Colwich Junction in the 1980s vs today

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MarkWi72

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I wonder if anyone could confirm (or otherwise), if the layout and logistical set up at Colwich is the same as it was in the 80s. Did the Sept '86 accident change the working or layout much? I can't see if much could have changed with the physical layout itself.
 
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LNW-GW Joint

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Colwich Junction is now controlled from Stoke SCC.
There must have been some changes as a result of the Trent Valley 4-tracking, and the WCML line designations have certainly changed.
But the basic layout, 4 tracks into 2x2, remains pretty much as it was.
The main difference after WCRM was that the Down Manchester from Armitage became the Down TV Fast with a 65mph link at Colwich to the Down Stafford, and carries much more traffic than before, at higher speeds.
 

MarkWi72

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Colwich Junction is now controlled from Stoke SCC.
There must have been some changes as a result of the Trent Valley 4-tracking, and the WCML line designations have certainly changed.
But the basic layout, 4 tracks into 2x2, remains pretty much as it was.
The main difference after WCRM was that the Down Manchester from Armitage became the Down TV Fast with a 65mph link at Colwich to the Down Stafford, and carries much more traffic than before, at higher speeds.
Yes, thanks for that. Of course, the line from Stone via Hixon , must be busier than in the 80s. I recall a lot of Manchester trains went via Crewe then, judging by my time at spotting and potgraphing at Stafford in the 80s. Possibly hardly any now. I can't imagine any Euston -Manchester trains went off at Norton Bridge either, back then. None do now.
 

Rail Ranger

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The normal Euston to Manchester timetable has three trains per hour each way. Two of these go via Stoke and one via Crewe and Wilmslow.
 

jfollows

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Layouts then and now attached: "then" around 1980 and "now" immediately following the Trent Valley four-tracking. The down slow and down fast lines swapped over, in terms of their names, because it used to be faster to use the left-hand track of the four for fast trains heading towards Stafford because of the junction at Armitage.
1628525840878.png

Yes, thanks for that. Of course, the line from Stone via Hixon , must be busier than in the 80s. I recall a lot of Manchester trains went via Crewe then, judging by my time at spotting and potgraphing at Stafford in the 80s. Possibly hardly any now. I can't imagine any Euston -Manchester trains went off at Norton Bridge either, back then. None do now.
In the 1970s my local station was Macclesfield, and probably around two thirds of the London-Manchester trains went that way, with the remaining third going via Crewe. That was probably much the same in the 1980s. And, indeed, as Rail Ranger already commented, in normal circumstances that's much the ratio today - just with far more trains.

Did the Sept '86 accident change the working or layout much?
The accident was attributed to the driver of the Manchester train mis-interpreting the flashing signal aspects he was given; he was travelling down the fast line and the flashing aspects informed him that he was routed over a diverging route - namely the crossover from the fast to slow lines immediately before the junction (CH18 to CH23). He wrongly thought that they meant that the route over the conflicting junction beyond this was also clear, and was travelling too fast then to stop at his red signal protecting the junction (CH23 then, as in 2008 also).

Following the accident the operating of flashing signal aspects was changed to be clearer - it was the driver's mistake but it was relatively easy to see how he could have made it. However, the change was made everywhere, not just at Colwich Junction. The change was essentially only to allow flashing aspects to be used if a route is clear for a diverging route across the entire junction, essentially mapping to what the driver had been expecting.
 

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MarkWi72

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Thankyou both for explaining this. This is how I imagined the Junction to be. The report on the crash is critical of both the operationall structure of the Junction and the driver of the Manchester train. And thankyou for explaining the ratio of Via Crewe agaist via Stoke/Hixon trains. It has been a while since I went to Colwich , but I aim to visit soon and get a few photos.
 

Watershed

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There's a footbridge, accessed via a footpath along the back of the primary school, which affords a good view of the junction:

IMG_20210809_200401.jpg
 

Wyrleybart

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The accident was attributed to the driver of the Manchester train mis-interpreting the flashing signal aspects he was given; he was travelling down the fast line and the flashing aspects informed him that he was routed over a diverging route - namely the crossover from the fast to slow lines immediately before the junction (CH18 to CH23). He wrongly thought that they meant that the route over the conflicting junction beyond this was also clear, and was travelling too fast then to stop at his red signal protecting the junction (CH23 then, as in 2008 also).

Following the accident the operating of flashing signal aspects was changed to be clearer - it was the driver's mistake but it was relatively easy to see how he could have made it. However, the change was made everywhere, not just at Colwich Junction. The change was essentially only to allow flashing aspects to be used if a route is clear for a diverging route across the entire junction, essentially mapping to what the driver had been expecting.
Whilst it was the driver's fault, I personally believe the person in the driving seat was very much misled.

The whole ethos of flashing yellows was to "tell" the driver the route was clear through the junction, and I still don't accept that a crossover "fast to slow", or "slow to fast" is a junction. I believe the person driving the Manchester bound train believed the route all the way across Colwich junction was his, and he didn't expect a red prior to the junction. As a result he passed this thread then the loco derailed on the switch diamonds right in the path of the Up express from Liverpool.

There is another angle to this, in that the Manchester bound train could be turned through the crossover and held at the red it should have stopped at, in order to allow a following Down service to continue unabated, whilst the Manchester service waited for the junction to become clear.

I wasn't party to the signalling briefings the drivers received in the 1980s but sufficient stress should have been applied to training and briefing to warn of SPAD traps like this.
 

midland1

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The first place to have flashing yellows was a fast to slow junction. The driver may also have been mislead by at Norton Bridge a few miles on the flashing yellows took you right across the junction. I agree it was a bit of a trap.
 

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A couple of points:
1) The original installation of flashing yellows was indeed a SPAD trap. One result of the accident was to change the signalling standards nationally, so you can now only get a flashing aspect if the route is set through to the signal beyond the fouling point. In other words, if you get flashing yellows approaching Colwich then you know the route is set right through the junction.
2) Another point is that to get free approach to a junction (i.e. no timed approach controls) then normally the speed of the diverging route(s) must be no more than 10 mph. At Colwich (as shown in the diagram above) they are 20 mph (45 mph / 65 mph). Originally (as commissioned) there was a short section of 55 mph limit before the 45 mph over the junction, in order to be compliant. Somebody - I know not whom - took the decision to remove that section, so the result is a junction which is (strictly speaking) non-compliant with the signalling rules.
 

satisnek

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So is the Down Fast to Stafford route slower now than it was before?

Whenever I go past Colwich, whether by train or boat, I always think of the innocent driver of the Up train - unbelievably the only fatality in what was a truly mega smash. The last few seconds of his life must have passed by like a minute or more.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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So is the Down Fast to Stafford route slower now than it was before?
The OLD Down Fast (left hand track, now the Down TV Slow) is unchanged at 110mph through Rugeley reducing to 90mph through the junction at Colwich.
The present Down TV Fast (second left) was previously the Down Manchester, with no link to the Down Stafford, and was/is 45mph through the junction towards Stoke.
Since WCRM, this is a 110/125EPS route through Rugeley which ticks down to the 45mph for Stoke, but now also has a 65mph link to the Down Stafford.
So over a short stretch, the fast line route is slower than the adjacent "slow" line.
Most Avanti services use the Fast, while freight and LNWR (calling at TV stations) use the Slow.
 

jfollows

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So is the Down Fast to Stafford route slower now than it was before?
Yes, and no.
Yes, because what used to be called the Down Fast was 90mph towards Stafford whereas the Down Slow was 50mph.
No, because the Down Fast was renamed the Down Trent Valley Slow and remains 90mph towards Stafford. The Down Slow was renamed the Down Trent Valley Fast and is now 65mph towards Stafford.
If you compare the two diagrams I posted it should be clear enough I hope.
The real answer is "no" because nothing was downgraded, in fact one route was upgraded.
 

Wilts Wanderer

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On the assumption that Avanti services towards Stafford use the Down Fast along the Trent Valley, where do they now cross to the Down Slow before passing through Colwich? Surely not the 65mph turnout at the junction. Is there a higher speed option at Armitage/Rugeley?
 

jfollows

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On the assumption that Avanti services towards Stafford use the Down Fast along the Trent Valley, where do they now cross to the Down Slow before passing through Colwich? Surely not the 65mph turnout at the junction. Is there a higher speed option at Armitage/Rugeley?
They use the 65mph crossing at Colwich. For sure. The ability to run almost uninterrupted at 125mph from the curves at Atherstone makes this a relatively small price to pay. Plus there's a need to slow down after Colwich Junction anyway, albeit not to 65mph (to 90mph initially, then to 85mph at Whitehouse Junction, around 3 miles further down the route).

There's also too much traffic using the slow lines to warrant switching to them earlier, even if a higher speed turnout were to be constructed.

The present Down TV Fast (second left) was previously the Down Manchester, with no link to the Down Stafford, and was/is 45mph through the junction towards Stoke.
Unless it was removed later, there's a 50mph crossover at Colwich Junction between the Down Slow to the Down Stafford in my ~1980 diagram attached earlier. I don't recall this being removed at any time, but that's not to say that it wasn't. In any case, it's now been replaced by a 65mph crossover from the Down Trent Valley Fast.

EDIT Such a link existed at the time of the crash, and is shown in the accident report plan attached.


Related: In the first iteration of the Virgin timetable with 3 trains/hour London-Birmingham/Manchester, and given that I live in Wilmslow, it's no surprise that I generally use the xx.40 departures from Euston which call at Crewe only before Wilmslow. In the first timetable we were booked to follow the Euston-Crewe EMU from Colwich to Stafford, where it stopped and we didn't.
The problem was that the EMU often ran late. We would then pass it somewhere around its Rugely TV stop, but then someone or something (probably ARS) decided to stick to the booked plan, and we therefore ground to a halt at Colwich Junction to wait for it to whirr past us, then followed it to Stafford. Even a slowdown to 65mph was better than this.
This particular clash was solved when the Euston-Crewe EMUs were retimed at 110mph and missed out Northampton - they're no longer there at Rugeley to hold us up! Unfortunately instead the previous hour's xx.43 from Euston to Glasgow/Edinburgh (via Birmingham) achieves the same thing at Stafford when it's a few minutes late, although immediately pre-covid it seemed to be better at running to time and not holding us up.
 

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The Planner

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On the assumption that Avanti services towards Stafford use the Down Fast along the Trent Valley, where do they now cross to the Down Slow before passing through Colwich? Surely not the 65mph turnout at the junction. Is there a higher speed option at Armitage/Rugeley?
Only a 50mph DF to DS at Curborough which is approach control from yellow, not flashers.
 

Statto

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Whilst it was the driver's fault, I personally believe the person in the driving seat was very much misled.

The whole ethos of flashing yellows was to "tell" the driver the route was clear through the junction, and I still don't accept that a crossover "fast to slow", or "slow to fast" is a junction. I believe the person driving the Manchester bound train believed the route all the way across Colwich junction was his, and he didn't expect a red prior to the junction. As a result he passed this thread then the loco derailed on the switch diamonds right in the path of the Up express from Liverpool.

There is another angle to this, in that the Manchester bound train could be turned through the crossover and held at the red it should have stopped at, in order to allow a following Down service to continue unabated, whilst the Manchester service waited for the junction to become clear.

I wasn't party to the signalling briefings the drivers received in the 1980s but sufficient stress should have been applied to training and briefing to warn of SPAD traps like this.

Another angle, the signaller could also have set the points from down fast to down main, although it would have sent the Manchester train via Stafford rather than the direct route, but would have given the up train from Liverpool protection, & avoided the collision.
 

jfollows

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Another angle, the signaller could also have set the points from down fast to down main, although it would have sent the Manchester train via Stafford rather than the direct route, but would have given the up train from Liverpool protection, & avoided the collision.
The absence of such "flank protection" is brought up in the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colwich_rail_crash and presumably in the report - it is suggested that this setting of points should have been automatic and is a discussion point for the Ladbroke Grove crash in 1999.

As Wikipedia goes on to say, such "flank protection" at Colwich would have blocked parallel movements of trains from the (then) down fast towards Stafford, so it wasn't implemented.

EDIT The report stated that "physical flank protection" wasn't possible: (https://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/DoT_Colwich1988.pdf)
1628593750321.png
85. The signalling at Colwich Junction at the time of the accident was such that it was impossible to provide physical flank protection between the Down Slow - Down Manchester line and the Up Main - Up Fast line as to route the former away from the latter would necessitate routing it to the Down Fast - Down Main Line which is not only physically prevented by the interlocking, but could also result in a major collision in the event of a train running by Signal CH23 with an express train on the Down Fast. Similarly, to provide trap points in the very restricted overlap of Signal CH23 would in the case of a runby, run the risk of a major collision with a train on the Down Fast or Up Main line depending on which way it was laid. I am glad to report that, following the accident, the London Midland Region altered the signalling arrangement on the approach to Colwich so that Flashing Yellow aspects at Signals CH105 and CH103 can only be displayed to a train approaching crossover No. 24 on the Down Fast if Signal CH23 is showing a proceed aspect. That is to say the train is signalled to proceed across the junction onto the Manchester line.
 
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Watershed

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The absence of such "flank protection" is brought up in the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colwich_rail_crash and presumably in the report - it is suggested that this setting of points should have been automatic and is a discussion point for the Ladbroke Grove crash in 1999.

As Wikipedia goes on to say, such "flank protection" at Colwich would have blocked parallel movements of trains from the (then) down fast towards Stafford, so it wasn't implemented.
There are alternatives that would have kept parallel movements. For example you could have a warner route, if the overlap from the signal protecting Colwich Jn (on the Down Manchester, now the Down TV Fast) would otherwise extend onto the Down Stafford/TV Slow.

One option that would still provide some protection, even if not perfect, would be to automatically swing the overlap towards the DS, even if it can be swung back again in the event of a parallel movement.
 

jfollows

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There are alternatives that would have kept parallel movements. For example you could have a warner route, if the overlap from the signal protecting Colwich Jn (on the Down Manchester, now the Down TV Fast) would otherwise extend onto the Down Stafford/TV Slow.

One option that would still provide some protection, even if not perfect, would be to automatically swing the overlap towards the DS, even if it can be swung back again in the event of a parallel movement.
I agree for sure, but presumably the warner route arrangement would have reversed the perceived benefits of the flashing signals and slowed trains through the junction (in the interest of safety, to be fair), which was the opposite result the signalling was trying to achieve at the time.
 

Taunton

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The absence of such "flank protection" is brought up in the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colwich_rail_crash and presumably in the report - it is suggested that this setting of points should have been automatic and is a discussion point for the Ladbroke Grove crash in 1999.

As Wikipedia goes on to say, such "flank protection" at Colwich would have blocked parallel movements of trains from the (then) down fast towards Stafford, so it wasn't implemented.
The absence of flank protection has been responsible for a string of accidents, particularly in the 1990s. I've gone on about it at Ladbroke Grove before, which is a very comparable situation.

For the points at Colwich to have been set to the left seems a no-brainer. It doesn't have to be the whole crossover, just the facing points. If a Manchester train was being pulled up there it's unlikely that anything could get alongside it at full speed in the time available - but very likely that the reason it's being pulled up is an oncoming head-on movement on the Up Main. As happened. Any sensible risk assessment should have worked this out.
 

Wilts Wanderer

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They use the 65mph crossing at Colwich. For sure. The ability to run almost uninterrupted at 125mph from the curves at Atherstone makes this a relatively small price to pay. Plus there's a need to slow down after Colwich Junction anyway, albeit not to 65mph (to 85mph at Whitehouse Junction, around 3 miles further down the route).

There's also too much traffic using the slow lines to warrant switching to them earlier, even if a higher speed turnout were to be constructed.

Only a 50mph DF to DS at Curborough which is approach control from yellow, not flashers.

Thanks both. The time with which I’m familiar with the area (mid 90s) the Stone-bound traffic ran Slow line from Armitage to Colwich - presumably to consciously avoid the circumstances of the Colwich accident, despite the revised flashing sequence? - and the Stafford-bound traffic used the Fast line, through the platform at Rugeley. I’m a bit surprised a 125mph turnout wasn’t included in the new layout but I guess there was a considerable cost-reduction pressure on the WCRM, I wonder if such a crossover was ever planned to be included?
 

The Planner

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There has always been talk of spreading the junction out to try and get some higher speeds but the resignalling in a couple of years is like for like.
 

Dr Hoo

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I’m a bit surprised a 125mph turnout wasn’t included in the new layout but I guess there was a considerable cost-reduction pressure on the WCRM, I wonder if such a crossover was ever planned to be included?
I may be mis-understanding your point but I can't really see the benefits of a 'scorching' approach to what is always going to be a fairly significant reduction in speed on the curve at Colwich itself.
 

jfollows

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I may be mis-understanding your point but I can't really see the benefits of a 'scorching' approach to what is always going to be a fairly significant reduction in speed on the curve at Colwich itself.
Your understanding is correct, the benefits would be small for a lot of money given the significant speed restrictions which follow soon after on the main line route to Stafford.
And, in response to another post, the current setup has been in place for more than ten years, the diagram I posted earlier is dated 2008 and is effectively current.
EDIT The layout and its restrictions need to be understood in the context of the Trent Valley four-tracking and the fact that this places the fast lines in the centre of the formation.
 

Bald Rick

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There has always been talk of spreading the junction out to try and get some higher speeds but the resignalling in a couple of years is like for like.

Has been looked at repeatedly - at least 3 times in the last 30 years to my knowledge. But no point now given that almost all the fast trains will be on the Colwich bypass within 10 years.
 

Wilts Wanderer

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The restriction through Shugborough Tunnel is 90mph isn’t it, so a linespeed increase from 65mph would have been worthwhile from an energy/momentum perspective. Guess as @Bald Rick says there’s not a lot of point now with HS2 coming along.
 

jfollows

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The restriction through Shugborough Tunnel is 90mph isn’t it, so a linespeed increase from 65mph would have been worthwhile from an energy/momentum perspective. Guess as @Bald Rick says there’s not a lot of point now with HS2 coming along.
For sure it'd have some benefit as you say, but don't forget also that 2/6 of the trains take the slower Hixon route as well in a normal hour under the pre-Covid timetable, it's not something that'd score highly on "bang for the buck".
 
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