Network Rail News Round-up

Important freight route secured by £4.5m Cheshire railway bridge upgrades

Freight services through Cheshire are now benefiting from a more reliable railway after work to replace two railway bridges.

The Middlewich branch line reopened today (Thursday 19 November) following a £4.5m Great North Rail Project investment.

The railway was closed for five days so the bridges over the Trent and Mersey canal and Whatcroft Hall lane in Northwich could be rebuilt to modern standards.

An 800 tonne crane was used to lift the new structures into place.

This will secure the future of this important rail freight route which is used to supply vital construction materials across the country.

The new bridges are safer, more reliable and will need less maintenance in future.

Oluwole Osunneye, scheme project manager for Network Rail, said: “Work to replace the Trent & Mersey Canal railway bridge is part of a £4.5m investment, which will mean that the structure remains safe and reliable for the economically important freight services that use it for many years to come.

“During a closure of the line, we’ve now installed the new bridge deck and I’d like to thank freight operators, motorists and local people for their patience.”

Michael Leadbetter, planning & resourcing director for Freightliner, said: “The Middlewich branch line is a key route for freight traffic moving between the Peak District, the markets in the North West and the Midlands. Allowing heavy freight trains to access this route is crucial to the success of moving aggregates on these corridors, which will only become more important with increasing volumes for HS2 and other customers. Freightliner welcomes Network Rail’s ongoing investment in this route to allow these critical flows to take place.”

Quentin Hedderly, network capacity manager at DB Cargo UK said: “We are pleased that the work to reconstruct the railway bridge in Northwich has been successfully completed in line with the expected timescales. The replacement of this asset enables Network Rail to restore heavy axle-weight capability to the route which will allow more freight to be transported by rail across this line in the coming months.”

Ian Kapur, head of strategic access planning for GB Railfreight Ltd, said: “GB Railfreight is very pleased that Network Rail has now carried out its strengthening works on the Trent & Mersey Canal railway bridge on the Middlewich route. This will ensure that the new-to-rail HS2 aggregate flows from the Peak District quarries serving the various receiving terminals with building materials can operate with full loads and keep even more freight movements off the road.” 

To complete the engineering work safely, the Middlewich branch railway line was closed from midnight on Friday 13 November until the early hours of Thursday 19 November.

Whatcroft Hall Lane has now reopened to traffic after the new bridge decks were installed.

Network Rail join forces with Southern Water and a local community group to recycle rainwater and help the environment

Network Rail are pleased to be working in partnership with the Southeast Communities Rail Partnership and Southern Water to recycle rainwater for use by station volunteer partners at West Worthing.

Southern Water have kindly donated a water butt and the installation of it free of charge. It was installed last week on Network Rail land at the station to enable volunteers to harvest rain water to maintain the community gardens.

This is the second station on the Sussex Coast Line to benefit from this joint initiative. In March 2020, Angmering station received a Southern Water butt, installed by GTR contractors, with approval from Network Rail to connect it under the footbridge.

Rowena Tyler, Community Development Officer at South East Communities Rail Partnership said: 

“Working with the Friends of West Worthing Group, we identified a secure area where rainwater could be captured and used by the volunteers to maintain their garden. I was delighted with the supportive attitude from Network Rail which meant we could accept the generous offer from Southern Water who donated and arranged installation for free. This is a great example of partnership working to achieve Community Rail objectives.”

Sharon Willis, director of communications, Southern region at Network Rail said: 

“This is a great initiative and one that we’re committed to continuing across the Southern region in partnership with our community groups and Southern Water. We are not just here as an organisation to improve and invest in our infrastructure, equally we’re here to make a positive difference at the heart of the communities we serve.”

Barbara Hine, on behalf of the Friends of West Worthing, said:

“Our group at West Worthing is very pleased to have rain water available for the garden at the station. We appreciate the support from both Network Rail and Southern Water with this project and that we are able to be as eco-friendly as possible.”

Improving the environment is vital to make sure that we bring every person with us as we manage and maintain the railway. Our new strategy, Sustainable Southern will do just do that – our vision is simple: to create a cleaner, greener, socially responsible region.

Our plan incorporates six key programmes and strives to reduce energy consumption, carbon and waste, to improve air quality, and to protect our wildlife and nature. We want to leave a beneficial and lasting railway legacy for our people, our passengers and the communities.

If your community group have an idea or project that you’d like to get started involving Network Rail – get in touch at southernregionstakeholders@networkrail.co.uk or via Southeast Communities Rail Partnership at info@southeastcrp.org

Graffiti hotspots targeted in major railway clean-up at London Euston

Unsightly graffiti around London Euston is being removed as part of Network Rail and HS2’s war on railway vandalism.

Over the next few weeks teams will be getting rid of graffiti in Camden, including on Mornington Crescent and Harlesden Bridge.

The clean-up supports Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ ongoing commitment to improve the railway for passengers and residents who live beside it.

James Dean, route director for West Coast South, said: “Graffiti makes the place look messy for neighbours and passengers. We want the railway to be a clean, welcoming environment for people who travel on it and live and work near it. That’s why we’re declaring a war on graffiti.

“There’s a safety aspect here too. Graffiti vandals risk their lives trespassing on the railway. Trains leave Euston every three minutes powered by overhead wires carrying 25,000 volts of electricity. It’s a seriously dangerous place to be. Our advice is to always stay off the tracks.”

Mark Recce, head of delivery unit for Euston On Network Works, HS2 Ltd, said: “We are happy to be supporting Network Rail in their efforts to remove rail side graffiti around our worksite in Euston to improve the area for passengers. HS2 is committed to creating a clean, reliable and safe rail network, not only for passengers in the future, but also those who use it now.”

Chris Heaton-Harris MP, Rail minister, said: “We’ve been clear that the blight of graffiti on our railways must be tackled, and I am delighted to see Network Rail are focused on dealing with the problem.

“As we build back better removing graffiti across London will improve our railway and make stations and services more pleasant for passengers.”

Annually Network Rail spends £3.5million removing graffiti.

The railway at Euston is one of the busiest in Europe and graffiti can only be cleaned up when trains aren’t running.

Trespassing on the railway and committing acts of vandalism with graffiti is a crime. Incidents of graffiti can be reported to Network Rail’s 24-hour national helpline on 03457 11 41 41.

Network Rail staff receive some cygnet-ure training after an influx of swans to the railway

We’ve all heard of leaves on the line, but swans disrupting trains are more common than you think so Network Rail has come up with some cygnet-ure training for its staff to safely remove swans from the track.

Network Rail Wessex – which runs trains from London Waterloo to the South of England – has partnered with the Swan Sanctuary, a charity in Shepperton, Surrey to provide its new recruits with some beak-spoke training.

There are usually between 15-20 visits from swans each year which are at risk of touching the third rail (which carries 750 volts) and can cause significant delays to passengers while staff safely remove the swans from the track.

Clyde Howarth, head of operations delivery at Network Rail Wessex, said: “We’ve seen a rise in visits from our feathered friends, and as they have a reputation for being aggressive, we wanted to provide new starters with some training as the staff will need to know how to handle swans on a track which carries 750 volts.

“Our goal is to safely remove the swan from the track as quickly as possible, so that train services can start running again.”

One of the staff who attended the training was James Sinclair, local operations manager at Network Rail. He said: “It was a really useful course which provided some tips and techniques on how to pick-up swans safely.

“I know that if I come across a swan on the track, I feel confident I’ll be able to use the training so that I can remove the swan and take it to a safe place away from the live rail.”

Sally Thompson head of training at The Swan Sanctuary, said: “We’re only too happy to provide the skills to enable Network Rail staff to safely remove the swans from danger to a place of safety.

“We look forward to assisting Network Rail with their swan related issues in the future.”

Passengers and road users reminded of Blackburn level crossing work this weekend

Passengers and road users are being reminded of essential upgrades to railway track and at a level-crossing in Lancashire starting this weekend.

The £2.1m Great North Rail Project investment will see Daisyfield level crossing modernised in Blackburn.

Railway track will also be renewed between Preston and Blackburn to make future journeys smoother and more reliable for passengers.

Road and railway closures will be needed for the work to be carried out over three consecutive weekends starting from 21 November.*

While the railway is closed Network Rail will be:

  • Replacing Daisyfield level crossing gates and installing lighting
  • Moving the associated signalling and telecoms equipment
  • Replacing two signals with modern LED ones
  • Carrying out track improvement work between Preston and Blackburn (Hoghton + Entwistle)

Train operator Northern will run rail replacement buses to get people to where they need to be.

Passengers are being advised to check www.nationalrail.co.uk to plan their specific journey in advance.

Mark Rothwell, project manager for Network Rail said: “Making Daisyfield level crossing and the railway track between Preston and Blackburn fit for the future will mean fewer delays and more reliable journeys for both motorists and passengers. This essential work as part of the Great North Rail Project will mean some disruption in the short term and for that I’d like to thank people in advance for their patience.

“Passengers are advised to check with train operator Northern or at www.nationalrail.co.uk so they know what to expect from their journey while the work is taking place.”

Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern, said: “The work to upgrade the railway in Lancashire will help futureproof our network and will deliver a more resilient railway for our customers.

“We will work closely with colleagues from Network Rail to keep disruption to a minimum during the engineering and will do all we can to keep our customers on the move.”

Passengers are asked to continue following Government guidance around the use of public transport.

Travellers must wear a face covering on train services and any replacement bus services. Those who fail to do so risk being fined £200.

However, some people are exempt, including young children and people with hidden disabilities or breathing difficulties.

For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers

GoPro brainwave keeps passengers moving and railway workers safe

Passengers were kept safely on the move over a track fault thanks to innovative use of a GoPro camera by Network Rail workers.

Smart thinking by rail management engineer Steve Rand and section manager Scott Morrison, after spotting the cracked railway crossing on the West Coast main line south of Milton Keynes, prevented two days of delays to passengers.

It also brought safety benefits – removing the need for engineers having to make repeated trips on foot on to the live railway.

Scott and Steve identified the problem at 2pm on November 10. It wasn’t possible to fix it until the following night (November 11).

Cracked crossings require close monitoring to ensure they don’t get worse.

The bigger the crack in the steel rail gets the less possible it is to run trains.

Often this monitoring is done by railway staff physically walking on to the track to make checks after each train passes.

As the crack was in the middle of the busy main line, Steve and Scott would have had to get the local signaller to close the line after every train so they could make inspections in person.

This would in effect have shut the West Coast main line causing widespread disruption to passenger and freight services.

Steve and Scott’s ingenuity meant the GoPro acted like a CCTV camera and the crossing could be monitored without stopping trains from running and keeping them off the live railway line.

This kept passengers and freight on the move, albeit at reduced speeds, until the problem could be fixed.

Martin Ball, Route Infrastructure Engineer for WCS, said: “I’m really proud of Steve, Scott and the team. Rather than just thinking about fixing the problem, they thought how they could do the best thing for passengers. Their smart use of a GoPro kept them and their colleagues safe and kept passengers on the move. We’ll look to do this elsewhere in future.”

For more on how we maintain the track visit www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/looking-after-the-railway/track/ 

Burgess Hill station in West Sussex receives £1.2m facelift

Network Rail has replaced two 50m canopies which stand over the platforms as well as making a raft of improvements to the station building. 

Burgess Hill railway station is on the Brighton Main Line and Thameslink in West Sussex. It is 41 miles down the line from London Bridge via Redhill and is situated between Wivelsfield and Hassocks on the main line.

The cast iron columns, longitudinal timber beams, timber cross beams, timber box gutter and roof sheeting have been replaced and a new steel frame structure supports the steel sheeting roof.

The first station at Burgess Hill was opened on 21 September 1841 by the London and Brighton Railway (L&BR), at the time of the completion of the route to Brighton. The original facilities were all in the small wooden hut (which still stands on platform 1) and wooden platforms set beside the main line.

The L&BR became the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) in 1846 and a track plan of the station dating from 1874 shows that by then, several sidings and a signal box had been constructed at the station. Trains changed the town’s fortunes, and the second half of the 19th century saw a residential boom that continues today.

Shaun King, Sussex route director for Network Rail, said:

“We are committed to investing in the rail network to improve facilities for passengers. The improvements at Burgess Hill station represent a significant investment, which will result in a modern and pleasant environment for rail passengers and staff at the station.”

Burgess Hill station sees over one and half million passengers per year, who still use the original 1877 station, although it’s been renovated several times. Located on the Brighton Main Line, trains run to Brighton and London Victoria.

Chris Fowler, Customer Services Director for Southern, said:

“We’re working with Network Rail to make Burgess Hill station look and work better for our customers. The town’s population will grow considerably over the next few years so it’s important that its historic station is ready for more customers.

“This welcome investment by our partner will be complemented by projects from our own network-wide, multimillion-pound station enhancement programme, including a new waiting room, more seating and improved toilets.

“I’d like to reassure our customers that if you need to use the train, our intensive cleaning and testing regimes ensure you can travel with confidence. Please follow Government advice and wear a face covering.”

Five triumph as next phase of railway station design competition is announced

Network Rail and RIBA Competitions have revealed the names of the five design practices selected to compete in the next phase of their competition to shape the future of Britain’s railway stations.

Entrants to the competition were asked to reimagine small to medium-sized stations, which make up 80% of all those on Britain’s railway. More than 200 submissions were received, from designers based in 34 different countries. Five will go through to the next stage (listed in alphabetical order):

The selected practices will now develop their proposals for final judging in February 2021. At the end of that process, up to three will be chosen to be taken forward for development.

Commenting on the announcement, Anthony Dewar, Head of Buildings and Architecture at Network Rail, said: “At the launch of the competition we were hoping to receive some creative and forward-thinking designs and my fellow judging panellists and I were happily inundated with submissions that met that brief. It was a tough decision to narrow the field down to just a handful to go through to the next stage, but we were particularly impressed and intrigued by the concept proposals put forward by the selected five practices.

“We look forward to seeing how they will develop their ideas to create design solutions which will help Network Rail to improve the experience of both the communities and passengers it serves.”

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “It’s fantastic to see from the sheer amount of entries to this competition – and from more than 30 countries – that this challenge has really captured the imagination of designers from right across the globe.

“Harnessing creativity and ambition through competitions like this will ensure the great spirit of design that can be seen in stations right across the country continues. I look forward to seeing these proposals as they progress, as part of our focus on delivering better journeys for passengers.”

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