Wednesday, 24 September 2014

How about a North Glasgow circle?

In 2005, Kelvindale railway station was opened in Glasgow, allowing diesel trains from Queen Street high level to travel to Anniesland via Maryhill to connect with electric services to Dalmuir from Queen Street low level. Now a look at the railway map shows an almost circular route from Anniesland to Ashfield (by diesel train) in one direction, and to Springburn (via Queen Street low level) in the other. The missing part of the circle is a non-passenger line at Cowlairs junction. To get from Ashfield to Springburn, one must travel into Queen Street and change trains. But what if the circle was completed/ If the line from Springburn to Anniesland (via Kelvindale) was electrified and the Kelvindale branch (which terminates in a bay platform at Anniesland) was joined to the electric line to Queen Street low level, you could than have an urban electric route that allows cross-city travel without changing trains and frees up platforms at Queen Street high level.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Two reasons to build the Garngad chord.

A couple of weeks ago I had a bash around the newly-electrified bits of Glasgow (including Whifflet and Cumbernauld) to see how things were progressing up there. I was pleasantly surprised to see an electric train running from Cumbernauld to Dalmuir via Queen Street low level. However, to reach Queen Street low level, the train must reverse at Springburn. The lines from Springburn to Queen Street high level are not yet electrified (this will be done as part of the EGIP). Construction of the Garngad chord would allow the train to run directly into Queen Street low level (although it would then be unable to pick up or drop off passengers at Springburn, because it would avoid the station completely).
Another electric service to be introduced recently is a train from Ayr to Edinburgh, calling at Glasgow Central. This in reality is a combining of two services, the Ayr-Glasgow and the Glasgow-Edinburgh (via Carstairs) trains. The trains runs to Glasgow from Ayr, where it reverses and then heads to Edinburgh.
A faster Ayr-Edinburgh service using Glasgow Crossrail and the Garngad chord would avoid Glasgow Central completely. Without the Garngad chord, services from Ayr could use the city union line to access the Airdrie-Bathgate line to get to Edinburgh. Diesel trains could theoretically use it in its present state, but electrification is preferred. However, the Garngad chord would give trains the option of running via Falkirk, which is a faster (although less direct) route.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Spaceport should come to Prestwick

Prestwick airport has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately, with Ryanair cutting services, the airport losing money and having to be bought by the government to keep it running. Even the state of the adjacent railway station has declined as maintenance has been cut back. But hope could be on the horizon. Prestwick has been shortlisted for the role of the UK's first spaceport. The candidates for this honour are Campbeltown, Kinloss, Llanbedr, Leuchars, Lossiemouth, Newquay, Prestwick and Stornoway. Of these, Prestwick has the best transport links, access to a large local engineering base and universities and a central location, making it ideal for startup space ventures such as Reaction Engines. The time is perfect for Prestwick to usher in a new era for Ayrshire and the UK. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The future of the UK's Antarctic science fleet.

This year, the government announced a new Antarctic research vessel to replace the RRS James Clark Ross. The new ship will be bigger than the vessel it replaces, enabling a continuing British presence in the Antarctic for many years to come.
As well as the British Antarctic Survey's ships, the Royal Navy has an ice patrol vessel, HMS Protector, which replaced the damaged HMS Endurance (see photo). Protector is viewed as only a temporary replacement, and does not have any permanent hangar facilities for a helicopter, but I wonder if a sister to the BAS's new ship could be built alongside it for the Royal Navy? Ideally in a British shipyard.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Bristol channel meanderings.

Severn link are proposing a fast ferry from Swansea in Wales, to Ilfracombe in Devon. This will considerably shorten the journey between Wales and Devon, which currently requires a long trip via Bristol. Ilfracombe is currently the terminus for the boat to Lundy island, and Swansea was formerly the terminus of Swansea-Cork ferries, so the infrastructure is there to support a ferry service. The Swansea-Ilfracombe route was formerly run by the steamers of P&A Campbell's White Funnel fleet, which included the motor vessel Balmoral. The Balmoral itself is currently laid up in Bristol, awaiting funding to return her to service.
Bristol is also home to a couple of railway campaigning groups. The Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways are supporters of a frequent suburban train service and the reopening of suburban stations. One such station, Portishead, has its own revival group, the Portishead railway group.  Portishead makes a good case for reopening. Much of the line has already been reopened as a freight route to Portbury docks. Only a small extension would need to be built to the town, and crucially the trackbed has not been built on. A railway line would alleviate local road congestion and improve access to the town, as well as benefitting the environment.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Action required to cut NOX emissions.

The EU says that levels of nitrogen dioxide, mainly from diesel engines, are "excessive" in many British cities and is going to take action against the UK, which may result in fines for Britain. NO2 levels are particularly high around London. Evidently something has to be done to cut air pollution in greater London. Congestion charging, railway improvements such as Crossrail and the mayor's initiatives to get more people cycling are already encouraging people out of their cars and onto more sustainable modes of transport, but new technology may soon reduce the number of polluting diesel engines in the city even further. Firstly, there are several railway electrification schemes about to start, in progress or proposed. These will include the "electric spine" electrification of the midland main line, the electrification of the great western main line, and the proposed electrification of the Gospel Oak-Barking suburban line. All these projects will eliminate a number of diesel trains from the capital. On the roads, the new bus for London (the so-called "Borismaster") is a diesel-electric hybrid that should burn less diesel than conventional buses, eliminating more NO2. London's famous black taxis have been diesel powered for decades, but now there's a proposal by Frazer-Nash for a hybrid petrol-electric Metrocab ( that will cut out even more NO2 emissions.

Monday, 10 February 2014

An inland alternative to Dawlish sea wall route is needed urgently.

Last week, the Dawlish sea wall collapsed, cutting off the only railway line between England and Cornwall. This vital link is becoming more regularly broken due to extreme weather and an alternative route needs to be found soon. Campaigners are calling for the reinstatement of the former Southern Railway route via Okehampton. This will provide a diversionary route to the west and will also reconnect Okehampton to the national network, providing additional benefits. Okehampton is currently only served by the Dartmoor railway, which runs Eastward from Okehampton. Passenger trains only run in the summer. A reinstated line would continue south from Okehampton to rejoin the main line at Plymouth. An e-petition has been set up on the government e-petitions website to call on Government to make provision of opening a rail connection to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock. The petition can be found here:

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

North gets wires, but campaigners want more

The first phase of the Liverpool-Manchester electrification, between Newton-le-Willows and Castlefield Junction went live on 30 December, with the introduction into service of the first Class 350 with Transpennine Express. The next section to Liverpool is due to be completed by next December, as is the line from Huyton to Wigan. The Preston to Blackpool line is due to be electrified by 2016, as is the Preston-Manchester (via Bolton) line and the Manchester-Leeds via Stalybridge route. Wigan-Bolton electrification is slated for 2017. Oxenholme-Windermere is currently at the planning stage.
But campaigners want more. The Halifax and District Rail Action Group (HADRAG) are calling for the electrification of the Calder valley line, which links Leeds and Manchester via Halifax and Rochdale. This line parallels the Stalybridge route and is used as a diversionary route by Transpennine Express trains.
Going east of Leeds, First Hull Trains are pushing for the electrification of the route to Hull. The city is due to become UK capital of culture in 2017, and it is an important port.

The long overdue electrification of these lines in the north of England will displace slow and uncomfortable Pacer railbuses from these routes, and provide faster, more comfortable and more environmentally-friendly train services.