Iconic Isle of Wight trains reach the end of the line after 82 years

Today marks the end of an era as Isle of Wight residents prepare to bid an emotional farewell to Island Line’s famed and beloved 82-year-old trains.

The final Class 483 train will roll out of the iconic Ryde Pier Head Station at 23.17 this evening, closing a historic chapter for Island Line passengers and staff.

Every ending heralds a new beginning though, and Islanders can look forward to a major upgrade this spring with a new, fully refurbished fleet which will deliver a modern railway for the Isle of Wight.  

Old and new at Ryde depot - Island Line

The trains, which are estimated to have travelled in excess of 3 million miles in their 82 years, will enjoy a retirement which befits their cherished status. One will be heading to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, meaning that islanders and visitors alike will still have a chance to enjoy the old red train, while another unit goes to the London Traction Transport Group. Formed in May 2020, the Group hopes to run the train on the Epping Ongar Railway under its own power and even take it to rail galas across the country.

Commenting, South Western Railway’s Managing Director Mark Hopwood said:  
“Today we’re saying goodbye to a truly iconic train fleet which is held in great affection by people living on the Island and elsewhere.

“These trains had already been carrying passengers for half a century by the time they arrived on the Island in 1989, coincidentally the same year that I started my first job on the railway, but they have served our customers well – even if they have on occasion shown their age. This is in no small part thanks to the exceptional team at Ryde Depot, who have gone above and beyond to keep the trains running. 

“While this may be an emotional end to one era, it’s also the start of an exciting new one. The £26 million being invested in new trains and major infrastructure upgrades will help to deliver a railway fit for 2021, with performance and customer experience both set to be transformed. “ 

Steve Backhouse, General Manager at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway said:  
“The Isle of Wight Steam Railway already has a world-class collection of carriages dating back to the opening of the Ryde to Shanklin line in 1864. The 1938 stock have been an iconic feature of the Isle of Wight for the last 30 years and we’re delighted that a unit will be preserved at Havenstreet so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.” 

Daniel Nash, Secretary of the London Transport Traction Group, said: 
“80 years after delivery to London Transport,  we’re excited to be bringing unit 483006 back to a former tube line at the Epping Ongar Railway. We hope that enthusiasts who have not been able to make it to the Island today due to the current restrictions will support us and help us to keep one of these trains running in preservation. Although they have finished on the Island Line, this will not be the last chance to ride on one of the trains.”

The fleet of two-carriage trains were built back in 1938, serving the London Underground network before travelling across the Solent to the Isle of Wight in 1989, where they have been faithfully carrying passengers ever since. 

The Class 483's last maintenance fitters say goodbye to the train today

Maintenance Fitters at Ryde depot (L-R): Kieran Heatherington, Tony Long and Ian Butcher (Interim Depot Manager)

In keeping with tradition, the fleet set to replace the retiring trains are also former London Underground stock which previously served the District Line. This upgrade will give a major boost to reliability, comfort and convenience, with the fully refurbished trains boasting modern features such as free on-board WiFi, improved passenger information, at-seat charging points and wheelchair spaces. The first new train was welcomed onto the Island last month.

The new trains form part of a £26 million investment in Island Line, which will deliver the installation of a new passing loop at Brading, allowing for a service at regular 30-minute intervals; track enhancement work to improve ride quality; and adjustments to platform heights to improve accessibility. These major improvements will take place between 4 January and 31 March, during which time there will be no service on Island Line. A bus service will be replacing trains throughout the three months.  

Bombardier signs landmark deal to fit digital signalling to ELECTROSTAR trains

Global mobility solution provider Bombardier Transportation has announced today that it has signed a framework agreement with Porterbrook, the UK rolling stock company, to fit digital onboard signalling to BOMBARDIER ELECTROSTAR trains in the UK. This project falls under the UK’s Digital Railway Programme funded by the Department for Transport through Network Rail and is managed by the National Joint ROSCO Programme (NJRP).

Under the framework agreement, Bombardier will deliver the design work needed for the fitment of the European Train Control System (ETCS) equipment and the BOMBARDIER EBI Cab 2000 onboard Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system, to all ELECTROSTAR fleets in the UK – the most numerous Electric Multiple Unit type currently operating on Britain’s railways. 

“As a market leader in ETCS technology worldwide, our EBI Cab 2000 onboard system supports drivers to operate at safe and optimal speeds. This is a further example of strategic investment to enable the roll out of digital solutions to enhance efficiency, capacity and safety in the UK rail network.”

– Richard Hunter, President Rail Control Solutions, Bombardier Transportation

The initial agreement is worth £11.3 million (€12.3 million euro, $15.0 million US), to design and fit First in Class (FiC) ETCS equipment to a Porterbrook-owned Class 387 ELECTROSTAR trainoperated by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). The FiC contract has been authorised by Porterbrook Leasing Company Limited (Porterbrook) as the lead rolling stock asset owner for the ELECTROSTAR trains supported by Angel Trains, Eversholt Rail, Akiem and QW Rail, under the National Joint ROSCO Programme. Once the FiC unit receives regulatory approvals, all other ELECTROSTAR train owners and operators will then be able to opt to have Bombardier fit the EBI Cab 2000 to their trains under the same framework agreement.

By fitting ETCS equipment, the trains will become ‘Digital Railway-ready’, so able to take advantage of Network Rail’s modern signalling and train control technology that will increase capacity, reduce delays, enhance safety and drive down costs. ETCS is becoming the standard signalling and train controlling technology on railways across Europe and beyond, and in the UK it is being rolled out on a national basis, starting with sections of the East Coast Mainline, Thameslink and Elizabeth lines.

Richard Hunter, President Rail Control Solutions, Bombardier Transportation said, “As a market leader in ETCS technology worldwide, our EBI Cab 2000 onboard system supports drivers to operate at safe and optimal speeds. This is a further example of strategic investment to enable the roll out of digital solutions to enhance efficiency, capacity and safety in the UK rail network.” 

New landmark deal to fit digital signalling to ELECTROSTAR trains.

Jason Groombridge, Director of Engineering Services, Porterbrook said, “Porterbrook is delighted to lead on the fitment of ETCS to the first ELECTROSTAR train. ELECTROSTARs are in service with several train operators and are popular with passengers. By retrofitting on-train signalling to these units, we can ensure that they can continue to meet the operational and capacity needs of both today’s and tomorrow’s railway.”

Steve Lammin, Engineering Director, GTR said, “This is an exciting time in UK Rail, introducing a programme that will take us toward a more modern Digital Railway state. As lead operator for introduction of this technology onto the ELECTROSTAR platform, GTR is looking forward to working with industry partners to make this programme a success, and deliver all the benefits we know this will bring the railway and our passengers.”

Under the agreement, the equipment will be fitted at operator depots or Bombardier’s Ilford facility, and design work will be undertaken at Bombardier’s Derby facility.

HS2 shortlists Track Systems and Tunnel and Lineside M&E suppliers

Following on from the start of construction, today’s announcement unlocks more opportunities for Britain’s construction and engineering sector, hard-hit by the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Both sets of contract opportunities cover design and construction between London, Birmingham and Crewe, where HS2 trains will join the existing West Coast Mainline. The winners of the Track systems contracts will also take a lead role in managing and coordinating the complex interfaces between the track and other elements of the rail systems.

The following organisations will be invited to tender for Track Systems:

Lot 1 – Phase One (Urban – London and Birmingham) – £434m

  • Balfour Beatty Group Ltd, ETF SAS, TSO SAS (BBVT Joint Venture)
  • Ferrovial Construction (UK) Ltd and BAM Nuttall Ltd (Ferrovial-BAM Joint Venture)
  • Colas Rail Ltd
  • STRABAG AG UK and Rhomberg Sersa UK (STRABAG Rhomberg Sersa Joint Venture)

Lot 2 – Phase One (Open Route – Central) – £526m

  • Balfour Beatty Group Ltd, ETF SAS, TSO SAS (BBVT Joint Venture)
  • Ferrovial Construction (UK) Ltd and BAM Nuttall Ltd (Ferrovial-BAM Joint Venture)
  • Colas Rail Ltd
  • STRABAG AG UK and Rhomberg Sersa UK (STRABAG Rhomberg Sersa Joint Venture)

Lot 3 – Phase One (Open Route – North) – £566m

  • Balfour Beatty Group Ltd, ETF SAS, TSO SAS (BBVT Joint Venture)
  • Ferrovial Construction (UK) Ltd and BAM Nuttall Ltd (Ferrovial-BAM Joint Venture)
  • Colas Rail Ltd

Lot 4 – Phase 2a (Track) – £431m

  • Balfour Beatty Group Ltd, ETF SAS, TSO SAS (BBVT Joint Venture)
  • Ferrovial Construction (UK) Ltd and BAM Nuttall Ltd (Ferrovial-BAM Joint Venture)
  • Colas Rail Ltd
  • STRABAG AG UK and Rhomberg Sersa UK (STRABAG Rhomberg Sersa Joint Venture)

Rail, switches and crossings and pre-cast slab track will be delivered by separate suppliers – with the Track Systems contractor coordinating the design, logistics and installation. The winning bidders are set to commence work on site once the tunnels, bridges, viaducts and earthworks are complete.

The winning Track Systems contractors will oversee the design and construction of plain line track, switches and crossings, an infrastructure maintenance depot, managing construction logistics and supporting the testing and commissioning phase. They will also act as Construction Design and Management (CDM) Principal Contractor for the trace and be responsible for logistics and consents co-ordination.

The winner of the estimated £498m Tunnel and Lineside M&E package will be a Principal Contractor, delivering the design, supply, manufacture, installation, testing, commissioning and maintenance (until handover) of the Phase One and Phase 2a Tunnel and Lineside M&E systems.

This includes the tunnel services within the shafts, tunnels and cross-passages, low voltage power services and distribution in the open route. The contractor will also design, supply, install, test and commission the tunnel ventilation systems.

The following organisations will be invited to tender for Tunnel and Lineside M&E:

  • Alstom Transport UK Ltd
  • Balfour Beatty Bailey Joint Venture (BBB JV) – a joint venture between Balfour Beatty Group Ltd and NG Bailey Ltd
  • Costain Group PLC

HS2 Ltd’s Procurement and Commercial Director, David Poole said:

“Rail systems are some of the most important parts of the HS2 project – the high-tech equipment and systems that will allow our trains to deliver an unparalleled service in terms of speed, frequency and reliability.

“The appointment of the Track Systems and M&E suppliers will be an important milestone for the project, and a significant opportunity for the industry and the wider supply chain. At the peak of construction, HS2 will support around 30,000 jobs and contracts like this will provide a real boost for employers across the supply chain, helping to boost skills and provide opportunities for years to come.”

Contracts for Track Systems and Tunnels and Lineside M&E are expected to be awarded in 2022.

Network Rail News updates

Passengers reminded of major upgrade to lifts at Macclesfield station

Passengers are being advised about upcoming work to replace lifts at Macclesfield station.

A much-needed £400,000 investment as part of the Great North Rail Project will make step-free access more reliable to station platforms.

Work will start on Wednesday 20 January and take place until Wednesday 31 March 2021.

During the work, staff will be on hand at Macclesfield station to assist passengers.

Both lifts will be improved at the same time and will be out of use.

For passengers this means:

  • No step free access will be available at Macclesfield station between Wednesday 20 January and Wednesday 31 March.
  • Anyone who needs step-free access should book assisted travel with their specific train operator*.
  • During the lift upgrade work, tickets will be valid for passengers to travel via the nearest step-free stations**.
  • While the lifts are out of use, only Platform 1 will have step-free access. This platform is used for trains travelling north.

Tom Wadsworth, senior asset engineer for buildings at Network Rail, said: “This investment into the lifts at Macclesfield station is much-needed and will greatly improve reliability for passengers.

“We understand the upgrade will be disruptive for passengers and we are working closely with station operators to make everyone’s journey as easy as it can be during the work.

“I’d urge anyone planning to travel to or from Macclesfield during the ten-week project to plan ahead and book assisted travel with their specific train operator.”

Laura Harper, Avanti West Coast station manager at Macclesfield, said: “We’re working with Network Rail and industry partners to help customers as the works to upgrade the lifts at Macclesfield station take place.

“As always, our teams will be on hand to help customers travelling to and from Macclesfield during this time but we strongly recommend customers plan ahead, check before they travel and leave extra time for their journey.

“We would like to thank customers for their patience while Network Rail undertake this latest scheme for the Great North Rail Project.” 

John Robson, CrossCountry regional director West Midlands and North West, said: “We understand this work may cause some short term disruption for passengers. However, when complete it will mean better and more reliable step-free access, and an easier travel experience for everyone using the station lifts.”

Councillor Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “We warmly welcome this significant investment at Macclesfield railway station which will improve access facilities for passengers and visitors to the town.

“I would like to thank rail users in advance for their patience while these works are undertaken and for any inconvenience experienced.

“I would also encourage any passenger with access needs or disability to contact their train operator’s passenger assistance service, in advance of their planned trip, to arrange support for their journey.

“The rail station is a key gateway for Macclesfield and it is great news that this investment will improve passenger facilities and help prepare the station for the expected increase in passengers once HS2 high-speed rail to Crewe and beyond is delivered. It is another vote of confidence in the future of Macclesfield.”

Passengers are being advised to allow extra time for their journeys and to plan in advance on the National Rail Enquiries journey planner at www.nationalrail.co.uk

Network Rail staff to begin a package of Christmas and New Year improvements for passengers in South West London and Hampshire

Network Rail staff will shortly begin a package of improvements for passengers in South West London and Hampshire between Christmas and New Year to maintain and upgrade the railway, and improve reliability for those essential workers still relying on the rail network every day.

People must follow the latest Government guidance over the Christmas period and stay at home or stay local to help tackle the spread of COVID-19. The new restrictions also mean that people should not travel into or out of London, which is now a Tier 4 area. If you need to travel, please continue following Government advice around the use of public transport – wear a face covering unless you are exempt, travel at quieter times and maintain a distance from other passengers wherever possible.

Between Friday 25 December 2020 and Monday 4 January 2021, engineers will carry out a major programme of work between Clapham Junction and Waterloo, which will see more reliable services and increased connectivity for passengers on the route.

Sections of track and switches and crossings (which allow trains to move between tracks) will be upgraded at Nine Elms Junction. Resignalling work, vegetation clearance and track and bridge inspections will also take place in the area to take advantage of the lower numbers of trains running.

While that work is completed there will be a reduced number of services between Clapham Junction and London Waterloo. At both stations, queuing systems are likely to be in place and platforms 12-20 at London Waterloo will be closed. Vauxhall and Queenstown Road stations will also be closed throughout.

On the same dates, the line between Basingstoke and Salisbury will be closed while engineers strengthen Millway Road bridge in Andover and clear vegetation between Whitchurch and Andover.

Buses will run between Basingstoke and Salisbury and there will be a revised train service between Salisbury and Exeter St Davids.

Some of the other improvement work to provide a more reliable railway includes:

  • Upgrades to the switches and crossings between Hook and Basingstoke and at Eastleigh West junction, which starts late in the evening on Christmas Eve and finishes on the morning of Sunday 27 December
  • Testing new signals as part of the Feltham resignalling scheme, set to take place between late in the evening on Christmas Eve and finish the morning of Sunday 27 December
  • New track will be laid and Cow Lane bridge near Cosham, Portsmouth will be rebuilt between Friday 1 and Sunday 3 January 2021 (plus 17 January).
  • Replacing timber structures on the bridge between Fratton and Portsmouth Harbour on Sunday 3 and Monday 4 January 2021

Passengers should only travel if they have to. A summary of the amended timetable and bus replacement services are available at www.southwesternrailway.com/christmas

Mark Killick, Network Rail Wessex route director, said: “Later this week, our staff who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to maintain and upgrade the railway for those who need it, will once again carry out a number of essential upgrades to keep the railway running reliably and smoothly for many years to come.

“This means some journeys may be different, so please travel safely, follow the latest public health advice and only travel if you absolutely have to.”

Alan Penlington, director of customer services at South Western Railway, said: “The work being carried out by Network Rail this festive period is vital to ensure the future reliability of the network.

“We’re asking all customers who have to travel to visit our dedicated webpage; southwesternrailway.com/Christmas.”

Level crossing in Cheltenham to close for emergency works until April 2021

Network Rail has had to close the level crossing on Brockhampton Lane until 7 April 2021 to undertake vital works.

The level crossing was closed on Friday and will now remain closed until next April to allow Network Rail engineers to carry out essential repair work on the equipment that controls the level crossing.

The scale of work was originally expected to only result in the level crossing closing over two weekends, however, the most recent inspection has revealed that the condition of the wiring that controls the level crossing barriers has unexpectedly deteriorated.

As a result of this essential work, the level crossing will remain closed 24/7 to both pedestrians and vehicles until 7 April, subject to authorisation from the local highways authority.

A signed diversion route for vehicles has been put in place via Hyde Lane and letters have been sent to local residents providing further details of this work including a map of the diversion route.

Network Rail project manager, Spencer Hobbs, said: “We recognise this is a lengthy closure and are sorry for any inconvenience this emergency closure may cause the community.

“The safety of our passengers and crossing users is of the utmost importance to us so we have taken the difficult decision to fully close the crossing whilst we undertake this vital repair work.

“We are aware of instances of trespassing on level crossings and urge people to not put their lives at risk by attempting to cross the railway line while the crossing is closed. Trespassing on the railway is illegal and dangerous and we urge people to follow the diversions that have been put in place.

“We would like to sincerely thank everyone for their patience and understanding during this time.”

Engineering works bring New Year improvements for passengers in the South East

Engineering works at South East London’s busiest rail junctions are set to bring more reliable journeys in the New Year.

Engineering works at south east London’s busiest rail junctions are set to bring more reliable journeys in the New Year.

Network Rail staff will be working between Christmas and new year to improve the reliability of a crucial stretch of railway in south east London, used by thousands of essential workers every day.

People must follow the latest Government guidance over the Christmas period and stay at home or stay local to help tackle the spread of COVID-19. The new restrictions also mean that people should not travel into or out of London, which is now a Tier 4 area.

The upgrades will keep passengers moving safely and reliably and future proof the railway for the long-term, which is part of the South East Upgrade, a record £1.25bn investment to modernise this part of the network.

The lines through Lewisham and St John’s are some of the most heavily-congested in the country, used by services from both the London suburbs and the Kent coast, and are in need of improvement.

Teams of track workers will be upgrading two key railway junctions there from Christmas day through to Tuesday 29 December, and from 1 January to Sunday 3 January.

The Lewisham upgrade will see the replacement of nearly two miles of track which will be laid on 7,500 tonnes of ballast and 1,460 sleepers. A number of sets of points (which help trains cross from one track to another) will also be renewed as part of an investment programme to replace ageing 1970s infrastructure with more reliable equipment.

During the work there will be no trains between Lewisham and Hayes. There will also be changes to some services on the January dates between Cannon Street and Lewisham, and via Greenwich to Dartford.

To keep essential workers moving when lines are closed replacement buses are in operation and tickets will be accepted via alternative TfL routes. Passengers should also wash their hands often and wear face-coverings, unless exempt.

Fiona Taylor, Network Rail’s route director for Kent, said: “We are carrying out a number of major engineering projects this Christmas and New Year in order to provide better journeys for our passengers in 2021.

“Our works at Lewisham are particularly key being on the main artery from Kent to London for hundreds of services a day. If you are an essential worker and plan to travel over Christmas, consistent with the Government’s advice, please check your journeys between now and the New Year.

“We know there is never a good time to carry out major works, so I would like to thank passengers for their patience while we make these vital improvements to the railway.”

Scott Brightwell, Southeastern train services director, said: “Over Christmas and early January there are going to be some changes to our services while Network Rail carry out vital improvements at two of our busiest junctions near Lewisham. This will help improve reliability and reduce delays for our passengers.”

Passengers can visit the following places for more information: https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ www.networkrail.co.uk/LewishamUpgrade or https://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/

Final reminder to passengers of major service changes on the East Coast Main Line as £1.2billion upgrade continues over Christmas

Network Rail, Great Northern and Thameslink are reminding passengers who need to travel over the Christmas period to check their journeys to avoid disappointment, as major work takes place on the £1.2billion East Coast Upgrade, including a six-day closure at London King’s Cross and altered services up to and including Sunday 3 January.

People must follow the latest Government guidance over the Christmas period and stay at home or stay local to help tackle the spread of COVID-19. The new restrictions also mean that people should not travel into or out of London, which is now a Tier 4 area. 

Those who must travel on the East Coast Main Line should allow plenty of time as services which are running are expected to be busy, queuing systems may be in place at stations, and passengers may not be able to board the first train. Passengers can check how their journeys will be affected by visiting eastcoastupgrade.co.uk, www.thameslinkrailway.com or www.greatnorthernrail.com.

Once complete, the East Coast Upgrade will transform journeys between London, Peterborough and Cambridge, as well as with the North of England and Scotland. It will bring a more modern, reliable railway for passengers and ensure the route has more capacity to deal with future passenger volumes.

  • Thursday 24 December 2020 – There will be a near normal service to and from London King’s Cross as Network Rail has postponed the start time of major work, although services will finish earlier in the evening, which is normal for Christmas Eve. Trains are expected to be very busy.
  • Friday 25 and Saturday 26 December 2020 – As usual on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, there will be no services running on the East Coast Main Line, and no alternative services will be provided.
  • Sunday 27 December 2020 – There will be no trains in or out of London King’s Cross and those Great Northern trains will start and finish at Finsbury Park instead. People who need to travel are advised to use London Underground services to and from Finsbury Park or alternative services in and out of Moorgate. Thameslink services to and from Cambridge will continue to serve St Pancras International.

Long-distance trains to and from the north will start and finish at Peterborough or Stevenage instead, and connecting Great Northern or Thameslink trains will run to and from Finsbury Park, St Pancras International or Moorgate. London Underground services will be available between central London and Finsbury Park on the Victoria and Piccadilly lines. Long distance passengers travelling north from London are advised to start their journey from either St Pancras International or Finsbury Park, which is expected to be very busy.

  • Monday 28 to Wednesday 30 December 2020 – There will be no trains in or out of London King’s Cross and those Great Northern trains will start and finish at Finsbury Park instead. People who need to travel are advised to use alternative services in or out of St Pancras International or Moorgate, or to use London Underground services to and from Finsbury Park.

Long distance services to and from the north will start and finish at Peterborough or Stevenage instead, and connecting Thameslink trains will run to and from St Pancras International. Long distance passengers travelling north from London are advised to start their journey from St Pancras International.

  • Thursday 31 December 2020 to Sunday 3 January 2021 – There will be a reduced service to and from London King’s Cross. Trains are expected to be very busy.

Ed Akers, Principal Programme Sponsor for Network Rail’s East Coast Upgrade, said: “This six-day closure from Christmas Day is essential so we can reach a major milestone on the East Coast Upgrade, which once complete, will bring a more reliable railway for passengers and help meet future demand.

“We know people will want to spend time with their families if they can, but it’s essential that people follow the Government guidance and stay at home or stay local. If you have to travel over Christmas, please check your journey and plan ahead where possible to avoid disappointment.

“We want to thank passengers for their continued patience and understanding whist this essential work is carried out.”

Thameslink and Great Northern Managing Director Tom Moran said: “With most of our network now under Tier 4 restrictions, people are being urged to stay at home. Those who have to travel should check carefully online before deciding to head for the train station. Our service will be affected throughout the Christmas period, returning to normal on Monday, 4 January. We’ll be busier too, helping LNER passengers connect with their trains at Stevenage and Peterborough.

“We’ve worked closely with our colleagues at Network Rail and the other train companies to prepare for this. Together, we’ve also advertised the changes widely on radio, social media, at our stations and in the press. Extra staff will be on hand to help people along the way and we have robust contingency plans in place.”

Between Christmas Day and Wednesday 30 December (inclusive), Network Rail teams will be reconstructing, strengthening and diverting Camden Sewer, which runs beneath the railway just outside King’s Cross. This complex part of the project, which involves lifting a large section of all the tracks that serve the station, can only be carried out safely when there are no trains running in the area for six days. New overhead line equipment will also be installed, as well as work to renew some of the tracks.

Engineering works over Christmas and New Year bring improvements for passengers in Sussex

Passengers who need to make essential journeys should check before they travel as there will be changes to services on a few routes due to engineering works including the Gatwick Airport station upgrade project. Details on individual journeys, including the times of trains will be available in journey planners and on National Rail Enquiries.

People are asked to follow the latest Government guidance over the Christmas period and stay at home or stay local to help tackle the spread of COVID-19. The new restrictions also mean that people should not travel into or out of Hastings, Rother, Havant, Portsmouth, Kent, Surrey or London, which are now Tier 4 areas. 

If you need to travel, please continue following Government advice around the use of public transport – wear a face covering unless you are exempt, travel at quieter times and maintain a distance from other passengers wherever possible.

At stations, we will be deploying extra staff, announcements will make the guidance clear, and additional BTP officers are in place to help keep people safe. An enhanced and rigorous cleaning regime is also in place across stations and trains in Sussex, enabling passengers to make essential journeys in confidence and safety.

Shaun King, route director, Sussex said: “The work we are doing this Christmas and New Year will mean a better, more reliable railway for passengers. We are delivering a vital £150m upgrade to Gatwick Airport station to increase capacity, improve accessibility and transform the experience for more passengers, than ever before.

“Please continue to wear a face covering unless you are exempt, and plan your journey in advance”.

Angie Doll, Managing Director for Southern and Gatwick Express, said: “There will be some changes from the usual festive-period timetable, so please plan well ahead by checking a journey planner, and avoid busy periods if you can.

“If you need to make an essential journey over Christmas or New Year, rest assured we have been working hard behind the scenes to keep trains and stations clean and safe. At all times please remember the three golden rules – hands, face, space: wash or sanitise your hands before and after each trip, wear a face covering and keep a safe distance from other passengers.”

From Sunday 27 December 2020 until Sunday 3 January 2021, there will be changes to Southern and Thameslink services:

  • Southern services between London Victoria and Bognor Regis / Portsmouth & Southsea / Southampton will operate on diversion via Dorking. These services will not call at Gatwick Airport or nearby stations such as Crawley or Three Bridges.
  • Customers at Horsham or to the south that wish to travel to Gatwick Airport should plan to change trains at Horsham and to allow additional time for the connection. Thameslink services will operate on the route between Horsham, Gatwick Airport and London Bridge.
  • Southern / Gatwick Express services between London Victoria and Brighton will not operate Monday 28 December – Thursday 31 December or Saturday 2 January. Customers for Brighton to/from London or Gatwick Airport should plan to use Thameslink services to/from London Bridge.
  • The Thameslink Gatwick Airport to Bedford via Redhill service will start its journey at Three Bridges.

As usual, no trains will be in operation on Christmas Day, and there will be a limited Southern service on Boxing Day.

Passengers can find out how their Christmas journeys will be affected with their train operator, via National Rail Enquiries, or by following #ChristmasRailWorks on Twitter.

Renewed appeals to drivers of tall vehicles to take care after December spike in Kent and South East London bridge bashes

The first half of December has seen bridge strikes in Kent and South East London occurring at nearly double the average rate, leading to renewed calls for drivers to know the heights of their vehicles.

Railway bridges in the county were hit at least 11 times over the first half of December, with incidents recorded at Chestfield, Headcorn, Herne Hill, Kent House, Rochester, Swalecliffe, Orpington, Petts Wood, Sole Street and West Malling.

December has seen almost double the average monthly number of bridge strikes in the county occurring and the rise in incidents reflects the highest number of strikes in the last 5 years.  

The incident at Herne Hill cost nearly a thousand delay minutes to passengers, and the Orpington incident costing 303. The sudden rise is a cause for concern among those managing the Kent Route on behalf of passengers and freight.

Bridge strikes are costly to the network, not just in financial terms, but the costs in delays to passengers and freight.

Nationally, almost six out of ten (59%) of the incidents are caused by HGV drivers, and Network Rail is reminding drivers they can face tough penalties including removing a person’s public service vehicle (PSV) licence.

Automatic camera alert systems have been installed on 6 bridges in Kent to monitor them for movement, as with some  bridge strikes not reported, it is imperative to make sure the bridges remain safe.

Daniel Matthews, Head of Operations for Kent, said: “The early part of December has seen a concerning increase in the rate of bridge strikes on our network. 

“There is no excuse to not know the height of your vehicle before starting your journey.

“As well as putting lives in danger on both road and rail and causing lengthy delays for passengers and road users, drivers who chance it at bridges are at risk of leaving their employers with a hefty bill for repairs and train delay costs, along with a strong threat to their own operator licence.”

To try and combat the number of bridge strikes, adverts are being placed at motorway service station petrol pumps across the country reminding drivers to “Wise Up, Size Up” as “Lorries Can’t Limbo” and drivers should know their vehicle height before they start their journey and to check their route for low bridges.

Network Rail workers give up Christmas with their families to carry out key work on Midland Main Line Upgrade

Around 50 Network Rail workers are giving up their Christmases to carry out vital work as part of the £1.5billion Midland Main Line Upgrade.

Between Christmas Day and Sunday, 27 December, Network Rail teams will carry out work to remove equipment which is no longer needed from the tracks between Wellingborough and Kettering. Over 300 units will be removed, which will create a more reliable railway through reducing the likelihood of track faults, which causes disruption for passengers.

The work will also see a disused building next to the railway demolished. The building is near overhead line equipment and removing it will make it safer and easier for workers to carry out inspections of the electric wires. This means they can fix any faults with this equipment more quickly, reducing delays for passengers. Demolishing the building will also mean Network Rail no longer has to maintain it, which will save taxpayers money.

The Midland Main Line Upgrade is the biggest investment into the line since its construction in the Victorian era and will bring significant benefits for passengers, such as access to faster journeys with more seats available on board more environmentally friendly trains. 

Tom Donnelly is a Project Manager for Network Rail and will be working on this project over Christmas. Tom is based in Derby and joined Network Rail five years ago as a Project Management Graduate.

He said: “Christmas is going to be quite different this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but I’ll still be able to spend some time with my family over the festive period.

“I’m happy to be working on this vital project over Christmas, which will help work on the Midland Main Line Upgrade to progress, as well as to create a more reliable railway for passengers.

“My role will be to manage the progress of the work and deal with any issues which arise to make sure that the work completes on time. I look forward to passengers benefitting from this work and I’m proud to be making a positive difference to their journeys.”

As there are no timetabled services on Christmas Day and Boxing Day on this part of the railway, Network Rail uses this opportunity to carry out major work and avoid disruption for passengers at busier times.

People must follow the latest Government guidance over the Christmas period and stay at home or stay local to help tackle the spread of COVID-19. Those who do have to travel over the festive period are strongly advised to check their journey via National Rail Enquiries or with their train operator.

Hundreds of Network Rail workers give up Christmas with their families to complete major upgrade at Leeds station

Hundreds of Network Rail workers are giving up their Christmases to complete a major £161million investment to build a new platform at Leeds station.

From late-night Christmas Eve until the morning of Sunday, 27 December, Network Rail teams will carry out the final piece of the project to build a new platform, Platform 0, at the station.

Work on this major investment began back in 2018. The new platform is a key upgrade which will boost reliability, allow trains to enter and exit the station more easily and mean more punctual journeys for passengers.

Over the 2.5 days of work, final work to the overhead lines, track and signalling systems will take place, as well as rigorous testing to make sure the platform is ready for train services. Whilst the platform won’t come into full use until the May 2021 timetable change, it will be available for trains to use during times of disruption, helping to minimise delays for passengers.

Adedayo Phillips is a Project Manager for Network Rail and has worked for the organisation for six years. Adedayo will be working on this project over the festive period.

He said: “I’ve worked a fair few Christmases since I joined Network Rail, however, this one is really exciting as it’s the final piece of the puzzle on a project which has been ongoing for the last two years.

“I’ll be out on site with my colleagues over the festive period, and my role will be to monitor and report on progress of this scheme, as well as others elsewhere in the region. This is an important job and will help to make sure that the project completes on time.

“I live in West Yorkshire myself, so I know first-hand the benefits which this project will bring, and I look forward to passengers reaping the benefits of a more modern and reliable railway, which will improve their journeys.”

There are no timetabled services on Christmas Day and Boxing Day on this part of the railway, so the work will not impact on train services.

People must follow the latest Government guidance over the Christmas period and stay at home or stay local to help tackle the spread of COVID-19. Those who do have to travel over the festive period are strongly advised to check their journey via National Rail Enquiries or with their train operator and allow plenty of time.

New line and platform promise improved services for passengers on Midland Main Line

Work to give passengers in the East Midlands and Bedfordshire access to faster journeys with more seats available on board more environmentally friendly trains has taken another step forward this week. 

On Sunday (20, December 2020) the new fourth track between Bedford and Kettering and the new platform at Wellingborough station were brought into use.  These are the latest completed improvements as part of the Midland Main Line Upgrade, which will deliver a brand new, improved timetable for passengers in 2021. 

Gary Walsh, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Midlands Route, said: “This is a really exciting time for all passengers using the Midland Main Line as we start to see the benefits of many years hard work by hundreds of people across the rail industry.

“We’re now working with our colleagues at East Midlands Railway to support driver training and the introduction of electric powered trains on the route, as well as carrying out final testing and assurance with the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). We’re well on track to deliver significant improvements for passengers next year. We’ll also be able to transport even more freight by rail, keeping lorries off the roads and supporting our economy to ‘build back better’.”

At Wellingborough station as well as building platform 4, the existing platforms have been extended and improved to reduce stepping distance onto trains.  The canopies have been refurbished, new waiting shelters, lighting, CCTV and fencing has been installed and the footbridge has been extended to platform 4. Stanton Cross Developments LLP contributed to the footbridge extension as part of its Stanton Cross development.   

Lisa Angus, Transition and Projects Director at East Midlands Railway, added: “The Midland Main Line Upgrade has been made possible by the skill and hard work of so many people, right across the rail industry. As such, these latest milestones are an incredibly proud moment for all of us.

“However, we still have a huge amount of work in front of us to deliver on this investment and introduce the major timetable enhancements in 2021. Pleasingly, despite the huge challenges Covid has created for all of us, that is also on track and we look forward to achieving further milestones in the weeks and months to come.”

Lee Barrett, Operations Director for Bovis Homes and a representative of Stanton Cross Developments LLP, promoters of the Stanton Cross project, added: “Our investment in Wellingborough station is key to the strategic vision for Stanton Cross.  We are committed to creating a sustainable new community with the infrastructure in place to provide excellent connectivity.  The upgraded station stands to benefit all those who will live and work at Stanton Cross.”

Improved reliability following emergency railway works between Ely and Peterborough

Network Rail have replaced 57 pairs of wheel timbers across four bridges in the vicinity of Manea, between Ely and Peterborough.

Following inspections on railway bridges with softwood timbers, 53 pairs of wheel timbers were found to require urgent replacement. These timbers have been replaced to remove the risk of further deterioration which may have led to additional speed restrictions or the closure of the line, significantly disrupting train services.

In addition to replacing four more pairs of wheel timbers than initially planned, 2000 metres of power cabling, 1800 metres of rail and track across Stonea bridge has also been replaced.

To maintain a safe and reliable railway, Network Rail are working with freight and train operating companies to agree a plan to return to Manea to replace more wheel timbers in 2021. These timbers are in better condition so can remain in replace until we return to complete the timber replacement. An update will be published when this plan has been confirmed.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “We’ve successfully carried out important wheel timber renewals in the Manea area to improve the reliability of the train service for passengers between Ely and Peterborough.

“Running a safe railway is my absolute priority and this work was vital to running a safe and reliable railway network for our passengers. I’d like to thank passengers for their continued patience while we carried out this work.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director said: “We understand that engineering works inconvenience passengers, but they are vital for the continued safety and reliability of our railway. Our longer modern state-of-the-art new trains, combined with continued improvement work by Network Rail are together improving our passengers’ journeys.”

As part of the work in the area Network Rail, working in partnership with Taziker, installed a defibrillator in Pymoor Village. The newly installed defibrillator is known as an Automated External Defibrillator. As the name suggests, an Automated External Defibrillator provides an automatic treatment that requires no training or special expertise. Using it cannot harm the victim, but it could save their life.

Network Rail workers give up Christmas with their families to work on major East Yorkshire bridge upgrade

Network Rail teams are spending their Christmases working on a £3.3million project to upgrade a road bridge near Gilberdyke station, instead of enjoying the festivities with their families.

From late-night on Christmas Eve until the morning of Sunday 27 December, major work will be carried out to completely remove the old bridge and put the new, stronger one in place. This will benefit residents and businesses in the area for years to come.

As usual, there are no timetabled train services on Christmas Day and Boxing Day on this part of the railway. Network Rail has taken the opportunity to carry out this major project and avoid disruption at busier times.

In order for this work to take place safely, Staddlethorpe Broad Lane will be closed near Gilberdyke station between 12:00 on Thursday 24 December and 12:00 on Tuesday 29 December. There will be no access over the bridge during this time and a signposted diversion will be in place. 

Ann White is a Scheme Project Manager and has spent the last few months carefully planning the programme of work with the team. Over the Christmas period she will be out on site to oversee the work and make sure it is completed on time and within the budget. 

She said: “I live nearby and understand how important this work to replace the bridge near Gilberdyke station is for people in the community. I’m proud to work on the railway and I am looking forward to being out with the team to complete this major project.

“It will be difficult being away from my family over the Christmas period, but once this work is complete, I’ll still have chance to enjoy some of the festivities.”

Twelve companies chosen to help build a better railway for passengers

Twelve companies have been awarded contracts to deliver buildings and civils work across Network Rail’s Southern region, which spans Kent, Sussex and the South of England.

The three-year contracts which started at the end of November 2020 cover things such as upgrades to station canopies and platforms, footbridges, earthworks which includes drainage and repairs when there has been a landslip, rewiring at stations, lift and escalator renewals and station information.

The contracts have a combined estimated value of around £200m.

As part of the process, Network Rail selected companies which are leaders in innovation and sustainability and could demonstrate a proven track record of delivering social value across the communities in which they work.

The companies are:

General building and civils: Balfour Beatty Rail; VolkerFitzpatrick; Amalgamated construction

Mechanical and engineering specialist: B & M McHugh; Quinn Infrastructure Services

Fabric specialist: BCM Construction; Lundy Projects

Footbridges specialist: Nationwide Rail; Taziker Industrial

Metallic structures specialist: Dyer and Butler; Freyssinet

Earthworks specialist: Dyer and Butler; Taziker Industrial

Masonry and concrete specialist: Nationwide Rail; Kier Integrated Services

John Halsall, managing director, Network Rail Southern region, said: “We have chosen suppliers to allow us to deliver vital new infrastructure and support the overall aims of providing a safe, reliable and efficient railway for passengers.”

VIDEO: Warning to drivers after near miss at East Sussex level crossing

Drivers are being reminded to watch for and stop when red warning lights are displayed at automatic half barrier crossings. 

It comes after a near miss at a level crossing near East Guldeford in East Sussex last month.

The incident occurred during the day on 28th November on the A259 at Star crossing near Rye. 

A driver in a Volkswagen car ignored the flashing red lights stopping just short of the railway line from Rye to Ashford and within the level crossing boundary. 

The barriers then came down on the car and the driver decided not to proceed over the railway, or to exit the crossing area for his own safety. 

A freight train then came through the level crossing at speed with the driver and his vehicle just feet away.

There has been a spike in near misses at level crossings in East Sussex in recent months with this latest incident being the 10th since June. 

Most automatic half-barrier level crossings in Kent and Sussex have safety enforcement cameras fitted with the remaining crossings due to have cameras installed soon.

This is to improve safety and encourage drivers to obeying the red warning lights as required by the Highway Code.

Toby Broyad, Level Crossing Manager for Network Rail, said: “This is a sobering reminder of the dangers of drivers not being alert when driving, and not following the Highway Code. 

“We are investing heavily in ‘Red Light Safety Cameras’ and while luckily no-one was injured in this incident, the police will prosecute drivers who take a risk at level crossings, not just with their own lives but with the safety of our staff and passengers. 

“Many of our level crossings now have safety enforcement cameras and they risk a fine and points on their license should they ignore the warnings and safety of others.”

If members of the public see anyone misusing a level crossing they are asked contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40.

Big names say a big ‘thank you’ in festive film to railway workers

High-profile figures from showbiz, sport and politics today expressed their thanks to frontline railway workers for keeping Britain moving during Covid.

“Thank you to the unsung heroes who work in the railway industry,” says Eamonn Holmes, co-host of ITV’s This Morning, at the start of a festive film shared on Twitter by Network Rail.

Steve Rotherham, mayor of Liverpool City Region, says: “You quite simply have kept the country moving.”

“Getting us to where we need to be safely this Christmas,” says actor and TV presenter Shobna Gulati before Alison McGovern, MP for Wirral South, adds: “You don’t know how much it means.”

To passengers travelling on the railway this Christmas, their message was unanimous:

“Be safe. Be patient. Be kind.”

The two-minute film features the following people:

  • Eamonn Holmes – TV talk show host
  • Bhasker Patel – Emmerdale actor
  • Lewis Moody – England and British & Irish Lions rugby player
  • Simon Calder – travel writer and broadcaster
  • Pete Waterman – president of the Railway Benefit Fund
  • Shobna Gulati – actor and TV presenter
  • Rob Bell – TV presenter and adventurer
  • Alison McGovern – MP for Wirral South
  • Tim Dunn – railway historian
  • Emma Jesson – ITV weather presenter
  • Alex Payne – host of the Good, the Bad and the Rugby podcast
  • Rosie Cooper – MP for West Lancs
  • Andy Burnham – Mayor of Greater Manchester
  • Steve Rotheram – Mayor of Liverpool City Region
  • Andy Street – Mayor of the West Midlands
  • Richie Anderson – The One Show & BBC Radio 2 travel presenter
  • David Flatman – England rugby player turned commentator
  • Shakin’ Stevens – singer and songwriter

Tim Shoveller, managing director for Network Rail’s North West & Central region, said: “I’m thrilled our frontline colleagues, including controllers, signallers, track workers and station staff, have been recognised in this lovely way. Merry Christmas from the railway family!”

The video has been release ahead of the government’s recommended Christmas travel window between 23 and 27 December.

People should reserve seats on long distance trains, travel at quieter times and follow all safety advice to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Click the following links for more information on how Network Rail upgrade work could impact your journey in the North West and Central region.

Passengers are asked to follow Government guidance around the use of public transport this Christmas.

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.

GBRf unveils new Intermodal Service in partnership with MSC

GB Railfreight are delighted to announce the start of an additional intermodal service, which began on 18 November.

The service, which operates to the Port of Liverpool from the East Midlands is in partnership with Mediterranean Shipping Company (UK) Ltd and will run five times a week.

Despite the economic turmoil brought about by COVID-19, GBRf have successfully continued making inroads into the Intermodal market with this being GBRf’s 21st Intermodal service to date. It also shows the resilience and flexibility of the GBRf business model which is built on robust relationships even in times of uncertainty.

In addition, with climate change front and centre of the political agenda, this announcement is further proof of GBRf’s commitment to moving more and more goods in a sustainable way. This is because GBRf are committed to increasing the amount of goods and materials transported via rail freight, reducing emissions and delivering a more sustainable logistics solution.

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, said:

“We are delighted to have begun services between the East Midlands and the Port of Liverpool.  Despite the economic challenges we all face, GB Railfreight continues to grow as a business, and we are showing ourselves to be leaders in the field of innovation and a customer delivery. I couldn’t be prouder to unveil our newest intermodal service – proof we are the industry’s most trusted intermodal carrier.

“I cannot thank MSC enough for allowing us to establish and launch a new service for them. We look forward to developing this partnership even further in the months and years ahead.

“GBRf prides itself on being supportive and committed to long standing and inspiring partnerships. We like to be challenged.  We are delighted to be working with our customer MSC, Peel Ports and Maritime Transport in delivering a new intermodal service into the Port of Liverpool- one which will see 20,000 lorry journeys off our roads.”

Jonathan Burke, Operations Director at MSC UK said:

“We are very pleased to announce that, together with our partners, we have launched the first daily intermodal rail connection between the Port of Liverpool and the East Midlands. This new service enhances our nationwide port and intermodal network, further strengthening the breadth of our offering to clients whilst helping to reduce carbon emissions.”

HS2 launches 2021 graduate recruitment scheme

The opportunity to join one of Europe’s biggest infrastructure projects, and play a role in levelling up Britain, will become a reality for the 17 people who secure a place on HS2’s coveted 2-year graduate programme.

With a major engineering programme ahead, HS2 is bolstering its infrastructure directorate by offering the opportunity for engineering graduates to join the teams charged with overseeing the delivery of the stations, tunnels and viaducts along the 140-mile section of the first phase of the railway between Birmingham and London.

Further graduate opportunities will be created in Project Management, Commercial, Design, Governance and Controls and Communications and Engagement.

Karen Davis, HS2 Ltd’s Future Talent Manager, said:

“We’re committed to ensuring that HS2 leaves a learning legacy and our annual investment in apprentices and graduates helps us to achieve this.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for 17 talented graduates who will be given the opportunity to begin their career working on a truly historic and innovative project”.

HS2 Ltd received over 1,000 applications for its 2020 graduate training programme, which informed the decision to increase the number of graduates it welcomed into the business in September this year. This year, the decision has been taken once again to increase the annual intake from nine to 17 for the 2021 cohort.

Karen added:

“This has been an incredibly difficult year for young people and we’re doing everything we can to support their career journeys. 

“In February we’ll open the recruitment window for our annual apprentice scheme and we’ve already increased the number of work experience placements and mentoring opportunities available”.   

Demand for the 2021 graduate programme is expected to be high and students are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible.

For more information about the graduate programme and the roles available, visit hs2.org.uk/careers/

New animation shows how Leeds’ new £38.5million park and ride will look once complete.

An animation has been released by Leeds City Council to show how the brand new park and ride in Stourton will look once complete in autumn 2021.

The £38.5 million project forms part of Connecting Leeds’ ambition to improve the bus network, provide better connectivity and reduce carbon emissions in the city.

The park and ride will have capacity for 1200 vehicles and will complement the Elland Road and Temple Green sites, catering for trips south-east of the city with access via Junction 7 of M621, A61S and A639. The Stourton site will take over £1.6m car kms off the network into Leeds City centre each year.

It is set to be the first fully solar powered park and ride site and will be served by an electric bus fleet which will run every day. The result of a solar powered site will result in the reduction of 471 tonnes of carbon each year, which is the equivalent of removing 203 cars from our roads. The solar panels will also power 26 electric car charging points and one bus capacity point, meaning electric vehicle users will benefit from a sustainable energy supply.

In addition to this, the bus priority measures along the new corridor linking the park and ride to the city will help to provide quicker and more reliable journey times on existing services. Modelling shows that at peak times, the measures along Hunslet Road and Low Road will provide a 10% journey time improvement for buses.

Leeds City Council’s executive board member for climate change, transport and sustainable development, Councillor Lisa Mulherin, said:

“The exciting development of Stourton park and ride builds on the obvious benefits of people switching to public transport use to reduce their impact on the environment. Solar panels and an innovative battery storage system, paid for with European Regional Development Funding, will provide energy for the whole park & ride site, which will be served by electric buses.”

Cllr Kim Groves, transport lead for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said:

“I’m excited to see the development of Stourton Park & Ride and the positive environmental impact this will have on the local community. With the potential to take up to 1,200 cars off the road and offer improved journey times into Leeds city centre in a fleet of new all-electric buses, projects like this are an important milestone in our ambition to becoming a net-zero carbon region by 2038.”   

Martin Hirst, Commercial Director of First West Yorkshire, said:

“It is exciting to see the progress being made at the Stourton park and ride and we are delighted to have been selected by West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Council to operate the service. This builds on our successful partnership with the existing park & ride network in the city and we’re looking forward to bringing the benefits of this bus connectivity to more people working in and visiting Leeds.

“The new buses will expand our all-electric vehicles in Leeds and are a continued demonstration of our strategy to move to a fully zero-emission fleet across the region in the years ahead. They also enable us to capitalise on the bus priority measures now rolling out across the city, helping to create cleaner air, reduce congestion and give customer reliable journey times in superior comfort.”

HS2 removes over 12,500 lorries from UK roads as first freight train rolls into Bucks site

  • Over 180 freight trains set to deliver material to HS2’s main compound in Buckinghamshire in next 12 months, equivalent to 12,670 HGVs that would otherwise be on Britain’s roads
  • Use of rail freight to this site will cut 30,150 tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of flying from London to Edinburgh 930 times!
HS2 removes over 12,500 lorries from UK roads as first freight train rolls into Bucks site: Calvert freight train

The first freight train has arrived at HS2’s main construction compound in Buckinghamshire, as work continues to prepare for the start of construction across the central section of Britain’s new high-speed railway.

Over the next year, more than 180 freight trains are set to deliver material to the site taking the equivalent of 12,670 trucks (HGVs) off the road and saving 30,150 tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of flying from London to Edinburgh 930 times.

The train – operated by DB Cargo UK and Hanson – delivered 1,650 tonnes of aggregate that will be used in the construction of the temporary Calvert Railhead.

Across the whole HS2 project, 15,000 freight trains are set to be used to haul 10 million tonnes of aggregate to construction sites – taking the equivalent of 1.5 million HGVs off the UK’s road.

The 26,200 sq/m Calvert Railhead site is roughly halfway between London and Birmingham and will be run by HS2’s main works contractor EKFB – a team made up of Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial and Bam Nuttall. EKFB are delivering the 80km central section of the route, including 17 viaducts, 81 bridges and three ‘green tunnels’ and are set to create 4,000 jobs over the next two years.

HS2 Project Client Director, Ambrose McGuire said:

“We are serious about reducing the impact of construction on the local community and promoting sustainable construction methods. That’s why I’m so pleased to see the arrival of the first material into Calvert by rail instead of road.

“We’ve been working closely with Network Rail, EKFB and the Freight Operators for a number of years to make this possible, and to deliver not only low carbon journeys for our passengers, but also cut carbon in construction.”

EKFB Operations Director, Peter Bimson said:

“We are delighted to be at the forefront of carbon reduction in the construction industry, and bringing this aggregate into Calvert by train instead of road is not only more efficient, but significantly reduces our impact on the environment.

“Removing thousands of HGVs from the roads in the Calvert area also demonstrates our commitment to the local community in delivering EKFB’s section of the HS2 project with as little impact as possible.”

At the peak of construction, more than 650 people will work at the Calvert Railhead, stockpiling materials and managing the logistics and construction of the central section of the new railway. Once HS2 is complete, the railhead will be removed and the site landscaped, leaving only a small infrastructure maintenance depot.

The railhead is also next to a section of disused railway which is set to be brought back into local passenger use as part of the East-West rail project which will link Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge. The two teams are working closely together on their construction plans and a bridge will be installed to allow HS2 to pass under the reopened railway.

Upgrade to Avanti West Coast Voyager fleet now complete

Avanti West Coast partner with Bombardier to complete refresh of entire Voyager fleet 

  • All 20 Voyager trains have now undergone an extensive interior refresh
  • £8.3m programme delivered in less than six months by Bombardier
  • Time lapse video captures week long programme of works

Avanti West Coast rolled out its final upgraded Voyager train today (Friday, 17 December) marking the end of a six-month overhaul programme.

The £8.3m investment was completed at Bombardier’s depot in Ilford, east London, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, with customers already benefitting from the trains’ revitalised interiors.

The refresh of the 20 trains includes new Standard Class seats covers and carpets as well as a revamped toilet area. All older lighting has been replaced with more energy efficient LEDs.

The interior bodyside and ceiling panels in Vestibules, toilets and Standard Class saloons have also been refinished in either paint or vinyl wraps. The door grab handles have been coated with an anti-microbial finish.

The full programme of work was captured in a unique time lapse video which can be downloaded here:

Avanti West Coast Senior Project Manager, Adrian Bullock, explained: “This investment has delivered a step change to the Voyager’s onboard environment. Our customers will really notice the difference.”

“It’s given the trains a new lease of life, and they will continue to serve our customers   for the next two years with great distinction.”

The 20 Voyagers operate over the non-electrified sections of the West Coast Main Line in addition to running from London to Scotland, via the West Midlands. They will remain in service until 2022 when Avanti West Coast will introduce a fleet of new Hitachi Class 805 and 807 trains.

Eric Holmes, Head of UK Services, Bombardier Transportation said; “We are very pleased to have completed this project for our friends at Avanti West Coast. The team at our Ilford facility have performed exceptionally well, despite the challenge of COVID-19, and have delivered a high-quality product on time and on budget. We are all proud of what we have delivered to our customer.”

Cleanliness at the forefront as Aurora interiors are designed to be easy to clean

East Midlands Railway (EMR) has been working closely with specialist designers to make sure the interiors of its new Aurora fleet can be kept as clean as possible.

Working with Derby-based designers DGDESIGN, EMR has paid particular attention to the issue of cleanliness when finalising materials and designs for the interiors of its new bi-mode Aurora fleet which will enter service in 2023.

Ensuring public areas are clean has never been more important and issues such as making sure material choices and regular touchpoints are easy to clean have been closely considered and scrutinised. This includes ensuring there are  minimal gaps or ledges in the carriage where dust or dirt can build up. Longevity has also been thought about and the team has gone to great lengths to make sure hard-wearing surfaces were also included in the final design choices – perfect for keeping the interiors fresh looking for years to come.

Rachel Turner, Head of New Trains at East Midlands Railway, said cleanliness had been an mini-obsession of the team designing the new trains – even before the pandemic struck.

She said: “Customers deserve to travel in the cleanest possible environment and of course when everything feels calm and clean people find it easier to relax. Keeping trains clean is a challenge but without doubt design can play a massive part. That is why right at the start of this project, cleanliness was a key priority for us and the team at DGDESIGN. Since then the issue has become even more important to our customers and we have met that challenge using great materials and clever design.

“We are confident that our new Aurora fleet interiors will be easy to clean and maintain, and also long lasting – which is great news for customers who will be travelling on these brand new trains for many years.”


Andy Sykes, Senior Designer at DGDESIGN, said: “One of our guiding principles in this project has been to ‘Do the Basics Beautifully’ – that may sound simple, but in reality even brand new trains often fall short of this ambition, especially when it comes to cleaning. We continually learn from existing interiors, identify areas that are difficult to clean, places which allow dirt to build-up, and focus on designing those out.

“This has included more visible decisions, such as developing colours and materials which are hard-wearing, but a lot of effort has gone into finessing the very smallest details. Throughout the train we have designed-out tight corners, small gaps and ledges which can be tough or time-consuming to clean; details which the passenger may never notice if well-executed.

“Consider the army of night-time cleaners and maintainers working around the clock to deliver trains into service; when the train is fundamentally easy to clean, they are able to focus on the areas that matter most to the passenger. To ensure EMR can continue to deliver day-one cleanliness through the life of the train, every detail matters.”

EMR’s new Intercity fleet, which will be able to run on electricity and diesel, will be built by Hitachi Rail in County Durham and financed by Rock Rail East Midlands. Aurora will offer significant advances on the existing fleet, with passengers benefiting from more seats and modern interiors. The trains will also include features that passengers have said they want to see, including air conditioning, free WiFi throughout, plug sockets and better passenger information screens.