Network Rail seeks contractor for Forth Bridge walk

Network Rail has begun the process of appointing a main contractor to design and build the new Forth Bridge Experience.

Potential partners are being asked to submit their interest before Network Rail shortlists firms to tender for the project later in the summer.

A main contractor is expected to be appointed by the end of 2020 with work on-site commencing in 2021.

Forth Bridge Experience access point

Plans for the Forth Bridge visitor centre and bridge walk experience gained planning permission from City of Edinburgh Council earlier this year.

Network Rail plans to create a new hub at the iconic bridge where the public will be able to access the world-famous structure and explore its heritage as well as the outstanding views from 367 ft (110m) above sea level.

The project will see construction of a bridge walk and reception centre on the south side of the UNESCO World Heritage site, which will be used for preparing those heading out on the bridge walk as well as providing an access point to the structure.

Groups of upto15 people will put on safety harnesses before being led out onto the bridge’s south cantilever, walking up to a viewing point at the top using walkways built into the structure.

Between three and four groups an hour will be permitted on the bridge, with each tour expected to last around two and a half hours.

It is estimated the bridge walk experience could attract around 85,000 visitors, bringing real benefits to the local community and creating around 35-40 jobs.

Longer-term plans to create visitor facilities at the north end of the bridge are also under development and could see future access to the top of the north cantilever, via a lift.

Forth Bridge Experience platform

Alan Ross, Network Rail Scotland’s director of engineering and asset management, said: “The bridge walk experience will offer the public a unique chance to explore this world-famous structure and bring a real economic boost to the local economy.

“Appointing a main contractor to help us deliver this project will be a major milestone in creating this new attraction.

“This will be a challenging and exciting project for any company to work on and we look forward to working with the wider construction industry to develop a shortlist to tender.”

Basingstoke station hands over supplies to St Michael’s Hospice

Basingstoke station this week donated supplies to a local hospice.

Station manager Jenny Keen said that the station had a collection of biohazard waste bags which were surplus to requirements.

The staff at Basingstoke station contacted staff at St Michael’s Hospice, which has cared for people since it opened in 1991, who said they could make use of the bags.

Commenting, Basingstoke’s Flagship Station Manager, Jenny Keen, said:

“We are delighted to be able to donate these biohazard waste bags to St Michael’s. They were surplus to our requirements, and it’s great that they can be put to good use. St Michael’s does such brilliant work, and we’re really pleased to be able to support them in this small way”. 

Network Rail supporting initiatives to solve railway challenges

Network Rail is supporting 11 of the 25 winning entrants of the Government’s £9.4m First of a Kind (FOAK) 2020 competition to provide a better, more reliable and efficient railway for passengers and freight users.

The competition – funded by the Department for Transport and managed by Innovate UK – encourages innovation in the rail industry by asking companies for ambitious ideas that could transform the railway. The projects that will directly support Network Rail’s Research & Development (R&D) Portfolio include:

  • Demonstrating low cost 10Gigabit+ connectivity for the railway
  • Creating a novel and cost-effective composite footbridge for use on the railway
  • Improving resilience through a surface water flooding decision support system
  • Tunnel and station monitoring using railway optical detection to identify obstructions
  • Integrated optical fibre sensing to optimise rail switches & crossings maintenance

Mark Gaddes, R&D third party funding and engagement manager at Network Rail, said: “We were delighted to encourage innovators to approach Network Rail with their proposals for this First of a Kind competition. The range and quality of ideas put forward was exceptional, and we’re looking forward to working with the winners to improve the railway for passengers.

“This will be particularly welcome when we can encourage more passengers back to the railway, but for now people should continue to follow Government advice around the use of public transport, and only travel if they have to.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The winners of this year’s First of a Kind competition will support better, more environmentally friendly journeys. Crucially, these pioneering projects will also ensure that passengers have a more efficient, reliable and responsive railway, making journeys simpler and easier.”

In addition to the FOAK 2020 competition, Network Rail continues its partnership with Innovate UK to run competitions using the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) approach – where innovators compete for a share of funding to solve a certain challenge.  Winners of the competitions that have been delivered so far proposed a number of solutions to address:

  • Developing detection technology on the ends and edges of platforms to detect and reduce trespass on the railway
  • Automating data processing for railway structure gauging – a process that ensures a safe distance exists between trains and structures such as tunnels
  • Automating tunnel examinations and undertaking security surveillance and analytics to reduce the need for workers to monitor the network and test asset condition manually

Danielle Stephenson, project manager at Network Rail for the safety, security and analytics project said: “As a new member of the R&D team I have been blown away with the excellent ideas and solutions that the companies have come up with so far. I am looking forward to seeing them implemented in a live station environment in September.”

The solutions for all challenge areas under the four competitions will use information technology and machine learning. This provides an opportunity to carry out monitoring faster and generate information that is more consistent than could be achieved through the judgement of people.  It also frees up our workforce to focus on keeping the network safe and available for passengers and freight users, rather than gathering data.

The competitions generated from the combined partnerships between Network Rail, Department for Transport and Innovate UK in the last year have collectively been worth over £15million, with each initiative providing opportunities for smaller organisations to work with Network Rail to bring innovative technology into the railway. This is enabled through the support from Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network.

Kelvin Davies, Innovation Lead for Rail at Innovate UK, highlighted: “As the UK’s innovation agency we are here to support the best ideas from the UK’s most innovative companies. Through working with Network Rail we have seen the strength of interest, quality of applications and enthusiasm. This shows there is a real confidence that businesses large and small can grow by focussing on opportunities in rail. This is vital as we all work together to build a bigger, better and greener railway”.

These initiatives form part of Network Rail’s R&D portfolio for CP6 and will help drive improvements in efficiency and safety in the rail industry through new technology.  The partnership with Innovate UK and the competition opportunities also fit with Network Rail’s desire to be easier to engage and work with as part of the Open for Business programme.

Network Rail opens £14million facility in Doncaster after major expansion project

Network Rail marked the opening of a £14million depot in Doncaster yesterday (Tuesday, 7 July) which will bring highly skilled teams across the borough together. It will also help to boost the economy in the town which is famous for its railway history.

Work began to expand and transform the site at Marshgate, which is close to Doncaster station, in 2015. Almost 600 workers will be based at the multi-million-pound facility, which means teams can work more collaboratively on projects to maintain and improve the railway.

The development will bring the opportunity for future jobs at Network Rail. It is also more inclusive for everyone, with gender neutral facilities such as toilets and changing rooms, and lifts which mean the buildings are accessible.

Network Rail engineers have carried out work to demolish the older buildings on the site and build new, modern facilities. There are also new access roads, footpaths and car parks. Work was completed in July 2019, in partnership with Doncaster Council and Sheffield City Region, to strengthen and heighten Friarsgate Road bridge as part of the project. This means that larger vehicles can use the bridge to get in and out of the depot.

Work on the main building is now complete, but the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted some of the final stages of the project and landscaping work will continue as teams begin to use the facility. Risk assessments have been carried out to make sure workers can continue following social distancing guidelines, with some smaller buildings, which were due to be demolished, remaining to create additional space.

Speaking as he opened the facility, named Mallard House after the famous steam locomotive, Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail said: “As an industry, we have a lot to do as we support people returning to the railway after COVID.  But we have a fantastic history in Doncaster as one of the archetypal railway towns and we have a fantastic history in the name of Mallard.

“I genuinely believe that with the quality of the people we have here and these new facilities to support them, we have a fantastic future as well.”

Rob McIntosh, Managing Director for Network Rail’s Eastern Region, said: “It was important for us to develop this modern £14million depot in Doncaster to celebrate the strong railway history in the town.

“Doncaster is already home to the Flying Scotsman and the National College for High Speed Rail, and this state-of-the-art facility at Marshgate will enhance both the vital work that our teams are doing in the area and the future of the railway.

“It will bring workers from depots across the area together, so that they can work collaboratively to maintain and improve the railway in the region.”

SWR and Network Rail’s anti-trespass initiative recognised by prestigious railway awards

A scheme designed to prevent trespass and cut rail delays has been shortlisted in the National Rail Awards 2020.

Earlier this year, South Western Railway (SWR) and Network Rail submitted a joint entry to the National Rail Awards which highlighted the outstanding work carried out by their Trespass and Welfare Officers. The submission has been shortlisted for the Safety Achievement of the Year category, with the final winner being announced later this year.

Trespass and Welfare Officers were introduced onto the SWR network a year ago as part of a joint initiative with Network Rail. They are on hand at 97 stations across the network to promote the safe use of the railway, identify and check the welfare of vulnerable rail users and intervene where necessary to prevent trespass and tragic incidents such as fatalities from occurring.

The officers were introduced after delays on the Wessex line caused by external factors – primarily trespass and fatalities – had doubled since 2013/14. Since their introduction in July 2019, they have made around 115 crisis interventions and helped to prevent countless delays.

Alessandro Finistrella, SWR’s Senior Security & Route Crime Manager said:

“Since being introduced onto the SWR network in July 2019, our Trespass and Welfare Officers have played a transformational role in keeping people safe and preventing damaging passenger delays.

“We are enormously proud that the immense efforts of these officers have been recognised by the National Rail Awards. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a win!”

Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Route Director, Wessex said:

“We’re delighted that our Trespass and Welfare Officers are being recognised in this way.

“The railway is at the heart of every community; it carries millions of passengers every year and impacts on hundreds of thousands of people, whether through stations, level crossings or those living alongside it.

“Our officers work hard to keep people safe, and they will continue to do so”

Network Rail begins vital lift improvement work at Luton Airport Parkway station

Network Rail has issued the following press release about the replacement of lifts at Luton Airport Parkway station:

Later this month, Network Rail will begin a major project to upgrade all of the lifts at Luton Airport Parkway station in a £900,000 investment which will make them more reliable.

From Monday, 20 July, Network Rail engineers will be removing the old lifts on platforms 2, 3 and 4 and installing new ones. This will improve passenger experience at the station by making the lifts more modern and reliable.

The project will mean major changes to how people use the station as the lifts will not be able to be used whilst this work takes place.This means that there will be no step-free access to platforms 2, 3 and 4, as well as the main entrance, until the project completed in November.

During this time, additional staff will be available to help passengers with heavy luggage on the stairs and escalators. Passengers who require step-free access should contact the dedicated assisted travel team in advance on 0800 058 2844 or email assistedtravel@thameslinkrailway.com to make alternative journey arrangements.

Closing all three lifts at the same time means that the project to replace them can be completed much quicker than if they were closed separately, minimising the overall disruption for passengers.

Passengers are reminded that they should continue to avoid public transport where possible. People who have to travel must also wear face coverings, which are mandatory on public transport. Some passengers are exempt, including young children and people with hidden disabilities or breathing difficulties.

Network Rail is strongly advising passengers who need to travel and require assistance to allow plenty of time for their journeys, as they may need to change trains, or get on and off their train at an alternative station, and then use a taxi shuttle to get to the airport. Passengers can find out how their journeys are impacted by visiting networkrail.co.uk/LAP.They can also check before travelling via National Rail Enquiries or with their train operator.

Gary Walsh, Route Director for the East Midlands for Network Rail, said: “We would like to apologise in advance to any passengers who will be impacted by the closure of the lifts at Luton Airport Parkway station.

“This lift replacement work is essential to improve reliability and, in the long run, will make moving around the station easier.

“We are working with Govia Thameslink Railway to keep disruption to a minimum. We advise passengers to plan ahead and allow plenty of time for their journeys.”

Jenny Saunders, Customer Services Director for Thameslink and Great Northern, said: “We thank our passengers for their patience while this vital work is carried out, and we continue to work with Network Rail, East Midlands Railway and Luton Airport to minimise the inconvenience.

“We will have extra staff on hand to help people with heavy luggage up and down stairs. We recommend passengers who need step-free access to contact our assisted travel service in advance, by phone or email, and we will arrange support to travel via an alternative station at no extra cost.”

Neil Grabham, Customer Services Director for EMR said: “From Monday 20 July, we are advising any passengers travelling to or from Luton Airport Parkway to allow extra time for their journey due to the lift works taking place.

“As there will be no step-free access to the main entrance from the platforms for the duration of this work, any passengers who require step free access are advised to contact the assisted travel service.

“We would like to thank our passengers for their patience during this time.”

SWR’s newest Community Rail Partnership achieves national standard

The newest community rail group on the South Western Railway (SWR) network has been recognised by the Government for its work in serving the Haslemere to Farncombe area.

Surrey Hills to South Downs Community Rail Partnership (CRP) – which grew up from the adoption work, including a volunteer run hub at Haslemere, and only officially formed 12 months ago – is the second CRP wholly on the SWR network to achieve the Department for Transport’s coveted accreditation status. It comes just a few weeks after Purbeck CRP achieved the standard.

Accreditation requires the not-for-profit partnership to demonstrate good organisation, tangible achievements from the last 12 months, clear and transparent governance, and a clear, financed plan for the forthcoming year.

CRPs work to help further connect the railway with the communities they serve. They were initially set up to encourage people to use their local railway services, especially during off-peak times, however more recently CRPs have worked closely with train operators to encourage diverse involvement, as well as supporting social and economic development.

In the past year, the CRP has delivered Rail to Ramble leaflets promoting routes accessible from stations, worked with SWR to refurbish the hub and improve the structure, as well as linking up with the operator’s volunteer Community Ambassadors to deliver a Try the Train session for local St Barts primary school. With funding from SWR, the CRP has employed its first line officer, who started during the pandemic, and is already working closely with partners involved to discuss potential projects to further link the railway with the communities it serves.


SWR’s Community Rail Manager, Andy Harrowell said: “We are really pleased to see this new CRP take such an important step forward and be accredited. It really is a positive reflection on those involved to have achieved this at such an early stage of their development. There’s a lot of passion for sustainable transport amongst the partners, especially to access the local beauty spots and attractions in the area and I look forward to working further with the CRP to support their plans, especially post pandemic.”

County Councillor Nikki Barton, who chairs the CRP’s steering group said: “We are really pleased to have achieved accreditation. It took a lot of work by those involved, however it really does demonstrate how well setup and run we are – giving further confidence to our existing partners, including the South Downs National Park, Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Watts Gallery and local authorities, as well as potential new ones. This also means we can apply into additional funding streams, which will further help to deliver our aspirations for the five stations along the line.”

“Tales from the Track” treats Avanti West Coast fans to a driver’s view

  • Eight-part video series gives viewers experience of inside a driver’s cab
  • Features commentary from two experienced Avanti West Coast drivers
  • Aims to inspire the next generation of railway drivers

Avanti West Coast has treated those missing rail travel to a new video series giving viewers a fascinating insider-look from the unique viewpoint of a train driver.

The eight-part video series, Tales from the Track, was recorded during lockdown and showcases the West Coast Main Line from inside the driver’s cab of an iconic Pendolino.

Using a front-mounted digital camera, the series guides viewers with uninterrupted views, complemented by commentary from two experienced Avanti West Coast drivers who discuss points of interest and impart their wisdom along the way. 

The vignettes highlight the ‘best of’ of the inter-city operator’s London Euston to Glasgow Central route, featuring stunning scenery. This is combined with soothing tones of drivers, Darran Townsend and Dave Egerton, providing the voice-overs throughout.

With over 50 years driving experience between them, Darran and Dave provide anecdotes and interesting facts about the West Coast Main Line from The Great Train Robbery in 1963 where £2.6 million was stolen, to accounts of 2am journeys through the Lake District under a full moon with 360 degree views of snow-capped mountains. For the diehard rail aficionados, Darran and Dave also recall the 1937 record breaking steam engine journey which accidentally broke the speed limit on the approach to Crewe, having just set a speed record of 114mph with its 6220 Coronation Class engine.

Darran, a Driver Team Manager at Preston, is a third-generation railway man, who followed in his father’s footsteps. Dave is a Driver based out of Manchester Piccadilly and his sister and two sons also work for Avanti West Coast.

The train featured in the video, Pendolino 390001, departed Euston on the 12:10pm service and took four hours and 55 minutes to complete the journey at an average speed of 82mph.

It is hoped the videos will help comfort customers who have missed travelling with Avanti West Coast, as well as inspire those considering a career as a train driver.

Speaking about filming the footage, Dave said: “I’m so proud to say I’m a train driver. I really couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else,

“It’s a real privilege to have been able to chat with Darran and share some insight in what it’s like to drive high speed trains. There can’t be many better office windows.”

The series is available to watch on Avanti West Coast’s website and will also be rolled out across the company’s social media channels.

Website URL: https://www.avantiwestcoast.co.uk/tales-from-the-tracks

Highlights from Tales of Track

While each leg of the journey has its own delights, there are some features of the West Coast route to look out for across the 8-part series:   

  • Watch out for a glimpse of the M1, as you sail past traffic at speed during the M1 and Kilsby tunnel instalment of the journey.   
  • Thrill in the brisk getaway of the Pendolino on its speedy 125 mile per hour journey (full tilt) through Rugby station.   
  • Listen to fascinating stories including the 1963 Great Train Robbery where £2.6 million was stolen to accounts of 2am journeys through the Lake District under a full moon with 360 degree views of snow-capped mountains.
  • And be sure to enjoy the final moments in the series, as the train draws into the beautiful architecture of Glasgow Central station, the final destination.

Big step towards new bridge at Eridge station in East Sussex

Vital work to remove and reconstruct a footbridge at Eridge station in East Sussex took place over the weekend. The work was needed due to the age and condition of the old structure, in order to protect the safety of those using the bridge and the trains operating below.

Eridge station serves the rural district in East Sussex with Southern trains services via the Uckfield branch of the Oxted line. The existing staircases and bridge are being replaced with a new modern-designed footbridge.

The platform canopies at Eridge station will also be refurbished, improving the overall passenger experience for passengers commuting to London or visiting the Spa Valley Railway.

Paul Harwood, regional investment director for Network Rail, said:

“Construction of a new footbridge at Eridge is essential to maintain access across the railway between the lineside communities.

“The age and condition of the old bridge structure meant that continuing to maintain it was not an option as we have to maintain a safe access for the people who use the bridge and for the trains travelling below.

“The new bridge will be installed in two months’ time and deliver a safe and reliable walking route over the railway which will be of benefit for years to come.”

Angie Doll, Managing Director for Southern and Gatwick Express, said:

“On behalf of our Eridge passengers, we welcome this major investment in modern safety and comfort standards, and we are delighted that Network Rail have made such good progress on the project.

“While we are encouraging people to follow Government advice around the use of public transport, we thank those who do currently have to use Eridge station for their patience during this vital work.”

Mark Dodd, Customer Service Manager at Spa Valley Railway said:

“We are delighted to be working with Network Rail, BAM Nuttall and Govia Thameslink Railway on replacing the footbridge in Eridge.

“The new footbridge will be a significant improvement for our customers connecting from the mainline service. The level of detail in the project is very welcomed and I’m sure the finished product will be a much improved Eridge Station for everyone.”

“Please check our website www.spavalleyrailway.co.uk for the latest information on our fundraising efforts during Covid-19.”

Toilets at Reading station reopened following major refurbishment

The toilets at Reading station have reopened to the public today (6 July), following a £380,000 major refurbishment of the facilities, during the recent lockdown.

The new, revamped, toilets have been furnished with high-quality materials and state-of-the-art plumbing systems to manage the needs of the 25 million passengers who pass through the station each year. Facilities for passengers with reduced mobility have also been upgraded, along with baby changing facilities.

The male and female toilets have benefitted from new tiling, new flooring, new toilets with flush sensors, new sinks and brand-new Dyson hand dryers. The men’s facilities have also benefitted from individual urinals.

Both sets of toilets also contain new artwork, reflecting Reading town centre.

Andy Phillips, Network Rail’s station manager for Reading station, said:

“This investment is part of our ongoing work to make Reading station a welcoming, accessible and pleasant place for passengers, as part of our ‘Putting Passengers First’ programme. While we’ve maintained and repaired the existing facilities over the years, a complete overhaul was needed and this is what we have delivered.

“This refurbishment work will provide people with clean, modern, reliable and comfortable facilities that benefit the second busiest interchange station outside of London.”

The attended toilets are open to passengers, free of charge, between 7am and 7pm every day.

Other improvements at the station have taken place other last few months, including new customer information screens, hand sanitiser units across the station and the repainting of all waiting rooms.

Reading station recently celebrated its 180th birthday in March of this year. A graphic timeline artwork is still visible at the station.

In early 2020, Reading station took the top spot in overall satisfaction (94%) in the National Rail Passenger Survey.