Friday, 5 December 2014

Midland Main Line

In the picture below you can see the line from Derby to Manchester that used to part of the Midland Main Line connecting London and Manchester. It is now cut back to serving Derby and Sheffield.

The yellow portions of the Line out of Derby and Manchester are still in use but not as a main line. The white section in the middle is 14 miles of unused track bed.
Reconnecting this would add redundancy to the London Northwest link and provide a direct faster connection to the East Midlands.
If and HS3 will create a Northern power house an eXtended Midland Mainline can only boast it further.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Liverpool doesn't need HS3 to connect to manchester

Liverpool does not need HS3 to connect to Manchester, it needs it to connect to Leeds & Hull. It is not that getting Liverpool to Manchester down to 20 minutes wouldn't be useful, but the linkage between the city centres is not the only measure of connectivity.
Both Liverpool and Manchester City regions have large hinterlands with several centres of economic activity. There is no point measuring simply the connectivity between the two Centres, the interconnectivity must take into account the linkage between the sub nodes. While the linkage between Ellesmere Port and Bolton may not be as important as the Liverpool to Manchester link, it is not worthless and is one of many sub-node interconnections.
One of the longer distance routes available from Liverpool Exchange was the link to Bury via  Liverpool and Bury Railway unfortunately this was cut back to Bolton in 1970, though most of the alignment is still in place and a 4.5 mile section would allow a link to Manchester Metrolink for line into Manchester City Centre.

Liverpool & Manchester rail linkages
The building of the Ordsall Chord seems to be funding and going ahead, If coupled with that Merseytravel's Airport spur was constructed and the Warrington Altrincham line reinstated. Then an outer loop could be formed, providing direct links from,  Say Widnes to Bolton/ Altrincham and Bootle as well as providing links to between Liverpool, both Manchester's stations and Stockport.
A link from the Northern Line from Bootle via the stock interchange to St James and the Wirral would push the loop out to Ellesmere Port and Runcorn. Though a reverse at Liverpool could do the same.
Rail Details of Liverpool
A map of Liverpool with some of the changes proposed in Merseytravels 30 year plan.

Rail Details of Manchester
Details of the Ordsall chord.

Warrington rail details
The red line departing right is the disued Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway
all the other lines are intact and in use though the green line entering left is only used for freight and connects to Ditton Junction.

Timperley rail detail
This is Skelton Junction with the line entering from the upper left is the closed Glazebrook East Junction to Skelton Junction Line while the red line entering mid left is the closed Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway

Tram Train

Some parts of the network are now operated by MetroLink but use old rail alignments. Converting these to Tram-Train allow connections to places like Prestwich direct from Liverpool.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

A Region big enough for a Mayor

It seems that GM has decided the way to go is a Metro Mayor, I happen to think they a right, and I think it would be right for a greater Merseyside
One reason an elected metro mayor would be good, is that it would attract someone with higher ambition and more ability. It would be on a level with a job in as a junior minister, at the moment mayor is the height of a lackluster career and the PCC is reserved as a sinecure for someone with a safe pair of hands on the way down.
Yes, it requires more scrutiny than the current mayor has and should be modelled on the London mayor with the same sort of powers.
The question is should it just be the current Met County, the LCR or something bigger? My personal opinion is we should look to the original proposal for Merseyside, from the 60s. This included West Lancs, Halton and Chester and West Cheshire, it is a unit which still has attractions. I'd also add Warrington so basically using the M6 as the divide between Liverpool and Manchester. It would have a population of nearly 2 million and would cover a diverse area from rural to metropolitan. Any one area would be unable to dominate because of greater diversity.
The arrangement with the borough still existing and providing local control would ensure that each area maintained its identity and voice while the expanded region would command more resources nationally and benefit from efficiency savings.
If it goes to a vote it more than likely will not happen, for the same reasons the original Merseyside plan didn't happen.
Selling it is going to have to be done very carefully as the devolution of national powers rather than the aggregation of local powers. A chance to escape from Westminster and the South Easts strangle hold. I'm not sure the politicians of the area are up to grabbing the opportunity, preferring instead to squabble amongst themselves. I'm equally sure that the people will do the same.
If it was me, I'd enforce it, HMG was elected with the power to do this, it should simply use that power and actually lead. The change in the democratic balance is fairly minimal no great powers are being removed and no great responsibilities added. This is too trivial a move to warrant a referendum.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Time flies by when you the driver of the train.

My Dad 1937 a cabin boy on the RMS Laconia
The most annoying thing about getting old is that everything your parents said about time is true, a year is not a long time, now they seem to pass in the blinking of an eye. For someone who makes it to 100 there must only be a slight pause between each breakfast. They day must be full of runs to the toilet with minute periods spent in there.

I remember as a child the long fearful sleepless nights that occurred every so often, when 3 am was a magic time, when you could easily imagine everyone was asleep. Now the days, jumble into each other and the long ones of youth seem wasted.

I think now it was a lost opportunity during the 3 months, rains that seem to occur at least 8 time every winter, not to read a book, but after I'd read all the Wide Range Readers at school, I had nowhere to go, my only family guidance on books was hopeless, not coming from a literary family, the access to mental stimulation became even less when my dad died.

My maternal grandmothers life had been turned upside down by the death of her mother when she was 1, she had been raised by her uncle in deepest Deganwy, she was in her early 30s when my mum was born, as the oldest child, my mum would follow the same pattern with minor variations. At the outbreak of World War 2 she was sent off to Wales for the duration, this time around St Asaph, and afterwards it would be 1963 before I came along. The maternal Grand Father seemed to have the most normal life, born in a Barracks in Ireland, to a father who had been born in a Barracks in Dublin. His sisters were born in India and at some point that had all been forced to live in Hull.

My dad's family was even more of a mess. My paternal grandmother's father had died when she was about 5, in about 1895, in Wrexham. The grandfather was the last born of 8, his mother died soon afterwards and by 1900 he was in the poor house. The family had lived in various insalubrious places, like cellars on Lime Kiln lane.
WW1 came along and both my grandfathers were in France both got gassed at some point and the paternal gf lost both his legs.

When I was born it looked like perhaps this bit of the family had escaped, as my dad worked for Cable and Wireless and would soon become am Executive Officer at Giro, not the best job in the world be a long way up from being a pavior for the council.

Really, if it hadn't been for all the late marriages I'd have been born during WW2.

I can't help seeing myself as the result of all this mess, I also don't imagine that I would make a great parent, my siblings doesn't seem to have.

When you look at the 1880-1930 population of Liverpool and the condition, some of them lived in I doubt that my history is that unusual. It really can only be a small portion of the population that escapes this kind of cycle.

If you want a tip on raising kids from someone who has none, then it is, fill your house will books of all sorts, the greater the variety the better. Even if you don't know much about books yourself, pick them up randomly at car boot sales, etc. Do find out what the best children's books are from the stuffiest of places. While libraries are great they are also terminally dull and any of the good books are out. You want histories, fictions, sci fi, fantasy, autobiographies, science and you want to read them yourself and be seen to read them, especially at dinner. In the end your child will start getting their own books in a genera they like. Hopefully by then you will have found your own, and can sell all the other books at the next car boot sale. It will not get rid of your families history but it will give you kids the benefit of other peoples experiences, which should help counteract the intellectual, cultural and scientific poverty that a lot of us grow up with.

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 Leicester 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, this 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.