Those “new” trains! ….

Posted on December 12th, 2010, by The Chairman

We’ve had talk of new trains for Northern England for some years.

Since the infamous announcement of 1300 new carriages, what’s happened?

In the “1300” announcement, once it was unpicked it appeared that most of these new carriages were going to the south east of England and to Scotland. Overcrowding is an issue in the South East, but it does seem generally acknowledged that it’s worse in the Leeds and Manchester areas.

24 carriages were shown for TransPennine Express, and around 220 for Northern.

It now looks as though of the 1300 carriages, around 900 will actually be the result.

The result for us: –

No carriages for TransPennine Express and around 16 for Northern, none of which were new, but at least they were extra.

Net effect – the worst overcrowding on trains in the UK continues to be in the Leeds and Manchester areas.

Now we’ve had the latest announcement, so let’s try to read between the words to work out what really looks like happening.

Firstly, remember that with the confirmation of the electrification of the “Lancashire Triangle”, there is also the related effect of few orders for new diesel trains.

It appears that the new electrified routes will start becoming available from 2013. The first is to be Manchester to Newton-le-Willows meaning that the Manchester Airport to Scotland services can go over to electric operation. However, it’s not clear what’s going to operate these services, though 36 coaches are shown as to be ordered – see below. Once this is sorted out, this will free up 9 of TPE’s 3-car class 185 diesels which will probably immediately be rediagrammed to alleviate the serious overcrowding in the peaks between Leeds and Manchester, one of the badly overcrowded routes.

Then the rest of the Lancashire Triangle electrification comes in, to be completed by the end of 2014.

The stated intention is that this will be operated by 4-car class 319 Thameslink electric units, these being displaced by new trains for the revised Thameslink operation. Then the diesels they replace can be moved to provide more capacity on other services.

However, it now looks as though the Thameslink units won’t be available until late 2018; that’s 4 years after the lines are electrified, i.e. in 8 years time.

Announced so far are around 2100 coaches: –

– 106 Pendolino coaches. These are ordered for the West Coast London services. Some may start on the East Coast London services. Whatever happens, none will alleviate the serious Leeds and Manchester overcrowding

– 120 for services out of London Liverpool Street. No benefit for us.

– 69 coaches for London Midland. As these arrive, London Midland are releasing class 150/1s to First Great Western. This allows FGW to send their remaining 7 Pacers back to Northern starting from today. Thus an extra 14 vehicles for Northern, although being Pacers, they’re the smallest passenger vehicles on National Rail. By next Summer, London Midland will then start releasing more class 150s. It looks like around 10 will come to Northern. BUT, Northern will then be sending 4 class 156s to East Midlands, that’s 8 vehicles and are expected to have to give up the 3 x 125mph class 180s they have on the Blackpool to Victoria/Hazel Grove local stopping services, that’s 15 vehicles. Net improvement to Northern 11 vehicles, but this includes the loss of 23 large coaches to be replaced by 23 smaller coaches.

– 8 coaches for Chiltern. No benefit for us.

– 1200 for London Thameslink. This is the delayed order, which is why the transfer of those class 319s destined for Northern England is delayed. No benefit for us until sometime in 2018, i.e. 8 years away.

– 600 for London Crossrail. These will start in use from around 2019. This will free up newish class 165 and 166 Turbos from the Thames Valley. These are too wide to operate except on ex-Great Western and Great Central routes, so may go to the Devon/Cornwall area freeing up the 150s and 153s down there. By then these will be 35 years old. A DMU is generally expected to last 25 years, and an EMU 40 years.

– 36 for TransPennine Express for the Scottish services. These are the 9 4-car trains, yet to be ordered.

Remember, the Pacers were built in 1985 to last 15 years. As they get older, they cost proportionately much more to maintain than modern stock, and are less reliable. Also, they are all supposed to be withdrawn by 2019 due to disability access regulations. That’s around 200 carriages. I’ve not heard of the plans to cope with this mass withdrawal.

The net effect of the 2100 carriages therefore looks like:

– 106 carriages for London long-distances services
– 1928 carriages for London commuter services
– 69 carriages for the West Midlands
– 36 for Manchester Airport to Scotland.

less 200+ Pacer carriages to be withdrawn
plus 130+ old carriages cascaded from Thameslink and London Midland to the North.

It’s all rather confusing. What it does not look like doing though is alleviating the serious overcrowding in Leeds, Manchester and elsewhere in the North.

Hardly a recipe to equip the economy of the North to contribute more effectively to the overall economy of the UK.

We’ve been “here” before on the Blog a number of times. Last April we posted Pacers for ever – an update.

Apart from an acceptance that the worst overcrowding in the country is in the Leeds and Manchester areas, nothing much seems to have changed since the previous items were written and nothing much seems to be being done about sorting it sometime soon.

Or perhaps I’ve missed something?….

Please leave a comment

  1. Music Fan Says:

    Perhaps the PTEs should campaign for some of our Pacers to be swapped NOW for modern DMUs down south, so that the worst stock is evenly distributed around the country, rather than being concentrated as far from London as possible (given that the Scots, in their wisdom, won’t have them).

  2. Old Codger Says:

    What you have missed is the Highways Agency web site. There you can see that our money is going on lots of lovely roads instead of trains.

    The “A556 Knutsford to Bowdon Environmental Improvement” was budgeted at £107 million. How many coaches would that buy? I suppose the Mid-Cheshire line will need even fewer trains once it is open. How a brand new dual carriageway through Cheshire countryside can be described as an enviromental improvement shows what we are up against.

    Then there is the M67/A628/A616 (Manchester to M1) scheme, currently on hold pending development of the Regional Network Reports.

    I am surprised the DfT has not got round to claiming that more roads means less overcrowding on trains as well as less road congestion.

  3. Jen Says:

    Relating to the TPE changes we really need DfT to give more information on these. The Scotland service will be diverted via Wigan as soon as the first stage of electrification is complete and the EMUs are available. Philip Hammond has suggested this will be a permanent diversion to make the route more intercity like, so presumably this will mean the diverted service will not call at Wigan, otherwise it’ll just carry the Wigan commuters instead of the Bolton commuters. This will then leave a gap on the Bolton route so will some of the cascaded 185s have to be used to fill this gap?

    For North TPE I think it would be logical to keep the Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Scarborough as is and to replace the Hull service with a portion working of Manchester to York/Hull using pairs of 170s or 170+185 workings, which would give a roughly clockface pattern for Manchester/Huddersfield-York and mean no 2 car services on Manchester-Leeds.

    Relating to the 319 cascade. The official information states they will be returned to the leasing company and available for other operators to lease, while elsewhere it states about cascaded EMUs for the North West not mentioning a specific EMU. So how I read this is that it doesn’t rule out an operator like London Midland taking 4 car 319s and leaving 323s for the North West.

  4. Vince Chadwick Says:

    It’s sobering to think that the vital national asset which will be HS2 is threatened by Tory voters in the Chilterns, while far more intrusive road building such as the Bowden – Knutsford road is hailed unopposed (at least publically) as an ‘environmental improvement’.

  5. The Chairman Says:

    Here’s a recent Freedom of Information response. Official confirmation of some of the above –

    Little of much use for the overcrowding in the North West.

  6. Music Fan Says:

    I favour redistribution of the class 142s more equitably across the country.

    Can the experts on rolling stock who read this Blog have any suggestions of routes in the South East operated by DMUs which could swap their current stock for some of our Pacers. It is a tongue in cheek suggestion, but it would make the point that there is no fundamental reason why the oldest, smallest and least reliable stock should be concentrated in one part of the country.

    If there has to be pain, then it should be spread evenly.

  7. Mike Battman Says:

    Agree totally, Music Fan.

  8. Jen Says:

    Page 77 of this document is interesting:

    It shows the Mid Cheshire line in green which means future rolling stock for our line should be type 2 (the same as the Southport line.) Although lines like the Buxton and Marple lines are shown as type 3. Type 3 should be higher density capacity and high acceleration, while type 2 should have a higher top speed and an interior suitable for longer services, rather than commuter like.

  9. Jen Says:

    Interestingly in the latest list of track access charges for rolling stock available here: shows that the class 172s have the cheapest track access charges for DMUs (ignoring the Parry People Mover) despite having much longer carriages than Pacers (23.7m compared to 15.5m.)

  10. Simon Barber Says:

    Yes – track access charges are largely determined by axle load, not vehicle length or total weight, and the 172s are lighter per axle than the Pacers. I am sure the true picture is more complex than this (doesn’t the Pacer’s long wheelbase wear the track more on bends?) but Network Rail seem to base the charges largely on weight per axle. This has other side effects, too; it contributes to operators’ reluctance to run loco-hauled trains even when stock is available, because diesel locos have the highest axle loading and hence the highest track access charges.

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