Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The case for rail electrification to Hull

Last month it was announced that the Manchester to Leeds via Huddersfield Transpennine rail route would be electrified. It now seems clear that the Leeds to York section will also be electrified. Combined with existing and committed electrification, the north Transpennine Express route from Liverpool and Manchester Airport via Manchester, Leeds and York to Newcastle will be electrified, enabling conversion of the route to be operated by electric multiple units (EMU) instead of the current Diesel Class 170 Turbostar and Class 185 Desiro units.

However the current service pattern of North Transpennine services does not match this. Services currently serve 4 different eastern destinations: Newcastle, Middlesborough, Scarborough and Hull. So while Newcastle will maintain it's current Transpennine Express service, what happens to Middlesborough, Scarborough and Hull? Consideration is being made of electrification to these destinations, but with only one Transpennine Express service an hour to these destinations the benefits of doing so look weak, if considered purely in the context of Transpennine Express services.

If the Hull to Leeds line is not electrified, Hull risks loosing it's current Manchester service in favour of a truncated Hull to Leeds shuttle. At best would be a service to Manchester via the slower Calder Valley route via Bradford and Halifax. Either way Hull would loose out, as would the intermediate stations between Hull and Leeds served by Transpennine Express, principally Brough and Selby. So a case needs to be made to electrify the Hull to Leeds line. Fortunately for Hull (and unlike Scarborough) the Hull to Leeds route is used by more than just an hourly Transpennine Express service.

Reviewing the route from Leeds end, the section from Leeds station to Neville Hill depot in East Leeds is already electrified, and the section to Micklefield Junction, east of Garforth, will be electrified as part of the Leeds to York scheme. So in reality the case needs to be made for Micklefield Junction to Hull.

The first section to consider is Micklefield Junction to Hambleton Junctions, between South Milford and Selby. Hambleton Junction is where the Hull-Leeds route interacts with the East Coast Main Line (ECML). If the Micklefield to Hambleton Junction section is electrified, including the west to south curve at Hambleton onto the ECML, then a second electrified route from the ECML into Leeds is created. This would be very useful for diversions and/or enabling some scheduled London-Leeds services to route this way.

Staying on the subject of Hambleton Junction, if the North to East curve from the ECML onto the Hull-Leeds line is electrified then the hourly Hull to York service could be converted to EMU operation. On it's own I doubt this service would justify EMU's, but as part of a wider package maybe. A complicating factor would be that some Hull to York services actually route via Sherburn in Elmet, but here there would be two options; electrify the short section between Gascoigne Wood (east of South Milford) and Church Fenton (on the York-Leeds line) enabling Sherburn to be served by EMU's, or enhance the York-Pontefract-Sheffield service to act as replacement service for Sherburn.

Moving further East there is Selby. Between Leeds and Selby there are 2 services each hour; the Transpennine Express service to Hull and a stopping service. The stopping service currently starts back in Wakefield operating a 'Grand Tour' of West Yorkshire before ending up in Selby. However splitting the Leeds to Selby section from this would allow it to be operated by EMU's.

Selby also raises the possibility of electrifying the line from here to Temple Hirst Junction on the ECML. This would enable the conversion of all Hull to London services to EMU operation. This would save the existing practice of diesel's operating long distances on the electrified ECML. East Coast Trains would not need to use a diesel High Speed Train, or in the future a bi-mode Intercity Express to Hull - further undermining what in my opinion is a weak case for these bi-mode trains. First Hull Trains could also convert their operation to EMU's, though as an open access operator they could not be forced to do so.

Once again there is also diversionary uses for electrifying the Temple Hirst route. Ensure the Selby avoiding curve is included and the ECML has a new diversionary route between Hambleton and Temple Hirst Junction. Electrify the Sherburn route as discussed above and that diversionary route becomes Colton Junction, south of York, to Temple Hirst Junction.

So in summary the following services could be converted to EMU operation:
Hull-Leeds-Manchester Transpennine Express - Once per hour
Selby-Leeds stoping service - Once per hour
Hull-York - Once per hour
Hull-London - About every two hours
That is at least two services per hour over all sections of the Hull to Micklefield Junction route, including 2.5 services an hour between Hull and Selby. This would displace a significant number of diesel's such as sprinters, turbostars and desiros to replace pacer units, avoiding the need to order brand new diesels as replacements.

Furthermore there is also freight to consider. A lot depends of whether the destination at the other end of the route is also electrified, and the availability of an electric locomotive, but electrifying the Hull to Leeds line could include the Potter Group freight depot at Selby as well as sidings at Gascoigne Wood and nearby Milford. Potentially even Hull Docks if the connecting line to the docks was included in the electrification scheme.

Finally electrifying the Hull to Leeds line could also reduce the cost of complexity of future electrification, namely the Hull to Doncaster via Goole line. This route shares the Leeds route between Hull and Gilberdyke, so any future electrification would only need to cover Gilberdyke to Doncaster. If the Doncaster to Sheffield route was electrified, Gilberdyke to Doncaster would be an easy add-on, far easier and cheaper than Hull to Doncaster.

I'm no expert on costs, but the case for electrifing Hull to Micklefield Junction does seem strong in terms of the services which could use it. Plus politically investment in rail services to Brough might be a good move at the moment - and certainly the town won't want to be served by an inferior Manchester service.


Anonymous said...

Never say never...

Anonymous said...

Selby swing bridge could be an interesting problem to solve for electrification, although there's already a precedent at Norwich.

Anonymous said...

With your permission i would like to send this to blog to network rail.

If possible could you also update your blog to take into account and bridges tunnels ect that would need work doing to them in order to allow the line to be electrifed!

I am pasionate about getting the line to hull electrifed and think you might have overlooked the Hull to liverpool train could this also be done by EMU's?

Humber Transport said...

I'm afraid I don't have any detailed knowledge of bridges etc on the Hull to Leeds line

Unlees there is an odd service at the start/end of the day, there is currently no Hull to Liverpool service

Christopher Green said...

You should be proud i am sure network rail will thank you for writing this blog as you cover most things.

It will be interesting to see how they will deal with the Selby Bridge, but as mentioned the Trowse Swing Bridge already sorts this problem out and something similar could be used here. Most Trains tend to stop at Selby anyway so it’s not going to be a Major Issue.

The Hull to Liverpool Train is quite new and runs early in a morning at (06:00) and returns at (19:22) the route follows the hull to Manchester route and then goes Manchester oxford, Birchwood [BWD], Warrington Central [WAC], Liverpool South Parkway [LPY] and Liverpool Lime Street.

I am not sure if this line is also going get electrified/is already but if it is this could increase the trains to and from Liverpool it would also mean that you could travel from East of the Pennine to the West of the Pennine and be Carbon Free!

The only other problems that i can see on the Hull to Leeds line is any bridges that need moving as this can be costly but as far as i know they may only have to make two higher because the rest have enough distance.

I will be interesting to see what network rail say and i wonder when we are likely to see a draft report/decision.


James said...

A good blog. One factual inaccuracy that I noted though: the current Leeds-Selby stopping service actually originates at Manchester Victoria - it is the service _from_ Selby to Leeds that then continues to Brighouse, Huddersfield and Wakefield. In general, anyway.

Apart from that, the only thing I do not like is your suggestion that Sherburn should loose its service to Selby and Hull - though improving Sheffield-Pontefract-York is certainly a good idea.