Do the British have an aversion to building new alignments?

Discussion in 'Infrastructure & Stations' started by squizzler, 18 Sep 2018.

  1. Shaw S Hunter

    Shaw S Hunter Established Member

    21 Apr 2016
    Sunny South Lancs
    Ripon-Northallerton as an ECML diversionary route is dependent on restoring all sides of the former triangle at Starbeck allowing trains to divert from Skelton Jn. But of course that route contains single-track sections and the best case scenario for Harrogate-Ripon is with a mostly single-track route with a single dynamic passing loop. In other words for a re-opened Ripon line to handle any diversions it would require cancellation of all local services east and north of Harrogate. Unless of course all single-line sections were in fact doubled. If the scheme promoters could just stick with a basic Harrogate-Ripon line and ditch the grandiose visions of anything more they might find it easier to convince their local politicians. However it's worth noting that while the original campaign went by the name "Ripon Railway Reinstatement Group" it now prefers the name "Leeds Northern Railway Reinstatement Group", mirroring the name of the company that built the line to Northallerton.
  2. EastisECML

    EastisECML Member

    26 Sep 2018
    I would be interested in hearing any views on the merits or lack of for reopening the Blyth & Tyne line to passenger services if anyone has any? It would benefit me rather directly but I have to imagine on a list of what would benefit the overall area a Killingworth-Chevington fast line allowing more trains to call at Cramlington and Morpeth may be seen as more beneficial? And I don't for a second think the Blyth & Tyne line would ever be suitable as an ECML diversionary route given some of its corners better suited to trams.

    I worked out the Blyth & Tyne line would have a catchment area of about 100,000 people. Compared to the ECML from Newcastle to Berwick which when being generous with station catchment areas might be about 90,000. But obviously the ECML is a key inter-city link with the rest of the country.
  3. tbtc

    tbtc Veteran Member

    16 Dec 2008
    Welcome to the Forum, @EastisECML

    I'd be in favour - if we have to reopen a line then this is a relatively short bit of line that would open up some towns in the Newcastle commuter belt (which see lots of express buses per hour into the city - Arriva seem to think that Blyth/ Ashington etc justify several modern double deckers per hour with leather seats and whatnot - if a corridor can't sustain a commercial bus service then it's doubtful that the train is going to make much headway but this looks like a prime corridor for heavy rail).

    Unfortunately, it's not somewhere particularly rural/scenic like the Highlands/ Lake District/ Devon/ Lincolnshire/ Peak District/ Dyfed/ North Yorkshire etc, so isn't particularly championed by the kind of re-opening fanboys - instead it would provide some towns with a service into the regional centre - the kind of everyday journey that could take a lot of vehicles off the road annually.

    It's not a case of "I want this line open because it'd be nice to visit on my summer holidays" or "I'm going to cook up some exaggerated plan about it being a useful diversionary route" - it stands on its own two feet as a scheme on its own merits.

    As for the Leamside (which you mentioned in another post), the difficulty I have with it is that it could be one of two things. It could be a fast line to avoid the kinks at Durham and provide a speedier service from Newcastle to Civilisation (maybe a P&R station by the A690 outside Durham, but otherwise no stations?). Or it could be a slow line to put Washington on the map, maybe a light rail extension of the Metro from South Hylton, linking Washington to both Sunderland, Gateshead and Newcastle, maybe a freight route to take the slowest services off the ECML through Durham. I see merit in both - I can't decide which would be preferable - there seems little point in opening it as a parallel line equivalent to the ECML - to improve capacity either build a faster route up the Leamside or build a slower route up the Leamside.

    As we are talking about schemes in the north east, what about a chord for Sunderland to South Shields? Stagecoach and Go-Ahead both run bus services at frequent intervals.
  4. EastisECML

    EastisECML Member

    26 Sep 2018
    Thank you.

    We're certainly not a touristy area, even accounting for random Dutch and German motorists passing through on their way to Scotland presumably. There are quite a lot of those bus services from Blyth, as the town is relatively spread out there are five routes linking the town to Newcastle. If I remember correctly three of those routes have two different services with their own slight alterations and they all operate every half an hour in peak hours. Another route is also competed by Arriva and Go North East and I think they operate every 15 minutes. And vehicle traffic is usually backed up on the A189 just outside of the town. Those buses are painfully slow given that they stop every few hundred metres, take all sorts of diversions and serve much of Cramlington as well.

    That report I linked to mentions part of the Leamside line being four tracked around Durham for freight and higher speed services. Linking back onto the ECML around about Chester Le Street, although it doesn't specify whether that's before or after the town. After would be ideal because there's room to three or four track the ECML from around about Birtley all of the way into Newcastle if the Bensham curve is reinstated.

    Nexus are keen on a stopping service running every hour along the line, proposed stations are listed So it seems all desires for the Leamside line have it doing a bit of everything. I'd like to see the ECML through Durham being used for Inter-Regional services such as TPE and Northern Connect and calling at Chester-Le-Street. The Leamside line for more frequently stopping services and freight. And a separate pair of tracks initially running alongside the Leamside alignment and then the ECML North of Chester-Le-Street.

    Or perhaps longer distance services could be split between the two lines with trains going through Newcastle using the current route and trains terminating at Newcastle using Leamside.

    That certainly seems to be an ambition for Nexus (please see attachment) and would presumably improve the case for the Leamside line. Sunderland especially really needs to become a bigger rail destination rather than a Metro branch.

    Attached Files:

  5. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

    12 Oct 2010
    Work - Fenny Stratford(MK) Home - Darlington
    I agree. I could, just about, make Ripon work with a very pared down specification, a sub optimal station location, complete political backing and a fair wind. Ripon > Northallerton. Not a chance. Not unless someone strikes the mother lode to end all mother lodes near Sinderby!
  6. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

    21 Apr 2013
    I believe you're more likely to strike a sinkhole in that part of the world...
  7. squizzler

    squizzler Member

    4 Jan 2017
    New railway alignments fall into three categories IMO which I list below.
    1. The chords and the flyovers. The chords are mainly needed because our fragmented Victorian railway featured many places where the lines of competing companies cross but have no connection. So chords can drastically improve connectivity as flyovers do the same for capacity. But chords involve all of the fixed costs of integrating a new line into the existing railway - new track work and signalling at each end - as would a new railway, but for only a couple of hundred metres of new line. Flyovers require the same costly interventions, although the track work and signalling is hopefully simplified overall. The land acquisition for these sorts of projects can be tricky because it has to be on an exiting junction rather than a route chosen at will. So the price can be high with the Todmorden Chord, for instance, being £8.8m for less than 1km of railway. Whilst providing a technically enhanced performance, these new links look a bit pants on the page of your railway atlas, no blank space filled in.
    2. Bypasses and faster alignments. Really these are a bit like large chords in that they connect two parts of the network more directly but don't add any new stations. The fixed costs of connecting at each end are compensated by a decent length of plain line, the alignment of which need not be as constrained as for a chord or flyover and can be routed through cheap land. So you get more miles for your £millions. The Norton Bridge area works included reksignalling Stafford Station and 6 miles of new railway for £250m - but that is built to fast mainline standard. They don't connect new places on the map, but at least when you are justifying railway investment to your friends and family with your Rail atlas in hand, you can point to a decent bit of new railway.
    3. Proper new railway lines. Building a new railway makes the choice of alignment most flexible of all: even allowing the option to use previously abandoned track formations where suitable ones exist. All other things being equal the ratio of miles to £millions can be highest of all. We can add new stations and also provide new direct routes on the network. East West rail £270 from Oxford to Cambridge. £294m for the 35 mile Borders Railway. The railway can show doubters that the millions spent have actually created new opportunities to travel by rail, rather than just talking about extra network capacity (lack of capacity is not as tangible to public on the railways as on the roads: remember the old BR advert that said "whoever heard of a train jam?"). We also fill in blank space on the railway atlas, giving that all-important cartographic sex appeal.
    There are finite opportunities or the first sort of new alignment, and all the practical ones are probably already done, As the railway moves onto the second and third option progressively, the value for money of the rail expansion programme as I suspect it is perceived by the public - additional route miles per £million - will hopefully improve.
  8. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

    28 Sep 2010
    Good summary. But I doubt the general public have a perception about route miles per £m. Even the funders don’t take much notice of that (although they do, of course, look at that to assess cost). What the public and funders are interested in is benefit per £m.

    A new railway from, say, Lincoln to Skegness rural would be relatively cheap in £m per route mile, but would have much less benefit than a slightly more expensive railway from Bedford to Cambridge (for example).

    Also your point about Norton Bridge being built to fast mainline standard is interesting; the cost difference per route mile for ‘fast mainline’ and, say ‘regular’ mainline is effectively the cost of an extra few cm of ballast depth, given the same alignment. Ie next to nothing.
  9. eastdyke

    eastdyke Established Member

    25 Jan 2010
    East Midlands
    The price is always 'high' and in the eyes of the public and some members on RFUK, often wateringly so.
    I referred up-thread to the Ipswich Bacon Factory chord built in 2014, about £60 million. That was for 1.2km of double track and double junctions with switched diamonds, the 'high' cost being mainly down to the extensive civil works. More works in all 3 of your categories will almost certainly follow for the freight route.

    Moving on, Borders Railway had, I think, an out-turn cost of around £400 million but the bigger numbers start showing for East-West Rail.
    The estimate of cost for the Western section phase 2 (for which the TWA Order is currently in play) is £1.085 billion (sans sparks), some 4 times the figure that you quote. This is for Bicester/Aylesbury to Bletchley/Bedford. Excluding Aylesbury Vale Parkway, the 2 'new' stations and the 2 to be extended will have 106 metre platforms. [Borders railway was built for minimum 6 car trains throughout.] Bedford is untouched. This for a railway to serve, when completed to Cambridge, a region where a million new homes may be built by 2050!

    I could very easily pen some words to the music of 'Any Dream Will Do' with words based on 'Any Link Will Do'.
    Sure, the politicians will get a railway.
    Last edited: 27 Sep 2018

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