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.”

New multi-million pound train depot opens in Wigan

© Northern

Network Rail and Arriva Rail North (Northern) have unveiled a £46m state-of-the-art train depot in Wigan.

The depot will provide a new base from which many of Northern’s new trains will be cleaned and looked after – giving the operator more flexibility to maintain its fleet, streamlining processes and, ultimately, improving performance and punctuality for customers

© Northern

The facility, which was officially opened earlier today (Friday) by local politicians and rail industry representatives, was built by Network Rail as part of the Great North Rail Project. It is located next to an existing freight train yard at Springs Branch in Ince-in-Makerfield and has created 18 new jobs in the area.

Ideally located on the West Coast main line, the depot delivers valuable flexibility for the railway. It provides extra space for Northern to stable and maintain 24 electric and eight diesel trains overnight in preparation for services across the north the following day.

© Northern

Cllr David Molyneux, Leader of Wigan Council said: “This is a fantastic new facility for Wigan Borough and we hope the enhanced travel experience encourages passengers to visit Wigan.

“Supporting people into work and helping people to develop their skills is a key priority for the council so it’s great to hear that 18 new jobs have been created to facilitate this. I’m thankful to have been invited along to the official opening of the depot, not only as cabinet member for economy and regeneration, but as a proud councillor of Ince ward.”

Chris Burchell, Managing Director of Arriva UK Trains, said: “I’m proud of the teams that have been involved in building this new £46m facility, which is part and parcel of a wider transformation of rail in the north.#

“We’ve already rolled out 62 of the 101 promised new trains and set strong foundations for future improvement on the network, including the complete removal of pacers by May.”

Lauren Rodgers, project manager at Network Rail, said “The rail industry has come together to build this £46m new train depot at Springs Branch, and we’re really happy to have created 18 jobs.

“But, this much-needed infrastructure will really benefit passengers, as it not only helps keep trains clean and tidy, it also creates more operational space for Northern to move units more reliably and punctually across the north west.”

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Northern passengers have been victim to unreliable and overcrowded services for too long, and this £46m is just one part of our efforts to improve journeys and level up infrastructure.

The new depot at Wigan is one of many real and tangible improvements to the network, supporting new, greener, more accessible trains right across the north.”

Yvonne Forvargue, MP for Makerfield, said: “Today’s official opening marks the result of several years construction and a collaboration between so many arms of the rail industry to deliver this fantastic project.

“This is a real economic boost for Wigan and the rail network in the North will benefit as a result. Its success will ensure a much better passenger experience as new trains are rolled out over the coming months.”

The £46m investment by the Department for Transport involved 3,400m of new track, 42 new pylons and 2,600m of new overhead line equipment. Five new service platforms have been built and 1,750m of walkways for staff to operate the facility safely.

As well as general train maintenance and stabling, the depot delivers train washing and refuelling facilities to help provide the best possible service for Northern’s customers.

First new railway in 50 years between Oxford and Bletchley takes major step forward

Region & Route: London North Western North West Central

The first direct rail link in more than 50 years between Oxford, Bedford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury has been given the green light for further work.

Today (Tuesday 4 February) the Secretary of State for Transport approved Network Rail’s Transport and Works Act Order application, granting permission for work to begin on the next phase of East West Rail.

East West Rail phase 1 & 2 geographical route map
© Network Rail

Once complete, phase 2 of East West Rail would connect communities and businesses between Oxford and Bedford, and Milton Keynes and Aylesbury, with:

  • Two trains per hour each way between Oxford and Milton Keynes
  • One train per hour each way between Oxford and Bedford
  • One train per hour each way between Milton Keynes and Aylesbury

The new railway will also connect the Great Western main line, Chiltern main line, West Coast main line and Midland main line – providing passengers with much-improved cross-country rail links from East to West.

This would help create jobs, boost economic growth, encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport and enable sustainable housing development for generations to come.

Computer image of proposed new Winslow station looking West from Buckingham Road
© Network Rail

Tim Shoveller, managing director for Network Rail’s North West & Central Region, said: “Building a new railway would transform connectivity and journey times across the heart of the country. East West Rail promises to provide a greener, low carbon transport system which will bring huge benefits to passengers and businesses – driving economic growth and creating opportunities for housing and new jobs.” 

Cllr Mark Shaw, chairman of the East West Rail Consortium, an alliance of local authorities which produced the original business case for the scheme, said: “This has to go down as one of the most exciting weeks in the history of East West Rail, with approval to begin major construction of the Western section coming just days after the preferred route between Bedford and Cambridge was announced. East West Rail will transform the way people travel within and across the region, supporting communities, boosting businesses, unlocking job opportunities, and getting people out of their cars. The Consortium and the local authorities along the line will continue to work with Network Rail and its partners to ensure the western section is now delivered as quickly and smoothly as possible.”

Computer image of proposed new Winslow station looking North-East from platform level
© Network Rail

With phase 1 between Oxford and Bicester already complete, phase 2 involves track and signalling upgrades between Bicester, Bedford, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes, including reinstating a disused section of railway between Bletchley and Claydon Junction, north of Aylesbury Vale Parkway.

East West Rail: mothballed section of railway between Bicester and Bletchley
© Network Rail

The work will deliver significant improvements to local travel, with the phased introduction of new rail journeys between:

  • Oxford and Milton Keynes: with trains stopping at Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow and Bletchley.
  • Oxford and Bedford: with trains stopping at Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow, Bletchley, Woburn Sands and Ridgmont.
  • Milton Keynes and Aylesbury: with trains stopping at Bletchley, Winslow and Aylesbury Vale Parkway
Computer image of proposed new Bletchley station looking north
© Network Rail

The East West Rail project is planned to be built progressively in phases, and once constructed would create a world-class rail link connecting Oxford, Bicester, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge.

For more information you can visit: www.networkrail.co.uk/east-west-rail/

Transport Secretary Hails New Horizons for Rail Travel Across Europe

  • Transport Secretary Grant Shapps welcomes new direct Eurostar rail connection between London and Amsterdam
  • Passengers will no longer have to disembark in Brussels to clear passport control before continuing their journey to London
  • New non-stop journey will have environmental benefits and increase efficiency

Grant Shapps today welcomed a new direct Eurostar rail connection between the Netherlands and the UK which will help improve journeys for passengers and businesses. 

Speaking after watching the first return journey arrive from Amsterdam to London St Pancras station this morning, Mr Shapps praised the new service, which will mean passengers returning from Amsterdam or Rotterdam will no longer have to interrupt their journey and get off the train at Brussels to go through UK border controls.

The more efficient route will also bring benefits for the environment by incentivising passengers to choose the greener option, with Eurostar estimating their trains produce between 80 and 90% fewer emissions than the equivalent short haul flight.

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said:

“We’re continuing to invest in modern, efficient transport links with the continent so our businesses and tourism industry can flourish.

“The days of passengers being forced to decamp from the train at Brussels to file through passport control will soon be over, as we look forward to direct, return, high-speed services to Amsterdam and beyond.”

The announcement comes on the day that the Government launches the next UN climate conference COP26 with a year of climate action and announces new action to reach its legally binding target of net zero UK emissions by 2050. [Have just brought this up higher]

Eurostar has carried over half a million passengers (570,000) from London to Rotterdam and Amsterdam since first launching the service two years ago. This number is expected to grow significantly following the launch of the return service and will mean that the UK will have seamless high-speed rail links with three major European cities.

The new greener journey comes as the Government today launches the next UN climate conference COP26 with a year of climate action and announces new action to reach its legally binding target of net zero UK emissions by 2050.

Minister for Security , Brandon Lewis, said:

“I’m very pleased to see today’s announcement from Eurostar. Our new agreement with our EU neighbours will make the journey from Amsterdam as quick and seamless as possible, while keeping borders secure.

“The UK’s ongoing cooperation with international partners shows, without doubt, that the UK is open for business with Europe and the rest of the world.”

Eurostar has had direct services from London to Amsterdam and Rotterdam since April 2018 but the government is finalising an agreement with France, Belgium and the Netherlands to enable passport checks to be conducted at juxtaposed border controls on departure in the Netherlands.

Juxtaposed border controls are reciprocal arrangements, underpinned by bilateral treaties that deliver a high level of border security. They enable border fluidity, maintain security and allow goods and passengers to undergo entry checks prior to arrival at their destination.

Northern Stations Named ‘Best in Cheshire’

© Northern

Arriva Rail North (Northern) is celebrating success after several stations claimed gongs in the annual Cheshire Best Kept Stations Awards.

Cheshire is the only English county with a Best Kept Station competition and this year’s awards were held at The Grange Theatre in Northwich – with Rose Hill claiming the crown of the county’s Best Kept Station.

Around 150 guests were in attendance, including Mayoral representatives of every Borough that constitute the former county of Cheshire.

Northern was proud to be the main sponsor for the awards, having worked closely with local community rail groups during the past 12 months – it was the efforts of these local heroes that were recognised on the night.

Chris Jackson, Regional Director at Northern, said: “We were delighted to be the main sponsor of the Cheshire Best Kept Stations Awards for 2019.

“The event is a celebration of volunteers and the local railway community, who through their incredible skills, passion and hard work, help to brighten up stations across the county.

“As well as creating attractive and welcoming station environments, they are also enabling community groups to cultivate and develop their own unique talents.”

The night saw the following Northern stations scoop awards and recognition:

Rose Hill – Best Kept Station Award

Greenbank – Cheshire West and Chester Award

Sandbach – Cheshire East Award

Altrincham – TfGM Award (TfGM & Northern)

Padgate – Halton and Warrington Award

Marple – Best Staffed Station Award 

Handforth – Morris Homes Award

Goostrey – ACoRP Campaigns Award

Alderley Edge – Roberts Bakery Award for Most Improved Station (Commendation)

Heaton Chapel – Morris Homes Award (Commendation)

Holmes Chapel – Morris Homes Award (Commendation)

Knutsford – Cheshire East Award (Commendation)

Nine Days of Changes for East Lancs and Calder Valley Rail Services – Plan Ahead Plea

© Northern

Northern and Network Rail is urging customers in East Lancashire and the Calder Valley to check before travelling as there will be nine days of changes to services to allow vital canal bridge repairs to take place later this month.

Between Saturday, 15 February and Sunday, 23 February, Network Rail will upgrade two railway bridges over the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in a £3.95million investment which will make sure that train services can continue to run reliably for years to come.

To allow this work to take place safely, the East Lancashire line between Colne and Blackburn will be closed. This will mean changes for passengers who travel on the route to and from Blackpool from Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Bradford.

Passengers are urged to check their journey ahead of time via National Rail Enquiries or with their train operator as journeys may take longer than usual, you may need to change trains and some bus replacement services will be in place.

Passengers are advised that bus replacement services will be in place on the below dates:
• 15-23 February between Blackburn and Colne.
• 15-16 and 22-23 February between Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley Manchester Road and Hebden Bridge.
• 17-21 February between Blackburn and Accrington.

Matt Rice, Route Director for Network Rail’s North and East Route, said: “This vital work will help to keep train services running reliably for years to come.

“The work does mean changes to services later this month, so I would urge passengers using this line to check before travelling as there will be significant changes to services, including bus replacement services.

“We are working hard to keep disruption to a minimum whilst this project takes place, however I do understand that this will have an impact on passengers. I am sorry for that and I would like to thank them for their patience during this time.”

Chris Jackson, Regional Director at Northern said: “The vital work being carried out by Network Rail will provide our customers with a more reliable railway for many years.

“We will continue to work closely with colleagues across the rail industry to minimise the impact on our customers and I’d like to thank our customers in advance for their patience and understanding while the work is completed.”

The East Lancashire line is used by passengers travelling between Blackpool, Preston, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, via Accrington and Burnley.

To plan journeys and check for the latest travel information, visit www.nationalrail.co.uk.