Proposal to covert Kyle line to tramway

Discussion in 'Infrastructure & Stations' started by Grinner, 12 Sep 2017.

  1. Grinner

    Grinner Member

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    I was looking on the Hitrans website for some information about the Invernes Airport Rail scheme, but whilst doing so I came across this document, which is a June update on rail issue/projects in the Hitrans area (Highlands and Islands):

    https://hitrans.org.uk/Documents/Item_10_Rail_Update.pdf

    Item 2 ("Skyefall") notes that "Hitrans has appointed consultants Mott Macdonald to investigate the feasibility of road and rail sharing the railway solum in the rockfall area of the Stromeferry bypass beside the Kyle railway. Options 5, 6 and 7 in the paper previously circulated are to be considered. "

    Whilst this has of course been done as a short term solution in the past, option 7 considers turning the whole route over to tram-train operation, in the expectation that a future purchase of "scenic stock" could be acceptable for such workings. Sounds madness to me, but Hitrans are supposed to be the body for shaping decisions about transport in the Highlands, so this is being seriously considered.

     
    Last edited: 13 Sep 2017
  2. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    I suspect this option has been included for completeness with no serious intention to carry it forward for further consideration.
     
  3. InOban

    InOban Member

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    Ever since the road was built it has been plagued with rockfalls, and has been closed for months at a time while attempts have been made to stabilise it. If you look at a road map you will see that the diversion is I think well over 100 miles. This is one of a number of options, including building a bridge at Stromeferry. The problem is that, West of dingwall the railway is almost irrelevant to the residents, except when the road is closed. (OK there are a few landed gentry who use it to join the Sleeper at Inverness.) It is entirely a tourist route.

    And the route isn't a government-funded trunk road. The solution has to be funded by a cash-strapped local authority. No option can be eliminated at the start of the appraisal process.
     
  4. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    When I travelled on the route last year, our fellow passengers didn't strike me as being all tourist types.

    Lets hope they see sense and dismiss this option as soon as possible.
     
  5. Clansman

    Clansman Established Member

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    I don't know what the folk at Hitrans are on, but whatever it is, I want some.

    Laughable proposal.
     
  6. Liam

    Liam Established Member

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    Not in my experience. There are certainly many tourists on the line, but whenever I've been onboard there are always some locals, usually on a day or overnight trip to Inverness.
     
  7. InOban

    InOban Member

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    I was being reported provocative. There's no early bus to match the early train, so for an all day visit the train wins if you don't have access to a car. But the ratio between summer and winter traffic is rather dramatic.

    I don't believe for one moment that this option has legs or wheels. But it is an option which must be considered. Otherwise someone will ask ' why don't you...'
     
  8. ER158715

    ER158715 Member

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    It most certainly is not just a tourist route. There are a number of locals who use this as a lifeline service. We have regular commuters from the likes of Stromeferry to Kyle and back so they can do their shopping in the Co-op. Duirnish and Duncraig also have regulars to Kyle and back.

    As for the proposal, its an absolute joke. Not sure what HiTrans are thinking of that. They should be pushing for higher line speeds and upgrades to the railway which would make rail even more popular.
     
    Last edited: 12 Sep 2017
  9. tbtc

    tbtc Veteran Member

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    Agreed.

    Any sensible decision making process starts with a position of several options on the table, so that they can be seen to consider and dismiss the unrealistic ones before settling on the two or three more obvious options.

    That's how any public body would have to behave - be seen to consider things - otherwise you run the risk of someone challenging you for why you never gave their pet project any consideration.

    Maybe some people on here haven't worked in that kind of environment and feel that HiTrans should automatically plump for a heavy rail option but in the real world they have to do things properly.

    I'm sure that there's a heavy rail future for the Kyle line, but Kyle itself only sees an average of ninety departing passengers per day, with precious little passengers at most of the intermediate stations, so it's not a busy route.
     
  10. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    That's what I meant by saying it was included for completeness - they know it's not feasible but they need to demonstrate that it's been considered and explain why it's not being taken forwards.
     
  11. DerekC

    DerekC Member

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    A bidirectional single track tramway on a long distance road? Sounds very scary. How long is the "rockfall section" where road and rail would share and how fast would the tram-trains be running? There's also the problem of a single track railway not being wide enough for a decent highway.
     
  12. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    A decent highway is, however, wide enough for a single track railway.
     
  13. DerekC

    DerekC Member

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    Well yes, but I assume the idea is to convert the railway formation to a road, with the trains continuing to run. The OP uses the word "solum" which I had to look up - in Scottish law it means the space inside the foundations in a building, which makes the intention plain.
     
  14. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    Yes, but the solum is the entire width of the railway, not just the track.
     
  15. snowball

    snowball Established Member

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    In the case of a road or railway the term "solum" or "formation" usually means the surface of the finished earthworks before you put a road or railway on top of it.
     
    Last edited: 13 Sep 2017
  16. A0wen

    A0wen Established Member

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  17. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    How long is the proposed shared section?

    Could it be operated as a long level crossing rather than (diesel, presumably) tram train?
     
  18. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    I believe that is the desired solution but they need to explore all options. A tram-train is running for 82 miles for the sake of a few hundred meters of shared roadway is insanity of the highest order.
     
  19. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Quite. It sounds like a solution similar to Porthmadog is more what is called for.
     
  20. InOban

    InOban Member

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    It will require a considerable upgrade to the signalling. At present it's one block section from Strathcarron to Kyle.
     
  21. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Could it be guard controlled?
     
  22. DelW

    DelW Member

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    Not far away, the Connel Bridge operated that way for several decades.

    Meanwhile, on the continent (northern Germany) trains share roads with much less regulation, or any need for special rolling stock:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcNrBY8VqGw
    (not my video, though I was there recently)
     
  23. mushroomchow

    mushroomchow Member

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    Street running can certainly be accommodated in small sections. As others mentioned, it worked in Porthmadog and does so safely in many other parts of the world.

    Declassifying the whole route to become a light rail "tram train" system, on the other hand, would be absolutely insane given the tourist potential from the charter market, whose usage of the route would be threatened as presumably track would be re-laid at a lighter grade to reduce maintenance costs.

    In any sense, the spiralling costs of the Rotherham project (now 5x overbudget) would put a dent in any business case for such a solution anyway, so I wouldn't worry too much. That project alone has probably put Tram-Train projects in the UK back 2 decades, so trying it for an 80-mile route looks less likely than ever. :roll:

    TBTC sums up the likely scenario well - as somebody with experience of local government, I can confirm that even the most bat-poo crazy ideas have to be entertained in the name of impartiality, even if that's just to give them a crap GVA figure and sweep them away as quickly as possible. :lol:
     
    Last edited: 13 Sep 2017
  24. MarkyT

    MarkyT Established Member

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    Part of the problem is that ORR take the position that there will be no NEW level crossings authorised except in exceptional circumstances. Is this case such an exceptional circumstance? I don't know but seeing as ORR are also the road regulator now, they might be in a a better position to make an 'integrated decision' on this one. The powers for the long crossing at Porthmadog probably didn't expire as the original railway never officially closed, so perhaps ORR were not in a position to refuse its reactivation.

    Not insane but rather unwise in view of the charter market, including regular premium tour trains that make multiple trips every year. The linked page explains that regular trains on the route will be replaced in the next decade so it would certainly be possible to buy tram-train instead of standard heavy rail vehicles, or perhaps something in between, a 'train-tram' perhaps! Whatever happens, being able to run into Inverness rather than terminating at Dingwall would be highly desirable. Forcing a further change there would be very inconvenient and remove some of the frequency between there and Inverness, disincentivising local travel. I doubt lighter track would be appropriate, as tram-trains are not significantly lighter than lightweight multiple unit trains, although perhaps compatibility with the heavier axles of large locos and freight wagons might be removed when structures were renewed to save a few pennies. Again not a good development for future generations if ever railfreight solutions become more cost effective.

    I don't think Rotherham will be indicative of future roll out costs for the technology. Better planned schemes will be possible, technical standards have now been set and vehicles approved for use, so costs should be much better understood.

    I agree, but the ORRs level crossing position needs to be established early, and the special circumstances and risks of a very long crossing studied and solved. Would obstacle detection for the entire length be practical? Could number plate recognition systems assist by counting road vehicles in then all out again before permitting a train to proceed? Could a 'locally monitored' rail solution be appropriate with a severe restriction so 'normal' trains could stop short of any obstruction encountered? How could a parallel cycle/pedestrian path be managed safely? As to rolling stock, perhaps new 'scenic' trains for the line built by Stadler (say) could incorporate the magnetic brakes mentioned, so would not be subject to as severe a speed restriction over the shared section as normal heavy locos used on charters and any future freights.
     
  25. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I think, to be fair, saying all tram-train schemes will be like Rotherham is a bit like saying all tram schemes will be like Edinburgh, ignoring massive successes like Metrolink.

    The mention of Stadler is interesting - I know I'm a fan, but I would love to see a FLIRT DMU for the West Highland based on the scenic narrow gauge Swiss models (perhaps First Class with proper panoramic windows), with track brakes and fairings for street running, and it's exactly Stadler's core business to build small fleets of that sort of thing for vaguely decent money.
     
  26. Altnabreac

    Altnabreac Established Member

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    ORR don't have any Road role at all in Scotland where Transport Scotland and Scottish Ministers are the appropriate authorities for roads decisions.

    Whether that makes ORR more or less likely to sign off a tramway I'm not sure.

    I don't see the tramway option being a preferred option for Highland Council, locals, Transport Scotland or Network Rail to be honest.

    Stromeferry Bridge is almost certainly the best option with Glenn Udalain a slightly cheaper but inferior choice.
     
  27. snowball

    snowball Established Member

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    Is working, present tense.

    The costs there seem to come largely from new designs of electrification equipment to allow future DC->AC conversion, so not relevant at Stromeferry!
     
  28. lejog

    lejog Established Member

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    I don't know if the proposed shared section covers the whole of the rockfall area, but that is 4.5km long. The temporary solution a few years back was only 150m.

    www.highland.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/6486/exhibition_march_2014.pdf

     
    Last edited: 13 Sep 2017
  29. snowball

    snowball Established Member

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    The main section where the road is adjacent to the railway appears to be about 3.4km so the length affected by the proposal is presumably at most that.
     
  30. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    My reading of the report is that they don't seem to considering the entire 4.5km section. I don't think it's considerably longer than the area covered by the 2012 solution.
     

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