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 areas 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 Peterborough 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 encouraging 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 direct connections to cities, other than London, it would of course not only be useful to LCR but to every city that is not London.

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