Cotswold Line improvements debated in the House of Commons

Discussion in 'Infrastructure & Stations' started by jimm, 24 Jan 2020.

  1. jimm

    jimm Established Member

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    Moderator note: Split from https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/ideas-for-improving-the-north-cotswold-line.169793/

    A one-hour House of Commons Westminster Hall debate about the Cotswold Line and the task force report took place on Wednesday.

    The task force report has now gone to the DfT - it shows an excellent 4.46 to 1 benefit to cost ratio, for an investment of £200m.

    Hansard transcript here https://hansard.parliament.uk/commo...6CD6-49E9-BF68-16AE39F55D22/NorthCotswoldLine

    The debate was opened by Harriet Baldwin, MP for West Worcestershire

    Has to be said my local MP, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, has a rather hazy grasp of things at certain points, such as redoubling happening here and on the Kemble route in the 1990s, the 'appalling' 2hr 40min journey time of one London to Worcester train - I assume that is a reference to the 19.28, which runs via Gloucester... and he doesn't seem to have twigged that direct trains from Reading to Heathrow are still a bit of a way off.

    Edit: Download links for the full taskforce strategic business case, which has been given to the House of Commons library, and a briefing note for MPs, are at the foot of this page

    https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CDP-2020-0004

    Moderator note: this thread is to discuss progress regarding the planned improvements; if anyone wishes to post any ideas, suggestions etc please use the Iideas for improving the north Cotswold line thread, thanks!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 25 Jan 2020
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  3. Kingham West

    Kingham West Member

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    I suspect the Oxford corridor study, will give the Cotswold Line Plans , a bit of a fill up , particularly to Hanborough.
    Let’s get the Botley Road Bridge done, first.
    That seems key to everything.
     
  4. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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    Very glad to hear that further improvements are being debated, when I used the line off-peak even then it seemed quite busy and that was 8 years ago, certainly a service increase would be no bad thing and re-doubling more of the line would improve resilience as well.
     
  5. Peter C

    Peter C Established Member

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    I'm excited to see what will happen with these improvements. As the Cotswold Line is my local line, I'm up for every improvement we can get! I don't understand much of the technical jargon used in reports and things on these topics and so it will take a while for me to understand what they're saying, but hopefully everything goes really well :D

    -Peter
     
  6. jimm

    jimm Established Member

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    Just in case my 'opening post' looks like it has landed from out of the blue, it was first posted in a thread that II started some while back and which the moderators had parked in speculative ideas - if you want to read that for some background, it is here

    https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/ideas-for-improving-the-north-cotswold-line.169793/

    The 2tph on the Cotswold Line aspect of the task force proposals does not need Botley Road bridge widening, as it would simply bolt on to the Paddington fast services that current terminate and start at Oxford.

    Were the idea of adding extra services out to Hanborough or a bit further up the line to become a reality, then you would be talking bridge-widening and a platform 5 at Oxford station. This would, along with a proper station rebuild, be highly desirable in any scenario, but we shall have to wait and see.
     
  7. Aictos

    Aictos Established Member

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    I don’t know the area but IF those proposed redoubling sections of the line are done then what single track sections will remain on the line?
     
  8. Kingham West

    Kingham West Member

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    Hanborough/charlbury
    Evesham/ Pershore .
    Worcestershire Parkway would have 2 platforms .
     
  9. ABB125

    ABB125 Member

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    £199 million seems quite a lot of money for 9 miles of track and 2 platforms. Am I missing something here, or is this normal?
    I see that it includes optimism bias of around £77 million; how likely is this to be spent?
     
  10. Brush 4

    Brush 4 Member

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    What does optimism bias mean and how does it lead to £77 million?
     
  11. jimm

    jimm Established Member

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    No, Evesham-Pershore would be redoubled under these proposals, with a second platform being provided at Pershore station.

    Worcestershire Parkway would not have two platforms under these plans. It could, if it were decided as part of the work that will have to happen some time to resignal the area around Worcester, to redouble Norton junction, but it may be easier there to just have a short section of double track on to the Cotswold Line, becoming single before the station and save the cost of building another platform at the top of an embankment and linking it to the rest of the station. That way, a service can be held past the junction, so trains can still run from Worcester towards Ashchurch and Cheltenham, even if a train coming up the Cotswold Line from Pershore is late and delaying the train trying to go the other way

    The proposed track and station arrangements for the preferred option - option 5 in the study work - are shown on diagrams on pages 5 and 48 of the full business case report.

    Underestimating how long it will take to complete a project
    Overestimating the benefits
    Underestimating the costs

    The DFT did a lot of work on this a few years ago, after a lot of projects came in late and over budget - I'm sure you can think of one not a million miles away from the Cotswold Line - with a report produced recommending the system be changed. So there is now a big buffer on top, just in case they got the sums wrong.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rail-infrastructure-optimism-bias-study

    There are also government-wide rules for infrastructure schemes determined by the Treasury. Scotland has its own guidance but it is much the same as the UK government approach.
     
    Last edited: 25 Jan 2020
  12. II

    II Member

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    Great to see the report published and in the hands of the DfT and the Commons debate regarding its content.

    Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown does indeed make some rather error strewn comments, including saying that "the faster trains have to slow down through the single-line sections", when in fact the single-line sections generally have the higher linespeeds, 100mph Wolvercote to Charlbury and 95mph for most of Norton Junction to Evesham, whereas the double tracked sections are mostly either 75mph or 90mph.

    Still, a very positive debate and hopefully the DfT will stump up the £1.5m development costs with little fuss and this project can read the 'Decision to Proceed' stage as soon as possible.

    Option 5, the favoured option, pretty much mirrors my suggestion on the thread Jimm has linked to above in terms of where two tracks needs to be restored, and it will be interesting to see how the signalling and linespeeds are altered as and when the plan becomes more developed.

    There is so much potential waiting to be exploited, the only questionable elements in the report for me is the provisional timetable only providing the one train per hour between Evesham/Pershore and Worcester, and the very poor morning peak service between those stations not being improved upon much. The current gap between 05:53 and 07:51 from Evesham is crying out to be filled by something - perhaps that's where West Midlands Trains could come in? Also the 'peak fast' service either way has a bit of a look of being shoved in to give a headline grabbing best journey time, without really being of much use to most of the markets on the route in reality.

    However, I'm sure there will be many changes to that provisional timetable as the plans develop, and it's a very good starting point.
     
  13. Lucan

    Lucan Member

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    Why does this need a Parliamentary debate?
     
  14. Neen Sollars

    Neen Sollars Member

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    jimm, Thank you for your work on this thread. As II states above Option 5 looks good, and a strong case made in the Report. I am also pleased that re opening Honeybourne to Stratford on Avon is on the radar. So are we looking at a possible timeline of:
    Option 5 works completed during (Control Period) CP7 2024-29.
    Honeybourne to Stratford on Avon, 2nd platform at Worcs. Parkway, and complete re-doubling of NCL in CP8 2029-34?
    I am very much in favour of a circular clockwise and anticlockwise Snow Hill lines route, Stratford, Evesham, Worcester, Kidderminster, Snow Hill.
     
  15. jimm

    jimm Established Member

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    I wouldn't set too much store by the indicative timetable - it's very pretty patterns on a page when you get west of Oxford (shades of the DfT's idea of an IET timetable for Great Western). It would clearly be inadequate in the morning peak from Kingham and Charlbury, for example - and misses off the SLC-required extra stops at Shipton, while showing the down afternoon peak trains all calling at Reading (what a daft idea that is...sarcasm alert).

    Anyone with half a brain can see that all those trains from London towards Worcester in the first part of the morning would not exactly be packed with passengers, so clearly should be doing something useful by improving the service from the Vale of Evesham into central Worcester (whereas stopping them at Parkway would not be likely to attract much custom at all). And there needs to be an afternoon peak pattern out of Worcester matching what is being provided now by the new GWR timetable, which is near-enough 2tph already from 16.00 to 18.00.

    The pair of peak trains shown non-stop between Worcester and Hanborough are a silly sop to Worcester, where some people think they live in a great metropolis and should not be troubled by stops in 'villages' where most of the line's passengers come from now and will continue to do so in the future.

    So the local MPs can help to put the business case report on the record and put pressure on the DfT to help fund the next stage of development work.

    Sadly, the Honeybourne-Stratford scheme has a very long way to go - and money needs to be found for a full economic impact study. But that's a topic for another thread.
     
    Last edited: 26 Jan 2020
  16. Meerkat

    Meerkat Established Member

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    Isn’t a big upgrade like this the perfect time to push through closure of Coombe, Finstock, and Ascott?
    “We will fund a big upgrade to your services but you have to accept we can’t fund these any more?”
     
  17. jimm

    jimm Established Member

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    a. It is Combe.
    b. Ascott-under-Wychwood is on the double-track section, so already has two platforms - the cost of three new platforms at the others (two platforms would be needed at Finstock) is what would spell their end, should redoubling ever reach all the way to Charlbury - which is not being suggested in the task force report.
    c. I'd suggest this kind of question is also heading towards the territory that the moderators have indicated above that they do not want people to get into in this thread - with discussion here to be focused on the actual proposals in the report, and progress with those, not 'what ifs'.
     
  18. Nicholas Lewis

    Nicholas Lewis Member

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    Cant see this project specifically with Rail Network Enhancement Pipeline projects that DofT published in Oct

    https://assets.publishing.service.g...840709/rail-network-enhancements-pipeline.pdf

    although the document says they have followed RNEP process and i have to say these documents are well produced and its so positive to see that all the councils are collaborating together to drive a holistic approach so they deserve to be supported
     
  19. jimm

    jimm Established Member

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    That's because it isn't in the pipeline yet - the briefing note for MPs linked to from this page

    https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CDP-2020-0004

    says that the task force wants the project to be added to the pipeline list by the DFT, along with some DfT funding being made available to help pay for the next stage of development.

    Short of cutting and pasting huge chunks of text into posts, which might not be welcomed by the moderators, I can't reproduce the contents of those documents on here, hence giving the links so people can read up on the details of what is being suggested, etc.
     
  20. Nicholas Lewis

    Nicholas Lewis Member

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    Jimm i did read up the documents hence my positive comment on whats been produced. What i should have said perhaps its surprising this project wasn't in the Oct release of RNEP given how much work has been done on it.
     
  21. Tobbes

    Tobbes Member

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    In GRIP-speak, which stage is this at?
     
  22. jimm

    jimm Established Member

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    The report only went to the DfT at the start of this month, so it was never going to be in the list from last October. My understanding of the pipeline system is you don't get on the list until there is a sound business case that has been examined and endorsed by the DfT, so I assume the task force wanted to make absolutely sure that the business case was watertight and took the time needed to make sure it fitted the bill.

    Would appear to have completed stage 3 - as there is an option selected and a business case drawn up.

    With the DfT pipeline process - once a project is accepted on to it - it would have appear to have completed Stage 1 - Determine.

    The task force, as stated in the briefing to MPs, is now asking for the proposal to go on the pipeline list and for the DFT to put in some of the money to move to Stage 2 - Develop, assuming that the DfT accepts there is a sound business case.
     
    Last edited: 27 Jan 2020
  23. Tobbes

    Tobbes Member

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    Thanks very much, very clear.
     
  24. II

    II Member

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    And it's fair to say that taking time to get things right in the early stages, as well as having strong political support, can help projects get through later GRIP stages pretty quickly.
     
  25. Mark J

    Mark J Member

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    Was the Cotswold line ever fully double tracked between Oxford and Worcester?
     
  26. jimm

    jimm Established Member

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    Yes. All the way until 1971.
     
  27. jayah

    jayah Established Member

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    There are a few other nettles to be grasped.

    The layout and capacity at Oxford doesn't really support splitting and joining and in the peaks 2tph to Worcester and beyond either means a lot of very long, empty trains or rebuilding Oxford. It also needs a rethink of the new peak London Banbury express trains.

    Why does every option in the document prioritise Hanborough calls over the busier Charlbury? I would have thought 2tph from both to Oxford should be an obvious win.
     
  28. Mark J

    Mark J Member

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    If these plans do eventually see the light of day, what parts of the Cotswold line will still be single track?

    In my mind the Cotswold Line is a secondary route and should be double tracked throughout, much like it was pre-1971.
     
  29. Gagravarr

    Gagravarr Member

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    Current plans from the Taskforce are for a section of single track at the Oxford end, between Hanborough and Charlbury (current start of the double track), and at the Worcester end between Pershore and near Foregate Street. I think those two sections save some noticable costs in terms of bridges / station work / station closing instead of work.
     
  30. Doctor Fegg

    Doctor Fegg Member

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    Yes, that's my issue with it too (fairly unsurprisingly as I'm chairman of Charlbury Town Council :D).

    The rationale for Hanborough getting 4tph while Charlbury stays at 1tph is presumably that 2,200 houses are being built three miles away from Hanborough (Eynsham Garden Village) - and that's understandable. However, 1,200 homes are also being built 5 1/2 miles away from Charlbury (East Chipping Norton), so there is clearly going to be increased demand at Charlbury too. That's especially the case as Chipping Norton, unlike Eynsham, doesn't have a lot of employment locally and is a fair drive from places that do.

    Charlbury and Kingham also hugely lose out on the westbound service. They'll no longer have services to the Vale of Evesham stations, Worcester Foregate Street, Malvern or Hereford. Instead, they'll have a direct train to Droitwich and Kidderminster. Extending a few trains to Droitwich is a moderately good idea (though I'm not convinced it merits 1tph to London), but given that Kidderminster already has direct services to/from Marylebone which don't carry many through passengers, that's a weird priority. If more services are to be run on the western end of the line, Evesham-Birmingham direct should be the focus.

    The proposals seem geared to getting more, faster trains from Worcester to London, and there's been a lot of words spilled on that subject here over the years that I don't need to repeat - suffice it to say that the jury's out on how valuable that is. But the fact that £200m could be spent to give the busiest station on the line (Charlbury) a worse service than at present... something is very wrong somewhere.
     
  31. jimm

    jimm Established Member

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    In what way does it need a rethink of the Banbury IETs? There is one train into London in the morning and one back in the evening... and until someone comes up with the £200m for the infrastructure, not exactly something to concern anyone.

    In addition to the garden village at Eynsham, there are more than 300 new homes approved in Hanborough itself, including some going up right now next to the station, 300 just to the east at Woodstock, with the Blenheim Estate wanting to get more land allocated for development to build several hundred more there, and the best part of 30,000 people down the road in Witney, with yet more houses being built there as well.

    Which all adds up to a lot more cars heading to Oxford unless people can be offered alternatives - which is why there is a focus on Hanborough. It is not just a station for the village and that has been the case for a long time now, which is why passenger traffic has grown from just over 60,000 a year in 2000 to over 220,000 now - and it had hit 270,000 in the year before Oxford Parkway opened.

    The full business case report does say that there needs to be more work done on the possibility of extending extra local trains from Hanborough to Charlbury and Moreton-in-Marsh - but without further redoubling that will depend on what line occupation time on the remaining single-track section is like with four trains using it each hour.

    In the case of custom from new housing in Chipping Norton, there is spare parking capacity at Kingham as a result of the extension opened there in 2015 and land to expand is also available should it be required. Whereas doing anything to expand parking at Charlbury is profoundly difficult and likely to be very costly - and no one would want any more traffic in Thames Street and Dyers Hill if it can be avoided.

    Kingham is slightly closer to Chipping Norton and a shorter drive, so I would have thought a spot of targeted marketing to direct people there would help - might also be an idea to get the developers to pay for a reinstated X8 railbus link.

    As for the indicative train service pattern/timetable, there is no getting away from the fact that westbound traffic from the stations at the eastern end of the line is thin and only really picks up from Moreton-in-Marsh onwards - and Moreton is a far nicer spot to switch trains should it be needed than Haddenham & Thame Parkway, to take an example of where a similar transfer is needed to make some station-to-station journeys on Chiltern services.

    And any actual timetable and service pattern is still a long way from becoming a reality.
     

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