggest recorded eruption the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, which knocked 0.5 C of the world's temperature over the following year.
Such a giant release would be the first in the high technology era and slap bang in the middle of the most highly developed part of the world. It is not if there are vulnerabilities, to such natural events, but which vulnerabilities will be exposed by such an event. The impact of dust was felt on air travel, but the injection of even greater quantities may start to affect radio communications, if not at ground level, then between spacecraft and the ground.
We have seen a couple of hard long winters recently, which people are connecting with reduced sunspot activity, increased instability in global weather systems, caused by the increase atmospheric CO2. A big eruption now will cause problems, mostly likely at worse gross inconveniences rather than anything civilisation threatening, but so far our high tech world has not been subject to some of the electromagnetic effects that we know have happened in the past and each time they are, tested problems are found. We narrowly missed a major Solar Flare in 2013 and a minor one at Halloween 2003 but we haven't been hit by a large Geomagnetic Storm  since the Carrington Event of 1859, again while it most like will not kill civilisation, it is something we are very blase about.
Unlike asteroid impact, which we currently can do nothing about, making are electronic and electrical system more robust is something we should be aware of, and prepared for. Ironically, in the dark days of the cold war when we were the greatest threat to ourself, we did take precautions against EMP, but we gave it up.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A Blog

It is all very well, having a blog, but it means thinking of things to write. The most interesting things about this blog is its complete and utter lack of regular readers. While it is somewhat disappointing it is probably typical of most blogs.
You may have noticed adverts on this blog provide by Google, given the current rate at which it is accruing clicks it should be something like 2020 before I get my first payment out of it. Which is considerably more than my writings have ever earned me before.
Any apparent improvements in the grammar or spelling of these articles are down not to me learning anything but to the improvement in grammar and spell checking technology that I have access to. In a lot of ways it is infinitely preferable to being told off in class by someone who will not tell you the correct spelling but any how expects you to learn. Perhaps children will in the future use better spelling and grammar because they have not been told off by for doing it badly, but have just got rid of a few red lines that the computer drew on the screen.
I can't say I have put a lot of effort into the blog, the articles with the most effort are those where I have lifted most of the content from other documents I have written, but I've put slightly more in than some and they manage to accrue at least some random followers but this blog nothing at all. It isn't like I haven't rammed it down some people's throats via their comments sections of newspapers and through twitter. What this tells me to some extent is that my sociability is not down to me smelling bad, which at least is some relief.
The exact value of this posting is zero, if it earns even a single penny it will be over achieving.