Great Central mainline closure

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Bald Rick

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If motor transport had not arrived then the economic growth from 1900 onward would have been serviced pretty much exclusively by rail,

It’s reasonable to assume that a good portion of economic growth from 1900 onwards was caused by the advent of motor transport.
 
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ChiefPlanner

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It’s reasonable to assume that a good portion of economic growth from 1900 onwards was caused by the advent of motor transport.

The general perception of the sunny uplands of pre 1914 Britain may well have been true for well heeled middle and upper classes , - but there was economically world competition in trade (much of British industry had been world leaders from say 1850 onwards - but was now facing later developed and more efficient nations in production etc) , there was some unrest bubbling amongst the working classes , and a decline in earning power and income / expenditure. Living standards could be low , and there was severe issues in poverty - (books such s "Round about a pound a week" - the Rowntree study of York - indicated a hard working nation , with skimpy access to nutrition let alone healthcare etc. They did get a basic education though.

Any disposable income , was not going to end up on trips to London on the Great Central , or indeed any other main line railways.

I agree - the development of motor transport pre 1914 certainly did boost the economy , and much though it hurts died in the wool railway experts - even then there were mutterings that the railways had seen their golden age. Pretty much downhill after that I am afraid.
 

Dr_Paul

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And a thought which came to me (along the lines of a new garden city at eg Woodford Halse, as suggested up thread) was: What if the Roskill Commission had been taken up, and a third London airport had been built at Cublington? Now, granted, the obvious first rail link would have been a spur to the WCML somewhere near Ledburn - but then northbound passengers would have no clear route out of the airport, and building a loop, so that any northbound extension would have rejoined the WCML somewhere north of Leighton Buzzard would have involved a fair bit of demolition, I suspect. Much easier, I'd have thought, to have continued in a NW direction and joined up with the GC somewhere between Aylesbury and Brackley. True, this would not have allowed easy access to the main population centre of Coventry-Brum without yet another chord somewhere, but it would have got folks to Rugby-Leicester-Nottingham, either directly or via a chord south of Leicester to the Midland. Of course (a little like the closure of Oxford-Cambridge coinciding with the decision to make the hamlet of Milton Keynes a serious city) the closure of the GC had already gone ahead before any decision had been made on any third London airport. Just a big what if, of course.
I wonder if anyone actually thought of having a railway link to the projected airport. How long did it take to get a railway link to London's main airport, Heathrow (and even then it was done on the cheap, at the end of an already heavily used commuter route with the smallest passenger carriages in the country, just the thing for airline passengers with luggage)?
 

edwin_m

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I wonder if anyone actually thought of having a railway link to the projected airport. How long did it take to get a railway link to London's main airport, Heathrow (and even then it was done on the cheap, at the end of an already heavily used commuter route with the smallest passenger carriages in the country, just the thing for airline passengers with luggage)?
There was an article in Modern Railways at the time describing a spur off the WCML, near Berhamsted I think. The Great Central was about twice as far in the opposite direction, and I doubt BR would have proposed a link to a line they wanted rid of. However if Cublington had developed to the extent Heathrow has, we would probably now be talking about creating an alternative link via Aylesbury for capacity reasons.
 

L+Y

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On the subject of the decline and fall of the GC, a couple of questions:

1. Does anybody have any evidence of any blue/grey stock anywhere on the London Extension prior to September 1966? I'd guess there wouldn't be much, but given coaching stock repaints had begun in earnest by then, could one or two early blue Mk1s have appeared?

2. The surviving Nottingham-Rugby section. Was this always intended for closure by BR, or was the 1969 closure almost "independent" of the 1966 one? I ask because I believe that some freight facilities survived a little later than 1966 along the route- not just the MOD traffic at Ruddington, but the gypsum works at Hotchley Hill, sidings at East Leake, and an oil depot around the Abbey Lane area too- were there any others? Certainly I believe the siding complex at Gotham remained down into 1970.

3. Finally- does anybody know when the last surviving section in regular BR use, between Weekday Cross and East Leake (later flipped to be between Loughborough and Ruddington) reduced to a single line?

Questions 2 and 3 are of particular interest to me- I'm always interested in late surviving stumps and spurs of lines whose story is often assumed to come to a dead end in the 1960s.
 

Gloster

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1 - I am fairly sure I have seen a picture of a Class 37 hauled cross country train coming out of Catesby Tunnel with one or two blue Mark 1s amongst the green coaches.
 

Taunton

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I wonder if anyone actually thought of having a railway link to the projected airport. How long did it take to get a railway link to London's main airport, Heathrow (and even then it was done on the cheap, at the end of an already heavily used commuter route with the smallest passenger carriages in the country, just the thing for airline passengers with luggage)?
I really doubt anyone would have gone for a Bakerloo extension from Watford junction :)
 

edwin_m

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I really doubt anyone would have gone for a Bakerloo extension from Watford junction :)
Metropolitan extension from Amersham might have been a bit less unlikely. Thereby sort of fulfilling Watkin's ambition of creating an international railway!
 
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If motor transport had not arrived then the economic growth from 1900 onward would have been serviced pretty much exclusively by rail, that would have resulted in greater freight flows and through increased income, greater demand for passenger travel, pushing up the utilisation of existing networks and improving profitability. Even if the profitability of the London Extension in 1900 was marginal or loss making, then economic growth alone would have given it a huge boost over the next 30 years. As it is that didn't happen because from around 1900 onward motor transport started eroding rail's market share, such that it ended up with excess capacity.

Therefore I don't see how it is possible to assert that GCML was doomed to failure independent of developments in motor transport, because without motor transport it's likely that rail loadings would have been much higher, requiring more capacity between the north and London.



Quite and much will depend on what happens with working patterns and video conferencing, or any other new technology which comes along. When HS2 was being conceptualised video conferencing was in the same, infant technology stage that the motor car, bus or lorry was back in 1899 when they were cutting the ribbon opening the GCML.
It's evident that we're going to have to agree to disagree. Posts 211 and 212 effectively rebut your assertion.

The Midland did actually raise the idea of whether its Leicester to Rugby line could be used by / perhaps even flogged off to the MS&L. Now if Rugby to Fenny Compton had also been built and the LNW could have been persuaded to spend still-more money on its recently rebuilt Rugby .....
Thank you. I was unaware of that.

Those people being the ones who assume that HS2 is being built solely to make a profit?
You should direct your question to those who claim there is a business case for HS2.
 

RT4038

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On the subject of the decline and fall of the GC, a couple of questions:

1. Does anybody have any evidence of any blue/grey stock anywhere on the London Extension prior to September 1966? I'd guess there wouldn't be much, but given coaching stock repaints had begun in earnest by then, could one or two early blue Mk1s have appeared?

2. The surviving Nottingham-Rugby section. Was this always intended for closure by BR, or was the 1969 closure almost "independent" of the 1966 one? I ask because I believe that some freight facilities survived a little later than 1966 along the route- not just the MOD traffic at Ruddington, but the gypsum works at Hotchley Hill, sidings at East Leake, and an oil depot around the Abbey Lane area too- were there any others? Certainly I believe the siding complex at Gotham remained down into 1970.

3. Finally- does anybody know when the last surviving section in regular BR use, between Weekday Cross and East Leake (later flipped to be between Loughborough and Ruddington) reduced to a single line?

Questions 2 and 3 are of particular interest to me- I'm always interested in late surviving stumps and spurs of lines whose story is often assumed to come to a dead end in the 1960s.
I think it was always the intention (bar an unforeseen and unlikely massive growth in passengers) to close the Rugby-Nottingham section to passengers after a decent interval. There was no freight on the line south of Leicester, and a spur had been put in from the Coalville Line to serve the Abbey Lane area and presumably also for access further north. Later the Loughborough spur was put in and the Abbey Lane-Loughborough section closed, later to become the preserved railway.
 

A0wen

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Between Leicester and Rugby there is a silly great hole which forms part of the severe anisotropy that afflicts transport in England generally (road as well as rail, although rail is notably worse). Two more or less parallel defunct rail routes used to cross this hole. Me, I'd probably have kept the Midland route as the exit from Leicester, joined it to the GC where the two cross over, and keep a stub of GC north from that new junction plus a couple of km of new chord to make a westward connection with the Nuneaton line. ("You can't do that!" Oh yes I can, the land's not built on and they shoved a whole flipping motorway through nearly the same spot.) Then at the south end, I would have at least added a north to east chord at Harlesden off the Dudding Hill line, and perhaps also carried on the programme of four-tracking the Met through Ricky to Amersham; and of course we have the GC/GW joint route which was always the main access once it opened. That gives you feeds both from the NLL and from the GWR and LSWR routes, and provides a freight route bypassing both the southern end of the MML on the way to the East Midlands etc, and via the Nuneaton flyover also bypassing the southern end of the WCML for freight to Birmingham and beyond.

As for the silly hole, it would also be straightforward to add a chord north of the WCML at Rugby (again, across unbuilt land) cutting across from the GC heading south onto the Market Harborough line heading south-west, which would allow local passenger services between Leicester and the WCML station at Rugby. You might even be able to squeeze in a curve by which services having reversed at Rugby could get back onto the GC heading south, as long as you didn't try to run Pacers round it. You could also add a chord where the two lines cross at Brackley to allow north-south passenger locals to call at both Brackley and Buckingham, if you kept Buckingham as well, which I would because Buckingham not having a railway is crap. Though I will admit there's an increasing amount of something akin to scraping the barrel coming in here.

I don't get this absurd fixation with a link between Rugby and Leicester (which also keeps getting peddled elsewhere).

For both passenger and freight there is a link via Nuneaton. It's not like there are a huge number of places isolated from the rail network which a new line would serve. The GC was better than the alternatives in that it served Lutterworth - which even now only has a population of ~10,000. The Midland route really didn't serve anywhere en-route.

Buckingham is another small place - sub 15,000 population. Buckingham's misfortune was that the Oxford - Bletchley line ran about 5 miles south of it and the GC ran about the same west of it.

The only way you'd justifiably give Buckingham a rail link is if Milton Keynes were to double in size with all of that development being to the west which would subsume places like Great Horwood, Deanshanger and others - and would mean MK would almost be on the edge of Buckingham itself.
 

RT4038

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As for the silly hole, it would also be straightforward to add a chord north of the WCML at Rugby (again, across unbuilt land) cutting across from the GC heading south onto the Market Harborough line heading south-west, which would allow local passenger services between Leicester and the WCML station at Rugby.
Yes, that would have been possible. However, this would only have been suitable for local trains, as they would have departed from Rugby facing south and have a conflicting move across the up through lines to get onto the Market Harborough line. The revenue from these local trains would not have paid for the cost of building the two cords (in Rugby and in Whetstone) in 100 years. Just to serve Lutterworth, as the Nuneaton-Leicester line does just as well for any other movements.


You might even be able to squeeze in a curve by which services having reversed at Rugby could get back onto the GC heading south, as long as you didn't try to run Pacers round it. You could also add a chord where the two lines cross at Brackley to allow north-south passenger locals to call at both Brackley and Buckingham, if you kept Buckingham as well, which I would because Buckingham not having a railway is crap. Though I will admit there's an increasing amount of something akin to scraping the barrel coming in here.
The only way that a cord could have been built to link Rugby Midland Station with the south GC, apart from a sharp curve and a high level station on the north side, on a viaduct and goodness knows what kind of viaduct junction would have been required to connect with the Trent Valley line without a conflicting junction. Or a flyover junction and a long arc around Hillmorton to rejoin the south GC around Barby Sidings. Both just an impractical and improbable cost. All that expense to serve Brackley and Woodford Halse? Ridiculous.
 

Pigeon

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I don't get this absurd fixation with a link between Rugby and Leicester (which also keeps getting peddled elsewhere).

For both passenger and freight there is a link via Nuneaton.

I'm envisaging the use of the south end of the GCML as principally a freight bypass for the southern ends of the WCML and MML. Freight for Birmingham could come up to Leicester and then turn left to arrive in Birmingham by the back door as it were without touching the WCML at all; freight for the Midland axis could come up the same way and then go straight on up the Midland. That keeps it completely off the congested southern ends of both lines, but of course neither aspiration works unless you do keep Rugby to Leicester.

With Rugby to Leicester existing, the possibility of running passenger services over it also exists, so it's only sensible to try and provide something even if only at commuting times. Rugby-Nuneaton-Leicester is roughly an equilateral triangle, so as an alternative it's basically two journeys of the same length as one direct one would be, and with a gap to change trains in the middle. This is crap, obviously, and particularly so for commuting.

The only way that a cord could have been built to link Rugby Midland Station with the south GC, apart from a sharp curve and a high level station on the north side, on a viaduct and goodness knows what kind of viaduct junction would have been required to connect with the Trent Valley line without a conflicting junction.

I can't really parse that sentence; and I'm not entirely sure you've quite understood me either. I'm suggesting that, first, to get from the north GC to the main Rugby station would be possible by adding about 500m of chord running roughly NW-SE, from the GC north of the Avon to the junction where the two tendrils of the Market Harborough line diverge before joining the WCML. Having done that, getting to the south GC is possible by adding a curve to make the GC/chord junction a triangle. (I've now checked, and the curve would not need to be as sharp as the curve the eastern tendril has already.) Embanking is needed, but no mad viaducts; and nothing else was built on the land already. The eastern tendril has a flying junction with the WCML already, so you can go into either the north or the south side of the station depending which one you decide to use.

Such southern access does not of course give you through running, being basically much like Swansea only curlier, but then I'm not thinking of running long distance express services over it. The point about that bit is that if you're providing the northward access, then the southward access is also possible with not much extra work (as I now find, less than I'd expected when I had the idea), so it's a kind of "might as well while you're at it" thing. Probably neither connection is massively worthwhile, but if you do do one, then make a proper job of it and put the third side in, because it's unreasonably common when not doing things like that to end up really wishing you had but it's ten times harder to do it now than it would have been to get it over with in the first place.
 

daodao

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I don't get this absurd fixation with a link between Rugby and Leicester (which also keeps getting peddled elsewhere).
The key link that has been lost with closure of the GC main line is from Leicester/East Midlands to Banbury (as a gateway to Southern England), which bypassed Birmingham/West Midlands and was more direct. The fact that the line passed through Rugby is of lesser consequence. This section could have been retained by connecting the GC main line to the ex-Midland Rugby-Leicester line south of Countesthorpe.

The lack of any significant cross-country links between the main lines to the north, from London as far north as the Leamington Spa-Coventry-Nuneaton-Leicester-Peterborough axis, has been an unfortunate consequence of the 1960s closures.
 
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RT4038

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I can't really parse that sentence; and I'm not entirely sure you've quite understood me either. I'm suggesting that, first, to get from the north GC to the main Rugby station would be possible by adding about 500m of chord running roughly NW-SE, from the GC north of the Avon to the junction where the two tendrils of the Market Harborough line diverge before joining the WCML. Having done that, getting to the south GC is possible by adding a curve to make the GC/chord junction a triangle. (I've now checked, and the curve would not need to be as sharp as the curve the eastern tendril has already.) Embanking is needed, but no mad viaducts; and nothing else was built on the land already. The eastern tendril has a flying junction with the WCML already, so you can go into either the north or the south side of the station depending which one you decide to use.
Would such a tight curve (Rugby Station facing south-Clifton Mill-GC South line to loop over the Birdcage Bridge), between two junctions on a gradient, been really practicable? For heavy freight traffic? Seems unlikely. Maybe on the DLR or in some colliery sidings.

The key link that has been lost with closure of the GC main line is from Leicester/East Midlands to Banbury (as a gateway to Southern England), which bypassed Birmingham/West Midlands and was more direct. The fact that the line passed through Rugby is of lesser consequence. This section could have been retained by connecting the GC main line to the ex-Midland Rugby-Leicester line south of Countesthorpe.

The lack of any significant cross-country links between the main lines to the north, from London as far north as the Leamington Spa-Coventry-Nuneaton-Leicester-Peterborough axis, has been an unfortunate consequence of the 1960s closures.
From a through passenger travelling point of view, bypassing Birmingham sounds great, but from a railway economic perspective, Birmingham is an important node to concentrate passengers onto frequent trains, and is a major traffic generator/destination in its own right. There was good reason why there was only one East Midlands-GC-Banbury train per day (excl. night mail train)!
 

A0wen

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The key link that has been lost with closure of the GC main line is from Leicester/East Midlands to Banbury (as a gateway to Southern England), which bypassed Birmingham/West Midlands and was more direct. The fact that the line passed through Rugby is of lesser consequence. This section could have been retained by connecting the GC main line to the ex-Midland Rugby-Leicester line south of Countesthorpe.

The lack of any significant cross-country links between the main lines to the north, from London as far north as the Leamington Spa-Coventry-Nuneaton-Leicester-Peterborough axis, has been an unfortunate consequence of the 1960s closures.

Right, so your argument is there should be a cross country link which runs through Leicestershire and Warwickshire - we'll overlook the fact that Coventry was, historically, part of Warwickshire and the fact that there are currently lines which run from Leicester - Nuneaton - Coventry - Leamington Spa. And Leamington is one stop up the line from Banbury.

If there really was demand for Leicester - "Southern England" then a service could be put in today, using existing lines, it doesn't need a further metre of track and certainly not a new Rugby - Leicester line to achieve this.

The fact there isn't such a service is probably a clue to the likely demand. It also ignores the fact that Leicester actually has pretty good connections to "Southern England" - fast services to St Pancras with HS1 services to Kent and easy access to Thameslink (2 flights of stairs or 2 lifts), which means most of Sussex is accessible with a single change.

I'm envisaging the use of the south end of the GCML as principally a freight bypass for the southern ends of the WCML and MML. Freight for Birmingham could come up to Leicester and then turn left to arrive in Birmingham by the back door as it were without touching the WCML at all; freight for the Midland axis could come up the same way and then go straight on up the Midland. That keeps it completely off the congested southern ends of both lines, but of course neither aspiration works unless you do keep Rugby to Leicester.

With Rugby to Leicester existing, the possibility of running passenger services over it also exists, so it's only sensible to try and provide something even if only at commuting times. Rugby-Nuneaton-Leicester is roughly an equilateral triangle, so as an alternative it's basically two journeys of the same length as one direct one would be, and with a gap to change trains in the middle. This is crap, obviously, and particularly so for commuting.

The congested bits of both the MML and WCML are the bits further south than that - effectively Bedford - London and Milton Keynes - London respectively.

The GCR was a 2 track mainline so would actually be worse for freight than either the MML or WCML are, both of which are 4 track over those distances.

Equally HS2 is designed to free up the paths on the southern WCML and possibly even the MML as well.

And sending freight all the way to Leicester (from the south) to access Birmingham is extending the journey quite a bit - have you looked at a map ?
 

Pigeon

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The key link that has been lost with closure of the GC main line is from Leicester/East Midlands to Banbury (as a gateway to Southern England), which bypassed Birmingham/West Midlands and was more direct. The fact that the line passed through Rugby is of lesser consequence. This section could have been retained by connecting the GC main line to the ex-Midland Rugby-Leicester line south of Countesthorpe.

This is true, but the traffic that went that way (also Woodford Halse - Fenny Compton - Stratford and onwards) was mainly minerals, which died; and much of the reason for doing it was because it was necessary to care about which company or set of companies owned the lines any individual flow was going over rather than just selecting the optimum route on its own merits. It was a link between the industrial areas of the Midland axis and South Wales, and a lot of its importance was as an element in all the diddling on that went on because the GWR had South Wales more or less stitched up and everyone else kept trying to find ways in the back door.

That reason of course no longer applied under nationalisation, and it was probably reasonable to expect the iron ore traffic to dry up seeing how foreign sources had been taking over from domestic ones for a long time already. It probably was not reasonable to expect massive loss of coal traffic, since the stuff was vital and we still reckoned to have 300 years or so of it left at the time (Thatcher vs Scargill knocked an order of magnitude off that estimate overnight); but it would have been reasonable to expect big changes in its routing since that was starting to happen already.

As part of a long distance passenger route between the Midland axis and the South Coast avoiding Birmingham (which is what I think you're mainly talking about) I'm not all that convinced, because Leicester-Banbury via Nuneaton-Coventry-Leamington is only a little bit further round; most of the origins/destinations are sufficiently far north or south of the area in question that even going via Birmingham itself is not, proportionately, all that much further round; and going via Birmingham has a good deal to be said in favour of it for all the connections it gives. Going through Rugby is really the main thing that route does have going for it - but most long distance services would still want to go via Birmingham anyway, so the service Rugby would get would be rather crap.

As it happens I do favour the idea of serving Rugby on that axis, but I can't see my way to giving it a very high priority, nor to trying for anything more than a local service. It would be possible to make a big difference to the attractiveness of commuting to Leicester because the alternative is twice as far round with a change in the middle, but that's about all, and the proportionate gain for anything more than that drops off very rapidly.

The lack of any significant cross-country links between the main lines to the north, from London as far north as the Leamington Spa-Coventry-Nuneaton-Leicester-Peterborough axis, has been an unfortunate consequence of the 1960s closures.

I agree. It's a pain in the arse, and it's a general failing, not just a railway-specific one - transverse journeys by road tend to turn into a bit of a trek as well, though at least they aren't impossible. I look with favour on ideas relating to filling the holes back in; the thing is here that while this hole is directly relevant to the subject of the discussion, it's not one of the more important or severe ones overall.

Would such a tight curve (Rugby Station facing south-Clifton Mill-GC South line to loop over the Birdcage Bridge), between two junctions on a gradient, been really practicable? For heavy freight traffic? Seems unlikely. Maybe on the DLR or in some colliery sidings.

The radius of the new curve would not need to be as tight as (to pick some apposite examples) the minimum on the eastern tendril of the Market Harborough line connection, or the north to north-west curve towards Fenny Compton at Woodford Halse (which is the same), and certainly the latter saw a lot of freight. The 95 metre contour is at track level for both the GC north of the Avon and the MH line at Clifton Mill, so although you would need an embankment between those two points the line on top of it would be level. And the GC seems to have planned something of the sort, although they didn't do it in the end. In effect I'm taking more or less the same position as the GC did: I think it would have been practical, but the question is whether it's worth doing it at all, which I'm not necessarily as convinced of as I suppose it might seem.

The congested bits of both the MML and WCML are the bits further south than that - effectively Bedford - London and Milton Keynes - London respectively.

Yes, but Leicester is the first point at which you can connect the GC to the MML with just a bit of chord. It also makes possible a rather less awkward connection pointing towards Birmingham than you could get at Rugby (another reason to consider that although the connection at Rugby would be possible, that doesn't necessarily mean it's worth the bother).

The GCR was a 2 track mainline so would actually be worse for freight than either the MML or WCML are, both of which are 4 track over those distances.

...and as you admit, those 4 tracks are nevertheless congested, because they have lots of passenger services of different kinds using them as well as freight. So if you take the freight off them and run it up the GC instead (which was a freight mainline) the whole tangle gets much simpler to sort out and all the services are better off.

Equally HS2 is designed to free up the paths on the southern WCML and possibly even the MML as well.

Oh, aye, and it gives you pie in the sky and fairies at the bottom of your garden and 10tph additional capacity on every line anywhere between London and Scotland. Amazing what you can do merely by shifting all those non-stop London-Birmingham services onto an entire brand new line that costs such a hideous and ever-increasing amount of money that even the government who love it so much classify it as "probably not gonna work". HS2 is this forum's blind spot where all the usual emphasis on realism and practicality undergoes a bizarre inversion and magical thinking becomes the order of the day, and I am disinclined to further annoy myself by talking about it.

I'm talking about the Great Central, and saying that we could have made the extra capacity available through shifting the freight off the route any time from half a century ago onwards, simply by not destroying what we already had, plus a couple of km or so of new chordage.

And sending freight all the way to Leicester (from the south) to access Birmingham is extending the journey quite a bit - have you looked at a map ?

Lots of 'em :) Yes, it is further round, but not by all that much in proportion to the whole run. And it's the most straightforward way to achieve a good connection, that doesn't interfere with the WCML at all, by means of minimal additions to what was already there. There are plenty of other examples of freight routings that seem excessively circuitous because they are operationally easier that way.
 

Western Sunset

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Whilst mileage is important, it's not the overarching factor in routing. Many freights nowadays take quite convoluted routes to avoid reversing, or (especially Freightliners) to avoid clearance problems.
 

daodao

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@ RT4038/A0wen/Pigeon

My previous post stated that loss of the GC link from Leicester to Banbury was regrettable. If it had been retained, it would probably have been used by more trains (both passenger and freight) now than were using it in the 1960s. However, I am not advocating its reinstatement, despite alternative routeings being somewhat more roundabout.

There is no longer any through running line from Leicester to Coventry because of the redesigned track layout at Nuneaton, so through trains need to pass through the congested rail network in central Birmingham to travel from the East Midlands to Banbury and beyond. The significant number of freight trains from the major port of Southampton and elsewhere in southern England to the East Midlands and Yorkshire are currently routed between Banbury and Trent Junction via Birmingham. They could have benefitted from the shorter, more direct and less congested ex-GC link from Leicester to Banbury if it had been retained.
 
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Falcon1200

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Amazing what you can do merely by shifting all those non-stop London-Birmingham services onto an entire brand new line that costs such a hideous and ever-increasing amount of money

HS2 will accommodate rather more than just London-Birmingham traffic.

I'm talking about the Great Central, and saying that we could have made the extra capacity available through shifting the freight off the route any time from half a century ago onwards, simply by not destroying what we already had, plus a couple of km or so of new chordage.

Half a century ago the southern part of the WCML had just been electrified at great expense and had sufficient capacity for all its traffic at the time. No way in a million years was a duplicate, non-electrified route going to be kept to take traffic away from it.
 

30907

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@ RT4038/A0wen/Pigeon

My previous post stated that loss of the GC link from Leicester to Banbury was regrettable. If it had been retained would probably have been used by more trains (both passenger and freight) now than were using it in the 1960s. However, I am not advocating its reinstatement, despite alternative routeings being somewhat more roundabout.

There is no longer any through running line from Leicester to Coventry because of the redesigned track layout at Nuneaton, so through trains need to pass through the congested rail network in central Birmingham to travel from the East Midlands to Banbury and beyond. The significant number of freight trains from the major port of Southampton and elsewhere in southern England to the East Midlands and Yorkshire are currently routed between Banbury and Trent Junction via Birmingham. They could have benefitted from the shorter, more direct and less congested ex-GC link from Leicester to Banbury if it had been retained.
More realistically, they could have been routed via Market Harborough, Northampton and the Bletchley Flyover to Oxford, though I think there would now be issues with paths on the WCML section.
 

Senex

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More realistically, they could have been routed via Market Harborough, Northampton and the Bletchley Flyover to Oxford, though I think there would now be issues with paths on the WCML section.
I'm not sure that the Market Harborough to Northampton section could ever have served as part of a fast passenger line, though it might have served freight well enough. (Now if only the route surveyed in 1836 had been built ....)
 

Dr_Paul

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The significant number of freight trains from the major port of Southampton and elsewhere in southern England to the East Midlands and Yorkshire are currently routed between Banbury and Trent Junction via Birmingham. They could have benefitted from the shorter, more direct and less congested ex-GC link from Leicester to Banbury if it had been retained.
The line from Hampton-in-Arden to Whitacre might have been a useful route, allowing freight services from the south to reach Derby and beyond whilst avoiding Birmingham. Does anyone here know when it was closed?
 

D6130

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I'm not sure that the Market Harborough to Northampton section could ever have served as part of a fast passenger line, though it might have served freight well enough. (Now if only the route surveyed in 1836 had been built ....)
I travelled over that line in darkness sometime in the early-mid 1970s on a diverted overnight Sheffield-St Pancras train. IIRC, it was entirely jointed track with a maximum speed of about 40-45 mph. By that time, it had been nominally freight-only for many years, so it may have been faster at one time in the dim and distant past.

The line from Hampton-in-Arden to Whitacre might have been a useful route, allowing freight services from the south to reach Derby and beyond whilst avoiding Birmingham. Does anyone here know when it was closed?
This line - known as the 'Stonebridge Line' was built by the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway (later part of the Midland Railway) in 1839 and closed to passenger traffic as long ago as 1917, as a wartime economy measure. It was closed to all traffic in 1935, following a bridge failure at Packington, after which the section between there and Hampton-in-Arden was used for storing crippled and redundant wagons until 1952. The remaining track was lifted in 1963. (Source: Wikipedia).
 
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Western Sunset

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Wasn't there a plan to close the MML and divert trains to Euston via Market H and Northampton?
 

70014IronDuke

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Wasn't there a plan to close the MML and divert trains to Euston via Market H and Northampton?
It was an idea. I don't know how seriously it was considered. My feeling is that the 'orrible state of the line between Mkt Harboro and Northampton killed it.

I think the more realistic thought was to divert MML fasts via Nuneaton and Wigston. But that would have mean reversal at Nuneaton and lost time.
 

Dr_Paul

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This line - known as the 'Stonebridge Line' was built by the Birmingham & Derby Junction Railway (later part of the Midland Railway) in 1839 and closed to passenger traffic as long ago as 1917, as a wartime economy measure. It was closed to all traffic in 1935, following a bridge failure at Packington, after which the section between there and Hampton-in-Arden was used for storing crippled and redundant wagons until 1952. The remaining track was lifted in 1963. (Source: Wikipedia).
Presumably there was back then no need for a line which enabled north/south traffic to avoid Birmingham. Had it remained, it would have come in handy for freight services from Southampton to Hams Hall and Birch Coppice depots and the depots in Yorkshire.
 

70014IronDuke

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Wasn’t there an overnight Glasgow to London train which ran that way until some time in the 1970’s?
Yes.
Both ways. It enabled sleeping car servicing to be concentrated on the WCML (Stonebridge PArk?).
The up service was deliberately slowed, however, so as to be useless for WCML passengers from Northampton. I have never understood that.
Later, maybe around 1975 or so, the sleeping cars were added/taken off at Nottingham, IIRC. ie Sleeping car services were only Nottingham - Derby - Glasgow. Since the train only left Nottingham around midnight, it was not really very attractive. Then it was withdrawn, of course.

EDIT - I think that when the sleeping cars were added at Nottingham, the ordinary seating portion of the train reverted to using St Pancras, and so this obscure 1 tpday service over Mkt Harboro to Northampton ceased.
 
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The Planner

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Presumably there was back then no need for a line which enabled north/south traffic to avoid Birmingham. Had it remained, it would have come in handy for freight services from Southampton to Hams Hall and Birch Coppice depots and the depots in Yorkshire.
Bit tenuous to find a use for it in the 60+ years between it closing and Birch Coppice opening. It would have been no use for Hams Hall as it went the wrong way at Whitcare.
 
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