Down the line in July

Fishguard Trains’ irregular round-up of news and blogs, on and off the rails

lorry unloading concrete castings at Goodwick Station yard

work starts at Goodwick?

WIRE TO THE WEST #1

Heavy transport arriving on Goodwick Station yard. Cranes stacking concrete castings ready for use. Network Rail contractors parked up ready for action. What’s up at Goodwick today (July 26th)?

Well, be excited, but not too excited. Network Rail is laying 17 miles of signalling cable duct from Fishguard all the way back to Clarbeston Road signal box. It’s routine maintenance rather than infrastructure for a restored Goodwick Station. Still, at least the signals on the Fishguard branch should be green in time for September 12th.

WIRE TO THE WEST #2

A hint we should have spotted at the time: Here’s David Cameron speaking to Welsh Conservatives at Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall in April (before the Assembly Elections): ‘…we need to let people know that reductions in public spending in Wales are lower than the average in the rest of the UK and a lot lower than England. We’ve got to let them know that we’ve directed an extra £65 million of funding to the Welsh Assembly Government. We’ve got to let them know that we’re funding the electrification of the Great Western Main Line – and that we’re looking at extending that to Swansea… In 13 years, Labour did not electrify one single piece of track. We’ve got the money and we’re going ahead with it, and it’s going to help people in South Wales.… ‘

So full marks to Andy Coulson’s successor for briefing the PM on what his audience wanted to hear. The question is, does that amount to a promise, a hint or an election tease?

Commenting on Cameron in May, Roger Ford of Modern Railway magazine wrote: ‘… the 70 bi-modes in the 1 March announcement is the very minimum viable quantity.  Wire to Swansea and you need fewer bi-modes. My analysis suggests that the cost saving from replacing IEP bi-mode with a standard EMU platform would cover the return from funding Cardiff-Swansea electrification through the Network Rail Regulatory Asset Base ten times over.’

Fishguard Trains thinks that means that the cost of electrification to Swansea is ten times less than the saving from not having to buy hybrid electric/diesel locos. No doubt Swansea Jack and Rhydgaled will correct Spad if he’s wrong.

SIMPLES!

Modern Railway magazine (August) is following Fishguard Trains’ lead in pointing out the relevance of Workington North for Fishguard & Goodwick. Under the headline “Can we rise to the Workington challenge”, it writes: ‘There will never be a simpler opportunity to add a station to the National Rail network than at Fishguard & Goodwick, where the site is already in public ownership and boasts level access and room for car parking. A new platform surface would be needed to match the vertical and horizontal alignment of the line today. Three-car length will suffice. If the platform works are undertaken before the additional services commence in September, contractors will have green-zone possessions for an enviable 23 hours or so in every 24.

‘Workington North was treated by all concerned as a freak … But should it be? Are there not other locations, besides Fishguard, on secondary routes where temporary stations with a pre-defined lifespan could be installed to dip a toe in the water before decisions are taken on spending millions of pounds on a permanent facility?’

Yesterday –  Workington North; today – Goodwick; tomorrow – a new approach to rail reopenings? Remember, you read it here on Fishguard Trains first.

2 Comments

Filed under Blog, Down the line

2 Responses to Down the line in July

  1. Rhydgaled

    Is the station building gone, or has Network Rail’s not been told about the significant risk of bits of the station building blowing onto your head the structral engineers identified when they took a look?

    I’m glad you’ve mentioned IEP, that and Fishguard & Goodwick station are my 2 big concerns this summer. A solution to both must be found this year, as when IEP was resumed they anounced that financial close would be by the end of the year. My guess is financial close is the time they commit to buying bi-mode Intercity trains with a life span of 30-40 years, throwing away a chance of Intercity rail contibuting to our carbon reduction targets (coming up in 2030 and 2050 I think).

    Unless things have changed recently, the enviromentaly perverse planned IEP order is for 5-car bi-mode diesel multiple units (DMUs) (think the much hated Voyagers but with longer carriges (26m for an IEP versus 23m for a mark 3 coach in the Intercity 125s running between Paddington and Swansea at the moment) and a pantograph to allow it to run off the the OHLE power when under the wires). These will apparently have diesel engines under three of the five vehicles and the planned order also includes 5-car and 8-car ‘electric multiple units’ (EMUs). The ‘EMUs’ are not really pure EMUs, they are planned to have a diesel engine in one coach for emergencies. Modern Railways however hints that that the order may now have changed to include some 9-car units, both bi-mode (5 diesel engined coaches) and ‘EMU’.

    The alternative that some have suggested is to order only the ‘EMU’ version (in my opinion without the emergency diesel engine in one coach, at least for the IEP trains on the Great Western route which hopefully will have robust electrification) and a fleet of diesel locomotives which would be attached at the last electrified station to drag the train onwards (such an event happens on the North Wales Coast Line once a week when a Pendolino EMU goes to Holyhead). This would save on the substantial weight of the diesel engine and diesel fuel while under the wires, which would reduce the power consumption of the trains.

    I’m not sure the cost of electrification to Swansea is quite as much as ten times less than the saving from not having to buy either bi-mode multiple units or the diesel locos needed to drag an EMU, but over the life time of the trains (even if you don’t care to take a stab in the dark and come up with a figure for the cost of diesel in 2040) I can’t see either option being anyway near as cheap as electrifying now and buying straight EMUs instead of bi-modes.

    I think the issue here has been highlighted by Informed Sources: “70 bi-modes in the 1 March announcement is the very minimum viable quantity.” Wire to Swansea and you reduce the number of bi-modes, enough to blow the minimum viable quantity of 70 but not very many less because all south Wales services will need to be bi-mode when the Severn Tunnel is closed (on one day a week I think). The way I read the suituation, you can’t wire to Swansea unless you can kill off the requirement for bi-mode altogether, and that this is impossible without electrifing the Severn Tunnel Diversionary route and the Paddington – Cheltenham Spa services (Swindon to Cheltenham Spa and Cheltenham Spa to Severn Tunnel Junction) as well as Cardiff to Swansea, the already anounced wiring and Crewe to Chester (which might allow all the Holyhead trains to be Pendolinos dragged by diesel locos if the current order for extra Pendos is increased, allowing the Voyagers currently used to go to the Cotswolds line services (here you might as well improve the Voyagers by adding a pantograph car, giving a few bi-mode trains without building a single new diesel engine)). Killing off the requirement for new bi-modes would also be made easier if you can get to the point where the number of diesel locomotives required for dragging can be met without building new locomotives.

    Moving closer to home, another nail for IEP’s cofin could perhaps be found right here in Pembrokeshire, specifically Narberth tunnel. Obviously, the bi-mode IEP is the DfT’s solution to services that extend beyond the electrification, on summer Saturdays the ‘Pembroke Coast Express’ speeds passengers direct (ok, not really, it goes via Swansea High Street not the district line, but you don’t have to change) to London Paddington. West of Swansea there aren’t many direct London trains, so electrification would be highly unlikely. Enter IEP, which with its 26m long carriages may not fit through Narberth tunnel. I have sent several e-mails to the DfT about this and the person who answers them was unable to confirm that the line west of Carmarthen will be cleared for IEP. An old online article (http://www.railnews.co.uk/news/business/2009/05/08-super-expresses.html) also raised concerns over the line out of Swansea station towards Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire. The replies I recived did confirm that they plan to clear the line for IEP as far as Carmarthen but this does raise another question, how much is it going to cost to sort out the issues that exist on the routes they have confirmed? I tried asking Network Rail what work would be required on each route and how much it would cost. I was told it was the DfT’s responsibility, the DfT’s responce? “I don’t think we will be able to provide the detailed financial information you seek, as the task is still underway.”

    In other words, they have made a decision (which may result in Pembroke Dock losing the direct London trains) without knowing how much it is going to cost them.

    Perhaps confining IEP to a smaller selection of routes, and using stock the same size as the current Intercity 125s on the remaining routes, could save some more money to pay for the electrification that is needed to eliminate the need for bi-mode. But, I hear you cry, where are these Intercity 125 size trains going to come from? Well, all of East Coast’s routes are confirmed cleared for IEP but the current plan is for them to have a mixed fleet of IEPs and their current Intercity 225 electric trains. My idea is give some of the IEPs currently destined for Great Western to East Coast instead, so that their fleet consists solely of IEP’s and Great Western can have the Intercity 225s for the difficult routes. The Intercity 225 has one other plus point, unlike just about every passenger train built for Britain’s railway since it is not a multiple unit but a locomotive and coaches (unlike the Intercity 125, which is two locomotives (one at each end) and coaches, the pointy thing at one end of an IC225 is not a second locomotive but a luggage coach). That means, just as the Pendolino drag to Holyhead is better than a bi-mode train because the weight of the diesel engine and fuel are left behind when the train gets back to the wires, an Intercity 225 could in theory leave the weight of the pantograph, traction motors and all the other electrical mechanics behind when away from the wires by swaping the electric locomotive for a diesel at the last wired station. That would require some diesel locomotives to be fitted with the necessary equipement to be controlled from the driver (sitting in the Intercity 225’s luggage coach at the other end of the train) so that the loco doesn’t have to run round to the other end of the train at Carmarthen, but that’s not impossible. The other issue that some have claimed is that, unlike sticking a diesel locomotive on the front of an EMU and dragging (which if the loco is waiting in the platform when the EMU arrives is a few minite job), swapping between locos requires about 9 mins. That kills the idea off in most places, but the reversal at Swansea on the Paddington to Carmarthen/Pembroke Dock trains is fairly lengthy anyway and these services are very infrequent. Here is the opportunity to keep the Pembroke Coast Express and cut carbon, but the electrification must reach Swansea first.

  2. Anthony

    Personally i would have wired Severn Tunnel Jct/Swindon/Bristol Parkway – Cheltenham – Birmingham as you could have also had the 2nd electric service running beyond Cardiff to Swansea.

    I know FGW are pushing for the wires to Swansea so they can run a hourly Swansea – Cardiff – Bristol TM service.

    There has been talk as well of swapping the Manchester & Holyhead departures from Cardiff around with manchester services departing from cardiff at 20 minutes past the hour. If that does go ahead swanline services would have to leave swansea at 40/45 minutes past the hour instead of 10 minutes past the hour.

    I do hope FGW are able to to get the DTT/WAG to agree to extend the wires to Swansea. I know network rail have said they would rather wire through to Swansea than just cutting the wires back at Cardiff.
    If FGW’s proposal does come off then i suggest transfering the Swanline services to FGW and run them as a hourly service using some class 319’s if they have any spare although Baglan station will require a slight extension to its platform to allow for 4 carriage trains.

    That would save ATW at least 2 dmu’s which could provide a much needed boost to services in west wales, i do hope that perhaps ATW might be able to get some of the class 165’s when they are displaced from the thames valley providing the can be cleared to work some routes in west wales (No chance on the pembroke dock route because of narbeth.)

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