Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

On the road to…Southampton (again)

Posted in Great Britain, On the road..., Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 16 September 2013

Having had a full season back in the top flight, and having done a significant number of our fellow Premier League teams, it is eventually going to get to the point that the ones that I’ve done, not to mention told you all about already, are going to come around again. I did wonder about just detailing my journeys to the ones that I’d not yet put on here. But then I decided “sod it”; so, my aim is to detail all of the journeys I take this season, whether I’ve told you about them or not. However, I will aim to make as different a journey as is possible, and to try and give you a little variation in what I actually say to you. Because I wouldn’t want to give you all a sense of deja vu. so, we start the merry-go-round on its second revolution with a return trip to Southampton.

Date: 15th September 2013
Stadium: St Mary’s Stadium
Capacity: 32,689
Attendance: 28,794
Away Section: Northam Stand
Score: Southampton 0-0 West Ham United
Nearest station: Southampton Central
Local rozzers: Hampshire Constabulary
Total Travel Cost: £37.50p (1 x Off-Peak Day Return)

Rail journeys:
11:25 – New Cross to Canada Water (London Overground Class 378 Capitalstar)
Jubilee Line – Canada Water to Waterloo (1996 Stock)
11:54 – London Waterloo to Southampton Central (South West Trains Class 444 Desiro)
18:15 – Southampton Central to Oxford (CrossCountry Class 221 Super Voyager)
19:50 – Oxford to London Paddington (First Great Western Class 165 Networker Turbo)
Bakerloo LinePaddington to Baker Street (1972 Stock)
Jubilee Line – Baker Street to Southwark (1996 Stock)
21:49- London Waterloo East to New Cross (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)

Station to Stadium: St Mary’s is still a long walk from Southampton Central, but it remains worth leaving via the southern entrance onto the Western Esplanade, as it is a straight run up the hill and down the other side until you reach the subway complex, after which you turn right and just carry on walking. I have no doubt that this is a very pleasant jaunt when the weather’s nice. Having never been to Southampton in nice weather, I wouldn’t know. And I’ve still not found the shuttle bus.

Anything else?: Although the station is named Southampton Central, it is not especially close to the centre of the city. The city’s central station was Southampton Terminus, which closed in 1966.

Southampton Central railway station

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On the branch line…from Greenford to West Ealing

Posted in Commuter, Infrastructure, London, On the branch line by Chairman Pip on 3 August 2013

It’s nice when the Sun is shining and there’s no football to take a ride on a branch line. Hence why I do it quite a lot. Admittedly I also do it when the Sun isn’t shining, but never when there’s football to be watched. Hence why, two weeks before the season is due to start, my last journey along a branch line for a while. And the longest that I’ve done, with a grand total of three intermediate stations between end to end, the Greenford branch. An interesting little journey, with the terminal platform at Greenford (and thus the single track road off the main route) running between the two Central Line platforms, before curving off into the double track of the main branch. In fact, the line forms a bridge between the Great Western Main Line and the New North Main Line, making it possible to be used as a diversion in the event of engineering work (as has been the case with both Virgin Trains and Chiltern Railways have done in the past. The service run along the branch by First Great Western is much the same as that run on the Romford to Upminster and Bromley North lines, with two trains an hour in each direction, with the length of the platforms at the intermediate stations dictating that the service has to be run using 2-car Class 165s. Again, as with the others, the intermediate stations are exceptionally residential, in that they serve essentially residential areas – South Greenford is essentially a prefab next to the A40, Castle Bar Park is in the middle of a residential estate, while Drayton Green serves a number of residential streets. At present, the branch line runs services through to Paddington, with the first stop on the GWML being West Ealing, which is another interesting one, as it is a station with missing platforms (much like West Croydon). West Ealing is a two platform station, but these are platforms 3 and 4; the missing platforms 1 and 2 were serving the fast lines on the other side of the station, but these trains stopped using the station in the 1970s. However, the Greenford branch will see a major change with the advent of Crossrail; the increase in service level on the GWML will mean there will no longer be the capacity for the trains to Greenford to run from Paddington. As a consequence, the branch will become a genuine shuttle service running from Greenford to West Ealing, increased to four trains per hour. For this, the derelict milk depot platform at West Ealing will be restored to serve as the bay platform.

Having travelled on it, it seems to be a nice little route through West London – South Greenford is admittedly next to a major road, but Castle Bar Park is (or at least seems to be) right next to the eponymous park. Drayton Green though looks like it could do with a little TLC. I had the thought while I was sitting on the platform that the line would be a good candidate for a Community Rail Partnership (CRP), of which there are none (as far as I can tell) in London. If someone else were involved in the upkeep of the stations, rather than just leaving it to the TOC, then it’s entirely possible that they could look a lot better. To give two examples that I saw today, while the platforms at Drayton Green are in reasonable condition, there is significant weed growth up the road bridge across the line, which could be given a through make over and maintained better to give the station an overall improvement in terms of ambiance, while at Castle Bar Park the shelter on the up line platform was out of bounds, presumably because there is something wrong with it. On a wet day that would be inconvenient, but on a day like today, which was warm with fairly strong sunshine, the shelter would have been very welcome to keep out of the Sun. If the route was a CRP, would the shelter be out of bounds in that way? Of course, as I’ve suggested with this type of service, turning it over to some kind of light rail operation might be a good way to go, especially if (as it seems at the moment) the line isn’t electrified under the GWML electrification scheme (and I’ve found nothing to say it is yet, though I hope someone will tell me if I’m wrong about that), which would leave it a tiny diesel island in the midst of a major electrified network. If the route was removed altogether from the Greater Western franchise and turned over to someone else (TfL?), then that might provide the impetus to do something better with it.

The abandoned milk platform at West Ealing will become a new terminal platform for the Greenford branch

On the road to…Southampton

Posted in Great Britain, On the road..., Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 13 April 2013

Finally, at long last, an away game to get excited about. You might wonder, dear reader, why this particular one is such a one to get my juices mixing and gushing with excitement. Well, I’ll tell you – I’ve been travelling around the country under my own steam (well, my own money, and National Rail’s steam actually) for some time now, and for most of that time I’ve been watching a Premier League team. And therefore I’ve been going to the same old away games year after year. That’s why last season was so exciting, as it meant trips to a load of places I’d not been before. This season, I’ve had just two opportunities, and one of them went for a burton right at the start of the season. That, and the lack of a run in either cup competition, has meant that this one is my only opportunity to add a new ground to my list. Hence I’m morbidly excited about the trip to Southampton.

Date: 13th April 2013
Stadium: St Mary’s Stadium
Capacity: 32,689
Attendance: 31,984
Away Section: Northam Stand
Score: Southampton 1-1 West Ham United
Nearest station: Southampton Central
Local rozzers: Hampshire Constabulary
Total Travel Cost: £37.50p (1 x Off-Peak Day Return)

Rail journeys:
10:58 – New Cross to Cannon Street (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
Waterloo & City LineBank to Waterloo (1992 Stock)
11:39 – London Waterloo to Southampton Central (South West Trains Class 444 Desiro)
17:47 – Southampton Central to Reading (CrossCountry Class 221 Super Voyager)
18:39 – Reading to London Paddington (First Great Western InterCity 125 High Speed Train)
Bakerloo LinePaddington to Charing Cross (1972 Stock)
20:02 – London Charing Cross to New Cross (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)

Station to Stadium: St Mary’s is yet another one of the brand new stadia that have sprung up around the country over the last few years, and is also one of those that is a fair heft from the railway station. Fortunately, although a fair old walk, unlike some others, it is still in the city centre, and therefore does not require walking along a dual carriageway. Southampton Central has two entrances – by leaving the station via the southern entrance, you find yourself on the Western Esplanade. Walk straight on up here, past the Civic Centre and onwards down to the major intersection, where there is a comprehensive pedestrian subway system. Ensure that the route you take through the subway brings you to opposite where you’ve just come from, and carry on walking down, past the gas holders, and you end up at Britannia Road, which will then take you to the away end.

There is also a shuttle bus that runs from the northern side of the railway station, which, today certainly, would have been a better option to avoid getting wet.

Anything else?: The South Western Main Line branches just north of St Mary’s; the main line continues on to into Southampton Central, while the branch continues past the ground and onwards towards Southampton Waterfront. The route has been safeguarded, and there have been calls for the route to be reopened for passenger trains, including a station to serve St Mary’s.

Southampton Central railway station

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