Multi-million-pound investment to prevent landslips on Chiltern main line and other news.

The latest round up of news from the press offices. The following are all kindly reproduced by kind permission of the various departments.

Major work to secure a railway embankment in Warwickshire will mean more reliable journeys for passengers on the Chiltern main line.

Since December 2019, a £9m investment by Network Rail has seen engineers working to stabilise the slope on the south side of Harbury tunnel between Leamington Spa and Banbury.

Historically the area has been beset by earth movement, most recently in early 2015 when a 300,000-tonne landslip on the other side of the tunnel closed the Chiltern main line for six weeks.

Joel Farrell, scheme project manager at Network Rail, said: “This significant investment to secure this part of the Chiltern main line will ensure reliable journeys for passengers between Birmingham and London for many decades to come.

“The ground here, made up of layers of limestone and shale, can be unstable and could potentially cause issues for the railway running through it. This preventative work will stop any future slips and make it much more secure.

“We know Harbury very well after the huge landslip in 2015 and I want to thank the local community for their patience while we complete this vital work.”

The geological makeup of the earth at Harbury means landslips and subsidence have caused issues for the railway since its completion in 1852. 

The first attempt to make the slopes of the cutting at Harbury shallower to prevent landslips was undertaken by Victorian engineers of Great Western Railway in 1884.

Now, 136 years later, this work continues as the Victorian’s modern-day counterparts continue to stabilise the embankment making it less steep and pinning it with large nails and piles to make it more stable. A new retaining wall will also be built at the bottom of the slope to prevent soil movement.

The embankment strengthening began in December 2019 and is expected to finish in 2021.

The project has been carried out during the daytime while passenger and freight trains continued to run below, meaning no disruption to services and no noisy overnight work.

Passengers should continue following government guidelines and avoid train travel unless absolutely essential.

People making essential journeys should visit www.nationalrail.co.uk for the latest information.

Up to £65m set aside to keep Wales’ railway running: E Coronavirus rail support

31 MAY 2020

Up to £65m set aside to keep Wales’ railway running

Hyd at £65m wedi’i neilltuo i gadw rheilffyrdd Cymru yn weithredol

The Welsh Government has announced it will spend up to £65m over the next 6 months to ensure train services continue to operate on the Wales and Borders network for key workers and others that rely on the train to travel.

An ‘Emergency Measures Agreement’ has been approved to help Transport for Wales Rail Services cope with the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

It follows an initial short-term agreement worth £40m which was confirmed in March, taking the total cost to a maximum of £105m (subject to levels of passenger revenue).

The use of public transport is around 95% less than the same period last year, as people have followed advice to stay home and to stay local. Season ticket refunds and social distancing requirements will also have an effect on train companies’ revenue.

During coronavirus restrictions Transport for Wales has helped key workers travel to work, and ensured NHS workers can travel for free. Last week the Welsh Government published guidance for operators and guidance for the public in using public transport safely.

Lee Waters, Deputy Transport Minister, said:

“In order to save lives we have asked that people only travel when necessary. This has been vital to the health of our nation, and it is only right that we proceed cautiously before encouraging higher levels of passenger numbers on public transport.

“We therefore need to take action to ensure we have an effective rail network in the long-term. Our funding will help our rail service cope with the inevitable revenue loss resulting from coronavirus.

“In the long-term this will ensure key infrastructure projects such as Metro systems can be delivered. More immediately, it will also mean our rail network can continue enabling essential travel and helping key workers get to work, including free travel for NHS staff.

“We will continue to work towards achieving the strongest possible rail network in the long-term, as part of our wider transport system.”

Public figures thank rail workers – and remind us all to ‘be safe, be patient, be kind’

Politicians, sports stars and media personalities said “thank you” today to railway staff for keeping freight and critical workers moving during the Covid-19 crisis.

Offering selfie-video thanks, collated into a short film by Network Rail, are record producer Pete Waterman, Rugby World Cup-winner Lewis Moody, House of Rugby presenter Alex Payne, BBC Radio 2 morning travel presenter Richie Anderson, West Midlands mayor Andy Street, rail minster Chris Heaton-Harris and shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon.

They thanked the many passengers who have stayed off public transport during this time. And as Britain plots its path to move past the Covid-19 crisis, they reminded everyone to “be safe, be patient, be kind.”

Also in the video are Megan Noblett, Warrington level crossing manager, and Chris Conway, a signaller at Bamber Bridge, Lancashire, who thanked train crews.

Tim Shoveller, managing director for Network Rail’s North West & Central region, said: “Thank you all Network Rail and train company colleagues for keeping Britain fed, fuelled and healthy. You are Britain’s hidden heroes.

“And while ordinarily we’d implore everyone to travel by train, I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to passengers who have stayed off public transport during this time. Please continue to follow Government advice on the use of public transport.

“We face more challenging days as together we seek to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, so let’s all remember to … be safe, be patient, be kind.”

Passengers should continue following Government guidelines around the use of public transport.

People who need to travel should visit www.nationalrail.co.uk for the latest information. ​

Help keep Scotland’s Railway safe for essential travellers

Network Rail is appealing to the public to only use train services for essential journeys – and to observe physical distancing guidelines if they do need to travel.

With a small number of extra services running on Scotland’s Railway from Monday (June 1), the public can help protect each other, and rail workers, by:

•Wearing a face covering
•Avoiding travel at peak times
•Being flexible about which train you catch
•Keeping your distance from others in stations and on trains
•Staying home and away from the railway if you feel unwell.

Network Rail is also working hard to keep the public and railway colleagues safe at Scotland’s biggest and busiest stations, Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central.

Passengers using Waverley and Central will notice many changes in the station environment, which are designed to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

On entering, passengers will see newly-installed sanitiser stations where they can clean their hands before beginning their journey.

Physical distancing is also in place for services like ticket offices and toilet facilities and 2m distance markers have been placed on the concourse floors to show passengers how best to give each other space.

Some services and facilities at the stations – including retail units, waiting rooms and water fountains – have been closed while others, such as seating have been reduced.

Cleaning regimes have been increased at both stations with touch-points like handrails, door handles and lift buttons being sanitised throughout the day using anti-viral cleaning agents.

The station toilets will also close for 15 minutes every hour to allow for increased cleaning and every second sink unit has been taken out of use to help customers keep their distance.

In Glasgow Central, the assistance buggies continue to transport less-mobile passengers to their platforms, but have been fitted with perspex screens to separate passengers from the driver. The buggies are being cleaned after every use.

“As service levels begin to increase slightly, we are asking people to continue to only travel if their journey is absolutely necessary.

“For those who must use our network, we are putting in place a wide range of measures at Scotland’s two biggest and busiest stations, to help maintain physical distancing and to reduce the spread of the virus.

“We’d like to thank our customers for their continued support in following the government’s guidance and only using public transport for essential purposes.”

Network Rail Scotland is working closely with the government and following the official health advice, but the public can help report any concerns to the company’s 24-hour helpline on: 03457 114141.

GWR asks for help to keep trains free for those who really need them
With Government set to ease lockdown GWR asks ‘Is your journey necessary?’

The Government is expected to issue its latest easement of lockdown restrictions next week, but GWR is continuing to remind people to avoid travel by public transport wherever possible.

GWR needs your help to keep space for those who have no alternative

Social distancing guidance means that trains can only carry about a tenth of the usual number of passengers. To help those who have no alternative, the train company is asking customers to avoid the train if they can, including not using services for leisure purposes or as part of daily exercise.

The company says it is doing everything it can to help those who do need to travel to keep to social distancing guidance, but warns that it will not be possible at all points of the journey.

To help those who do need to travel GWR has introduced a ‘counted seat’ system for reservable services, where they restrict the number of reservations available on a train. Customers are not provided with a specific seat number to avoid people looking for their seat once on board.

Trains can only carry a tenth of the number of passengers

GWR Interim Managing Director Matthew Golton said:
“With social distancing guidance in place we are able to carry as little as a tenth of the usual number of passengers, and customers are not yet able to use trains as freely as they once did.

“We are doing everything we can to carry as many people, safely, as we can. This will make sure that those who absolutely need to travel by train can do so. But I must ask you, is your journey really necessary?”



GWR is asking customers to do all they can to follow social distancing guidance and acknowledges that this is difficult on public transport. Customers should wear a face covering when social distancing is not possible.

The train operator is asking customers to:

• plan ahead – please book ahead where possible and check train times in advance
• avoid peak travel times – Travel between 10:00 – 15:00 and after 19:00 on weekdays if possible
• buy tickets online, on Smartcard or mobile

To minimise risks customers are also asked to wash their hands prior to and after their journey, and hand-sanitiser has been made available at GWR’s main stations. To help those who do need to travel to avoid contact, food and drink will not be sold on board.

GWR has:

• restricted the number of reservations available on reservable trains
• added floor stickers and guidance at stations to help customers maintain the advisory distance 
• cleaned stations and trains throughout the day, every day

GWR is currently running approximately 70% of services. With predicted staff sickness the company is taking a staged approach to returning to full timetabled services. However, until social distancing guidance is eased travel should be avoided unless it is really necessary.

May Bank Holiday Cardiff Construction Success

The South Rail Systems Alliance (SRSA) were mobilised over the May Bank Holiday Weekend, where they undertook a number of works at Cardiff Central Station.

The South Rail Systems Alliance (SRSA) were mobilised over the May Bank Holiday Weekend, where they undertook a number of works at Cardiff Central Station.

The track renewals scope of works included:

  • Various switch and crossing installations
  • Platform adjustments
  • Tamping
  • Signalling
  • Underbridge ballast retention
  • Welding

The 3-day blockade including several Adjacent Lines Open to enable the continuous operations of trains through the station, reducing the impact of the works to the operational train timetable.

The project was delivered using four Engineering Trains, two Tampers, and a 40Tonne heavy lifting Road Rail Vehicles to tandem lift track panels into their final position.

Construction took place in compliance with social distancing measures implemented by the UK Government, with the SRSA introducing ‘COVID-19 Champions’ on site to ensure that staff stayed 2m apart, issuing and replacing face masks to protect all employees throughout their shift and managing site cleanliness.

To ensure safety of all staff additional measures were implemented, including equipment to check temperature levels of personnel entering site via state of the art temperature recognition camera system installed into a self-contained ethanol powered welfare unit.

Continuing their sustainable approach, all SRSA cabins and lights were powered by solar technology or batteries supplied from Prolectric.

Colas Rail UK Project Lead Joseph Smales can be seen discussing the changes implemented due to Covid-19 and how works are progressing:

Speaking about the project, Network Rail’s Head of Transformation, Nick Matthews said:

“Despite COVID-19 and the unique problems the social distancing measures present on the SRSA Worksites, The SRSA Wales and Western (W&W) Team delivered the renewal at Cardiff to the delight of Regional Managing Director, Mark Langham.

As Head of Transformation I was pleased to see that despite the difficulties of COVID-19 the W&W team still went the extra mile. Not only was the welfare and lighting fuel free, they were the first team to use the new Mobile Welfare Units to ensure welfare was provided at the point of work.

On top of all that innovation the team also trialled infrared cameras to carry out body temperature surveillance checks on the workforce to detect any possible COVID 19 symptoms. Well done to everyone involved on this successful project.”

The SRSA is an Alliance between Colas Rail UK, Network Rail and AECOM.

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