A ‘Bin Liner’ freight train is headed towards Wigan whilst a Northern Class 150 heads for Kirkby near Rainford Station
No sooner had I blogged about proposals to extend the present Liverpool – Kirkby Merseyrail line a short distance to create a 2nd station within the town of Kirkby than my old friend Bob Robinson sent me details of works being carried out further up the line at Rainford. My posting about the Merseyrail extension is available via this link:-
And this is what’s happening further east in terms of bridge renewal works by Network Rail (18th July – 26th October) where the line crosses the Rainford Bypass:-
‘Bin Liner’ train from Knowsley at Rainford Junction Signal Box
Northern Class 150 heads for Kirkby along the single track section east of Rainford Junction Signal Box
I’ve just spent a week in the Brecon Beacons and took the opportunity to try a Transport for Wales train from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff.
Ebbw Vale Town Station (the end of the line) is very basic and very exposed; a ticket machine, a one train per hour frequency and a small shelter is about it – a far cry from say Merseyrail with it’s 15 minute frequency and staffed stations with ticket offices/toilets. The ticket machine, whilst working, needed quite a hard pounding on its keyboard for it to take any notice of what you were trying to tell it. At busy times you get the impression that folk would not bother queuing up to use it as it takes too long and you could easily miss your train as a consequence because the turnaround time of incoming trains to outgoing is very short indeed. I noticed quite a few fellow passengers buying their tickets from the guard and having used the ticket machine I know why.
The outbound train was a 2 car Class 150 (see photo above at Ebbw Vale Town Station) and I’d say that it was 2/3rds full throughout the journey which started at 11.37. Of course, this made me wonder what rush hour services would be like (having heard they were normally overcrowded) but more on that aspect later on in this posting.
The ride was very smooth on the 150 but it was regularly hitting overgrown branches which were clearly in need of being cut back. The stations called at along the line seemed to be as basic as Ebbw Vale.
The journey each way takes almost exactly an hour and a day return, which can be used on any train, is presently (Oct 2019) £8.40.
The return journey was at 16.34 from Cardiff Central and within 5 mins of the set time of departure it was standing room only on the elderly 2 car Class 142 ‘Nodding Donkey’ which had an onboard toilet (I’m guessing that the 150 must have had one too but did not notice). People remained standing until the station call about 30 mins into the ride up the valley. Like the 150 the 142 was regularly hitting over hanging branches. The ride back was not bad for a 142 (seen below at the exposed Ebbw Vale Town Station) but obviously not as smooth as the 150 and there was quite a bit of wheel screeching from the 142.
I noticed that the station platforms along the branch seemed capable of taking 4 car trains but whether 4 cars are ever provided I could not tell. My guess is that when 4 cars are finally a reality they will fill to capacity very soon and 6 car trains probably need to be the Transport for Wales aim.
Oh and one final thing, which fits with a recent posting of mine about Merseyrail’s Maghull and Maghull North Stations. The car parking provision at Ebbw Vale Town Station whilst being reasonably significant across 2 car parks was unsurprisingly not enough and I had to park some distance away from the Station.
Both trains were clean and punctual. Marks out of 10 for Transport for Wales – 7.
A photo from my train ride can also be seen on my Flickr page at:- www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/
Northern Rail – see link above – joined in the 2014 men’s health campaign and here, snapped at Southport Station, is one of their 150 diesel units with facial hair:-
In fact it is the very unit that they launched their charity campaign with for November 2014.
The photo above is amongst those on my Flickr site at:-
Works are continuing to electrify the lines in the Liverpool and Manchester area. I went along to Prescot Station the other day to have a look at how the project is progressing there.
Here are few shots I took:-
Cantenary on the way up
Looking north from Prescot Station
Another view northwards along the line
A Class 150 DMU on a Liverpool bound service with a 142 DMU in front of it.
Whilst the electrification will be completed in the not too distant future many of the trains will still be diesel hauled because Northern Rail does not have enough electric multiple units (EMU’s) to run on the lines that are being electrified in the north of England. As ever Northern Rail’s rolling stock issues are the biggest concern here as they are across the whole of their franchise.
The photos above are amongst my Flickr shots at:-