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Western vision contradicts HS2 claim

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According to Network Rail’s ‘Western vision’, “the railway is nearly full”.

'Network Rail Great Western future: the railway is nearly full'

Q. So what’s Network Rail’s solution to the Great Western being “nearly full”?

A. To upgrade the line’s “Victorian infrastructure”.

[Network Rail]

By investing in projects that open up bottlenecks and get more trains on the line we’ll make people’s journeys more reliable and more comfortable.

Wales Online: 'GW electrification to take half the time', 15 Jul 2013

Network Rail have claimed upgrading railways from London to the North would be “too disruptive” and mean “14 years of weekend closures”. But they have claimed that much of the GW electrification work would be done on weekday nights, usually with no impact on rail passengers.

[Wales Online, 15 Jul 2013]

Passengers on the Swansea to London line would be facing years of delays and travel on substitute buses if the line’s forthcoming electrification followed tradition.

Weekend after weekend, lines would shut for a swarm of orange-clad rail workers to install masts and electricity cables.

With 17,000 new masts required along 235 miles of railway, the work – and the disruption to people’s travel – would drag on for years.

That would be too high a price to pay, literally and metaphorically, on such an important transport artery.

Network Rail has therefore ordered German manufacturer Windhoff to assemble a pioneering “factory train” which will allow it to carry out much of the work on weekday nights, usually with no impact on rail passengers.

New technology, scheduling, and working practices could also be used to upgrade existing lines to the North, while minimising passenger disruption. Because there are more routes to the North of England than there are to South Wales, one could argue that the potential impact should be lower. Upgrades such as future train command and control are likely to involve fewer lineside interventions, because of the use of in-cab signalling, and wireless technologies.

In no way is HS2 a ‘solution’ to the need to perform maintenance on existing assets. At Watford, on the West Coast Main Line, an extensive works package in 2014 – 2015 is to include signals and track renewals. To increase efficiency, a small number of block possessions are to be used.

[Network Rail, ‘Major improvement work for the West Coast Main Line at Watford’]

The work in detail:

Three junctions will be renewed to the north, south and in Watford Junction station itself to improve the track layout and make it more reliable.

Over nine miles (15km) of track to renew

Upgrades to the overhead line equipment in the area to make it more reliable.

Renewing crossovers to facilitate future maintenance of the main line while keeping train services running.

The signalling along 12 miles of railway between Kings Langley – Watford Junction and Bushey will be completely renewed to improve reliability and provide more flexibility. This work includes 11 new gantries, 39 signal posts and approximately 120km of cabling.

The signalling power supply system will also be upgraded.

Dates of the West Coast Main Line closure at Watford Junction:

May 2014: 2330 Friday 2 May 2014 to 1030 Monday 5 May 2014 (bank holiday)

August 2014: 2230 Friday 8 August 2014 to 12noon Monday 25 August (bank holiday)

Christmas 2014: 2300 Wednesday 24 December through to 0400 Monday 29 December (the National Rail network is closed to passenger services on Christmas Day and Boxing Day)

February 2015: 0200 Saturday 14 February through to 0600 Monday 23 February

Easter 2015: 2230 Thursday 2 April to 0600 Tuesday 7 April

London Overground services between Watford Junction and London Euston will continue to run throughout the closure’s [sic] listed above.


Written by beleben

November 20, 2013 at 11:23 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

3 Responses

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  1. I like it: Network Rail has therefore ordered German manufacturer Windhoff to fix the Great Western. Jawohl, aber bitte wie? Well, it’s your technology so get on with it! And don’t forget, you’ve upset us twice before.

    You really have to talk tough with these contractors!


    November 20, 2013 at 11:16 pm

  2. The Great Western is ‘nearly full’ because it’s had no major upgrade since the HST was introduced in the 70’s – it’s not even electrified! There is a huge amount of potential extra capacity which had already been exploited on the WCML.

    The idea that cab signalling is some kind of silver bullet for capacity is nonsense as anyone in the rail industry would surely tell you, what constrains capacity on the WCML is conflicts between the various services with varying stopping patterns.


    December 1, 2013 at 3:12 am

    • It’s accepted that the West Coast route could take at least 16 trains per hour with modernised signalling.

      The lineside interventions to modernise signalling are not very disruptive, because the signals are not lineside, but in the cab.


      December 1, 2013 at 12:17 pm

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