Supplementary Response to the Network Rail Scotland RUS (Generation Two) Consultation
7 January 2011
Scotland RUS (Generation Two)
58 Port Dundas Road
Friends of the Far North Line submitted its response to the RUS 2 consultation on 8 November. We now submit a supplementary response dealing with the imperative to speed up journeys on the Far North Line.
MODERNISING TRACK & SIGNALLING BETWEEN INVERNESS AND DINGWALL
When Iain Coucher, then Chief Executive of Network Rail, spoke at our AGM in Inverness on 30 June 2008 he said "We must find and exploit real opportunities to reduce journey times" and we responded to the challenge he gave us with our paper Towards a great North of Scotland railway on 21 August. We trust that the RUS2 team have read this and that they appreciate why the 25 minute end-to-end slowdown to services in 2005 has been such a deterrent to potential passengers and freight on the line.
The introduction of TPWS in 2004/5 was partially responsible for the slowdown because the treadles for the loop points were set for 15 mph entry whereas previously this had been 25 mph or more. We believe that both points and loop entry speeds should be improved and notice that this has recently happened on the Central Wales Line.
The current hydro-pneumatic point actuators are obsolete. When the Dingwall set was damaged in January 2010, no replacement spares were available and a set had to be "borrowed" from Rogart Loop which put it out of action for many months.
FoFNL would like to see motorised points and multiple-aspect signalling introduced all the way from Inverness to Dingwall North. The TPWS works have ensured that there are now power supplies to all the relevant locations so the job is made easier.
Hitrans have recently received a commissioned report on Switches and Crossings on the Far North Line and this will provide further helpful information to you. It suggests
Each existing train-operated, hydro-pneumatically driven point actuator shall be removed and be replaced with a new, power-operated point-drive mechanism. It is expected that conventional, Alstom HW2000-series electrically-driven machines would be used; these are currently Network Rail's preferred electric point machine in Scotland.
Taking out the old points will mean that there is a stock of spares to keep the remainder on the lines north and west of Dingwall operating for a while longer.
The section between Inverness and Dingwall sees the heaviest use and underpins both lines to Wick and Kyle. It is used by far more trains than the Central Wales line where motorised points have recently been deemed to be necessary and installed.
Hitrans can also supply you with their October 2008 report on extending conventional multiple-aspect signalling (MAS) from Inverness to Dingwall North. This would take some of the load off the hard-pressed RETB system, such that the operation of the lines north and west from Dingwall would also be improved. One development since 2008 is the possibility of using the new prototype type of signal recently installed at Pelaw.
The combination of MAS and motorised points between Inverness and Dingwall North would modernise and speed up the common section of both lines. It would help to cater for further latent demand for both freight and passengers and improve the chances of catching connecting services during times of late running.
We have not precisely defined the term Dingwall North as there are several variables. It could extend to Evanton (Far North Line) and Fodderty (Kyle Line) intermediate block posts and it could include the Dingwall level crossings. The most suitable loci for the boundary with the continuing RETB system would be determined by further study of all possibilities. It is certainly true again that the TPWS work in providing power connections at suitable locations can be built upon to save costs.
Another advantage of MAS and motorised points will be to ease the eventual provision of a crossing loop on some of the old double track formation between Clachnaharry and Clunes.
INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS TO THE FAR NORTH LINE
We consider that the expenditure of £0.19 - 0.22M would be very worthwhile expenditure to support line speed improvements with a BCR of 1.5 between Dingwall and Alness as shown in Table 6.1. This is one of the longer sections on the more heavily used section of the line, a section with latent demand for more services. The introduction of a roughly hourly service between Inverness and Tain would be greatly facilitated by a reduction of a few minutes in journey time. With a more frequent service, the BCR would probably be greater than 1.5. The same argument applies to going ahead with upgrades of and consequently increased line speeds at Bunchrew and Delny level crossings.
We are therefore most disappointed that there are no draft proposals in the RUS2 consultation document that are recommended for implementation. Severe road congestion on the A9 Kessock Bridge and in the City of Inverness has been a major factor contributing to the increased use of the Far North Line (especially by commuters) over the past few years. This trend will continue and it is important that the line should continue to be improved throughout its length.
We trust that our ideas above together with other line speed improvements will be steadily pursued.