Wednesday News Roundup

Around the news rooms from the past couple of days.

Apologies that this is a large amount but I have had a busy couple of days and thought this was easier than bombarding you. SD

Caledonian Sleeper names engine in honour of Railway Heritage Trust

(from left to right): Andy Savage, Deputy Chairman of the Railway Heritage Trust; Kathryn Darbandi, Serco’s Managing Director for Caledonian Sleeper; Lady Judy McAlpine, Patron of the Railway Heritage Trust; John Smith, CEO of GB Railfreight.

Caledonian Sleeper has today named one of the engines which powers its iconic cross border service in honour of the Railway Heritage Trust. Intended as a token of thanks for supporting the company’s major restoration project at Perth Station.

A listed building that dates back to 1848, Perth Station was designed on a grand scale in keeping with the Tudor Gothic style of the time. However, in 2018 the vast size of the station meant that many rooms were lying empty.

Caledonian Sleeper restored the interior décor of an unused waiting area to create a luxury guest lounge for its passengers as well as a staff training centre, breathing fresh life into the area and bringing it back into service. The Railway Heritage Trust provided a generous grant to help fund the refurbishment.

In recognition of this support, Caledonian Sleeper has teamed up with GB Railfreight, which operates the fleet of Class 92 engines that help power the company’s iconic overnight rail service, to name one of the engines in honour of the Trust. A plaque was unveiled on the engine at London Euston today to mark the occasion.

Kathryn Darbandi, Serco’s Managing Director for Caledonian Sleeper, said: “We’re honoured to be naming one of the Class 92’s after the Railway Heritage Trust and proud to have worked with the Trust on our restoration project at Perth Station.

“It’s incredibly important that we protect the heritage features of the UK’s iconic railway network, while also ensuring the network is fit for use in the 21st Century, so it can be enjoyed for many years to come.”

Andy Savage, Deputy Chairman of the Railway Heritage Trust, added: ‘We are deeply grateful to Caledonian Sleeper and to GB Railfreight for allowing one of their Class 92 engines to carry the Railway Heritage Trust name.

“The Railway Heritage Trust operates across the whole of the Network Rail system, and it is appropriate that a locomotive that operates on the longest-distance services on the network carries our name to such a wide range of locations.”

John Smith, CEO of GB Railfreight, said: “We share the Railway Heritage Trust’s ambition to protect the UK’s historic railway network while modernising the vital infrastructure we all rely on.

“Given the cultural significance of Perth Station, we’re grateful for the support they’ve provided to Caledonian Sleeper and are proud to have one of our Class 92 locos carry the Trust’s nameplates.”

Transport for the North ‘ready and waiting’ to aid Government on rail reform plans outlined in Queen’s Speech

Martin Tugwell, Chief Executive of Transport for the North, has welcomed today’s Queen’s Speech, which included references to improving transport and delivering on the levelling up agenda. 

He said: “It is reassuring to hear clear mentions of the need for rail reform in today’s Queen’s Speech, something that we and our region’s political and business leaders have been calling for and contributing to. Combined with a focus on innovation and decarbonisation, and underpinned by the ongoing commitment to levelling up, this is a welcome commitment to enhancing connectivity.

Martin Tugwell (4)
Martin Tugwell Credit Transport for the North/David Oates

“We now need greater detail on the role of Sub-national Transport Bodies within the new Transport Bill, setting out how we can offer our regional insights and expertise to help deliver a new rail regulatory framework that puts passengers first. Transport for the North is ready and waiting to be at the forefront of the Government’s plans to make levelling up a reality and create a sustainable transport network across the North of England.” 

EMR launches real-time SMS alert service

EMR launches real-time SMS alert service: SMS Alert
  • SMS service allows customers to receive customised travel information
  • Designed for customers who don’t use social media, have a low data allowance or cannot access a strong signal 
  • SMS alert service part of EMR Messenger – which also offers more detailed updates via Facebook and WhatsApp

East Midlands Railway (EMR) customers with low data allowance, no social media accounts or without access to a strong mobile signal, can now receive customised travel information after the company launched a new SMS text service.

The SMS service, which is designed to be inclusive, provides customers with personalised journey updates, including platform information, as well as delayed and cancellation notifications.

Customers can opt-in to the service by visiting the live journey information page on EMR’s website and clicking ‘Keep Me Updated’, they will then be required to type in their mobile number.

The SMS alert function is part of EMR Messenger which was launched earlier this year. EMR Messenger also offers customers the option to receive detailed information via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp channels.

The SMS alert was introduced by EMR to make sure it is offering a inclusive service to customers. Allowing customers who live in areas with a poor signal, who don’t want to use social media, or have a low data allowance, access to up-to-date information to their mobiles.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 095938

Many SMS messages do not count towards mobile data allowances and many basic mobiles without a data plan can send and receive SMS messages. If in doubt, customers are advised to check with their mobile phone contract provider.

EMR Messenger is powered by revolutionary AI and data prediction technology developed by Midlands-based company Zipabout who has pioneered the use of personalised information services for rail passengers across the UK.

The service will provide EMR with unprecedented insight into the way people use its network, enabling the planning of smarter journeys.

Neil Grabham, Director of Customer Services at East Midlands Railway, said: “We understand that some customers do not use, or want to use, social media channels to be kept up to date with service disruptions. Likewise, some customers can only afford to use a phone with a low data allowance.

“This is about delivering consistent information across a range of platforms, in ways customers tell us they want to receive their updates. Some customers clearly prefer not to use their phone data allowance for travel information. In that instance, SMS messaging presents an alternative and convenient way to be kept up to date with key personal journey information.

“The SMS service will provide the core functions needed by customers to receive the latest information when they take a journey with us and we hope they will find it useful.”

Alex Froom, CEO at Zipabout, said: “SMS is reliable, user-friendly and a seamless way of communicating even in areas with poor signal. Offering SMS as another choice in how passengers receive personalised journey information shows the importance EMR places on the individual needs of their passengers.

“Despite the popularity of WhatsApp and Messenger, there are many passengers who choose not to use messaging apps for reasons including simplicity, privacy and accessibility and the launch of SMS updates ensures that they can still be kept in the loop about their journeys.”

Rail industry welcomes Queen’s Speech

Rail industry welcomes Queen's Speech: Parliament (c) Shutterstock

The Railway Industry Association, the voice of the UK rail supply community, has welcomed the Transport Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech, which includes plans to “improve” the railway industry.

His Royal Highness Prince Charles said: “Her Majesty’s Government will improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovation. Legislation will be introduced to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers.”

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “The railway industry will welcome the inclusion of a new Transport Bill in the Queen’s Speech today. However, it would have been good to see Great British Railways specifically mentioned in the Speech, to ensure we can make progress.

“With the introduction of rail legislation, RIA has set out ‘five tests’ for GBR as it is established. These include the need to ensure there is no hiatus in rail work as the restructure takes place, that the new organisation is transparent, open and accessible, and that it supports a sustainable rail supply sector which encourages private investment. The ultimate challenge is to ensure GBR leaves a positive legacy, when it comes to safety, decarbonisation, exports and the economy.

“RIA and our members now look forward to working with the Government, Parliamentarians, rail clients and stakeholders, as the Bill moves forward, ensuring UK rail delivers not just for passengers and freight users, but also the wider economy too.”

New rail timetable from THIS SUNDAY

Train operator, Northern’s new timetable comes into effect this Sunday (15 May).

The new schedules are designed to deliver better reliability and punctuality for customers.

On the majority of routes, Northern will maintain service levels established in December 2021 and some routes will see increased seat capacity and service uplifts. 

Tricia Williams, chief operating officer at Northern said: “Customers are at the heart of everything we do, and the new timetables are designed to deliver high levels of reliability.

“We’ve made decisions about our timetables based on the levels of resource we have available and prioritising the routes with the highest customer demand, and which support the region’s economic growth.”

As part of the new schedule, these are the changes that will be introduced:

North West  

  • Improved calling patterns at Adlington and Blackrod 
  • Additional services to Blackpool and Cumbria from July 
  • Additional services on the Hope Valley line
  • Slightly reduced number of services on the Manchester Piccadilly-New Mills Central route
  • Increased seat capacity on the Settle and Carlisle line  

North East 

  • A small number of services removed on the Whitby – Middlesbrough line 
  • Additional services added between Darlington and Saltburn 

Yorkshire

  • Significant uplift on Yorkshire Wolds Coast line, between Bridlington and Hull
  • Increased seat capacity on the Settle and Carlisle line  

A small number of services have been removed on the following routes:

Ilkley – Leeds / Bradford 
Skipton – Leeds / Bradford 
York – Harrogate – Leeds 
Hull – Leeds – Halifax 
Leeds – Sheffield – Nottingham  
Leeds – Sheffield via Dearne  

Tricia added: “We fully understand the role we play in keeping people on the move and I am asking our customers to familiarise themselves with the new timetables ahead of the changes this Sunday, and to check carefully before any journeys to ensure their journeys go as smoothly as possible.”

Northern is the UK’s second largest train operator, with nearly 2,000 services a day to more than 500 stations across the North of England.

Don’t get caught out: Train times to change this Sunday

Train operator GWR is today reminding passengers that its timetables are changing from this Sunday. 

On Sunday 15 and Monday 16 May, the GWR summer timetable will begin, with services specifically designed to support changes in travel behaviour over the summer months. The vast majority of changes are minor timing alterations, and the train operator is urging passengers to check before travelling to avoid getting caught out.

Find out more about how your journey could be affected. 

The new timetable will see the doubling of services on the popular Dartmoor Line, following its successful reopening last November. The line reopened last November, restoring a regular, year-round GWR service for the first time in almost 50 years as the first of the Government’s Restoring Your Railway scheme, made possible to thanks to over £40 million of Government investment. 

Responding to changes in seasonal demand, GWR is to operate direct services between London Paddington and Newquay, providing a direct rail link to this ever-popular seaside town from May until September. More carriages have been added to Weymouth trains for the summer, with four-car formations wherever possible on Saturdays, which is the maximum that currently operate with the current station infrastructure. 

To cater for this weekend’s St Ives Food Festival, GWR is set to support the train service by running an extra bus shuttle service from 1000 on Saturday and Sunday and has even managed to be able to double parking capacity at St Erth. 

As well as the improvements between Exeter and Okehampton, the Exmouth to Paignton service has had provision made for the new station at Marsh Barton, with calls factored passively into this timetable. Axminster in Devon will also join the GWR network. While it is only one service a day to begin with, if demands warrants this could be the start of more frequent stops.   

The new timetable has been designed to support the south west’s economy and leading destinations; and to reduce costs where appropriate which is particularly important when considering the taxpayer support the rail industry continues to receive to run services. 

This means that GWR will not be able to retain all the current direct services to London that start at Bedwyn. Customers can still change at Newbury for onward travel. Direct services remain in place during peak hours.

To avoid duplication of Southern Railway services, the two GWR weekday trains that operate beyond Portsmouth to Brighton are also being removed. The services will still run to Warminster or Westbury. Very few people make the full journey from the Gloucester area where the services start, and making this change means GWR can strengthen the busy, hourly Cardiff to Portsmouth service to five carriages. Customers will be able to use these trains to make connections through to Brighton, which is already well served by other operators.

Limited access to Dawlish beach and promenade proposed this summer as Network Rail starts final phase of construction on new sea wall

The Town Gateway/Colonnade underpass in Dawlish is due to temporarily close next month as Network Rail begins a key stage of its construction on the second section of the new, bigger sea wall that is being built to protect the coastal railway and town from storms and rising sea levels.

From Monday 13 June for up to 12 weeks, the Town Gateway/Colonnade underpass is proposed to be closed for safety reasons while engineers install the foundations for a new bridge that will connect the two sections of new accessible public promenade and for the box culvert through which Dawlish Water will flow into the sea.

Engineers will be operating large and heavy machinery to install 20-metre-long foundations, required due to the poor ground conditions in this area. Safety is Network Rail’s number one priority, and the size and location of this machinery means the underpass therefore needs to be closed during construction.

During this time, the beach and Kings Walk promenade (opposite Marine Parade) will remain open and access will be via the stepped footbridge at Kennaway Tunnel. Upon crossing the footbridge, the beach can be accessed from Boat Cove slipway and Coryton Cove via its usual ramped or stepped access.

Every effort will be made to complete this work sooner where it is safe and possible to do so. If there are times during the construction when the underpass can be safely reopened, it will be, and this will be publicised on a weekly basis using local signage and via the South West Rail Resilience Programme (SWRRP) Facebook and Twitter pages.

This is the final critical aspect of this work to protect the railway and historic station. Delaying it until after the summer months is not possible due to the extreme weather that the Dawlish coastline can experience. Postponing this work would also prevent the second section of sea wall reopening to the public in September as planned.

Once complete it will link up with the first section of sea wall and mean residents and visitors alike will be able to walk along a wider and safer promenade from Boat Cove, south of Dawlish station, nearly a kilometre to Coastguard breakwater to the north before continuing uninterrupted to Dawlish Warren along the original sea wall. They will also enjoy step free access to the beaches and station.

Accessibility remains a core focus of this project and a number of improvements have already been made at Dawlish station for passengers with reduced mobility. The platforms have been refurbished making it safer and easier for passengers to step onto and off trains, and the installation of tactile paving on the edge of the platforms will improve accessibility for people with a visual impairment.

The design for the new fully accessible station footbridge with lifts has also now received prior approval from Teignbridge District Council with work to start later this year and the footbridge expected to open in 2023.

Julie Gregory, Network Rail Senior Sponsor, said: “I would like to apologise for any disruption the closure of the Town Gateway/Colonnade underpass may cause and sincerely thank residents, businesses and visitors for their patience and understanding while we complete this critical, final stage of construction.

“I appreciate this closure will be disappointing for the community, especially for people with accessibility needs or those with pushchairs and particularly during the busier summer months.

“However, we will never compromise on the safety of the public or our colleagues, and to ensure we remain on course to complete the second section of sea wall and open the entire promenade and both beaches in September, it is imperative this work is completed now.”

Work on the second stage of this £80m Department for Transport-funded project began in November 2020 and once compete this project will protect the town and railway from extreme weather and rising sea levels for generations to come.

For more information about this project, please visit the Dawlish sea wall – section two webpages; or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

For any additional questions or concerns about the work taking place, please call Network Rail’s dedicated 24-hour National Helpline on 03457 11 41 41, visit https://www.networkrail.co.uk/communities/contact-us/ or e-mail crwest@networkrail.co.uk.

Peter Grant MP visits Levenmouth Rail Link

As work continues to deliver the £116m Levenmouth Rail Link, Peter Grant, Member of Parliament (MP) for Glenrothes and Central Fife visited site to see first-hand progress that has been made on the project.

The plans for the Rail Link will see the construction of two new stations and the reinstatement of 19 single track kilometres of electrified railway which will reconnect Leven to the national rail network for the first time in more than half a century.

The local MP visited the site of what will be the new Cameron Bridge station and walked along the track bed to get a different perspective on the infrastructure that will be built, and the scale of the task to gain a better insight on what will be built and the scale of the challenge ahead for the project team.

Early progress has seen the reinstatement of the first section of rail to the west of the route at Thornton junction with significant work ongoing at a number of bridges along the six-mile corridor.

The team onsite is also currently working to finalise creation of the compound sites which will support the delivery of work over the next two years and preparing for the next phase of track works. 

It is also anticipated that work to strengthen the Leven Rail (Bawbee) bridge on behalf of Fife Council will get underway later this year – subject to planning permission for the diversionary route being agreed.

Completion of the branch line in Spring 2024 will see trains call at Cameron Bridge and Leven stations for the first time since 1969.

Peter Grant MP said: “While I was Leader of Fife Council the Council accepted my recommendation that restoring the Levenmouth Rail Link was our number one public transport priority. It’s taken a long time but with cross party support from MSPs, Councillors and MPs, as well as vital support from the people of Levenmouth, the Scottish Government confirmed in 2019 that the rail link would reopen.

“It is great to get an early opportunity to come on-site and see first-hand the work that has been happening since the start of the year and meet the project team who will make this line a reality for the local community.

“Providing low-carbon transport options will make this area more attractive for inward investment and will support growth in tourism, which will both, in turn, support communities and boost the local economy.

Martin McKinlay, Network Rail sponsor for the Levenmouth Rail Link said: “The new line will improve social and economic opportunities for people in the surrounding communities and we are working hard with local partners to maximise the positive impact the project will have right across the area.

“We appreciate that the project has been a long time coming for local people but the start of the delivery phase is an exciting development and shows that the Rail Link is well on its way to becoming a reality.

“It is great being part of a project that that has the potential to be massively positive for the area and to deliver something that will transform the lives of local people and the communities the railway will serve.”

Network Rail is encouraging anyone with any questions about the project to email LevenmouthReconnected@networkrail.co.uk or call our 24-hr helpline on 03457 11 41 41.

Railway re-opens following train derailment at Coatbridge

Rail services have resumed after the route through Coatbridge Sunnyside was closed following the incident last Friday.

Network Rail re-opened the railway through Coatbridge Sunnyside this morning following a train derailment last week.

Normal service has resumed after engineers worked around-the-clock throughout the weekend to rerail the train and repair significant damage to the track.

Our team replaced four half switches – moveable sections of track which move trains from one line to another – while specialist ‘tamping’ equipment was also used to re-align other parts of the track.

No-one was injured during the derailment, which happened at around 21:30 on Friday 6 May, when the train was out of service and travelling at a low speed.

Liam Sumpter, Route Director, Scotland’s Railway, said: “Our team has worked tirelessly to carry out the necessary repairs to the track and signalling system, so that normal service could resume today.

“This was an incredibly complex and demanding recovery process that had to be carried out very carefully.

“The vehicle was removed without further damaging the railway infrastructure, which helped us re-open the route as quickly as possible.

“My thanks go to our passengers and the people of the nearby community for their understanding and patience while we worked to re-open the route.”

Four-day railway closure to ready railway for Commonwealth Games

Crucial parts of the railway are being replaced over a four-day railway closure between Birmingham Moor Street and Solihull next month.

Network Rail is investing £3m to overhaul switches and crossings – moving parts of track which allow trains from the Tyseley maintenance depot to get on and off the rail network.

It’s a key site for three key train operators – West Midlands Railway, CrossCountry and Chiltern Railways.

Any issues at the depot during the Commonwealth Games could cause major delays across the region, including risking overcrowding at key stations serving sports venues.

Replacing the complex equipment now will help train services run smoothly during this summer’s Games, which are expected to see more than one million extra passenger journeys across the West Midlands rail network.

The essential upgrades will mean there will be no through train services between Solihull, Birmingham Moor Street and Snow Hill between Monday 20 and Thursday 23 June.

Rail replacement buses will be in operation and people are advised to plan ahead at www.nationalrail.co.uk.

It’s the first time in a generation this part of the Chiltern main line will be completely shut for large scale work.

Denise Wetton, Network Rail’s Central route director, said: “We know there’s never an ideal time to close the railway and a mid-week closure for work like this is rare, but post-pandemic passenger numbers show weekdays are now the least disruptive time to close the railway for vital work.

“This programme of upgrades will improve the network not only at Tyseley but across the wider West Midlands, providing passengers with a cleaner, fresher, more reliable railway throughout our major summer of sport. It will also help to reduce the risk of platforms becoming overcrowded as a result of the predicted one million extra passenger journeys during the Commonwealth Games.”

Eleni Jordan, commercial & customer strategy director for Chiltern Railways, said: “Network Rail’s crucial track replacement work between Monday 20 and Thursday 23 June will ensure that we can continue to provide a safe and reliable service for our customers across what is expected to be a busy summer on the railways in the West Midlands.

“We will be regularly communicating plans for rail replacement transport in and out of Birmingham. We advise that customers travelling during the closure check their journey on the Chiltern website or app before travelling.”

Jonny Wiseman, West Midlands Railway customer experience director, said: “These essential works will make a real, long-term difference to passengers by improving access to Tyseley depot where trains are cared for and refuelled.

“I would like to thank our customers for their patience while this work is carried out and I urge passengers travelling during this period to plan their journeys carefully as revised timetables and rail replacement buses will be in operation.”

Engineers and planners will make the most of the four-day railway closure to carry out a host of work, including:

  • Installing new rails, sleepers and ballast (railway foundation stone)
  • Stressing rails to cope better with hot weather
  • Removing overgrown plants and graffiti
  • Carrying out a deep clean of Birmingham Moor Street station itself

Doing this work further reduces future disruption to passengers and provides a more reliable rail network not only during the Games but for many years to come.  

It will also save millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money as doing this work outside of a full railway closure would normally take place over multiple weekends over an entire summer.

Passengers are being advised to check before they travel at www.nationalrail.co.uk.

ScotRail’s half price seat sale kicks off

From Monday, 9 May until Sunday, 15 May, ScotRail will slash 50 per cent off all Off-Peak tickets, Monday to Friday, to encourage people across the country to return to Scotland’s Railway.

This fares offer, funded by the Scottish Government, is the latest ‘Yours to Use’ initiative from the newly publicly owned train operator, and is focused on welcoming customers back to rail as the country continues to recover from the pandemic.

Customers can book their discounted tickets between 9 and 15 May 2022 inclusive, with travel valid between 9 and 31 May 2022 inclusive.

The 50 per cent off tickets can be purchased in the following ways:

  • Online at scotrail.co.uk/sale
  • By phone on 0344 811 0153
  • Via the ScotRail app, using the promo code SRSALE in the railcards/promotions field

Available on all Off-Peak tickets on valid routes, there are massive savings to be had on train trips across the country. Valid for return travel within a month, Off-Peak return tickets are ideal for those planning a spring getaway, while an Off-Peak Day Return is just the ticket for a fun day out.

Plus, ScotRail’s Kids for a Quid can be used in conjunction with this offer, which means up to four children can travel, for £1 return each, with each adult.

Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth MSP said:

“In February, I set out the Scottish Government’s vision for a publicly owned ScotRail as a rail service which is focussed on passengers’ needs and interests and provides value for money to the taxpayer. This offer is further demonstration of our commitment becoming a reality.

“The Scottish Government understands that people are struggling right now and that the costs of travelling have risen sharply. We want to show people that travelling by train might offer an alternative. Clearly there is more to do to make rail travel more affordable all year round and our fair fares review will look at the cost of travelling on all modes of public transport.

“Our National Conversation on rail services will also help shape what ScotRail services should look like in the long term – allowing the public, staff and our Trade Union partners to be part of that future vision. Public ownership should mean railways that work for the people and deliver for our communities and this Government remains committed to doing just that, working in partnership with ScotRail.”

Lesley Kane, ScotRail Commercial Director, said:

“This fantastic offer will mean more people can get out and enjoy Scotland throughout the month of May, whether for a day out or a holiday, so make sure you buy your tickets before 15 May.

“The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people travel, and it is an absolute priority for ScotRail to do everything we can to attract customers to Scotland’s Railway. This offer is a reminder that Scotland’s Railway is ‘Yours to Use’.

“Travelling by train has many advantages over other modes of transport, and it’s crucial that we not only get our pre-pandemic customers back, but also encourage more people to use the low-carbon alternative for their journeys.”

News Roundup

The following contains today’s releases from the railway industry.

Brighter Journeys campaign set to breathe life and joy into railway stations this May

Mental Health Awareness Week will see the Brighter Journeys campaign grace the concourses of Britain’s railway stations as a way of making them brighter, happier community hubs. The joint campaign between the rail industry and mental health charity, Chasing the Stigma, aims to support passengers’ wellbeing as people return to the railway since the lifting of Covid restrictions.

Jake Mills – Brighter Journeys campaign

The Brighter Journeys campaign will bring the outside to stations, with bursts of colourful flowers in bloom greeting passengers as they embark on their journeys. The aim is that these sensory installations act as a pleasant surprise which lift people’s spirits and put smiles on their faces as they head to work, or for days out with their family.

Research shows that interacting with nature puts people in a more positive mindset and makes them feel more grounded and calm. This campaign uses the power of nature to make people feel happier and more connected to their local railway station, while raising awareness of the Hub of Hope app, which signposts people to support services if they are struggling with their mental health.

The campaign comes as new data from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) reports nearly three quarters of UK adults (70%) say their mental health has been negatively impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with nearly a fifth (19%) describing their mental health as poor*.

Rupert Lown, chief health and safety officer at Network Rail, said: “We recognise that life since the pandemic is difficult for many people, with many challenges yet to be overcome. We hope that by running this campaign, we are bringing happiness and cheer to many passengers as they go about their daily lives, reminding them to take a pause and have a moment to connect with nature. And if they are struggling, the Hub of Hope is a great resource which offers a range of support services in their local area.”

Jake Mills, founder of Chasing the Stigma and Hub of Hope app, added: “It is great to be working with Network Rail and the wider rail industry on the Brighter Journeys campaign. Nature is really important for mental health, so we hope commuters enjoy seeing these floral installations and they put a smile on people’s faces.

“We also hope that this acts as a reminder that no one is ever alone, and mental health support is available at any time, you don’t have to be in crisis to get help. If anyone is struggling or knows someone who needs help, please download the Hub of Hope app.”

Dr Lisa Marzano from Middlesex University works with the rail industry to support passengers’ wellbeing. She is an expert in mental health and is supporting the Brighter Journeys campaign. Dr Marzano said: “Interrupting someone’s routine with a vibrant, positive display could contribute to their wellbeing if they are having a tough day – especially something which centres around nature as research shows this can really lift someone’s mood. Although restrictions have been lifted, we are still dealing with the after-effects of the pandemic and the mental health of many people up and down the country will still be in a fragile place. This campaign aims to direct those who are in need to support services no matter where they are, while sparking some positivity among those travelling by train.”

Brighter Journeys will signpost people to share and download the Hub of Hope app if they, or someone they know, are struggling with their mental health. The Hub of Hope – provided by Chasing the Stigma – is a free app that connects people to more than 4,000+ mental health support services and groups across the UK.

The Brighter Journeys campaign is also being supported by station retailers (at Liverpool Street Station only). Pure will be providing vouchers for free coffee on Monday 9 May, and Neal’s Yard Remedies will be handing out free samples of some of their best-selling products on Tuesday 10 May, 4-6pm.  

The sensory installation will be available to visit on the following days:

London Liverpool Street, 9-11 May

Leeds, 13-15 May  

Edinburgh Waverley, 17-19 May

Birmingham New Street, 9-10 May

Stevenage, 12-13 May  

East Croydon, 15-16 May

Cardiff, 18-19 May  

Barrow Haven’s new £1.3m platform underway

A brand-new £1.3m platform is being built at a North Lincolnshire station as part of a significant project to reinvigorate passengers’ experience and make train travel more attractive.

Barrow Haven station’s existing platform will be stripped out and replaced with a new, 60-metre-long structure, which will revitalise the station and make sure that people living in the area remain connected to the railway for many years to come.

Ground-breaking work began over the weekend (Sunday 8 May) and will continue until Monday 8 August. As a single platform station, no trains can call while the work is carried out. Passengers heading off along the Barton-on-Humber route should travel to the nearest stations (New Holland or Barton-on-Humber) to keep their journeys on track.

Matt Rice, North & East Route Director for Network Rail, said: “We’re giving Barrow Haven station a much-needed update, which I hope will encourage more people in the area to travel by train. It’ll bring a more modern, practical station with better amenities, and I’m excited to see the work now underway.

“We’ve worked closely with East Midlands Railway to keep the impact as low as possible, for passengers as well as those living nearby. I’d like to thank people for their support and apologise for any inconvenience our work causes.”

Raised tactile pavings will be also added along the length of the platform to help visually impaired passengers know when they’re close to the edge, making the station much safer for everybody.

East Midlands Railway are contributing a further £26,000 to fund additional station upgrades, including a new waiting shelter, cycle racks and station signage as well as a solar-powered help point.

Lisa Angus, Transition and Projects Director for EMR said: “We’re delighted to see this significant set of customer improvement works improving Barrow Haven station on our Barton-on-Humber route.

“As the station will be closed during this time, we’re encouraging passengers to travel to the nearest stations, New Holland (2 miles away) and Barton-on-Humber (4 miles away) if possible. Taxis will be provided for any passengers unable to do so.

“We would like to thank our passengers for their patience whilst the works are taking place.”

Passengers urged to plan ahead when using Lichfield Trent Valley station

Passengers using Lichfield Trent Valley station should plan ahead as journeys are impacted by a platform closure.

Platform 3 at Lichfield Trent Valley on the Cross City line, which also links platforms 1 and 2 on the West Coast main line, has been temporarily closed for safety reasons. The closure means Cross City line trains are currently unable to call at Lichfield Trent Valley and passengers cannot interchange between platforms 1 and 2.

West Midlands Trains is providing a regular bus service between Lichfield Trent Valley and Lichfield City to allow passengers to connect to Cross City line services. A bus is also running between platforms 1 and 2, which has a long alternative walking route.

Network Rail is working on plans to reopen the platform by installing a temporary support structure. It is expected this will take several weeks to install. The platform was due to be replaced in 2023 and plans are now being reviewed to bring that work forward.

Denise Wetton, Central route managing director, said: “I am sorry for the inconvenience caused but we had to reduce any risk to passengers and put safety first. We are working as quickly as possible to reopen the platform so normal service can resume. Thank you to passengers for their ongoing patience.”

Jonny Wiseman, customer experience director for West Midlands Trains, said: “I would like to thank our passengers for their patience while this important safety work is completed on platform 3 at Lichfield Trent Valley. The platform closure affects both Cross City line trains and access to West Coast Main Line services so I would urge passengers to plan ahead and allow extra time.”

Passengers can plan their journeys and check before they travel at www.nationalrail.co.uk or www.westmidlandsrailway.co.uk.  

Winnie the Wellbeing Piano to help promote mental health and wellbeing at Reading station

Winnie the Wellbeing Piano will burst into life tomorrow (Tuesday 10 May) when colleagues from Great Western Railway and Network Rail hit the high notes at Reading station.

Railway chaplain John Roe will be tinkling the ivories from 1000 as a piano designed to promote mental health and wellbeing is officially unveiled during Mental Health Awareness Week.

‘Winnie’ is located before the gate-line on the north side of the station, meaning you don’t have to travel and can just rock up and play a tune.

John will be accompanied by the newly-formed 13-strong GWR Wellbeing Choir and colleagues from Network Rail as he plays the ABBA classics Mamma Mia! and I Have A Dream, plus Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

‘Winnie’ was sourced by GWR Train Manager and Wellbeing Champion Beth Witney, who found it listed for free on Facebook Marketplace.

Beth said: “We were discussing lots of ideas in a wellbeing meeting and when a piano was suggested I thought I’d grab the bull by the horns and find one.

“I found one listed for free on Facebook 10 minutes from my home in Tilehurst. It was being given away by a lady who’d had it since she was a little girl. If we hadn’t turned up it was going to be sent to landfill.”

Network Rail Station Operations Manager at Reading station, Harry Smith, said: “We are delighted to welcome Winnie the Wellbeing Piano to Reading station, which I am sure will be a welcome addition and something passengers and visitors alike will enjoy playing.

“The wellbeing of our passengers and staff is something we take really seriously and we’re committed to doing all that we can to make the time people spend on the railway and in our stations as pleasant and enjoyable as possible, and this piano will undoubtedly help with that.

“I look forward to having a play on the piano myself, not that I expect my playing will warrant an audience!”

GWR Wellbeing Manager, Lucy Shephard, added: “Music is a great way of boosting mental health and we think this will be a popular addition. Several of our Wellbeing Champions and Mental Health First Aiders will be at Reading to provide some musical cheer for customers. We’re also delighted that our colleagues from Network Rail have been so supportive and will be joining us on the day.”

Glasgow’s Argyle line reopens on time for passengers

The route between Rutherglen and Exhibition Centre has re-opened following a £32m improvement project.

Network Rail has successfully completed work to the Argyle line, which will reopen as planned this Monday (May 9) following an eight-week programme of extensive engineering works.

The line closed on March 13 to allow engineers to deliver a £32m investment in repairing and renewing tunnels, bridges and tracks between Rutherglen and Exhibition Centre

It was the most significant piece of engineering on the line in a generation and was all designed to improve punctuality and reliability for passengers for years to come.

Engineers removed 500 tonnes of concrete encasement from the tunnels, with 700 structural beams repainted and more than 1,000 square metres of waterproofing applied.

All ScotRail services affected by the work resumed in time for the start of Monday morning service.

Jenny Gilruth, Transport Minister, said: “Passengers will undoubtedly welcome the news that this particular programme of work and its associated closures have come to an end. I’d like to thank them for their patience throughout, particularly users of Anderston station. I would also like to thank all of the staff at Network Rail and ScotRail who have facilitated these improvements, delivering them on time and within budget.

“The Scottish Government has provided £32m of funding for this work and will continue to significantly invest in rail infrastructure and services in Scotland which helps us to attract passengers back to rail. It is vital that we deliver reliable infrastructure and do so in a manner that minimises the impact of disruption to passengers and freight.

“Any project of this scale brings with it a number of challenges but at the same time also delivers significant improvements to Scotland’s Railway for passengers, including a reduction in the need for future disruption arising from any future works.

Jeremy Spence, programme manager, Network Rail, said: “I am pleased that this major programme of work to the Argyle line has been completed both on time and within budget.

“The complexity of a project that covers multiple work sites, involves a range of disciplines, not to mention the mobilisation of plant and equipment, is not without significant challenges. It’s a credit to the Network Rail project team, our contractors and supply chain partners that every element was delivered safely and on time.

“The outcome is a comprehensive programme of improvements and enhancements that futureproof Scotland’s Railway for passengers, as work on this scale will not be required for many years to come.

“Closing part of our infrastructure is something done rarely, as we fully appreciate the impact of this on our customers. Our decision was weighed against whether it was best to complete the work over an intense period of time by closing the line completely or prolong it over many months by only being able to undertake work at weekends.

“I would like to thank all the passengers whose travel plans have been affected for their patience and understanding over the past eight weeks.”

David Simpson, ScotRail Service Delivery Director, said“This was an ambitious programme of work and it’s great to see that it’s been completed on time, within budget, and with alternative transport arrangements working well for customers.

“The work has helped future proof the line and customers can look forward to a better journey experience.

“We’d ask them for a little bit more patience as we carry out further essential work at Anderston station over the next four weeks.

“We’ll be upgrading the entrance, booking office, concourse and platforms and installing a lift for better customer access.

“This is all part of our strategy to make ScotRail fit for the future with investment in infrastructure, more reliable timetables, and great offers like the half-price ticket sale which begins on 9 May.”

The Argyle line project includes improvements to Anderston station, with the closure of the station extended by four weeks until June 6. This is to allow engineers to complete critical work on the entrance, booking office, concourse and platforms.

By extending the closure, the most critical work will be finished earlier and reduces the overall time taken to renovate the station by 12 weeks, completing in the autumn instead of by December 2022.

Once complete, the station will feature a lift for better customer access, a remodelled booking office and modern finishes on the stairs, floors and ceilings. This also includes improving the outside area to the station, with a new-look glazed entrance and enhanced external lighting.

For up-to-date service information on the Argyle line, please visit https://www.scotrail.co.uk

If you have any questions about extending the closure of Anderston station, you can contact Network Rail’s 24-hour national helpline on 03457 11 41 41. For the latest and progress updates follow on Twitter @NetworkRailScot and @ScotRail.

Boost for rail freight as industry joins forces to improve safety and performance

In a first for rail freight in Britain, Network Rail has joined with key industry partners to tackle delays and safety risks in a boost for the country’s thriving freight sector.

Data analysis by Network Rail, freight operators and the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) has shown that most delays on the freight network are due to wagon defects, including various brake faults, wheel faults, decoupling and door faults. If undetected, these defects have the potential to cause delays and safety risks to rail traffic.

The Condition of Freight Vehicles on the Network (CFVN) programme – funded by Network Rail’s £20m Freight Safety Improvement Portfolio (FSIP) – has developed processes for train preparation, wagon maintenance and the important role human factors play in performing safety critical tasks to reduce risk and improve performance across the network.

David Ethell, independent project manager for the National Freight Safety Group (NFSG), which oversees the CFVN programme, said:

“This is a sector wide project looking at learning and sharing good practice from across all the freight operating companies in Britain, to find where improvements can be made so we can introduce one common industry standard for the safe preparation of freight trains and vehicles.

“The maintenance of freight wagons to prescribed standards and the safe preparation of trains by qualified and competent staff are fundamental requirements of operating a safe freight railway. By resourcing the CFVN workstream the freight industry can collaborate and build better understanding of the factors impacting this risk.”

Speaking at the launch at DB Cargo’s Margam freight yard – one of the company’s busiest sites where on average around 40 freight trains arrive and depart the yard each day – Dougie Hill, from RSSB, spoke to the DB Cargo operations and engineering teams performing these safety critical duties and said:

“We need to hear your experiences. Your roles are of key importance in the safe operation of freight trains and fundamental to assisting the sector in improving and reducing derailment risk. Having such expertise on the ground every day is critical in the safe delivery of freight traffic. Sharing professional knowledge and understanding the challenges faced by the teams will be key in the development of CFVN risk mitigation action plans.

“I am delighted by how engaged, positive and motivated the ground staff and wagon fitters at Margam are in assisting us in this most important project.”

Marc Binney, head of safety for DB Cargo, said:

“This is very much a collaborative approach being taken by the freight sector. The project is incorporating all the rail freight operators where we will be looking at things collectively to find what we can do better together as an industry. When I look at the other freight operators, I see that we are all doing some train preparation and processes slightly differently so this project will look at how we can introduce a cohesive industry wide standard.”

SUNBELIEVABLE – Enough tickets sold in Rail Sale to reach the Sun

With more tickets sold than the entire population of Britain’s second largest city, Birmingham, the Great British Rail Sale has been a runaway success. Through this first-of-its-kind sale, this spring will see over 128 million miles of discounted journeys travelled on UK railways.

This first-ever industry wide sale saw more than one million rail tickets slashed by up to 50%, saving passengers over £7 million (or 15,000 years’ worth of takeaways*). The total distance of the journeys sold would create a rail trip from the Earth to the Sun and beyond, boldly going where no train has gone before. The Great British Rail Sale was launched to help ease some of the pressure on family finances at a time when the cost of living is increasing for people in the UK and across the wider world. 

The average price of tickets was around £7.50 during the sale, and the most popular routes have been:  

  • Newcastle to York 
  • London to Nottingham 
  • Oxford to London Paddington 
  • London to Sheffield 
  • Cambridge to London 

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps said: 

“The Great British Rail has been unprecedented in its scale, and equally unprecedented in its success.

“It has been fantastic to see so many of you jumping at the chance to head out on to our brilliant railway network, reconnecting with loved ones and exploring your favourite places across the country.  

“The whole rail family has come together to help passengers facing rising costs of living by saving hard working people millions on their journeys across Britain this spring” 

Jacqueline Starr, CEO of the Rail Delivery Group, said:

“We are delighted that so many people have been able to take advantage of the Great British Rail Sale, and are exploring the fantastic locations that are accessible by rail for less at a time when we’re all feeling the squeeze. Customers who are planning to travel by train this summer can still make great savings on their next train journey by booking in advance, travelling off-peak or with a Railcard that provides 1/3 off most fares.”

The Government is listening to people’s concerns about rising living costs and is taking action with more than £22 billion of support in 2022-23 alone – which includes helping with the cost of energy bills and to efforts to ensure people keep more of their money. Offering half-price rail tickets is one of the ways the Government is further supporting families with the cost of living. 

Northern line Bank branch to re-open on schedule on Monday 16 May as TfL completes the current phase of vital upgrade work at Bank station

The Bank branch of the Northern line will re-open on schedule on Monday 16 May, after a 17-week planned closure as part of the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade project. Customers will be able to use Northern line services at all Bank branch stations between Kennington and Moorgate again from this date.

In addition, the new, wider southbound Northern line platform and spacious new customer concourse at Bank station will open to customers for the first time on the same day. Transport for London’s (TfL’s) project team have worked throughout the 17-week closure to safely finalise work on the brand-new Northern line tunnel and passenger concourse. They have also completed three new passageways, which will make moving around the station quicker and easier for Northern line customers, who should follow the new signage and directions from London Underground staff as they familiarise themselves with the new layout.

The last day of service for the Route 733 bus, which was introduced specifically for the Bank branch closure period, will be Friday 13 May.

The upgrade of Bank station will see its capacity increased by 40 per cent when work finishes later this year, with improvements still to come including step-free access to the Northern line and improved access to the DLR platforms, two new moving walkways, 12 new escalators and two new lifts. There will also be more direct routes within the station and a new station entrance on Cannon Street. Improving Bank station, at the heart of London’s financial district, by addressing long-standing capacity issues and making journeys through Bank safer, easier, quicker and more comfortable when fully complete later in 2022 is critical to supporting the growth and success of the City.

Work that has been completed at Bank station during the closure period includes: 

  • Connecting the new southbound Northern line tunnel to the existing railway
  • Converting the former southbound Northern line platform, which was built more than 100 years ago, into a new, spacious customer concourse
  • Installing all new track and railway systems within the new tunnel, followed by commissioning activities using multiple test trains
  • Fitting out the new station areas, which included installing flooring, wall coverings and signage on the new southbound Northern line platform

Stuart Harvey, Chief Capital Officer at Transport for London, said: “I’m delighted to confirm that we’re on schedule to fully re-open the Northern line on Monday 16 May after successfully completing the challenging next phase of vital upgrade works at Bank station. I’d like to thank our customers for their patience during this closure. The improvements we’re making at Bank station will be finished by the end of this year and will totally transform customer journeys through the station. Anyone who’s familiar with Bank station will know how its labyrinthian layout can be confusing and time-consuming to navigate.

“Northern line customers now have a new, wider southbound platform and spacious customer concourse. The countdown is on for completing the rest of this major upgrade which is one of the largest and most complicated subterranean railway complexes in the world.”

During the closure of the Bank branch of the Northern line, essential work was also carried out at other stations including London Bridge, Borough and Elephant & Castle so that future disruption to customers would be minimised. This included work on lifts and escalators, as well as refurbishment work at Borough, and enabling works for the future Elephant & Castle station upgrade.

TfL image - Bank new southbound Northern line platform

The next phase of works at Bank station will now turn to the key interchange connections which includes the new escalators linking the Northern line to the DLR, and the two new moving walkways and three new escalators connecting the Northern and Central lines.

TfL is reminding customers to continue to check before they travel in the final week of the closure of the Bank branch between Kennington and Moorgate, as many lines and stations across central London are busier as a result. Customers can check how busy their station is before they travel, using the TfL website’s Journey Planner or via the TfL Go app.  

Full travel advice is available at tfl.gov.uk/northern-line-closure

All Aboard the Visitor Economy Express! Northern throws weight behind Newcastle Gateshead Initiative activity

Train operator, Northern, is set to partner with Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI) on a range of activity identified as crucial to the visitor economy.

The two organisations will focus on activity that will boost the city-region’s tourism offer, inward investment credentials and ease of access to the night-time economy.

The partnership comes ahead of a crucial year for the region, as it gets set to host the Rugby League World Cup, mark the 1900th anniversary of Hadrian’s Wall and see the £300m redevelopment of Quayside.

Commenting on the planned activity, Kerry Peters, regional director for Northern, said: “Our services from Bishop Auckland, Carlisle, Chathill, Saltburn and Whitby have an important role to play in bringing people from across the North of England into both Newcastle and Gateshead.

“NGI has a great track record at both championing and delivering for the people and businesses of the region and we’re delighted to throw our weight behind their efforts.”

Sarah Green, chief executive of NGI said: “Our partnership with Northern is key in developing our offer and ability to promote our destination further afield.

“Transport partners are essential to NGI being able to show the ease and accessibility of public transport to NewcastleGateshead and we look forward to working together with Northern on a number of exciting projects in the future.”

Northern is the second-largest train operator in the country, with nearly 2,000 services a day across the length and breadth of its 500+ station network.

Samaritans to lead new mental health study for rail industry

Suicide prevention charity Samaritans has been commissioned by train operator Great Western Railway and the Department for Transport to lead a new research study on mental health and wellbeing support for the rail industry, in partnership with Mental Health at Work.

With the impact of two years working in a pandemic and uncertainty and change on the horizon for the rail industry, the study comes at a crucial time; when support for the sector is needed now more than ever.

Working with Mental Health at Work, Samaritans’ study will provide good practise recommendations for mental health provision, so that the industry can raise awareness for their staff and support those experiencing mental illness. It will aim to highlight existing barriers, as well as encourage a culture shift to destigmatise conversations around mental health.

A recent Rail Safety and Standards Board survey found that railway employees experience 1.5 times higher rate of anxiety compared to the rates seen in the general population. The survey also found that 43% of rail workers have a mental health condition and more than half of those said they experienced psychological or mental health issues because of their work in the rail industry, but only half had sought help.*

This Mental Health Awareness Week, the charity is calling on rail staff across the sector to contribute to the study and have their voices heard by taking part in an industry-wide survey, interviews and group discussions.

The short online survey will ask staff about their own experiences, their understanding of available support and their thoughts on improvements in seeking help. Launching in June, rail staff are invited to take part within the next six months, with the final study report being available next year.

Samaritans Research Project Manager, Suzy Ludlow, said: “We’re excited to be delivering this important study to support the mental health and wellbeing of the rail industry, thanks to GWR and DfT’s commitment.

“We know the pandemic has had a huge impact on the rail industry and its staff and this is likely to be felt for some time, so it’s so important and timely that we delve into what support is currently available and see where we can recommend improvements, so that every single person in the industry feels comfortable to be open about their mental health and supported to get the help they need. 

“We really want to encourage rail staff from all areas to get involved in the survey – from the frontline to the managing directors – so everyone can have their say. Having worked with the rail industry for over 10 years in suicide prevention, Samaritans knows the traumas that rail staff can face, so we hope this study will make a huge difference to the industry.”

GWR HR Director, Ruth Busby, said: “We’ve been working closely with the DfT and colleagues from across the rail industry to develop a study which will help to promote and support positive mental health. 

“The wellbeing of our colleagues is so important and this study is a further sign of our commitment to promoting an environment that supports positive mental health and supports colleagues experiencing trauma or mental illness.

“We look forward to learning the results from the study. This cross-industry approach means we can share best practice, learn from one another and provide the best support we can.” 

Alison Pay, Managing Director for Mental Health at Work, said: “We are delighted to be working alongside Samaritans on this important research initiative for the rail industry. Supporting organisations to build capability across the mental health agenda for all employees, is at the centre of our work.

“Understanding mental health and wellbeing, with consideration for the extremely challenging circumstances of recent years, is pivotal in destigmatising conversations and encouraging access to appropriate and timely support. This research project will provide leaders with the information to make informed decisions on the future mental health strategy and support across the rail industry.”

Samaritans has worked in partnership with Network Rail and the wider rail industry since 2010 to reduce suicide on the railway and support those affected by them. The charity has trained 25,000 rail and British Transport Police staff in suicide prevention, as well as providing trauma support courses and working with the charity’s 20,000 listening volunteers to provide emotional support to staff and customers when needed across the network.

CASE STUDIES

Darran Hickery

Darran Hickery, GWR Depot Engineering Manager Technician, knows the importance of looking after our mental health following his own experience with depression. Darran is a big advocate for inspiring others to be open in the workplace to destigmatise mental health.

Darran said: “I’ve worked in the rail industry for 31 years. When I look back, I was on a downward spiral from the end of 2017, but I didn’t realise it at the time. I was trying to keep up with work and there was so much pressure, but I was putting on a front. One day in April 2018, I’d been in a conference that morning, which hadn’t gone well. I came out of it and went outside and phoned a colleague for a chat and I just burst into tears. I went to see my boss and I said, ‘I’m not alright’. Being a man, and even in 2018, there wasn’t much talk about mental health – thankfully today there is a massive difference and things have moved along.

He added: “I was off work for 17 weeks in total and when I came back, I was open and honest about my experience. When I opened up it was absolutely amazing how many others then shared their experiences. It’s a cliché but I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did. I manage my own mental health now by talking and helping others – sometimes a simple smile and a chat can be enough. We’re all human beings at the end of the day. If we can be a bit more sociable and look out for each other, it will be a better place.”  

Carol Foster

GWR Lead Customer Host Carol Foster also uses her personal experience to help others at work now that she’s a Mental Health First Aider. Carol said: “My story started in my 20s, before I joined the railway. It started with anxiety – I started having palpitations and panic attacks. I remember calling the doctor the first time it happened thinking I was having a heart attack. I managed to get to a point where I had control of it, but then halfway through our marriage my husband got sick and that’s when things started going even further downhill. He became clinically depressed and his behaviour in turn made me depressed too. There was only so much I could take, and I had terrible thoughts.

Carol added: “Part of what happened has made me who I am now. I think what I’ve been through makes being a Mental Health First Aider better. Having been there, I can empathise better with people because I know what I needed to hear. Being part of the onboard crew, I’m always visible and people see me out and about if they need to chat to me. I do find that helps some people – they just want to offload. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ really does make a difference.”

For more information and to get involved in the study, please email the Research Project Manager Suzy Ludlow at s.ludlow@samaritans.org

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call for free on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org

Local brewery helps transform disused spot at Lancaster station

Copyright Stuart Walker Photography 2022

Local brewery opens new pub at Lancaster station following transformation of disused space. 

  • Avanti West Coast, Lancaster Brewery and Network Rail restore former storeroom
  • Works to transform station’s Grade II Listed building into pub now complete
  • New venue at Lancaster station celebrates region’s railway heritage

A new pub has opened its doors at Lancaster station following works by a local brewery, Avanti West Coast and Network Rail to lovingly restore a space which remained unused for more than 40 years  

Tite & Locke, a cask and keg beer emporium owned by Lancaster Brewery, is located on platform three in what was previously the station’s old storeroom.

Lancaster Brewery, Avanti West Coast, Network Rail and The Railway Heritage Trust joined together to carefully transform part of the Grade II Listed building, which has remained empty since it was used as a storeroom more than four decades ago.

The pub’s name celebrates two men who played a key part in Lancaster’s railway – architect, William Tite, who designed Lancaster station in the 1800s; and engineer, Joseph Locke, whose greatest legacy is the West Coast Main Line.

Adorned with rail memorabilia and featuring an original fireplace and tiled floor, which have been hidden for many years, Tite & Locke gives a nod to Lancaster’s railway heritage.

Efforts to give the space a new lease of life is part of the intercity operator’s commitment to work with local SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and make its stations part of the communities they serve.

Tite & Locke is Lancaster Brewery’s latest venue to open in the region and is the first of its kind for the brewer – offering customers the chance to spot trains or catch a glimpse of the showcase beer cellar.  

Michael Byrne, Avanti West Coast Station Manager at Lancaster, said: “We want to champion local businesses, so it has been great to work with Lancaster Brewery who shared our aspiration to transform this beautiful building and celebrate the region’s railway heritage.

“We’re delighted to see Tite & Locke open its doors and are proud to have played our part in bringing a new lease of life to this area of the station. We’re sure this unique space will be enjoyed by the local community and those travelling to and from Lancaster by train for many years to come.”

Phil Simpson, Director of Lancaster Brewery, said: “It’s really been a long-haul involving years of discussion, work and worry but it’s clear all the pain has been worthwhile. It’s a beautiful little pub, in a fascinating location with a uniquely diverse customer base. Our thanks to Avanti West Coast and Network Rail who have proven to be insightful, encouraging, and inspirational partners.”

Rory Kingdon, Senior Sponsor at Network Rail, said: “The design of the new public house at Lancaster station is not only sympathetic to the historic nature of the building, but it also delivers a new leisure facility for passengers, making this key West Coast Main Line transport hub an even more welcoming place to be.

“With the rail network bustling again, we’re calling on businesses, health care providers, charities and community groups, to make use of the rooms within rail stations and the high footfall of people they bring, to develop their potential.”

Tim Hedley-Jones, Executive Director of the Railway Heritage Trust, said: “The Railway Heritage Trust has been pleased to support the Lancaster Brewery in the development of the Tite and Locke pub. We are very pleased with what has been created. It aligns well with our objective of bringing redundant space back into use at listed stations while at the same time creating a great new facility for customers.”

HS2 acquires second major development site paving the way for Manchester’s new high speed station

HS2 Ltd has reached an agreement with Bruntwood, one of the UK’s leading property providers, to purchase Square One on Travis Street in readiness for construction of Manchester’s brand new high speed railway station.
The sale marks HS2’s second major property acquisition in the city centre in just over 12 months, following its purchase of the Store Street site in April 2021. Both sites have been purchased by HS2, on behalf of the Department for Transport, and are pivotal to the creation of the new high speed station that will be built adjacent to the existing Piccadilly Station.

Manchester’s new station is forecast to open between 2035 and 2040 and includes six platforms at surface level, allowing passengers to access both HS2 and future NPR services. The plans also include provision for a new four platform Metrolink station beneath the HS2 station.

Ruth Todd, Chief Commercial Officer at HS2 said:

“Following submission of the Bill earlier this year, seeking powers to construct and operate the railway between Crewe and Manchester, this acquisition represents another major milestone in our programme to bring high speed rail to the North.

“HS2’s purchase of Square One is a vote of confidence for investors locally and internationally to leverage the wider regeneration potential of the surrounding area, knowing that Manchester is set to become so brilliantly connected.

A large proportion of the area surrounding Piccadilly station is underdeveloped, making it a prime location for investment in new commercial space, housing and public realm.

Investment would see businesses, residents and visitors benefit from a 41 minute connection to Birmingham on HS2 (a 46-minute saving), with direct services from London Euston set to more than halve, cutting one hour and 12 minutes off the current fastest journey time.

Bruntwood, who sold the Square One site to HS2, has already set out its ambition to use the proceeds to continue investing in the UK’s regional centres.

Pete Bearpark, Asset Management Director at Bruntwood, said:

“We are committed to creating thriving places and communities, and after 15 years under Bruntwood stewardship, we have agreed to the sale of Square One and the land surrounding it to HS2 in advance of a formal compulsory purchase process.

“We will use the proceeds to continue to reinvest into regional cities to drive economic growth and have a positive impact on businesses and communities.

Early works supporting construction of the new Piccadilly high speed station are not forecast to commence until at least 2025. HS2 has agreed leasehold terms with Square One’s existing tenants to enable them to remain in situ until the site is required.

Welsh timber returns to the railway for carbon-cutting test run

For the first time since 2005, a freight train carrying Welsh timber left Aberystwyth as part of a trial that could see regular freight traffic return to the Cambrian line.

The successful trial, aimed at exploring the feasibility of transporting timber by rail to reduce carbon emissions, opens up the possibility of removing hundreds of large lorries from the rural roads of mid Wales.

Two Network Rail Class 37 locomotives were used for the trial

The timber, which came from the forests of Ceredigion and Powys, was loaded onto a Colas Rail freight service at Aberystwyth on Friday 29 April, ready to be transported to the Kronospan manufacturing plant in Chirk, north Wales. Kronospan makes and distributes timber products such as wood panelling for furniture and flooring and plays an important role in the timber supply chain.

Ten wagons of unfinished timber left Aberystwyth on Friday, pulled by a pair of Class 37 locomotives owned by Network Rail, thanks to a partnership with the freight operator Colas Rail. The Class 37s were handpicked for the job in order to haul the 700-tonne load over the steep gradients of parts of the line, which skirts the edge of the Snowdonia mountain range.

Transporting this much timber by rail removed upwards of 16 lorries from the roads, helping to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion. It’s estimated that a quarter of a tonne of carbon dioxide was saved by using the railway for this purpose, which equates to 30,411 charges of your smart phone or the carbon emissions per passenger taking a one-way flight from Amsterdam to Rome.

Timber ready to be transported to Chirk

Jess Lippett, Network Rail senior route freight manager, said: “Rail freight is a vital part of our infrastructure, providing a fast, green, safe and efficient way of transporting goods.

“This trial run shows how we can work together to have a positive impact on the environment and the economy, with the potential to remove hundreds of lorries from rural roads while supporting local businesses.”

Simon Metcalf, business delivery manager (North) for Colas Rail said: “Colas Rail Freight, Kronospan and Network Rail have worked in partnership for many years developing cost effective and environmentally friendly solutions for the continuing transportation of timber by rail. 

“Our latest venture combines minimal road transportation of timber from the forests of Ceredigion and Powys to the strategic Railfreight hub in Aberystwyth. From here, approximately 700 tonnes of material can be moved by Colas Rail Freight in one trainload to the Kronospan manufacturing plant in Chirk. 

“These new services are the first commercial freight trains to operate over the Cambrian rail route for over 25 years – aside from one journey in the early 2000s – and combine route specific traction with state-of-the-art European Rail Traffic Management Signalling (ERTMS).

“Both Colas Rail and Kronospan continue to strive to identify the reduction of CO2 emissions across their business portfolio.” 

Owing to the success of this first trial run, Network Rail hopes to work with Kronospan and Colas Rail on another test journey in the near future.

Midlands’ longest railway bridge to be installed this weekend

NR Press release 04/05/2022

Final preparations are underway to install a new landmark railway bridge in Birmingham which will become the longest single-span railway structure in the West Midlands.

The 92-metre-long bridge in Stechford is being built by Network Rail in partnership with HS2 so future tracks for Britain’s new zero-carbon railway can pass underneath it.

Over the Early May Bank Holiday, an old railway viaduct on the Stechford to Aston freight line above was demolished ready for the new structure to be driven into place this coming weekend (7-8 May).

The new 2,600-tonne structure, known as the SAS 13 bridge, has been pre-assembled by contractor Skanska over the last 22 months in a huge compound beside the existing railway lines.

This construction method reduces carbon emissions and cuts the number of lorry movements on local roads, minimising impacts on the local community.

In numbers, the SAS 13 bridge:

  • Weighs a total of 2,600 tonnes (equivalent to 940 Mini Cooper cars)
  • Spans a distance of 92 metres
  • Is held together by 26,715 bolts weighing a total of 25 tonnes
  • Is made from 3,601 cubic metres of concrete
  • And 1,118 tonnes of steel
  • Is an investment of £85m to ready the existing railway for HS2

End to end the new metal bridge is 92 metres long – four metres shorter than London’s Elizabeth Tower – the home of Big Ben.

This coming weekend 18 huge remote-controlled vehicles known as Self Propelled Modular Transporters (SPMT) will drive the new 2,600 tonne metal and concrete bridge into place before tracks are re-laid so trains can run again on Monday 23 May.

Each SPMT has 24 wheels, meaning 432 wheels will carry the load when the bridge is driven into its final position.

Today (Wednesday 4 May) an animation created by contractor Skanska has been released showing just how the complex work will be done.

Patrick Cawley, director for ‘On Network Works’ for HS2 and Network Rail, said: “Moving this 2,600 tonne bridge into place is no mean feat and the new structure will ensure Britain’s new zero-carbon, high-speed railway HS2 works in harmony with the existing rail routes into the second city.

“As you’d expect from such a complex engineering project, CrossCountry passengers will see changes to their weekend journeys in May. I’d urge people to please check before they travel using the National Rail Enquiries website or app, and I thank everyone in advance for their patience while we help build this railway for the future.”

Rosario Barcena, Skanska Rail programme director, said: “We’re extremely excited to be working with Network Rail and HS2 to deliver the SAS 13 bridge replacement project. This project will deliver the largest single span railway bridge in the West Midlands, improving connectivity and paving the way for the HS2 route into Birmingham City Centre.

“We have designed and constructed the bridge to deliver value for money, reduce impact to the environment and disruption to the local community. The bridge has been fabricated on-site, cutting carbon emissions and reducing vehicle movements to and from site. We’re looking forward to seeing it in operation.”

To carry out the work safely, CrossCountry services between Birmingham New Street and Coleshill Parkway are being replaced with rail replacement buses each weekend in May*.

Passengers are being urged to plan their journeys in advance at www.nationalrail.co.uk or visit CrossCountry’s dedicated webpage here.

Elizabeth line to open on 24 May 2022

Transport for London (TfL) has today confirmed that, subject to final safety approvals, the Elizabeth line will open on Tuesday 24 May 2022. The Elizabeth line will transform travel across London and the South East by dramatically improving transport links, cutting journey times, providing additional capacity, and transforming accessibility with spacious new stations and walk-through trains. The Elizabeth line will initially operate as three separate railways, with services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield connecting with the central tunnels from autumn this year.

In the coming weeks, Elizabeth line signage will continue to be uncovered across the network in preparation for the start of customer service. The updated Tube and Rail map will also be released later showing the new central section stations connected with the rest of the TfL network for the first time.

TfL Image - Elizabeth line Paddington station platform

The new line is set to be crucial to London’s recovery from the pandemic, helping avoid a car-led recovery by providing new journey options, supporting regeneration across the capital, and adding an estimated £42bn to the UK economy.

The Elizabeth line will operate 12 trains per hour between Paddington and Abbey Wood from Monday to Saturday 06:30 to 23:00. Work will continue in engineering hours and on Sundays to allow a series of testing and software updates in preparation for more intensive services from the autumn.

All services between Reading and Heathrow to Paddington and Shenfield to Liverpool Street, currently operating as TfL Rail, will be rebranded to the Elizabeth line. Customers travelling between Reading or Heathrow into London will need to change at Paddington for services into the central section of the route, and customers from Shenfield into London will need to change at Liverpool Street. Services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield will connect with the central tunnels in autumn when frequencies will also be increased to 22 trains per hour in the peak between Paddington and Whitechapel.

TfL Image - Elizabeth line train interior

Customers will be able to plan their journeys on the Elizabeth line using the TfL Go app and Journey Planner ahead of the railway opening. The new railway will connect stations such as Paddington to Canary Wharf in only 17 minutes, transforming how Londoners and visitors navigate the capital. This journey currently takes more than 30 minutes to complete using the Tube.

All Elizabeth line stations will be staffed from first to the last train, with a ‘turn up and go’ service offered to anyone needing assistance. Step-free access is in place from street to train across all Elizabeth line stations between Paddington and Woolwich.

Andy Byford, Transport for London’s Commissioner, said: “I am delighted that we can now announce a date for the opening of the Elizabeth line in May. We are using these final few weeks to continue to build up reliability on the railway and get the Elizabeth line ready to welcome customers. The opening day is set to be a truly historic moment for the capital and the UK, and we look forward to showcasing a simply stunning addition to our network.”

TfL Image - Elizabeth line map May 22

Work is ongoing at Bond Street Elizabeth line station, which means that it will not open with the other stations on 24 May. The station continues to make good progress and the team at Bond Street are working hard to open the station to customers later this year.

Changes will be made to 14 bus routes to improve links to Elizabeth line stations in east and south-east London, where many customers will use buses to get to and from stations. The changes will take effect from Saturday 14 and Saturday 21 May. This includes the new route 304, which will operate between Manor Park and Custom House stations from 21 May.

Cutting-edge hybrid locomotive set to run on UK rail freight networks

GB Railfreight press release 29/04/2022

GB Railfreight (GBRf), one of the UK’s largest national rail freight operators and mover of goods, today unveiled its new hybrid Class 99 locomotive, marking a major development in the decarbonisation of UK supply chains and consumer and business purchases.

Designed and built in collaboration with Stadler and Beacon Rail, the new hybrid locomotive – the first Heavy Freight Locomotive capable of hauling mainline speeds and tonnages on UK rail networks – will run from 2025 and are intended to replace existing diesel-only powered Class 66 locomotives.

Carrying millions of consumer and business goods from ports and terminals, such as Felixstowe, to logistics hubs, the new trains will operate along electrified and non-electrified tracks across the UK. The Class 99s are expected to cut emissions by c.50% per journey and become the most sustainable mode of moving goods for the UK public and businesses. It is anticipated that the new hybrid model will reduce GBRf’s carbon footprint by 428 tonnes per working day across intermodal services operating along partially electrified lines.

The UK government’s electrification rollout, which is taking place over the next decade, will enable the Class 99 to run on electricity across all UK routes and reduce emissions by 585,000 tonnes of carbon per year. 

Rail freight already moves the economy around the UK and this investment will enable GB Railfreight and the wider industry to do it even more sustainably. Each year GB Railfreight transports containers of consumer goods, from wine, food to garden furniture. The major efficiency of these trains will enable consumers and businesses to cut their own footprints and make better purchasing decisions.

John Smith, CEO of GB Railfreight, said: 

“Rail freight is not just the backbone of the UK’s economy; it is now leading the push to decarbonise supply chains. Our new and cutting-edge locomotives will immediately make a huge impact on reducing CO2 emissions, improve choice for businesses and consumers, and cut their carbon footprints when purchasing goods. If scaled, with the help of the UK government to electrify more routes, the Class 99 locomotive can play an even greater role in helping supply chains and business operations become significantly more climate friendly.”

Industry Minister, Lee Rowley said:

“Making our rail networks more sustainable is hugely important to ensuring our supply chains can continue to be the cornerstone of the UK’s economic growth.

“The launch of the Class 99, the first hybrid locomotive to run on UK rail networks, is a big moment for the British rail and freight industry. By helping GB Railfreight to cut emissions by half per journey, it will help to usher in a new age of low carbon goods transport in the UK.”

Inigo Parra, CEO of Stadler Valencia said:

“Stadler has extensive experience in the UK locomotive market.  Over recent years we have introduced with Beacon the Class 68 diesel-electric locomotive and the Class 88 bi-mode locomotive.  We are very proud to go one-step further with the development of the Class 99, a versatile, high-performance locomotive that will provide environmentally-friendly and cost-effective rail transport services.” 

Beacon CEO, Adam Cunliffe, said:

“Beacon is proud to introduce the Class 99 to the market; this is the result of a collaborative approach with our long-standing customer GB Railfreight and manufacturer Stadler.  The Class 99 order underlines Beacon’s drive to support the UK’s journey towards a greener and more efficient rail network.  We look forward to supporting the delivery programme for these locomotives ahead of introduction to service in 2025, providing further momentum to facilitate modal shift from road to rail.”

GB Railfreight celebrates 20 years of operations out of Felixstowe

GB Railfreight Press release – 28/04/2022

Today GB Railfreight (GBRf) celebrates its longstanding partnership with the Port of Felixstowe, marking 20 years since GBRf and the port first collaborated on an inaugural Intermodal service to transport goods across the UK for MSC.

The growth in the partnership and the port itself has been exponential over the past 20 years. Since the first service, GBRf has gone on to operate 50 daily services nationwide, of which 14 are for MSC. The port has expanded from 28 to 76 daily trains over the 20 years, with 30 of these belonging to GBRf, resulting in 166 GBRf trains running to and from Felixstowe each week.

With the launch of three new GBRf services out of Felixstowe over the last 12 months, the partnership between GB Railfreight and the Port of Felixstowe has grown year on year.

With the port’s expansion, GBRf serves more customers than ever before, transporting 245,240 containers in and out of the port in 2021, and 62,441 containers in the first quarter of 2022 alone – utilising Felixstowe’s reputation as the largest deep sea port in order to deliver better and more efficient services for its customers. Additionally, GB Railfreight has been servicing seven of the inland terminals since 2002, further bolstering the port’s ability to fortify the UK’s supply chains and help grow the economy.

In the years ahead Felixstowe is expected to expand further, creating 90 daily rail freight services from the port. GBRf has already launched three new services – iPort, Tinsley and Birch Coppice – in the past 12 months. GBRf currently employs c.100 members of staff at the port, from which they run a seven-day-a-week service and intend to increase the number of staff and services to meet customer demand.

The effectiveness of the relationship has been particularly on show over the past two years. GBRf is proud of the part it played in working with the Port of Felixstowe to keep the UK’s economy moving during the pandemic and supplying vital PPE at the height of the first lockdown in 2020. More recently, from the HGV driver shortages, Brexit impacts and the pressure of Christmas supply chains, the collaboration ensured goods kept on flowing to consumers and businesses without any significant disruption.

John Smith, CEO of GB Railfreight, said: “Without our 20-year partnership we would not have been able to support the UK economy in the way that we did. Felixstowe has been crucial to the success of GBRf and the wider rail freight sector, enabling us to deliver more services, in a more efficient way, to customers. In the next 20 years our partnership will be multi-faceted, as we work together to make the UK’s supply chains even more resilient, efficient, and importantly, sustainable too”.

Clemence Cheng, CEO, Port of Felixstowe, said: “GB Railfreight are a key partner helping to ensure that we are able to offer shippers a range of frequent, efficient and sustainable distribution options from the Port of Felixstowe. We have worked closely with them as their operation has grown over the last 20 years and look forward to continuing the relationship long into the future.”

Windermere station event celebrates 175 years of railway

Northern and the railway community has marked 175 years since opening of the Furness Railway at a special event at Windermere station today. 

The Furness Railway and Lakes Line opened in 1846, transforming the way goods and passengers were transported in the county.  

It was then extended through Burneside and Staveley to Windermere in 1847. 

One of Northern’s Class 195 trains, which was renamed Pride of Cumbria, proudly displayed its new nameplate at the occasion.  

The train’s new name was unveiled at a ceremony at Barrow-in-Furness station last year, with other events taking place in Oxenholme, Burnside and Staveley.  

Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern, said: “A huge thank you to everyone who’s been involved in making today happen, including Community Rail Cumbria and the 175 Committees, who are our fantastic volunteers.”   

“The commemorations, and community events would not have been possible but for the fantastic contributions from our volunteers, aided by the robust support from community stakeholders and the rail industry.  

“Northern is proud to be a part of such rich heritage and community and as we look back on 175 years of progress, we also look forward to delivering further improvements in the area to continue to make a positive impact for the North.”    

Ian Conway, chair of the Lakes Line 175 committee: “I have been delighted to welcome guests to the finale event of our 175 anniversary celebrations at Windermere station.  

The past two years have seen a tremendous number of hours and effort put in by an amazing array of station volunteers, community organisations and rail industry colleagues. Their passion, enthusiasm and collaboration has brought about a wonderful year of celebrations for both the Lakes line and Furness Railway.   

“I look forward to building on the successful joint working with the Furness 175 Committee and, despite the extraordinary challenges of covid, I am proud that we have been able to revive our railway history, reconnect communities and inspire rail travellers to return to the railway.” 

Network Rail Bank Holiday projects

Press releases from NR 26/04/2022

Swing bridge upgrades will deliver more reliable journeys for passengers in East Anglia

Network Rail’s planned upgrade of the electrical and mechanical systems of three swing bridges at Reedham, Somerleyton and Oulton Broad will improve reliability for passengers and reduce disruption for boat users.

Oulton Broad swing Bridge

Thought to date back to around 1905, the internal components of the three swing bridges haven’t been replaced in over 100 years and need frequent and costly maintenance. Starting autumn this year, Network Rail’s engineers will be upgrading the internal components for each bridge which includes replacing :

  • the winch systems,
  • hydraulic jacks and pipework,
  • lighting and;
  • Installing new power systems.

This work will make the bridges less prone to faults, reducing the need for maintenance and will be able to operate more reliably throughout the year for passengers. It will also benefit river traffic by providing more reliable access to the local waterways and support the local economy, especially throughout the busy summer period when tourists are welcomed to the area.

The three bridges are an important part of Network Rail’s railway heritage and work to the internal elements of the bridges will be carried out whilst also maintaining the current look-and-feel and heritage of each bridge.

Video of drone flypast of the three swing bridges at Reedham, Somerleyton and Oulton Broad. 

Travel advice for rail passengers

Network Rail is planning to close the Wherry line between Reedham and Lowestoft and the East Suffolk line between Lowestoft and Beccles to allow engineers to complete the upgrade work to the swing mechanisms. The bridges will be closed on the following dates:

  • Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 September 2022
  • Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 October 2022
  • Saturday 22 October to Sunday 6 November 2022 inclusive (16 days)
  • Sunday 20 November 2022

Greater Anglia will be running a rail replacement bus service so that rail passengers are able to complete their journeys. Details will be available closer to the time of the work taking place on www.greateranglia.co.uk and www.nationalrailenquiries.co.uk.

Advice for boat users

We have been working in coordination with the Broads Authority to plan this work after the busy summer tourist period to minimise disruption. River access for vessels will be limited while the work takes place but there will be short windows of opportunity to open the bridges during the 16-day period to allow river access which will be communicated by The Broads Authority to boat users prior to works commencing. 

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “These bridges are an important part of our railway heritage and also an important part of keeping both rail and boat traffic moving. Renewing the components will reduce the risk of mechanical problems and help keep services running safely, smoothly and reliably for our passengers, as well as maintaining access to the ports and marinas.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director said: “This work will make our Norwich and Ipswich to Lowestoft lines even more reliable, which I know our customers will welcome. While the work is going on we will make sure customers can still complete their journeys with a rail replacement bus service.”

Rob Rogers, Broads Authority Director of Operations, commented: “This much-needed investment by Network Rail into the Broads’ swing bridges is very much welcomed by the Broads Authority and our boating communities.

It has been a challenging few years for our river users regarding the bridges and we are delighted to hear that work is progressing to allow them to reliably open for river traffic.

We urge the boating community to note the periods of closure above and to check our website as the works progress for any navigation updates.”

For more information, please visit our Anglia swing bridge renewals project page

You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest news in the Anglia region @NetworkRailANG using the hashtag #AngliaSwingBridges

Essential track works to affect Cambridge and Stansted rail passengers this May Bank Holiday

Passengers travelling to Stansted and between London and Cambridge are advised to check before they travel this May Bank Holiday as Network Rail carries out essential track works in the Bishops Stortford area.

A quarter of a mile of track and five sets of points have been renewed at Bishops Stortford to date, with remaining work scheduled through May and June. The work is part of a package of improvement and includes:

  • Renewal of eleven points, the pieces of track that enable trains to change from one track to another
  • Over half a mile of track renewal
  • Re-timber and re-rail over two bridges
  • Platform works at Bishops Stortford station
  • Drainage works to keep the track bed in good condition

Passengers are advised to check how their journey might be affected before they travel.

Track works like these are essential to prevent issues that cause delays. Just like road surfaces, track wears out from constant use from trains, even more so on busy main lines. Maintenance is carried out to keep the track in working order, but eventually a full replacement is required to prevent delays.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “This year, most of the network will be available for passengers to enjoy days out by rail throughout the Bank holiday. Those planning to travel on the West Anglia line and those planning to travel to Stansted should check how their journey might be affected by the works. I’d like to thank passengers for their patience while we carry out this important work to renew the track to improve reliability on this busy line.”

The railway is vital to Britain’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and passengers can play a key role in boosting that recovery as they return to the network for both work and leisure.

Major changes to train services on Hounslow line in May after engineering work moved forward 24-hours

Network Rail engineers changed their plans so the return of the much-loved Army vs Navy rugby match at Twickenham on Saturday 30 April can go ahead with a full train service.

It means work to install over 10km of new cables and new signalling equipment on the Hounslow Loop line – which connects London Waterloo with Chiswick, Richmond, Twickenham, Hounslow and Brentford – will happen over the Bank Holiday weekend from Sunday, 1 May, continuing until Wednesday, 4 May.

Network Rail’s managing director for Wessex route, Mark Killick, said: “It’s fantastic to see the Army Navy match back on after so long and I’m pleased we’ve been able to move our work so fans can travel to and from the game by train. It does mean that we are going to be doing our engineering work well into the working week though, and it’s important that customers work out their routes to their workplaces.
“There will be replacement buses running along with the usual buses in the area, and the main line via Twickenham is going to be open throughout.
“This is part of a massive £375m scheme to improve the railway in the area and reduce the delays caused by signalling faults. Resignalling schemes like this one, and the track work that goes with it, are one of the best ways we have of improving the reliability of our network, so it’s really important we do the job and I’m grateful to our customers for their patience.”

The £375m Feltham and Wokingham resignalling scheme covers more than 80 miles of railway and over 500 pieces of signalling equipment.
The programme, which will finish in 2024, is replacing 1970s signalling infrastructure – the traffic lights of the railway – with a modern equivalent that will be much more reliable.
Once all those renewals and upgrades are complete, we will move control of the signalling system from Feltham and Wokingham to the state-of-the-art Wessex Rail Operating Centre (ROC) in Basingstoke.
The programme reached the halfway stage last weekend when new signalling kit was switched on in the Ascot and Virginia Water area, with new signalling technology on the Hounslow Loop set to go live in August next year 2023, before the final phase in Wokingham is switched on in 2024.

Christian Neill, SWR’s Customer Experience Director, said: “The work Network Rail is carrying out is set to significantly boost the reliability and performance of the railway, making it easier to get our customers to where they need to be.
“Closing the railway for four days is never a decision taken lightly, especially when two of those days are during the working week. Whilst it is important that to be able to keep leisure travellers and thousands of rugby fans moving on the Saturday, we’re urging anyone traveling from Sunday to Wednesday to check before they travel as a range of alternative transport options are available in the area.
“We’d also like to thank anyone impacted by these works for their patience and understanding as we work to enhance our network.”

For more information see https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/our-routes/wessex/feltham-and-wokingham-re-signalling-programme/

Passengers reminded to ‘travel either side’ of early May bank holiday

Passengers travelling between London Euston and Scotland over the early May bank holiday are being urged to travel either side of the long weekend.

At Easter Network Rail invested £22m to improve future journeys for passengers and freight on the West Coast main line and key routes in the Midlands and North West.

Now a further £19.1m is being spent to complete or continue many of those major upgrades to improve passenger and freight journeys for the future.

This work means Euston station will be closed to main line train and London Overground services between Saturday April 30 and Monday 2 May due to major track upgrades in Watford and Wembley, including work to build Britain’s new zero-carbon railway HS2.

Like over Easter, trains will start and finish at Milton Keynes.

Network Rail is advising that the best time to travel will be on Friday 29 April and Tuesday 3 May.

Passengers needing to travel on the days in between could have longer journeys, fewer available seats, and may need to use rail replacement buses.

To plan journeys and for the latest travel information visit: www.networkrail.co.uk/wcml.

Dave Penney, Network Rail passenger director for the North West and Central region, said: “We made great progress on major railway improvements over Easter and I’d like to thank passengers for their continued patience while we carry out more must-do work between April 30 and 2 May. We know there is never an ideal time to shut the railway but bank holidays continue to be the least disruptive time for us to carry out this essential maintenance.

“With Euston closed our advice is once again to travel either side of the bank holiday on Friday 29 April and Tuesday 3 May where possible, and to plan ahead by checking National Rail Enquiries to see how your journey could be impacted.”

The essential work which will require the railway to be closed for periods between 30 April and 2 May are*:

  • Major track upgrades at Watford and Wembley
  • Railway drainage improvements in Camden to protect tracks from future flooding
  • Demolition of an old railway bridge between Birmingham New Street and Coleshill
  • Signalling – the traffic lights of the railway – being upgraded in Macclesfield
  • Bridge upgrade work in Carlisle
  • Track foundation strengthening in Warrington and Carlisle
  • Track replacement on the West Coast main line in Carstairs in Scotland

Nationally Network Rail is investing £70m on 550 projects to upgrade the railway over the early May bank holiday.

Passengers are also being advised about RMT strike action which will affect TransPennine Express services across the north of England on both Saturday 30 April and Sunday 1 May**.

Passengers should plan ahead at www.networkrail.co.uk/wcml, check with their train operators or visit www.nationalrail.co.uk for the latest journey information