Credit: John Ragla
Yes, I'm back again. Yes, it's more trains. If you don't like talking about trains, leave this thread now!
Over the last 6-8 months or so, I've been slowly collating information and working on a substantial rewrite to my earlier UK trains timeline. I did start working on a short timeline about no British Rail privatisation (as happened in 1993 onwards). This then morphed slowly in to earlier high speed rail in the United Kingdom; then that slowly morphed into little hooks in to Europe, urban transit programmes, and other alternatives to what has happened. It's not difficult for the rail scene to be completely different; privatisation in 1993 was only in the Conservative manifesto predictably, and the privatisation procedure introduced a (roughly) 10 year delay in any real investment in the network. This killed off our domestic rolling stock manufacturers - hence most stock now being built by Siemens (Germany), Bombardier (Canada), Hitachi (Japan), and had a raft of other consequences.
And so I present; "The Double Headed Arrow" (for those who don't know, this was the logo of British Rail, which remains today as the generic signage for a national rail station). The original point of divergence is back in 1984, basically as a "Thatcher is a little more anti-spending/anti-rail etc". I will do a quick run up of 1984-1989 as rail butterflies take a while to bed in, before we continue on with "normal" chapters from 1990 onwards. Almost every scheme you see here is from OTL to some level; the earlier ones more or less built as OTL, the later ones at least plucked from planning history after a lot of time reading books, reading The Times archives, and reading papers in the National Archives. And then built upon, with plenty of pictures....because reading a bunch of text is boring. And so...
PS: All photos are creative commons, and used under such license with due credit provided. All photos have been cropped to 300px height to make it easier to read, but no other editing has taken place over the original picture.
Diesel traction is still used on the East Coast Main Line. Credit: Barry Lewis
"TREASURY DECLINES FUNDING FOR EAST COAST ELECTRIFICATION" (*1)
1984 would see the Thatcher Government decline funding for the electrification of the East Coast Main Line, which had been slated for electrification and new rolling stock (the planned "Intercity 225"). This would have brought standard travel times from London to Leeds to around 2:30 by 1992, and London to Edinburgh to around 4:30, rather then only the "crack expresses". This would have heralded further improvements to the line which has already seen passenger numbers well since the Intercity 125 was introduced. The relentless pursuit of better profitability on the accounts of British Rail by the Conservative Government of the day meant many "challenges" like this - produce improved results with little investment. On the up side, more Intercity 125 train sets were authorised for purchase, allowing more services to reduce overcrowding on the East Coast route. However, there were some concessions to further improve Intercity's profitability - the success of Intercity was crucial to British Rail, as it would allow it to part cover the losses from other areas (primarily the Provincial sector, later to become Regional Railways).
Intercity map, 1980s.
"BRITISH RAIL REORGANISES INTERCITY ROUTES" (*2)
British Rail moved the London (Liverpool Street) to Norwich, London (Victoria) to Gatwick express services to Intercity services, while the Edinburgh-Glasgow expresses were merged into Intercity as an extension of East Coast Main Line. 6 months later, Anglo-Scottish expresses were concentrated on the East Coast Main Line - a faster route from London to Scotland, whilst also concentrating the real express services on one route. Despite the failure of the electrification bid for the east coast main line, the success of the Intercity 125 trains (and authorisation to purchase more) means the ECML is one of the success stories for British Rail in the last decade.
Transpennine services were also considered for transfer, given the major city-to-city routes, but the distance between the stops meant that the services were not particularly suited to Intercity service - as was London (Waterloo) to Bournemouth which was also considered (but, from Network South East's point of view, thankfully rejected). Some unprofitable services were also removed from Intercity, and transferred to the Provincial sector - to be renamed Regional Railways in 1989.
Diesel traction still used during the electrification of the Great Eastern Main Line. Credit: Steve Duhig
"GREAT EASTERN LINK BEGINS MODERNISATION" (*3)
The Great Eastern Main Line began modernisation, which primarily extended electrification all the way from London to Norwich, allowing newer and faster trains to operate the service. Intercity would remain the operator of the principal London-Norwich service, with Network South East operating local services from London Liverpool Street station as far as Ipswich (and associated branches). Provincial continue to operate services north of Ipswich.
A Docklands Light Railway train on test in Manchester for Metrolink. Credit: Neil Clifton
"MANCHESTER METROLINK BEGINS CONSTRUCTION" (*4)
The newly authorised Manchester Metorlink tram system began construction, with a three-spoke system running from Bury on the north side, Altrincham on the south side, and Piccadilly station on the central-east side of the city. The system sees a tram at least every 10 minutes on each route, allowing a much needed boost to transport from north and south of the city. The former ailing British Rail routes used decades old trains to operate the service, and - especially to Bury - obsolete systems to operate the services, which probably explains why British Rail was so happy to hand over the lines to the local authorities.
The line near the Jewellery Quarter, before a train and tram renaissance. Credit: Michael Westly
"MIDLAND METRO BEGINS CONSTRUCTION" (*5)
Midland Metro, authorised after years of debate both within the West Midlands, and with Westminster, has finally begun construction from Wolverhampton to Birmingham, along the former rail alignment which was ripped up decades ago. It will also feature a branch to Smethwick Galton Bridge station, allowing access to British Rail services from this station.
Life before the first Severn Bridge. Credit: Adrian Pingstone
"SECOND SEVERN CROSSING DELAYED" (*6)
The Second Severn Crossing project, to build a second M4 motorway bridge over the Severn Estuary, has been delayed. This is mostly due to funding concerns after worries that the private consortium charged with building it may need recourse to public funding.
(*1) The main point of divergence. For some reason, OTL, despite her seeming dislike of British Rail, Thatcher authorised some of the largest rail investments known - the massive ECML electrification from London to Edinburgh, and the Channel Tunnel. Go figure. But here, the ECML electrification bid is declined, some extra Intercity 125 trains are authorised to improve services though. There are some other knock on changes to funding, as Thatcher is a little more anti-rail in this TL, and so different/cheaper projects are authorised. It might also lead to problems in 1992...
(*2) The division of routes between Intercity and the regional operators (ie. Regional Railways or Network South East) was considered and reconsidered in the 1980s; Waterloo-Bournemouth, Transpennine services, London-Norwich, Gatwick Express, Edinburgh-Glasgow expresses all swung between Intercity and the regional operators, although OTL only London-Norwich and Gatwick Express were moved to Intercity. In this TL, London-Norwich, Gatwick Express and Edinburgh-Glasgow services have been migrated to Intercity; Edinburgh-Glasgow will become extensions of the East Coast express services from London.
(*3) Minor, but here there is a clearer boundary at Ipswich for the edge of NSE services and start of Regional Railways.
(*4) Basically the same as OTL, only mentioned because the future will be different
(*5) Almost the same as OTL, construction from Wolverhampton Low Level station (cheaper) to Birmingham Moor Street station as funding was refused to divert British Rail trains via Birmingham Snow Hill.
(*6) Second Severn Crossing has been delayed; same attitude that avoiding electrification of the ECML means worries over requirements for public funding mean this has been pushed back while further financial studies are undertaken.