Trivia: Right hand running

hexagon789

Established Member
Joined
2 Sep 2016
Messages
8,922
Location
Glasgow
On the French thing, I thought that it was odd going to the South of France by train all TGV and the lines to Beziers all run on the left
Do all trains in France run on left. Any one know why?
Because they run on the left in Britain and France followed suit when building its railways. Many other European countries are left-hand running on their railways. There is an exception in France as outlined above.

In Alsace-Lorraine, when Germany invaded the region, it switched the existing railways to its own right-hand running, and instituted that for the lines it built there. When France regained the region, it didn't change it back but left it as right-hand running and this remains today, though much of the network is fully bi-directional across France anyway.
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

Grecian 1998

Member
Joined
27 Oct 2019
Messages
62
Location
Bristol
I’m not entirely sure of the history of the line, but I understand that it was only Sherborne to Yeovil that was (for a short period) singled before the Down line was reinstated over that section? I’m not sure what the arrangements were in the meantime, but I’d always understood that the justification for the bi-directional signalling on the Up line was to allow at least Templecombe box to switch out. Happy to be put right though, of course!
Yes - according to the Southern Electric site, as stated here: http://extra.southernelectric.org.uk/features/historical-features/watexdieselops.html the plan was that the 2 hourly service would pass east of Salisbury, then on the move between Templecombe and Sherborne and then at Honiton station. However this proved so inflexible the section to Yeovil Junction was reinstated as it hadn't been removed. It's a very good article generally on the history of the line between the 1950s and the 1990s.

On the French thing, I thought that it was odd going to the South of France by train all TGV and the lines to Beziers all run on the left
Do all trains in France run on left. Any one know why?
Put simply, our engineers built the first lines in France and so used the practice adopted by most lines of driving on the left. The exceptions being most of Alsace and Lorraine which were converted to RH running by the Germans between 1870 and 1914 and never reverted back. Several other European countries also drive trains on the left - Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden and Italy. Austria used to drive trains in the east on the left but I'm not sure if it still does.

I think the EU did look at the viability of converting all mainland EU countries to RH running but decided that as rail traffic is sufficiently heavily regulated this is an expensive solution looking for a problem. Not as though influential member states France, Belgium or Italy would be in favour either. Virtually every country where there's a crossover from one system to another either uses flyovers to switch from one side to the other, or has a changeover station near the border e.g. Roosendaal in the Netherlands for trains from Belgium. It doesn't seem to cause any difficulties.
 

McRhu

Member
Joined
14 Oct 2015
Messages
52
Location
Lanark
FWIW The old Military Port No. 1 line (from Faslane Junction on the WHL Line) was right hand running when double track. Reason being, to get WW2 era drivers used to continental operations. Sadly closed in 1981 of course.
 

LNW-GW Joint

Veteran Member
Joined
22 Feb 2011
Messages
14,253
Location
Mold, Clwyd
On the French thing, I thought that it was odd going to the South of France by train all TGV and the lines to Beziers all run on the left
Do all trains in France run on left. Any one know why?
The first railways in France followed British practice (often using British engineers and contractors like Thomas Brassey who simply followed the GB pattern.
It was the much same in Belgium, Austria and Italy (where the first lines were built under Austrian rule) and Switzerland.
Even Leipzig-Dresden, Germany's first major line, was left hand until Germany standardised on right hand running.
Austria still has some left hand running on the Sudbahn (which extended through Slovenia to Trieste), although in Austria itself it will all be converted to right hand when next upgraded.
Left hand running applied all the way from Vienna via Krakow to the Russian border, east of Lviv in Ukraine, but has now all been converted to right.
Spain is mixed, with the old Norte railway being left and the MZA lines right (new LAVs are all right).
 
Last edited:

Taunton

Established Member
Joined
1 Aug 2013
Messages
4,678
As we are going far afield, in the USA there isn't a high percentage of double track, and for what there is most USA companies were right-hand running, but the large Chicago & North Western, nowadays a significant component of the Union Pacific, was always left hand. The main Santa Fe line across the Southwest for hundreds of miles also has long been left hand running, they did some realignments on two major hills for the second track long ago when it was doubled, both of which were north of the existing line and wanted the easier gradient for eastbound trains (think Severn Tunnel up to Patchway), so the intervening stretch all the way from California to New Mexico was made left hand running as well. They actually built flyovers at the changeover points, just as SNCF have done when entering Alsace - the high speed trial TGV accident a few years ago was right on the flyover where the TGV, too, does a rollover of tracks from TGV-left to Alsace conventional-right running.
 

Sean Emmett

Member
Joined
9 Mar 2015
Messages
286
Tanygrisiau on the Ffestiniog had a run round loop when it was the temporary terminus in the early 1980s pending full re-opening to Blaenau.

When the line was extended the loop was taken out (along with the loop at Dduallt) which created capacity issues.

So the loop at Tanygrisiau was re-instated, but with left hand running for sighting reasons. But this was later changed to right hand running to conform with the rest of the railway.

IIRC at Rhiw Goch loop both lines are bi-di, the first train to arrive goes into the loop on the up side allowing the second a clear run through on the down side, albeit slowing for the token exchange.

The Welsh Highland is also right hand running at stations.
 

Belperpete

Established Member
Joined
17 Aug 2018
Messages
1,331
Tanygrisiau on the Ffestiniog had a run round loop when it was the temporary terminus in the early 1980s pending full re-opening to Blaenau. When the line was extended the loop was taken out (along with the loop at Dduallt) which created capacity issues. So the loop at Tanygrisiau was re-instated, but with left hand running for sighting reasons. But this was later changed to right hand running to conform with the rest of the railway.
Tim M explained the reason above:
Tanygrisiau - was for a while LH running, but now RH as much easier due to the curve for the guard to see the driver.
IIRC at Rhiw Goch loop both lines are bi-di, the first train to arrive goes into the loop on the up side allowing the second a clear run through on the down side, albeit slowing for the token exchange.
Both lines at Rhiw Goch are indeed bi-di - so there isn't an "up side" or "down side", the lines are designated "main line" and "loop". As Tim M explained, trains normally cross left-hand:
Rhiw Goch - can work LH or RH, but for convenience is generally LH so up trains have a straight run through against the grade, but changes to RH for gravity trains to save having to slow down to negotiate the loop.
RH running may also occasionally be used if a particular train will fit in the main line but not the loop (which is shorter, due to the trap points).
 

QueensCurve

Established Member
Joined
22 Dec 2014
Messages
1,656
On the French thing, I thought that it was odd going to the South of France by train all TGV and the lines to Beziers all run on the left
Do all trains in France run on left. Any one know why?
Left hand running is the norm in France apart from those places that were in Germany when the railway was built.
 

SHD

Member
Joined
18 Jul 2012
Messages
309
Left hand running is the norm in France apart from those places that were in Germany when the railway was built.
As hexagon789 wrote earlier, "those places" were in France when their most significant railway lines were built (e.g. the line of the Alsatian plain was built in the early 1840s with left-hand running). "Those places" were invaded and conquered by Germany in 1870, the imperial German administration (Kaiserliche Generaldirektion der Eisenbahnen in Elsaß-Lothringen) proceeded to implement right-hand running and this was not rolled back in 1919. Another visible remnant of German railway administration is the Metz main station, typically German in style.

Additionally, the Paris metro runs on the right, maybe because several of its characteristics were inspired by tramway networks.

Indeed British engineers were highly influential in establishing the first railway lines in France. An interesting testimony and artefact is the now disused station in Ners (between Nîmes and Alès in Southern France):

640px-Ners8.jpg

The architecture should appear familiar to British people but it is highly uncommon in le Midi - the station was built with this typical style as an homage from Paulin Talabot, a French pioneer of railways, to his friend Robert Stephenson.
 

LNW-GW Joint

Veteran Member
Joined
22 Feb 2011
Messages
14,253
Location
Mold, Clwyd
I think the furthest you can go from London with continuous left hand running is via France/Switzerland/Italy to:
- Siracusa and Palermo on Sicily - although much of the trackage on Sicily is single track.
- via Trieste, Ljubljana and Graz towards Vienna, as far as Gloggnitz at the northern end of the Semmering Pass in Austria.
The Südbahn converted to RH running north of there as part of the building of the new Vienna Hbf and its connections.

- and via Bordeaux/Hendaye/Irun to Madrid Principe Pio station.
Madrid PP was originally the terminus of the Norte* railway which was built by largely French interests and with LH running.
Today it is just a station on the Madrid Cercanias local network, long distance trains having been diverted into Chamartín station since the 1970s.
The modern connecting line from Pinar de las Rozas into Chamartín has RH running.
In any case, most trains now use the high speed direct line to Chamartín from Valladolid or beyond, which has RH running.
The Norte railway had tentacles reaching Barcelona and Valencia, but I haven't worked out if these were/are left or right hand running.

* These were the two main constituents of RENFE when it was formed in 1941:
CCHNE - Compañía de los Caminos de Hierro del Norte de España (left hand running).
MZA - Compañía de los ferrocarriles de Madrid a Zaragoza y Alicante (right hand running).
 

Class 170101

Established Member
Joined
1 Mar 2014
Messages
5,824
The GEML north of Shenfield is mostly bi-di. I think its SIMBIDS though, so slower speeds and no AWS wrong line. swills may be able to confirm.
SIMBIDS towards Southend, but bi-directional towards Colchester, though Marks Tey to Colchester is more complicated and requires interworking with Liverpool Street as I recall.

EDIT The Northern Line has RH running between Borough and Moorgate due to the way the old King William Street terminus was positioned during its construction and subsequent abandonment.
 

rogercov

Member
Joined
8 Feb 2019
Messages
121
Location
Coventry/London
The Chiltern Main Line from the crossovers just North of Aynho Junction to Bicester appears to be bidirectional on both tracks for around 10 miles.
Last Saturday (7th March), the railtour from Lancaster to Paddington ran on the "wrong track" from Aynho Junction to the crossover before Bicester North to allow a southbound Chiltern train to overtake. I'm not sure how often this happens, but it obviously requires a reasonable gap in the northbound traffic.
This was the "special":
https://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/train/U53291/2020-03-07/detailed
This was the Chiltern service:
https://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/train/C79054/2020-03-07/detailed
 

jyte

Member
Joined
27 Oct 2016
Messages
642
Location
in me shed
Dawlish (between Dawlish Warren and Teinmouth) has bi-di on the up line, so down trains can still pass if the down line (closest to the sea wall) is flooded, never seen it used in person though.

Edit: starts at Dawlish Warren rather than Starcross
 

davetheguard

Member
Joined
10 Apr 2013
Messages
1,037
As mentioned above Axminster had RH running when the dynamic loop was first brought into use a few years ago, it was explained to me on opening day that the position of the existing single tracks either side of the loops meant that the fastest (straighter) route through the points led to the “wrong” side of the doubled section. 85 mph vs 50 mph. So they reasoned that arriving trains, (already running at line speed), could make better use of those speeds than departing trains.

Then after a couple of timetable periods they switched to the usual LH running, so presumably the theoretical benefits didn’t work out, or were found to be unnecessary.

The current online sectional appendix (Feb 2020) still describes Axminster as normally using RH running, the individual page is from 2015. RTT and the OTT track map seem to show LH running is usual...
My occasional trips on the line (3 or 4 times a year) support what others have said: new Axminster loop started out as RH running; then changed to LH running. However, on a recent out & back trip, we had RH running in the up direction only. No doubt some of the passengers had to cross the footbridge twice as a result, fortunately there's a lift too.
 

swt_passenger

Veteran Member
Joined
7 Apr 2010
Messages
22,493
My occasional trips on the line (3 or 4 times a year) support what others have said: new Axminster loop started out as RH running; then changed to LH running. However, on a recent out & back trip, we had RH running in the up direction only. No doubt some of the passengers had to cross the footbridge twice as a result, fortunately there's a lift too.
I’ve since noticed on a couple of video reports of fairly recent HST diversions, that they also used RH running. So it does seem changeable.
 

Andyjs247

Member
Joined
1 Jan 2011
Messages
597
Location
North Oxfordshire
The Chiltern Main Line from the crossovers just North of Aynho Junction to Bicester appears to be bidirectional on both tracks for around 10 miles.
Last Saturday (7th March), the railtour from Lancaster to Paddington ran on the "wrong track" from Aynho Junction to the crossover before Bicester North to allow a southbound Chiltern train to overtake. I'm not sure how often this happens, but it obviously requires a reasonable gap in the northbound traffic.
This was the "special":
https://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/train/U53291/2020-03-07/detailed
This was the Chiltern service:
https://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/train/C79054/2020-03-07/detailed
The Chiltern line is actually fully bi-di between Aynho Jn and Princes Risborough. The route from Bicester South Jn via Oxford Parkway to Oxford is also bi-di throughout. Most Chiltern services to Marylebone run right hand departing the bay platforms 1 or 2 at Oxford - they use the Up Oxford Relief in the down direction as far as Oxford North Jn. This is the rightmost running line of four going north from Oxford. It avoids having to cross the up main twice within a relatively short distance.
 

36270k

Member
Joined
7 Jan 2015
Messages
114
Location
Trimley
As we are going far afield, in the USA there isn't a high percentage of double track, and for what there is most USA companies were right-hand running, but the large Chicago & North Western, nowadays a significant component of the Union Pacific, was always left hand. The main Santa Fe line across the Southwest for hundreds of miles also has long been left hand running, they did some realignments on two major hills for the second track long ago when it was doubled, both of which were north of the existing line and wanted the easier gradient for eastbound trains (think Severn Tunnel up to Patchway), so the intervening stretch all the way from California to New Mexico was made left hand running as well. They actually built flyovers at the changeover points, just as SNCF have done when entering Alsace - the high speed trial TGV accident a few years ago was right on the flyover where the TGV, too, does a rollover of tracks from TGV-left to Alsace conventional-right running.
When the Chicago North Western was built, Station buildings were usually on the north side of the line. When the lines were doubled, LH running was adopted to keep the busier eastbound trains nearer to the station buildings.
 

Top