Central Railway Redux

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HSTEd

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Well I am sure many of you are aware of the basic concept of the "Central railway" project, but I will briefly restate it here for the uniniated.

They wish to build a railway from the Channel Tunnel terminal at Cheriton to the vicinity of Birmingham/Manchester to carry "piggyback" TOFC services to the various logistics depots in that area from the continent, using the rationale that there is already two transhipment moves taking place and that TOFC with flat wagons would not be that hard even compared to the current drive on move.

Moving trailers on flatwagons requires an enormous gauge and is only just accomodated by the Channel Tunnel (which incidentally allows passage of doublestack 8'6" containers but those are pretty much obsolete).

So this line would require rather excessive guaging which is why I'm not sure the choice of following much of the alignment of the Great Central Main line is a wise decisision, as I think that if we are going to do this we should do it properly (the rather puny loading gauge the GCML was built to may have been better than the others at the time but is hardly adequate these days).

In my opinion the route should throw the European loading gauge book out of the window and go for a derivative of AAR "Plate H" with 20'2" of clearance above the railhead. This would enable any future domestic double stack operations to be accomodated (for instance with a branch to Felixstowe)

Unfortunately such a route would, with overhead wiring, require going on 23 feet of overhead clearence above the railhead to accomodate all the extra equipment.

So what would be a route from FOlkestone to Birmingham/Manchester that required the least amount of work?

Using a combination of new track to disused railway alignments, a route east of the capital is preferred with a new Thames crossing as this allows access to the Thames Gateway port project and the prospect of a short branch to Felixstowe.

Any suggestions then?
 
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WatcherZero

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I cant really see a new freight line ever getting built, Hs2 is barely scraping past the bean counters and protests and the cost would lead to astronomical usage costs. Its only really practical to keep expanding an existing corridor RA a little at a time.
 

Chris125

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I really cant see the logic in building it to some fantasy mega-gauge, allowing for longer trains makes far more sense if through running onto the existing network isnt a concern.

That said i cant see the logic in any of it, a route between London and the Midlands is just far too short to make dedicated services worthwhile and routing existing railfreight up it would probably cause as many capacity problems at is it solves.

With so much of the formation needing to be new or rebuilt virtually from from scratch it would cheaper to build a completely new alignment, and so you may as well build a HSL - far greater benefits for the economy and the existing railway network.

Chris
 

HSTEd

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I really cant see the logic in building it to some fantasy mega-gauge, allowing for longer trains makes far more sense if through running onto the existing network isnt a concern.

That said i cant see the logic in any of it, a route between London and the Midlands is just far too short to make dedicated services worthwhile and routing existing railfreight up it would probably cause as many capacity problems at is it solves.

With so much of the formation needing to be new or rebuilt virtually from from scratch it would cheaper to build a completely new alignment, and so you may as well build a HSL - far greater benefits for the economy and the existing railway network.

Chris
Well the problem is you need a huge gauge to do the TOFC piggybacks properly as otherwise you run into problems with not being able to accept the increasingly larger trailers that are appearing these days, so the system would never be able to capture a significant portion fo the market.

And once you are building a line to a large gauge putting a couple of extra feet onto the top of it is not going to cost that much more and it is hardly a "fantasy" gauge, thousands of containers travel thousands of miles every day using such a gauge in China, India and the US.

The route is not London to the Midlands, the primary route of the flows envisaged by the project is Coquelles to the Midlands avoiding London.
The same number of transhipment steps is required in either case, that being 2 (all this does is move one 300km further north) and the greater time for loading relative to the current Tunnel freight Shuttles is offset by not having to pay the drivers for several hours of driving in the middle.

Building HS2 does not seem to have that much of an impact on the primary freight problem facing the UK at this time, which is the extremely crowded nature of the lines through and around London which cause issues from moving freight from South of the capital to the north.
Additionally the sort of trains envisaged by the Central Railway project are a mile long and carrying 90 trailers, probably coming in at around 2800 trailing tonnes.
Assuming you want delivery speeds equivalent or superior to road transport that means they would have to have something on order of 5hp per trailling tonne which leads you to the range of 14000hp.

This is equivalent to 4 Class 70s travelling in multiple, which means you would now have mile long diesel hauled trains with 4 PowerHauls transiting the lines around London. (Third rail could never hope to support the power requirements of such a train, even without all the other traffic).

HS2 won't help the fact that the additional freight paths available on the main lines are for conventional length trains with a rather more restricted loading gauge, nor will help the "Cross London Freight crisis".

Additionally such a route would be less expensive per kilometre than HS2 thanks to it not going into central London and requiring rebuilding of existing stations in city centre locations. Additionally it can go around AONBs thanks to its low top speeds and avoid large multiple mile long tunnels.
It can also have (worst come to worst), level crossings thanks to its 75-80mph speed limit.
 

Chris125

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There is no convincing argument im afraid, if its to get freight around London there are much cheaper and easier ways but there isnt the volume (atm) to justify them.

Chris
 

Bald Rick

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The route is not London to the Midlands, the primary route of the flows envisaged by the project is Coquelles to the Midlands avoiding London.

It can also have (worst come to worst), level crossings thanks to its 75-80mph speed limit.
Afraid there isn't much of an intermodal market Coquelles - Midlands (or further north). In fact not much of a market from Europe - Midlands. That which comes from Europe isgenerally served more efficiently by chip from Rotterdam / Baltic ports - Felixstowe / Immingham / Tees / Tyne ports.

The main intermodal market is China / Taiwan / Vietnam to Midlands distribution centres, and it comes in boxes via Felixstowe and Southampton.
 

HSTEd

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Afraid there isn't much of an intermodal market Coquelles - Midlands (or further north). In fact not much of a market from Europe - Midlands. That which comes from Europe isgenerally served more efficiently by chip from Rotterdam / Baltic ports - Felixstowe / Immingham / Tees / Tyne ports.

The main intermodal market is China / Taiwan / Vietnam to Midlands distribution centres, and it comes in boxes via Felixstowe and Southampton.
Out of interest.... where do all the Lorries using the freight shuttles go?

I assume the traffic is increasing, what with the uprating of the Shuttle locomotives.
 

jopsuk

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Up the M20 and then they clog up the M25, that's where most of the lorries go... remember that as well as through the tunnel, there's frieght only ferries into Dover as well as many lorries on each "normal" ferry". The Dover ferries/tunnel take a lot of time-sensitive food etc, that intermodal is just too slow in transhipping normally.
 

HSTEd

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Up the M20 and then they clog up the M25, that's where most of the lorries go... remember that as well as through the tunnel, there's frieght only ferries into Dover as well as many lorries on each "normal" ferry". The Dover ferries/tunnel take a lot of time-sensitive food etc, that intermodal is just too slow in transhipping normally.
I was proposing what would be by American standards a "hotshot" freight.... remember the freight train can leave the Chunnel doing 75mph and potentially keep that up all the way to Birmingham if its on a dedicated line. (Or indeed to the M25.... you could always just extend some of the tunnel shuttles to the M25 if you wantaed).

HGVs are limited to 56mph aren't they?

So it would all depend on how long loading the trailer on and off the train takes compared to loading and unloading the tunnel shuttle (or ferries) takes really?

I shall have to look that time up.

EDIT:
Apparently roughly two minutes per trailer per unloading machine (based on American experience).

So a mile long train with ~90 trailers and shall we say 5 unloading machines (they are quite cheap really and only need one man to operate them) would be able to fully unload the train in 36 minutes.....
 
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WatcherZero

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Was an article just last week on NR plans to clear GCR/Great Eastern as the main trunk eurofreight route with some minor reopenings.
 

jopsuk

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I was proposing what would be by American standards a "hotshot" freight.... remember the freight train can leave the Chunnel doing 75mph and potentially keep that up all the way to Birmingham if its on a dedicated line. (Or indeed to the M25.... you could always just extend some of the tunnel shuttles to the M25 if you wantaed).

HGVs are limited to 56mph aren't they?

So it would all depend on how long loading the trailer on and off the train takes compared to loading and unloading the tunnel shuttle (or ferries) takes really?

I shall have to look that time up.

EDIT:
Apparently roughly two minutes per trailer per unloading machine (based on American experience).

So a mile long train with ~90 trailers and shall we say 5 unloading machines (they are quite cheap really and only need one man to operate them) would be able to fully unload the train in 36 minutes.....
There's European designs that improve on that- one design that uses terminals with a load/unload for every vehicle, and another that just needs a hard apron either side of the track. Just hook up your road tractor units and drive off.
 

HSTEd

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Problem with the European designs is that they tend to require modifications to full blown flat wagons whereas the American system uses spine wagons like these which have the benefit of significantly reduced weight per trailer carried. (Those have 10.5t deadweight per trailer carried and the heavier double-duty trailer/container ones are 13.5t per trailer/container).

EDIT:

Does anyone know what loading gauge the GCML was built to in the first place?
If its simply amatter of digging a ten foot trench in the existing alignment then the costs probably aren't that high.
(Earth moving is remarkably cheap these days).

Also: since the Channel Tunnel would be able to accept double stack 8'6" boxes but not double stack 9'6" boxes would that be a reprieve for 8'6" boxes? (Only one transhipment move to go from the ordinary railway to the Chunnel/Central Railway gaining double stack for the last few hundred miles, even half a move if the containers could simply be put on top of another train.)
 
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jopsuk

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Chris125

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Does anyone know what loading gauge the GCML was built to in the first place?
If its simply amatter of digging a ten foot trench in the existing alignment then the costs probably aren't that high.
(Earth moving is remarkably cheap these days).
The GCML loading guage was larger than typical but not by much, and digging a ten foot trench to change that just isnt practical - realistically every cutting, embankment, tunnel, overbridge and underbridge would be affected with most needing major work if not complete renewal, just to re-use an alignment that now passes straight through numerous towns and villages with all the controversy and compensation that would entail.

I really cant see how using an alignment only to completely rebuild it is cheaper than building a new one from scratch, which may as well be a HSL which can deliver far greater benefits than removing some lorries from a couple of motorways.

Chris
 

HSTEd

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The tare weight of a Modalohr wagon is 37.5t for two trailers carried which translates to ~18.75t per trailer. Compared to the stated 10.5-13.5t for the spine wagons.

Additionally the promotional material quotes a 2hr loading cycle with "under 30 minutes" to unload the entire train, which is a little bit odd really since they would surely be using the best possible case.
It appears it would not save that much time (which is rather strange I think from the locks of it).

And then there is manufacturer lock-in to consider.
An intermodal team with straddle cranes can also unload/load boxes in between the arrival of lorry shuttles, so its not exactly clear whether or not that it would really be worth it.
And if we are building a new line on the Manchester-Birmingham-Cheriton axis the costs of certifying the chosen wagon on the Chunnel are probably minimal.

But it is an interesting question.

The GCML loading guage was larger than typical but not by much, and digging a ten foot trench to change that just isnt practical - realistically every cutting, embankment, tunnel, overbridge and underbridge would be affected with most needing major work if not complete renewal, just to re-use an alignment that now passes straight through numerous towns and villages with all the controversy and compensation that would entail.

I really cant see how using an alignment only to completely rebuild it is cheaper than building a new one from scratch, which may as well be a HSL which can deliver far greater benefits than removing some lorries from a couple of motorways.

Chris

Where would this High Speed Line go? The commited HS2 project has pretty much taken the only links with viable High Speed Rail markets by current estimates.
So unless you are proposing a duplicate line to Manchester which would be rather wasteful I can't see why a HSL would be better than building this particular project.

You might as well say that any and all line reopenings/new construction/upgrades should be scrapped in favour of putting everything into High Speed Rail.... which is I believe the strategy that got SNCF regional trains into the trouble they are in.
 

Chris125

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Where would this High Speed Line go? The commited HS2 project has pretty much taken the only links with viable High Speed Rail markets by current estimates.
So unless you are proposing a duplicate line to Manchester which would be rather wasteful I can't see why a HSL would be better than building this particular project.
I assumed this was being considered sepeately to HS2 as i cant see how both could be justified - as you yourself say, there is no need for another line based on current estimates whether for freight or passengers.

That may change, but it will remain the case that railfreight, passengers and the economy would benefit much more from increased capacity on the existing network, and HSL's (or at least sections of it) where providing that is no longer economic, than a dedicated freight line whose main beneficiary would surely be motorways and little else.

Chris
 

HSTEd

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I assumed this was being considered sepeately to HS2 as i cant see how both could be justified - as you yourself say, there is no need for another line based on current estimates whether for freight or passengers.

That may change, but it will remain the case that railfreight, passengers and the economy would benefit much more from increased capacity on the existing network, and HSL's (or at least sections of it) where providing that is no longer economic, than a dedicated freight line whose main beneficiary would surely be motorways and little else.

Chris
But conventional british railway lines are not capable of handling piggyback trains, even with that Modalohr technology, which means they will not be able to capture a significant portion of the end to end market as it stands.

And if you were to suggest gauge clearing one of the main lines to do it thats a massive rebuild... since you would effectively have to clear the entier thing for double decker trains.....
Would make the WCRM look like weekend engineering works.
 

Chris125

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But conventional british railway lines are not capable of handling piggyback trains, even with that Modalohr technology, which means they will not be able to capture a significant portion of the end to end market as it stands.
Can running piggyback trains to the midlands instead of Ripple Lane really justify spending billions on a dedicated freight only line? There still isnt much demand for cross-channel freight, at least partially due to the cost which i dont see this alleviating, and even if the demand was there the main beneficiary would still be the M1 with few real wider economic benefits.

If nothing else its a question of priorities - you'd get far more bang for your buck spending the same amount of money increasing capacity for passengers and freight on the existing network, catering for traffic that doesnt need a dedicated route with a super-enhanced loading guage such as container flows from the ports.

Chris
 

HSTEd

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Can running piggyback trains to the midlands instead of Ripple Lane really justify spending billions on a dedicated freight only line? There still isnt much demand for cross-channel freight, at least partially because of the cost which a dedicated line would only make worse with track access charges needing to cover the whole cost of the project - and even if the demand was there, the main beneficiary would still be the M1 slow lane with no real wider economic benefit.

You'd get far more economic benefit spending the same amount of money increasing capacity for passengers and freight on the existing network, catering for traffic that doesnt need a dedicated super-enhanced loading guage.

Chris
Problem is I don't think running freight trains to Ripple Lane over HS1 is viable in the long term, what with the success of the domestic high speed services and the increased number of International trains on the horizon.

If they complain about 140mph trains blocking the line imagine how they feel about 70mph ones.

There is also the wider environmental and economic benefits of reducing the amount of traffic on the M1 and thus postponing (perhaps indefinately) any further upgrade works on the route.
And the elimination of any need for Operation Stack to ever happen again.
 

Chris125

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Problem is I don't think running freight trains to Ripple Lane over HS1 is viable in the long term, what with the success of the domestic high speed services and the increased number of International trains on the horizon.

If they complain about 140mph trains blocking the line imagine how they feel about 70mph ones.

There is also the wider environmental and economic benefits of reducing the amount of traffic on the M1 and thus postponing (perhaps indefinately) any further upgrade works on the route.
And the elimination of any need for Operation Stack to ever happen again.
What little HS1 freight there is currently runs at night for precisely that reason, and much of that uses it for convenience and speed rather than the loading gauge anyway. We are a long way from needing a dedicated freight line from Cheriton, let alone one north of the capital.

I really dont think you can justify building a dedicated freight line to relieve congestion on the M1 either, as upgrades to the existing network and/or further sections of HSL would be just as (if not much more) effective at removing both lorries and cars from it than one purely aimed at piggyback traffic to and from the midlands.

Chris
 

HSTEd

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What little HS1 freight there is currently runs at night for precisely that reason, and much of that uses it for convenience and speed rather than the loading gauge anyway. We are a long way from needing a dedicated freight line from Cheriton, let alone one north of the capital.

I really dont think you can justify building a dedicated freight line to relieve congestion on the M1 either, as upgrades to the existing network and/or further sections of HSL would be just as (if not much more) effective at removing both lorries and cars from it than one purely aimed at piggyback traffic to and from the midlands.

Chris
It is not purely aimed at piggyback traffic (that probably amounts to no more than tw train per hour really, possibly three @90 trailers per train).... there would be double stack containers from Thamesport and possibly from Felixstowe via a spur, and then there is the potential to extend some of the Car shuttles north to the M25. (Is there a study on the destinations of people using the car shuttles?)

Nighttime freight has been seen to be a major turnoff for people actually wanting to use freight, in the era of just-in-time delivery waiting 12 hours for it to be night before you can send your load is a none option.
 

Chris125

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It is not purely aimed at piggyback traffic (that probably amounts to no more than tw train per hour really, possibly three @90 trailers per train).... there would be double stack containers from Thamesport and possibly from Felixstowe via a spur, and then there is the potential to extend some of the Car shuttles north to the M25. (Is there a study on the destinations of people using the car shuttles?)

Nighttime freight has been seen to be a major turnoff for people actually wanting to use freight, in the era of just-in-time delivery waiting 12 hours for it to be night before you can send your load is a none option.
Im reminded of BML2 - a solution looking for a problem. However as i've said all along there are far more cost effective ways of achieving the same thing which produce far wider benefits.

You just cant justify a multi-multi-billion pound project with doublestack container trains when there's no need. Relieving the M20 slightly by extending car shuttles nearer London can hardly justify the cost either, nor can allowing the tiny number of european-size freight trains using HS1 to access London during the day.

Chris
 

jopsuk

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there is the potential to extend some of the Car shuttles north to the M25. (Is there a study on the destinations of people using the car shuttles?)
The Shuttle trains really aren't suitable for journeys of more than about half an hour...
 

HSTEd

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The Shuttle trains really aren't suitable for journeys of more than about half an hour...
Really? people have journeys on trains with no toilets at all, let alone dining facilities, that are longer than that, and they aren't significantly less comfortable sitting around in their own vehicles than they would be on such a commuter train.

And since the trains already manage a nigh on 60mph average speed during the Channel crossing making them head 4-50 miles inland to the M25 or its vicinity is not going to extend the journey by more than roughly half an hour-40 minutes. (Is the top speed of the shuttle in service 75 or 99mph (the maximum speed of the locomotives)? hard to find any info on that).
 

jopsuk

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you'd really want to be going to the north west side of the M25 I reckon, to minimise impact on the ring of doom itself. So you'd be looking at more like an hour and half to two hours, realistically. Yes, fine, they have loos, and the seats are comfy(!), but they're almost windowless boxes! Fine for the tunnel, but beyond?
 

Chris125

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While extending the car shuttles on a dedicated line to the M25 is technically possible, what benefit does it provide that justifies a new multi-billion pound line? A nice-to-have perhaps, but removing cars and coaches from the M20, a large proportion of which travels outside of the most congested times of day, doesnt provide much of a business case.

IMO a new dedicated freight line from Cheriton can only be justified by a sufficiently high volume of freight through the channel that cant fit the UK loading gauge, overwhelms HS1, and which would remain viable despite paying relatively high track access charges to both pay off the costs for the channel tunnel and a dedicated line. Unless there is a massive increase in demand for cross-channel freight, i see nothing to suggest that's going to happen.

Chris
 

JGR

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If HS1 had been built to the same loading gauge as the tunnel, the idea may well have had some merit. However there's absolutely no point spending vast sums building a new line, or totally revamping an existing, one just for vehicle freight when there is a perfectly good motorway, already.

The "ring of doom" problem could be tackled much more effectively by just building a third crossing of some sort at Dartford, as that is the main bottleneck.
 

JohnB57

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...and then there is the potential to extend some of the Car shuttles north to the M25.
My understanding is that the Shuttle trains are not compatible with the OLE on HS1, or anywhere beyond the tunnel complex. The OLE needs to be higher through the tunnel to cater for the double height car and truck vehicles.

...edit... you meant on a dedicated line. Must read all the thread, twit!!
 
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