Friday, 18 April 2014

Huyton Quarry

Work is proceeding at the former site of Huyton Quarry station, where a permanent vehicular access point is being constructed, as well as a sub-station and signalling site.

The roads have been surfaced, and a number of foundations constructed, ready for the sub-station and equipment cabinets.




Thursday, 17 April 2014

Rail Operating Centre at Ashburys

Over in eastern Manchester, construction work is just about finished (They were installing handrails on the footpaths when I was there.) on Network Rail's North West Operating Centre.  I'm given to understand that one of its first roles will be to control the signalling at the remodelled Huyton Junction and the new Roby Junction, presumably from mid-July.


Eventually, this centre will control railways all over the North West.

As to the architecture, it's a bit brutal but actually they have cleverly managed to avoid creating a plain ugly cube, so I think I would sum it up as "imposing".

P.S. While travelling to Ashburys I was able to spot an error in the maps on my web site:  The eastern access to TPE's Ardwick depot is not electrified.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Progress Report

One or two people have recently mentioned to me the lack of progress reports in this blog.  Basically it's been a case of "no news is good news", as the work on phase two moves on steadily without any individual exciting events.

However, I took a trip to Manchester yesterday so I think an update is in order:

Edge Hill

I've no idea if this has anything to do with the electrification, but a spare piece of railway land on the north side of the line near Bootle Branch Junction has recently been levelled and a fenced-off compound has been created, with concrete foundations inside.  Could this be the beginning of a sub-station or switching site?

Roby and Huyton Additional Tracks

Construction work on new platforms is proceeding.  The public subway at Huyton is partially closed and the section to be moved has been demolished.  Piling work is under way next to the telephone exchange.

I've not seen an official announcement yet, but it has been reported that there will be a nine day closure commencing 5 July for the reconstruction of Huyton Junction and work on Sankey Viaduct.

Huyton Quarry Substation and Vehicular Access

Work continues slowly.  The foundation for the sub-station is in place and the roadways are currently hardcore, awaiting the tarmac.

Huyton Quarry to Earlestown

Almost all mast bases are in place, and many of them have masts and contact arms.  The only exception is Sankey Viaduct where I didn't spot any indications of work.

Earlestown

Track panels, including switches, are stacked beside the loop, suggesting that work on the track may be about to resume.  The crossover from the Down Chat Moss into the loop is still disconnected.  On the signalling front, some new signals are still bagged, and  I observed some signalling engineers delivering a new relay panel.

Astley

Work on the equipment here continues.

Victoria

Lots of gantries are up between Victoria and Ordsall Lane.  Victoria itself is very much a building site, with the tram stop closed at the moment.

What Next?

It can't be long until the first wires go up, can it?

New Trains Announced

No sooner had I published a whinge on the subject of rolling stock than the Government comes up with an announcement.  You can read the release here, but in summary, two four car electric trains will be operating between Liverpool and Manchester from December 2014.  The two diesel units released will be used to run a service on the new Todmorden curve and to strengthen services through Bolton.  The announcement goes on to say that by the end of 2015, forty carriages will be in service.

It is intriguing to consider what the two units will do in December:
  1. Current stopping trains between Lime Street and Victoria take 62-64 minutes.  Could the improved acceleration and higher top speed of electric trains get this far enough below 60 so that the two trains could provide the entire hourly service?  Maybe, but I doubt it.
  2. Option two would be to keep basically the same service as now, and replace some but not all trains with electric units. 
  3. More radically, how about an hourly electric limited stop service in addition to the existing hourly stopper.  This sounds good, but doesn't release any diesels.
  4. [Update]  Ah, I've missed another option:  Perhaps the units will be deployed on the hourly Liverpool to Manchester Airport services, replacing two of the three diesels required to run this.

Nowhere does the release identify what the units will be nor does the word "refurbish" appear.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

"New" Trains

It was as long ago as June 2011 that I first commented in this blog about the plan to use class 319 units no longer required on Thameslink to run the electrified services here in the northwest.  At the time I suggested that these trains were unlikely to be available in sufficient numbers for the scheduled start of services in December 2014.

Since then I have mentioned my concerns a couple more times, and also corresponded with the DfT.

Now, here we are just eight months from the supposed start of electric services on the phase two routes, and what is the latest news on our new electric trains?  This month's Modern Railways, in an editorial which is highly critical of Government Ministers' and the DfT's handling of this matter, reports that Northern may receive - wait for it - three un-refurbished 319s this year.  So it would seem we will be riding under our shiny new wires in the same old diesel units for some time.

This certainly makes my comment in January about the "last diesel timetable" look somewhat premature!