Electrifying the Midland Mainline

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Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby george matthews » Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:01 am

It has long been noted that of the three lines from London to the north the former Midland railway is the one that would gain from electrification but whenever proposals for electrification have been in the air it has been omitted from plans.

Now, there has been surprise news that it may be up for electrifying soon.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18839483

The Thameslink route is electrified from St Pancras to Bedford. The proposal now is to extend the wires to Sheffield via Nottingham and Leicester. (Would they be linked to Manchester and York? Perhaps only in a later phase.)
A £500m scheme to electrify the Midland Mainline rail route is expected to be announced by the government.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening is set to outline plans to complete the electrification of the route between Sheffield and London on Monday.

At present the line is electrified only between St Pancras station and Bedford.

The new decision, if confirmed, would mean extending overhead wires to Sheffield via the east Midlands.

However, it is not yet known if track improvements will also be announced, especially at Derby and Leicester stations.

This government has been doing some surprising electrification of routes long thought to be needing it. What's going on?

The routes now beginning are: Great Western to Cardiff (but not to Swansea). Several important routes in the Manchester-Liverpool area.

The Scottish government is electrifying two routes between Edinburgh and Glasgow, including the busiest diesel route in the country - possibly the world. They still are not planning the route to Aberdeen.
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby george matthews » Mon Jul 16, 2012 5:02 am

The actual announcement is here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18851907

I would like to see more details which may come out in the Railway Press in the next few weeks.

As the Labour spokesperson on Transport (Shadow Transport Secretary) observes the plans were originally drawn up under Labour and were delayed by the present government. Some reports say the Great Western electrification is to be extended to Swansea, the usual terminus of fast trains from London, and also to the local lines round Cardiff.
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby george matthews » Mon Jul 16, 2012 1:39 pm

The local tv news is now saying that there will be overhead electrification from Reading to Southampton for the benefit of freight from Southampton Docks to the North. The plans I have heard of would see the wires extended from Reading to Oxford as part of the Great Western plan. Now it has been announced the wires will be extended from Oxford to Nuneaton, past Birmingham.

The electrification to Southampton would cover part of the third rail network. There are several tunnels between Basingstoke and Southampton docks. The one in Southampton has already been enlarged twice, for bigger containers. Will it need enlarging again for the wires?

I would consider using class 92 locos which can use third rail and overhead (developed for the Channel tunnel routes and under-used). That would need more substations.
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby lpetrich » Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:21 pm

GM's links with titles added with Firefox extension Copy Link Text:
BBC News - Midlands line 'to be electrified'
BBC News - £9bn railway investment announced by coalition

I also found BBC News - MP calls for investment in Midland Mainline services, showing the Midlands line - almost straight between London and Sheffield. I checked on maps - British Isles and Ireland network at maps of railway-networks (bueker.net) It runs between the East Coast and West Coast Main Lines, and it's electrified out to Bedford, not very far in it.

The BBC article's map shows:
  • London - Reading - Bristol - Cardiff and suburbs - Swansea
  • Reading - Southampton
  • Reading - Oxford - Coventry - Nuneaton
  • A short segment north of Birmingham
  • Oxford - Bedford (may need reviving some now-abandoned lines)
  • Bedford - Derby - Sheffield with a branch before Derby to Nottingham
  • Liverpool - Manchester - York
  • Lines from Manchester and Liverpool northward to WCML
Seems like the UK has a lot of catching up before it can approach its neighbors on the Continent.
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby CP-4070 » Tue Jul 17, 2012 2:37 am

I guess that means an end for good ol' HST 125s
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby george matthews » Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:50 am

If this actually happens it will be a major development. The Southampton link would increase the amount of electric freight considerably. There is already quite a lot of freight on this line, hauled by Class 66 General Motors diesels, over the third rail and under the wires for parts of its route.

But the Southampton tunnel is a problem. I have already experienced two extended periods of rebuilding it, one of which caused me to miss a plane to Saudi Arabia. Will there be another period of months when the tunnel is disrupted?

Personally I hate everything about diesel and will be glad to see its use diminished. I especially hate its use on an otherwise electric route. British Rail used to change locomotives on reaching the wires. The "private" operators stopped doing that.
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby george matthews » Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:51 pm

The current fortnightly "Rail" magazine has a great deal on these new plans.

The Southampton route will extend to Oxford and then another branch will take trains east of Oxford to join the West Coast Mainline at Bletchley. This is mainly for freight. The wires would go on to Bedford and join the soon to be newly electrified Midland route. The whole electrified line from Southampton is being called the "Electric Spine".

However, one commentator says it is not clear whether the freight companies will buy electric locomotives to use this new route, and who would pay. Would they need new designs?

It is also not entirely clear where the money will come from for the plan as a whole.

One implication is that the new orders for Highish Speed trains will not need a version with diesel, as that was mainly for running trains beyond Cardiff to Swansea. Sensibly, the wires will now extend to Swansea. Though there may still be the problem of Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Inverness as these are the main use for HST125s on the East Coast route. I hate the idea of travelling all that way under the wires using diesel.

The same issue of the magazine has a long interview with Andrew MacNaughton, the chief engineer of HS2. He is very interesting on the design considerations for every aspect of this new route. He emphasises that a genuine High Speed line is in fact a complete new transport system with very little in common with the traditional rail system. The design of the stations is important, and of course the signalling systems. He says they are planning for 18 trains an hour.
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby David Benton » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:35 pm

sounds good , George . I take it Southhampton is England's main port , any others looking at rail to expand their territory ?.I wonder if Southhampton will look to serving France through the Chunnel ???
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby george matthews » Sat Jul 28, 2012 5:00 am

David Benton wrote:sounds good , George . I take it Southhampton is England's main port , any others looking at rail to expand their territory ?.I wonder if Southhampton will look to serving France through the Chunnel ???


Southampton is an important container port. It has a large rail transfer point which takes containers mainly to the midlands. The tunnel at Southampton has already been enlarged twice in my experience. I wonder if the last one made it ready for wires. I suspect not. There are two more short tunnels on the line between Winchester and Basingstoke. Probably the bridges will not need rebuilding after they raised them for the newest containers. The route is already cleared for the largest European freight gauge.

There are other container ports. Felixstowe is important and the rail line there has been invested in too. I am not sure whether there will be a wired route from there to the north, but there is one to London. British Rail used yo bring electric freight through North London and this would still be physically possible.

Freight through the Tunnel itself is a different matter. The volume has been disappointing though I believe it is picking up now. HS1 is cleared for wide loading gauge and a freight terminal is being built in East London. I think there may be a full gauge route to the Midlands.
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby SlowFreight » Sat Jul 28, 2012 6:13 pm

I don't understand the desire to electrify. Increasing loading gauge and axle loading provides a positive ROI, but electification doesn't. Especially for freight, it just doesn't pay off. For passenger, it only seems to help if you want high-speed lines.

???
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby george matthews » Sun Jul 29, 2012 4:17 am

SlowFreight wrote:I don't understand the desire to electrify. Increasing loading gauge and axle loading provides a positive ROI, but electification doesn't. Especially for freight, it just doesn't pay off. For passenger, it only seems to help if you want high-speed lines.

???

I don't understand why so many Americans seem so reluctant to phase out diesel. Do they actually want to be slaves of the oil producers?
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby SlowFreight » Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:54 am

US railroads don't phase out one technology for another if they have to lose money to do it. US freight railroads make their own capital allocation decisions for both rolling stock and infrastructure--and are steadily growing both their traffic volume and market share. European railroad "operators" are stuck with the infrastructure supplied (rather inefficiently) by the state. As a result, US railroads have always carried a much larger, more diverse traffic base far more efficiently than Europe. In Britain, the government forcibly destroyed wagonload railroading, which is 40% of the entire US traffic base. This means that in Britain alone, easily 1/3 to 1/2 of what should move by rail moves by trucks at 1/4 of the diesel efficiency. And last I checked, trucks don't have an alternative to hydrocarbons.

So, really, how do you define "enslaved" in this scenario?

It sure seems like Europe is "enslaved" to highly inefficient and expensive policymakers who push freight to the less-efficient mode and forcibly overinvest peoples' tax dollars in unproductive rail infrastructure.

But, really, it can't be that dark--why the obsession with electrification?
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby george matthews » Sun Jul 29, 2012 10:32 am

It sure seems like Europe is "enslaved" to highly inefficient and expensive policymakers who push freight to the less-efficient mode and forcibly overinvest peoples' tax dollars in unproductive rail infrastructure.


Let us just observe that European environments with very intensive use of all rail routes are different from the US. The best way of handling these intensive traffic flows is electrification. HS2 design assumes the systems will handle 18 tph.

We should also observe that cutting CO2 emissions is considered important over here, whereas the policy makers in the US apparently don't care.

Policy in Britain seems at last to have adopted the need for a network of electrified routes. Each additional electrified route makes operating trains easier. The Southampton route will allow electric traction all the way to the Midland Freight terminals.
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby SlowFreight » Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:06 am

george matthews wrote:
It sure seems like Europe is "enslaved" to highly inefficient and expensive policymakers who push freight to the less-efficient mode and forcibly overinvest peoples' tax dollars in unproductive rail infrastructure.


Let us just observe that European environments with very intensive use of all rail routes are different from the US. The best way of handling these intensive traffic flows is electrification. HS2 design assumes the systems will handle 18 tph.

We should also observe that cutting CO2 emissions is considered important over here, whereas the policy makers in the US apparently don't care.

Policy in Britain seems at last to have adopted the need for a network of electrified routes. Each additional electrified route makes operating trains easier. The Southampton route will allow electric traction all the way to the Midland Freight terminals.


Please elaborate on the difference in intensive use, particularly relative to its mix between freight and passenger. I'll presume momentarily that HS2 wants to segregate freight from passenger--correct me if I'm wrong. I've seen electrification projects that seemed to be done for reasons other than plugging gaps in the grid, and those are almost always a negative return.

Don't assume so quickly that cutting CO2 emissions is considered unimportant. Ask anyone facing EPA Tier IV emissions restrictions. Meanwhile, converting truck to rail is a CO2 reduction even when it's dieselized...same for getting people to take the train instead of drive. And the raw price of fuel has done a lot to decrease consumption and effect a modal shift--which equals a reduction in emissions.

Still, if the Southampton route doesn't permit standard European rolling stock at full axle loading, what is the benefit of being able to move an electrified freight train all the way to the Midland freight terminals? Can it possibly convert any more truck traffic to rail?
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Re: Electrifying the Midland Mainline

Postby george matthews » Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:10 pm

Still, if the Southampton route doesn't permit standard European rolling stock at full axle loading, what is the benefit of being able to move an electrified freight train all the way to the Midland freight terminals? Can it possibly convert any more truck traffic to rail?

In the last five years or so the Southampton route has been cleared for the largest modern containers. This includes rebuilding over-bridges and enlarging the three tunnels. On the whole I think they will have allowed space for overhead wires - I think all new developments on the railways allow for wires when rebuilding bridges.

The main aim of getting more containers on to trains is to reduce road lorry traffic. This is already a busy freight route but there are slots for more trains. The passenger route is already up to about 90mph using the third rail. I would think changing to the wires will increase capacity on the route by allowing higher speeds. I often pass along this route and the existing speeds are quite satisfactory but increase to 110 would be nice. However, this route from Waterloo will not need real High Speed.

As to full UIC gauge this will only be needed from the Tunnel. Trains will go to a transfer point in East London - Dagenham, probably. What chance is there of a full scale line to the North? There was a plan to build a line via the former Great Central route. A private consortium claimed it would need no public money but the Labour government withheld support and its plans never got to Parliament. The later Deputy PM John Prescott was enthusiastic about in 1995 when I heard him lecture on it at a Party Conference. That route will no longer be available when HS2 is built. Will HS2 take any freight? On the whole I doubt it, even at night as I assume they will use French practice and do maintenance at night. But we shall see.
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