RH&DR Back on Track – re-opening

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 plan to re-open on Monday 12th April 2021.

RH&DR will be continuing with our enhanced range of health and safety measures to protect our passengers and teams. These measures include Perspex screens between each carriage compartment, one way systems around our catering outlets and gift shops, social distancing markers and more.

RH&DR are proud to be awarded the ‘Safe Travels’ accreditation from the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Find out more about we’re ‘Steaming Safely’ here: https://www.rhdr.org.uk/health-and-safety/

Pre-booking will be essential to avoid disappointment: https://www.rhdr.org.uk/timetables/

Our world-famous steam locomotives will still be the same, but our journeys will be a little different.

Trial running

From July to December 2020 we successfully ran trains with the enhanced health and safety measures in place. Passengers continued to give us excellent reviews assuring us that we were maintaining our usually high standards. See the latest reviews here: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g1166969-d266676-Reviews-Romney_Hythe_and_Dymchurch_Railway-New_Romney_Kent_England.html

In addition to the enhancements mentioned we’ll be running trial steam train journeys on some weekends in March and April to familiarise the drivers with the new timetable allowing us to be confident in a safe re-opening. Please note that access to the stations will remain unavailable but if you spot us steaming around on your daily walk – give us a wave!

Re-opening week locomotives

The steam locomotives chosen for ‘Back on Track: re-opening week’ are locomotive number 2, Northern Chief, locomotive number 3, Southern Maid, locomotive number 6, Samson and locomotive number 9, Winston Churchill.

Thank you

We’d like to thank all of our fans who have shown so much support over the past 12 months. Whether you’ve brought a ‘Supporters’ item (https://rhdr.vticket.co.uk/section.php/23/1/support-us), helped us to fundraise (https://www.rhdr.org.uk/fundraising/) or simply provided motivation and a positive message for us online, we’re hugely thankful.

We’d also like to thank the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport, National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England for awarding us funds from the Culture Recovery Fund which has allowed us to continue with several projects such as station and track maintenance during our temporary closure period.

Thank you to the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Association and their members for the continued support of the railway. In particular, we’d like to thank them for the financial contribution from the Winter Works Fund which has helped us to maintain our track and retain the unique skills of our staff over the winter months.

The Staycation Express returns with a stunning new look…..

One of the undoubted successes of a very different 2020 season was the Staycation Express. Operated by Locomotive Services Ltd under the Rail Charter Services banner, heritage diesel traction with MK3 first class coaches were utilised on the world famous Settle – Carlisle line, the first time a scheduled diesel hauled service has graced the line for many years.

The 2021 edition takes a very different look, with new traction, a new livery and a new destination! Heritage diesel locomotives are to be replaced by recently retired HST sets, complete with a striking new livery. In addition to this, you will now be able to enjoy a longer ride as the late morning departure from Skipton will now run right through to Carlisle.

© Rail Charter Services

‘The Staycation Express’ Summer 2021 season Thursday 4th March 2021

Following the success of ‘The Staycation Express’ last year plans are currently being finalised for the 2021 season including new rolling stock and an expanded route. Features include:

  •  Route expansion through to Carlisle
  •  A newly refurbished classic InterCity 125 train with 5 coaches
  •  All leather reclining first class seating
  •  Large pictorial windows and power points
  •  Enhanced catering buffet counter and premium ‘at seat’ dining car
  •  Dynamic fare pricing
  •  Covid secure Perspex screens between every bay of seats
  •  New branding and livery

The train will run two return trips a day between Skipton, Settle, Appleby and Carlisle daily except Fridays between mid July and early September (dates/times still to be finalised) The rough timings are:

0930 Appleby to Skipton

1130 Skipton to Carlisle

1500 Carlisle to Skipton

1730 Skipton to Appleby

Adrian Quine – Director of Rail Charter Services Ltd said: “A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to build on the success of The Staycation Express last year. We are working closely with our partners and stakeholders with innovation at the heart of everything we do and look forward to announcing further initiatives soon”

We anticipate making further announcements regarding the train livery, exact timetable and on-board service offerings in April.

Passengers can register their interest at www.railcharterservices.co.uk

You may have seen driver training/route refreshers commencing this week, captured by our cameras, with former East Midlands Railway HST power cars 43058/059 working from Crewe to Carlisle, along the Staycation route.

Mission Complete (Well, Almost…..) – 125 Group purchase 43044.

125 Group is delighted to announce the acquisition of a further two MK3 HST trailers, one to join the permanent fleet and one as a spares donor. This brings our HST MK3 fleet to a permanent total of eight vehicles.

The make up of this is a TGS (44000), 3x TS (42111, 42119, 42337), 2x TF (41057 and 41067, which has a disabled toilet), plus 2x TRFB (40730 and 40741). This allows us flexibility in both extra catering capacity and redundancy of the restaurant/buffet vehicle itself.  TS 42120 is anticipated to become the spares donor, but this could be subject to change based on full condition assessments.

Further to this, we have some more exciting news in that we can confirm purchase of HST power car 43044 from Porterbrook. The Trustees would like to extend their thanks to two particular long serving group members who have very generously funded the purchase of this power car – they are both highly dedicated to the cause and 125 Group owes them huge gratitude – thank you!

125 Group’s 43044 stands in the Power Car bay at Neville Hill depot on 18th February 2021 ©125 Group

The purchase of 43044 will help us achieve one of our famous core objectives, to own a power car that is powered by the original Paxman Valenta Engine, with a Marston Cooler group. This will join our existing two VP185 power cars, allowing us to show a significant portion of the HST story, but not all of it quite yet – if you’re an MTU fan, you’ll need to wait a little longer!

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Porterbrook for again supporting us in our aims – there is no doubt we would not have succeeded without their generous support and help. We also extend thanks to our friends at East Midlands Railway for assisting us in the handover of 43044.

Visit the 125 Group website for more information – https://www.125group.org.uk

125 Grup HST Depot Appeal #Depot125 – https://www.125group.org.uk/depot/

EMR and Porterbrook salute iconic HSTs

©East Midlands Railway
  • HSTs will be retiring in May 2021, after 39 years of service on the Midland Main Line
  • Record breaking Power car repainted in its legacy colours 
  • The Power Car will be preserved by the National Railway Museum in York

East Midlands Railway and Porterbrook are paying tribute to the iconic HSTs by painting power car 43302 into the Intercity Swallow livery and reinstating its original number 43102. 

©East Midlands Railway

Operated by East Midlands Railway (EMR) and owned by Porterbrook these much-loved trains will be retiring after 39 years of service on the Midland Main Line, making way for newer fleets to join EMR in time for the May 2021 timetable change.

©East Midlands Railway

Power Car 43102 famously broke the Intercity World Speed Record in November 1987 when it reached 148.5mph between Northallerton and York during a test a run. Although it was formally renumbered to 43302 by its previous operator, today it regains its original number 43102 and the livery it carried when it broke the record.

©East Midlands Railway

To this day the HST remains an iconic piece of British engineering and a much-loved part of the railway while continuing to serve passengers on the Midland Main Line. It remains a true testament to TCB Miller and his design team at the BR Railway Technical Centre in Derby, who took the train from concept to working prototype in 2 years.

©East Midlands Railway

Upon its retirement in May, after 43 years’ service, this Power Car will be donated by Porterbrook to the National Railway Museum in York, joining power car 43002 which carries the name ‘Sir Kenneth Grange’.

©East Midlands Railway

Neil Bamford, Fleet Director for EMR said: “The team at our Neville Hill depot in Leeds have been working hard behind the scenes to strip unit 43302 of its current livery, repaint it in its legacy colours and reinstate its original number in homage to the ‘end of the HST’ era.”

“What an incredible way to pay tribute to the HSTs and the magnificent efforts from all our staff, who have operated and maintained the fleet over the years.

“I personally remember as a 19-year-old, way back in 1980, going on HST commissioning runs from Derby to Darlington, putting the trains through their paces and doing various tests before they entered into service, such happy memories.

“This is a fitting way to recognise the end for this iconic machine; a massive slice of railway heritage and history.”

Neil Foster, Fleet Services Director for Porterbrook said: “EMR and Porterbrook have worked closely together for many years to collaboratively manage the iconic HST fleet, these trains are much loved by the millions of passengers they have carried over the decades.

“Today’s event was a great way to mark the role played by HSTs in transforming the Midland Main Line into one of Britain’s premier rail routes. With their reputation for comfort and speed these icons of British engineering re-invigorated rail travel between Yorkshire, the East Midlands and London.

“Celebrity power-car 43102 will proudly display its original livery whilst it continues to serve EMR passengers, before undertaking its next journey to a new home at the National Railway Museum to be reunited with Sir Kenneth Grange.”

Network Rail latest

Customer update: Stonehaven-Montrose recovery works

The railway line between Stonehaven and Montrose will remain closed until Monday February 22 as engineers work to complete repairs on a damaged bridge between the towns.

The rail bridge, located three miles north of Carmont, has been closed since January 15 after masonry fell from the sidewall on its southbound side.

Full structural assessments on the bridge – which was built in the 1840s – have now been completed by our specialist engineers and plans are in place to repair the bridge and reopen the railway for passengers and freight customers.

Engineers will be working around-the-clock to fix the damaged parapet (sidewall) and also provide additional strengthening of the bridge deck beneath the southbound line.

To do this engineers will first install additional concrete supports on the bridge deck to help retain and support the track and ballast.

The parapet wall will then be reconstructed and ties installed on the bridge to further strengthen the masonry on the structure. Once those works are complete, the ballast and track will be relaid.

Network Rail’s capital delivery director for Scotland’s Railway, Kris Kinnear, said: “We’re working hard to quickly deliver these repairs and reopen the line, but these are significant engineering works and will take time to complete.

”The rural location of the bridge and the fact our engineers will be working at considerable height in an exposed location also mean this project is a challenging one for our team.

“We are working around-the-clock to safely reopen the railway as soon as we possibly can for our customers.”

The bridge was last inspected in October 2020 and also received a detailed examination in March 2018.

There was no significant deterioration in its structural condition found in these inspections.

Investigations to establish the cause of the parapet’s failure are ongoing.

Network Rail will invest over £300m between 2019 and 2024 renewing and refurbishing bridges and spends £10m each year on inspecting structures.

Additional inspections have also been carried out as a precaution on other similar bridges between Aberdeen and Montrose, and elsewhere on Scotland’s Railway.

Essential maintenance on Heart of Wessex line to begin in February

The railway line between Dorchester West and Castle Cary will be closed for five days in February for vital maintenance.

Between Monday 15 and Friday 19 February buses will replace trains between the two stations while engineers carry out a package of work which will help to maintain reliability on the Bristol to Weymouth line, also known as the ‘Heart of Wessex’ line.

South of Yeovil Pen Mill station, engineers will remove loose material off the rockface of the railway cutting, install 250 metres of new lineside fencing and install equipment to monitor the cutting remotely.

Mark Killick, Network Rail Wessex route director, said: “This vital work will improve the reliability of the railway between Dorchester West and Castle Cary, which provides an important route for local communities.

“Closing the railway for five days means we can complete more work than over a series of weekend closures and would like to thank passengers for their continued patience as our engineers carry out this much-needed maintenance.”

James Wilcox, Great Western Railway station manager for Wiltshire and Dorset, said: “While anyone choosing to travel should follow the latest Government advice, we have been working hard to make sure that those who do need to travel can be confident to do so safely, and that includes running as many trains and carriages as is necessary, as well as enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures.  

 “If you do need to travel, please do, plan ahead, reserve a seat and be considerate of others.” 

During the closure, teams will take the opportunity to deliver additional maintenance.

Yeovil Pen Mill signal box, which controls signalling between Castle Cary and Dorchester West, is one of the country’s few remaining semaphore signal boxes, using levers to switch sets of points and lower and raise signal arms. At Yeovil Pen Mill station, engineers will replace sleepers that support the rails; a delicate task as teams will need to navigate historic signalling rods positioned alongside the railway and used to control the station’s semaphore signals.

Structural engineers will also use the time to conduct a thorough inspection of a bridge crossing the River Yeo, using cameras mounted on a Road Rail Vehicle (RRV).

Passengers should note that a separate closure will see buses replace trains between Bournemouth and Weymouth on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 February.

£500k revamp at Eridge station to improve passengers’ journeys

Passengers will now benefit from improved platforms at Eridge station in East Sussex which follows on from the £1.8m footbridge and canopy upgrade last year.

Eridge station serves the rural district in East Sussex with Southern trains services via the Uckfield branch of the Oxted line. Enhancements at the station include refurbishment of the existing platforms which will provide safer journeys for people who need to travel.

The drainage system has also been upgraded to prevent future flooding and improve the reliability of the railway. These works are the latest upgrades to be delivered at the station which will improve the passenger experience for essential travel into London.

Paul Harwood, regional investment director for Network Rail, said:

“We strive to put passengers at the heart of our approach to running the railway, and upgrading the platforms at Eridge station is aimed at giving better journeys to the people who need to travel on this route.

“Our engineers and contractors have worked in challenging circumstances at Eridge and these works compliment the recent £1.8m upgrade of the footbridge.”

These upgrades will also be complemented by Govia Thameslink Railway’s (GTR’s) comprehensive refurbishment of the station buildings, which includes a waiting room being restored with the help of a £30,000 grant from the Railway Heritage Trust. To give the station a heritage feel, GTR are using the colours of Spa Valley Railway, who run services from their own dedicated platform at Eridge.

Angie Doll, Managing Director for Southern and Gatwick Express, said:

“On behalf of our Eridge customers, we welcome Network Rail’s major investment in the station’s infrastructure. In conjunction with their work, as part of our network-wide, multimillion-pound station improvement programme we’re giving Eridge a full refurbishment inside and out, including a welcoming new heritage-style waiting room, more seating and redecorated toilets. I would also like to say a special thank-you to the local community who we’re working very closely with on the project, and to the Railway Heritage Trust for their important financial support and design advice. 

“If you have to travel during the current coronavirus restrictions, please remember the rules: hands, face, space.”

Network Rail will be back at Eridge later this year to deliver an accessibility scheme as part of the Government’s Access for All Programme.

Liverpool Street station lights the darkness for Holocaust Memorial Day

The lights outside one of London Liverpool Street station’s main entrances have been turned purple today, Wednesday 27 January, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

The theme for the day this year is “Be the light in the darkness” and the purple lights at the station are intended to encourage remembrance and send a message of solidarity.

By taking part in Holocaust Memorial Day, the team at Liverpool Street are also helping to commemorate the role of the station and the wider Anglia railway in the Kindertransport.

Kindertransport is the name given to the organised rescue mission which brought 10,000 mainly Jewish children to the UK from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and later Poland between December 1938 and September 1939.

It was not possible for the children to leave from German ports, so most travelled by train to the Netherlands from their home countries, where they boarded cross-channel ferries to the port at Harwich.

If they had foster homes or hostels to go to, the children would then go by train to Liverpool Street station, where they would be met by their new families, or the organisations that had arranged their accommodation.

Some children without prearranged foster families did not go immediately to London, but spent their first weeks at temporary holding centres.

Liverpool Street station has two permanent memorials recognising its role as the final stop on a long journey to safety for the Kindertransport children.

One of the memorials can be found on Hope Square, which is the main entrance on Liverpool Street itself. It is called The Arrival and is part of a series of five sculptures created by Frank Meisler, who himself came to Britain as a Kindertransport child. The five sculptures are installed across Europe along Meisler’s personal route to safety.

The other memorial, with the boy and the girl, is by the entrance to the tube on the main concourse. This was created by Flor Kent and is called Fur Das Kind (For the Child / Pro Dítê). There are two other sculptures in the series, which are located at stations in Vienna and Prague.

In September 2009, The Winton Train arrived at Liverpool Street station from Harwich as part of a commemorative train journey from the Czech Republic. This was organised as a tribute to Sir Nicholas Winton, who supervised the rescue of 669 children in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport.

Emma Watson, Network Rail station manager for Liverpool Street, said: “We have lit up in purple to tie in with the Holocaust Memorial Day theme of being a light in the darkness.

“Today we’re also taking an extra moment to think of the children who finally reached safety here at our station in 1938 and 1939, as well as the families left behind. The Kindertransport is an incredibly important part of our history and we are fortunate to have two poignant sculptures that remind us of this every day.”

Dawn Waterman, archives and heritage manager at the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “It’s great to see Network Rail marking Holocaust Memorial Day at Liverpool Street station.

“My father was a Kindertransport child himself and travelled from Harwich to Liverpool Street at the age of eight. He was excited to be travelling on a train with so many other children but he had no idea then that he would never see his parents again. But at least he was safe, unlike millions of others. It’s absolutely crucial that we remember the horrors of the Holocaust, as well as those people who went above and beyond to help their fellow humans.”

Emergency rail works at Ingatestone to continue throughout the week

Emergency works to stabilise the embankment at Ingatestone on the Great Eastern Main Line will continue for the rest of the week after further issues were found during remedial work.

The line out of London to Norwich will remain closed, with services operating in both directions on the line towards London. This means the number of services will be reduced on the main line and branch line services to Clacton, Braintree, Southend, Colchester Town and Harwich are also affected.

On Friday 22 January, the embankment became unstable, causing a dip in the tracks. Network Rail’s engineers have been working around the clock to make repairs, but further works are now required.

A further update will be sent out on Friday (29 January). Passengers are advised to check Greater Anglia’s website or app for the latest travel information. Passengers should also follow government advice and only travel for work if essential or for other legally permitted reasons.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “I understand how frustrating it is that the work is taking longer than expected and I’m sorry for the disruption this is causing to passengers. We are doing everything we can to carry out the repairs quickly so that we can safely reopen the line.

“I know that this has been very disruptive for passengers and for those living nearby and I’d like to thank everyone for their patience. I’d like to say a special thank you to those who have worked with us to give us access to the site and enable us to carry out these emergency repairs.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia Managing Director, said: “We would like to thank customers for their patience while engineers work to repair the railway, and we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused. Although the work is taking longer than anticipated, safety is our top priority.

“We are running a reduced timetable for all services which travel through Ingatestone. Customers should check before they travel and allow more time for their journey. We will keep our website updated with any changes to our services.

“Anyone who is affected by the delays can claim compensation at www.greateranglia.co.uk/delayrepay

“Government travel advice is currently to stay at home and only travel for legally permissible reasons such as work and medical appointments. Information about what we are doing to keep passengers safe during the pandemic is on our website.”

No trains into London south of Potters Bar and Gordon Hill this weekend as work ramps up on the East Coast Upgrade

Network Rail, Thameslink and Great Northern are reminding passengers making essential journeys on the East Coast Main Line that no trains will run south of Potters Bar and Gordon Hill, to or from London King’s Cross, Moorgate or St Pancras via Finsbury Park this Saturday and Sunday, 30 and 31 January.

Over the weekend, teams are continuing with essential work to install overhead line equipment and improve the signalling in and around King’s Cross, which will bring more reliable journeys for passengers. This work, which is part of the £1.2billion East Coast Upgrade, is being carried out safely, in line with Government guidance. 

There will also be changes to services on each weekend throughout February, and no trains to or from London King’s Cross on Friday 26, Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 February, as major work takes place ahead of a longer partial closure at the station between Monday 1 March and early June. During this time, teams will modernise the track layout, making it easier for trains to enter and exit the station.

The £1.2billion East Coast Upgrade is the biggest investment in the route in a generation and will bring a more modern, reliable railway for passengers, transforming journeys between London, Peterborough and Cambridge.

People must continue to follow the latest Government guidance and stay at home, except for limited reasons. Those who must travel are strongly advised to check their journeys via National Rail Enquiries, at EastCoastUpgrade.co.uk or on their train operator’s website and allow plenty of time.

  • Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 January – There will be no trains at all south of Potters Bar and Gordon Hill, to or from London King’s Cross, Moorgate and St Pancras International via Finsbury Park.

Passengers travelling between London and Peterborough/Cambridge/Stevenage/Welwyn Garden City will need to use replacement buses, which will connect with alternative rail and London Underground services.

Buses will also replace trains between Peterborough and Hitchin.

  • Sunday 7 and Sunday 14 February – There will be a reduced service to and from London King’s Cross. No services will run between Peterborough and Hitchin, with buses replacing trains
  • Sunday 21 February – There will be a reduced service to and from London King’s Cross. No trains will run between Stevenage and Alexandra Palace.
  • Friday 26, Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 February – No trains will run to or from London King’s Cross, Moorgate or to or from St Pancras International via Finsbury Park.

Ed Akers, Principal Programme Sponsor for Network Rail’s East Coast Upgrade, said: “We’re making vital improvements at King’s Cross over the next few weeks, ahead of a longer partial closure at the station, when we will be changing the layout of the track to bring more reliable services for passengers.

“The improvements being carried out this weekend to the overhead lines and signalling system can only be done safely when there are no trains on the lines. This means passengers who must travel should check their journeys and allow plenty of time.

“We want to thank people for their continued patience as work gathers pace on the East Coast Upgrade.”

Jenny Saunders, Customer Services Director for Great Northern and Thameslink, said: “Due to the pandemic and Government restrictions, no-one should be travelling unless their journeys are absolutely essential. For those who have to take the train, this weekend will be particularly difficult, and I would urge you to check the latest advice at National Rail Enquiries before heading out to the station.”

Memorial plaque to remember those lost in Abermule train collision on 100th anniversary

A memorial plaque to remember the 17 people who died in the Abermule train collision, which happened 100 years ago today, has been unveiled.  

On 26 January 1921, two trains collided head-on on the Cambrian line, killing 17 people in what remains one of the biggest rail collisions in the UK.  

To mark the centenary, wreaths have been laid in the village on behalf of Network Rail, Abermule with Llandyssil Community Council, Powys County Council and Machynlleth Town Council. 

A commemorative plaque, sponsored by Network Rail, Transport for Wales & Abermule with Llandyssil Community Council, has also been donated to the community, remembering those who lost their lives.  

The plaque, made by local stonemason M.E & A Hughes Monumental Masons, is the first permanent and physical reminder of the collision in the town. 

A memorial gathering had been planned by the community council and events were due to be held at the local school, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this could not go ahead and will be rearranged for a later date. 

Instead, representatives from Network Rail and Abermule Community Council attended the site, near to the old Abermule Station to lay the wreaths, in compliance with social distancing measures and government guidance. 

Railway Mission’s Chaplain for Wales, Andy Hall, also recorded a ceremonial reading in memory of the victims. 

abermule 3

Bill Kelly, route director for Network Rail Wales and Borders, said:  

“It’s so important we pause and reflect on those events at Abermule a century ago – when 17 people lost their lives. 

“Learning from past accidents is fundamental to the way we operate the railway today and it’s vital we remind ourselves of what happened in the past – how far we’ve come – and areas where we could still improve. 

“This new, permanent memorial in the community of Abermule will serve as a reminder to future generations of those who tragically lost their lives.” 

James Price, Transport for Wales CEO, said: 

“The events of 26 January 1921 are a reminder of the fragility of life and the vital importance of safety on the railway.  

“Our thoughts remain with the people of Abermule and the relatives of those involved 100 years on from this tragic event.” 

Councillor Gareth Pugh, on behalf of Powys County Councilsaid: 

“As part of the Abermule community, I would like to express both my personal condolences and the deepest condolences of the local authority, Powys County Council, to both the victims and families of the railway disaster.  

“It is part of our history and entirely appropriate that 100 years on we mark that tragic event in which 17 people lost their lives.” 

Jane Rees Chair of Abermule with Llandyssil Community Council, said: 

“The Community Council welcomes the joint venture with Network Rail and Transport for Wales to create a lasting memorial to the 17 passengers and railway workers, who lost their lives in the train crash near Maeshafren on 26th January, 1921.  

“Our thoughts are with their surviving relatives, many of whom were local to Montgomeryshire. 

“It is a shame that we could not have a memorial event due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

‘The memorial plaque will be sited in the village at a later date, when we can arrange an event with the opportunity to view the project work by the local school children.” 

Terry Wain, a Trustee of Abermule Community Centre said: 

“We are all very grateful to Network Rail, Transport for Wales and Abermule with Llandyssil Community Council for jointly funding the memorial plaque.  

“The events of 100 years ago were tragic in the extreme and sympathy for the victims is still very real.  

“After all, they had survived World War 1 and the 1918 global pandemic only to perish in such a devastating and completely avoidable disaster. 

“This plaque will serve permanently as Abermule’s memorial to the victims.” 

Wales Chaplain Special Reading

Wrapped up in that fateful moment Lives ended,

lives changed; In the blink of an eye.

Through grief, loss and mourning: Scarred memories transcend

The how, where, and why.

Etched for all time,

On landscape and mind,

The tragic event Unfolds and unwinds,

As we seek to remember a long century on

the 36 injured

And 17 gone.

Note: The plaque, donated by Network Rail, TfW and the community council, will be stored in a safe place in the villagebefore it is installed in a permanent location (TBA). 

Network Rail volunteers help set up mass vaccination facility in Exeter

A team of Network Rail workers have played their part in tackling COVID-19 by volunteering to help set up the new large-scale Vaccination Centre near Exeter, Devon.

Between Monday 18 and Friday 22 January, workers from Network Rail volunteered their time to unload around 100 pallets of equipment from articulated lorries and set it up inside the main building at Westpoint Exeter.

Volunteers worked tirelessly completing a range of tasks such as assembling furniture, laying out signage and constructing the vaccination pods to help ensure the facility, just off the M5 motorway in Exeter will be ready to open on today (Tuesday 26 January).

This latest contribution by Network Rail follows its volunteering efforts last year when volunteers helped transform a former DIY store in Exeter into the region’s new Nightingale Hospital.

Nick Millington, Network Rail’s director of Safety taskforce, coordinated Network Rail’s volunteering efforts, said: “We are so proud to have played a part in helping set up this hugely important Vaccination Centre in Exeter.

“Throughout the pandemic, colleagues right across Network Rail have worked tirelessly to help keep our trains and stations running safely for the benefit of our passengers, and we were delighted to have the opportunity to continue contributing towards overcoming COVID-19 away from the tracks.

“It was immensely rewarding to have helped build the Nightingale Hospital in Exeter last year and to see so many colleagues pull together again in a similar fashion speaks volumes of the selfless individuals who have contributed their time to get this vaccination facility up and running.”

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s Wales & Western interim managing director, said: “I would like to commend my Network Rail colleagues for their dedication and commitment in supporting the NHS in Devon set up this life saving Vaccination Centre.

“I look forward to seeing the first people be vaccinated and am truly hopeful this facility helps protect the people of the south west from COVID-19 and enables all of us to return to normality as soon as is safely possible.”

Darryn Allcorn, Devon’s lead chief nurse, said: “We’re very grateful to all the people from Network Rail who volunteered to help set up the Vaccination Centre at Westpoint. It was a fantastic effort by all, and our new centres mean we are on track to further increase the scale and pace of the vaccination programme in Devon.”

Network Rail news updates

Big Push – Network Rail installs 11,000 tonne railway tunnel in UK first

An 11,000 tonne curved concrete box has been successfully pushed under the East Coast Main Line near Peterborough, in a first for UK engineering.

Over the past nine days, Network Rail teams reached this major milestone in the project to build a new tunnel at Werrington, north of Peterborough, which will enable slower moving freight trains to dive underneath the famous passenger route and use an adjacent line northwards.

Newly released time-lapse footage shows the 155-metre curved concrete box tunnel, which is heavier than the Eiffel Tower, being pushed into place at just 150cm per hour, using four hydraulic jacks.

This is the first time that a curved concrete box has been installed using this industry-leading engineering technique in the UK.

It took nine days, but using this cutting-edge technique avoided hundreds of hours of passenger disruption on this vital part of the East Coast Main Line and meant that services could continue running throughout.

Teams removed three of the tracks, lifted the overhead wires and dug out spoil from the site. Once the tunnel was eventually underneath, they then put everything back in place ready for regular services to resume. The work was carried out safely, in line with Government Covid guidance.

Paul Rutter, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Coast Route, said: “Our teams have completed this challenging piece of engineering in a creative way, which also allowed a reduced train service to continue for those who still had to travel.

“Over the nine days, we’ve made major progress on this vital project which will bring faster, more reliable journeys for passengers on the East Coast Main Line.

“I’m so proud that this project has shown itself to be one which is industry leading and that our teams have had the opportunity to use this new technique for the first time in the UK on one of the country’s most famous railway lines.”

David Horne, LNER Managing Director, said: “This essential part of the East Coast Upgrade will allow faster, more frequent LNER services between London, the North of England and Scotland by creating a new and improved route for slower trains to cross the main line. 

“We look forward to working with Network Rail on the remaining East Coast Upgrade engineering works in the first half of this year, so that we can deliver the benefits for our customers and communities of this significant investment.” 

The next stage of the project at Werrington involves work to install two new tracks inside the new tunnel and the associated signalling system, ready for it to come into use at the end of 2021.

The project is part of the £1.2billion East Coast Upgrade. Once complete, it will bring a more reliable railway with more choice for passengers, as well as faster journeys between London, the North of England and Scotland.

Further south, teams are continuing with major work to install overhead line equipment and improve the signalling in and around London King’s Cross. For this work to take place safely, there will be no trains to or from King’s Cross on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 January.

Passengers travelling to or from the north on the East Coast Main Line that weekend will need to transfer at Peterborough for rail replacement coaches, which connect to Thameslink services between Bedford and St Pancras International.

People must continue to follow the latest Government guidance and stay at home, except for limited reasons. Those who must travel are strongly advised to check their journeys via National Rail Enquiries, at EastCoastUpgrade.co.uk or on their train operator’s website and allow plenty of time.

Passengers and road users to benefit from railway upgrades in Atherton

Passenger journeys are being made more reliable with railway drainage and bridge replacement work underway in Greater Manchester.

A £3m Great North Rail Project investment will see Shakerley Lane railway bridge in Atherton rebuilt and more than a mile of track drainage replaced.

This will better protect the track between Manchester and Hindley from flooding caused by heavy rainfall.

For the work to be carried out, a series of weekend railway closures will be needed, as well as the closure of Shakerley Lane.

Some train services will be diverted and buses will replace trains between Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Victoria via Walkden on:

  • Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 February 2021
  • Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 February 2021
  • Sundays 7, 14, 21 and 28 March 2021

Shakerley Lane railway bridge will be closed to the public from Monday 4 January until Friday 23 April.

Paul Hodson, head of capital delivery for Network Rail, said: “The work in Atherton as part of the Great North Rail Project will secure the future of this key Greater Manchester route for decades to come.

“As with any major project like this there will be some disruption and I’d like to thank passengers and local people for their patience.”

Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern said: “This vital work being carried out by Network Rail will improve the reliability of the railway in Greater Manchester and secure it for future use for our passengers.

“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 them in advance for their patience and understanding while the work is completed. Please remember to plan journeys ahead of time and check for the latest travel information.”

Passengers are reminded to continue following government Covid safety advice when using public transport.

People can get more advice and plan their journeys at www.nationalrail.co.uk or with their train operator.

£4m Step-Free access work starting at St Mary Cray Station

Passengers, especially those with mobility issues, using St Mary Cray station in Kent will soon benefit from a £4m scheme to make access easier and more convenient.

Two new easy-access lifts are being installed and accessibility features are being installed inside and outside the station building.

The work being funded by the Department for Transport’s ‘Access for All’ programme will make the station much easier to use for passengers with mobility issues, older people and parents with young children.

The large lifts each have the capacity for 16 people and are the ‘through’ type with exits at each end to make accessing them as easy as possible.

Other parts of the station will be improved with work including improvements to the ticket office and relocation of a retail unit into the old taxi office to create more space for the new lift shaft. New handrails and tactile surfacing will be installed on the existing platform staircases.

On the exterior of the station, all staircases will be upgraded as well with new access ramps for the Furzehill Square side of the station, while new chicane handrails will be introduced to the Sayes Court Road entrance to safely slow users down before they emerge onto the footway. There will also be improved cycle shelters and two new blue badge holder parking bays.

Paul Harwood, Network Rail’s Investment Director for Southern Region, said: “The ‘Access for All’ programme enables a significant investment in our stations in Kent and the wider Southern Region which will help all our passengers and especially those with mobility issues. 

“St Mary Cray will have modern step-free access to its platforms for the first time and dozens of other measures throughout the station will make access much easier for all passengers.”

Both Network Rail and the train operating company Southeastern will engage and work with passengers to communicate progress throughout the works.

Matt Hawken, Southeastern station manager for St Mary Cray, said: “At Southeastern we are committed to providing a safe and comfortable journey for everyone.

“A key part of that is how easily people can get around our stations and on or off the trains.

“This work at St Mary Cray means that another one of our stations will have step-free access. It does make a real difference to disabled people and those with heavy luggage or prams.”

The work will begin on the 15 February 2021 and is due to be completed by the end of the Autumn.

Most of the work will take place between Monday to Friday and during daytime hours from 07:30–18:00, however, there may be some occasions where work will have to be carried out overnight, for example, to lift materials in over the railway line, or during weekends when the trains are not running.

Network Rail and its contractor, BAM Nuttall, will ensure measures are in place to minimise the impact of the improvement works on the passengers, railway operation and our local neighbours.

Cat-astrophe averted: missing moggy’s Purr-mingham New Street adventure

A cat missing since Christmas Day has been reunited with her owner after a journey through one of Britain’s busiest railway stations.

While fewer people might be travelling by rail right now, Storm the cat became an unlikely passenger needing additional assistance at Purr-mingham New Street.

The 8-month-old cat had travelled from Erdington on Tuesday 12 January with a passenger intending to take the missing moggy to a rehoming centre in Stafford.

Fortunately for Storm, the passenger had to leave the station unexpectedly, starting a sequence of events which would set the lost feline on her journey homeward bound.

Left at station reception, Storm met shift station manager and cat lover, Lucy Martin, who worked out what to do next.

Lucy, who has cats of her own at home, took Storm to her local vet for a check-up and to see if she was microchipped, but the search came up short.

After two days of scouring social media and animal shelter websites, Lucy and her husband, Simon, eventually had the breakthrough they’d been hoping for.

Storm’s owner, back in Erdington, had posted a desperate plea to find her much-loved pet just after Christmas on a local lost and found Facebook page.

Storm’s owner, Chantelle, said: “I let Storm out as usual on Christmas Day, and when I went to call her back a couple of hours later, there was no sign of her.

“Seeing no sign of her for almost three weeks, I was coming to terms with the fact that she was gone. I was absolutely over the moon when Lucy got in touch to say that she had found a cat that matched the description on my post!

“I sent over some photos of Storm to confirm we had the right cat, and before we knew it she was safely back home. I couldn’t be happier to have her back and I’m so grateful to Lucy and Network Rail for reaching out.”

But Britain’s busiest interchange railway station outside of London is no stranger to animal antics.

Lucy, acknowledging a deserved round of a-paws, said: “Working in a busy station means that acquiring animals on shift isn’t particularly unusual. At the start of lockdown last year we had to rehome a baby dove.

“We knew it was a long shot finding Storm’s forever family again, but we wanted to make sure we tried our best to get her home. I’m so pleased Storm is back home and safe and sound after her railway adventure.”

Storm was quickly reunited with Chantelle in purr-fect health, with all nine lives intact.

Chantelle says she’s feline great to have Storm home – and hopes she doesn’t have a new-found taste for travel by rail, road, sea or air.

UPDATE: Emergency rail works continue at Ingatestone to repair embankment

Emergency works to stabilise the embankment at Ingatestone on the Great Eastern Main Line is progressing well and the work is expected to be completed by Wednesday.

The embankment has become unstable, causing a dip in the tracks on the line out of London towards Norwich. The line from Norwich into London is still open and is being closely monitored. This means that a reduced service is running on the main line and branch line services to Clacton, Braintree, Southend, Colchester Town and Harwich are also affected.

Remedial works are ongoing and are expected to finish on Wednesday morning. A further update will be sent out on Tuesday (26 January) to confirm the timings. Passengers are advised to check Greater Anglia’s website or app for the latest travel information. Passengers should also follow government advice and only travel for work if essential or for other legally permitted reasons.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “We’ve been working around the clock this weekend to carry out repairs. Work is progressing well and as long as there no issues we plan to reopen the line on Wednesday morning.

“I know that this has been very disruptive for passengers and for those living nearby and I’d like to thank everyone for their patience. I’d like to say a special thank you to those who have worked with us to enable access to the site to carry out these emergency repairs.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia Managing Director, said: “We would like to thank customers for their patience while engineers work to repair the railway, and we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused.

“We are running a reduced timetable for all services which travel through Ingatestone. Customers should check before they travel and allow more time for their journey. We will keep our website updated with any changes to our services.

“Anyone who is affected by the delays can claim compensation at www.greateranglia.co.uk/delayrepay

“Government travel advice is currently to stay at home and only travel for legally permissible reasons such as work and medical appointments. Information about what we are doing to keep passengers safe during the pandemic is on our website.”

Helicopter surveys keep Wolverhampton and Tamworth stations’ big freezes at bay

Thermal imaging cameras mounted to a Network Rail helicopter are keeping passengers and freight moving after heavy snowfall across the West Midlands.

Although sub-zero temperatures caused heavy snow to fall and ice to form on tracks this weekend, much of the railway has been operating as normal.

This is helped by the Network Rail Air Operations team, which is today (Monday 25 January) carrying out sky-high inspections of the West Coast main line and key rail routes in the West Midlands.

The impressive aerial photos taken on the flight over Wolverhampton station, and also Tamworth station in Staffordshire, are to check that points – the equipment which allows trains to move tracks – do not become frozen and stop working.

In each set of points the steel rails are heated to stop this from happening. If the heaters are working properly the points should glow bright white in the thermal pictures – if they appear dark the helicopter team raises the alarm to engineers on the ground for them to fix.

Dave Penney, Network Rail’s Central route director, said: “With the West Midlands under a blanket of snow the Network Rail Air Operations team has been inspecting the railway from the sky today to help keep passengers and freight moving.

“Key sections of track are fitted with heaters and insulation to help stop them freezing. Thermal imaging cameras attached to a helicopter have been checking the heaters are working.

“Anything reported to us from the skies can then be looked at straight away by the extra teams of people on the ground and fixed as quickly as possible.”

With the cold weather continuing, passengers who still need to travel by train during this period of national lockdown are being advised to check www.nationalrail.co.uk for the latest updates.

HS2 latest news and updates

HS2 set to start permanent construction of huge Victoria Road Crossover Box

  • The Victoria Road Crossover Box, near to Old Oak Common in West London, will allow HS2 trains to switch tracks underground on their approach into the new superhub station
  • Installation of 200m of sheet piling completed, allowing permanent works to commence
  • CGIs of crossover box and images of the piling works available 
HS2 set to start permanent construction of huge Victoria Road Crossover Box: Plan of Victoria Road Crossover Box

HS2 have completed sheet piling work by contractors Skanska Costain STRABAG Railways Joint Venture (SCS Railways) in Acton, West London, to enable the construction of the Victoria Road Crossover Box.  

The installation of 200m of sheet piling was the final piece of enabling work before permanent works can begin. The site team completed the work ensuring that vital utilities in the area, including a Thames Water Main and UK Power Network cables were unaffected.

The Victoria Road Crossover Box site is located to the west of where the new superhub HS2 Old Oak Common station is being constructed. The huge underground box structure being built will house a crossover track mechanism that will allow trains to switch between tracks, up to a design speed of 62 mp/h, on the approach and descent from Old Oak Common station.

The box will be 130m in length and 24m deep complete with 1.5m thick walls constructed by diaphragm piling method, with top and intermediate levels of reinforced concrete props.  The base slab of the crossover box will be supported is supported by 77 piles which will be installed 20m into the ground below the slab level.

Some interesting details of the impressive structure:

  • The crossover box will have a volume of 131,820m– the same as 55 Olympic Swimming pools or 800,00 bath tubs.
  • The structure will use 3,700 tonnes of reinforcement – that is roughly 1/3 of the weight of the Eiffel
  • The depth of the box is the equivalent of 6 double decker buses on top of each other.
  • The Piles are 44m long – similar to the height of the Arc de Triomphe.

The site at Victoria Road is also currently being prepared to launch the Northolt Tunnel Boring Machines which will bore 3.4 miles North West, as part of the construction of HS2’s 8.4 mile Northolt Tunnel.

Malcolm Codling, Project Client for HS2 Limited, said:

“HS2 Ltd and our contractors, are pushing ahead, completing this work on time to meet our construction timetable. The Victoria Road site will house some of the most crucial pieces of infrastructure that are required to make Old Oak Common station one of the best connected in the UK, providing a quarter of a million passengers a day connections to the North, East, South and West across the UK”

The site will also be home to the Victoria Road Ancillary Shaft which will provide ventilation and emergency access to the rail line during operation. The shaft will have an internal diameter of 25m and will be constructed using pre cast rings at the top, and using a sprayed concrete lining technique at the bottom.

James Richardson, Managing Director of Skanska Costain STRABAG Joint Venture, said:

“Our team are making great progress on constructing the crossover box at Victoria Road and are working collaboratively with other construction partners to deliver this exceptional programme of work. As we continue to build the HS2 tunnels and shafts between West Ruislip and Euston, we are growing our workforce and offer many routes into our industry so that our team reflects the diversity of the community we serve.”

HS2 Ltd, and its main works contractors, begun main works construction of the new high speed railway after being given the green light from the Prime Minister in April 2020. To date over 3,400 people are working across London on the project.

HS2 contractors win international Green Apple Environment Award

Competing against 500 other nominees worldwide, HS2’s main works civils contractor Align JV and civil engineering company Roadbridge have won a Green Apple Environment Award in the Innovation category for their use of thermal camera drones to spot Skylark nests.

HS2 contractors win international Green Apple Environment Award: Thermal camera drone used for surveys

The Green Apple Awards are run by the Green Organisation – an international, independent, environment group that recognises, rewards and promotes environmental best practice around the world.

Align JV, which will deliver the portion of HS2 that includes the Chiltern Tunnel and the Colne Valley Viaduct, working with its contractor Roadbridge, introduced thermal camera drones to dramatically improve the accuracy of nesting birds’ surveys, helping to protect the species and enable faster and more effective results for ecologists working on the project.

As ground-nesting birds with well camouflaged nests, Skylarks are very difficult to survey, but using a thermal camera, the drone can calibrate to the ground temperature and other objects to lock onto a heat source and identify the birds’ nests extremely accurately.

HS2’s Environment Director Peter Miller said:

“Protecting the natural environment as we build Britain’s new low-carbon railway is at the heart of everything we do. Some of the country’s most experienced and leading ecological consultants are working on the project, and we’re extremely pleased to see environmental innovations such as this gain international recognition and create new levels of best practice in the sector.”

Adam Cockayne, Environment Manager at Align JV said:

“Align is responsible for all ecological matters on this part of the HS2 project, and we’ve been working with Roadbridge on this innovation to ensure that the earthworks we’re carrying out do not disturb nesting birds in the area. Building on the success of the programme, we’re now planning to find other uses for thermal camera drones to benefit HS2’s ecological monitoring programme and are excited for what the future may hold.”

Vincent Ryan, Environmental Advisor at Roadbridge said:

“We’re delighted to win this international award for our environmental innovation. As a result of this award we have been invited to accept Green Apple World Ambassador status which means our winning paper will be published in the Green Book – the leading international work of reference for environmental best practice, so that others can follow our example and learn from the innovation.”

At twelve metres above ground level the drone captures approximately a 9m2 area, providing a reduction in search times, and a clear perspective from a 90-degree view of the ground below. Using a thermal camera, the drone can calibrate to the ground temperature and other objects to lock onto a heat source and identify the birds’ nests. This includes birds on the nest, eggs on the nest and birds sheltering on the ground.

Exclusion zones are then put on Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings and into the Global Positioning System (GPS) of machinery working on site to let operators know when they are working near exclusion zones, to protect nests and allow works to progress safely.

Manchester’s P.P O’Connor Group helps to build HS2’s new Birmingham station

Manchester-based civil engineering specialists P.P O’Connor Group Limited have joined the growing number of British businesses supporting construction of Britain’s new railway, High Speed Two.

Manchester’s P.P O’Connor Group helps to build HS2’s new Birmingham station: HS2's Curzon Street Station in Birmingham

Over 2,000 companies have won work on Europe’s largest engineering project so far, and P.P O’Connor Group Ltd is one of 11 companies to have worked on the site which will become the first brand new intercity terminus station built in Britain since the since the 19th century. 

The P.P O’Connor Ltd team were tasked by HS2’s enabling works contractor for the West Midlands, LMJV (Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons), with supporting the vast programme of works currently underway to prepare for the construction of the HS2 Curzon Street Station and the railway coming into Birmingham.

P.P O’Connor Group Ltd, who specialise in bulk earthworks, remediation, complex demolition, recycling and deconstruction, were called upon for their expertise in the safe and long-term removal of the invasive and highly aggressive species of plant known as Japanese Knotweed.

The banks of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, which run adjacent to the new station site and feature in the wider regeneration masterplans for the local area, were infested with the plant which can grow through concrete if left untreated. The scale of infestation required the team to remove and lower sections of the existing wall along the canal banks, which are well known for their links to TV-drama Peaky Blinders.

Darren Fowles, Project Manager at P.P O’Connor Group Limited, who led the programme of work on site said:

“We are delighted to be supporting the construction of this once-in-a-lifetime project and it’s great that Manchester firms are winning work on this first phase of the project.

“We hope the work we have delivered will stand us in good stead to secure more contract opportunities, particularly as HS2 extends to the Midlands and the North.”

An estimated 400,000 supply chain contract opportunities for UK businesses will be created during Phase One of HS2, supporting thousands of jobs on site and many more around the country. It is estimated that around 95% of those contract opportunities will be won by UK- based businesses and around two thirds of those will be small and medium sized enterprises.

David Poole, HS2 Ltd’s Procurement and Commercial Director said:

“Businesses right across the UK are winning work on HS2 and this is helping to sustain and support new jobs at a crucial time.

“HS2 is playing a pivotal role in Britain’s economic recovery and I’m delighted to see that companies in the North of England are securing contracts on this first phase of the project.”

Other work overseen by LM JV (Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons) on the site includes diversions of utilities, which will future-proof the area for Birmingham’s tram extension.

The transformative refurbishment of the Grade 1 listed Old Curzon Street Station is just about to start, marking the next phase of work around the new high speed terminus. HS2 will also announce the Curzon Street Station delivery contract award in 2021.

For more information about opportunities within HS2’s supply chain visit hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/supply-chain/

Stadler and Rail Operations (UK) Limited sign a contract for the new Class 93 tri-mode locomotives

©Stadler

Stadler and Rail Operations (UK) Limited have signed a framework agreement for the supply of thirty Class 93 tri-mode locomotives, which will support rail decarbonisation requirements in the UK. An initial batch of 10 locomotives are due for delivery in early 2023.

Stadler and the British company, Rail Operations (UK) Limited have signed a framework agreement for the supply of thirty Class 93 tri-mode locomotives. The advanced locomotives will significantly reduce CO2 emissions for both rail freight as well as potential passenger transport services, underscoring Stadler’s green credentials and demonstrating its commitment to decarbonisation. Deliveries are expected to start in early 2023.

Class 93 is a Bo’Bo’ mixed-traffic locomotive based on Stadler’s Class 68 and Class 88 locomotives that have been operating successfully in the UK for some years. It is capable of reaching higher speed than the previous ones; i.e.110 mph instead of 100mph.

Stadler’s first tri-mode locomotive has three different power sources. In electric mode, it is able to run on 25kV AC overhead lines with a power of 4,000 kW. In addition, the locomotive features a CATERPILLAR C32 engine and Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) traction battery packs, allowing it to operate over non-electrified lines. The diesel engine has a nominal power of 900 kW and meets EU 97/68 Stage V emission requirements. The two LTO battery packs provide 400kW extra power to supplement the engine when the locomotive is running in diesel/battery hybrid mode as well as last mile carbon free shunting operation.

Iñigo Parra, CEO Stadler Valencia added, “The innovative and cost-effective solution will provide environmentally-friendly rail transport services, supporting national decarbonisation strategies and promoting modal shift to rail”.

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East Midlands Railways unveils newly designed seats for state-of-the-art Aurora fleet

  • Completely unique seats offering enhanced comfort 
  • Seats easier to clean, maintain and more durable 
  • Every passenger has access to power and USB point

Passengers travelling on East Midlands Railway’s (EMR) Aurora trains will be able to sit back and relax thanks to unique seats specifically designed for the company’s new fleet.

Working closely with Derby-based design firm DGDESIGN, EMR has taken the proven product of a FISA Lean seat and refined it to offer enhanced comfort and support. It has also improved the appearance to match what they believe customers expect from an InterCity service seat.

The seat rework has included increasing the size of cushions, headrests and armrests and making sure that high quality durable materials are used throughout, such as a wool-rich moquette and leather.

At the same time, EMR has also ensured the seats include all the practical and technological features that customers require, such as power and USB points, generous legroom, coat hooks , well-sized seat-back tables for all airline seats and space to stow a cabin-bag under each seat.

Rachel Turner, Head of New Trains at East Midlands Railway, said: “We know the FISA seat has a good level of comfort, but we wanted to further enhance this by providing additional support in key areas, developing something that looks comfortable, inviting, and unique to EMR. All this has been done whilst ensuring we still meet the latest seat safety standards.

“Our customers are used to large comfortable seats, as found in our Meridian trains, so we wanted to maintain this character but go even further.

“It has taken a lot of work but we are delighted with the final product, not only are they comfortable to sit in and look refined, but they are also easy to keep clean and include all the features passengers should expect from a new generation of trains.”

David Gordon, Director at DGDESIGN, said: “After safety and punctuality, seat comfort is probably the most important customer requirement and therefore a key focus for our interior design work, with every effort being made to optimise the at-seat experience by further enhancing an already proven seat system.

“Headrests have improved lateral support for added comfort and privacy, cushions have been widened, armrests are softer and deeper, additional privacy screening has been introduced and upholstery detailing has been refined to improve aesthetics and cleanability.”  

EMR’s new InterCity fleet, which will be able to run on electricity and diesel, will be built by Hitachi Rail in County Durham and financed by Rock Rail East Midlands.

Mike Kean, Chief Originations Officer at Rock Rail, said “Comfortable seating plays a key part in delivering great passenger travelling experiences. We are delighted that the new Aurora seats will help transform passenger journeys together with the many other improved passenger, operational and environmental features of this state-of-the-art fleet.”

Amy Webb, Head of Programmes – Commuter, Hitachi Rail, said: “Hitachi is excited to be working with EMR to deliver the new Aurora Fleet for its passengers. As today’s announcement underlines, Aurora passengers can expect to benefit from a comfortable journey, with more capacity and a new, modern interior.

“The manufacturing of the trains is also benefiting over 75 suppliers across the UK – a number that will continue to rise – and will also support hundreds of jobs at Hitachi Rail’s factory in County Durham.”

When it enters service in 2023, Aurora will offer significant advances on the existing fleet, with passengers benefiting from more seats and modern interiors.

The trains will also include features that passengers have said they want to see, including air conditioning, free WiFi throughout, plug sockets and better passenger information screens.

Iconic Isle of Wight trains reach the end of the line after 82 years

Today marks the end of an era as Isle of Wight residents prepare to bid an emotional farewell to Island Line’s famed and beloved 82-year-old trains.

The final Class 483 train will roll out of the iconic Ryde Pier Head Station at 23.17 this evening, closing a historic chapter for Island Line passengers and staff.

Every ending heralds a new beginning though, and Islanders can look forward to a major upgrade this spring with a new, fully refurbished fleet which will deliver a modern railway for the Isle of Wight.  

Old and new at Ryde depot - Island Line

The trains, which are estimated to have travelled in excess of 3 million miles in their 82 years, will enjoy a retirement which befits their cherished status. One will be heading to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, meaning that islanders and visitors alike will still have a chance to enjoy the old red train, while another unit goes to the London Traction Transport Group. Formed in May 2020, the Group hopes to run the train on the Epping Ongar Railway under its own power and even take it to rail galas across the country.

Commenting, South Western Railway’s Managing Director Mark Hopwood said:  
“Today we’re saying goodbye to a truly iconic train fleet which is held in great affection by people living on the Island and elsewhere.

“These trains had already been carrying passengers for half a century by the time they arrived on the Island in 1989, coincidentally the same year that I started my first job on the railway, but they have served our customers well – even if they have on occasion shown their age. This is in no small part thanks to the exceptional team at Ryde Depot, who have gone above and beyond to keep the trains running. 

“While this may be an emotional end to one era, it’s also the start of an exciting new one. The £26 million being invested in new trains and major infrastructure upgrades will help to deliver a railway fit for 2021, with performance and customer experience both set to be transformed. “ 

Steve Backhouse, General Manager at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway said:  
“The Isle of Wight Steam Railway already has a world-class collection of carriages dating back to the opening of the Ryde to Shanklin line in 1864. The 1938 stock have been an iconic feature of the Isle of Wight for the last 30 years and we’re delighted that a unit will be preserved at Havenstreet so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.” 

Daniel Nash, Secretary of the London Transport Traction Group, said: 
“80 years after delivery to London Transport,  we’re excited to be bringing unit 483006 back to a former tube line at the Epping Ongar Railway. We hope that enthusiasts who have not been able to make it to the Island today due to the current restrictions will support us and help us to keep one of these trains running in preservation. Although they have finished on the Island Line, this will not be the last chance to ride on one of the trains.”

The fleet of two-carriage trains were built back in 1938, serving the London Underground network before travelling across the Solent to the Isle of Wight in 1989, where they have been faithfully carrying passengers ever since. 

The Class 483's last maintenance fitters say goodbye to the train today

Maintenance Fitters at Ryde depot (L-R): Kieran Heatherington, Tony Long and Ian Butcher (Interim Depot Manager)

In keeping with tradition, the fleet set to replace the retiring trains are also former London Underground stock which previously served the District Line. This upgrade will give a major boost to reliability, comfort and convenience, with the fully refurbished trains boasting modern features such as free on-board WiFi, improved passenger information, at-seat charging points and wheelchair spaces. The first new train was welcomed onto the Island last month.

The new trains form part of a £26 million investment in Island Line, which will deliver the installation of a new passing loop at Brading, allowing for a service at regular 30-minute intervals; track enhancement work to improve ride quality; and adjustments to platform heights to improve accessibility. These major improvements will take place between 4 January and 31 March, during which time there will be no service on Island Line. A bus service will be replacing trains throughout the three months.