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Network Rail predicts new route requirements

Destination boards at London Paddington could be displaying services for Southampton via Heathrow Airport in future years, Network Rail suggests in one of it latest route studies.

NR’s Western Route Study looks through Control Period 6 (2019-2024) and on to 2043 to assess what the railway must do to accommodate the increase in passengers and freight it expects. For the lines from Paddington, there’s the prospect of a new interchange station at Old Oak Common for High Speed 2 in 2026, as well as CP6’s proposed new line into Heathrow from the west.

Improving connections to these two transport hubs drives many of NR’s proposals across three recently published route studies covering Western, Wessex and Sussex. Providing better access from places such as Southampton to Heathrow and HS2 would need extra capacity, with NR suggesting flying junctions at Southcote Junction and Basingstoke. In addition, it suggests a third line between Southcote Junction and Oxford Road Junction (both near Reading) to cope with more container trains.

Brighton Main Line trains could run to Old Oak Common via the West London Line to provide access to HS2. NR notes that this might need a flying junction around Clapham, which is something it says only tunnels could provide. This could harm capacity into Waterloo because NR suggests that dedicating fast line paths onto the West London Line would lead to other trains diverted from the fast lines being restricted to eight cars, rather than 12.

Ladbroke Grove Junction, just outside Paddington, may also require rebuilding as a flying junction, as part of a re-modelling of the approach to Paddington. Looking towards 2043, NR predicts that Paddington-Reading will need 24 trains per hour on its two main lines in the high peak, compared with the 20tph needed in NR’s 2019 base year.

NR expects these paths will need longer trains, too. It suggests high peak trains for Newbury and Oxford will need to be 12 cars rather than eight, and that Intercity Express Programme (IEP) trains be increased to 11 or 12 cars.

There’s pressure too on the relief (slow) lines from Paddington, with NR estimating an increase in demand between 2012 and 2043 of 298%. The equivalent figure for the main lines is 99%. Main line services will have only standing room east of Reading in the morning peak hour from 2023 if nothing beyond the current plans is delivered. By 2043, it will be standing room only, from Oxford, Swindon and Newbury on the same basis.

Even in the West Country will require extra capacity. If no extra capacity is provided into Exeter, then by 2043 passengers will be standing from Umberleigh on the Barnstaple Line, from Lympstone on the Exmouth branch and from Feniton on the old South Western Main Line for 0800-0859 arrivals.

More capacity is also needed on NR’s Wessex Route, adjacent to the Western. In addition to re-modelling Basingstoke to cope with Paddington-Southampton trains, NR argues that Woking’s flat junction should be replaced by grade-separation in CP6. The London Waterloo-Southampton route needs longer trains and more seats to cope with demand. NR suggests that trains on the route switch to 2+3 seating (most today have 2+2 seating).

Beyond CP6, rail funders will need to decide on more radical upgrades. NR predicts that the choices available could be some or all of the following: a fifth line from Surbiton to Clapham Junction, Crossrail 2 or cab signalling (ETCS Level 3) plus automatic train operation (ATO).

For the inner suburban area, NR argues that only Crossrail 2 “looks to have the potential to get close to the long term target train numbers to cope with growth”, although it says that accelerating ETCS/ATO could help, and would bring better value for money than the fifth track.

In Sussex, in addition to Thameslink improvements, CP6 should include capacity improvements where the routes from Victoria and London Bridge converge just north of East Croydon, extra platforms at East Croydon and Reigate, and grade-separation at Coulsdon.

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  • Andrewjgwilt1989 - 28/09/2015 11:49

    Why go from London Paddington to Southampton Central via Heathrow Airport whilst South West Trains operates a direct service to Southampton Central from London Waterloo. Why Paddington to Southampton? Waterloo is the terminus for trains coming from Southampton and also from Bournemouth, Exeter Central, Portsmouth Harbour, Dorset and Hampshire.

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  • Philip Walker - 28/09/2015 12:15

    The problem with the Old Oak Common interchange is that stopping GW inter city trains there will lengthen journey times meaning that some of the gains made by electrification and IEPs (bringing journey times roughly back to those of some HSTs in 1970s) will be lost. The vast majority of passengers travelling to London surely want to go to central London (and that means Paddington for GW), and Bristol etc to Birmingham and NW passengers already have direct Cross Country trains. I assume Heathrow coach connections are one of the main reasons for stopping Bournemouth line fast services at Woking. So Southampton-Heathrow-Paddington trains could mean the Woking stop could be missed on some Weymouth expresses, thus helping restore Bournemouth journey times to those achieved in 1967. Grade separation of Woking’s flat junction is something that should have been done years ago! If 3+2 seating is meant for trains that should be of an Inter-City nature on the Bournemouth Line, some thinking again needs to be done there! As for Brighton main line connections for the Midlands and NW, surely the answer is for express services from Brighton and Gatwick via the current WCML, using capacity freed up by HS2? The extra platforms at E Croydon and additional grade-separation where Victoria and LB routes converge north of E Croydon are very needed projects. Also judging by my experience of the Brighton line, the restricted double-track southern section between BalcombeTunnel Jn and Brighton needs heavy investment as it’s not fit for purpose as a main line needing both frequent non-stopping fast trains and frequent services calling at important intermediate stations.

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  • Graham Nalty - 29/09/2015 09:55

    I have always thought Old Oak Common inadequate as an interchange unless connectivity was improved and my ideas were for a service from Brighton to Clapham Jcn., Old Oak, Heathrow and then on to Southampton, as well as connecting Old Oak to the Overground. Paddington to Southampton and Brighton to Old Oak do just about the same thing, though Brighton to Heathrow would be better. These people at Network are really thinking about growth and connectivity much more realistically than those designing HS2.

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  • Jonathan Brain - 02/10/2015 12:04

    While the Reading - Basingstoke changes will cater for increasing volumes of existing traffic it does nothing to generate new traffic. Would the money be better utilised by putting it towards a scheme such as: Such a scheme could be used increased Southampton volumes and new traffic generation.

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