Greater Anglia: High Meads Loop

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ChristopherJ

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Got caught in disruption on West Anglia this afternoon and I wondered if anyone knows why the High Meads Loop at Stratford is not better utilised by Greater Anglia.

I fancied dinner in Westfield at Stratford tonight. This weekend there are engineering work at Hackney Downs and West Anglia services to London are diverted between Coppermill Junction and Liverpool Street via Stratford - this worked in my favour because it meant I had a train to Stratford less than every 15 minutes rather than every 30 minutes under the normal timetable.

I boarded the 15:30 to Liverpool Street via Stratford at Tottenham Hale on time. Great - I'll be at Stratford in 10 minutes and shoving a burrito down my neck in Westfield in less than 15 minutes. Lovely. Wrong!

It was an uneventful journey until down the Lea Valley branch we reached Temple Mills East Junction - where we was stopped at the signal protecting the junction towards either towards Stratford or around to the High Meads Loop.

After approximately five minutes of waiting, the driver announces there are unknown problems ahead at Stratford - and will announce as soon as any further information is received. Later, fifteen minutes pass and the driver announces that there are overhead wire problems and the line ahead is blocked by a train in the platform we should arrive at - platform 11. Afterwards all goes quite for over 30 minutes and passengers begun to become frustrated - a women went up to the bulkhead and banged on the cab door and demanded more information or for the train to be evacuated - the driver opened the door and got a mouthful of abuse from the women, he replied there's nothing much else that could be done until the problems are fixed and just returned to the cab and ignored the torrent of abuse.

I then had an idea. I knocked on the cab door and the driver mistakenly thought it was the mouthy women again and as he opened the door shouted "look, I told you, there's nothing I can do..." But then startled himself when he noticed it was me. I asked the driver if he signs the High Meads Loop. If the problems were at Stratford why not avoid the area via High Meads and return back on to the GEML at Carpenters Road South Junction and go directly in to Liverpool Street. Driver said he doesn't sign the route. Damn. Nice try but no cigar.

Another 25 minutes pass and we finally move - having been stuck at Temple Mills for just approaching under an hour. A journey for me that should of taken 10 minutes took over 60 minutes. I had an extra large pork burrito with nachos just make up for the time I was deprived of one!

As mentioned all West Anglia including Stansted Express services were diverted via Stratford this weekend - given the time we was stuck and this being the only route in to London I can't begin to imagine how far back up the line trains must of been queuing!

On the plus side, the resident shunter at the Eurostar depot, 08948, was shunting the spare power car 3999 around the depot in the time we was stuck opposite - watching that kept me occupied for while.

There's no booked passenger service over the High Meads Loop - only the occasional freight to avoid Stratford. I'd have thought it would of been more heavily used by Greater Anglia since the strengthening of the Bishops Stortford - Stratford services and ECS traffic since Orient Way CS opened.
 
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O L Leigh

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There are a number of reasons.

Firstly, the High Meads Loop is barred to DOO passenger services due to issues with the coverage provided by Cab Secure Radio (CSR). Ever since it was roofed-over it has become a CSR black-spot and, as CSR is required for DOO passenger services, such workings are not permitted.

Secondly, the driver is probably correct that he does not sign the High Meads Loop. There were route-refreshers back last year in preparation for the Olympics, but since that time no other WA workings have used the route. In order to retain competence a route or class of traction has to be worked within 6 months. Many of my colleagues will have had their refreshers longer ago than 6 months and their competence for the High Meads Loop will have lapsed.

Thirdly, Stratford is a booked stop for the service (which is why you were travelling on it), so there would be passengers like you wishing to get out there. Not all would have been impressed with being over-carried to Liv St and having to find their way back again. Likewise there are delay attribution issues to be considered, as it would effectively have been counted as a cancellation at Stratford.

As for your wider points, the loop is not used more generally because it creates conflicting moves with LOROL services onto the NLL and takes up paths normally used by freight.

At a location like Stratford where many different routes and services meet and cross-over, any disruption or congestion quickly sets a chain of events in motion that can cause widespread and long-lasting disruption. While there is little way of avoiding conflicting with freight, the normal route for ECS into Orient Way CS via P12 avoids conflicting with LOROL and is timed to mesh with WA passenger services into P11. Work to extend the Avoiding Line through P10A means that any freight waiting on the Avoiding Line no longer fouls Stratford Central Junction which means that it no longer blocks P11 or P12, so improvements to this route have already been made.

Just to be a pedant, not all WA services were diverted this way. It is only 4tph StanEx and 2tph Cambridge and 2tph Hertford East.

You got your extra large burrito while my colleague got abused. Who lost out...?

O L Leigh
 
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