We’re steaming towards re-opening. The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway have been carefully following the latest Government advice and guidance to leisure facilities and will re-open tomorrow on Saturday 4th July.
Re-opening day locomotives: The two steam locomotives chosen for ‘Back on Track: re-opening day’ are locomotive number 2, Northern Chief and locomotive number 5, Hercules. Capturing the sense of such a momentous occasion these locomotives also originally opened the line in 1927. Northern Chief pulled the Duke of York’s train whilst Hercules inaugural train on opening day.
We’ve implemented a range of additional health and safety measures to protect our passengers and teams. On Monday 29th and Tuesday 30th June we successfully ran three trail steam trains per day to familiarise the drivers with the new timetable and ensure the new passenger flow had been practiced, allowing us to be confident in a safe re-opening.
Our world-famous steam locomotives will still be the same, but our journeys will be a little different.
Network Rail engineers will be delivering vital upgrade works on the line between Kilmarnock and Dumfries from Saturday, July 4, to Sunday, July 12.
Over two miles of new track will be laid and under-track drainage systems improved at a range of locations between New Cumnock and Dumfries.
Work will also be undertaken to strengthen, repair and repaint several rail bridges between Cumnock and Dumfries at the same time.
Due to the complexity of the engineering work and the heavy machinery involved, these upgrades cannot be delivered without the short-term closure of the line.
Buses will replace trains between Kilmarnock and Dumfries from Saturday, July 4, to Sunday, July 12.
Alan Ross, Network Rail Scotland’s director of engineering and asset management, said: “Rail plays a key role in keeping freight and people moving across the country and these upgrades are vital to the safe and reliable running of the railway in south-west Scotland.
“Our engineers will be working around-the-clock to complete this complex programme as quickly as we possibly can and to keep disruption to a minimum.“
Drivers are being urged to follow in full A5 diversions around Lichfield next week to avoid hitting Britain’s most bashed railway bridge.
It’s feared major roadworks on the A5 near Lichfield could see drivers of high vehicles try to take a shortcut, or follow inaccurate sat-nav directions, directly into the path of St John Street bridge in the city.
Despite being clearly marked with height restrictions, the bridge has been hit 28 times in the last 12 months, making it Network Rail’s most struck.
Bridge strikes cause delays for rail passengers across the country and cost taxpayers millions of pounds each year.
With roadworks starting on the A5 on Monday (6 July), Network Rail is advising motorists to follow Highway England’s diversionary routes which avoid the low railway bridge near Lichfield City station.
Martin Colmey, head of operations for Central route, said: “With St John Street bridge in Lichfield already having the unenviable title of the most bashed in the country, I’d urge all drivers of large vehicles to follow the recommended diversion signs and not their sat-nav during Highways England’s work on the A5.
“There is no excuse for drivers to hit railway bridges. Bridge strikes are entirely avoidable, put the safety of rail passengers and road users at risk, and cost the taxpayer millions of pounds each year to fix. Our message is simple – lorry drivers, plan your route and know, don’t guess, the height of your vehicle.”
Resurfacing work is being carried out at Wall roundabout on the A5, between Muckley Corner and the Weeford roundabout, from 6 to 24 July.
The road will be closed in both directions, between the A46 and M6 junction 2, from 8pm to 6am every weeknight.
Motorists driving high sided vehicles should follow the signed diversion routes, agreed with the local authority, to avoid the Lichfield bridge.
A Lichfield local has set up a Twitter account for St John Street bridge (@LichfieldBridge) because it has been hit so many times.
Drivers are being urged to plan ahead by reviewing then following these diversionary routes.
First body shells for Avanti West Coast’s new trains arrive in the UK
Assembly work will start in earnest at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe factory later in the year
Trains due to enter service on the West Coast Main Line in 2022
The first nine body shells that will become Avanti West Coast’s new fleet of Hitachi trains have landed in the UK.
The more spacious, comfortable, and greener models made by Hitachi Rail are due to enter service on the West Coast Main Line in 2022. They will replace the current diesel-powered Super Voyagers and serve the West Midlands, North Wales and Liverpool.
The aluminium shells landed in the UK this week by sea at Southampton docks from Hitachi Rail’s Kasado factory in Japan, ahead of the train building work that will start at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe plant later this year.
When completed, the fleet will comprise of 13 Class 805 Bi-Mode trains and 10 Class 807 Electric trains. Each Bi-Mode train comprises five carriages. The Electric trains will have seven.
While initial empty body shells of the Bi-Mode fleet will be sent from Japan, the Avanti West Coast order marks an important change in Hitachi’s train building approach. 56 body shells will be fully welded together in the North East, marking an exciting new chapter for Hitachi’s factory, where £8.5million is being invested to allow the full build of trains to take place in the UK. The final assembly, where all components and electrics are fitted, of the entire fleet will take place at the Newton Aycliffe facility.
“Our new trains are really going to make a difference and it’s very exciting,” explained Liam Hockings, Senior Project Manager, New Trains for Avanti West Coast. “Together with our partners Hitachi Rail and Rock Rail West Coast, we will be looking to raise the bar for our customers on the West Coast Main Line route.”
Rock Rail West Coast, a joint venture between Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments, is financing the trains and will be leasing them to Avanti West Coast.
TPE TO INTRODUCE AN ENHANCED TIMETABLE FOR CUSTOMERS
From Monday 6 July, TransPennine Express (TPE) will be increasing the amount of services run in their amended timetable. This further step up in services provides extra capacity on the network for customers who are travelling by rail.
Although there is this increase in the numbers of services being run, there will continue to be restrictions on capacity to help enable social distancing. Seat markers are on board all TPE services indicating what seats are available for customers to sit at.
Customers who are using public transport, including TPE services, should also be wearing a face covering – unless they are in one of those groups who are exempt from doing so, which include children under the age of 11, people with disabilities and those who suffer from breathing difficulties.
Other precautions are being taken to protect customers from Covid-19 (coronavirus) at such as increasing cleaning at turnaround locations, making sure that crew areas are cleaned so our staff can work safely, and focusing on cleaning those areas that people are more likely to touch.
From Monday 4 July, TPE will generally be running the following services. However, customers should continue to check before they travel:
Hourly service between Liverpool and Newcastle
Hourly service between Hull and Manchester Piccadilly
Hourly stopping service between Leeds and Huddersfield
Hourly stopping service between Manchester Piccadilly and Huddersfield
Hourly service between Manchester Airport and Redcar Central
Hourly service between Cleethorpes and Manchester Piccadilly
Two-hourly service between Manchester Airport and Edinburgh
Shuttle service between York and Scarborough
Additionally, there will be limited TPE services between Newcastle and Edinburgh along with Glasgow Central to Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport.
A new shop and upgraded toilet facilities are part of £3m of improvements planned for Ipswich railway station.
Work is due to start this month on a scheme to relocate the ticket office, install more ticket machines, create space for a new shop, refurbish and relocate the toilets and upgrade staff facilities.
At the same time, the station will be rewired to provide modern, sustainable lighting and power.
The work is the second and final phase of a project to improve the station for customers.
Three years ago, Greater Anglia invested £2 million in a host of improvements including a complete refurbishment of the existing foyer and ticket hall to create more space during busy periods, the creation of a large airport-style waiting room as well as more comfortable seats with plug points for charging electronic devices
Additional ticket machines were installed and more shops and retail outlets including Starbucks and Greggs opened at the station.
The station forecourt was revamped, in partnership with Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council with a much-improved layout, including better walking routes for pedestrians, improved bus interchange facilities and better segregation of access between taxis and drop off/meet and greet facilities
Simone Bailey, Greater Anglia’s Asset Management Director, said: “We’re pleased to be starting the final phase of work at Ipswich station.
“There will be minimal impact to customers while the work takes place. It is due to be completed next summer.
“Last year, around 3.5 million people used the station, so we’re pleased to improve facilities for customers who are currently travelling and those who will travel again in the future.”
Government advice currently is to avoid public transport unless you cannot travel another way.
Face coverings should be worn on Greater Anglia stations and trains.
Watford Junction forecourt improvements under way
A project to enhance the forecourt at the entrance to Watford Junction station is under way.
The scheme, being run by Watford Borough Council, will include the installation of large freestanding letters spelling out ‘WATFORD’ (below) to encourage photography and social media usage.
It will see the forecourt transformed into a safe, pedestrian-friendly environment with more open space, plants, paving, lighting, seating and the start of a new heritage trail.
A bike-share bay is also being installed at the front of the station to encourage passengers to cycle into the town centre. The ‘Beryl’ scheme already has 70 bays across Watford.
This project marks the beginning of a series of works at the station, including improvements to the concourse due to be carried out by Network Rail next year.
Sarah Higgins, head of stations for London Northwestern Railway, said:
“Watford Junction is one of our busiest and most popular stations and I am delighted that this project will enhance the approach to the stations for the millions of passengers we cater for every year.”
Peter Taylor, elected Mayor of Watford, said:
“Eight million people a year travel through Watford Junction and I am really excited to kickstart these works to bring our station into the 21st Century. This will make the station forecourt a more welcoming and interesting place and will be a much better first impression for people coming to our town.”
Tina Barnard, from the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said:
“We are delighted to help kickstart the transformation of Watford Junction station, which will provide the modern facilities needed to support a long term modal shift towards public transport.”
In order to facilitate the improvements, bike parking has been moved from the forecourt to a secure 300-capacity bike parking facility in a nearby lane just off the car park entry road.
Prizes up for grabs as teenagers in Worcestershire urged to keep off railway tracks
Teenagers in Worcestershire are being invited to get creative to help to warn others about the dangers of trespassing on the railway – and win prizes along the way.
The Backtrack campaign has been launched by the Community Rail Network following a 25% surge in the number of trespass incidents across the country during the national lockdown.
The Worcestershire Community Rail Partnership (CRP) and West Midlands Railway are urging children aged between 11 and 18 to take part in the campaign by creating a video, song, rap or storyboard which shares the anti-trespassing message.
Six national winners of the competition will receive a state-of-the-art GoPro camera, while anyone living in Worcestershire will also be entered into prize draws to win music vouchers courtesy of the CRP.
Peter Chapman, from the Worcestershire CRP, said:
“Getting the anti-trespass message across to teenagers is so important, particularly at this time of lockdown easing.
“Our CRP is delighted to be able to support locally this national initiative from the Community Rail Network.”
Jonny Wiseman, customer experience director for West Midlands Railway, said:
“Trespassing on the railway is extremely dangerous. It causes thousands of hours of delays every year and can result in serious injury or death. The penalty for going on the railway is a fine of up to £1,000.
“I am pleased to support this campaign by Worcestershire CRP and the wider Community Rail Network and I look forward to seeing the creative efforts of our young passengers.”
Entries are open now until September 30. Videos must be recorded from the entrant’s home or garden – not near the railway – and must not contain any violence.
For more information on the national campaign click here and for more on the Worcestershire competition visit the CRP website here.
Transport for Wales update for public transport users
Transport for Wales (TfW) is issuing a clear update to all public transport users following changes in advice from UK and Welsh governments, urging people to only use public transport for essential travel and where there are no other travel alternatives.
This Saturday will see some pubs reopen in England. In addition from Monday in Wales the rules will change to allow people from two separate households to form one exclusive, extended household. Monday will also see the end of the five-mile ‘stay local’ guidance.
It is anticipated these changes might encourage more journeys, so TfW are reinforcing the message that public transport should be used for essential travel only. This is to ensure there is enough space for key workers and those with no alternative option to continue to travel safely.
TfW has already introduced additional safety measures in their stations and on trains including social distancing, one-way systems, additional cleaning and is encouraging people to follow government advice regarding face coverings.
They are also piloting a ‘capacity checker’ that will allow transport users to plan their journeys based on how busy trains are. This is early on in its development and will be improved gradually over the coming weeks.
James Price, Transport for Wales CEO said:
“The safety of our colleagues and customers has, and will always be, our top priority.
“Covid-19 is an evolving situation and over the next week there are important changes in advice from UK and Welsh governments. However, we need to reinforce our travel safer campaign highlighting that public transport is for essential travel and where there are no other travel alternatives.
Transport for Wales is also updating its timetable based on potential changes in the number of people travelling and is encouraging people to check their journey in advance by visiting www.tfwrail.wales.
DB Cargo UK has announced a new, five-year “hook and haul” contract to transport supplies of sustainable biomass to Drax.
One of the UK’s largest rail freight operators, DB Cargo UK will operate an average of 60 trains per week from the ports of Immingham and Hull to Drax Power Station in Selby, Yorkshire.
Each train will carry around 1,650 tonnes of sustainable biomass to Drax Power Station, which provides flexible and reliable renewable power for millions of UK homes and businesses.
Drax supplies 12% of the UK’s renewable electricity. Using sustainable biomass instead of coal at Drax Power Station has reduced emissions by more than 80% and helped the UK power system decarbonise faster than any other country.[
Drax Engineer and Biomass Train
Roger Neary, Head of Sales at DB Cargo UK, said:
“We are delighted that Drax has chosen to extend our existing contract with them for another five years. We are proud of the important role our people continue to play in delivering an efficient and sustainable source of renewable energy for use here in the UK.”
Mike Maudsley, UK Portfolio Generation Director at Drax, said:
“These rail deliveries are a critical part of our global supply chain for sustainable biomass that supports thousands of jobs and has delivered economic growth across the north of England, while supplying renewable electricity to millions of homes and businesses.
“We’re very pleased to extend our existing contract with DB Cargo UK for another five years and look forward to continuing to work with the team.”
TRAIN operator Grand Central has announced a ‘measured’ return to service following a four-month period of hibernation during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Yorkshire-based company is inviting passengers to book for its West Riding and North East routes, from July 26. Grand Central thanked customers for their support whilst services have been suspended and invited passengers to once again “put their faith” in the company.
Managing Director, Richard McClean, said: “In late March it became obvious to us we couldn’t operate a viable rail service under the Government’s lockdown rules. Social distancing and a ban on non-essential travel meant we had no option but to put our trains to bed and place the majority of our staff on furlough.
“Since that decision we have worked hard to plan every aspect of a safe, sustainable return and we can now see that the lockdown has eased to such a degree for us to begin a measured return to service from late July.”
Mr McClean said the business would resume with two daily return services between Bradford Interchange and Kings Cross and a further three daily return services between Sunderland and Kings Cross. More services will be added as demand increases. Drivers and operational staff will begin their return to work soon and Grand Central is now offering competitively priced tickets with seat reservations for the two routes.
“To be able to once again invite passengers to make seat reservations and buy tickets makes our return very real,” he said. “The values of the Grand Central you enjoyed before the lockdown, such as getting the basics right and caring for our customers and colleagues, are still very much here and we will uphold those values now while ensuring the absolute safety of our passengers and staff.
“We have stayed close to all of the work our fellow train operators have been doing and we’re confident our approach will work for everyone. We’ve engaged in wide-reaching passenger surveys over the past couple of months and we’ve listened to you all on what you expect safe train travel to look like. If you buy your tickets on our website and provide your contact details, we’ll be able to let you know the latest information you’ll need for your journey.
“Grand Central started as just an idea 13 years ago and through the hard work of all our team we’ve become a vital service to communities overlooked by the bigger operators. more
I want to thank those passengers for their loyalty and I invite them to put their faith in Grand Central again as we return to their towns and cities”.
As an Open Access train operator, Grand Central does not receive Government funding and relies on tickets sales. Passenger and staff safety measures will include increased cleaning during the journey and overnight at depots, and protective equipment for staff. Customers will be able to change their date of travel without penalty if their plans change, and Grand Central offers a range of competitively priced refundable tickets.
Passengers who need to travel by rail can help socially distance by skipping station queues and buying their weekly, monthly and annual season tickets from the comfort of their own home.
Customers of Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern can now simply buy season tickets through the train firms’ free OnTrack phone app and tap their Key smartcard to their NFC-enabled smartphone (see editor’s notes) to load them up, saving queuing at the station and ticket machines.
Loading up season tickets bought online in this way takes just a few minutes – much quicker than the two hours it can take for the electronic ticket to arrive for loading by tapping on one of the card readers at the station.
Customers can also view on their phone all the tickets they have on their Key smartcard and the expiry dates – again just by tapping it on to their NFC-enabled smartphone.
Angie Doll, Managing Director of Southern and Gatwick Express, said: “Using our Key smartcard and smartphone technology can really save you time queuing at the station, which will also help you socially distance. It’s one of the many ways we are helping those who must travel.
“Please think, ‘Is my journey really necessary?’ If it is, avoid the busiest times of the day, in particular from 6am to 7.30am, wear a face covering, and wash or sanitise your hands before and after each trip.”
Season tickets loaded on to the Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern Key smartcards can now be used to and from stations on the South Western Railway network, such as Southampton, Salisbury and Winchester. The smartcard is already accepted across Southeastern and Greater Anglia.
E-tickets, which are stored on the phone instead of a smartcard, are also available on many routes to further assist social distancing.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has announced a £35million transformation of Middlesbrough Station to deliver more train services to the town, including the first direct rail link to London in decades.
Mayor Houchen has committed £22.5million to the scheme which, in its first phase early next year, will see a platform extension facilitate more services and longer trains. The extended platform 2 will be able to accommodate new LNER Azuma trains as Mayor Houchen leads discussions with the government-owned operator to restore daily services from Middlesbrough to the capital.
The scheme will also see major customer service improvements at the station including a new £6.5million entrance, with accompanying business units on Zetland Road. A third phase could see a new platform 3 built to the north of platform 2 to further increase train capacity within the station.
The scheme is a joint partnership between the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority, Network Rail, Middlesbrough Council and the Department for Transport, with support from train operators.
Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, said: “For years people have talked about the need to develop this station to get new services but very little has actually been done, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is to deliver increased capacity at the station and help bring us the services the people of Middlesbrough and Teesside deserve. Increasing the frequency of services and train routes is a key part of my plan to for workers, local jobs and wages to restore our way of life once we’re through the pandemic.
“While we will also make major improvements in customer areas, including a modern and much more accessible front entrance, first and foremost this is about increasing the capacity of the station to accommodate more and longer trains.
“I have been leading very positive discussions with LNER and Network Rail to work with them and partners to introduce the first services between London and Middlesbrough in decades and, as they have told me, the increased station capacity is crucial to achieving this.
“Network Rail expects to start work to expand platform 2 in early 2021, and we’re hoping to get confirmation of a service to London in 2021 which would be a great boost for businesses and people in Middlesbrough.
“While there are lots of things to consider when planning the introduction of new services, including the supply of rolling stock, the impact of the recent pandemic and infrastructure upgrades across the rail network, I will make sure we play our part in encouraging the operators to bring new services to our region by getting the station ready as quickly as we can. Capacity is already stretched, and doing nothing is not an option.”
Matt Rice, Route Director for Network Rail’s North and East Route said: “We’ve been working for many months with Mayor Houchen and the other stakeholders involved at Middlesbrough to move forward the long-held aspiration to secure a direct-to-London train service without unduly impacting the services that already serve the town.
“New infrastructure is one part of the solution, and behind the scenes my team are putting together the plans that will see us start building the extension to platform 2 early next year as we start the journey of turning our stakeholders’ ambition to reality.”
A second phase of development will include the refurbishment of the redundant, derelict and dilapidated station undercroft to provide a new entrance into the station subway and newly refurbished workspaces. There will also be changes to the road to the front of the station.
The plans form part of an outline business case with preparatory work expected to start in the autumn, and building work on site in early 2021.
Andy Preston, Middlesbrough Mayor, said: “I’m furious that there are no direct trains to London – this staggering gap in basic infrastructure is a symptom of major historic problems here. So thank God that this is finally being sorted. Well done Ben Houchen and everyone involved.
“Direct trains will boost our progress towards creating the UK’s digital city and countless jobs in the oldest part of Middlesbrough.”
Huge sections of a concrete flyover are being removed in order to build the first direct rail link between Oxford, Bedford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury in more than 50 years.
Three of the largest cranes in the UK are working in tandem to lift out sections of ‘Bletchley flyover,’ which was built in the early 1960s to allow trains travelling from West to East to cross over the West Coast main line.
Since April work has been under way to remove concrete spans so the structure can be rebuilt to modern standards as part of the East West Rail project*.
Now the sections above Buckingham Road, the main route in and out of Bletchley, are being lifted out. One crane will be installed on Buckingham Road itself requiring its closure to traffic from 5 July to August 30.
Tim Shoveller, managing director for Network Rail’s North West and Central region, said: “The work to remove Bletchley flyover as part of the East West Rail project is a hugely impressive feat of engineering. I thank local people and road-users for their patience as the project moves into this next phase over Buckingham Road.
“East West Rail will transform connectivity and journey times across the heart of the country. The resulting low-carbon transport system will bring huge benefits to passengers and businesses – driving economic growth and creating opportunities for housing and new jobs.”
Pedestrian access will be maintained by a protected walkway so people can still cross Buckingham Road throughout the work.
At certain times this won’t be available but when the walkway is closed a shuttle bus, running every 15 minutes, will take people between the train station and bus station.
Jeff Booth, project leader for East West Rail Alliance, said: “This work is a vital part of the East West Rail project to re-establish train services between Oxford and Milton Keynes and the road needs to be closed so that we can carry out the work safely. We appreciate that closing the road can be disruptive to motorists and we’d like to apologise for any inconvenience this causes. We thank motorists in advance for their patience.”
From 1 September -7 December Buckingham Road will then be partially closed to divert gas, electricity, telecoms, and drainage.
Traffic lights will be used to manage traffic and diversions will be in place.
When the road needs to be closed entirely a full diversionary route will be signposted for motorists.