19 February 2019

Transpennine: coast to coast

The Pennines, the "Backbone of England", as we all know from our geography lessons, is the chain of mountains running from the Scottish Lowlands down to Derbyshire. It separates Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire on the west coast, from Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire on the east coast. Obviously then, any communications running from one side to the other are known as Transpennine, be them road, rail, electricity cables, gas tubes, oleoducts or microwaves. For our purposes we are going to concentrate on rail communications.

In the region there are two rail operators offering local,commuter,stopping services, (Northern) .........
Northern Route map 

 ........................and Intercity and regional services(Transpennine Express). 
Transpennine Express Route map

Another major operator in the region is Cross Country. Here there are trains ruuning from Birmingham and the south into Manchester on the west coast line. While trains from Birmingham and the south run all along the ECML from Sheffield up to Newcastle (and on to Scotland).

Also there is an operator from the Midlands which offers services over part of the network about which we are concerned. This is East Midlands Trains which operates one service from Liverpool Lime St. - Manchester Piccadilly - Sheffield and then continuing on to Nottingham - Peterborough and Norwich.
East Midlands Route map   

There are two main long distance Intercity operators from London (and elsewhere) along the
West Coast main lines (WCML).....................
Virgin Trains(West Coast) Route map

.......................................................................and the East Coast main lines (ECML)
London North Eastern Railway (LNER - East Coast) Route map

However, there are also two open-access passenger train operators which originate in the region with services to London. One is called Grand Central offering services from Bradford and Sunderland to the capital......................
Grand Central Route map

...............................................and the other is called Hull Trains offering services to the capital from Kingston-upon-Hull.
Hull Trains Route map

The other operators which enter or pass through the region, London North Western, Caledonian Sleeper and Transport for Wales, have no effect on services within the region.  Merseyrail is a self contained unit round Liverpool.

It is not clear why Transpennine and Northern are seperate franchises. Surely they would benefit from being one franchise with two brands. Then the resulting company could run services from Manchester to Blackpool, Barrow, Windermere and elsewhere with either brand depending on the focus (regional express or stopping trains). One route(at least)by Transpennine should also be run from Liverpool along the CLC line through Warrington Central up to the North East (perhaps Middlesbrough). It is also logical that Transpennine extends the Cleethorpes to Manchester Piccadilly line through Warrington Central to Liverpool thus completing the coast to coast run. As a result of that the CLC line should be electrified, thus the flexibility to use either the CLC line or the Chat Moss line is made available.

Then there is the question of the regional services northwards from Liverpool. It would be logical to run trains to Glasgow and Edinburgh from that city to compete with the regional expresses from Manchester. Probably Virgin Trains would be the best choice. This was the case when the rail services were first privatised.

Another tweek to services would be to extend the East Midland trains services from Sheffield up to Leeds. This is a more logical end point than Sheffield and would provide more competition to West Yorkshire.

The map above shows the Transpennine routes in existence or of possible use.
1)- Carlisle - Newcastle
A route which winds across the country connecting the two cities. This is a Northern hourly stopping passenger service with between eight and fourteen intermediate stops.The time taken is 85-97 mins.for the 100km.journey. ( average speed 71kph)
2)- Carlisle - Bradford
The fastest time is 2hr.44mins with up to 15 intermediate stops from Carlisle to Leeds direct. The frequency of direct trains is eight daily. The distance is 169 kms. (Av.sp. 62kph)
3)- Barrow-in-Furness  - Bradford
The fastest time with two changes is 2hr.39mins.with multiple intermediate stops. There are other possibilities with one change (e.g.Lancaster, Preston, Manchester) but are slower. The distance is 139 kms.There is no direct service at the moment. (Av.sp. 53kph.)
4)- Blackpool North - Bradford
There is no direct service between these two cities though there is a service from Preston to York via Burnley, Sowerby Bridghe, Halifax and Bradford Interchange as well as Leeds. There are 14 direct trains per day offering an hourly service.There are 13 intermediate stops to Leeds with the journey taking 2hr. 36mins.
A direct route through Burnley and Skipton is being strongly mooted which would mean reopening the stretch of line from Colne to Skipton.The total distance from end to end is 122 kms. The missing line from Colne to Skipton is about 17kms.
5)- Liverpool - Manchester Victoria - Leeds - Newcastle
9 intermediate stops in a fastest time of 2hr. 57 mins.A distance of 290kms.with 17 trains daily on an hourly basis until 21.24hrs.  (Av.sp. 98kph.)
6)- Liverpool - Manchester Victoria - Leeds - Middlesbrough
243kms. 9 stops with one change. The fastest time is 3hr. 13 mins. with trains on an hourly basis. (Av.sp. 76kph)
7)- Liverpool - Manchester Victoria - Leeds - Scarborough
229kms. Trains on an hourly basis the fastest taking 2hr. 39mins. 15 direct trains daily the last leaving at 19.56hrs. 7 intermediate stops. (Av.sp. 86kph.)     

8)- Liverpool - Manchester Victoria - Leeds - Hull
This could well be considered the most important line over the Pennines. Coast to coast this line is 203 kms. in length. Eight stopping points and 2hr. 48mins. is the fastest time.16 trains daily starting at 05.55hrs.on a hourly basis. (Av.sp. 73kph.)

9)- Liverpool - Manchester Piccadilly - Sheffield - Cleethorpes
East Midland Trains serves the route from Liverpool to Sheffield (and on to Norwich) while Transpennine serves the route from Manchester Piccadilly to Cleethorpes. Including the change at Manchester there are 13 intermediate stops taking 3hr.55mins for the 238 kms. (Av.sp. 43kph.)

These last five lines are perhaps the most important ones on the network. The Liverpool -Newcastle route has 170 kms. from Leeds northwards which is more than half the route but is along the ECML for most of its way. That is why it has an average line speed of 98kph. The most difficult parts, for speed, are from Manchester to Leeds and from Manchester to Sheffield. These are the areas where great gains can be made with electrification and a serious upgrade of the lines. If new lines could be built for those two sections, or if not then a serious upgrade eliminating obstacles and straightening the lines, then line-speeds could be improved dramatically. The net result would make the network that much more attractive for potential passengers. The case for upgrading the other lines would then be made more favourably. 

Another serious problem to be sorted out is the terminus and connections at Bradford. At the moment Forster Square is a terminus station and the Interchange provides an alternative. Both are unsatisfactory. A connection (below ground??)as a new main line station has to be made to link the lines from Carlisle, Barrow and Blackpool so that the trains on these lines can run into Leeds and to provide Bradford with a decent terminus for passengers. 


When we talk about rail lines we inevitably understand from a passenger´s point of view. 
However, in the economic life of the country the use of the lines by conveyance of freight is extremely important and even of paramount importance.

A lot of the country´s freight is transported from point to point within the country. However, the business of imports and exports through the ports is also of great importance. 95% of the import and export business is run through the ports. Considering the contribution of indirect benefits as well as direct ones to the economy it is estimated to be GBP5.4 billion yearly. 

The total tonnage forecast to pass through the ports is estimated to grow by 37%, according to the government, for the period 2004-2030. Of that figure the increase in container traffic is estimated at a whopping 178% most of which could travel by train.

As can be seen from the graph The largest English port by volume is Grimsby and Immingham with Liverpool not far behind.

West Coast ports:                                                         East Coast ports:
Liverpool                                                                       Blyth
Manchester Ship Canal                                                  Tees and Hartlepool
Garston                                                                         Tyne
Heysham                                                                       Seaham
Barrow                                                                           Sunderland
                                                                                      Grimsby and Immingham
                                                                                      Rivers Hull and Humber
                                                                                      River Trent

There are two documents published by the Dept.of Transport which make for fascinating reading and providing very complete information.They deal with the whole of England not just with the North.
Most of the movements into and out of the ports is by road. It is estimated that 76% of all freight movements are transported by road, 15% by water(including coastal shipping) while 9% goes by rail. Obviously this latter percentage can grow and should grow so as to take freight off the roads and on to the railways.

Transport Infrastructure for our global future.
A Study of England's Port Connectivity.

England's Port Connectivity: the current picture.
9 regional case studies.

As can be seen this map mentions W10 and W12 gauges. These refer to the maximum loading gauges permitted on all lines. 
W10 :  height 2.9m.  width 2.5m.
W12 :  height 2.9m.  width 2.6m.
-This is important for passing trains,there is a safety gap between them when they pass,especially on curves,
-trains running along track and not hitting trackside equipment,
-trains running through stations to ensure the containers do not hit the platforms,
-trains running through tunnels so they do not hit the roofs or walls or trackside equipment. 

Why these loading gauges?
The UK was the pioneer in railway construction so made up the rules as it went along. The mainland Europeans learnt from the UK´s mistakes and built to larger/higher standards. This means that with the advent of greater international trade which is not based on bulk but on containers, the UK found that European containers were too big for most of our rail system. That defecit is being made up now but very gradually. As can be seen on the map above the north/south routes are generally up to scratch while the east/west routes are mostly lacking in adequate rail paths. Obviously a very strong case for line improvements.

The upgrading of lines is going ahead all over the country and all upgrading now automatically means increasing the loading gauge to W10 or W12. This work should not, however, be taken in isolation. Upgrading includes electrification of the line - though not always; increasing the loading gauge; straightening the line as much as possible to increase line speed; modernise signalling to enable in-cab warning signals to be given to the driver to eliminate mistakes or oversights and increase safety.

Some quotes from the reports:
North East Ports: 
  • "Although road provides the main means of freight transport, rail access is highlighted as important for some cargos (notably bulk fuels) with 5 ports being rail connected. Whilst some potential improvements were identified, maintaining existing paths and making better use of existing infrastructure were also noted as important in aiding modal shift to rail."
  • "A programme of gauge clearance schemes to W12, including connections to Tees and Tyne ports, will improve the ability to move a wider range of containers between the north and south of the UK".
Humber Ports: 
  • "Four of five ports in the {Humber} region are rail connected, with Immingham accounting for around a quarter of UK rail freight movements. Midlands and trans-Pennine routes were highlighted as important."
  • "Immingham, Hull and Goole all have active rail connections; the key issue reported is lack of W12 gauge clearance, restricting potential for growth and multi-modal solutions."
Mersey and North West ports:
  • "Connectivity between the ports and the key North-South and East-West (Transpennine) corridors is felt to be poor in places, particularly Cumbria, with improvements required on road and rail to ensure that anticipated port growth is not constrained."

Transport for the North: One North- Strategic transport plan 


These two following pages illustrate the major and minor upgrades taken and being taken by Network Rail.

Network Rail : Great North Rail Project
Network Rail : Transpennine route upgrade

Delivering a better railway for a better Britain Route Specifications 2017London North Western

Transport for the North is long on ideas, many of which this blogger does not agree with. The UK government has analysed the problems and provided the information to make decisions. Whether they take those decisions or not is usually down to the money which is available. Network Rail puts these decisions into practice according to its budget.

Some things are clear. Rail can increase its volume of freight movement even using the present infrastructure available. Investment can be made and should be made to facilitate rail capacity to grow with the markets while to try and and increase its share of the freight market. 
What are needed are: 
a)- straightening of the lines to improve line speed. This would be for the benefit of both freight and passenger traffic.
b)- modernisation of the signalling system to increase reliability, line speed, and safety.
c)- broadening the gauge to W12 so that the capability of each line increases to offer alternative routes to freight rail traffic.
d)- electrify the different lines, not only for passengers into the cities but also for freight into the ports.
e)- reopen lines which could benefit the movement of freight to ports and trunk routes even though they are not available to passenger traffic. 
f)- construct new lines where needed for the benefit of both passenger and freight traffic when the previous conditions cannot satisfy the demand.

There is one line which needs to be resurrected which is the Warrington to Stockport line. This is closed at present because of issues when crossing the Manchester Ship Canal  in South Warrington.It was previously used for transporting coal to Fiddlers Ferry power station between Warrington and Widnes. The line does continue, however, along the Mersey and into Garston docks. If it were reopened then part of the problems of access to Liverpool and Garston Docks would be relieved even from across the Pennines. Thus the potential to transfer freight from road to rail is also greatly enhanced.

What is needed is for the main lines - east/west - come up to the standard of those north/south.Transport for the North sets some modest aims:
The Long Term Rail Strategy sets out our guiding principles for transforming the rail network
  • .Connectivity– Major improvements in connectivity including frequency and journey time improvements for both passenger services and freight, combined with better integration of services.
  •  Capacity- Providing longer trains and additional services to meet existing and future passenger demand, with improvements to the infrastructure and signalling capability to accommodate these additional services.
  •  Customer- A passenger network that is easy to navigate, accessible and predictable, with consistent information available before and throughout journeys
  • .Community- A railway that supports the social fabric of the communities it serves, providing journey opportunities which enable access to education, training and leisure opportunities as well as employment, and plays a full part in addressing transport poverty, isolation, and deprivation across the North.
  •  Cost Effectiveness- Growing revenue and minimising the unit cost of operating and maintaining the North’s railway without compromising the quality of the services offered.   
 We want to see as a minimum:
  •  All passenger routes to be served by a minimum two trains per hour.
  •  Long distance services to achieve average journey speeds of at least 80mph.(128kph.)
  •  Inter-urban services to achieve average journey speeds of at least 60mph.(96kph.)
  •  Local and suburban services to achieve average journey speeds of at least 40mph.(64kph.)
  •  Rail to directly serve each of the North’s international airports.
  •  Infrastructure to be available to enable a weekday inter-peak level service on Sundays and public holidays.
  •  Major ports in the North to be served by a network that will support movement and future growth of rail freight.
  •  A 50% improvement in the average speed of freight services by 2028.
As can be seen in comparison with the line speeds mentioned previously, there is great room for improvement.
Rail transport in the Northern region can get much better and prove to be a stimulent for the economic growth of the region and nationally.