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.”

West Coast main line flood protection work starts this week

©Network Rail

Passengers are being advised to plan their journeys while major work to protect the West Coast main line from the risk of flooding takes place from this week.

Between 4-12 January, railway drainage upgrades will improve future journeys between Milton Keynes and Rugby.

The work will prevent heavy rain from flooding tracks, making the economically important rail route more reliable for passengers and freight.

During the improvements, trains will be diverted via Northampton to bypass the 4km long trackside drainage work.

This will add around 25 minutes onto West Coast main line journeys for Avanti West Coast customers.

London Northwestern Railway will run fewer services between Crewe and Euston and passengers will need to change trains at Rugby.

Passengers are urged to check www.nationalrail.co.uk and plan their journeys in advance.

James Dean, Network Rail’s West Coast South route director, said: “This major work on the West Coast main line is vital to protect it from the risk of future flooding. We always try to do our work with the least disruption to passengers as possible, and during this project we can keep people on the move by using a diversionary route. However, there will be fewer services, longer journey times and some passengers may need to change trains, so I’d urge people to please check National Rail Enquiries before they travel.”

Lawrence Bowman, customer experience director for London Northwestern Railway, said: “This essential maintenance will improve the reliability of our rail infrastructure and reduce the likelihood of delays in the future. I urge customers to plan their rail travel in advance during the West Coast Main Line work near Milton Keynes in January when some journeys will take longer.”

Gus Dunster, executive director of operations and safety at Avanti West Coast, said: “As Network Rail carry out essential works near Milton Keynes in January, there’ll be changes to our services and extended journey times to and from London Euston. We strongly recommend you make a reservation, plan your journey in advance as well as check the National Rail Enquiries website before travelling.”

To combat Covid-19, passengers must wear a face covering in train stations, on train services and any replacement bus services. Those who fail to do so face a fine of £200.

For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Meanwhile, enhanced cleaning procedures will remain in place to stop the spread of coronavirus, with hand sanitiser on station concourses.

To find out more about what Network Rail is doing to stop the spread of Covid-19 visit: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/coronavirus/.

Climate Train sets off to COP26

A special ‘Climate Train’ will operate between the Netherlands and Scotland today carrying passengers to COP26, the international climate change conference in Glasgow.

  • Rail companies across Europe unite with Youth for Sustainable Travel for special train to COP26
  • Service will begin at Amsterdam, bringing delegations and youth activists from across the continent to Glasgow for COP26
  • Journey will showcase importance of rail travel in battle against climate change

A special ‘Climate Train’ will operate between the Netherlands and Scotland today carrying passengers to COP26, the international climate change conference in Glasgow, thanks to a partnership between Avanti West Coast, Eurostar, NS, ProRail and Youth for Sustainable Travel. 

Official delegations from the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Germany will join young people, MEPs, and NGOs such as Friends of the Earth and Oxfam, to enjoy one of the more sustainable ways to travel between the continent and COP26.

With a passenger’s carbon footprint from one flight between Amsterdam and London the equivalent of seven Eurostar journeys1, there are significant carbon savings to be made by improving access to fast, seamless rail connections between the UK and the continent.

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “Our railways are one of the most sustainable ways for people to travel. As we host the world at COP26, I’m proud that our railway is playing its part in the fight against climate change. We are committed to achieving a net zero rail network by 2050, ensuring our railways continue to play a pivotal role in enabling greener, cleaner journeys for passengers.”

Executive Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, who will be in Brussels-Midi station to send the train off this Saturday, said: “Taking the train to the climate summit in Glasgow is without a doubt the most climate friendly way for delegations to travel there. The train is sustainable and provides plenty of comfort, whether you travel for work or for pleasure. Moreover, inside Europe, the train is fast becoming an increasingly attractive alternative for flying, especially on shorter distances. I wish all travellers on the Climate Train an enjoyable journey and most of all I wish them plenty of success at the summit – we will see each other in Glasgow next week!”

Whilst travelling at 186mph between Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels and London, youth activists will come together with politicians and rail experts to debate and exchange ideas, tackling topics such as how to accelerate the modal shift towards sustainable travel and how innovation in rail can support this. 

On arrival in the UK, delegates will make their way between St Pancras and Euston via London’s first “Wellbeing Walk” – an alternative walking route which aims to avoid high levels of pollution on the busier roads.

One of Avanti West Coast’s iconic Pendolinos, which is carrying delegates on the London to Glasgow part of the journey, has been fully wrapped with a unique sustainability design to celebrate the Climate Train journey. One flight between London and Glasgow is also the equivalent of almost seven train journeys. 2

 A competition will be launched on social media to name the train to go alongside the design which was applied with the support of train builder Alstom, Aura Graphics and rolling stock company Angel Trains who own and invest in the Pendolino fleet.

Watch time lapse footage of the Climate Train being wrapped here

To mark the departure of the Climate Train, rail partners across Continental Europe have signed a message to COP26 – pledging to remain the most sustainable form of motorised transport, with a call for greater support for international rail routes in order to accelerate growth in sustainable travel.

Train operators in Britain also support the UK government’s commitment to deliver a net zero railway network by 2050, which research shows could create almost 6,000 long-term jobs, and to remove all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040.

Jacques Damas, Chief Executive Officer, Eurostar said: “Pre pandemic, demand for international high-speed rail had grown consistently across two decades, as passengers increasingly recognise the benefits of train versus plane. As an industry, our challenge is to take this further, helping our customers lower their carbon footprint as we invest in routes, timetables and a seamless customer experience. The Climate Train is a symbol of partnership between rail operators and a show of commitment to meet growing customer expectations when it comes to sustainable travel. “

Phil Whittingham, Managing Director, Avanti West Coast said: “Climate change is a serious threat to everyone on the planet and Avanti West Coast, like the wider rail industry, is committed to cleaner, greener transport for all. By uniting with operators across the continent, the Climate Train’s journey illustrates the ease of travelling between countries providing customers with a sustainable alternative.

“But our commitment goes beyond COP26. For example, in the next few years we will be replacing our diesel only trains with a combination of electric and bi-mode trains that will substantially reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment.”

The Climate Train concept was initiated by not-for-profit organisation Youth for Sustainable Travel and Dutch rail infrastructure manager ProRail, and became a reality thanks to collaboration with carriers Eurostar, NS and Avanti West Coast. It benefits from the financial support of all Infrastructure managers on the route (Infrabel, SNCF Réseau, Getlink, HS1) as well as SNCB and EWS Schönau. The initiative is also supported by CER – the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies, EIM – European Rail Infrastructure Managers and UIC – the International Union of Railways as part of the EU Year of Rail.

5 minute read – West Coast main line flood repairs to impact London Euston trains

Rail passengers are being warned of changes to trains in and out of London Euston so urgent repairs can take place after severe flash flooding.

The deluge in the capital on Monday 12 July caused an electricity substation to catch fire disabling London Overground services to Watford.

Urgent repairs need to take place to pump away any remaining standing water and fix cables damaged in the electrical fire.

The work means all lines in and out of London Euston must be closed between 11pm on Wednesday 14 July and 6am on Thursday 15 July. Passengers are being asked to travel early on Wednesday night.

The urgent repairs will impact Avanti West Coast, London Northwestern Railway, Caledonian Sleeper and London Overground passengers at the end of tomorrow and first thing on Thursday morning.

Bus replacement services will be in place to keep passengers on the move and people are being urged to check www.nationalrail.co.uk for the latest information.

James Dean, Network Rail’s West Coast South route director, said: “I’m sorry that your journeys have been disrupted this week. Our engineers will be making critical repairs on Wednesday night. 

“The floods made the railway look like a swimming pool, but with 750 volts of electricity running through it. We’ve had to make the site safe before going in and pumping away the remaining flood water and repairing the fire damage.”

For more information on how Network Rail deals with flooding visit: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/looking-after-the-railway/delays-explained/flooding/

Upgrade to Avanti West Coast Voyager fleet now complete

Avanti West Coast partner with Bombardier to complete refresh of entire Voyager fleet 

  • All 20 Voyager trains have now undergone an extensive interior refresh
  • £8.3m programme delivered in less than six months by Bombardier
  • Time lapse video captures week long programme of works

Avanti West Coast rolled out its final upgraded Voyager train today (Friday, 17 December) marking the end of a six-month overhaul programme.

The £8.3m investment was completed at Bombardier’s depot in Ilford, east London, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, with customers already benefitting from the trains’ revitalised interiors.

The refresh of the 20 trains includes new Standard Class seats covers and carpets as well as a revamped toilet area. All older lighting has been replaced with more energy efficient LEDs.

The interior bodyside and ceiling panels in Vestibules, toilets and Standard Class saloons have also been refinished in either paint or vinyl wraps. The door grab handles have been coated with an anti-microbial finish.

The full programme of work was captured in a unique time lapse video which can be downloaded here:

Avanti West Coast Senior Project Manager, Adrian Bullock, explained: “This investment has delivered a step change to the Voyager’s onboard environment. Our customers will really notice the difference.”

“It’s given the trains a new lease of life, and they will continue to serve our customers   for the next two years with great distinction.”

The 20 Voyagers operate over the non-electrified sections of the West Coast Main Line in addition to running from London to Scotland, via the West Midlands. They will remain in service until 2022 when Avanti West Coast will introduce a fleet of new Hitachi Class 805 and 807 trains.

Eric Holmes, Head of UK Services, Bombardier Transportation said; “We are very pleased to have completed this project for our friends at Avanti West Coast. The team at our Ilford facility have performed exceptionally well, despite the challenge of COVID-19, and have delivered a high-quality product on time and on budget. We are all proud of what we have delivered to our customer.”

Avanti West Coast gives customers option to donate Delay Repay compensation to charity

Customers eligible for Delay Repay can now donate their compensation to Avanti West Coast’s charity partner, Action for Children. 

  • Avanti West Coast customers can now donate compensation for delayed journeys to charity
  • Delay Repay donations will support its charity partner Action for Children
  • Money will help fund programmes to improve young people’s mental health

Avanti West Coast has launched an initiative enabling customers to donate compensation for delayed journeys to its charity partner, Action for Children.

Customers travelling on the inter-city operator’s services who are eligible for Delay Repay – a scheme to claim compensation when a journey is delayed by 15 minutes or more – can now request all of their compensation to be donated to the children’s charity.

When claiming Delay Repay, customers can select how they wish to receive compensation. The addition of ‘donation’ as an option means the money, which is the equivalent to all or part of the ticket cost for their delayed journey, is sent directly to Action for Children.

Customers registered for Automatic Delay Repay can decide when to donate, by changing the fulfilment method at the time of accepting their reimbursement.

Action for Children protects and supports children and young people, providing practical and emotional care and support. This latest initiative is part of Avanti West Coast’s work with the charity to support young people on their journey to better mental health.

Donations to the charity will help to deliver their mental health programmes, which are designed to help equip young people and their parents in the UK with the skills and the confidence to care for their wellbeing, and get help when they need it.

Joanna Buckley, Community Manager at Avanti West Coast, said: “We want to make a difference to the communities we serve and connect young people to opportunity, so we are proud to be supporting the work of Action for Children through our Delay Repay scheme.

“While we strive to deliver the best possible experience, we are committed to ensuring our customers are compensated when their journey is delayed by 15 minutes or more and this latest initiative allows them to donate their compensation to help others local to our route. The kindness of our customers will help Action for Children to deliver their mental health programmes, which are more vital than ever with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Ermelinda Ceci, Senior Corporate Development Executive for Action for Children, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Avanti West Coast for setting up this initiative. Our frontline workers tell us the crisis has damaged the mental health of over three-quarters of the children and young people they support, with some experiencing night terrors, bed-wetting, self-harm and outbursts of anger, so it’s crucial they receive support as early as possible. All donations will ensure Action for Children can be a lifeline for those young people and give them the tools they need to be able to cope. Together, thanks to these generous customer donations, we will support even more young people on their journey to better mental health.”

Avanti West Coast makes Friday an ‘off peak’ day

Avanti West Coast has removed Friday morning peak restrictions on long distance journeys to and from London Euston starting from today, 20 November.

The trial, which will run into the New Year, means customers can take advantage of the full range of Off Peak and Advance tickets throughout the day and make a much earlier start to their weekend.

The current Friday morning peak restrictions means customers with Off Peak tickets must wait until typically 09:30 before starting their journeys. For example, the first Off Peak train from Manchester to London is the 09:35 departure, which arrives into Euston just before midday. Customers will now be able to travel on any train (from as early as 05:05) and make the most of their Fridays.

Customers who previously travelled in the morning peak on a Friday, with a fully flexible ticket, will save on average around 50% – 60%. For example, a customer will pay no more than £64.40 for a Standard single from Manchester to London (a saving of 64% on the current walk-up fare), and as little as £25 with the lowest priced Advance Fare (previously  unavailable on peak time services).

Afternoon peak restrictions on a Friday were already removed and this move makes the entire day “off peak”.

Sarah Copley, Executive Director, Commercial at Avanti West Coast said: “Removing the Friday morning restrictions gives customers more freedom to choose when they travel and when lockdown measures ease make the most of their extended weekends and days out.

“Just as importantly it allows us to spread demand and maintain social distancing onboard our services. This will help our customers who decide to travel, to travel with confidence.”

David Sidebottom, Director, Transport Focus added: “Passengers will welcome this trial. Any move that helps save money and maintain social distancing should prove popular, and when the time is right, encourage more people to use rail services again.”  

Avanti West Coast signs up for Rail Aid

Avanti West Coast is offering enthusiasts the chance to get their hands on some eagerly sought after railway artefacts to help raise money for charity.

A number of signs from Crewe station are up for grabs, the proceeds of the auction going to Rail Aid, the Railway Children’s week long fundraising initiative taking place later this month.

The large station signs, measuring 1.98m x 56cm, come in two designs and were taken down earlier in 2020 after many years use at a station familiar to so many rail travellers. 

Rail Aid is a new fundraising mission led by charity Railway Children, bringing the best of the UK rail community together to raise money and help vulnerable children whose lives have been impacted by coronavirus.  

“The signs have helped welcome so many customers over the years, so we really wanted to find them good homes,” said Karen Grimshaw, Station Manager for Avanti West Coast at Crewe. “And if we can raise some money for such a fantastic cause at the same time, even better.”

Across the rail industry, individuals and businesses will be taking part in a week of activities (Nov 22nd – 27th www.railaid.co.uk ), culminating in a live online show, celebrating achievements, featuring some of the key figures in rail and showcasing the industry at its very best.

Terina Keene, Chief Executive, Railway Children, said: “So many people have been hit hard by the effects of Covid-19 and that means children, both in the UK and overseas, are even more vulnerable to finding themselves on the street and in need of our support.

“The railway family has played such a key role during a time of national emergency and we really appreciate the support of Avanti West Coast.”

How do I bid for a sign?

Anyone interested in bidding for one of the signs should email richard.stanton@avantiwestcoast.co.uk , including their details and confirmation of their bid. The signs are expected to fetch in the region of £100 each.

The auction closes at midnight on Saturday 21st November. Winning bidders will be notified the following Monday, with all proceeds going to Rail Aid. Collection will be from Crewe station.

Avanti West Coast makes young rail enthusiast’s day

Avanti West Coast has helped a youngster’s dreams come true with VIP tour of Stafford station for an afternoon of trainspotting heaven.

Dillon Jones, 12, has his heart set on a career on the railway and was invited to join the Avanti West Coast team where he got the chance to try his hand at a number of duties including making his own station announcements.

Dillon, who has autism, is a passionate train enthusiast and a regular at Stafford station. On a recent visit, his first since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was presented with his own Avanti West Coast pin badge.  

After his mother, Jo, posted a message of thanks on a local Facebook Group, the pair were invited back by the team for a behind the scenes visit.

She said: “Dillon was made up to get his pin badge. He wanted to show it to everyone and tell them he worked for Avanti West Coast.

“He loves his trains. They play a big part in his life and how he copes with his autism.  The team at the station were so kind, patient and understanding. To get invited back was the icing on the cake. It has really boosted his confidence and his dreams now seem more realistic. Thank you for making my little man’s week.”

Mark Sefton, Customer Service Team Leader for Avanti West Coast at Stafford, said: “It was great to be able to invite Dillon along to the station for some hands-on, real-life experience.

“He did a great job and we hope it’s whetted his appetite for a possible career on the railways. At a time when the world is having to deal with so much, it was great to see that passion and his wonderful smile.”

As part of the afternoon, Dillon was presented with some Avanti West Coast gifts as well as a 12-month subscription to Railcam, the website that allows users to access real time footage of trains throughout the UK.

Simon Deane, Railcam News and Features Editor said: “Railcam is delighted to join with Avanti West Coast in providing Dillon with a memorable day. The COVID-19 pandemic had caused many traditional rail enthusiasts to furlough their hobby. Railcam has provided a virtual world of spotting from home. With over 100 camera streams available we think Dillon may be spoilt for choice.”

“At-Seat Order” catering service introduced by Avanti West Coast

Customers are set to benefit from a new service where they can have food and drink delivered to their seat.

  • Customers in Standard can now order food and drink delivered to their seat
  • Trials have proved a hit with those using the service
  • The onboard shop remains open and ‘Click and Collect’ is also being tested

Avanti West Coast customers are set to benefit from a new service where they can have food and drink delivered to their seat.

Whilst customers in First Class have always enjoyed being served at their seat, trials are currently taking place on selected Pendolino trains which enable customers in Standard to order food and drink and have it delivered to them.

Customers can log on to the onboard Wi-Fi using their mobile phone, tablet or laptop and then visit the dedicated page in their browser to choose their refreshments.

Payment is through debit or credit cards or PayPal. The order is then delivered to their seat by an onboard Customer Service Assistant.

Avanti West Coast is also testing Click and Collect – giving customers the option to choose food and drink at their seat before collecting from the onboard shop. Those using this will get a notification by text when their order is ready to collect.

While the trials, known as At Seat Order, take place, the onboard shop will remain open if customers prefer to buy their food and drink in the more traditional way.

Initial feedback shows the service has proved successful so far and Avanti West Coast will look to roll it out across the network if the good results continue.

One customer, who used the service, said: “I didn’t need to leave my seat and I was able to fully relax on my journey.”

Another said: “It gave me an enhanced perception that Avanti care about my onboard experience.”

The service would run alongside the onboard Shop on all Pendolino services, which has now been installed with protective screens and safety lines in place to promote social distancing.

“We’re always striving to improve the experience for our customers and these new services will let customers choose the most convenient way for them to buy food and drink. The feedback so far has been really positive,” said Sarah Copley, Executive Director, Commercial at Avanti West Coast.

“For those travelling on their own or who don’t want to leave their seat – this is a perfect solution.

“Alongside our increased safety measures, this innovation enables customers to pay for their items digitally providing them with even more reassurance when they travel with Avanti West Coast.”

Earlier this month the complimentary at-seat catering service was reintroduced in First Class on all Pendolinos, along with a new menu, and last week it also returned to the Voyager fleet.  It was halted as a precaution because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For further safety measures introduced on our services see: www.avantiwestcoast.co.uk