More trains on the tracks

If you fly over England at the time of the morning peak you will see busy main roads into cities and towns with cars often bumper to bumper. You will also see near empty railway lines, with a couple of miles gap between trains. Hundreds of cars an hour pour into our urban areas, whilst just 27 trains an  hour make it over our main line tracks.

So why do we need such large gaps  between trains? After all, trains on the main lines are all going in the same direction on any track, so there is no danger of a head to head crash. They all have  drivers and brakes, so they should all be capable of closing the gaps without endangering passengers.

The main reason is Network Rail still uses an old fashioned signalling system based on fixed block. This means that signals keep a second train out of a section of track all the time the first train remains in it. Because there has been a history of train drivers passing red signals there are various automatic warnings and braking devices to try to stop trains ending up close to each other.

There are now new systems based on radio links, computers and satellite positioning that enables an individual train to know where it is and how far it is away from the  train in front. As these systems become  more commonly adopted it should be possible to run 30 or even 33 trains on the same piece of track, providing a 10-20% increase in capacity.

 

All of this is still far from ambitious. It should be possible with new computer aids to run up to 40 trains an hour safely over  the same track. It is clearly easier to do that  if all the trains have good braking systems and similar speeds. As soon as you introduce slower trains into the system you need by pass track and better controls.

 

These new systems offer us the best way to a safer railway with more capacity.

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122 Comments

  1. Gary
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    telecommute will solve all these transport problems. Millions pour into the city only to stare at a computer screen all day. They can stare at their screens from home or telecommuting hubs near their homes. Why doesn’t this happen? I suspect it’s due to lobbying from rail companies and various other interests, not least service providers in the city, eg restaurants and food stores.

    • Dame Rita Webb
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      You could say the same about university courses too if it only involves book learning and listening to lectures that were usually written years ago. Which is virtually every soc sci/arts course. Whats the point of running up a load of debt to rent a flat etc to learn stuff that can be streamed over the internet? While tutorials, seminars etc can also be done over SKYPE too.

      • petermartin2001
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        That’s all true. But, I can say I’m pleased that just wasn’t an option when I was at university. It would have been nowhere near as enjoyable!

        How about getting rid of Parliament too, using the same argument? We could have a virtual Parliament instead!

    • agricola
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Very good question Gary. I ran my business which was worldwide in it’s interests from two computers in my home. I only travelled for specific appointments. I have been asking the same question for years. I suspect that large companies and atrophied management feel they can only control their employees if they have them in sight. Negative thinking, it is results that count.

      • alan jutson
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        agricola

        Larger companies have a problem with homeworkers for the simple reason that the majority of people cannot work from home due to distractions/interruptions/boredom.
        Measuring or recording key strokes and log in – out times does not show effective workload completion.
        Human nature also suggests that many people cannot work alone home, as they like/need, the social interaction that working in/alongside other human beings, which a group gives.
        In addition some people simply do not have the room to work from home in a comfortable manner, small flat/ studio flat, rented room etc.

        Like you I have also run business from home, and whilst I found it difficult, I overcame the lack of the interactive, by making sure I had varied work loading and by making appointments at key stages during the day.
        When you are in charge you can do that, when you are a member of staff suck at your desk/workstation in front of a computer, you cannot.

        I can think of nothing more boring than looking at a computer screen all day, and speaking to no one.
        How depressing.

    • hefner
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      “Lobbying from rail companies”? What about backward-looking self-important supervisors who define their life-worth by the number of employees under their eyesight?

      • Anonymous
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        Hefner – Supervisors (the sergeants of industry) are rarely asked their opinion on anything. Which is probably why things don’t work as well as they ought. They have absolutely no input over the number of employees in their charge nor, unfortunately, the quality of them.

        • a-tracy
          Posted January 12, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

          What size company do you work for to make that statement Anonymous? I always ask my supervisors for feedback at several points throughout each day, I also ask my general workforce with several informal and two formal chats each year. My supervisors decide what numbers of staff they need to operate at maximum efficiency, what skills they specifically need and what hours etc. they need them for. It is also their job to ensure that probationary workers are at the quality they require to exceed customers expectations.

      • Margaret
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Hefner I couldn’t agree more. Thy say I have responsibility for such and such a number of staff ( but when they are in trouble they delegate the problems) and say to me but what responsibility do you take? My reply is 3,000 patients lives , but that is nothing in comparison to making sure the off duty is done or we are punished for being sick..

        They then gain paper qualifications which others gained 15 years ago and try and show off about it.

    • stred
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      The trains crossing the bridge between Copenhagen and Sweden were shown on RT last night. as ID checks were causing huge delays. They had big rubber buffers around the front and back cabs. Perhaps this,together with Japanese style shovers in the train to get passengers off quickly and on the platform to do the opposite, would speed things up.

      As regards working from home, we had a change of circumstances over Christmas when she broke her leg. The tube has no lifts at her stations and the car is impossible since the CycleSuperhighway and parking restrictions have made My TFL Journey my comfortable. Apart from having to waste nearly whole days queueing for poor NHS treatment, the advantages of having to work from home have been revealing.

      She does not waste 2 hours travelling and does not come home with a selection of viruses from around the world. No more getting up at 4.30am to catch a plane or waiting for hours to come home. She can correspond, discuss projects and exchange images with colleagues in the UK and Europe from the settee. Trainees and largely useless managers are unable to pop into her office and interrupt important work. The hectic lecture season has been replaced by using last years recordings ( a lot of the students did not turn up, were not paying attention and using their i phones to make their own recordings anyway).

      From my point of view, I have the whole upper floors of the houses to myself and do not have to move stuff around, suffer from pillow fluffing and can find things where I left them, as well as being able to drink beer in bed.

      • stred
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        Bad editing as usual. My TFL journey less comfortable. She- refers to my bird.

        The BBC News has nothing else on but the demise of David Bowie this morning. He certainly wrote some catchy songs and was good at being weird. The best thing he did was to refuse the honour normally given to duff civil servants.

        • Bob
          Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

          @stred

          “The BBC News has nothing else on but the demise of David Bowi”

          It certainly knocked Cologne off of the headlines, no doubt to the relief of the govt, the BBC and other Agenda 21 supporters.

        • Margaret
          Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

          Steady on; we all have musical/ theatrical preferences , but Bowie represents a passing age to many Brits and we can certainly relate to that . This EU business signifies this in obvious terms . It is one of those bye UK moments.

    • libertarian
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      Gary

      You are correct.
      I own & operate some community work hubs and we have more people than we can shake a stick at trying to use them instead of commuting to work. The problem is the government STILL won’t address extortionate business rates, more and more office premises are being turned into domestic dwellings and where I operate taxpayers money was used on HS 1 to encourage more people to commute. We can’t find enough business space. This government is anti small business.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Indeed there is considerable room for improvement, usually rail tracks give far less efficient use of land than do roads. Also far less flexible and far more expensive for users and tax payers too.

    You still have the main problem which is that most people want to go into town in the morning and out in the evening Monday to Friday. The rest of the time and going in the reverse direction the extra trains (and staff( will be largely empty, redundant, losing money and will need to be stored somewhere.

    Car are much more flexible and tend to get used at weekends and outside these times for shopping, leisure, work and the likes. They also run over Christmas and cannot be held to ransom by trade unions so easily. Car door to door are usually more energy efficient to than trains too, despite what the BBC and rail operators like to claim.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:20 am | Permalink

      Having just listened to the pathetic interview with Cameron on Andrew Marr one wonders what is the point of Andrew Marr (and indeed Cameron). It seems he is paid nearly £600K PA (four times the PM’s) just to say effectively “what would you like to say next” Mr Cameron.

      Rather a lot for a Trinity Hall, English graduate, who was/is a raving lefty and with such little ability to question anyone sensibly. I assume he is there purely as Cameron types would not agree to any real or searching interview with someone such as Andrew Neil? But why does he get four times the salary of the PM for this trivial task?

      • The Active Citizen
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        Lifelogic, I agree that there’s no point in Andrew Marr unless you move him onto a programme with a totally different subject matter. He is after all an intelligent and cultivated man.

        What you want instead is someone who can ask incisive questions, interrupt the interviewee when he starts answering a different question or making a prepared statement (which now happens all the time), and who can then ask difficult follow-up questions based on the inevitably-inadequate answer.

        It also helps if the interviewer has researched and prepared thoroughly and has actual facts and figures in front of him, so that the interviewee can’t get away with lies.

        If only the BBC employed someone like that. Ah wait… Don’t they employ by far the best political interviewer on TV or radio?

        Presumably Mr Neil doesn’t have sufficently neo-liberal leftist credentials and refuses to follow the accepted BBC agenda of truths. He’s therefore consigned to a programme which only politicians and sad people like me follow.

        • A.Sedgwick
          Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          I would suggest his forte is “Start The Week” R4 2130 Mondays when the depth of his knowledge is very apparent. If my memory is right there was a tremendous uproar when he replaced his predecessor as political supremo on TV – details escape me but the incumbent was miffed to say the least.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted January 11, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

            I am not sure he is very good at that either perhaps an literature and plays. Certainly not when he has any scientists or engineers on, then he as out of his depth just as Melvin Bragg is in the same situation.

        • Handbags
          Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

          Why would anyone voluntarily subject themselves to a brutal interrogation?

          I wouldn’t go on any programme that could make me look crooked or stupid – and I would certainly need to see the questions beforehand so I could prepare and rehearse my performance.

          The reason Andrew Neil doesn’t interview certain people is because they refuse to appear on his show.

          • bigneil
            Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

            Have you ever looked at the application form just to be in the audience of Question Time? – mind boggling.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      The reason cars are more efficient in fuel is that they do not have the end connections (often two ways at each end). Nor all the stations, staff and dedicated tracks to maintain, light, heat and power. Nor all the ticketing, timetabling and checking of tickets to operate.

      Furthermore outside peak times and routes they are largely empty anyway.

      London to Manchester any time return £332 per person so £2324 for seven plus the taxis at each end. By car £100 door to door, including renting the people carrier, plus you can stop off on routes as you feel like it, change your plans, drop people off, carry goods and do not have all those irritating announcements and the smell of that horrid food to contend with. If trains are so efficient why do they cost 23 times as much?

      • A.Sedgwick
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        “Furthermore outside peak times and routes they are largely empty anyway. ” My bugbear seeing local trains through the day going to towns with literally empty carriages, which we would use if competitive with car cost. Then there are the stupid marketing offers e.g. pay £30 pa to get 30% discount to travel off peak.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      Give me a car any day. I travel from S Ayrshire to Sussex in 8 hours. One stop when I feel like it, I can carry whatever I want to and I can do the journey for around £50 so £100 return. I don’t run the risk of a train not turning up as happens quite often and I don’t have the problem of lack of luggage space on the trains or buses and I also don’t get wet if it’s pouring down. So many times I have got onto a train or bus which is crowded only to find there is nowhere to put my luggage and so have to put it on my lap or in the isle where it gets in everyone’s way. Most inconvenient. Until and unless trains become cheaper and more comfortable I will not be using them unless I have to. My only option to travel by coach is to do so overnight and then the coach journey starts in Glasgow so I have to either drive or get a train. Worn out just thinking about it.

      • Martin
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Do you ever venture into a big city?

        Perhaps not otherwise you will be familiar with the 10 mph crawl at best as well as the hideous car park charges.

        My last drive into town cost me more in parking charges than the off peak return train fare!

        Perhaps you should try flying, I find it better for trips above four/five hours.

        • fedupsoutherner
          Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          Martyn No hardly ever go into city centres and avoid the train because it would arrive in London at rush hour after leaving Ayrshire in the morning. If I worked and lived in the city then no doubt I would use public transport as it is more frequent. I am talking about making long journeys with luggage. I do fly occasionally but then have to bother of trains/cars to get to my final destination and still cannot carry luggage/dogs etc. If I go to a city it is for a day and so I don’t carry luggage and get the train into the centre but for anything else give me my car any day.

          • BobE
            Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

            I agree. Cars are much better. With automatic computer controlled driving the distances travelled will increase a lot. Trains are out of date.

          • Martin
            Posted January 12, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

            You must be luckier than me on the M6! I have spent hours stuck around Preston. Then there are the low gear crawls from Sandbach to Birmingham.

            Add to that Radio 5 not on FM. I hate playing hunt the medium wave transmitter passing Stoke On Trent ….

            My next trip to London is on an a jet plane as I hate the drive, can’t reserve/buy train tickets far in enough advance.

  3. Duyfken
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Just a thought: What happens when these more closely running trains arrive at the next station?

    Reply They stop at platforms provided for them!

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Well if they are very close and on the same track they would all have to stop and start simultaneously. If a train stops for say 3 mins the one behind doing 60 would catch up 3 miles. So you would need more bypass tracks and lots of platforms at the stations too.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Reply- reply

      “they stop at the next station”

      Its not the next station which is important, its the last one at the end of the line, where trains then run back over and use the arrival track for a short distance, before moving across to the return track.

      Whilst your idea may be possible John, it would certainly involve a massive amount of work and space for the increased capacity and loading at the end terminus and its approaches.

    • Peter Parsons
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Only if there is a platform available!

      Anyone who spent time commuting between Reading and Paddington prior to the recent redevelopment of Reading station will probably be familiar with the early evening “train jam” of trains coming out of London backed up and queueing down the line while waiting to get access to the one westbound platform at Reading station.

      Does the current infrastructure have the platform space to support this many additional services? If not, how much will it cost to provide it (assuming this is even possible) and who will pay for it?

      Without sufficient platform space, additional trains will just mean more jams waiting for access to existing platform space.

      Reply There may need to be extra platforms in some cases. Also faster access to trains, as they manage on the tube.

      • Mark
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        I recall as a child being shown the train frequency monitors that were installed at St James’s Park station: a bank of half a dozen disks perhaps 16 inches in diameter apiece, one for each of the main lines through central London. The disks were supplied with a fresh disc of thin cardboard daily, around the edge of which were time markings. Each disk had a pair of typewriter style electrically actuated markers that struck a purple ink ribbon, leaving a bar mark to record the passing of each train. This produced two rings of marks – one for each direction – recording the frequency history through the day. In rush hours the peak frequencies were every one to two minutes on the busiest lines.

        • Peter Parsons
          Posted January 11, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          I’m sure that works fine on the tube network where every train stops at every station, but on much of the mainline rail network where long distance trains share the same tracks as trains which stop at every station (and sometimes with services which stop at some, but not all, stations just to add a third type of service into the mix), it is a lot more complicated to maintain gaps which allow every service to run at its effective full speed (unless you convert every part of the rail network to have 4 tracks minimum – imagine the cost of doing so and the outcry which would occur if that happened).

  4. Lifelogic
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    I see BBC2 has wall to wall darts on currently, cheap TV for them I suppose. Leaving them have more licence fee income to pay the bloated BBC salaries and pensions.

    Why though do the women not compete with the men? Especially given the BBC’s woman’s hour “equality” agenda surely you do not have to be that strong to throw a dart accurately do you? Snooker too I suppose.

    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Darts is what I call a parlour game, not prime TV. It will be at the Olympics next, if it isn’t already.

      • bigneil
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        I’ve actually heard them referred to as “athletes”.

    • Peter Parsons
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      “Why though do the women not compete with the men?”

      I suggest you ask the BDO (whose competition it is, and therefore who set the competition rules). I can’t see how that is anything whatsoever to do with the BBC.

  5. Mark B
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    Yes, I can look at my smart phone and see when bus, train and tube trains are coming. The problem as I see it, is the the other end. We simply don not have the station with the capacity to take an ever larger number of people. Then you have to factor in that when people do arrive at their destination they have to use other forms of teransport to get them to where they live, work or study. London is becoming too big for its infrastructure and we need to start promoting other UK cities who could do with both the wealth and the investment.

    Build it and they will come.

  6. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Computing Systems require consistent power supplied and is an argument that is dominated by Greens. Power margins are being shaved dangerously.

    This is a safety critical system and attracts great attention to software systems analysis and hardware related. Thats apart from competencies related to the system core (controller). Its not just IT this time.

    Nice thought about automation, but significant investment in major systems is crippled by alarmist climate change. Sorry…on yer bike m8!

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Such electronics & Computing systems can be designed to use very little energy indeed, they are just rather cheaper if you do not bother and use the standard products. It is not significant in overall energy usage for a rail company.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        Also the waste heat help heat the buildings in winter anyway.

  7. JoeSoap
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Thank you for asking why? but this should primarily be the responsibility of the Dept for Transport, shouldn’t it? Where are all these people, paid for by our taxes, who should be asking why?

  8. Antisthenes
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Indeed and what would further improve the situation would be to have trains that are driver-less the technology exists. Without human input safety and efficiency of use are increased considerably.

    All of this will come about not just on the rails but on the roads as well but as usual it will take longer and cost more than is necessary politics and vested interests will get in the way. That and the fact that government bodies will be doing the planning and will control the the execution of that planning.

    Government bodies are ill equipped to implement rapid cost effective improvements passing those bodies over to the private sector is the only answer. Both the rail and road networks. Do not let ideology or the public’s prejudiced views stop that coming about. The evidence is abundant that proves that a considerable element of privatisation is the solution. As we know logic, common sense and objectivity are rarely applied or are at least slow to be (especially observable in the public sector) so we cling to the status quo and resist practical progress and processes that are in all our best interests for that which is not.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      Logic is applied in the state sector. But very rarely is it ever directed towards providing a good service for the public. After all, what do the employees and managers have to gain from doing that?

    • Spotter
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Indeed, Antithsenes,

      Automation will take away many jobs. I read this morning that City trading is being automated apace. So is surgery. Aeroplanes already fly and land themselves, the pilots required to do a manual flight only once a month for practice.

      So WHY are we importing more people ? Especially those whose culture sees having a large number of children as a pension ?

      What will all those newly arrived Uber drivers do once their jobs have been automated ?

      BTW. Your taxi fares will not come down, believe me. Your taxes, on the other hand, can only go up though !

      • bigneil
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        Your point of “importing more people”. Not only importing, but DC seems to allow everything to be done/changed here – for THEIR liking, not telling them to adapt to our ways, so, on that basis will we be seeing people hanging on the outside and on the rooves of trains? no more trains needed but an increase in capacity – problem solved. Health and Safety might have something to say about it though. ( this is meant as humourous John -honestly).

      • Mitchel
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        “So WHY are we importing more people?”

        Because we have an economy that is based on consumption and for the time being the government has the ability to print/borrow money willy-nilly to fund the consumption of those extra people and therefore boost GDP.It’s a ponzi scheme of course -debt rises commensurately-and unless the globalists get to the ultimate objective of a centrally planned global economy with effectively a single currency those value they can determine,we will be found out-as will the USA-and the currency will move towards its intrinsic value.

  9. Dame Rita Webb
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    The other reason it’s “bumper to bumper” is that a bus lane is running alongside. You will not see any buses using it just the odd taxi. In reality it’s also a de facto ZiL lane for the local civil dignitaries or anybody else with an over inflated view of their self importance.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      Indeed and the usually empty bus lane not only constricts the road hugely, provides a zil lane but also provides a nice little earner through all the motorist muggings.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Taxis are just inefficient cars so why exactly are they allowed to use bus lanes? Inefficient as they need a professional driver and also do lots of wasteful mileage between jobs.

      • bigneil
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        I would put it as “professional” drivers. Years ago it was claimed that ALL taxi drivers had to learn the areas they were in – AND – be able to speak English. Has anything been done~? or are non-English speakers ( possibly illegal immigrants) with sat-navs still driving and taking money?

        Can I add that, especially with previous attacks here, and the recent attacks on women in Germany – would it be better if any women getting in a taxi on their own – -take a picture of their driver and send it to a friend/relative. If the driver has no problems with it- fine – if they say NO – then DO NOT USE THAT TAXI.

        • Anonymous
          Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

          A survey of taxi related crashes would also be useful. I believe the greater risk to be from accidents rather than crime. Most immigrants are NOT rapists or criminals but are so eager to work that they might treat safety and their own competence as a secondary consideration.

          There have been several times where I have had to tell my taxi drivers to slow down (one pushed 100mph on a dual carriageway and told me that it was perfectly legal – in his country !) One driver I had to pull his steering wheel to stop him turning from a roundabout to go the wrong way onto a motorway exit.

          It has become so bad that our employer has issued us with special reporting number so that we may ditch cab firms that allow their standards to drop.

          What may be cheap for the cab firm may not be cheap for the NHS or the taxpayer. And I certainly haven’t noticed my cab fares going down.

  10. Ben Kelly
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    And yet your government is determined to spend money on HS2 instead of new signalling systems

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Indeed you can work on trains anyway so what is the point of spending all that money to save 10 minutes. Anyway HS trains are only high speed if they do not stop much, so many will save no time as they will have further to travel to and from the stations.

    • Antisthenes
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Has a study been made of the effect of using HS2 money on all road and rail improvements. Would that increase the speed and efficiency of both modes of transport more widely than HS2 with it’s singular aim of benefits just a few selected routes. Arguably not that much of a benefit anyway considering the cost involved. Using HS2 money for all routes must in the end be of benefit to everyone of us not just a few. More people will have better road and rail services and the investment would be spread more evenly across the nation. To my mind a win win situation.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        HS2 is very clearly a totally bonkers waste of tax payers money. Decisions as insane as this can surely only be explained by the undue influence of vested interests? There can be no other reason can there? I cannot think of any. The Ministers cannot be so stupid as to think it is a good investment can they?

        Interestingly I see in the Mirror that 25 ex ministers now have interesting jobs. I am sure they have done nothing wrong of course.

        http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/david-camerons-gravy-train-scandal-7153710

        • Leslie Singleton
          Posted January 11, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

          Wouldn’t be so bad if HS2 and HS1 were to join as they so obviously should, but not with the crowd we have making the decisions. Manchester (or Edinburgh) to Milan (or Madrid or Marseilles) makes a lot of sense. Agreed that the join in North London not too easy but think Crossrail and get on with it. Bonkers to have a gap of so few miles.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

            Manchester (or Edinburgh) to Milan (or Madrid or Marseilles) makes a lot of sense.

            Indeed by plane it certainly does.

            Get a decent hub airport built a 5 runway Heathwick is the best best.

  11. Roy Grainger
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    If such advanced safety systems to increase capacity were economic then the train operators would have introduced them wouldn’t they ? Or Network Rail would have. So why haven’t they ? You seem to be implying it’s somehow the governments role to drive innovation in this way. This does not apply in other areas of transport though does it – the government didn’t build bigger passenger aircraft did it ? Or self-parking cars ? If it is the government’s job to do this they might as well nationalise the entire railway system (as Corbyn is proposing with plenty of public support in that particular case).

  12. Bernard from Bucks
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    This all sounds like an excellent idea… but a lot of commuters use their cars because of the cost of rail travel. I’d much prefer to sit on a train a read the morning paper than struggle in the traffic. Ticket prices will have to be lower to entice many drivers out of their cars.
    Do you know the cost of an annual season ticket from Maidenhead to Paddington?
    It’s horrendous.

  13. Jerry
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    “So why do we need such large gaps between trains? After all, trains on the main lines are all going in the same direction on any track, so there is no danger of a head to head crash.”

    No they are not, have you never heard of railway junctions, then there are bi-directional lines, not to mention express trains and slow(er) passenger trains, then even slower freight trains. Stop trying to compare railways with motorway lanes! Go look at the official accident report for the Southall crash of 1997.

    http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/HSE_Southall1997.pdf

    Oh and talking of the motorist, they tend to need to cross railway tracks by way of level crossings (and no not all LCs can be eliminated by bridging (at least within reasonable costs), to have an open to road traffic LC requires a safety head way or the stopping of the train closest to the LC.

    “They all have drivers and brakes, so they should all be capable of closing the gaps without endangering passengers.”

    Yes and the same is true is cars and lorries, the problem, is that if two trains (or more) crash it tends to make the casualty list of a motorway pile up look tame.

    “Because there has been a history of train drivers passing red signals there are various automatic warnings and braking devices to try to stop trains ending up close to each other.”

    Safety gaps are not there for when things go right, they are there for when things go wrong, and even then are not fool proof – such as at Clapham Jnc. in 1988, another rail crash that had its root in cost cutting (to few personal and to much overtime).

    “There are now new systems based on radio links, computers and satellite positioning that enables an individual train to know where it is and how far it is away from the train in front.” [..//..] “These new systems offer us the best way to a safer railway with more capacity.”

    All at vast expense but with an even greater chance of something going very wrong, and what happens if a train stops transmitting its correct GPS position (given that two tracks are a mere 6ft to each other) or cab-signalling radio link fails due to an electrical failure on the train…

    John, you might have meet with the NR and TOC “Suits” (we will accept your word) but have you ever bothered to sit down with the unions, or at least those who work at the sharp end, failing that have you ever bothered to talk with railway enthusiasts (some of your fellow MPs, or Lords perhaps), or the many journalist who specialise in the issues and subject -and I don’t mean those who write opinion pieces for the daily newspapers. Sorry to say this but your choice of words when talking about the railway infrastructure tells anyone of the above groups of people that you really don’t have the level of understanding you think you do.

    Reply The changes I am talking about are being actively considered by the heads of the current railway!

    • Jerry
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      @JR reply; No reflection on you John, you are told what you are told, but why doesn’t it surprise me that the “Suits” might be actively considering something like GPS, without realising why traditional electrical track-circuits have been proven to be so resilient on all numbers of operational and safety layers. There is no reason why extra, traditional, TCs could not be installed if the signalling system needs to handle a greater number of trains (even if the actual signalling is then some form of radio cab-signalling) and thus have more ‘sections’, but the other issues about headways and braking distances and inertia still apply.

      I’m not saying that radio cab-signalling doesn’t have a place, after all BR were using it in Scotland back in the 1980s on the more isolated and remote routes, nor that GPS could not be used as an assisting technology, just that I have doubt it could be made any more fail-safe than traditional; TCs and used safely within a busy commuter orientated area were significant conflicting routes/movements exist, such as found on the routes in and out of London.

    • Jagman84
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply……Heads who are likely to be chauffeur-driven everywhere by luxury motor cars. Have any of them been on a train by choice lately?

  14. agricola
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    We have the technology, why is it not being applied. Aircraft are full of automated systems and driverless cars are emerging in an experimental state. Even when I fly a sailplane I can detect by instrument what is around me within five miles, so what is Network Rails’s excuse. Are there companies in the UK or World marketing the technology. Is it lack of interest or money or is there a Luddite tendency. In terms of the Tube, I feel sure we could have driverless trains tomorrow if we wished.

    • Jerry
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      @agricola; “Aircraft are full of automated systems”

      Yes and we also have very large, by commuter railway standards, safety clearances.

      “driverless cars are emerging in an experimental state.”

      With “experimental state” being the optimal description…

      “Even when I fly a sailplane I can detect by instrument what is around me within five miles”

      How fast is your sailplane, how would the technology cope at 125 mph, in a built up area, does it know the difference between a fixed structure and a vehicle that might start moving?

      Is it lack of interest or money or is there a Luddite tendency”

      There might be an element of Luddite tendency, but it is born out of a very great interest in being as safe as is humanly and technology possible, with a 99% of any fault failing on the safe-side.

      “In terms of the Tube, I feel sure we could have driverless trains tomorrow if we wished.”

      Indeed but systems like the LU, operationally, are completely different to that of the NR system (especially the commuter network) were possible conflicting movements are far greater. Besides, it is good customer relations to have railway staff on board, that person might as well be “the driver”, and should the worse happen the “driver” is trained to deal with incidents and accidents, be it to make sure the traction current has been correctly isolated and all other train movements stopped on any tracks running parallel, not good PR is passengers get electrocuted or run-down by another train…

      • Edward2
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

        Other nations have driverless urban trains and underground trains.
        Having been on a few they work well, are popular and their safety record is good.
        But I expect you will rise to your keyboard in fury that anyone might dare to suggest such a thing for the UK Jerry

      • agricola
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        While 125Kts is not an unusual airspeed, I do not have to cope with fixed structures or vehicle about to pull out. The system I referred to is designed to indicate the presence of other aircraft while in the air. I used it merely to illustrate where technology is within my experience.

        Road vehicle systems are already indicating proximity of white lines on the car I drive, more an irritant than a useful tool. On some they indicate the proximity of vehicles in front when they become a threat and can even apply brakes. Not something I like myself but transposing it to trains on fixed tracks would be more practical. For trains I would think that GPS and real time track indicators and controllers would be a more practical way forward.

        • Jerry
          Posted January 12, 2016 at 8:06 am | Permalink

          @Edward; Once again you seem to be reading into my comment something I did not say. Also, all systems are ‘safe’, until they fail that is… It is what happens then than matters, be it the driver tacking back control, or if the train comes to a halt outside of a station if, when and how passengers are de-trained or what ever – some processes can’t be automated and thus need trained personal on scene! I’ll ask again, what price safety…

          @agricola; “I used it merely to illustrate where [airspace] technology is within my experience. [..//..] Road vehicle systems are already indicating proximity of white lines on the car I drive, more an irritant than a useful tool. On some they indicate the proximity of vehicles in front when they become a threat and can even apply brakes.”

          But we have had ground radar for 70 odd years, I’m sure that had it been suitable for adaptation to railway use it would have already happened!

          “or trains I would think that GPS and real time track indicators and controllers would be a more practical way forward.”

          Indeed, but then those ‘real time track indicators’ (Track circuits) rather make GPS and all the expensive technology needed to use it in real time rather pointless!

          • Edward2
            Posted January 13, 2016 at 8:05 am | Permalink

            The driverless trains I have seen were able to receive announcements from a central control and be remotely controlled in the event of a problem.

            What price safety….well these high tech train systems operate successfully in other countries.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 13, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

            @Edward2; “The driverless trains I have seen were able to receive announcements from a central control and be remotely controlled in the event of a problem.”

            What, even when a fault takes out the electrical systems and thus the radio coms, meaning passengers are unable to receive announcements?

            What if the system just needs a reset but there is no one on the train who knows what to do to get the train moving again, who is going to do it, perhaps we could simply get the passenger closest to the control cubical hatch in the end wall or floor to do it, with instructions relayed via their mobile phone (assuming there is a mobile phone signal, what if the train in in a tunnel, and that someone has the sense to phone the railway anyway)?! Or will someone from the railway have to be sent out to the location were the train has come to a halt -perhaps miles from a station, miles from even the nearest conurbation, perhaps miles from the nearest road. Or perhaps that “driver” you think so unnecessary could have the fault fixed in a couple of minutes – assuming that there has been a fault at all and the train has stopped, after all trains that require drivers tend to be less complex so are less likely to actually grind totally to a halt.

            Then of course what if the train has derailed and is fouling but not blocking (in track circuit terms) other lines, without trained personal on-board who will “protect” that and other trains from colliding – after all, as far as ‘control’ knows all that has happened is that the train has stopped (unless it is off the train on all wheels).

            “What price safety….well these high tech train systems operate successfully in other countries.”

            Until they fail, wrong-side, of course… Never said never!

            Oh and perhaps you might care to name a country were there are fully automated, driver-less, commuter (never mind express passenger) lines equivalent to that run by NR, remember that we are talking about people now commuting from places such as Cardiff for example into London. Also remember that John’s entry was not about the LUL and other “metro” type system were driver-less trains are quite possible [1], perhaps even desirable, the DLR being a prime example but that is a relatively compacted, self contained, mostly above ground, easily accessible, light transit system should anything go wrong.

            [1] although not without risks, after all it was only those on the trains involved in the 7/7 atrocities who actually knew the seriousness of the situation, platform staff suspected but had to then actually walk the tracks to find out, whilst control assumed that there has been a simple but multiple traction current power surges and that by simply restoring the traction power they could get the system running again

            Apologies to John for the length.

          • Edward2
            Posted January 18, 2016 at 12:39 am | Permalink

            Don’t be so boring Jerry
            It works perfectly well in other more positive minded countries
            You seem wedded to the seventies
            Nothing must change.

  15. Spotter
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    We don’t have anywhere near the rolling stock to provide that number of trains.

    European Rail Transport Management Systems (ERTMS) a moving block system is planned for the whole network.

    There will be no trackside signals. Just a series of reflectorised posts at every kilometer which change status according to in-cab information. SNCF have been using similar for decades.

    Duyfken is also right in saying that the approaches to terminal stations are already bottle-necking at peak times. As this is already computerised engineers need to work out how to get around it.

    • Spotter
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Of course, the kilometer spacing I mention in my previous can be closer where line speeds are slower. Permissive working (two trains in a single block) already exists on the BR network but in fixed locations – such as station platforms.

      I note that the French completely seperate their high speed from local services. They have high speed lines (LGV) and local lines (Classic.)

      To keep the LGV lines flowing all of the trains stopping at stations (such as Lille) are routed off of the main line onto a platform loop in order to stop. The LGV line, therefore, remains clear and flowing all of the time. The trains are maintained in top notch condition and updated so that they don’t fail.

      Unreliable stock should not be allowed on any railway.

      Here local services run in front of high speed services and stop in platforms situated on the main line – scheduling is what enables the line speed but the minute there is a delay on one train many other trains become affected. In strategic locations slow/relief lines are provided to give extra capacity and keep a clear route for fast trains.

      As a result of non-stopping trains running at 100mph plus directly through platforms we have more fatalities than the French and – apart from being tragic – these cause a lot of delays and trains diverted onto relief lines where congestion occurs.

      Our legacy railway puts its own limits on what we can do with it. There is land beside railways which may be of use though.

      • Spotter
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

        PS, All TGV drivers are qualified fitters/engineers. The requirement is that they know how to fix their trains in distant locations.

    • Spotter
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      A train doing 125mph covers a mile in 28.8 seconds and needs over a mile to stop.

      Hence the need for the gap between trains.

      Reply That assumes it is braking to avoid a stopped object, but we are usually talking about avoiding a train in front that is travelling as well. The relative speed is what matters.

      • Spotter
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        Reply to reply: What looks a great distance from the air – as you describe – is only seconds apart in time. A three mile distance is only one and a half minutes apart.

        • Spotter
          Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

          In transport safety the worst scenario has to be assumed. That is the safe distance for a train to follow the one in front assuming that it could come to an abrupt halt – which it could.

          As with another comment here: a sports car doing 100mph can stop in 3 seconds. So can a train. The difference is the car can do it without catastrophe.

          High speed trains in derailments do stop in under 10 seconds. That is why they are so catastrophic and why we have the spacing that we do.

      • Margaret
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

        I suppose it would be worth looking at advanced conveyer belt systems to assess how this could be handled.

  16. David Murfin
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    With a completely new signalling system “it should be possible to run 30 or even 33 trains on the same piece of track, providing a 10-20% increase in capacity”
    or nine coaches instead of eight at peak times?

    • Spotter
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      David Murfin – We don’t have that number of trains in this country.

      • Iain gill
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        More carriages per train is a cheaper and quicker solution than anything John mentions. As would proper incentives for the train companies to provide enough carriages for passenger demand, currently they meet their targets even when many passengers cannot get on as the train is already full.

        • Jerry
          Posted January 13, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

          @Ian gill; Longer trains need longer platforms, or have station stops twice as long (as the train has to stop twice in the same station), the requirement for longer platforms could be a real problem at some termini without expensive, and extensive, rebuilding.

      • Spotter
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        Also speeds would have to be dropped with that sort of capacity – to keep stopping distances safe.

  17. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    An installer, more importantly a planner, of interconnecting conveyor belts within huge industrial concerns would perhaps be able to demonstrate a fatal flaw in the “new system” more rudimentary than “radio links, computers and satellite positioning” quite separate from possible resultant clogging of road systems. I’ll not go into it.

  18. Douglas Carter
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I must admit, I never failed to be impressed by the sheer efficiency and utility of Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway. I can barely remember waiting for a train for more than two minutes and if you elected to step off one of their trains, wait and observe, the departing passengers had no sooner vanished from that platform before the next train came into appearance to stop.

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      London underground is like that.

  19. Atlas
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    An interesting suggestion John. I think the question is whether it can be done in a fail-safe manner. The London Underground has fewer crossing points than the main Railway network and it is operational procedures at these places that are the most critical.

    As others have asked here: Is the Department of Transport doing any research into this?

  20. Bob
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Increasing capacity through more efficient management would undermine the already feeble case for HS2.

    Just spare a thought for all of the HS2 consultants and cronies who have already made their plans for buying holiday homes in sunnier climes. Have a heart Mr Redwood.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      There is not even a feeble case for HS2.

      • bigneil
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        I thought it was needed to get all the extra immigrants that Dave and ozzy want here up North quickly to their new houses, currently being built for them all to settle in and for us to pay for.

  21. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, congratulations on your letter in the Telegraph today.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I saw it too but, welcome as it was, I am not sure John should need congratulations just for getting a letter in the Torygraph. I continue to believe they should be entreating him for copy and if they are not I cannot understand why not.

      Reply They do not ask for copy and failed to publish the last article I agreed to write for them.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted January 12, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        And they have failed to publish the letter I sent yesterday, pointing out that it would need fewer than 300 immigrants spread across England in the late Middle Ages for everybody else in the country to be no more than ten miles from at least one of them, the deliberately misleading interpretation which will be fed to our schoolchildren under the revised GCSE curriculum, and at a time when the population of England was about 3 million.

  22. Anonymous
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    The view from the air is misleading.

    If we peeled the top off all vehicles we’d see the car with one person occupying five seats – which then do nothing all day. (As someone else mentions they are given restricted road space too, which causes them to back up. )

    The roads are not as full as they seem to be.

    With the train we’d see at least two persons per seat which are productive (though less so) for the rest of the day.

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      We are, at worst, hostile to motorcycling and, at best, indifferent to it.

      If all car drivers took to two wheels in London the roads would be empty, everyone would get to work on time and a fraction of space would be given over to parking.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 12, 2016 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        This is not really true, when moving motor bikes (in effect) take up about the same space as a small car. This as you have to give them their personal space around them just as you do with a car. Push bikes often cause even more congestion than small cars by being unable to keep up with the flow especially up hills, thus holding up the traffic. Even worse if they are given special lanes so constricting the majority of the traffic that is cars and vans. Plus they are 20 times + more dangerous than cars in London.

    • bigneil
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      “with one person occupying five seats ” – I know I’m big but – even I don’t take up 5 seats. Good job I’m not offended easily.

      • Anonymous
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        Anonymous – I really hadn’t intended to raise the obesity epidemic in this thread !

        Sorry.

    • Spotter
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

      Assuming there is one 800 passenger commuter train per three miles of track: that’s the equivalent of 800 driver-only commuter cars on three miles of track the width of a B sized road.

      But these are moving at a much faster speed than cars by road so this is an underestimate of the loadings if we were to put each passenger in their own car.

      The concentration of trains becomes greater on the slower approaches towards cities.

      The comparison between road and rail is not so clear as the birdseye view would suggest.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 12, 2016 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        Indeed but the trains are not full either and usually empty on the return journeys and outside peak commuting times. They start empty and fill up so are usually only fairly full for the last few stops and during rush hour (in the right direction). Most of the time they are largely empty. Also they take indirect routes with the connections needed at each end often travelling far further than a car route door to door.

  23. ChrisS
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    In theory you have a valid point but there is one fundamental difference between road vehicles and trains : Tyres and weight.

    Trains have steel wheels running on steel track and suffer from huge inertial owing to their very high weight. Stopping distances are huge and place severe limits on what density of trains it is possible to run. Unfortunately for some reason, anything to do with railways seems to cost huge sums compared with road vehicles.

    Even though we will shortly have both GPS and the Galileo systems to provide essential redundancy, I suspect the introduction of Satellite-based train positioning would be prohibitably expensive although it would also allow the complete removal of lineside signaling, a considerable saving. It won’t happen, of course, because it would also allow us to do away with train drivers and the unions would never allow that !

    In a post some time ago you pointed out that there is no lack of capacity on our long distance lines,. That assertion was a myth designed to justify HS2. The same cannot be said for our commuter lines.

    By far the better course of action with commuter trains would be to lower the track bed and run double decker trains. Like our canals, and much else, we suffer from being the first industrialised country. Others countries that followed our lead realised early on that our canals were too narrow and shallow for proper load carrying and a significantly larger rail loading gauge was adopted across Europe that, crucially, allows double decker passenger trains. In Germany, for example, most of the commuter trains have two levels of seating, with clever design that allows the floor of the lower deck to be very close to the rails. They also retain significant cargo carrying capacity on their canals and rivers.

    There is a precedent for lowering trackbeds : Just outside the port of Southampton, the track bed was lowered in the tunnel through which all container trains must pass. This was done so that 300mm taller High Cube containers could be carried through the tunnel. So it can be done and at much less cost than providing extra lines.

    But there is a debate to be had about the need for commuter lines :

    We seem to be obsessed with building more and more expensive city centre office space when computer and video technology already allows seamless working from smaller satellite offices or employees own homes.

    By comparison, any method of commuting is extremely inefficient and a complete waste of valuable time. It is also very expensive and highly polluting. One problem is that the taxpayer still subsidises commuter fares to a very considerable degree and this just maintains the status quo.

    I would like to see commuters paying the full cost of their rail travel but as fares are increased over a period it may need to be tax deductable as a legitimate expense for a transitional period. Full cost fares will lead to upward demand for higher salaries and that would hopefully lead to a rethink of the value of traditional working practices and a reduction in city centre office building.

    With more working from home or from small serviced offices, employees would benefit from more leisure time. Just maybe our roads might even be a little less busy.

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Chris – The thing you omitted to mention in the differences between road and rail is that rail transports people at a much higher speed.

      That’s the chief reason why it takes a lot longer to stop a train.

      • Anonymous
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        Because of those higher speeds (longer commuting distances) it enables regional wealth redistribution, relieves pressure on roads and pressure on city housing costs.

        Everyone benefits from rail travel, not just those using it. If your house is near a rail station then consider what would happen to the value of your house if the station was removed – even if you don’t use it yourself. Consider the economic boost that happens in any area where a new rail route is planned – even before completion.

        The situation is more complex than it seems.

      • Mark
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        The chief reason why it takes much longer to stop a train is the limited friction of steel wheels on steel rails. A second consideration is safety, since passengers may be standing and therefore liable to be thrown around the carriage if deceleration is too sudden. A sports car can come to a stop from 100mph in a little over 3 seconds, thanks to good road adhesion and good brakes and seats that secure the occupants.

      • Chriss
        Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        I’m not favouring road over rail. Just challenging the premise that train density could be increased as suggested.

        Speed is a factor, it’s true, but as others have quoted stopping distances of a mile it’s the laws of physics that set the distance between trains.

        Our host is quite wrong in suggesting in a reply that stopping distances are not a factor because most times we are talking about moving rather than stationary obstructions ahead. In the event of a derailment or breakdown we would see at least two trains smashing into the stationary one.

        I don’t think that would go down too well with the travelling public !

        Reply If a train came to a halt or crashed the GPS/computer system would immediately detect that and place red signals further back

        • Spotter
          Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

          Reply to reply: A train derailed at high speed can stop in under 10 seconds. That is why they are so horrific.

          I can’t see how the present spacing can be reduced safely.

          • ChrisS
            Posted January 13, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

            Exactly my point.

            Double decker trains running on lowered track beds would be the most cost effective solution for the limited number of miles of commuter lines that need more capacity.

            I’ve just done a little research on the loading gauge.

            The crucial height difference between German double decker passenger coaches ( 4650mm ) and our single deckers ( 4320mm ) is only 330mm.

            That’s just 11″

            Because of the need for stairs etc at both ends of each carriage, we would get an increase in capacity of about 60% from each double decker coach.

            I’m quite sure than this would be sufficient to eliminate standing on most commuter lines.

            There are other advantages as well : The floor level on the bottom deck is much lower than on our passenger coaches thus making it much easier for the elderly and those carrying luggage to board.

          • ChrisS
            Posted January 13, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

            Sorry, lack of finger control : 330mm is 13″

    • Mark
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Double decker trains work best when there aren’t too many stops on the route. Getting passengers on and off takes extra time because of the high ratio of seats to doors – typically doors are only at the ends of the carriage – and the inability of passengers on the platform to spot where they might [not] find space on a crowded train. The old slam-door carriages were much better for reducing station stopping times.

      Many of our canals have a large number of locks: in contrast there are just 14 locks on the Rhein, all upstream of its confluence with the Main. Freight traffic (mainly coal, ores and oil) can be impeded by low or high water levels.

      I agree your point about commuting – however, it might be more effective if employers had to pay the cost of providing commuter transport capacity so they could make a rational choice about location of their offices.

  24. Mark
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    We already have new technology being deployed that will help to increase the capacity of our roads as its market penetration increases. It has been shown that adaptive cruise control helps to prevent reactive braking from tailgaters causing shockwave traffic jams that can become miles long in dense motorway traffic when about a quarter of vehicles are using it. A side benefit is that it improves road safety, substantially reducing the risk of rear-ending and vehicle pile-ups. Likewise, traffic jam assist automated driving is now available that ensures that cars keep up with the vehicle in front, maximising the use of the road. These technologies can double the traffic flows, and yet are autonomous, not reliant on either roadside equipment or even inter-vehicle communication.

  25. ian wragg
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Recently I had to travel from the East Midlands to Grenoble in France pretty regularly.
    I would drive to EMA, get the early flight to Paris CDG and get the TGV taking about 4 hours.
    I couldn’t get a flight without going further afield so I decided to go by train as it was urgent that I arrive at the specified time.
    What a miserable experience. Early train from Nottingham with no refreshments.
    Eurostar reasonably good, TGV dirty and not particularly fast with a change of stations in Paris, itself a trauma.
    Despite costing about 50% more, it was a miserable experience.

  26. Nig L
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    All seems very sensible but hardly world shattering to say we should use be using up to the minute technology to improve a service and from some of the very informed comments about health and safety, stopping distances, terminus capacity etc not that easy to make a real difference, The convenience and cost of the car outside peak times cannot be competed against.

    Having travelled a lot on the Continent I do think lowering the tracks to encourage double deckers should be looked at and like many people I am not convinced the massive cost of HS2 and it is bound to increase, will be worth it, for me a very costly political exercise, to further promote George’s credentials.

    Overall though what strikes me is the complete lack of information from these Agencies with the EA being another prime example. Why don’t they produce a couple of pages of A4, say quarterly aimed at the general public explaining what they are doing, progress to date and thinking about in the future. OK they will picked apart by the pedants but they have enough spin doctors, currently explaining why they have been hopeless to date but things have improved since that last report or that the Chairman’s wife lives in Barbados, to manage that and, as in Business, lack of information is a far greater negative factor than occasionally people being unhappy with what they have been told.

    PS Lin Horner now sacked after being made a Dame in the New Year, tried to justify zillions of unanswered calls with the words ‘things have improved.

    Look at her track record to see why the Public Sector is so poor. Criticised by the Electoral Commissioner, criticised for a disastrous failure of leadership at the Border Agency by a House of Commons committee, criticised for her role as Permanent Secretary at the DOT which cost us £100 million with the West Coast franchise so what does the Civil Service and GOvernment do, give her an even bigger job.

    Mr Redwood for goodness sake, can’t you see why the general public are so cynical and frustrated ? Again instead of making small scale suggestions like the above, however sensible and well thought out go and sort out something that will make a real difference. Namely ensuring top public sector jobs go to people with the necessary skills and proven track record rather than tickining some ‘quota box’

  27. JJE
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    A simpler first step solution would be to make the existing trains longer. There aren’t enough carriages to make the trains today full length, even in rush hour.

    I see the Crossrail trains are planned at ten carriages long – over 200m and more than 50% longer than the longest Tube train – that will be good to see.

    And in Europe of course they manage to use double decker trains.

    • petermartin2001
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      The height gauge is different in Europe. There has been some attempts to squash in a second deck but there really isn’t enough room. Longer trains and better signalling is a better option.

      So why aren’t we doing it? Do we have to wait for Jeremy Corbyn’s Investment Bnak to fund it?

    • Spotter
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      JJE @ 2.05 – 321 commuter stock has been formed in 12 cars (nearly 1000 passengers) on the West Coast for decades. 90mph.

      The optimum for commuter work would be 5 car units which could be formed up to 15 cars, then broken up and used as local trains for the rest of the day.

    • Peter Parsons
      Posted January 11, 2016 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      Longer trains will require longer platforms, especially if the trains are composed of multiple units connected together as there is often no way of getting between the different units within the train itself, so there needs to be provision for accessing the full length (or at least the vast majority of the length) of the train at each station.

      Introducing double deckers wouldn’t require change to the whole network. Having used trains in Italy, they have double deckers for the commuter/local services around Rome and Milan, but use single decker trains for the long distance services. Dropping the track level to get under existing bridges where possible would help reduce the cost of doing so.

  28. The Active Citizen
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Sorry JR, O/T : I see the PM has just written a letter to all ministers setting out his rules of behaviour in respect of the EU Referendum.

    From what I can see, pro-Leave ministers will have both hands tied behind their backs, their ankles strapped together, and their mouths mostly taped shut. They will however be offered crutches….

    I can’t see how any pro-Leave minister can maintain his or her self-respect and integrity under the PM’s rules of engagement and I wonder if we’ll now see one or two resignations?

  29. ChrisS
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    I see that Sir Philip Dilley has resigned as chairman of the Environment Agency and not before time after being economical with the actualité more than once concerning his whereabouts over the Christmas period.

    Can we please have an end to appointing the Great and the Good to run Government agencies part time in the few hours they can spare between their holidays and time spent on lucrative multiple directorships ?

    We need professional, full-time managers running these organisations.
    State agencies do not need figureheads at the helm.

  30. Iain gill
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    They are not all going the same direction on the same track.

    • Iain gill
      Posted January 12, 2016 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      And even when they are they need to be designed otherwise to cope with broken down trains, track problems, and all the rest of it.

  31. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    The implication of what Mr Redwood is saying is that we will be able to run 50% more passengers into London per hour in the AM peak, perhaps more if longer trains and platforms are possible (this has already been done at some stations south of Clapham junction).

    We should be able to cost out a West Coast Main Line Do Minimum scheme and compare HS2 with it on a financial basis. A WCML Do Minimum scheme might consist of improved signalling and longer platforms on London commuter routes and additional passing loops / dual tracking between London and Manchester to cater for increased speed differentials.

    One thing that we must not do is to assume that all short distance car trips can always readily transfer to rail. Often, there is no viable rail route.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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