MANCHESTER DEBUT FOR MK 4s
TRANSPORT FOR Wales has acknowledged that it will need to continue operating Pacer units next year. It has also revealed that its first set of Mk 4 coaches will initially operate between Manchester, Chester and the North Wales coast. TfW’s Class 142 and 143 Pacers are not compliant with the Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM) standards.
TfW had arranged a cascade which would have enabled the units to be withdrawn by the deadline of 31 December, but key elements of the cascade have been delayed. TfW has 14 Class 142 and 11 Class 143 units used for services in south Wales.
On 3 October, TfW chief executive James Price said: ‘Our plan is to retain some of our Pacer and Class 37 loco-hauled trains for a short period of time in 2020 to allow us to increase capacity of our busiest routes, meaning extra space onboard for our customers.’ This would be subject to TfW receiving a time-limited dispensation to continue operating the trains.
TfW has used two Class 37-hauled sets on peak workings between Rhymney and Cardiff since the summer as a result of continuing delays to the introduction of Class 769 units, which Porterbrook has converted from Class 319 EMUs for diesel operation. Five of the four-car units were ordered in 2017 for entry into passenger service from summer 2018. TfW subsequently ordered a further four units. It now expects Class 769s to become available ‘in the new year’.
GAUGE CLEARANCE ISSUES
TfW Rail Services is leasing 12 Mk 4 vehicles for Holyhead – Cardiff workings, where they will replace the current Mk 3 sets and take over some workings now operated mainly by Class 175s. Modern Railways understands some gauging work remains to be done on the Marches line (Newport to Shrewsbury) for Mk 4 operation and that this is unlikely to be completed before February or March, as a consequence of the large amount of gauging work required across Britain for the introduction of many new and cascaded fleets in a short space of time.
There are no gauging problems for Mk 4s between North Wales and Manchester, where a Class 67 with Mk 3 coaches currently operates a weekdays diagram prioritised around the commuter peaks into and out of Manchester. TfW has confirmed that a Mk 4 set will operate between North Wales and Manchester from December.
TfW hopes to receive a PRM derogation for its Mk 3s. It says the three Mk 4 sets will improve the customer experience, since they have recently been refurbished by Virgin and LNER.
TfW has received cascaded Class 153 units. Porterbrook has agreed to provide nine additional Class 153s until the Class 769s are available, taking TfW’s Class 153 fleet to 22 units. Porterbrook chief executive Mary Grant said: ‘Some of TfW’s plans depend on our innovative Class 769 trains, whose introduction into service has been subject to delays for which we apologise.
We are actively working with TfW and our supply chain to deliver these trains as soon as possible.
In the meantime, we have accelerated delivery of our Class 170 units and are also supplying additional trains to cover for the Class 769s and provide support to TfW and their passengers.’
TfW recently completed its first Class 153 PRM modifications, on unit No 153325. It plans to accelerate the programme but some of the units will remain unmodified at the end of the year. Compliant and non-compliant units could operate in pairs until the programme is complete. Paired ‘153s’ will release Pacers for four-car operation of the Rhymney line, releasing Class 150s for capacity enhancements on the Treherbert, Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil lines. TfW is due to deploy its Class 170s from December on Cheltenham – Cardiff – Maesteg and Cardiff – Ebbw Vale diagrams. The fleet will initially be captive to those routes. This should reduce the high rate of cancellations on the Cheltenham – Maesteg corridor. Rhodri Clark
ALMOND CHORD TO BE EXAMINED AGAIN
THE SCOTTISH Government is to undertake preliminary work on delivery of the Almond chord, a link between Almond and Winchburgh Junctions.
A £15 million investment will enable options for the Edinburgh Waverley Western Approaches (EWWA) project to be taken forward to Outline Business Case stage.
Options will be explored for a chord with flat junctions at each end, with grade separated junctions at each end, or with grade separation only at Almond Junction. The Scottish Government says the work will help provide understanding of performance benefits and help inform which is the most suitable option, along with a detailed understanding of the potential costs.
The 3km Almond chord was part of the original scope of the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP), but in July 2012 Transport Scotland announced EGIP would be descoped and the chord was cut from the programme.
At the time Transport Scotland said the cost of the chord was £80 million. The chord would offer a second route out of Edinburgh to the main line to Glasgow via Falkirk, and also enable these trains to serve Edinburgh Gateway station, which opened in 2016.