Thursday, 14 May 2015

ERUF Response To Network Rail Consultation




This paper is a response to the Network Rail Anglia Route Study Draft, which was issued for consultation in November 2014; references in brackets are to this document.  Although we support many of the findings in the report, we believe that the Study has not addressed the main problems associated with the rail services in the area because these are potentially very expensive to rectify.  As such we feel that the Study is not credible as it has not been ambitious enough in its approach.

Journey time improvements on Great Eastern main line (GEC03)

This is one of the primary recommendations of the “Norwich in Ninety” campaign supported by MPs, local authorities, rail user groups and other interested parties in the area.  ERUF has been a strong supporter of this campaign with the proviso that any improvements should benefit all rail users, not just those in Norfolk and Suffolk.  Increasing line speed to 110mph would do this (0.4.2), but another measure proposed would be potentially very detrimental to Essex rail users.

A report produced about three years ago by the consultants Atkins suggested the addition of long dynamic loops between the new Beaulieu Park station north of Chelmsford  (which is planned to have four platforms) and Witham; these loops would be ideally located mid-way between Colchester and Shenfield, and would enable slower trains to be overtaken by fast ones while both trains were travelling at speed.  Rather than follow this advice, Network Rail proposes a much cheaper option, to extend existing loops at Witham station (0.4.2).

The problem with the Witham loops (even if extended) is that they would be too short to be dynamic, and too far north to be of real benefit.  Short loops mean that slow trains must be brought to a halt in order for faster ones to overtake.  This could add a time penalty of five or six minutes to the journey time of the slower train being overtaken.   This is precisely the sort of proposal that we find totally unacceptable.  

The Network Rail document should propose loops where they are needed, not where it is financially expedient to construct them. Money has been found for other schemes in recent years for “too expensive to consider” schemes such as the Reading station rebuild and Crossrail. What we need in East Anglia is a railway that works well rather than one that is bodged, and regretfully providing loops north of Witham would be a bodge, a far from ideal solution to increasing capacity on the line..

Half hourly rail services (GEC 06 to 16)
We warmly welcome the recommendation that all train services on Great Eastern branch lines should be increased to two trains per hour.   Of course the new rail franchise operator has to agree this and include this in his bid.   Some branches can accommodate this now, but others may require substantial works to achieve this.  In (0.5.6) this is acknowledged, and again lack of ambition in the document simply pushes any route where this is going to be difficult into the long grass by stating that a business case would have to be made for improvements.  This may be true, but in some cases there are other interested parties that could be persuaded to contribute to enable the improvements to take place.

One such branch is that to Colchester Town.  We believe that Colchester Town station would need a second platform to satisfactorily handle 2 tph on all the services that currently serve the station.   It is our opinion, endorsed by highly competent train and timetable planners, that the station should be rebuilt with a central island platform enabling cross platform interchange between London services and local services to the Tendring Peninsula. The current station, with a single terminal platform, can only cope with six trains an hour, due to the fact that once the driver has arrived, he has to walk the length of the train to the other end cab of the train to drive it out.

Colchester has terrible traffic jams in the rush hour.  Situated near the main shopping centre, Colchester Town station does not currently even have a Sunday train service.   We have been campaigning for years to get a second platform constructed at the station, but have been frustrated by road orientated councils and complete lack of vision to make this happen.  Section 106 funding was allocated to build the platform, but this was later spent elsewhere improving Hythe station.  This may have been good for regeneration of the Hythe area, but this work has done nothing to improve traffic congestion in the town centre.

A major shopping centre redevelopment is planned in the area near Colchester Town station, and section 106 funding could be available to help pay for a rebuild of the station.  We believe that once the improvements are in place, together with half hourly train services, use of the station should improve massively by between five and ten fold.

Chelmsford and Crossrail
The Crossrail scheme now under construction will have four terminal stations; Reading and Heathrow in the west, Abbey Wood in the south east and Shenfield in the north east.  As part of the future planning for the Crossrail scheme, extensions have been planned and land safeguarded to allow Crossrail trains to run beyond the south eastern terminus of Abbey Wood to Gravesend and Ebbsfleet.  However, no such extension has been planned beyond the north eastern terminus of Shenfield, which seems odd, because Chelmsford is closer to London than Reading.  
Chelmsford is a City and the second busiest station in East Anglia after Cambridge.  Yet unlike Cambridge, it only has one double track route serving it (Cambridge can be reached either from Liverpool Street or from Kings Cross).  Chelmsford is the administrative headquarters of Essex, so it would make sense to plan long term to extend Crossrail services to make this the north east terminus for Crossrail trains.   This would probably require two extra tracks between Shenfield and Chelmsford, which almost certainly will be needed in any case due to the continuing increase in use of train services on the Great Eastern main line.  As there are operational difficulties in turning trains round at Chelmsford, Beaulieu Park, the new developer funded station planned for north east Chelmsford, would make a better terminus, particularly as it is planned to have four platforms there.

New stations
There is potential for extra stations in the East Anglia region, as population growth has led to new locations where stations could be viable.  Here are some station sites in our area which we feel should be investigated further: -

(a)Clacton North – A station site near Gorse Lane is proposed, as the existing station is well to the south of the centre of population.  The new station would serve Great Clacton, Holland-on-Sea and the new developments on the north side of Clacton.

(b) Great Cornard  - New housing developments to the south of Sudbury town centre at Great Cornard are poorly located for the existing Sudbury station site.  A passing loop is proposed for Great Cornard to enable, as proposed, an half-hourly service to be instigated on the line.  The station could be built with one island platform and two platform faces, so that when trains stopped to pass each other they could pick up passengers as well.

(c) Great Blakenham - A ski slope was planned for this location together with a large housing development.  It would appear that the ski slope has not progressed, but the fact remains that a station could be well used if located there, midway between Ipswich and Needham Market.

Regretfully, the Network Rail Anglia Route Study Draft does not address the principal problems that are present in the infrastructure of the Anglia lines.   We suspect that the reason for this is that most of these problems are going to cost serious money to put right. Funding of this scale seems to be readily available for road improvement projects, but it is only in recent years that some rail projects have been funded to this scale.   
Under investment in the Great Eastern main line over many years has been the cause of much of these problems.  The infrastructure cannot cope with the massive increase in number of rail passengers using the Great Eastern main line.  For example those using Manningtree station have increased from 100 in 1985 to 1,500 now, a 1400% increase.  A further 500 to 1,000 houses are planned near the station which we know will be marketed to the London commuter market.  Massive housing developments are also planned north of Chelmsford and in and to the east of Colchester.  This is a problem that cannot be avoided, and must be addressed urgently.

Essex Rail Users Federation
February 2015

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