Track Renewals between Taunton and Exeter St Davids set to improve journeys for passengers

From Sunday 27th September to Saturday 3rd October Network Rail will be working day and night to renew track in order to improve line speed between Taunton and Exeter St Davids 

Currently, there is an emergency speed restriction between Taunton and Exeter St Davids due to newer trains running on older sections of track.

The work will involve engineers taking out and replacing old track and ballast to restore the original 100mph line speed, prevent delays and to provide more reliable journeys for passengers.

Network Rail urges passengers to check before they travel as there will be a replacement bus service running between Taunton and Exeter St Davids.

Jason Pankhurst, Network Rail Project Manager said:

“We are carrying out major track renewal and enhancements to the railway line between Tiverton Parkway and Exeter.  Once completed we will not need to return to the area to replace the track for at least 25 years. At the same time we have other projects being carried out both at Hele and Bradninch level crossing as well as Tonedale near Wellington.”

Celebrations in store for Sussex railway depot

Nestled away in the Arun district of West Sussex is a workplace home to hundreds of dedicated railway workers – and today marks the 25th anniversary of the site’s operations.

From train drivers and conductors, to on-board supervisors, driver managers and station teams, Southern’s Barnham depot is one of Govia Thameslink Railway’s biggest bases and is steeped in local family history.

Formed in 1995 with the amalgamation of the company’s legacy depots including Littlehampton, Bognor Regis and West Worthing, the depot was created at Barnham to provide a base for drivers when the Bournemouth service launched in the mid-90s.

Richard Yardley, 39, is a Driver Manager at Barnham who swapped the skylines of Dubai for suburban Sussex in 2016 and hasn’t looked back since. “The Barnham depot is a very special part of the local community. There is a real sense of family here, helped by the fact that many of our people have had parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents all working on the railway and at Barnham depot itself. When I joined over four and a half years ago, I realised that it’s the best job I’ve ever had. There’s a sense of comradery and togetherness in the railway that you just don’t get anywhere else.”

Although previously working for airlines, a career on the railway was destined for Richard with both his grandad and great-uncle former train drivers. It seems this trend is very much still alive at Barnham – with different generations of the same family all working under one roof.

Terry, 58, Lee, 38 and 35-year-old Adam are all members of the Laird family who work as train drivers at the Barnham depot. Terry Laird started his career at Barnham on the day the depot opened and says the best part of the job is working within the community. He says: “I joined the railway when I was just 17 and worked in various roles in the north of the UK. Unfortunately, the company I was with at the time were going through a part-closure, so I had to look for work elsewhere and that’s when I found the opportunity with Southern.

“It’s amazing to have both of my sons follow in my footsteps to become train drivers and even better that we’re now all part of an even bigger family at Barnham. The depot is a huge part of the local community and we’re really pleased to be celebrating 25 years of history here.” said Terry.

Richard had grand plans for the 25th anniversary of Barnham depot including inviting back retired staff for the celebrations, but this has unfortunately been postponed by Covid-19. However, the occasion won’t go amiss as decorations and historical memoires will adorn the depot for all staff to enjoy.

Opened in September 1995, the Barnham depot is now home to a total of 156 drivers, 90 onboard supervisors and 36 conductors and is led by the area operations manager, Tom Guiney. The depot even has its own football team called The Windmills, who run fundraising matches and events to raise money for Children with Cancer UK. It continues to be a vital part of the community, employing many generations of Sussex families past and present.

Wales’ Transport Minister critical of Westminster’s package of ‘new’ investment

Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates has written to Grant Shapps MP, the Secretary of State for Transport, citing significant concerns about the recent announcement of an “additional” £343m of funding for railways in Wales.

In his letter, Ken Skates breaks down the different elements of funding listed in the recent package. He explains how, despite their talk of ‘levelling up’, this offer falls short of fair funding from the UK Government, and why the underinvestment of rail in Wales, together with the fragmented way in which infrastructure is planned, will not achieve the UK Government’s own ambitions.

He writes:

“It appears very little of this funding package is actually ‘new’. Many projects in the announcement have already previously been announced, the £58m for Cardiff Central station, for example. In fact, some of this package, such as the funding for valleys electrification, dates back to 2014.

“A disparate collection of ad hoc projects across Wales does not constitute an ‘ambitious programme’.  Our plan for Metro systems across Wales give us the ability to move towards genuinely integrated public transport systems, but sadly the announcements in this package were made without reference to, or join up with, this overarching vision.

“Some of this announcement does not qualify as investment at all.  £76m of the package accounts for cost-overruns on the south Wales mainline electrification programme.  This is money that didn’t lead to anything extra for Wales, but merely reflects the poor management of that particular project.

“Finally, and most importantly, in the context of the many billions of pounds of investment going into the rest of the UK network, this package does nothing to address the significant and ongoing underinvestment in Welsh rail infrastructure. 

“Our research clearly shows that when one takes into account more than £50bn of investment planned for the English rail network over the next decade, a conservative estimate of the underfunding of Welsh railways between 2001 and 2029 is £2.4bn.  This figure is even higher if one were to calculate it by the size of the Welsh network relative to the rest of the UK. 

“That scale of underinvestment can be seen in the strained infrastructure in many parts of Wales, something that has undoubtedly impacted on our productivity and economic performance, as well as contributed to other transport bottlenecks, as the recent Burns Commission Interim report into congestion around the Brynglas Tunnels so clearly demonstrates.

“Wales has not seen the level of investment in infrastructure enhancements seen in other parts of the UK.  I believe only through devolution of rail infrastructure powers to the Welsh Government with a full and fair funding settlement to go with it can this situation be addressed.”

North Yorkshire bridge renewals to make railway more reliable for passengers

Multi-million pound bridge upgrades are taking place on the Settle to Carlisle line in North Yorkshire to make the railway more reliable for passengers and freight.

A £2m Great North Rail Project investment will see the overhaul of two bridges in Craven this autumn.

Both old bridges will be demolished with two modern structures lifted into position by crane.

The essential work means the railway between Skipton and Kirkby Stephen will need to be closed between Saturday 24 and Wednesday 28 October.

During this time train operator Northern will run a replacement bus service.

Passengers are advised to check before they travel at www.nationalrail.co.uk

Nathaly Oshodin, scheme project manager for Network Rail, said: “I’d urge passengers planning to travel between Saturday 24 and Wednesday 28 October to think ahead so they know what to expect from their journey while the railway must be closed for this essential bridge work.

“We thank local people and passengers for their patience while we carry out this £2m renewal as part of the Great North Rail Project, securing the future of the railway for passengers for decades to come.”

Steve Hopkinson, regional director at Northern, said: “The Settle and Carlisle Line is one the most picturesque across the whole rail network and the work being carried out by Network Rail will ensure future generations can continue to experience this beautiful part of the north of England.

“We are working closely with Network Rail to keep disruption to a minimum and will provide a good rail replacement service to make sure our customers can still get where they need to be.”

John Moorhouse, chairman of the Settle Carlisle Railway Development Company, said: “Whilst any temporary line closure causes inconvenience, especially during school half term holidays, such work is necessary to secure the future of this iconic railway line and benefit the many people who use it for a variety of purposes.”

The two bridges in Stainforth will be replaced as part of the Great North Rail Project – a rail industry effort to deliver better stations, track and trains across the North.

Passengers asked to nominate customer service heroes

South Western Railway (SWR) customers are being asked to share their stories of individual staff members who have gone above and beyond to provide excellent customer service.

This comes as part of National Customer Service Week, which SWR is using as an opportunity to showcase how these customer service heroes have made a real difference.

SWR is committed to putting customers at the heart of everything it does and is looking to celebrate the hard work and dedication of colleagues who have helped made journeys easier, more enjoyable or safer during this difficult time.

NCSW 2020

Have a great story about a train guard recovering your phone? Has a member of station staff helped you or a loved one to get where you needed to go? Customers can submit any story, big or small, about frontline colleagues who have made a difference to them.

Shortlisted colleagues will be profiled and celebrated throughout National Customer Service Week on social media between Monday 5 – Friday 9 October. Customers can nominate their ‘hero’, including a brief description, here: southwesternrailway.com/ncsw

The deadline for nominations is 2pm Friday 2 October. 

Alan Penlington, Customer Experience Director, said:

“National Customer Service Week is a great opportunity to celebrate the hard work and dedication of our frontline colleagues who have helped deliver excellent customer service.

“These have been difficult times, but our SWR team has been helping customers, including many key workers, to get where they need to be throughout the crisis.

“So, we’re giving customers the opportunity to say thank you to frontline staff who have made difference to them by nominating someone as a ‘Customer Service Hero’.”

Restored Zero Mile post returns to York

London North Eastern Railway (LNER) is proud to reveal the restored Zero Mile Post has returned to York Station.


Mile posts were a historic system used by railway companies to measure lines and calculate fares, with ‘Zero Posts’ marking the start of where each line was measured from.


Ten lines or routes shared a Zero Post located at the centre of York Station although it is thought that the original may have been melted down as part of the wartime drive for scrap metal.


A replica post which was installed in 2004 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of The North Eastern Railway has now been reinstalled after being restored to reflect York’s rich railway heritage.


LNER Managing Director David Horne, said: “LNER is proud of our heritage in York, a city with a rich history steeped in the railways.


“It is wonderful to see the Zero Post return to its home in York station and looking so magnificent. Although distances between our destinations have not changed, the speed, comfort and service offered to our customers has been transformed. It is great York remains home to this important piece of history from the era of the North Eastern Railway.”


The North Eastern Railway was formed in 1854 and inherited all sorts of mile posts, sometimes measured from unlikely places. In 1905 it was decided to re-measure all North Eastern Railway lines using a standard system.


Chairman of the North Eastern Railway Association, Neil Mackay, said: “The post became a celebrity after it was installed, though many were puzzled by the line initials shown. Our association is delighted to have helped maintain the links between today’s railway and its predecessors.”


The Zero Post has been cleaned and repainted by the North Eastern Railway Association and is now displayed in the original location near the stairs between platforms 5 and 9.

Network Rail improves historic Darlington bridge ahead of 195th anniversary

Network Rail has carried out improvement work on Skerne Bridge, the oldest railway bridge in the world in continuous use, before its 195th anniversary this weekend.

Teams in Darlington have removed plants and weeds which were growing out of the stonework on the bridge and have cut back some of the trees next to the railway. Managing the vegetation has made Skerne Bridge more visible for people in Darlington and will help to keep trains running safely and reliably.

Work has also taken place to remove the graffiti on the bridge and repaint sections of it. Network Rail has worked closely with the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust and Darlington Borough Council to brighten up the area and bring the bridge closer to its former glory.  

Skerne Bridge officially opened on 27 September 1825 to carry the Stockton and Darlington Railway over the River Skerne. This was also the first time members of the public could travel by steam train. The bridge is on Historic England’s ‘100 Places’ list* and appeared on the five-pound note.

Today, services on the Darlington to Bishop Auckland line run over Skerne Bridge, which is around half a mile from the East Coast Main Line.

Paul Rutter, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Coast Route, said: “Skerne Bridge is a vital part of our railway history, and I’m proud of our teams for carrying out this work ahead of the 195th anniversary, so it can be celebrated by people in Darlington and showcased to those visiting the town.

“The bridge carried the first passenger trains and it will remain an essential part of Darlington’s railway for years to come.”

Graeme Bunker-James, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, said: ‘’The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust is pleased to have been able to help deliver a step change in the appearance of this important structure as the countdown to 2025 gets underway. 

“As the custodians of Darlington’s modern manufacture of steam locomotives, it is wonderful to see the world famous location recognised as the birthplace of the public railway fit for the celebrations.”

Councillor Heather Scott, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, added: “I am delighted that this work has been carried out by Network Rail in time for the bridge’s 195th anniversary. Darlington has a rich railway heritage and this bridge forms a key part of it and will no doubt feature in our forthcoming plans to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the railways in 2025.

“This is an important piece of railway history and it is vital that it is protected and maintained for future generations to use and enjoy.”

GB Railfreight Announces Contract Renewal with Tarmac

GB Railfreight (GBRf) is delighted to announce Tarmac has renewed its contract for five years from January 2020 to 31 December 2025, for the transportation of aggregate materials. The contract will include the supply of hopper and box wagons from GBRf

This is an extension to the current contract which covers the northern package of Tarmac’s rail operations, encompassing services mainly from Arcow and Swinden railheads in North Yorkshire to a variety of destinations including Leeds, Hull and two sites in Manchester.

The new contract builds on the successful relationship that has been established since GBRf started services in the northern package over four years ago in January 2016.

Managing Director of GBRf John Smith said:

“We are absolutely delighted to have signed a contract extension with Tarmac. Our relationship goes back many years and we have built on the strong partnership forged in 2016.

“During the ongoing pandemic, we are doing our bit to keep the economy moving and our partnership with Tarmac is testament to that. We look forward to working with Tarmac in the months and years to come to spur the recovery of the construction sector.”

Chris Swan, Head of Rail at Tarmac, said:

“Effective use of the rail freight network is key in supporting the UK’s transition to a net-zero society and supporting a green recovery as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. Collaborative working has a vital role to play in this and we’re looking forward to continuing our relationship with GB Railfreight as the industry focuses on continued modal shift, as well as driving forward efficiencies and innovation.”

Sussex local in the running for prestigious railway accolade

Laura Lee is Sussex born and bred and has worked on the railway for over 20 years. She is being recognised in this year’s Community Rail Awards, having been shortlisted in the Outstanding Volunteer Contribution category.

Last year, the mum of two took on an ambitious project to recognise the efforts of railway staff during World War One in the run up to the centenary of the Great War. Initially, the project looked into the fates of those who had been based at her own station – Arundel – but it quickly snowballed as people encouraged her to extend the research to neighbouring stations.

Laura, 50, spent hours combing through records to collate the names, ages, roles and fates of those who served to ensure their sacrifices are not forgotten. For railway workers that didn’t make it home, Laura included locations of where they were buried after checking and cross-referencing details with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The extensive research covers 27 stations and has now been handed over to the West Sussex records office as an official historic account.

Laura Lee said: “I’m delighted to be recognised in the Community Rail Awards. What started out as a personal project grew and grew and I became engrossed in the research. I’m glad that it has now been made into an official account of history because it’s very important that these people are not forgotten.”

Howard Clear, Arundel Station Manager added: “We were all really impressed by the amount of work and effort Laura put into her research – it was truly above and beyond her day job. We felt it only right to display her work on the concourse at Brighton station with regimental flags for all to see. It’s even better to see that Laura is now getting official recognition for her work, we’ll have our fingers crossed for the results.”

Govia Thameslink Railway is shortlisted in a total of four categories at the Community Rail Awards 2020, which will take place virtually this year on Wednesday 9th December for community rail groups, station partners and the rail industry. See the full shortlist here: https://communityrail.org.uk/events-training/community-rail-awards/community-rail-awards-2020-shortlist/

Preston station’s historic glazing gets identical looking modern replacement

A major restoration project on Preston station’s glazed frontage is complete making it safe and reliable for passengers on the West Coast main line.

The £600,000 Great North Rail Project investment has seen the North side of the 140-year-old station transformed with new glazing and a specially designed window frame system.

Last upgraded in the 1960s, the wooden frames on the listed building were badly rotten making panes of glass vulnerable to falling out in bad weather.

Working closely with conservation experts, the wood has been replaced with an identical looking modern aluminium frame, and poly-carbonate windowpanes have been installed.

This means the side of the roof – known as a gable end – will need much less maintenance in future and will make the modern glazing safe and secure for decades to come.

Carl Simpson, scheme project manager for Network Rail, said: “Preston Station is one of the jewels in the North West railway’s crown, so we had to get new gable end looking identical to how it was originally. The wooden-frames and glass were in a sorry state and needed a 21st century solution to fix a 19th century problem.

“We worked closely with Preston City Council’s conservation officer to make sure our upgrade was spot on. We’re glad they could see the benefit in changing from wood to aluminium, and from glass to poly-carbonate, so this Great North Rail Project investment could secure the station frontage for passengers and people in Preston for years to come.”

Work to replace the ‘gable end’ was challenging as it is 14 metres above several tracks on the West Coast main line – one of Europe’s busiest mixed-use passenger and freight railway lines.

A massive 150-tonne scaffolding structure was built in just 36 hours when the railway was closed over Christmas 2019.

This meant engineers could carry out work safely above the 25,000 volt overhead power lines which power trains.

The roof upgrade was completed in 24 weeks. It saw the removal of the old ‘gable end’, designing of the replacement, repairs to the main structure and installation of the glazing system itself.

The total investment for the station, which is managed by train operator Avanti West Coast, was £600,000*. 

Shirley Ross, Avanti West Coast station manager at Preston, said: “We’re proud to have supported the refurbishment of one of the original features of Preston station and would like to thank customers for their patience during the works. Bringing this part of the roof back to its former glory has transformed the station and will enhance the experience for customers travelling to and from Preston.”

For more stories on how Network Rail manages its heritage buildings and structures click here: www.networkrail.co.uk/stories/railway-heritage