Saturday, 5 September 2015

Farnworth Delay

The rumour mill was correct, as usual.

Network Rail yesterday announced that due to "exceptionally poor ground conditions", the tunelling work at Farnworth will not be completed on schedule on the 5th October.

Tunnel boring machine "Fillie" has found a number of areas of loose sand which run into the tunnel leaving large voids which need to be filled.

Engineers are now injecting resin ahead of the boring machine to stabilise loose ground.

Resumption of normal train service could be delayed until December.  Until then, the current single line operation will continue.

Meanwhile, on the rest of the electrification project, we still haven't heard who will replace Balfour Beatty as contractor.  Modern Railways suggests Carillon and/or Volker Rail.

Monday, 31 August 2015

319s to Warrington

I think today's use of two Class 319 units on the Liverpool - Warrington Bank Quay services marks the first electric trains on this route to carry passengers.  (Or have I been guilty of not paying attention?)

Here's a couple of shots of 319365 in Platform 1 at Warrington, in between working 2F32 12:47 Liverpool Lime Street to Warrington Bank Quay and 2F31 13:51 Warrington Bank Quay to Liverpool Lime Street.

The PIS and destination displays on this unit were showing generic "Welcome to this Class 319" messages, so I didn't get a shot of Warrington Bank Quay on the display.  In contrast, I was impressed to note that the platform displays at Warrington correctly labelled the service "Northern Electric".

Update:   This was a one-day-only electric service using stock and crew made available by engineering works closures in Manchester, and the Warrington trains went back to diesel the following day.  It'll probably be December before this becomes a regular thing, unless it can be slipped in in the 4th October timetable update.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

News Roundup

Balfour Beatty
After a couple of weeks of rumours, it was formally announced two weeks ago that Balfour Beatty were to withdraw from contracts for the remaining phases of the Northwest electrification project.

Although Network Rail have not said so, I think this can only result in further slippage of dates, as it will take some time to negotiate contracts with a new company, especially as both sides will be desirous of avoiding the failures of the previous contract.

Newspaper reports have suggested that parts of the project could join trans-Pennine electrification on the "paused" list, which some think means shelved indefinitely.

Some sources say that Balfour Beatty will continue to be responsible for the design of the electrification.  Probably a good idea, as I guess they've done most of it by now, but it could lead to a blame game between them and the new contractors if anything goes wrong later.


Probably as a result of the above, not much seems to be happening on the ground at the moment, apart from the various bridge works between Manchester and Euxton and, of course, the Farnworth Tunnel works where boring machine Fillie has set off on her run.  The rumour mill suggests Fillie's progress is behind schedule.

Service Quality

Watching the live departure boards, signalling diagrams and disruption reports, one gets the feeling that the new electric service on phase two is unreliable, with repeated failures of trains and overhead.  However, this does not seem to be born out by the statistics I've collected, where it is not possible to discern any significant change in the general quality of service.

So, I guess it's just that every hitch catches the eye at the moment.

I see this as good news - One would expect extra problems at the start, as staff go through a learning curve and construction errors are revealed - So I think it is reasonable to hope for small improvements over the next few months.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

"New" Timetable

It's about that time of year, so I wasn't at all surprised to find that the new timetable, which starts on Sunday 13 December, had appeared in my database overnight.

When I looked into the details of the new schedules, however, I was startled and disappointed to discover that the timetable for trains at Huyton is exactly the same as the old one.  Was I wrong to expect an "electric" timetable this time?

What we have is a timetable up to 14 May 2016 in which all the trains are still timed for diesel units, running exactly the same service as they do now.

As expected, on Mondays to Saturdays Liverpool/Blackpool services are truncated at Preston, just as they will be in the current timetable from 5 October.  (A few daily peak hour trains, and all the Sunday services work through.)

The small print:  As I always say in posts about new timetables, the data is well outside the twelve week limit and so must be considered provisional.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Something Different

For a complete change of style I wandered up to Huyton station this morning to see 45699 "Galatea" storming through with The North Wales Coast Express on its way from Liverpool Lime Street to Holyhead.

P.S. Unfortunately Galatea only made it as far as Llandudno Junction and was removed from the train there with a hot box.  The rest of the tour was diesel powered.