Wednesday 23 December 2015

"New" Timetable

It's that time of the year again, and Network Rail's Christmas present arrived this morning with the delivery of the new timetable (15 May to 10 December 2016) into my database.

I must say I am somewhat disappointed to find another "no change" timetable for Huyton, with exactly the same service, and all trains still specified as Class 142 Diesel.  There have been a number of detail changes, with tweaks of half a minute in the working times of some trains, but the public timetable remains unchanged.

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.

Saturday 19 December 2015

Rainhill Footbridge Update

A regular user has kindly updated me on the "Rainhill Bridge Fiasco":

As you can see, the western bridge has gained an extra attachment so that it now meets the regulations.

The eastern bridge has been closed to the public, and the ugly mess of scaffolding has been removed.  Presumably it will soon receive similar modifications.

Update:  On Monday 21 December, the work was apparently nearly complete on the eastern bridge.

The Hendy Review

Replanning Network Rail’s investment programme: a report from Sir Peter Hendy to the Transport Secretary 
This report was published in November.  I waited patiently for Network Rail to reflect the report in their CP5 Enhancements Delivery Plan (The September update has not been published yet.) but nothing came.  Here's a quick list of the changed target completion dates in our area as I understand them:

Preston-Blackpool North Electrification "Phase 3"
Was March 2017, now 2019.

Manchester-Preston Electrification "Phase 4"
Was December 2016, now December 2017.

Victoria-Stalybridge Electrification "Phase 5"
Was 2017, now 2019.

Victoria-Ashburys Electrification "Phase 5"
Was 2017, now CP6 (2019 to 2024).

Guide Bridge-Stalybridge Electrification "Phase 5"
Was 2019,  now CP6 (2019 to 2024).

Bolton-Wigan Electrification "Phase 6"
Was December 2017, now CP6 (2019 to 2024).

Oxenholme-Windermere Electrification
Was December 2017, now CP6 (2019 to 2024).

Huyton-Roby Fourth Track
Was December 2017 (Originally February 2016), now 2019.

Ordsall Chord
Was originally December 2016 but had already slipped to December 2017.  No further postponement.

Liverpool Lime Street Realignment
Was December 2017, now 2019.
(I've not previously reported on this project which will move tracks around at Lime Street to allow for longer trains.)

UPDATE:  A number of these dates have changed again since this was posted.  See the Schedule page of the web site for more up to date and (hopefully) more accurate information.

Thursday 19 November 2015

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Network Rail have announced that the Farnworth Tunnel works will be completed with a final two-day closure of the route on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 December, followed by a full train service from Monday 14 December.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Footbridge Fiasco

I referred to the footbridge fiasco at Rainhill in the blog yesterday, and it occurred to me afterwards that some readers wouldn't know what I was on about, so here's a summary:

There are two footbridges at Rainhill station, one towards the western end for passengers to cross between the platforms, and the other just beyond the eastern end of the platforms, providing public access across the railway.

Both bridges were too low for the overhead to fit beneath them when the line was electrified, so Network Rail came up with what appeared at the time to be a rather good idea, and raised the bridges by adding brick plinths and a few extra steps at the bottom.  This retained the traditional appearance, in keeping with the rest of this historic station which was built in the 1860s (Although I doubt if the bridges are that old.)  The station is listed, grade II, so modern ramped replacement bridges were unlikely to be permitted.

Unfortunately new European regulations require that bridges over electrified lines must have parapets 1.8 metres high.  The EC Directive was passed in 2008 and UK legislation came into force in January 2012.

Apparently these rules came as a complete surprise to Network Rail this year, so an urgent bodge job of scaffolding and timber was required before our electric trains could start, back in March.

Eight months later the temporary structures are still in place, although to be fair there is a sign promising that "a more aesthetically pleasing and permanent solution" is being designed.

Here you can see the western bridge, with the fairly neat extra brickwork for raising it, and the tatty woodwork added for the new regulations.

If you think that's ugly, wait until you see the other bridge!

Let's hope Network Rail come up with a good solution before too long.

Monday 2 November 2015


Test Trains

A number of Pendolino test trains are scheduled to run on Tuesday night / Wednesday morning.  I believe these are to test the newly completed autotransformer feed system.

5T80 23:24 Edge Hill Depot to Manchester Piccadilly via Lime Street and Chat Moss
5T81 00:41 Manchester P to Manchester P via Chat Moss, Lime Street and Chat Moss
5T82 02:18 Manchester P to Wigan NW via Chat Moss, Lime Street and Golborne
5T83 03:51 Wigan NW to Wigan NW via Golborne, Lime Street and Golborne
5T84 05:19 Wigan NW to Edge Hill Depot via Golborne and Lime Street

I am told that the Wigan runs may be altered to operate via St Helens Central.

If successful, I think this could mark the final completion of Phase 2 at last.  Apart from the footbridge fiasco at Rainhill, which seems to have been forgotten.

Huyton Fourth Track

It may be nothing to do with the railway, but I noticed a gang of people in orange dress in the car park of Huyton Telephone Exchange this morning.  They had a theodolite positioned on the future location of the fourth track.  Could this indicate that work is to begin soon?

Completion of the fourth track will require a slice of land to be removed from the telephone exchange car park (But will just squeeze past the actual building, I think.) and also a longer slice off the side of Huyton bus station.  Permission for these works has been granted in a Transport and Works Act Order.

Once the land has been cleared it will "simply" be a matter of  stringing up some overhead, installing points at Roby Junction, re-modelling Huyton Junction, and altering the signalling.

Unusual Track

The line to Manchester was closed for engineering works yesterday, resulting in the Liverpool to Manchester Airport service being diverted to Wigan North Western, thus giving the west curve at Parkside a rare regular service.

Normally, this route has just one passenger train one way on weekdays, the 06:44 Wigan North Western to Liverpool Lime Street.

At Wigan, the service was reversing in platform 1, not normally used by class 319 units.

I'm not sure why the trains didn't reverse at Earlestown as they did on Saturday.
(Correction:  The service terminated at Earlestown on Saturday, but the trains ran on to Parkside Junction to reverse.)

Update:   For anyone who wants to try out this unusual route, similar operations are scheduled for the first three Sundays in 2016.

Friday 16 October 2015

Timetable Tweak

I noticed something rather odd in the daily updates to the timetable database this morning:  A number of schedules for the Liverpool / Preston services in the next timetable period (13 December 2015 to 14 May 2016) had been deleted and re-inserted.

Naturally I investigated, looking for the difference between the old and new versions, and I was surprised to see that the trains have been promoted from class 2 to class 1.  So, for example, 2N76 09:28 Liverpool Lime Street High Level to Preston has been deleted, and replaced by 1N82 09:28 Liverpool Lime Street High Level to Preston.

The timings remain exactly the same, and the rolling stock is still indicated as "DMU Class 150, 153, 155 or 156".

I wonder what the significance of this change is, if any?  Perhaps the signalmen will give these priority over the stopping services.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Carillion Is New Contractor

Carillion has won the Network Rail contract for the Northwest Electrification project formerly held by Balfour-Beatty.

Hopefully we will soon see work on the Manchester to Preston phase moving ahead once more.

Friday 9 October 2015

News Roundup

New Timetable

The new timetable, from Sunday 04 October, has introduced some more electric workings.  On Mondays to Saturdays almost all Liverpool/Blackpool services are cut back to Preston and operated by 319s, requiring a further three units in operation.  The extension of most of these services to Liverpool South Parkway still applies, so we have gained regular 319 operation in passenger service there as well.

Here we see 319369 basking in the autumn sunshine at South Parkway, having arrived from Preston via Lime Street and waiting to form the 11:03 return service.

On the other hand, the Liverpool/Warrington Bank Quay services remain mainly diesel operated, although I think the 17.50 off Lime Street and 18.52 return might now be electric.

Farnworth Tunnel

Fillie continues her slow progress under Farnworth.  The timetable database currently shows normal trains along this line from Monday 14 December, but I'm not sure how much weight we can give to that information.


Unless I've missed it, we still haven't had a formal announcement of which company or companies are to take over from Balfour Beatty and undertake the remaining parts of the project.

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.

Monday 15 June 2015

Liar (anag.)

The current edition of Rail magazine includes an article on the Northwest electrification which marks a disappointing return to the low level of accuracy that earned it the nick-name "Liar" in the 1980s.

I was particularly startled to read that the four tracking at Huyton is in the last stages of resignalling, testing and installation.  In fact, the fourth track is isolated at both ends, has no signals, and no overhead equipment.

A map of the electrification shows the Manchester to Wigan via Walkden line as AC electrified.

Another paragraph states that twenty 319 units will be used but a further ten should move north this year, which I'm fairly sure is also wrong.

Thursday 11 June 2015

TransPennine Electrification Postponed

It has emerged today that Network Rail have postponed the project to electrify the route from Manchester to York.  No new completion date has been set.

The DfT says Network Rail has discovered more work will be needed than was originally proposed.

What effect this will have on the Northwest Sparks area is not clear, but I would guess that Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge and Guide Bridge to Stalybridge are probably under threat.  And perhaps also the fourth track through Roby and Huyton.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Current 319 Rosters

I have received a number of emails from people enquiring as to which services are 319 worked, or reporting a particular train as diesel operated, so I thought it might be useful to create a list.  I was just beginning the process of doing so when a correspondent kindly pointed me to this page on the Rail website, where they have the complete rostered workings for the 319s, thus saving me a job!

Monday 18 May 2015

Hello Electric (2)

The first Monday of the new timetable didn't start well.

319386's first duty was 5F53 05:25 Preston Carriage Sidings to Wigan North Western, an ECS move prior to it working 2F53 06:03 Wigan North Western to Liverpool Lime Street High Level.  However, it only got as far as Boar's Head before failing, blocking the up WCML for an hour until another 319 rescued it.

This resulted in the 06.03 and 06.33 departures from Wigan being cancelled, along with a number of subsequent workings.

After this inauspicious start things improved, and by the time I went out to collect a few pictures the service was back to normal, although there was quite a lot of late running.  Here's a selection of pictures:

 Anyone hoping we've got rid of the 142s was in for a disappointment, here's 142046 leaving Huyton on 2N80 10:28 Liverpool Lime Street High Level to Blackpool North.  (One of the Warrington Bank Quay workings was also a 142.)

319363 at Huyton working 2F50 10:32 Liverpool Lime Street to Wigan North Western.

At Lime Street we see 319365 about to work 1H47 11:16 Liverpool Lime Street High Level to Manchester Airport, and 319361 which has just arrived on 2F21 10:02 Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street.

319369 arrives at Earlestown on 2F29 12:02 Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street.

Later, in improved weather, 319371 calls at Huyton while working 2F53 13:03 Wigan North Western to Liverpool Lime Street.

319361 on 2F33 13:02 Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street pulls away from Edge Hill.

Across the platform at Edge Hill, here's 319371 on 2F64 14:00 Liverpool Lime Street to Wigan North Western.

At Prescot, 319364 departs on 2F59 14:03 Wigan North Western to Liverpool Lime Street.

And finally, two 319s meet at Huyton's middle platform.

P.S.  I understand the only planned working north of Wigan is 2N74 18:00 Liverpool Lime Street to Preston.  Here it is at Huyton with 319371.  I believe the stock then stables overnight at Preston, so let's hope 371 has better luck in the morning than 386 did today!

Sunday 17 May 2015

Hello Electric

Well, sort of.  The Sunday trains at Huyton consist of an hourly Blackpool service and an hourly Manchester Airport service.  In the new timetable, which starts today, the latter are to be electric, albeit still on diesel timings.

Here's 319361 calling at Huyton while working 2A08 11:15 Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport.

Saturday 16 May 2015

Goodbye Diesel

A few farewell pictures on the last day of diesel services at Huyton.

Unfortunately, no 142s turned up (I never thought I'd write that!) so I didn't get a complete set.

156456 on 2N88 12:05 Liverpool South Parkway to Blackpool North.


150220 on 2F51 12:31 Wigan North Western to Liverpool Lime Street High Level.



150146 on 2F69 12:03 Blackpool North to Liverpool South Parkway.


While I was waiting in vain for a 142, I snapped a few newer trains:

319362 on
1F97 12:40 Manchester International Airport to Liverpool Lime Street.

185141 on 1F67 11:10 Newcastle to Liverpool Lime Street.

Yes, I know this isn't really the end of diesel workings at Huyton.  The Blackpool services will be diesel at least until September, and the Newcastle workings until who knows when.  Nevertheless, it feels a bit like the end of an era.  As a relative newcomer to the area, I never used first generation DMUs here, and my first train trip from Huyton was on the 16.45 to Lime Street on Friday 24 October 1997, which was worked by 150224 - I think that one's still about.

Sunday 3 May 2015


Engineering diversions have routed Liverpool to Euston services via the L & M today, so we have an hourly service of Pendolinos using our new electrification.  Here's 1A20 10:43 Liverpool Lime Street High Level to Euston cruising through a rather grey Huyton.

Saturday 2 May 2015

Early Electric Two

This morning, as last Saturday, a 319 worked the 06.00 Liverpool to Wigan and 07.00 return.  This week 319362 "Northern Powerhouse" did the honours, here's a shot of it at St Helens Central on the return run, kindly supplied by Paul Gaskell.
So for phase 2 that's only Manchester Victoria still waiting for a passenger working.  Any day now?

Apparently ten 319s should be diagrammed from the start of the new timetable so we can expect to see a lot more use on stopping trains soon.

Sunday 26 April 2015

Late Electric

And this evening, an eight car train with 319364 leading 319367 whizzed through Huyton on 5Z19 20:22 Allerton Diesel Multiple Unit Depot to Manchester Victoria, marking, as far as I know, the first electric working from Ordsall Lane Junction to Victoria.  So, with the possible exception of paperwork signoff for this last section, that's the whole of phase two up and running.  (Assuming this test is successful.)

Oh, and some autotransformer work remains to be completed as well.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Early Electric

I understand that 319363 worked 2F52 06.00 Liverpool Lime Street to Wigan North Western and the 2F57 07.03 return this morning, before moving onto Airport runs.

This marks the first electric passenger working on the Wigan line, and another important step in the progress of phase two.

Only Victoria remains to be completed, and there appears to be an intriguing test train of some sort booked for this Sunday evening.  See RTT for details.

Hopefully, with the new crew and stock rosters for the new timetable which starts on 17 May, we will see a substantial increase in the numbers of EMUs out and about on all parts of phase two, albeit on unaltered diesel schedules.

Thursday 16 April 2015

News in Brief

I've recently been a little negligent in following the news on this blog, so here's a few headlines and updates:
  • The Pendolino test runs which were aborted at the end of March were retried later in the week and were apparently successful.  Pendolinos are scheduled to run between Liverpool and Euston via Manchester on both the bank holiday weekends in May.
  • One autotransformer wire has been installed on the up side through Huyton, the down side is still missing.  Correction:  Actually both sides are now up, the down side on temporary pulleys.
  • A number of 319 test runs have been performed on the Huyton-Wigan line.  I am not aware that ORR have formally signed off the route.  (But see below)
  • "Treat as Live" notices have gone up for Ordsall Lane Jn to Victoria, dated Sunday 19 April.  I don't know if any finishing work is required but hopefully we will see MENTOR and then 319 tests before long. 
Finally, the rumour mill reports that on this coming Saturday (18 April) a 319 will do a Liverpool to Wigan and return passenger working and then move onto a Liverpool/Manchester Airport diagram.  Another 319 is also expected to be on Airport runs.  If this happens it will be the first electric passenger working on the Wigan line, and also the first Saturday runs, I think.

Update, Saturday:  The 319 to Wigan was replaced by a diesel, reportedly due to overhead line problems at Huyton.  An electric airport diagram is running, I'm told.

Thursday 9 April 2015

Additional 319 Working

A correspondent advises me of an extra trip which has been added to the Monday to Friday class 319 workings, which are now as follows:

Diagram 1
0616 Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport 0720
0735 Manchester Airport  to Liverpool Lime Street 0854
0916 Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport 1020
1040 Manchester Airport  to Liverpool Lime Street 1146
1215 Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport 1320
1340 Manchester Airport  to Liverpool Lime Street 1444
1516 Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport 1620
1640 Manchester Airport  to Liverpool Lime Street 1742
1814 Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport 1920
1940 Manchester Airport  to Liverpool Lime Street 2044

Diagram 2 
0716 Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport 0820
0840 Manchester Airport  to Liverpool Lime Street 0946 
1116 Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport 1220 (NEW)
1240 Manchester Airport  to Liverpool Lime Street 1346 (NEW)
1416 Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport 1520
1540 Manchester Airport  to Liverpool Lime Street 1643
1713 Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport 1820
1840 Manchester Airport  to Liverpool Lime Street 1944

Tuesday 31 March 2015

Pendolino Test Runs

Oh dear.

The first of this morning's scheduled Pendolino runs (1Q01 23:53 Liverpool Lime Street High Level to Newton-Le-Willows) ran, but all the others were cancelled - Reason I1 [Overhead line/third rail defect].

And then 1H42 06:16 Liverpool Lime Street High Level to Manchester International Airport was also cancelled, for the same reason.

So it would appear the Pendolino tests were not successful.

But don't panic - Finding problems is what testing is for, after all.

I've no reports so far on what the defect was, so I don't know how long it will take to resolve.  As I type, tonight's test runs are still in the timetable.

By the way, whatever it is these runs are testing (Power feed, gauging, something else, all of the above?) they aren't testing the autotransformer (AT) system because the AT wires are still missing at Huyton, and strapped to earth elsewhere.

Saturday 28 March 2015

Electrification Task Force

I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but I must confess to being a little miffed when I discovered that the recently published  "Report of the North of England Electrification Task Force" is called Northern Sparks.

The report comes up with a prioritised list of lines in northern England which are recommended for future electrification projects.  In the Northwest these are as follows:

Tier One (2019 to 2024)
  • Calder Valley – Leeds to Manchester and Preston via Bradford and Brighouse.
  • Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington Central.
  • Southport and Kirkby to Salford (via Atherton).
  • Chester to Stockport.
  • Bolton to Clitheroe.
  • Hazel Grove to Buxton.
  • Warrington to Chester.
Tier Two (Post 2024)
  • Manchester to Sheffield and local services in south east Manchester.
  • Chester to Crewe.
  • Burnley to Colne.
  • Preston to Blackpool South.
Tier Three (Long term)
  • Carnforth to Barrow.
  • Preston to Ormskirk.
  • Skipton to Carlisle.
  • Cumbrian Coast.
  • Skipton to Heysham.
You can read the full report here.

Update:  A more detailed examination of the report revealed that all the maps show the Ashburys to Philips Park line as non-electrified.  After a quick exchange of emails with Rail North I am pleased to confirm that this is a minor error in the report, and not a cancellation of part of phase 5.

Friday 27 March 2015

Progress - Or The Lack Of It

An interesting article in Rail Technology Magazine discusses the progress of various projects in the railway's North Of England Programme.  A number of these are now running late, and "Configuration State 5", which includes electrification Preston-Blackpool North, Ordsall Lane-Euxton Junction, and Manchester Victoria-Stalybridge, Huyton four tracks, and the Ordsall Chord has been put back a year, to December 2017.

The March 2015 update to the CP5 Enhancements Delivery Plan, which came out this week, does not fully reflect these delays, but does include notes which imply that there may be significant changes in the next (June) update.

Quality Control

A contributor kindly sent me this picture of a stanchion base at Broad Green with a nut missing, taken in October of last year.
He returned a couple of weeks ago to find it was still missing.  As he says, Network Rail's QA procedures are not working.

Let's hope nothing falls over.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Huyton, Victoria and Farnworth

Judging by the pulleys I spotted at Huyton station yesterday, I think the installation of the missing autotransformer wire on the up side must be imminent.  Of course, that doesn't mean the autotransformer system is imminent, I notice the autotransformer wires over most of the rest of Wavertree to Earlestown are all strapped to earth for safety purposes.


I also paid a quick visit to Manchester Victoria yesterday and was impressed by the progress on the electrification, it looks like the five day blockade will be enough time to finish it.

Contact wire and catenary seems to present the full length of four platforms, albeit on temporary fixings in some places.

The main reason for my trip was to take some pictures of the tunnels at Farnworth before the main work begins there in May.  I had foolishly failed to get any shots of the tunnel mouths when I took my "before" pictures of Farnworth Station a couple of years ago.

Staff were on the station installing signalling for the temporary single line working, the crossover at Kearsley is already in place, as is the one at Moses Gate I believe

And here are the tunnels themselves.

Very simply, the plan is to reline and strengthen the small tunnel and then use single line working through that while the larger tunnel is bored out to make it big enough for two electrified tracks.  At the end of the work the smaller tunnel will be redundant.

Saturday 21 March 2015

What On Earth??

This morning's timetable updates include a number of peculiar Pendolino workings in the early hours of 31 March and 1 April, shuttling backwards and forwards between Newton or Warrington Bank Quay and Edge Hill.

You can see them on Realtime Trains.

Is this a load test for the new wiring?  Or an April Fool joke by the schedulers?

The trains are shown as Class 1, not ECS, so can I get a ticket?

Monday 16 March 2015


OK, I know it's not directly related to the electrification project, but you can use one on our new electric trains, which is near enough.

So, how are the incompetent buffoons at Merseytravel getting on with their current "big project"?   The short answer is:  Not very well.

Walrus was launched in 2011, and we were supposed to be using it for pay as you go in 2013.  There's no sign of that happening yet, but they have now launched smart Savaways.  After a trial period in Wirral these are being rolled out across Merseyside this month, to replace the scratch-off Savaway tickets.  I got one this morning.
What's wrong with it?  Where do I start?
  • You can no longer buy a Savaway in advance, only on the day of travel, so if I'm starting my trip with a bus ride I have to walk past two bus stops to get to the newsagent to buy one.
  • The railway doesn't do PayPoint so it's only cardboard tickets from the station, but of course they got rid of the scratch-off ones a few years ago, so still no chance to buy in advance.
  • The railway doesn't do smart cards except at the handful of stations with ticket gates, so you need to carry a paper receipt to prove there's a Savaway on the card, which rather defeats the object, I think.  Paperless ticketing eh?
  • Given that we're one week into the rollout one might have expected a leaflet, but no, the poor lady in the Merseytravel office had to go through her explanatory spiel for each customer.
  • In view of the inconvenient requirement to carry a paper chit along with the card, one would have thought that a little plastic wallet might be useful, but I wasn't offered one.
  • What about other modern ways of buying a ticket?  Internet - no.  Ticket machine - no - not even Merseytravel's own ticket machines.
And the pluses of the new card?  I'm struggling to think of any ... ah yes, got one:
  • I'm always a little worried that my cardboard Savaway might get "eaten" by the ticket barrier.  I know the staff can retrieve it for me but that's little consolation when my mates are already getting on the train.  At least the Walrus doesn't have to leave my hand.
Of course, Merseytravel save the expense of printing and distributing those scratch cards which, I imagine, don't come cheap.

By the way, soon (1st April I think.) there will be a £1 charge for the Walrus card itself, so I advise you to get a free one quickly.  Actually, come to think of it, I might get a couple of spares while they're free, if I do any more Savaway trips.

Whinge over (for now) and I promise the next blog entry will be about electrification.  Probably.

Saturday 14 March 2015

Wigan Line Test Trains

A couple of schedules have appeared in the timetable database for what look like test trains for the Huyton to Wigan line (and also the curve to Bamfurlong Junction) on this coming Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Realtime Trains is the best place to find details, see U03681 and U03682.

Hopefully this will be MENTOR, in which case we can hope for test 319s soon.  I don't suppose we'll see any passenger workings until May, but you never know.

Update:   Having just observed it at Huyton I can confirm that Monday's train was indeed an electrification test coach, running pantograph up.  Power was 97301 and 97303, top and tail.

Update:  These tests were followed by 319 test runs overnight on Wednesday and Thursday nights.  I don't know if all the paperwork has been signed off yet, but basically the Wigan line is now operational.

Thursday 5 March 2015

Northern Electric

I marched up to Huyton station to find a special notice on the departure panel.
A few minutes waiting on the platform, and then an unfamiliar train rolled in.
Yes!  This was 1F92, the 07.35 Manchester Airport to Liverpool Lime Street, the first ever electric train to call at Huyton, and 319363 was looking shiny in its new "Northern Electric" livery.
At Lime Street the regular commuters left the train.  I wonder how many of them noticed anything different.

The inside's a bit purple, isn't it?  Clean and bright, anyway.
It was soon time for '363 to head off on another run to the airport.