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And now for something completely different. Well, almost. The recent RUS defines the Windsor lines as ‘routes via Putney’. To put it another way these are South West Trains routes that originate at Waterloo and turn right after Clapham Junction (as opposed to turning left and going via Wimbledon). Before launching into the issues we need a bit of background understanding. So lets talk about level crossings.

To those building railways in Victorian times, level crossings were wonderful. They saved masses on construction costs and required little more than someone to shut a wooden gate to keep out the pedestrians and horses whilst a train went past. Nearly two centuries later, however, in many cases it is clear what a burden these early cost-saving decisions have become.

It is sometimes difficult for those on lines with few level crossings to realise how critical an issue they can be. This author is primarily a Southern user, for example, and – unless our commentors know otherwise – Southern has none in Greater London and, apart from a couple of them on the Caterham branch, none north of Three Bridges. By way of contrast, the Windsor lines of South West trains can sometimes seems to have an innumerable quantity of them.

[There is apparently one at Mitcham Eastfields that is traversed by Southern - thanks to Simon for that. -- JB]

In modern times, level crossings are disliked by the railways for three main reasons:

1) They are expensive to equip, maintain and operate.
2) They are a potential source of accidents. Indeed in recent years they have been a major cause passenger fatalities. They are a particular headache because the reducing the risk is largely outside the control of the industry.
3) On high speed lines they limit the permitted line speed.

Obviously the third reason doesn’t concern us in London and its environs.

One reason not mentioned above was that they limit capacity on the route. This is because generally railways have always had a priority over roads and thus for the railway industry at least this has not been a problem – or rather it hasn’t tended to be a problem until recently. In theory, if the train service was intensive enough to justify it, the railways could quite legitimately leave the barriers down for hours at a time. As it is, as the railways get busier the barriers tend to be down for more minutes in the hour.

Until recently this was mostly regarded as just tough on the motorist. His journey would be delayed for a few minutes that was all. However as the roads get busier, we get into the situation more often where the capacity of the road is reduced to less than the current demand – i.e. the queues would not clear between trains. At this point level crossings start becoming a serious political issue making arguments about the length of the pedestrian phase in London’s traffic lights seem like pleasant light-hearted banter.

In the context of the Windsor Lines, therefore, it becomes important to touch on a scheme called Heathrow Airtrack. We have written on the subject of Airtrack before, and parts of it are highly relevant – even if the scheme never goes ahead.

Airtrack is a plan to provide rail services to Heathrow from the south using a proposed rail link from Staines to the heart of Terminal 5. The platforms at Heathrow were built during the construction of Terminal 5, but the tunnel leading up to it does not yet exist. The original idea was that it would provide a direct rail service from places like Guildford and Reading to Heathrow. During the planning phase, however, it was realised that if the international platforms were to become available at Waterloo and they could find two train paths an hour into Waterloo, then the service would be both more attractive to passengers and give a much better benefit-cost ratio. Network Rail were initially sceptical that these paths could be found, but they were paid to do a full investigation to see what was possible and to their surprise they found that, with nothing more than a recast of the timetable, the two paths could be brought into existence. This was almost like manna from heaven – two extra train paths at no cost other than reorganising the timetable.

It was almost inevitable that, once capacity issues were identifed, making use of these additional train paths would be proposed in the recent RUS. It didn’t matter whether the trains terminated at Heathrow, Reading or elsewhere. Here was a easy solution to a problem.

The only problem here is that Airtrack has aroused considerable opposition, mainly due to the many level crossings affected. In some cases the barriers will be down for 40 minutes in each hour.

The local councils involved are often in a difficult situation. They don’t want more tailbacks. The have to be seen to be supporting local people (the areas affected tend to err towards car-ownership) and yet a lot of these routes are also rat runs – locations where a nice new bridge or tunnel would potentially encourage more traffic, even if it were technically possible and affordable.

In addition to this, the issue is often also one of perception. If the level crossing wasn’t inhibiting the flow, then the traffic throughput wouldn’t increase by much anyway since the capacity would simply be restricted by something else further along the route such as a critical roundabout. One suspects that all Airtrack has really done is bought these local issues to a head, but it is Airtrack that is seen by the local residents as the monster that needs to be slayed.

It was hoped in the early stages that Network Rail could provide some technical innovation to enable the barriers to remain open for slightly longer – enough to compensate for the extra trains. However this has turned out not to be possible. To complicate matters further, some of the critical level crossings are in the constituency of Runymede and Weybridge whose MP, Philip Hammond, just happens to be the Secretary of State for Transport. He has already declared that without a solution to the level crossing issue there will be no Airtrack.

The RUS assumes a lot of things about the Windsor lines. It presumes that 10-car trains will be implemented (which by the way will mean each time they traverse a level crossing the barriers will be down for a few seconds longer). It also presumes that Waterloo international terminal will be used for domestic trains (although this is a fairly safe assumption, because to leave it empty or not use it for railway purposes when the trains are overcrowded would be politically unacceptable). It believes there is still a slight shortfall of capacity which can be resolved by these two extra paths.

It has also identified that if platform 1 at Queenstown Road is reopened and various track layout changes are made there, then it can squeeze in a further train path per hour. If there is high growth the RUS suggests that extending the Windsor line trains to 12 carriages should be looked at, but it notes that only 10 car trains could run to any future service to Terminal 5 due to the length of the platforms which cannot be extended.

So as it stands, there appear to be three possible scenarios:

A) Somehow the level crossing issues are resolved and Airtrack gets built. This provides two trains an hour from Waterloo to Terminal 5 which both increases capacity into Waterloo and provide a service from the south-west London suburbs, including Clapham Junction with a decent service to the heart of Heathrow. This also brings in the other Airtrack services to Reading and Guildford.

B) Two, possibly three, new services an hour are introduced between Waterloo (former international platforms) and a destination beyond Staines as recommended by the RUS. Once this has been implemented, the additional Airtrack paths have effectively been introduced by stealth and it is relatively easy to argue the case for the new railway between Staines and Heathrow providing the money is forthcoming.

C) An attempt is made to add the new services, but this causes a political storm fuelled by accusations of “Airtrack by stealth” (whether true or not) and the new services are not introduced. It is possible that to save face the government opts for extending train lengths to 12 carriages as a way to avoid unpopularity with one side or the other.

Whether Airtrack gets built or not, it seems to have stirred a hornet’s nest. With regards to level crossings, it has certainly brought the issue of car vs train to a head, and hard decisions are going to have to be made. We live in interesting times.

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There are 46 comments on this article
  1. KG says:

    With petrol at £2.00 a litre by Christmas we may see the level crossing problem just go away.

  2. stephenc says:

    How might a tunnel help? What about one from just east of Barnes to just west of Richmond, with no stations (about 2.5 miles). Once the non-stop tunnel was open, you close the line above ground for a year or so while you dig the existing route down into the ground removing three (3!) level crossings.

    This would separate the local traffic from the longer distance stuff, making much better use of the four tracks from Barnes in. The stopping trains from Richmond could be increased to a near-tube frequency, and perhaps diverted to Crossrail 2 after Clapham Junction. Lots of paths are created on the longer distance services, plus a speed-up no doubt.

    While this doesn't solve the Staines-Egham problem directly, by freeing up paths it may be able to bunch trains more effectively, indirectly solving it.

    So, should the RUS have considered this 2.5 mile tunnel?

  3. JulianRudd says:

    This is a very real issue in the Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames.. between Barnes and Richmond stations, there are only 4 road crossings as it is, and 3 of these are level crossings. As it is there can be complete grid-lock in the peak hours, so the prospect of the crossings being down for even longer doesn't bear thinking about!

    Ironically Richmond would probably be a major beneficiary of such a scheme, and I imagine it would be very popular, but there is no question that the impact on the crossings would generate huge resistance…. Does Network Rail have much of a track record of removing level crossings? Tunnelling might be an option in one spot…

  4. Anonymous says:

    Pedantically, it is still only the draft 2nd generation London and South East RUS.

    It is not 'The RUS', it's an RUS…

  5. Cobarn says:

    I would have thought that the idea of a railway cutting the area off would only help and encourage the feeling of a rural village that the people who live there so want to create!

  6. stephenc says:

    Just wanted to correct the tunnel proposal. Its from just east of Barnes to just EAST of Richmond!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Can't they just dig the line between Barnes and Richmond down 3m (diverting trains via Kew in the mean time) so they can replace all the level crossings with bridges (plus some new ones) or cover them over entirely? If they have the money for the rest of airtrack, that short stretch shouldn't be too much of a strain?

  8. Anonymous says:

    A 3m trench? You need about 4m to allow for the train's wheels as well as the body, plus about another metre for the thickness of the bridge deck. So make that 5m…

  9. Anonymous says:

    In Munich they've managed to bury the S8 route (one of two routes out to the airport) through the centres of many of the towns it passes through on the way. It took a while though. But then that's Germany and they can do these things.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Give local buses the ability to overtake the tailback of cars waiting at the lights, so the bus that is always first through. This would tip the balance of some away from car use to buses, and reduce the tailbacks.

    Furthermore, a few cycle-only bridges might tempt others out of cars onto bikes.

  11. Anonymous says:

    May be a silly question but can the roads be turned into bridges or tunnels while leaving the railway intact?

  12. Al says:

    "May be a silly question but can the roads be turned into bridges or tunnels while leaving the railway intact?"

    Take a look for yourself- from Barnes to Richmond are the following crossings (apologies if I get the names wrong)
    White Hart Lane
    Sheen Lane
    Manor Road
    In short: bridges would be very, very difficult.

    Don't forget that any structures over the railway are likely to have be built as if it were a W10 loading gauge, overhead electrified line. Despite it being a passenger only 3rd rail route.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Staines and Egham are just as bad. What is extra irritating for everbody currently is that you can be stuck at a barrier as a train goes by and it stays down for over 5/10 minutes while another one comes from the other direction.

    The line cuts off large residential areas from their town centres and the main roads towards the motorway.

    There are no other routes and bridges are out of the question due to the scale of house demolition.

    If we were in the land of infinite funds, then a new tunneled railway would be ideal.

  14. Lofty says:

    To pick up on a few points mentioned.
    Between Barnes & Richmond there are 4 crossings & 1 bridge.
    The full service could net be diverted via Kew. Apart from leaving 6 stations un-served (including mine) there is not the capacity. There are 4 tracks to Barnes, this becomes 2 x 2 track branches at Barnes.

    Lowering the rails would be difficult due the proximity of housing to the railway. The retaining walls would have to slope, and have some thickness to them.

    Buses could not get to the front of the queue, the roads are too narrow,

    Bridges or tunnels could not be built, not enough space.

    Possible options include:
    Removing just one of the crossings with a bridge, lowering the rails by 2.5m & building a bridge 2.5m high.
    Routing the new service via Kew, rather than Richmond. There are 3 crossings on that route, but they are much further apart

  15. Matt says:

    I used to cycle over one of two of these crossings every day (the one next to Mortlake station, or else the next one to the East, near Barnes).

    It was never a problem for me. The cyclists all go to the front, there were often 5 by the time the train went past. Usually there were only one or two trains, so a 1-2 minute delay.

    The record was seven trains without the barriers raising. Fortunately I was on my way home.

    It does cause congestion, but at least half the "cars" were 4x4s. If people choose to drive that kind of vehicle in London I couldn't care less how long their journey takes.

  16. john b says:

    "If people choose to drive that kind of vehicle in London I couldn't care less how long their journey takes"

    I'd extend that from "a 4×4" to "any private car". Close the level crossings to road traffic completely and tell the lazy sods to get the train instead.

  17. timbeau says:

    Actually four level crossing and two bridges between Barnes and Richmond. One of the bridges is the South Circular Road – looking at the layout there, it seems even this was once a level crossing.

    Giving buses priority would be difficult as most of the roads are not wide enough for a bus lane. And would achieve nothing as TfL has more sense than to try and operate a bus route across any of these crossings*.

    (Bus routes do use the bridges immediately east of Barnes and west of Richmond stations, but none of the crossings in between).

    As for tunnelling, there would be a problem at the Richmond end as the line would have to climb even more sharply than it already does to cross the river.

    An opportunity was missed at Manor Road when the gasworks closed (where Sainsburys now is). The line could have been diverted to the north, parallel to the District Line and then swing back across the gasworks site, so as to cross the road further north, near where the District Line passes underneath the road.

    * on checking, I find this is not quite true. The 969 mobility bus service uses the crossing by Mortlake station. This runs one return trip, on Tuesdays and Fridays only.

  18. greg tingey says:

    In spite of the expense, house-demolitions and bridges are, in fact, the cheapest options.
    But, who will face up to this uncomfortable truth?
    There is another LC where there are problems, near London, apart from those close to Staines – Wokingham …..

    As for the gratuitous comment about "4×4"'s it just shows how ignorant and STUPID some people are.
    I have a "4×4" – a proper Land-Rover. I try not to drive it in London at all, if I can help it – it's for out-of-town trips where the railways don't go, and for hauling loads, without having to hire a van.
    And, of course, I will NEVER need to buy another car, ever.
    DO NOT tar all 4×4's with the same brush, please.
    Oh, and in December, I was able to drive it up hills in Essex, where I couldn't even keep my footing.
    So there.

  19. greg tingey says:

    Second thoughts.
    Why not build NEW bridges, SOMEWHERE ELSE?
    After all, it was possible to afford to build bridges/tunnels all the way between Leyton and Loughton, for the conversion of the GER branch to Epping to the Central line, back in the cash-strapped 30's as part of the "New Works" programme……

    Oh, and "John B"
    Erm – and suppose those people are going in their cars to where there is no convenient public transport?
    I use trains when I can, and cycle when I can, but there are times one NEEDS a car ….

  20. Daddysgadgets says:

    In Japan many urban railways, operating at higher frequencies than the 'Windsor Lines' have had this problem resolved by putting the railway on stilts. In some cases this has been done whilst still operating the original railway underneath. Where there has been no space to expand sideways the conflict between stopping services and fast ones has been overcome by double-decking the line. This has also been done to provide more capacity at stations, Kamata station on the Keikyu Railways being a recent example.

    Despite the difference in culture, outlook and planning rules a solution to a major problem has been found.

  21. Anonymous says:

    1 Please be specific about which RUS you are referring to.

    2 Network Rail has a policy of eliminating level crossings, where possible. They are seen as a dangerous weak point for rail. The number have gradually been reduced on the main inter-city lines. The London suburbs are much more tricky, though probably present greater risks.

    JJBone

  22. The Perfect Trough says:

    Are there any level crossings on the Hounslow route?

    It's slower and misses Richmond, but might be worth pathing some trains that way (maybe the Windsors?)

    I've always thought that if Airtrack services actually stopped at Egham, the locals might be appeased somewhat.

    Richard Hammond seems determined to derail it (mind the pun) though so I don't see it happening. Shame really, as rail to Heathrow should absolutely be encouraged as much as possible.

    Perhaps someone should look at funding the western junction from the Heathrow line towards Slough instead then. Once the GWML is wired, a huge amount of service possibilities arise – especially with bi-mode or Voyagers with an extra Pantograph car…

  23. Pedantic of Purley says:

    The reason that they dropped the proposal for Airtrack to stop at Egham is primarily due to the issue of blocking junctions on the re-instated railway triangle if the trains get extended to 12-carriages. You solve one problem and potentially create another!

  24. Drew says:

    It's not just a case of the level crossings within London on the Hounslow loop / Richmond stretch.

    Outside of London, Egham is a prime example. There are 4 level crossings within a (roughly) 2.5km stretch. It completely severs the town in half as there are no bridges. Telling people to "catch the train" instead or some other similar statement don't get the importance of this. If Airtrack were to go ahead, the level crossings would be down somewhere in the region of 45 mins per hour if I remember correctly. If you want to get your kids to school from one side of town to the other, then tough luck.

    Wokingham (where I used to live) is another example. There is only one level crossing in the middle of town, but it is slap bang on the primary (and only route into Wokingham from the south due to the one-way system – in place due to narrow roads) access from Finchampstead. The area is a hive of traffic at the best of times, and most lorries and buses have to use the level crossing because the bridges aren't high enough for them to go under the car-friendly bridge route. I can remember sitting on the bus at the level crossing for 15-20 minutes sometimes because the barriers never came up.

    Out here on the fringe of London, but outside, trains rarely go where you need them to – unless you are going into London. Don't get me wrong, I'm 100% in favour of Airtrack – it would make my trip to Heathrow a hell of a lot easier, but the level crossings are a real problem. Most towns with level crossings don't have the ability to put road bridges/tunnels in because there are properties either side of the railway with driveways onto the road which would be cut off due to the need for a ramp to get up and over the railway. As far as I see, the only feasible option is altering the railway so it's either on struts/a viaduct as suggested so it goes over the roads, or under them in a deep cutting. Either way, you then have the expense of redoing the stations higher up or lower down.

    And without the Airtrack routes to Reading and Guildford (which pass through Egham, and Wokingham as well for the Reading route) the value for money for the Airtrack scheme evaporates. :(

  25. jamesup says:

    The japanese raise the line option sounds sensible, as does an express tunnel for non-stopping services.

    Also, if you did shut it, dig a trench and put in a prefab rail tunnel in sections built off site, you'd open up a good amount of land in a very desirable area – perfect for some high rise housing to fund the scheme!

    Could a toll be introduced to reduce demand for the crossings? ;)

  26. Windsorian says:

    Beside the problem of 15 level crossings, the full Airtrack proposal is now costed at £750M.

    Instead of the endless delays and expensive gold plating, one option is to get BAA to proceed with the extension of HEx from T5 to Staines without further delay.

    This would involve to construction of 2.5 miles (4km) of new line across the virtually unpopulated Stanwell & Staines Moors; the new line is planned to run alongside the M25 transport corridor.

    At present 4 HEx tph terminate at T5; they have a maintenance depot at Old Oak Common; all 4tph could be extended to a rebuilt Staines station.

    The other 3 Airtrack routes, Waterloo/T5, Guildford/T5 and Reading/T5 may then be considered as part of the next SWT franchise.

  27. timbeau says:

    My A to Z shows three level crossings on the Hounslow route, at Vine Road (just west of Barnes station), Grove Park Terrace (Chiswick), and Wood Lane (Isleworth). Two of these have several alternative bridges nearby – the third (Vine Road) is less than fifty yards from one of the crossings on the Richmond line.
    In the days when there were fast and slow services as far as Ascot the fast trains routinely ran non-stop Clapham Junction to Staines, using the Hounslow line. But diverting trains that way means they cannot serve the major centre of Richmond, with its LU and LO connections. Reloacting Gunnersbury and Kew Bridge stations to Strand on the Green to provide an interchange would be a bit expensive.

    Apart from Eastfields, I can't find any level crossing on Southern's or South Eastern's territories within the area of my A to Z, except for those on the Wimbledon/West Croydon line (this edition pre-dates Tramlink!)

    Feltham (also on Airtrack) is interesting: it is the only example I know of a level crossing on a one way street.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Southern trains do have a level crossing north of Three Bridges – it's on the Milton Keynes service that runs up the West London Line, by North Pole Junction. It's only used by lorries taking scrap metal to the vast Willesden Jcn industrial estate, but oddly these lorries seem to enjoy priority over the trains. Every MK service judders through Willesden at about 5mph, then stops to wait for the level crossing, then stops again to switch power mode. (This route has great potential as an "second Thameslink" but seem neglected – would lve to read an article about this line)

  29. KG says:

    Anonymous said…25 March 2011 16:48
    —————————–
    In the early 80s I lived beside the West London Line and was unusual in knowing it existed. There was no sensible service on it.

    I have a 1987 national timetable that devotes a very sparse single page (table 149) to the line. There are a handful of trains from Bromley South, East Croydon or Clapham Junction to Olympia or Watford Junction. 13 one way and 15 the other way on a weekday, seven each way on a Saturday and 3 each way on a Sunday. BR was just not trying.

  30. Mike C says:

    South Eastern has at least one level crossing, between Charlton and Woolwich Dockyard on the North Kent Line, just around the corner from the hallowed turf of The Valley! It's not a particularly busy road though

  31. timbeau says:

    KG

    I worked next to the WLL in the late eighties, and I don't think services were that frequent. There were a handful of cross country services (four or five each way) from Manchester to Brighton or Dover which called at Watford Jt, Olympia, and then either Clapham Junction and East Croydon or Bromley South. (it is the withdrawal of the latter which required the infamous ealing-wandsworth Road "parliamemtary" bus service). On top of this was the "Kenny Belle" Olympia/Clapham Junction peak hour shuttle, two each way a day.

  32. Ex Action Town says:

    Having lived next to the northern end of the Hounslow loop (itself the northernmost branch of the Windsor lines) and one of its few level crossings (Grove Park – which also has a pedestrian footbridge) I can confirm popular support for tunneling ALL these lines.

    Recent scary reports from Britons living in Tokyo were obviously not from residents of this part of Chiswick (itself infamous for 'wavy' pavements and continuously rebuilt High Road – which is due to the poorly culverted rivers flowing beneath all the BBC folk – e.g. Stamford Brook).

    This is one of the few places where South London and its trains go north of the Thames.

    As teenagers living on the third floor backing onto the railway, the 'nuclear' trains caused books to fly from their shelves and glasses sitting too near heavy objects on tables to smash, leaving their precious contents in puddles inexorably contaminated by shards of glass. It was very scary and expensive.

    Parts of the Richmond loop were (unusually) bought from a turnpike (rather than a canal), so roads like Worple Way (North and South) in Mortlake although seemingly typically 2up-2down Victorian terraces face a railway rather than a road. It looks bizarre.

    This is the reason for the atypically large amounts of level-crossings on this line. The solution has to be tunelling – a historical and developing British expertise and (relatively) cheap.

  33. David Cantrell says:

    Telling "the lazy sods" to get the train instead really would be very stupid. The poster is obviously not aware that railways and roads which meet at a level crossing generally do so at roughly 90 degrees, and so the train is going in the wrong direction for the journey.

    I do, however, have no sympathy whatsoever for those taking their children to school by car. While there may not be many road bridges, there *are* footbridges and pedestrian underpasses, and I am sure that the last thirty years of evolution since I walked to school have not managed to produce children without legs.

  34. Drew says:

    David:

    Out here in the "sticks" (ie. just outside the M25 in prime Airtrack area) schools are often not within walking distance. And school buses are often *highly* expensive.

    Which usually leads to the school run for parents…

  35. Anonymous says:

    Surely the answer is to forget about Waterloo as a central London destination and to extend "Super-Crossrail" from T5 to both Guildford via Woking and Reading via Wokingham. That way you get connectivity to the southwest (i.e. "Airtrack") and avoid clogging up the level crossings in Barnes etc. Or are we unable to think outside and across the Greater London boundary?

  36. yorksranter says:

    The thing about Egham is that it's like a ringworld. You can move along the ring – towards London or towards Reading – very easily. But if you need to move around it, northwards or southwards, gravity is working against you unless you drive (in which case you normally have to use the M25 at some point).

  37. SIMON says:

    Ive never understood why the barriers need to be down for SO long before a train passes.

    I frequently use the Grove Road crossing in Chiswick and the 2 on Bollo Lane, and despite the fact they are all fully barriered (i.e. you couldn't drive over them even if you wanted too) they still close a full 2 or 3 minutes before a train goes by. Why? Surely we have the technology to have level crossing barriers come down just before a train passes and make those barriers more secure somehow? This would be BY FAR the cheapest solution.

  38. Dave B says:

    I suspect the reason why level crossings seem to come down minutes before a train passes is to do with the fixed block signalling system used on most railways.

    The barriers must be programmed to come down when the train is a certain number of blocks away. I suspect this number of blocks is determined by the maximum line speed, not the actual train speed. So barriers will be down for a longer period of time before a Kingston or Hounslow loop train than before a Windsor or Reading train.

    Also, this number of blocks must be an integer, so if the number of blocks determined by the line speed is 2, but the crossing is 0.9blocks from the preceeding signal, then the barriers must come down when the train is 2.9 blocks away. If the train were approaching at half of the maximum line speed, then it would probably be quite safe to bring the barriers down when the train is one block away.

    Can someone who knows more about signalling than I do confirm whether my hunch is correct, and also whether there is a way round this problem without going to moving block signalling? How do they do it in countries like the Netherlands where there are a lot of level crossings on intensively worked lines?

  39. timbeau says:

    These crossings are not automatic, but are operated by the signalman and interlocked with the signals. The signal(s) protecting the crossing cannot be cleared unless the line is clear, i.e the gates are down.
    Signal spacing is arranged such that the fastest train can stop in the distance between two consecutive signals (three if we are in four-aspect territory) This means, in "three aspect" territory, that for an approaching train not to get a yellow aspect, the gates must be down before the train approaches the signal preceding the one actually protecting the crossing.

    There is a particular issue where there is a station right next to the level crossing – not uncommon as stations need to be accessible by road! Mortlake and North Sheen are examples).
    It is usual for there to be a signal at the end of the platform. In some cases, particularly where some trains do not call at the station, the safety overlap beyond that signal extends beyond the level crossing, in which case the crossing has to be clear before the train can pass the preceding signal. This of course means that the gates have to be down before a train can approach the station and, if it is a stopping train, will remain down throughout the time it is standing at the station.
    Some stations have the platforms staggered so that the level crossing is on the approach to both platforms, which reduces this problem. (Mitcham Eastfields is an example)

    At crossings where the "traffic moment" (arithemtical product of rail and road traffic) is low enough, automatic barriers are permitted: these are triggered by an approaching train, at a point somewhat later than that at which the train could stop: it is entirely the responsibility of the road traffic to clear the crossing in time. There is no way any crossing in London would meet the criteria for automatic crossings, they are all operated and monitored remotely from the signalbox controlling the area.

  40. Anonymous says:

    May I suggest another possible outcome?
    D: Airtrack is built, with all trains initially terminating at Staines. These are run as extensions to Connect / HEx / Crossrail. Staines station is rebuilt as an interchange station. Through services are added later.

    The priority is to provide the link to Staines. The level crossing issue, neither easy politically nor cheap technically to solve, needs to be separated from the main priority of establishing the link to the airport.

    Eventually, solutions will be found to the level crossing issues. Perhaps the sheer numbers of local people using the services will overwhelm the voices against. The more people using the AirTrack service, the more valuable technical solutions, such as tunnelling, become.

    Finally, I question the value added of the through service to Waterloo. The AirTrack website claims a 43 minute average service time to Waterloo. TfL’s Journey Planner gives a current best time, admittedly via Heathrow Express, of 38 minutes. Of course, some passengers changing at Clapham Junction might be deterred by a second change at Staines.

  41. Windsorian says:

    @ Anon 31.3.11 10.37

    I think you are repeating my own suggestion 25.3.11 that 4tph HEx should be extended from T5 to a re-built Staines station asap. This could be privately funded by BAA; costed at approx. £100M it is within the BAA contribution proposed for the Airtrack project.

    Because of winter train delays resulting from 3rd rail electrification, it would make sense if the T5 / Staines extension was OHLE.

    All other parts of Airtrack require substantial public investment; surely these should be considered as part of the SWT franchise when it comes up for renewal? I have in the back of my mind the DB Evergreen projects 1,2 & 3.

    When thinking about Airtrack, I have always had in the back of my mind the possibility of extending the T5, Woking, Guildford Airtrack line to Gatwick providing a semi-fast direct link between these two airports.

  42. Anonymous says:

    There's another level crossing used by Southern trains and north of Three Bridges at Ashtead, within the M25 but not in Greater London. Victoria to Dorking trains cross this one and the Mitchan one.

  43. MiaM says:

    How about a resignalling (ERTMS?) where you can set train paths with different speed limits, and let the signalling system use the different max speeds to congrol the level crossings automatically?

    I don't know that much about the AWS (or what it's called) that's used in UK but other ATC/ATP systems (for example in Sweden) have features like telling the train the current line speed and also the distance to the next speed change (downwards) or stop. The train computer knows how the brakes perform, and does an automatic calculation of what maximum speed is acceptable at every moment. If the driver is too close to the absolute max a warning signal sounds, and if the absolute maximum is reached then the train does an automatic emergency break.

    If theese features were part of a two-way communicating signalling system then the train could tell the signalling system exactly when level crossings need to be protected.

    I know that the best solution is to get rid of the level crossings, but IMHO a better signalling system with better ATP/ATC could also improve other things, for example mixing freight and passenger trains on the same route could work better as passenger trains with good brake performance could run closer to each other while freight trains could run at a decent speed if there is enough clearance in front of them.

  44. MiaM says:

    another thing:

    How about connecting the two Windsor branches and change them to a Staines-Paddington service? AFAIK that would give good travel times for all stations on the Windsor riverside branch and it would free up some capacity on the line to Waterloo

  45. Stephen C says:

    Finally got the chance to write up what would be needed to solve the 4 level crossings between Barnes and Richmond properly – http://ukrail.blogspot.com/2012/02/richmond-crossing-improving-windsor.html . Its not a small scheme, but its not a small problem. The end result of the intervention would be the ability to run a full metro service on both the Hounslow and Richmond routes, with faster services to places beyond Twickenham.

  46. gant75 says:

    It’s definitely cheaper to build road bridges than it is to tunnel a whole railway line, even if you have to pay compensation to the houses which have to be demolished to make way for said bridge, even in Richmond.

    Nor I don’t agree/sympathise with people who suggest the railways should be tunnelled simply because of the noise or vibratations they cause! I would like to think that you noticed the trains before you decided to move in. Tough luck if you ornaments rattle and fall on the floor. Surely with 8 tph or whatever, everything would be broken and that would be the end of it!

    I have commuted on this Windsor line all my life and it is truly dire. Especially on weekends when there is half the cars/coaches/carriages calling at all the stops.

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