Double deck trains mooted in rail report

July 15 2015  

Double deck trains mooted in rail report
Introducing double deck trains in Britain to relieve overcrowding on key commuter routes is “a complete non starter” an eminent chartered engineer has said.
Professor Roderick Smith, chairman of the Future Railway Research Centre at Imperial College London, says that the idea had been tried before in the UK and was “found to be useless”.
He was responding to a report published last week by the Department for Transport which suggested that double deck trains could help create capacity on the network.
“Our loading gauge (the space between the trains, bridges, tunnels and signals) is so restricted that this idea is practically impossible,” Professor Smith said, adding that making major changes to railway infrastructure would be prohibitively expensive.
Even if rail infrastructure was modified a double deck train would not lead to a doubling in the number of passengers on board, he said, because of the need for stairs to the upper deck. Dwell times would also increase at stations as passengers boarded and disembarked the larger trains, he added.
Double deck trains were introduced on the Southern railway in 1948 but were retired from service in 1971.
More could be done to improve capacity on the railways, Professor Smith went on, by improving signalling and the time it takes to turn around trains at stations.
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators and Network Rail, said: “Introducing double deck trains would present many challenges, including the need to raise bridges and tunnels or lower tracks and modify platform edge arrangements which would be very expensive.
“In addition, operating double deck trains can increase station dwell times and would not address demands for trains in many parts of the country to run faster and more frequently.
“Nevertheless it’s right that as part of our plans to increase capacity we fully examine the costs and benefits of double deck trains and Network Rail is in the early stages of investigating their feasibility on some lines,” the spokesman added.
In November last year Network Rail and the South West Trains Alliance consulted on proposals to improve capacity on lines into London Waterloo. One of the potential options in the so called Wessex Route Study was to introduce new double deck trains. A final report was due to be published this summer.
A spokesman for the contractor Osborne, which works with Network Rail on the Wessex Route, said: "While there may be merit in double decker trains for isolated routes, the amount of infrastructure upgrades and the increased dwelling times are likely to make the wider use of such trains prohibitive."
(Photo: Hugh Llewelyn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Common Licence)

Return to news listing