Settle & Carlisle Line - Past, Present & Future

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by JMPRailwatcher, 23 Apr 2019.

  1. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    I travelled on the 0824 departure from Carlisle to Leeds on a Tuesday morning a few weeks ago as part of a return journey from Dumfries to Mansfield.

    The single 158 unit was about half full on leaving Carlisle and I noticed that a number of passengers like myself had cases with them and were travelling through to Leeds and perhaps then with onward connections. I don’t think anyone got on or off at both Armathwaite or Lazonby and Kirkoswald, but at least a dozen people boarded at Langwathby including some with luggage who were obviously making longer journeys. As expected a considerable number of people boarded at Appleby including a large party of about 20 who were travelling to Keighley. At least another dozen boarded at Kirkby Stephen but I can’t recall that anyone got on or off at Garsdale, Dent, Ribblehead and Horton in Ribblesdale. Quite a few got off at Settle and quite a crowd got on resulting in the train being quite crowded from there to Leeds.

    I didn’t take such close notice of passenger numbers the week before on my journey up using the 1318 departure from Leeds to Carlisle but once again I did notice that there were many more than me with luggage using the Settle to Carlisle as part of a longer journey. The train was quite busy for the whole journey.

    What I did notice was even on an old Northern 158 the ride was very smooth with the track seeming in very good condition. It did seem strange to be trundling along at only 60mph. During my week in Dumfries I did a journey from Ayr down to Stranraer and the 156 in comparison seemed to be hurtling down some sections of track and the ride was far from smooth. Perhaps the S&C is not now suitable for high speed running but surely an increase to 70 or 75 mph ought to be achievable which would make the journey appear slightly faster even if it didn’t save too many minutes. From what I observed of the not insignificant numbers using the train for the full journey with luggage I do wonder whether 2 or 3 faster limited stop journeys each day, at suitable times would be well used. Good connections at Carlisle to and from destinations in Scotland would help.
     
  2. 70014IronDuke

    70014IronDuke Established Member

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    Very interesting report. I suspect the vast majority of passengers using Lazonby and Armathwaite are commuters and trippers into Carlisle (the latter only gets about 20 a day in any case, which is not much more than one passnger on or off per stopping train). Langwathby is clearly a mini-hub for the region, which presumably includes Penrith and the odd Alstonian. It has a passenger count that well outperforms Lazonby (which has a marginally larger population).

    It will be interesting to see the passenger usage numbers for 2018-9 and especially 2019-20, when the effects of the Saturday strike action will be largely wiped out.
     
  3. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Armathwaite is a very pleasent village which could probably do better in terms of visits from the South. However, visiters have had to choose between a very short journey (in the time taken for the unit to get to Carlisle and back) or several hours.
     
  4. trebor79

    trebor79 Member

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    Off topic a bit but around 30 years ago my grandfather took my brother and I into Armathwaite signal box. It was a total time warp, still coal in the scuttle and newspapers from when the box was last used. Memory is distant, but it seemed to have most if not all of the equipment still in situ. This was before the heritage group took it in hand. It appeared to have been just left as it was on the last shift. Everything was covered in dust and dirt and the steps were fairly rotten too.
    I remember walking along the ballast towards the box thinking it wasn't quite right and that we shouldn't really be there, but was assured by my grandfather that everything was fine and he had it all in hand whilst looking round furtively. My grandfather had nothing to do with the railways, other than having served an apprenticeship at Workington in the late 1920's before joining the police force. He was an interesting character!
     
  5. superkev

    superkev Established Member

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    I'm sure it's been mentioned before but I'm at loss as to why the line has an overall 60mph max speed limit.
    With the faster times higher speeds would allow Leeds- Scotland times to be very competitive.
    And, how about some revamped scenic 158s to make use of the lines scenery.
    Perhaps a dedicated micro franchise as Northern seem to have bigger things to think about that the S and C.
    K
     
  6. class26

    class26 Member

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    According to Modern Railways the track is now suitable for at least 75 mph but the signals would need repositioning to make this possible and I can only surmise that this must cost too much to be worth it?
     
  7. Dr Hoo

    Dr Hoo Established Member

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    May I suggest looking back to Post 195 of this thread? The 60mph limit dates back over 40 years and even partly applied during the early 1970s diversions for WCML North electrification. I am not convinced that recent work has been sufficient to allow a wholesale uplift.
     
  8. Railwaysceptic

    Railwaysceptic Member

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    I think we all accept that currently it is not safe to go faster than 60 mph on the line. What some people question is why nothing has been done to change the situation as the route alignment in many places would be suitable for higher speeds.
     
  9. quantinghome

    quantinghome Member

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    As another poster has said previously, the key to going fast is not to go slow. If we want a more competitive journey time, by far the easiest way would be to have more limited stop services. The existing timetable shows this could cut the journey time by around 20 minutes. Extending direct services to Glasgow via Beattock would cut down on waiting time at Carlisle and give a competitive Leeds-Glasgow service. If these services were successful at attracting more passengers that would be a possible justification to increase the Settle-Carlisle linespeed - although increasing Settle-Carlisle to 75mph would likely save only 10-15 minutes so you'd have to wonder whether it would be worthwhile.
     
  10. superkev

    superkev Established Member

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    So are the signal closer spaced than LMS days when the SandC was a main line and I'm sure faster than 60mph.
    Network rail have no incentive to lift any speed limits on any line unless they need more paths as it increases maintenance costs. Witness the 70 limit on the newly electrified Preston Blackpool.
    K
     
  11. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    because it isnt worth spending the money.

    it doesn't matter what happened in them olden days. The rules the railway operate under today are VASTLY different and for very good reasons.

    Yes - I am sure the reason why the Blackpool line is 70 mph is to save money. I do wish people here had at least a passing acquaintance with reality.
     
  12. Condor7

    Condor7 Member

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    On the assumption that is correct, that is an overall saving of 30 to 35 minutes which is one heck of a time saving over the journey and would be well worth it.
     
  13. quantinghome

    quantinghome Member

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    The point is that over half that potential journey time reduction could be achieved with no change in current infrastructure. Let's do the easy stuff first. Then if passenger numbers grow the linespeed could be looked at, although it would require a heck of an increase in traffic to justify.
     
  14. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    spot on. This board always wants to jump to the ultimate solution without regard for the reality of funding or those pesky business cases
     
  15. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    So long as these limited stop trains are in addition to the existing services.

    If you start taking stops out of the current service, you'll ruin the leisure trade, then whete will your business case be ?

    The 1st priority is longer (than 2 carriages) trains.
     
  16. yoyothehobo

    yoyothehobo Member

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    Surely the only real time of day that a through service would be useful is the morning and evening peak, have a stopper leave Skipton, timetabled to get to Carlisle 10-15 minutes before a through service from Leeds, stopping at Shipley, Keighley and Skipton, before that runs to Settle then non stop to Carlisle. You could even dump a Keighley and Settle stop if you wish. If you get that train to Carlisle for before 9 then it is useful, it could even (though I am not sold) run on to Glasgow, maybe use a 185 instead of a 158. I dont see any need for it any other time of day (except a repeat service in the evening peak, leaving Carlisle at 5.30.

    Sell advances on it at 50% the cost of going East or West coast from Leeds and see what it gets you.

    No infrastructure required, gauges demand.
     
  17. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    Commonly a feature of how far out the distant signals have been placed.
     
  18. matacaster

    matacaster Member

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    Yes, nearly all the track appears to be in excellent condition. Whilst I appreciate that the signals have to be placed carefully to ensure decent sighting distances, it surely shouldn't be prohibitively expensive to move a few signals - and if it is then there is something wrong somewhere.
     
  19. trebor79

    trebor79 Member

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    I guess it depends. So you'll need to design the new signalling first of all.
    Then you'll need to install footings/foundations for a new signal. Buy and install the new signl then nect it to the existing system. If it's a mechanical distant you might need to replace it with a colour light, more complexity/cost. If it's already colour light there will be cabling to think about.
    And for what?
     
  20. 30907

    30907 Established Member

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    If you are going to test the market, then use a set in marginal time and when there is already some demand. 0919 from Leeds with a stopper at 0949 would work - the return wouldn't be so useful.
    0619/49 from Leeds and 1730 from Carlisle wastes a unit, and stopping at Settle not Appleby is odd (but that's detail - I predict extra stops would creep in, justvas they did previously).
     
  21. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Personally I'd aim for longer trains (4-car Class 158 sets modified for carriage of at least 6 bikes and with seats aligned to windows would be good) and a 2 hourly regular interval timetable before I thought about "crack expresses". And First Class, for the tourist coaches it'd be money for old rope. Maybe even a trolley dock buffet/snug area too - again you'd cream it in[1] off the tourists.

    Think Glacier Express (which isn't actually an express, it stops everywhere and is hauled by one of the local EMUs operating the local service!)

    [1] Cream teas and beers?
     
  22. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Indeed, although of course, the Friends already have their splendid buffet trolley.

    When the GC HST's were being withdrawn, I speculated whether it might be worth using these and having the 1st class carriages as a sort of 'observation class' for a five pound supplement. With my fantasy hat on, I wonder whether something similar could be achieved with mk 4's !

    Failing that, longer, modified 158's would still be excellent.

    Of course perhaps 'The Glacier Express' isn't such a bad name, given the local geography !
     
  23. yoyothehobo

    yoyothehobo Member

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    Or more accurately "There used to be a glacier here express"
     
  24. Fisherman80

    Fisherman80 Member

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    I do think a through service to Glasgow should be looked into again.
    As ChrisC was saying,a lot of passengers travelling the whole length with luggage is a good indicator.The line seems to be used a lot more these days for travelling to a particular destination away from the line instead of just catering for tourists.
    One of the reasons given for withdrawing the through service to Glasgow Central in the early 2000s was the type of stock used over the line,either 156s or 158s.
    I'm pretty sure I read in an article at the time that if a unit broke down between Carlisle and Glasgow it would cause chaos because of the incompatibility of the couplings between a 156/158 and the then new voyagers.
     
  25. 70014IronDuke

    70014IronDuke Established Member

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    I have never alighted at Armathwaite, but I believe you. However, there are lots and lots of "very pleasant villages" to choose from in the vast area from Whitby to Alnwick to Annan to Preston, and I doubt if you could provide a 1tph service serving Armathwaite whether you could hoist passenger numbers beyond an annual 15,000. In other words, it is insignificant, even in the relatively low numbers we are talking about for stations on the line overall.
     
  26. 70014IronDuke

    70014IronDuke Established Member

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    I realise you may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but even the best semi-fast service right now, the SuO up 16.07* ex Carlisle takes 2hr 25 min to Leeds. From memory, that works out at a tad over 47 mph on the Carlisle - Skipton section. The weekday semi-fast is 2hr 28min. So talk of 'crack expresses' is a bit OTT.

    * Somewhat bizarrely, this is a Class 2 train, while the preceeding departure, the 15.02, is 1E20 and runs to Nottingham, but is an (almost) all shacks service.
     
  27. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I was using the term partly in slight jest and partly more for the aspect of "one train per day fast that isn't necessarily when people need it", as crack expresses tended traditionally to be (very often 10am, no?). Not so much because of it being particularly fast.

    Unless you have a line where the intermediate stations have very low demand compared with end to end journeys (which despite their location isn't true of the S&C, though it may be a bit more so on weekdays) I don't see there is any sense in missing stops out if you are running a frequency of less than hourly on any line unless there is a very strong operational reason for doing so (e.g. the Conwy Valley early morning "ECS" or the similar one southbound on the Far North Line). A consistent timetable is more use than a fast train useful to only a few people.
     
  28. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    The Ex-glacier Ex-press has a certain ring to it.

    Don't get me wrong - the place is never going to be Waterloo. I was just pointing out that for those who would like to visit from the South, the timetable isn't the best..
     
  29. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    It isn't, though Clapham (non-Junction) is probably a bit more civilised if with a rather infrequent service! :D
     
  30. 70014IronDuke

    70014IronDuke Established Member

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    I would posit that, if you could get an extra unit and crew(s) for the line, the most-needed additional service would be an 08.20-ish ex Settle into Skipton, Keighley and Leeds as a second commuter service, helping to plug the awful 2.5 hour gap between current trains.

    Assuming running it from Carlisle would be carrying mostly fresh air much of the way, that would mean a train from Skipton at around 07.05 and turning it at Ribblehead at roughly 08.00.

    Looking at departures from Skipton currently, that would not work v well, and would need to be brought forward by 10 mins to leave around 08.29 ahead of the 08.34 ex Skipton to Bradford. That would need a dparture from Ribblehead at around 07.50.

    This would then arrive in Leeds at something like 09.10. This would hopefully allow a return working at 09.49 all shacks to Carlisle, in turn enabling your fiendishly clever acceleration of the 09.19 service.
    :)

    Settle, according to ORR data, is easily the busiest station on the line, with close to 150,000 users per year. Appleby is around 60,000. So I'd suggest all trains should stop at Settle as a priority.

    A faster service from Carlisle at 17.30 ish would probably be ideal for a connection off a 16.00-ish departure from Glasgow. And would provide a peak time commuter service to Appleby and Kirkby Stephen.
     

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