East Midlands Railway is offering one lucky person the opportunity to experience a cab ride on the South Yorkshireman HST

© East Midlands Railway
  • Unique experience to take in a view of the railway like you’ve never seen it before
  • Winner will sit next to the Driver, accompanied by a Driver Manager, from Sheffield to London St Pancras
  • First Class travel provided on return journey
  • All proceeds go to Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity.

First Class rail travel will be provided back to Sheffield (or another EMR destination) at a time of the winner’s convenience that day. On your return journey, you will be treated to a meal in First Class and a free drink of your choice.

The winner will also receive a voucher for 2 people to have afternoon tea at Cocoa Wonderland in Sheffield.

To be in with a chance to win simply:

  • Visit the donations webpage here
  • You must be over the age of 16
  • Donate a minimum of £10, each £10 donation = 1 ticket into the draw
  • Leave us your full name when donating.

The chance to win this exciting opportunity will close on Friday 20th March 2020. 

The winner will be announced on EMR’s social media platforms on Monday 30th March 2020. The winner will then be contacted to arrange a suitable date in conjunction with one of our Driver Managers.

All proceeds raised will be going to Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity. You can find out more about the work the vital work this organisation does by clicking here

Mark Evans, On Train Service Delivery Manager for EMR said “This is a once in a lifetime chance to sit in the cab from Sheffield to London St Pancras on one of our most loved trains, the HST which will sadly not be in service from the end of this year. I want to thank everyone who enters; it is greatly appreciated. This is helping us to raise a lot of money for this fantastic charity, the Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity”.


· Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity licence number 5384
· Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

Longer trains and more seats for passengers across the Midlands

© Department for Transport
  • £2.5 million new government funding agreed to deliver improvements for CrossCountry passengers
  • Longer trains will add more than 20,000 extra seats each week from May 2021 to support passengers
  • Investment will also expand seat and bike reservation service

Thousands of passengers will benefit from improvements on CrossCountry trains including over 20,000 extra seats a week, thanks to £2.5 million invested by the government, the Rail Minister has announced today (24 February). 

Passengers travelling from Birmingham to Nottingham, Leicester and Cardiff will start to see longer trains on some services from May 2020 delivering more than 5,000 more seats each week. A further 15,000 seats per week are planned to be in place from mid-2021, including to/from Cambridge and Stansted Airport to support the region’s commuters, businesses and leisure travellers.

More customers are set to benefit as the Department for Transport (DfT) and CrossCountry finalise plans to deliver thousands more seats on long distance routes each week from December 2020. Longer trains will operate on some services on Mondays to Thursdays on the routes from Scotland, the North East and Manchester to the South West and the South Coast.

The £2.5 million new government funding was agreed by the DfT and CrossCountry to help tackle overcrowding. Work is underway on further improvements in the years to come when more rolling stock will be available, especially for longer distance routes that Cross Country serves.

© Railcam UK

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, said:

“Investing in transport is essential to levelling up the country, as we look to modernise our rail network and restructure the industry to put passengers at the heart of the railway.

“But we want to fund benefits to address pressing needs and improve journeys for passengers in the short-term, as well as in the future.

“More seats mean more people can travel, increasing access to opportunities and better connecting our regions.”

Tom Joyner, CrossCountry’s Managing Director, said:

“We are delighted to now be able to get on and deliver these benefits for our customers, with improvements to the journey experience and three new community groups to bring our train services closer to the places we serve.

“Most importantly, many of our trains have become increasingly busy as more and more people choose rail for their journeys.

“This delivers the biggest increase in seats for our services in more than 13 years, helping customers enjoy a relaxing and comfortable journey every day. These improvements will deliver an immediate boost for rail users in the Midlands, with the promise of even more to come on other routes in the near future.”

Investment will also be made to expand CrossCountry’s seat reservation service to allow passengers to reserve a seat on most services to ensure they can travel in comfort for their journey, as well as to reserve a space for their bike. The investment will also improve communication and signage, pointing to places where luggage can be stored during a journey, both when travelling and as they board the train.

Three recently established Community Rail Partnerships (CRPs) – groups of committed and dedicated people who work with the rail industry and local authorities to promote the line and improve stations, train services, bus links and access – are also being supported. The CRPs for Worcestershire, Heart of England and Bolton will receive financial support to deliver initiatives to benefit local communities, stations and train services.

The funding from government follows an agreement to extend the CrossCountry franchise last summer to October 2020.

The dawn of a new era as Grand Central invests £21 million in trains to serve its new North West route

© Robert Fenner, DB Cargo

Grand Central is investing more than £21 million in trains to operate on its new North West to London route, with the refurbishment of the first locomotive complete with its iconic livery.

The open access rail operator today revealed it has leased 24 coaches and 5 locomotives, to run daily direct services between Blackpool North and London Euston starting later this year.

Four sets of MK4 coaches in six-car formation have been leased from Eversholt Rail until December 2026. The coaches will be maintained at Alstom’s Wembley depot and serviced overnight at Arriva North’s Blackpool depot.

The coaches are currently undergoing a £1.5 million refurbishment at Alstom in Widnes, which will include Grand Central livery and a full interior refresh designed with the comfort of leisure and business passengers in mind.

Each of the trains running along the North West to London route will include First Class carriages, free Wi-Fi throughout, buffet, accessible toilets and baby changing facilities. There will also be wheelchair and priority seating available.

From next month (March), people living in the vicinity of stations along the new North West to London Euston route may spot three sets of coaches (MK4s), as driver training gets underway. These coaches have been secured under short-term lease from Eversholt Rail.

Grand Central has also hired a pool of five locomotives (Class 90s) from DB Cargo UK (pictured). Four of these will be in service at any one time, with one locomotive spare for maintenance purposes. 

These electric, non-tilting trains, will run along the North West – London Euston route, as well as other cleared routes between Blackpool, Preston, Nuneaton, Milton Keynes and London when diversions are needed. The trains will be maintained by DB Cargo UK at Crewe Electric Maintenance Depot. Grand Central’s North West fleet is compliant with disability and accessibility standards (PRM).

Paul Batty, Fleet Project Manager for Grand Central, said: “We are incredibly proud of the work that has been done to bring our new fleet of rolling stock to fruition, starting with our first locomotive ready to begin driver training in a couple of weeks’ time. It’s taken a lot of planning and a considerable team effort to get to this stage and it’s fantastic that our customers will soon be able to see our refurbished Grand Central trains in operation.”

Dave Hatfield, Grand Central’s Fleet Director, said: “We’re delighted to reveal our rolling stock for our new North West to London route. These trains have been chosen because of their proven track record and suitability for the service that we will be operating.

“It’s exciting times ahead and we’re thrilled to be bringing our operational expertise and industry-leading customer service to this new route. We can’t wait to welcome our first passengers on board to experience travelling with Grand Central and look forward to offering more choice for existing rail users and new opportunities for people to travel by train.”

Steve Timothy, Stakeholder Director at Eversholt Rail said: “Eversholt Rail are delighted that Grand Central has chosen our MK4 coaches for its new North West to London rail service. We look forward to working with Grand Central and extending our successful working relationship with the Arriva Group.”    

A spokesman for DB Cargo said: “We’re delighted to be working with our colleagues at Grand Central to provide such a range of valuable services for passengers in the North West.”

Grand Central’s North West to London services were approved in June 2018 by the Rail Regulator, the Office of Rail and Road.

Grand Central currently operates direct trains between towns and cities in Yorkshire and the North East of England and London. The company has an industry-leading reputation for customer service and value for money and a track record of supporting and investing in local communities around its networks.

In a move which is expected to bring significant economic benefits to the North West, including a boost to tourism, Grand Central will operate up to five new direct train services between Blackpool North and London Euston every day of the week.

Blackpool will gain direct services to London on Sundays, as well as later trains to and from the capital on Mondays to Saturdays. Poulton-le-Fylde and Kirkham & Wesham will each have new direct London services throughout the day, seven days a week. 

All trains will also call at Preston and Nuneaton, with most stopping additionally at Milton Keynes, connecting leisure and business travellers to the capital and offering a choice of operator along with great value fares.

Grand Central has successfully recruited train drivers and is in the final stages of recruiting the onboard staff it needs for its Blackpool traincrew hub. More information can be found at www.grandcentralrail.com/careers

  • More information about the Blackpool route, proposed timetable and daily services is available at www.grandcentral.rail.com/blackpool
  • Follow the railway company on Twitter @GC_RailFacebook or LinkedIn.
  • Picture caption: Class 90 locomotive at Crewe Electric Maintenance Depot
  • Picture credit: Robert Fenner, DB Cargo.

A look ahead to Grand Union

Railways to our Core

At Grand Union we are passionate about Britain’s railways. We are committed to the traditional values of providing a high-quality customer service and comfortable journey experiences at a fair price.

Grand Union has been founded with the primary aim of providing a new customer-focused standard of train service, which challenges and changes the current passenger experience. By providing greater passenger choice through competition with existing franchise holders, new journey opportunities that in turn deliver wider economic benefits, and value for money for rail users and taxpayers, we are confident we can achieve this.

As an independent company, Grand Union has submitted its application for a passenger track access agreement requesting to operate a service on the Cardiff to London route. In August 2019, Grand Union resubmitted its application, proposing an extended service from Cardiff Central to Llanelli.

Grand Union has also advised the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) of its intention to operate a service between Stirling and London via the West Coast Main Line.

Llanelli to London

The Initial Route

The service is planned to start in 2021 with calling points of Cardiff Central, Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Bristol Parkway, then express to London Paddington. It will also stop at Cardiff Parkway when it opens.

Grand Union’s trains will cut the current average journey time between Cardiff and London by 20 minutes, with a target journey time of 1 hour 45 mins. Services will be operated by 125mph electric trains released from the flagship routes on the East Coast Main Line.

© Grand Union

The Expanded Route

It is proposed to increase the frequency of this route to an hourly service in 2023, when the route would also expand from Cardiff Central to operate fast to Swansea and Llanelli, with no intermediate calls, with a target journey time to Swansea of 2 hours 30 mins to/from London Paddington. These services would be operated by a new fleet of Hitachi Class 802 bi-mode trains.

© Grand Union

Stirling to London

The Route

This route is planned to start in May 2021 and will operate four times per day. Starting at Stirling it will call at Larbert, Greenfaulds (for Cumbernauld), Whifflet (for Coatbridge and Airdrie), Motherwell and Lockerbie in Scotland and in England at Carlisle, Preston, Crewe, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes, before terminating at London Euston.

The line will avoid the congested Edinburgh and Glasgow stations, giving passengers a faster service without any changes required. Electric trains will be used along the route, with a potential travelling speed of up to 125mph.

© Grand Union

Further reading….

You can read more on the proposed Grand Union routes, including Working Local, All Aboard for a Relaxing Experience and A New Freight Service at the following links,

Llanelli to London – http://www.granduniontrains.co.uk/llanelli-to-london/

Stirling to London – http://www.granduniontrains.co.uk/stirlingtolondon/

Innovation between Greater Anglia and local construction company helps cut carbon emissions

An innovation between Greater Anglia and a local construction firm has helped to cut carbon emissions during a project to build a new platform at a north Norfolk railway station.

Sheringham station platform © Greater Anglia

Coping stones – large slabs of concrete which are laid to create a railway station platform – typically weigh 312kg each.

But thanks to a new design, created between Greater Anglia and Norfolk-based contractors RG Carter, new coping stones used to build Sheringham station’s new platform weighed almost half.

This meant smaller machinery was needed to move the stones and it was quicker and safer to move and install the stones.

Coping stones being installed at Sheringham station © Greater Anglia

The stones are built with a waffle-like profile underneath, creating a more hollowed effect. Despite the reduced weight, the stones have the same strength and have met and exceeded all of the stringent testing required by Network Rail to ensure compliance with the required safety standards as the regular coping stone.

They were produced locally in Sheringham, rather than from another site hundreds of miles away, meaning further emissions were saved when transporting them to the site.

It’s the first time these coping stones have been laid in this country.

The new 80 metre platform is wider and twice the length of the previous, supposedly temporary platform, which was installed in 1967.

Coping stones being installed at Sheringham station © Greater Anglia

Simone Bailey, Greater Anglia’s Asset Management Director, said: “We are always looking for new innovations on the railway, and this project was a great collaboration between the railway and a local business.

“The new platform at Sheringham was needed to accommodate our new trains. We are very pleased with the finished result and even more delighted that we were able to reduce carbon emissions and lessen our environmental impact while carrying out this project.

“We’re very pleased to have delivered this major station improvement for Sheringham to benefit rail passengers and the town.”

More than £1 million was invested in the project, which has seen improved lighting and a new, bigger and better customer shelter installed.

The station can fully accommodate the new trains which started to enter service last year. The new bi-mode trains are all 3 or 4 carriages long, meaning that Greater Anglia can provide more capacity for special events such as the Cromer Fireworks and Worstead Festival, and the busiest days during the holiday season.

Passengers with luggage, buggies and those using wheelchairs all benefit from the improved facilities, complimenting the new trains which are also much more accessible, including a special automatic retractable step, which comes in to use at stations and enables level access at most stations, including Sheringham.

Annual passenger numbers on the line have grown from 200,000 a year to over 700,000 in 2018/19 – an increase of more than 300% – after a series of service improvements, including more frequent train services and station enhancements, combined with promotion from train operators and the Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership.

Heroes of WW2 to be honoured in train namings

GWR to commemorate 75 years since Victory in Europe 

Great Western Railway (GWR) will mark 75 years since the end of World War 2 and peace was declared in Europe by naming six trains after remarkable individuals involved in the conflict.

Those being honoured represent the armed forces, the intelligence services and the world of politics, and remember the sacrifice, bravery and tenacity that helped defeat Nazism. 

Among others, those to have an Intercity Express Train named after them include: 

  • Harry Billinge MBE from St Austell in Cornwall, a veteran of D-Day
  • Wing Commander Ken Rees from Wales, Wellington Bomber pilot who was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III
  • Alan Turing from London, who led Hut 8 at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, responsible for breaking of German ciphers

GWR Head of Communications Dan Panes said:

“Naming trains and locomotives is a long tradition of the railway and one which GWR continues, supporting and promoting the people and communities we serve. 

“I am really pleased we are able to honour some of the heroes of the war effort, continuing to help tell their incredible stories, and especially during this year where we remember all those who gave so much.”

The six trains will be named during March and April in the run-up to VE Day at the beginning of May.

The first of those to be honoured is Odette Hallowes, a French citizen who lived in London and Devon/Somerset. Odette became a Special Operations Executive and the most highly decorated spy of the war. 

A special ceremony will take place at Paddington station and will be attended by members of Odette’s family on Friday 6 March

Odette Hallowes ©GWR

Odette’s granddaughter, Sophie Parker said:

“It means so much to our family that Odette is being recognised and remembered in this most moving way. Odette’s story is one of courage, dignity and hope; all of which were so important to her during her wartime service, and in overcoming the torture she suffered.

“I know Odette would be extremely humbled by this honour, and would want it seen as a tribute to all those brave women of the Special Operations Executive, especially those who never returned home.”

Further details of each of the ceremonies will be published in the coming weeks.

Passengers travelling on Midland Main Line urged to plan ahead this month as key milestone on vital upgrade takes place

© East Midlands Railway

On 15,16, 22 and 23 February, Network Rail will continue with work to electrify the route from London to Kettering and Corby via Bedford. Over these weekends, work will take place to commission and test three new substations along the route, as well as a new 400kV National Grid supply point at Sundon, which will feed power to the railway. This work will help to improve the resilience of the railway and provide more power, which will allow more trains to run in the future.

To allow this work to take place safely, an amended timetable will be in place on both weekends:

Saturday 15 February and Saturday 22 February – Line between Leicester and Bedford will be closed. During this time, no trains will run between Bedford and Leicester with coach replacement services instead.

Sunday 16 February and Sunday 23 February – Line between Leicester and Luton closed, meaning bus replacement services will be in operation between these areas.

15/16 and 22/23 February – Trains will not run between Kettering and Corby. Bus replacement services in operation.

Passengers are strongly urged to check their journey ahead of time via National Rail Enquiries or with East Midlands Railway, as there will be a reduced service in place and journey times will take longer than usual.

Gavin Crook, Principal Programme Sponsor for Network Rail, said: “This is a key milestone in the Midland Main Line Upgrade and brings us one step closer to completing this vital project which will bring huge benefits to passengers.”

“We’re sorry that this work can’t be done without impacting on passengers and we would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused. I’d like to reassure passengers that we are working hard with East Midlands Railway to keep them moving, but we would urge all those planning to travel to check beforehand via National Rail Enquiries or with East Midlands Railway.”

Lisa Angus, Transition and Projects Director for East Midlands Railway, said: “The work taking place over these two weekends in February is a crucial milestone towards completing the electrification of the line between London St Pancras and Corby.”

“We are asking any passengers travelling over these weekends to check our website before they travel as their journey times will be extended and part of their journey will be via a coach replacement service.”

“We appreciate that the work will disrupt our passengers during this time and we are working with Network Rail to ensure we get people where they need to be. We apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

To learn more about the impact of this work on the EMR network, click here.

LNER warn of Storm Dennis disruption


London North Eastern Railway (LNER) is advising customers of disruption to their journeys on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 March as Storm Dennis is expected to bring severe weather conditions to the UK.

High winds and heavy rain are forecast resulting in possible speed restrictions being imposed by Network Rail along much of the LNER route. Reduced services will run across the weekend. As a result, journey times will be longer and short notice delays and cancellations are expected.

Warrick Dent, LNER Safety and Operations Director, said: “We are encouraging our customers with tickets dated for Saturday 15 February or Sunday 16 February to defer travel to Monday 17 February, where possible. “We expect services to be extremely busy throughout the weekend and will have extra staff on duty to help.”

For the most up to date travel information, customers can check www.lner.co.uk or follow @LNER on Twitter.

East Midlands Railway invites customers to meet members of their Senior Management Team

  • Customers invited to Derby and Nottingham stations on Thursday 13 February
  • Hear about Customer Service enhancements for the franchise
  • Opportunity to ask questions and share opinions

EMR is inviting customers to come along to Derby and Nottingham stations on Thursday 13 February.

The EMR leadership team will be there to listen and answer and questions customers have about their experience with East Midlands Railway and for them to hear what EMR have planned throughout their franchise.

Over the next few years, EMR will be investing £600m in improvements to trains and stations; this will help make journeys easier, more reliable and comfortable for passengers. In December this year, EMR will introduce a new timetable which enables the train operator to provide more seats, faster journeys, additional regional services, more Sunday services, earlier and later trains in the week as well as better connections to airports.

If you would like to come and meet members of the EMR leadership team, details are as follows:

Location: Derby station

Time: 16:00 – 17:30

Neil Grabham – Customer Service Director
Matt Stacey – Head of Stations

Location: Nottingham station

Time: 16:00 – 17:30

Sarah Turner – Head of Customer Experience
Dave Meredith – Head of On Train

Neil Grabham, Customer Service Director for EMR said: “This will be the first of many sessions where we will invite customers to come and have a chat to us about their experience with EMR.

This is part of our commitment to provide a way for our customers to ask questions and feedback about our network, trains and services.

“These sessions are well timed, as 2020 is an incredibly important and exciting time for EMR. Throughout the next few years, we will see lots of exciting developments, making a real difference to our customers.

“We are also looking forward to taking the opportunity to provide more information on what we will be delivering throughout our franchise”.

Punctuality on the right track as more trains arrive on time


The number of trains running on time across Scotland’s Railway has improved for the third consecutive period.

New figures for the most recent period of performance (5 January – 2 February) show that 88.4 per cent of trains met the rail industry standard public performance measure (PPM) – the highest since October 2019.

This means that the PPM MAA (Moving Annual Average), a key performance target for the Scottish Government, is 88.5 per cent – staying the name as the previous period when it was its highest for 19 months.

Abellio’s £475 million investment in new and upgraded trains has delivered all 70 of the class 385 Hitachi electric trains, 11 fully refurbished Inter7City trains, and has taken the total number of carriages to 1,016, an increase of 28 per cent since the start of the Abellio ScotRail franchise.

It’s all helping to deliver an even better service for customers across the country, particularly in Fife, where the PPM is 90.4 per cent, the highest it has been since June 2019.

Punctuality improving is just the latest in a string of good news stories for customers, following the huge increase of 10 points, to 89 per cent, in the latest National Rail Passenger Survey, that measured satisfaction with ScotRail.

And just this week, the operator’s class 385 electric train was officially confirmed as the best performing new train in Britain – steaming ahead of every other train in its class.

Alex Hynes, Managing Director of Scotland’s Railway, said:

“Everyone across Scotland’s Railway is working flat out for our customers and the third consecutive period of improvement for trains running on time is another step forward as we deliver the service they expect and deserve.

“Customer satisfaction has soared, punctuality continues to improve, and we are operating the best new train in Britain.

“It’s a fantastic time to be part of Scotland’s Railway, as we reap the rewards of unprecedented investment, including £475 million on new and upgraded trains.”