Saturday, 21 June 2008

Virgin tear up the London Connections map

As work on the West Coast Main Line upgrade intensifies with the hope of getting it completed by the end of the year, the southern part of the line is going to be closed for a lot of weekends this year. But instead of forcing passengers onto buses as they used to, Virgin have come up with a plan to run shuttle trains down the Chiltern Main Line. Somehow, they're still terminating at Euston.

Here's how they're going to get there :

  1. The Chiltern Main Line. Used by Chiltern trains from Birmingham to Marylebone.
  2. The New North Main Line. Once British Rail's flagship London-Birmingham route, now single track and used only by Chiltern Trains to access Paddington on the weekends when Marylebone is closed, and for one daily barely-advertised train.
  3. The Greenford Branch. The local trains crawl along this line due to the poor condition of the track, and it isn't normally used for diversions.
  4. The Great Western Main Line. Used by all trains to and from Paddington.
  5. Acton East Junction. The only passenger service on this route is the daily Brighton-Kensington Olympia-Reading CrossCountry service. Unlike on the map above, this is actually west of where the New North Main Line connects, hence why Virgin are forced to use the Greenford Branch.
  6. The North London Line.
  7. Willesden South West Sidings. Also used by the CrossCountry trains mentioned above on their way to/from the West London Line.
  8. The West Coast Main Line. Finally, Euston.
Of course, since it won't call anywhere between Euston and Coventry, the route it takes is of limited interest to Londoners, but it's an interesting display of what connections exist.

If you fancy a trip, it'll run hourly on the days the WCML is blocked, starting next weekend, and it'll also give you a glimpse of the new platform at Denham and the Gerrard's Cross Tesco Tunnel disaster.

Meanwhile, if you're interested in what they're actually doing to the West Coast Main Line, there's a very readable in-depth brochure here, with lots of diagrams.


THC said...

At last, a rail diversion service that uses other rail routes rather than bloody bustitutes. Well done Virgin and about time too (overlooking the fact that you could and should have done this years ago...)

I can't help thinking that Chiltern's regular services would provide a much quicker route from London to Birmingham, but at least the track bashers will be happy!


Jeremy said...

This seems insane. It can't possibly be quicker than the elongated Chiltern services that have been run from Brum in the past. I live adjacent to the (single track) section between Coventry and Leamington Spa. Wouldn't it make more sense to either:

a) run the special trains into Marylebone (which can handle 8-car trains) subject to route clearance for whatever stock they're using, which would be quicker, more reliable and get in the way of an awful lot less?

or b) run the special trains only to Banbury for an easy, accessible change for existing services southwards? I'd say Leamington Spa but I'm not sure about the potential to reverse long trains there.

Caleb said...

Are we going to see any stops at intermediate stations? And is this route actually going to work considering the complexity?

Jeremy said...

There are no intermediate stops between Coventry and London and it's timed according to the Journey Planner as a 2h34 service time. That makes it quicker to take local bus from outside Coventry station (X17) to Leamington Spa Parish Church, walk the five minutes to the station there, grab Chiltern service down to Marylebone and take the tube to Euston. Other than for railcard holders, for much of the day that would actually work out significantly cheaper, too.

Jeremy said...

The time saving versus a bus to Northampton and the Pendolino shuttle? Erm, Journey Planner suggests 9 minutes. And of course, that does rather assume that everything runs to time. But of course, this service runs the risk of getting in the way of rather a lot. The one I'm seeing starts at Preston. I'll start counting the potential conflicts on departure from Coventry:

Chiltern Railways [Leamington - West Ruislip]
CrossCountry [Cov/Leam - Aynho Jn (south of Banbury)]
First Great Western [Greenford Branch, GW relief lines]
Heathrow Connect [GW relief lines]
London Overground [around Willesden Jn].

Hmmm, looks like fun.

Mr Thant (Editor) said...

It's not meant to be any quicker than the bus, it's just much more convenient. And it adds capacity on top of what Chiltern will be running (it should be a double Voyager - 10 cars).

They're running to Euston because there's no platform space at Paddington or Marylebone and again, it's more convenient for regular Virgin travellers.

Anonymous said...

Any idea what rolling stock they'll be using?

GAHoodUK said...

I wonder what the speed limit for a 10 car virgin train is on the Greenford route which is controled under GWR lower quadrant semaphore signals

Anonymous said...

That is going to take an age with all thatchopping and changing from lines.

Will be much easier to just get a Chiltern/W&SMR train from Marylebone

Anonymous said...

"Any idea what rolling stock they'll be using?"

Class 221/222 Voyagers (currently doing Birmingham to Scotland WCML, previously from cross-country). Some can tilt on tilt lines (ie the WCML) but not all, most are 5 cars long (laid out like a pendileno - class 390s). diesel powered - unlike OLE electric powered pendilenos (must be some reason they aren't using the thunderbirds to drag the 390s ?)

as "Mr Thant (Editor)" says the idea is that the long distance travellers turns up with all their kit and digs in for the long haul, is easier for the perosn with 3 suitcases and a buggy than a bustituiton.

people in the know will know about the "secret" 2nd WCML (ie chiltern to snow hill) but joe public (and the news media) don't (remember news coverage of the xmas WCML chaos when the rail world ended - apparently)