Today’s trip around the news rooms.

The following items are by kind permission of the relevant media teams.

West Coast main line upgrades completed over late May Bank Holiday.

Passengers are being thanked for their patience after critical work on the West Coast main line was completed over the late May Bank Holiday weekend.

Hundreds of railway engineers carried out vital maintenance to track, bridges and railway equipment in Cumbria, Lancashire, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and London as part of Britain’s Railway Upgrade Plan.

The completed West Coast main line work includes:

  • A major junction being replaced at Euxton near Chorley
  • Track improvements in Wembley, Camden, Carlisle, Wolverhampton and Preston
  • A large signalling gantry being installed in Preston
  • A footbridge being replaced in Stockport

Tim Shoveller, managing director for Network Rail’s North West & Central region, said: “The schemes we carried out in May were all must-do work which was carefully planned to minimise disruption to freight and those who needed to travel. It will help to ensure the railway is at its best when Britain emerges from this coronavirus pandemic.

“Our mission-critical frontline colleagues, including railway upgrade engineers, signallers, maintenance, control room and operations staff, are Britain’s hidden heroes, helping to keep Britain connected in this time of need. And I’m proud of them.”

Meanwhile passengers are reminded about changes to journeys while overnight work takes place at London Euston to make overhead electric power cables more reliable.

During extremely hot weather, overhead wires can sag and then catch on passing trains, resulting in them being torn down. When this happens, the line must be closed for repairs, trains can become stranded and passengers’ journeys are disrupted.

The work on the approach to Euston will see the installation 2,000 metres of new cable, renewing of essential overhead line equipment, and use of special on-track machines to ensure the new wires are at the correct tension.

Passengers are being advised there will be changes to some trains when the work will take place:

  • Between 8pm and 8am on Monday 25 May –  Friday 4 June
  • Overnight on Thursday 4 June to Friday 5 June (passengers are advised not to travel after 9pm with some changes to services before 8am the following morning)
  • Between 8pm and 8am on Monday 15 – Friday 19 June 2020

Passengers should continue following Government guidelines around the use of public transport, and only travel if they have to.

Major railway upgrade work completed in Kent, Sussex and Wessex over the Late May Bank Holiday

Network Rail engineers worked around the clock over the Late May Bank Holiday to deliver vital rail upgrades across Kent, Sussex and Wessex.

Track replacement work takes place at Fareham

Supported by a large fleet of engineering trains, road-rail vehicles and specialist machinery, teams completed essential upgrades to track and improvements to stations.

This programme of work across the Network Rail Southern Region will deliver a more reliable and safer railway with improved facilities for people who have to travel by rail and for freight services.

John Halsall, managing director for Network Rail Southern region, said:

“I would like to thank all of our staff who worked tirelessly over the late bank holiday. I’m also delighted that there has been no overrunning engineering works, meaning lines were ready for passengers who needed to travel this morning.

“We need to continue with these upgrades as they are critical to keeping people and freight supplies moving and once again ask passengers to only travel if absolutely necessary.”

The work carried out between Saturday 23 May and Monday 25 May included:

Sussex route:

  • Tunnel maintenance at Oxted, Edenbridge and Riddlesdown
  • Switches and crossings upgraded at Lingfield and Woldingham along with track renewal at Oxted

Kent route:

  • Maintenance and renewals work between Ashford to Rye and Hastings with more work also taking place between Dartford and Maidstone, and Bromley North branch
  • At Brixton Junction where trains switch track on the approaches to London Victoria, we replaced old and worn switches, crossings, points, track, sleepers and ballast with new kit, helping to reduce faults and make the railway more reliable for passengers

Wessex route:

  • Track renewal between Eastleigh and Fareham with nearly a mile of track replaced. As planned, work on this part of the railway completes on Friday 29 May

In line with Government advice, Network Rail will continue with engineering work that is required to maintain a safe and operational railway. These upgrades and repairs will help keep passengers who must travel, moving on a safe and reliable railway.

Avanti West Coast serves up a treat for local communities

Spiderman treats
  • Avanti West Coast help lift spirits by delivering treats to local good causes
  • Excess stock donated to organisations in Greater Manchester, Glasgow, the West Midlands and London

Hundreds of treats have been donated by Avanti West Coast to good causes across the network during the COVID-19 crisis.

Raspberry crumble, cheese and onion crisps, chocolate brownies, coffee, soft drinks and black pudding are just some of the items that have been donated by the intercity operator since March across the United Kingdom.

The excess stock was delivered to organisations in London, Greater Manchester, Glasgow and the West Midlands. 

Efforts in Greater Manchester, which has seen donations made to Clough Fold Children’s Home, Heartly Green Care Home have been led by Karen Gibbons who works in the HQ support team for Avanti West Coast.

Glasgow donations

“I’ve a number of friends who are key workers in frontline roles,” explained Karen. “I really wanted to help so when I found out we had excess stock it seemed like the right thing to do, and a great way to provide staff and those they are caring for with some treats.”

Karen has also donated goodies to the Stockport Spider-Men, two friends who have donned the guise of the webslinger and other superheroes to deliver food parcels to local charities and key workers.

Jason Baird, one of the Stockport Spider-Men, who with a friend can be seen running around the town in their  outfits, has set up a Facebook page which has already attracted close to 10,000 members.

“A massive thank you to Avanti West Coast for their second donation of food,” Jason commented. “Their support, and that of the wider community, has been overwhelming. We will now pass on to local key workers including those at the Greater Manchester Ambulance Service and include some items in our Happy Boxes which we will be distributed to local families.”

In London and the West Midlands, donations have been made to Fareshare, the UK’s national network of charitable food redistributors, made up of 17 independent organisations. The items, donated by Avanti West Coast’s Food and Beverage team,  included 222 black puddings, 414 blueberry muffins, 4260 hand wrapped fruit cakes and 5976 bottles of still water will be package with other items and redistributed to front charities and community groups.

Avanti West Coast has made a number of donations this year, the excess stock is made up of food items sold on board and in First Class lounges. But with the closure of the lounges and food no longer being served in the wake of the pandemic, additional deliveries could be made with the help of DHL, Avanti West Coast’s catering partner.

James Persad, Head of Marketing and Engagement at FareShare, said: “We’re enormously grateful to Avanti for their donation of drinks and snacks. We’re working harder than ever to get food out to the charities and community groups providing a lifeline for those in need during this crisis, and donations like these are crucial.” 

Further deliveries were made to Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, whose fundraising has been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis. The treats included 320 chocolate brownies, 205 bags of cheese and onion crisps and 168 bottles Sprite.

Caledonian Sleeper reduces services and amends refund policy due to COVID-19 outbreak.

Caledonian Sleeper is introducing a special timetable from Sunday 22 March due to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.

The decision to reduce services has been taken in full cooperation with Transport Scotland and will allow Caledonian Sleeper to protect the service and staff while ensuring vital links remain in place.

Under the temporary timetable, the overnight rail operator will run an eight-carriage train from Glasgow Central and an eight-carriage train from Inverness. The two sections will join up at Edinburgh Waverley before making the journey southbound to London Euston.

Similarly, one 16-carriage train will leave London before splitting at Edinburgh to carry on the journey to Glasgow and Inverness respectively.

Services will not run between Fort William and London or Aberdeen and London while the special timetable is in place. Caledonian Sleeper’s refund policy is also being amended to reflect the special timetable.

Ryan Flaherty, Serco’s Managing Director for Caledonian Sleeper, said:“We are absolutely determined that we continue to provide vital services during this difficult period, while taking into account the welfare of guests, staff and industry partners.

“The reduced timetable will see trains run on both our Highland and Lowland lines, providing crucial links to London for those who need to travel. The decision, taken alongside Transport Scotland, will increase the resilience of Caledonian Sleeper and we look forward to returning to a full timetable in due course.”

Under the new timetable, trains will depart Inverness at 20:45 and Glasgow Central at 23:40 before joining at Edinburgh Waverley. Guests in Edinburgh can join the Glasgow portion of the train at 00:40.

Services from London Euston will depart at 21:15. Guests can disembark at Edinburgh Waverley prior to 06:00 before the trains carry on to Glasgow and Inverness.

All existing reservations with Caledonian Sleeper from 22 March until 30 May 2020 will be cancelled and refunded except for the Inverness route. Those due to travel to/from Inverness will be able to receive a refund should they choose not to travel.

Guests who still wish to travel on operating services from Glasgow and Edinburgh should re-book viasleeper.scotwhere fares have been lowered to ensure that those requiring essential travel can access services.

Earlier this week, Caledonian Sleeper took the decision to close its Club Car on all trains. No catering services are currently being offered in the evening and the breakfast service is simply a standard in-room offering.

Station Lounges at Dundee, Fort Williams, Inverness, Perth and Stirling have also been closed.

Cleaning arrangements have been extensively reviewed, with Caledonian Sleeper implementing a more robust anti-bacterial treatment of hard surfaces and key touch points, including hand rails and door buttons.

Due to expected demand on the Guest Service Centre, guests are requested to email gsc@sleeper.scot with enquiries to be processed as quickly as possible.

Grand Central extends temporary suspension of train services during COVID-19 restrictions.

GRAND Central will extend its current suspension of train services throughout June as company bosses continue to monitor Government advice on social distancing and plan a return of its train services later in the summer.

As UK rail passengers return under a new limited timetable and social distancing rules this week, Grand Central’s managing director said the company would continue to shape its return, while monitoring passenger demand elsewhere on the rail network throughout June.

Richard McClean said: “Being an Open Access train operator means, unlike franchised operators, we must sell enough tickets to cover our operating costs. The safety of our staff and passengers is essential but social distancing rules mean we cannot yet welcome the number of customers needed to run the service sustainably.

”I think over the coming month we’ll get a really informative picture of passenger attitude, Government intentions and how the industry is dealing with social distancing but for now the most sensible course of action for us is to monitor all this and use the time to plan our return.”

The majority of Grand Central staff have been told they will continue to be supported under the Government’s furlough scheme, while a skeleton team continues to finalise plans for services  with parent company Arriva.  
Grand Central has been a rail industry success story since it was founded in 2007, initially running services between Sunderland and London Kings Cross. This year the company celebrates the tenth anniversary of its services between Bradford and London. 

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the messages of support we are getting from our passengers,” said Mr McClean. “We recently conducted a survey of attitudes amongst our customers and social media followers. We enjoyed a huge response and it was heartening to see how many people and communities rely on us and can’t wait to be back on board.

“It also provided us with a really useful insight into what people expect from us in terms of social distancing, ticketing and how we deliver service on board. We will continue to check in with our customers in this way to ensure the timing of our return and the service we offer meets their needs.”

For details of ticket refunds and COVID-19 emergency restrictions, go to www.grandcentralrail.com

REVEALED: accessible area on board Greater Anglia’s new electric commuter trains


Greater Anglia has unveiled the accessible area and features on one of the company’s new electric commuter trains which will go into passenger service between Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Ipswich and London Liverpool Street.


The new trains, made by UK manufacturer Bombardier, will have two wheelchair spaces as well as 48 priority seats on five-carriage trains and three wheelchair spaces and 106 priority seats on ten-carriage trains.

The accessible area, which was designed with advice from accessibility and disabled rail users, includes plug points and USB sockets so wheelchair users can charge their mobile phones, tablets or laptops on the train.

There is also a universally accessible toilet with plenty of room to manoeuvre a wheelchair.​

Greater Anglia is getting 111 five and ten-carriage electric trains from Bombardier in total

All of them will be longer than the trains they are replacing with more seats, plug and USB points, better passenger information screens and underfloor heating and air conditioning.

Disabled area on Greater Anglia train

Rebecca Richardson, accessibility manager for Greater Anglia, said: “Our new trains will be much better for our disabled customers, every train has purpose-built spaces for wheelchair users, accessible toilet and more sophisticated passenger information systems.

“We are very grateful to rail users and experts who have given us invaluable advice to make sure our new trains meet the requirements of disabled rail users.

“Their advice ranged from suggestions about where emergency call buttons should be in the accessible toilet, and the colour contrast of the finishes within the train to most suit customers with visual impairments.”

Dominic Lund-Conlon, Rail Delivery Group accessibility and inclusion manager said: “It’s fantastic to see more accessible trains being delivered as train companies work to replace half the fleet new for old.

Outside a toilet on a Greater Anglia train

“With toilets on every train, power sockets and improved accessibility for customers living with sight loss and blindness, the trains will be a huge improvement for customers in the East of England.”

The new Bombardier trains are due to start entering passenger service later this year. Some of them are still being made, while others are on the Greater Anglia network undergoing safety and performance tests.

Work is also progressing making depots and stations ready for the new trains, with work continuing despite the coronavirus lockdown.

Greater Anglia has already replaced every single diesel train with brand new bi-mode trains, powered by diesel and electricity.

The company’s intercity route, between Norwich and London, is also served entirely by brand new electric trains made by Swiss manufacturer, Stadler.

Phase One of new Wolverhampton Station opens to public

Phase One of new Wolverhampton Station opens to public

Phase one of Wolverhampton’s new railway station will open to the public on Monday 25 May.

Work on the first of two construction phases has been completed and the building has been handed over to West Midlands Railway, which runs the station.

The full benefits of the new facility will not be felt for some time with people currently being urged to follow the government’s coronavirus guidance and not travel by train unless absolutely essential.

The opening of the first phase is a major milestone in the city’s £150million Interchange development that will better connect train, tram and bus.

Station signage has been installed and a clear pedestrian access route to the new station entrance will be marked out around the phase two works, which will begin immediately.

Phase one includes six ticket vending machines, new British Transport Police, toilet, accessibility and baby changing facilities, three retail units ready to be fitted out and train crew accommodation.

Due to coronavirus social distancing measures a one-way system has been marked out at the station for people to follow and both West Midlands Railway and sister company London Northwestern Railway are urging customers to buy their tickets online in advance if possible.

Jonny Wiseman, head of customer experience for West Midlands Railway, said:

“This bright, modern building will bring huge benefits to our customers at Wolverhampton and the wider region.

“For now, the railway is reserved for only the most essential journeys but we can look forward with excitement to this superb facility serving the whole community for many decades to come.”

City of Wolverhampton Council leader, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said:

“A lot of hard work has been put in by all the partners on the Interchange scheme and I am looking forward to seeing our new railway station up and running from Monday.

“Of course, at this time it is vital that people follow the Government’s coronavirus guidance and do not use the train or pubic transport in general unless absolutely necessary.

“The new station building will make a huge difference to the passenger experience and, with the partners now cracking on with phase two of the development, it will ultimately provide a gateway to our city that we can all enjoy using – and be proud of.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said:

“The new Wolverhampton Railway Station is a crucial part of public transport plans for the West Midlands and I am pleased the WMCA could help play its part in making it happen alongside City of Wolverhampton Council and other partners.

“Of course, at the moment we are urging people to follow the Government’s guidelines and only use public transport if it is absolutely essential, meaning we are not expecting many passengers to see the new station yet. But this will all change when restrictions ease further and we begin to encourage people back onto public transport.

“Not only that, soon Wolverhampton commuters will be able to travel seamlessly across the region, with the West Midlands Metro extension along Pipers Row set to link to this new station as well as the existing bus station. The new station is a brilliant development for the city, and yet another example of how partnership working is benefitting the West Midlands.”

Phase two of the programme will see the demolition of the remainder of the current station building and completion of the new build to house three more retail units, as well as a customer waiting room and help point.

The new station building to serve the city will be fully open in early 2021.

Wolverhampton Interchange Partnership consists of City of Wolverhampton Council (CWC), Ion, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), West Midlands Railway, Avanti West Coast, Network Rail, Midland Metro Alliance, Canal & River Trust, and Black Country LEP.

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