Ipswich Transport Society
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CLASS 379 UNITS MAKE THEIR DEBUT
Although not due to enter public service for a few months yet, the first of the new Class 379 Electrostar emus commenced clearance and other trials from early January. These included runs that took 379001 to Norwich twice on Saturday 8th. While the thirty-strong fleet of Bombardier, Derby built four-car units is for use on Stansted Airport and Cambridge services, it seems that Network Rail (NR) and National Express East Anglia (NXEA) are ominously keen on checking the units’ suitability for traversing all electrified main lines and branches in the Greater Anglia franchise area, including through to Kings Lynn. Somewhat strangely, NR’s pre-planned paths included Haughley Jct to Coldhams Lane Jct, Cambridge, which is around 40 miles of unwired track! Similarly, the non-electrified platform 6 at Norwich was also earmarked for a visit by an emu.
IPSWICH STATION FOOTBRIDGE
Brickwork around the lift-shaft on platform 2 had reached footbridge floor level by mid-January but progress does seem to be slow as by this time no similar work had begun on the island platform side. Opening in April is now envisaged, a month later than previously announced. It is reported that there will be no glazing in the top panels of the bridge so leaving it partly open to the elements. The original plans showed there was to have been a mesh screen here but this was later changed to glazing to match the existing footbridge. However, the outcome of a Risk Assessment study was that there is a very low priority vandalism risk which seems a little odd given that 25Kv cables run underneath the bridge but at least photographers will be appeased.
Network Rail Award Contract to Jacobs to Design New Ipswich Chord
As previously reported, the project entails the construction of a new chord between the East Suffolk line and Great Eastern Main Line, just north of East Suffolk Junction on land formerly occupied by the Harris bacon factory.
Stoke Bridge Level Crossing Lifted
The level crossing leading from Ipswich Lower Yard accross Stoke bridge to the port has been lifted. Previously part of the line to Cliff Quay at the port, the crossing was latterly part of a small length of isolated track, from outside the Lower Yard to a point outside the former Burtons biscuit factory. The line is not thought to have been used since the early 1990's.
Campaign to save Trimley railway station. The Friends of Trimley Railway Station group has been launched with the intention of finding a suitable ongoing use for the station building at Trimley. The Victorian building has been threatened with demolition for a number of years. Full details of the project and how to get involved are available on the Suffolk Coastal District Council website.
GREATER ANGLIA FRANCHISEE CHANGE POSTPONED
An announcement was made on 17 June by the Department for Transport stating that a consultation exercise was to be undertaken to review the future of rail franchising policy. To quote: ‘This consulatation will provide industry partners with the opportunity to comment on the Government’s approach to rail franchising and whether bidders for longer franchises would be able to offer investment in improvements to trains and services. It will also allow the industry to set out its proposals for improving the efficiency and value for money of rail franchises, for both tax payers and fare payers’. The application bids for both the Greater Anglia and c2c franchises (both presently in the hands of National Express) have accordingly now been placed on hold for a few months while this consultation takes place.
For ‘BACON CURVE’ read ‘IPSWICH CHORD’
It was revealed at the Network Rail exhibition held at the Ipswich Corn Exchange early last month that the proposed GEML to East Suffolk line 1-km long connection will be known as ‘Ipswich Chord’ rather than ‘Bacon Curve’. We feel sure that regardless of the historical significance of the earlier name there will be few objections to the change. As for the connection itself, the exhibition was sadly short on detail in that it concentrated more on the reason for its construction, with the accompanying map only showing its rough location, so it told us nothing that has not been published in previous Journals. Disappointingly for those with a deeper interest, there were no detailed maps showing exactly where the line would be connected to the GEML and East Suffolk line, where crossovers might be located, what signalling arrangements are planned and so on. It was still unknown whether the chord will be single or double tracked as this is entirely dependent on EU funding.
As previously reported, an additional parallel line is to be installed alongside the up main from south of the A14 overbridge to enable container trains to clear the up GEML should they be unable to immediately access the East Suffolk line (and conversely clear the up East Suffolk line while awaiting access to the down GEML) for whatever reason. It is thought that the additional line will have a connection at the Ipswich end so trains can rejoin the up main or access Ipswich Yard. It is assumed that the bridge over Sproughton Road is to be widened on the upside in which case it is perhaps ironic that until a few years ago there was a bridge deck on the downside that once carried track serving BSC’s Sproughton sugar factory. The parapets are still in situ but due to the impracticalities and additional cost involved it seems most unlikely the 100mph dead straight main line will be slewed to make use of these. Against that, the expense of building up the embankment on the opposite side, constructing new bridges over both Sproughton Road and the River Gipping, plus moving electrification masts to accommodate the new section of line, will be high and helps explain the £35m price tag. Indeed, we would suggest that the construction of the loop/link line could prove more problematical than that of the chord itself.
IPSWICH LONDON ROAD YARD
Although Balfour Beatty uses the offices and parks its road vehicles there, other than the odd tamping machine occasionally stabled nearby the depot rarely sees any rail-borne vehicles these days. That situation changed on Wednesday and Thursday 14 & 15 July when a display and demonstration of Network Rail ‘On Track Plant’ (OTP) was staged. The event was organised by Hydrex, a company that specialises in the hire and sale of OTP, and they also displayed a variety of road/rail machines.
Prior to the event, the two sidings furthest from the GEML were lifted the week before and new palisade fencing erected to segregate the cleared area. Vegetation was removed from the four remaining tracks where the demonstrations took place. The large number of attendees, all clad in the requisite vivid orange jackets and wearing hard hats, had their personal needs attended to by a mobile canteen and a row of Portaloos.
IPSWICH STATION 150
Yes, the present station opened on 1 July 1860 to replace the original in Croft Street, which helps explain why nearby Station Street is some distance from Ipswich station. No specific celebrations took place, although 90013 was named 'The Evening Star' on 23/07/10 on Platform 4.
Following lobbying by local authorities and comments from the public, it was announced by NR on 9 August that the planned chord line to connect the GEML with the East Suffolk line will be double-tracked. The estimated cost of the double track chord is £41m which represents a relatively modest increase of £6m over the single line alternative. Any doubling carried out retrospectively would considerably increase costs. While there is reasonable confidence that the scheme will escape next month’s Government Comprehensive Spending Review, this is not definite so it can but be hoped that the much publicised potential of removing some 750,000 annual lorry journeys from the A14 by 2030 will ensure it remains on the ‘to do’ list.
ANOTHER EAST ANGLIAN LEVEL-CROSSING COLLISION
NXEA’s 17.31 Sudbury to Marks Tey service collided with an articulated sewage tanker on the User-Worked Gated crossing at Sewerage Works Lane, Little Cornard, at 17.37 on Tuesday 17 August. These crossings require road users to telephone signallers for permission to cross the line but Network Rail maintain that no such call was made to Colchester Power Signalbox. The tanker driver was later charged with the offence of ‘endangering safety on the railway’. The train was formed by 156417, the leading car of which was completely derailed but remained upright albeit with the front end at an angle down the embankment and over a culvert. Nineteen passengers were on board, two of whom sustained serious injuries necessitating the transfer of one by Air Ambulance to Addenbrooke’s Hospital and another to The Royal London Hospital. The majority of the others required treatment at Colchester General Hospital. After applying the emergency brake, train driver Colin Hockley reportedly ran from his cab to the passenger compartment to forewarn what was about to happen. He sustained broken ribs and collarbone. Perhaps one saving grace was that the train was travelling towards Marks Tey and not in the opposite direction as there would have been many more commuters on board en route home from London.
Buses replaced trains for the remainder of 17 August and also all day on Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 while representatives of the RAIB (Rail Accident Investigation Branch) and BTP carried out investigations and arrangements were made to remove the train and tanker. Removal of the wreckage required matting to be placed in an adjacent field to take the weight of the 500-tonne crane needed to carry out this operation, which was completed by the morning of 19th. NR engineers were then able to repair the track in readiness for the line’s reopening the next morning.
NO IPSWICH BUSES SALE
IB issued a press release on September 27th stating that negotiations between Ipswich Borough Council and the Go Ahead Group over a possible sale of part of Ipswich Buses had concluded. Council Deputy Leader John Carnall was quoted as stating that the talks were very amicable but that he and council colleagues had decided that it was not possible to progress the matter at the current time. The management team at Go Ahead was thanked for their positive approach but action now would not be appropriate. This at least releases IB from the exclusive negotiations it had with Go Ahead, and we await any further developments, if there are any, with interest.
IPSWICH LONDON ROAD DEPOT
A two-storey office block has appeared on the site. Strangely adorned with a sign (visible from London Road bridge) stating ‘Network Rail - Colchester to Clacton Infrastructure Renewals Site Office’, it transpires that the portable office has been relocated from Marks Tey where it was indeed used to manage that project. When NR gets around to it, a replacement sign stating ‘East Suffolk Line Resignalling Project Site Office’ will be somewhat more appropriate. A further development from 27 September was the in-filling of the area between the platforms. It would appear that material was dumped over the track that was left in situ.
IPSWICH STATION FOOTBRIDGE
Holes were cut in the platform canopies during early September in preparation for the erection of the new footbridge and lifts. Work came to a temporary halt at this stage due to the suspected presence of asbestos but fears proved groundless. A site meeting involving NR and Borough of Ipswich planning officials took place on 10 September following NR’s assertion that they would be unable to comply with an IBC planning requirement. This was in respect of the end wall (facing Norwich) of the former Gents on platforms 3 & 4. Partial demolition was allowed on the condition that it be brick-by-brick and re-erected as a new end wall to maintain the original look of the 1880’s structure. It is understood that a compromise is being sought.
PORT OF FELIXSTOWE RAIL RECORD
The Port of Felixstowe recently set a new rail record by handling a total of 10,764 containers (16,209 TEU) by rail, during the week ending 26 September 2010. The previous record of 10,582 units was achieved in the same week last year. The increased volumes are the result of various improvements that have been made to the South Rail Terminal over the past two years, including a 39-metre extension of the terminal to accommodate 22-wagon trains, a major line refurbishment over the New Year 2008/9, and a second brand-new Rail-Mounted Gantry Crane which was installed in August this year.
GREATER ANGLIA FRANCHISE EXTENSION
Given the previous Government’s refusal to extend National Express’ holding of the Greater Anglia franchise beyond 31 March 2011, it is somewhat ironic that a 28-week extension to 15 October 2011 has now been granted pending a review of the current rail franchising policy by the new coalition Government. It is to be hoped that this will allow sufficient time for the review to be completed, revised comprehensive franchise documentation published, bids prepared and submitted to the DfT, the award made public and the new incumbent capable of launching on 12/10/11. There will be precious little time to spare. With NXEA management having been so involved with the transport planning for the 2012 Olympics one can but hope that any change in franchisee will not create any unnecessary problems in this regard.
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