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Disparately seeking capacity

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Train journeys from the East Midlands and Sheffield to London could take longer from next year, the Nottingham Post reported. For Derby and Sheffield, the journey to London on the Midland Main Line might take an extra 12 minutes, and for Nottingham, an extra 9 minutes.

[‘Another kick in the teeth’ as journeys from Nottingham to London to get longer, by Tresidder, Nottingham Post, May 04, 2017]

This is a story of fast trains, slow trains and congested rail lines south of Bedford to St Pancras. Next year, Thameslink, the services south of Bedford to Brighton which embrace London suburbs and its commuter belt, will see the completion a £7 billion modernisation programme including new stations, extended platforms, new and longer trains and more frequent services.

So, 'running trains with disparate performance characteristics, reduces capacity'. Who knew?Thameslink plans to step up the frequency of trains running out of London to Bedford, Luton and St Albans using the Midland Mainline to 16 trains an hour.
Rail industry experts are trying to work out a timetable which fits the 16 Thameslink trains and EMT’s existing services onto the same tracks while maintaining timetables.

The problem is that new electric Class 700 trains ordered for Thameslink – 115 are on order – do not go as fast as those used by East Midlands Trains, the 15 year old Meridian fleet and ageing High Speed Trains (Intercity 125), now nearly 40 years old. EMT trains run at 125mph and Thameslink’s Siemens Class 700 at 100mph.
The complexity does not stop there. First, the trains are timetabled together to Bedford but going north to Leicester, Nottingham and beyond, EMT’s trains will have to weave round other trains and freight, possibly missing their timetable path.

A third issue which has the potential to become a fiasco is the significant investment already made in the Midland Mainline ahead of the widely anticipated electrification to increase the frequency of East Midlands Trains, reduce journey times and achieve ‘Nottingham [to London] in Ninety [minutes]’.

So, ‘running trains with disparate performance characteristics, reduces capacity’. Who knew?

Of course, a few years ago, the government of the time decided to equip the West Coast Main Line with commuter trains limited to 100 mph [160 km/h], creating a speed mismatch with intercity trains running on the same tracks. Some of those trains were subsequently modified to run at 110 mph [177 km/h], but there is still an ongoing capacity loss from the performance mismatch.

Even if the 1980s Midland Main Line electrification between London and Bedford had been ‘done right’ (allowing electric commuter trains to run at 200 km/h), Thameslink would still be an overly ambitious project. In the view of the Beleben blog, the proposed future Thameslink service pattern is too complicated, and the TSGN ‘franchise’ is too large to be effectively managed.

Written by beleben

May 4, 2017 at 11:41 am

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