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.”

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.

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.”

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

Conwy Valley Line to reopen this month as £2.2m investment helps protect it from extreme weather and flooding

The Conwy Valley Line, which runs from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llandudno in north Wales, will reopen on 28 September after Network Rail’s £2.2m investment to better protect the railway from extreme weather and flooding has been completed.

The line has washed away because of flooding twice in the past two years, which has meant lengthy closures for passengers and local communities while the railway has been repaired.

The improvements to help better protect the vital line have been entirely designed and built by Network Rail and involve the installation of 16,000 tonnes of rock armour alongside almost 2km of railway between Tal y Cafn and Llanrwst. This will help improve the resilience of the railway during the ever more frequent flooding events in the valley.

This new rock armour slows the water down to prevent it carrying away the railway embankment and leaving the track suspended in the air, which leads to trains being stopped for significant periods.

The newly better protected Conwy Valley line has already been tested as Storm Francis hit the area at the end of August when heavy rain meant access to the site was flooded, but the railway itself was not damaged during the extreme weather.

Conwy Valley Line access flooded following storm Francis

Now the resilience work has been complete Transport for Wales will carry out driver refresher training following the long closure of the line ahead of services restarting on 28 September – a rail replacement service will continue for passengers in the meantime.

Bill Kelly, Network Rail’s route director for Wales and Borders, said: “I am delighted that the Conwy Valley Line is now better protected as extreme weather has forced it to be closed too often in recent years.

“We have worked around the clock in recent months to not just repair the line, but to make it more resilient so we can help to prevent these long closures in the future.

“I would like to thank passengers and the communities we serve along the line for their patience as this significant investment was delivered.”

River Conwy following storm Francis

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “The Conwy Valley line is a vital link for many local communities in north Wales, and this investment will improve the resilience of that crucial route during extreme weather.

“Upgrading the railway defences will help prevent lengthy closures for passengers, avoid frustrating rail replacement services, and deliver a more reliable timetable people can depend on.”

Martyn Brennan, operations director at Transport for Wales, said: “It is great to see our colleagues in Network Rail progressing with work on the Conwy Valley line and we will reinstate rail services on 28th September, following driver route refresher training. 

“I’d like to thank customers for their patience and ask that they continue to check services online.  We will continue to provide transport links using replacement buses.”

Conwy Valley Line

While TfW’s crucial driver training is taking place, Network Rail will carry out maintenance work on the line, such as replacing sleepers. This work was scheduled to be carried out at night-time, but the opportunity to do it during the day when trains are not running means less disruption for people who live near the railway and safer working conditions for railway workers.

Public consultation opens for Ely rail capacity

Network Rail’s first round of public consultation for proposals to upgrade the railway in and around Ely opens today (21st September) and will run for six weeks.

The Ely area capacity enhancement (EACE) programme is a proposal to upgrade the railway to allow more trains to run through Ely. The aim is to  improve connectivity and reliability for passenger services and meet the demand for more rail freight between the Port of Felixstowe, the West Midlands and the north to support sustainable, long-term economic growth. 

Residents and businesses in and around Ely are being invited to learn more about the proposals for the programme as it will be an opportunity for communities around Ely to understand:

  • potential benefits and aspirations
  • the challenges that would have to be addressed to increase capacity
  • current funding position of the EACE programme
  • how the public will be consulted as options are progressed

How the public can have their say

Owing to the current Coronavirus situation and following Government guidance, we are conducting this first round of public consultation remotely to maintain the safety of the public and our staff.

The consultation materials will be available online via our project webpage until 1 November (inclusive). Feedback can be submitted to Network Rail using the online survey accessed via the webpage or by sending comments back to Network Rail using the pre-paid postal form found in the consultation booklet (available in hardcopy on request).

There will also be opportunities for the public to speak to project representatives via webchats at specific times throughout the consultation period as well as by phone:

The Webchat facility is available via the project webpage from 21 September to 1 October on the following days:

  • Mon, Tues, Thurs 10am – 4pm
  • Weds 2pm – 8pm

Our dedicated consultation line 0800 160 1780 is live from 21 September to 3 October on the following days:

  • Mon, Tues, Thurs 2pm – 5pm
  • Wed 5pm – 8pm
  • Saturday 10am – 1pm

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia said: “It is important that we provide opportunities to engage with the communities that could be impacted by our work as it develops. It is even more important that we listen to people and gather their views to help inform our development and design process. By starting these discussions early, we hope to embark on this journey with the community and progress these proposals together, finding the right solution for the railway and for Ely.” 

General comments on the programme can also be sent by email to : ElyAreaCapacityEnhancements@networkrail.co.uk

Hardcopies of the consultation materials can be requested (available from 21 September) by contacting 03457 11 41 41 or emailing ElyAreaCapcityEnhancements@networkrail.co.uk

Project Webpage: www.networkrail.co.uk/ely

Follow us on Twitter @networkrailLST using the hashtag #ElyRail

Passengers warned Crewe signalling failure disruption will continue this weekend

Passengers are being thanked for their patience as engineers continue to fix a major fault with railway signalling affecting trains between Manchester, Stoke, Birmingham and London.

Specialist teams from Network Rail and the signalling system manufacturer are working around the clock in Crewe and at the Manchester South Control Centre to find the fault and fix it.

Signalling panels being worked on during the outage in Crewe

Engineers have repaired and checked miles of signalling cable to try to restore the signalling.

Usually this resolves a signalling outage but the technical team and manufacturer is now focusing its investigations on an unprecedented computer software issue.

The complexity of the fault means that trains will continue to be disrupted this weekend.

Phil James, Network Rail’s North West route director, said: “I appreciate this signalling failure in Crewe is a huge inconvenience to passengers and I’d just like to really apologise. I’ve had engineers working all night alongside the signalling manufacturer to find out what’s gone wrong.

“I’m hugely sorry this is going to have to continue into the weekend. The emergency timetable will remain in place and I’d urge all passengers planning to travel to check www.nationalrail.co.uk as we continue to find the cause and fix it.”

Nick Westcott, Operations Director at Avanti West Coast, said: “This is an extremely unusual situation and, whilst we are working hard with Network Rail to minimise disruption to journeys, we are conscious of the potential difficulty in maintaining social distancing given the much reduced service we are able to run. With that in mind, we are asking customers on our Manchester route to only make essential journeys if travelling between Friday 18 – Sunday 20 September.

“Customers who have booked to travel to or from Manchester, Stockport, Wilmslow or Macclesfield this weekend can travel on any of our Manchester services until Monday 21st September. Alternatively, if customers would prefer to cancel their journey, refunds will be given without any fee being charged.”

The signalling issue is affecting all trains between Crewe and Manchester and Macclesfield and Manchester.

This is having a knock-on impact to services to Birmingham, Stoke, London and the wider rail network.

Passengers are urged to check with their train operator or National Rail Enquiries to find out how their journey is impacted.

For a detailed blog on how Network Rail is working to fix the issue click here: www.networkrail.co.uk/working-to-repair-a-major-signalling-fault-in-crewe/

Flood-damaged Edinburgh-Glasgow Line set to reopen

The Edinburgh-Glasgow, via Falkirk High, railway line will reopen for passengers on Monday (September 21).

Engineers have been working around-the-clock to repair the line which was partially washed away near Polmont when the Union Canal burst its banks on Wednesday, August 12.

The force of thousands of gallons of water flowing from the breached canal bank washed away sections of track and undermined the railway’s embankments along a 300m stretch of the line.

Over the last six weeks, engineers have had to completely rebuild the foundations of the line, replacing over 15,000 tonnes of soil and stone beneath the track.

A kilometre of new double-track railway has also been laid consisting of more than 4,500 metres of new rails and 4,424 concrete sleepers along with 10,000 tonnes of new ballast requiring 27 engineering trains. Over 3,000 metres of signalling cables have been re-laid and two new twin track overhead power gantries installed.

ScotRail has been operating a rail shuttle service between Linlithgow and Edinburgh since Monday, 14 September, to keep customers moving while engineers carried out the extensive repair work.

Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, said: “The scale of the challenge faced by those repairing the damage to this vital route was huge and that they have delivered this so promptly is testament to the hard work and dedication of staff across Scotland’s Railway.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved for enabling services to be restored for passengers sooner than first anticipated. I’d also like to thank rail users for their patience while this work was ongoing.

“It is clear that severe weather events will continue to have an impact on our transport networks in future years to come and that is why we are taking steps to add further resilience by making climate change mitigation a central theme of our National Transport Strategy.”

Liam Sumpter, Network Rail Scotland route director, said: “This line is a vital link between Scotland’s two biggest cities and our engineers and contractors have worked as quickly as possible to get our customers moving again on this key route.

“The damage caused by the floods on August 12 presented a massive challenge for our engineers who had to effectively rebuild a section of the line from the foundations up.

“I’d like to thank our customers for their understanding while we have been working to repair the line and we look forward to reopening the railway for them on Monday.”

Alex White, ScotRail Chief Operating Officer, said: “Network Rail’s engineers have done a terrific job in carrying out extensive repair work to the track and infrastructure, which will allow us to get trains on this vital route operating again from Monday.

“The unprecedented rainfall near Polmont last month had a severe impact on our ability to run services between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and we thank customers for their patience while repairs were carried out.”

Vegetation clearance heralds start of work to get Levenmouth reconnected

Network Rail will shortly begin the first phase of work which will lead to the reinstatement of passenger services to Leven.

Engineers will be carrying out vegetation clearance and site survey and geological investigations to  inform the development of the project which will see the reinstatement of 19 single track kilometres of railway and two new modern accessible stations for the east of Fife.

As part of the Scottish Government’s rail decarbonisation agenda, the line will also be prepared for future electrification.

Ahead of work starting Network Rail has undertaken all necessary environmental and ecological surveys. Where any species have been identified, appropriate methods of working are in place to safeguard species, roosts and habitats of value.

The equipment which will be used to clear the vegetation will include chainsaws, and chipping machines as well as plant and machinery.

This phase of work will also include surveying, drilling boreholes, sampling ballast and extracting core samples to assess the condition of the ground under the railway. A variety of equipment including  boring rigs, and drills will be used all along the line with work ongoing until early 2021.

Graeme Stewart of Network Rail’s Levenmouth project team said: “Although still at a very early stage, it is fantastic to see work happening literally preparing the ground and to inform the design of the line.

“We have been working on developing a range of options which will define what the project looks like and how it is delivered and, as part of this, we have been meeting with and listening to local groups and organisations in the area.

“The development and delivery of the project will be in discreet phases with the first visible work; removal of vegetation to enable site and geological investigation SI/GI the start of a process which will culminate on the community once again having access to the mainline rail network.

 “As well as the promise of better connectivity this scale of investment to improve our transport infrastructure will help to deliver benefits to the economy. It will act as an enabler for growth, provide better access to employment and education opportunities and expanded social and leisure options for people all across the area.”

Shocking image caught on camera of a woman attempting to cross the track at Hilsea, near Portsmouth, with a pushchair

Network Rail is warning passengers about the dangers of trespass after a woman was caught on camera as she tried to cross the track with her pram at Hilsea station.

The incident which happened on 29 August at around midday, was captured by the train’s on-board camera.

It shows the woman walking with a buggy to the end of the platform and down the ramp which leads to track as she was attempting to cross over to the other side of the station.

The driver of the 11.45am South Western Railway Portsmouth Harbour service to London Waterloo narrowly missed the female, who was standing in the area next to the track.

Network Rail is warning passengers they should never get close to the rail or even attempt to cross the track as it might save a few seconds but it could cost you your life as the third rail carries 750 volts of electricity, and trains pass through at speed.

Mark Killick, Network Rail Wessex route director said: “The behaviour at Hilsea station is deeply concerning and shows that people are completely oblivious to the dangers they are putting themselves in.

“This incident could have easily ended in tragedy, and the lives of the woman’s family and that of the train driver could have changed forever.

“It is absolutely vital no-one should ever attempt to either get close to or cross the track.”

Neil Gillies, head of drivers at South Western Railway, said: “Near misses like this one at Hilsea station can also seriously affect the train drivers who witness these incidents. We’re glad no-one was injured, but this woman had a very luck escape.

“You may think walking across the tracks will save time, but it could cost your life.”