Saturday, 18 January 2020

Making a to b by rail joined-up more

The English Regional Transport Association (ERTA) is a voluntary association seeking to move things towards better public transport. 

We are committed to all the regions across England and in terms of rail as a greener, cleaner mode of transport, we note Scotland and Wales have forged ahead and England is lagging behind. 

What we wish for for London, to be studied further can be found on our Blogspot: https://ertarailvolunteer.blogspot.com/ just scroll down to 'London Calling'. 

But main themes are as attached to this email on our London flyer. Currently there is no east-west rail link for 100 miles north of the North London Line. This means that all east-west movements (passenger and freight) must go by road and the lack of choice has fuelled demand for road expansion, but this heaps congestion up to urban areas which lack the sheer capacity to handle it all, let alone provide premium land for parking when demands for employment and housing abound.

We do need orbital rail links between the Channel Tunnel/Tonbridge and the radial lines north and west of London and these orbitals east and west M25 corridors of London. Likewise, the proposed east-west rail between Oxford-Milton Keynes-Bedford-Cambridge must be made fit for purpose from day one, is long overdue and must be designed to link radial north-south lines and carry freight as well as intense passenger workings. 

Concerns are also that whilst we do need more capacity and lines to the West and East Midlands and London, HS2 may not be the right type of railway to deliver what is required, capacity not speed per se. As, if the M1 for example crawls along at 25mph on average speed, why do you need 225 mph to beat it? So costs could come down if we go for capacity rather than just speed, a 125 mph cap on speed is fast enough. Likewise a railway which only deals with passenger trains, and leaves freight to existing lines fails to see we need to cater for both. If we are to take a climate emergency seriously, modal shift will means a need for more by rail, not less or just 'business as usual'. London needs more capacity on its rails for more London bound passenger and freight workings and capacity. It needs lands for depots and handling more freight by rail. Other concerns are, if the projected figures for HS2 are true, discharging at Euston will require additional tube and overground rail based capacity to cater for all the extra numbers. We must look at surface Light Rapid Transits (LRT) (in old money trams); for Central and West London areas as well as extension of the Docklands via the North London Circular to link East London with Cricklewood via Brent Cross. There should be few caps, rather encouragement to expand as demand and supply enables. At Old Oak Common in West London, the lack of HS2 running into Heathrow and onto the Channel Tunnel and the failure of Crossrail to be consistent Continental Loading Guage restricts joined-up-travel. People don't like changing and may cause crowding of Crossrail at the western end if the projected numbers use HS2. Other options are HS1/Stratford-Stansted-West Cambridge (M11 corridor)-A14 to Lutterworth-M6/M1 corridors to serve West and East Midlands in a seamless, consistent railway and could accommodate a link from Felixstowe in the east as well. We do need reopenings, rebuilds and select new builds, and on the London patch, we see the need for more cross-Thames rail based solutions not roads and a new link between Pitsea and Rayleigh could enable a joined up Woolwich-Southend Airport corridor by rail intercepting several trunk roads for Park and Ride access and avoid the need to travel into and out of central London with changes.

Building the current Stansted Rail Link onwards to link with the Braintree Branch, would inform a loop out of Liverpool Street-Stansted-Chelmsford-Stratford-London Liverpool Street. It would open up all sorts of connectivities and again challenge road based presumption in accessing a number of places. A new Park and Ride Rail Station along the A120 at Great Dunmow could also be installed if lands are not developed over without proper planning to keep options open. It is good to talk and worth together for the common interest or as John Donne said "no man is an island" and this can be the case in locations too. 

Likewise if the North Downs Line is electrified, you could run a semi-fast Thameslink Train from Central London to Guildford and possibly extended to Reading, saving the hassle of changing at St Pancras for the Northern Line to Waterloo, again freeing up seats. These things need studying but enables people to get around more and less changing and less gaps for fuelling demand for more road travel. 

I hope these ideas can be looked at and supported.








Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Cambridge Windows for More By Rail - plan to keep options open, not diminish them!

Dear Colleagues,

Please ask - where and how east-west rail's central section will integrate with the new station - see map - the old Bedford-Cambridge route can be seen to the left now Guided Busway which must go by road to Addenbrookes!

The point being the east-west rail could integrate with this station as well as having the old trackbed back for segregational capacity creation south of Cambridge which needs land for more tracks for approraches to the Cambridge main station anyway, given the desire to run more trains including some freight?

Please try and get along and take some flyers.


I attach a copy of my paper. I have an insight on how to tackle Blunham and Sandy access - but does depend on whether Bedford Borough Council/Mayor Dave Hodgson wants the railway from the east to enter Bedford via St John's and link with Bedford Midland, reverse to extra baying capacity and out again for Oxford? Contrast more circuitous and expensive options. Only willing to share my insight if invited to a meeting, where views are able to be openly expressed by either the Consortium, the Company or Bedford Borough Council or similar and that in private.

See diagram for a clue of what we would prefer at design stage. Proper rail optional integration, not one north-south station and develop land to block out the rest and by default overload Shepreth Junction!

The consultation is 'open to all'. Please spread the word.

Key to remember is that getting this and east-west right now, affects us all pro and anti and so what is happening here at Cambridge has a knock on effect rippling across the arc to Oxford and vice versa, ditto Bedford, ditto Milton Keynes. 

Likewise, if we want to free up more capacity into, across and out of London or indeed between Ely and Peterborough, we must have a robust railway able to take a lion's share of passenger and freight, not just passenger. Until it is built and made robust, over-demand for what is available is locked-in. 

Yours sincerely,


Richard Pill
ERTA Chairman
richard.erta@gmail.com



Monday, 13 January 2020

ERTA London Calling!

Not exhaustive, but some ideas which we would hope would be worked up and promoted where appropriate:

London Wish List 2020

Gospel Oak-Barking line (GOB) services integrated more with existing London services and
lines, with better interchanges at stations along the existing route?
-That GOB network should extend eastwards to Barking Riverside and Abbey Wood via a Thames Tunnel.
-That GOB network should extend eastwards to West Hampstead -Dudding Hill – Acton – Kew Bridge -Heathrow
Thames Tunnel Grays – Dartford (Lower Thames River Crossing scheme), built to HS1 standards, to include Crossrail 1 extension and cater for freight between ports and Channel Tunnel.

New rail link Southend Airport – Rayleigh/Pitsea parallel to A13, A130, A1245
Light Rapid Transits should be allowed to grow organically via local planning systems in North/South    /East/West/Central London e.g.  Croydon Tram link - extend to Crystal Palace and Lloyd Park curve eliminated (site of accident Autumn 2016)
LU -  a) Re-open Bank-Aldwych (closed for sake of new lifts!) and old Fleet Line to Charing     Cross
      b) Extend LU lines -  Edgware – Stanmore-Watford
Mill Hill East-Edgware
Epping – M11 Park & Ride
      c)modern signalling systems
                d)cooling the Tube network (especially in summer) where feasible and affordable
e) up-grade on the District Line (with population increase crowding is set to increase on that line from Richmond in next 25 years; that line is also notoriously crowded in peak-hours between Earls Court and Westminster),
      f) new air-conditioned trains which are energy-efficient with regenerative breaking
7.    New station on London Overground North London Line at North Acton (interchange with LT   Central Line and possibly Crossrail 1, adjacent Chiltern and First Great Western Services).
 New station on London Overground West London Line at Battersea
      9.       More disabled access for both LT and National Rail stations, particularly on London    Overground and LU stations.
 Chessington Line extension to Leatherhead including station for Chessington World of Adventures

Crossrail 1 to Windsor & Eton Central
Heathrow Southern Railway (short tunnel from Terminal 5 and then a mainly surface route parallel with the M25 to new junction with the Windsor-Staines line. HSR will then continue alongside the M25 to new junction with the Virginia Water–Weybridge/ Byfleet Junction line north of Chertsey. Could also incorporate old West Drayton - Staines West branch and be linked into reopening old Great Central mail line in the longer term.

New platforms Willesden Junction Low Level for London Midland and Southern services, thereby enabling interchange with North London Line, West London Line and LT Bakerloo Line.

North Downs Line    a) Double-track Frimley Green – Ash Vale
b) Improved pedestrian access between Dorking West/Dorking Deepdene
c. Elecrify North Downs Line.

Extend Docklands Light Railway Bank – site of old Broad Street station(underground)

Restoring through services to Bromley North from London Bridge/Charing Cross etc.
West Hampstead - new platforms for Chiltern Line services and possibly Metropolitan Line, thereby enabling interchange with North London Line, Thameslink and Jubilee Lines
Crossrail 2 [SW-NE]
Better integration of London's suburban rail with TfL bus, tube and tram services, including new and improved interchanges with these services
All London's suburban rail services must be devolved to TfL (London Overground) as soon as possible
Sites close to railway lines offering potential locations for rail freight terminals and logistics centres must be protected from alternative transport proposals these include disused railways and rail sidings.



Sunday, 12 January 2020

ERTA Bedford Forum - All Welcome


Agenda for Bedford Forum Tuesday 4th February 2pm Food and Social, 3-5pm business at The Pilgrims Progress Wetherspoons, River Street/Midland Road, Bedford MK40 1QB T. 01234 363 751 – 10 minutes from Bedford Midland Railway Station and 5 minutes from Bedford Bus Station, centrally located. We tend to butt two tables together under the stairs areas at the back of the venue.

1. Apologies for absence
2. A new station on the Bedford-Bletchley railway at the Retail Park Kempston
3. Stations North of Bedford
4. Full Pedestrianisation of Bedford High Street and Midland Road for a safer shopping experience
5. Pavement widening, better standards of paving and repair
6. More dedicated off-road cycle paths and networks including through the town centre
7. Distributor Buses serving the railway station and bus station with key places around the town
8. Bus services returned to Tavistock Street, St Peters Street (north side) X5 and Prebend Street
9. East-West Rail including Bedford-Sandy-Cambridge via St John’s out of Bedford
10. A new direct rail link between Bedford and Northampton
11. More freight by rail including a plan and vision for road-rail at Forders Sidings off A421
12. There is a need to get more lorries off the roads. How best might this be done?
13. Who is willing to do something? Write/Research/Be a project officer/Local Government.
14. Practical’s – want to grow a team to campaign but also grow the local membership/volunteers.
15. Any Other Business
16. Day, Date, Time and Place of next meeting: Tuesday 3rd March same time and venue.


Sunday, 5 January 2020

Alternatives by rail to HS2/HS3

What we want is: a. Woodhead new built with new bore tunnel, b. Peak Rail, c. Harrogate-Ripon-Northallerton, d. Skipton-Colne e. Keswick re-railed and f. Great Central rebuild/new build from Calvert-Narborough with access from the south (Aylesbury, Oxford, Old Oak Common, Heathrow, Southampton and Bristol) to Leicester for East Midlands and beyond dissemination and via Knighton-Burton spare capcity to Derby for wider dissemination and vice versa. 

This capacity creation would go a long way to connect and re-connect and offer capacity at less cost the High Speed designs. I'm open to see the map of what you propose and whether it would accommodate passenger and more freight by rail and not merely create defaultive capacity (HS2 claim). 


A connection from MML north of Luton (Toddington service station area) - M1 calls at MK West/Coachway/Cranfield links- cross country enter Northampton via the old Bedford-Northampton link serving Brackmills Industrial Business Park, University of Northampton Waterside Campus (new), Delapre Abbey Centre, South Northampton and connects with WCML / loop and proposed and at study stage Northampton-Market Harborough line and DIRFT for example. You could focus on Leicester-Nuneaton via Narborough and parallel M1 with diverse links to Rugby, GC for Calvert and if necessary M1 Watford Gap-wherever in the London area you have in mind. 


I would suggest look at incrementalism and working with local lines and infill select new pieces first and then whole hog if necessary? Happy to entertain and discuss in the round further, principally via email richard.erta@gmail.com and my Vice Chairman and associated do the face-2-face meetings more often than not. 


I dislike the adversarial and aggressive approach of HS2 or bust stances, and wish for a more inclusive, broadened and concilliatory tone which carries more with us. For example, our Great Central scheme would propose a station at Brackley and between Southam and Daventry, none of which HS offers whilst all the design and intrusion of a railway they cannot use. #ertarail




Thursday, 2 January 2020

Getting more freight off roads and onto rails in the East Midlands

For 20 years we called for a rail-road depot for Elstow Storage Depot off the MML south of Bedford/off the A6. Alas, we were ignored by tiers of government and now we have Wixams with proliferated depots and loads of lorry movements and no rail access, so dysfunction is locked-in. Likewise Brackmills Industrial Park, Northampton - which could be rebuilt if those regional distributor companies clubbed together and led from the front. Sadly they are waiting for others to blink first/brinkmanship (?) and in track laying roles there is NR and not much else unless third party funding is available. Where rails exist companies can spruce up green credentials by having a rail access, but reaching out to take rail movements off through tracks demands some vision, cost and initiative. Thus, Northampton Rail freight depot is a link off the through tracks and could be a problem operationally as these tracks through Northampton are extremely busy with passenger and freight.

Hinkley has rail access from Felixstowe-Leicester and Liverpool-Nuneaton. BUT, no north-south access which avoids London to places like Bristol and Southampton for example. Oxford-Milton Keynes reopening (2024?) still has the issue of capacity on the West Coast Line whilst A34/A43/A14 and associated roads are bunged up/subject to delays and that is cost. This is where our Great Central Plan comes into its own, as if a spur were built off Narborough (Leicester-Nuneaton) and new build back to Rugby / WCML that in itself would offer M1 parallel on north-south axis but WCML is at capacity (selling point seized on by HS2 as an answer even as it won't cater for much freight if at all/relies on predicted defaultive capacity creation, which in my humble view is over-egged!). Great Central south of Rugby to Calvert enables passenger links from East Midlands to Aylesbury/Oxford, Old Oak Common/Crossrail/Heathrow and freight off existing lines and road to East Midlands from Southampton/Bristol to Leicester and yonder and/or via the Burton Line to Derby and yonder (avoiding excess paths being taken up through Leicester). 

So I feel GC needs to be studied again, councils need to come together, pool resources with quangos like English Economic Heartlands and see how vital a role a GC revival south of Narborough could be for game changing the current set of dynamics we face. Orbitals of Birmingham are few and far between, but with Peak Rail (interest exists) access to Manchester/capacity for passenger and freight can be had and dissemination thereof.

Hope of interest. Any industrial development linked to rail with actual rail a lion's share is better than none at all, but Government could be asked to mandate it and set a percentage of rail business modal shift from day one, so we avoid speculative greening and proliferation of lorries. Midlands Connect sadly promote roads it seems, but that is short sighted, if they could buy into these rail projects, it could be a game changer.