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.

Phase Two In Action

This morning, the 06:16 Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Airport was worked by 319363, forming the first electric passenger service on the phase two route.

More details and hopefully pictures later ...