Government takes over running of LSER services in response to over £25 million breach of franchise agreement

  • Government’s Operator of Last Resort to take over running of London & South Eastern Railway (LSER) services from 17 October
  • Decision follows an investigation which identifies over £25m of taxpayer money was not declared by LSER, amounting to a significant breach of the franchise agreement, undermining trust
  • OLR will prioritise punctual and reliable services for passengers and delivery of crucial reforms set out in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail
  • Fares, tickets and services unchanged for passengers and no impact on frontline jobs

The Government will take over running services on Southeastern from 17 October 2021, after a serious breach of the franchise agreement’s “good faith” obligation in relation to financial matters was identified, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced today.

An investigation conducted by the Department for Transport has identified evidence that since October 2014 LSER has not declared over £25m of historic taxpayer funding which should have been returned.

To date £25m has been reclaimed and further investigations are being conducted by the owning group into all related historic contract issues with LSER. Following these investigations, the Government will consider further options for enforcement action, including statutory financial penalties under the Railways Act 1993.

On the basis of the available evidence, we consider this to be a significant breach of the good faith obligation within the franchise agreement and will not be extending a further contract to LSER. The Government believes it is essential that there is public trust in operators, who should prioritise the very best for passengers.

Given the Government’s commitment to protecting taxpayers’ interests, this decision makes clear we will hold private sector operators to the highest standards, and take swift, effective and meaningful action against those who fall short.

Passengers can also be reassured that there will be no changes to fares, tickets or services.   

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said:

“There is clear, compelling and serious evidence that LSER have breached the trust that is absolutely fundamental to the success of our railways. When trust is broken, we will act decisively.

“The decision to take control of services makes unequivocally clear that we will not accept anything less from the private sector than a total commitment to their passengers and absolute transparency with taxpayer support.

“Under the new operator, we will prioritise the punctual, reliable services passengers deserve, rebuild trust in this network, and the delivery of the reforms set out in our Plan for Rail – to build a modern railway that meets the needs of a nation.”

Transferring the running of services to the Government’s in-house Operator of Last Resort (OLR) will ensure passengers see no interruption to their services. The organisation is run by experienced railway managers, who already own and oversee London North Eastern Railway and Northern. 

Today’s decision will also have no impact upon the frontline staff of LSER, who have been at the frontline of delivering services throughout the Covid pandemic. The decision is no reflection on their professionalism and dedication and will not affect jobs.

The Transport Secretary has tasked the expert leadership of the OLR to focus on the delivery of punctual and reliable services, on an affordable and sustainable railway, by rapidly progressing the reforms established by the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail.  In future, we will move the services back into the private sector on a new Passenger Services Contract, allowing private sector investment and innovation to lead the way in delivering a regional railway that works for its passengers.

The Government will also continue to deliver tangible improvements across the network, including:

  • Completing the roll out of the Class 707 trains onto Metro routes to provide more spacious, comfortable journeys
  • Investing in passenger improvements on the existing fleet of trains
  • Improved security across the network

Further details on the new Operator of Last Resort will be set out in due course. 

5 minute read – New life for Platform 1’s Pacer, lifted into Huddersfield Station

  • Platform 1 mental health charity in Huddersfield takes delivery of 19-tonne restored train carriage, delivered by crane
  • Charity won a Department for Transport competition to ‘Transform a Pacer’, and will use it for an educational kitchen
  • Competition marked the end of the line for the unpopular Pacer trains on the Northern network.

A retired train carriage was lowered into position at Huddersfield Station for local charity Platform 1 on Saturday night (July 10), breathing new life into a Pacer train and giving it a new permanent home.

The 19-tonne carriage, was lifted into position overnight by a crane positioned on St George’s Street, hoisting it over the high wall into the station. The vehicle is the second of the retired trains to be delivered to community projects as part of the DfT’s ‘Transform a Pacer’ competition in the North of England – another vehicle was recently delivered to a primary school in Bradford to create a new science laboratory.

The competition means that after three decades of service to northern communities retired Pacer trains will now serve them in new and exciting ways focused on bringing the community together.

The train delivered to Platform 1 was provided by rolling stock company Porterbrook and has been in service since 1986, travelling over three million miles across the network in that time. It was installed with the help of Network Rail teams who managed the logistics of putting it into place. Network Rail also donated the railway sleepers for the pacer to sit on.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton Harris said:

It’s not every day you get to see a train suspended metres above a station. This has been a fantastic project for everyone involved, and I am so pleased that this Pacer will support the exceptional and important work Platform 1 do in the local community.

“Now that Pacers are off the network with modern, new trains running in their place, passengers will be pleased to know the Pacer at the platform is retired from service, but still helping the people of Huddersfield.”

Gez Walsh, Project Leader at Platform 1 said:

“The pacer trains may not have been popular in their working life but this one will be cherished in its retirement.

“This train will now take people on a journey of development and deliver them to a more happier, secure life.”

Mary Grant, CEO of Porterbrook said: 

“We were delighted to support the DfT’s Transform a Pacer competition and particularly pleased that one of the winners is a charity in Huddersfield devoted to supporting mental wellbeing.” 

“Many organisations from across the industry have joined together with Porterbrook and DfT to deliver this Pacer vehicle to the Platform 1 site, including Bam Nuttall, HNRC, Network Rail and Northern.

“I would like to thank all those involved as they have shown, yet again, how the railway works together to deliver for the communities we serve.”

Other winners include Airedale NHS Trust who will use the vehicle to improve local NHS services, transforming their carriage into a mixed-use, non-clinical space to improve the experience of patients using Airedale General Hospital. This will have a particular focus on helping children and families, as well as those suffering with dementia, it will provide a unique communal environment to support patients during their stay.

Tricia Williams, Chief Operating Officer at Northern said:

“We’re delighted to be able to make a positive impact by helping Platform 1 expand the already outstanding support they offer to the wider Huddersfield community.

“Our Pacers gave many decades’ service to those same communities and, now they’ve been replaced on our network by brand new trains, it’s great to see one of those old carriages being given a new lease of life as a hub for Platform.”

Change of journey fees waived for students travelling home for Christmas

Students who had already booked train tickets to travel home for Christmas before the announcement of the student travel window can now rebook their tickets to travel between 3-9 December without paying additional fees.

Students who bought an Advance ticket before 11 November for a date of travel after 9 December can now change their Advance tickets to travel during the window without paying a change of journey fee of up to £10.

Flexible tickets such as Off Peak or Anytime can already be rebooked to another date without payment of an admin fee.

The window from 3-9 December, coinciding with the end of the winter term, ensures that students can return home once the national lockdown restrictions have been lifted whilst minimising the risk of transmission of the virus to others.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“Students will be eager to be at home with their families after an unprecedented autumn term, and travelling during this window enables them to do so as safely as possible.

“By waiving change of journey fees, they can now rebook their tickets without being left out of pocket.”

This is an extension of temporary measures introduced on 26 October allowing train operators and independent rail retailers to temporarily waive the usual change of journey admin fee for Advance tickets where passengers could not travel due to local Covid-19 restrictions.

New rail tech roll-out set to bring more reliable journeys and boost jobs

The roll out of digital signalling – set to improve safety and slash delays – has been accelerated through £1.2 million of new government funding announced by Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris today (November 18).

Feasibility work for digital signalling will be accelerated on vital sections of the West Coast Main Line, Midland Main Line and East Anglia route, including Peterborough to Kings Lynn on the Anglia route, and in the Warrington and Wigan area on the West Coast Mainline North.

This work will identify the most effective way to apply this type of technology to the railway and new way of working, capitalising on early engagement with the supply chain, and creating further opportunities to encourage innovation and drive efficiencies across regions.

Learning from the recent experience of the East Coast Digital Programme, where a partnership with route-based operators has been a success, this early scoping work will lay the foundation for future digital signalling renewals, as part of a wider national plan to introduce digital signalling across the rail network in Great Britain.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“We have come a long way since the era of metal levers, used by Victorian signallers to provide safe passage for trains rolling into and out of stations. Now it’s our turn to be modern transport pioneers and we build the railway of tomorrow.

“Today’s investment brings forward early investigation work with Network Rail engineers and suppliers on how best to roll out digital signalling across the rail network, reducing delays and improving safety in the long term.

“Our ambitious programme to modernise Britain’s rail network will support the supply chain by creating high-skilled jobs and boosting the economy, as we level up the country and build back better after Covid-19.”

Conventional signalling means the network can struggle to recover quickly following disruption with a small delay on one part of the railway still causing knock-on delays hundreds of miles away on other parts of the network, many hours later. 

This new technology gives signallers much better real-time information about train movements, enabling them to communicate with train drivers continuously to reduce the impact of delays. This ‘in-cab’ system will mean an end to conventional signalling at the side of tracks – first used in the Victorian era.

As part of this work, the Department is engaging with suppliers of digital signalling and industry experts across the country to learn from similar schemes and drive efficiency in the Government’s nationwide programme to roll-out this technology on the railway, part of the commitment with industry in the Rail Sector Deal.

Today’s news follows the announcement of £350 million of new investment toward the East Coast Digital Programme, which will introduce digital signalling on the East Coast Main Line, between London King’s Cross and Stoke Tunnel in Lincolnshire, ensuring that more passengers reach their destinations on time.

Andy Jones, director of Operational Programme Delivery at Network Rail said:

“We are delighted with this development funding, which reconfirms the DfT’s commitment to pursuing the Long-Term Deployment Plan for digital signalling on Britain’s railway. 

“The first three schemes – on the East Anglia route, the West Coast Mainline and the Midland Mainline – will help drive forward the modern railway we all need.”

David Clarke, Technical Director at the Railway Industry Association, said:

“With around 60% of signalling equipment units on the UK rail network needing to be replaced over the next 15 years, rail suppliers will need to gear up to ensure they are ‘match fit’ for a significant amount of work, ensuring its roll out is delivered efficiently, to time and to budget, and in order to ensure value for money for taxpayers and passengers.

“New digital technology will improve the reliability and resilience of the network, providing better services for passengers and freight, and will create highly skilled jobs across the UK, at a time when they are vitally needed.

“Today’s investment is a positive step towards rolling out digital signalling and builds on the great work undertaken through the RSG Sector Deal, a joint collaboration between industry and Government. The Railway Industry Association and our members very much look forward to working with Government in delivering digital technology across the network”.

This comes ahead of a virtual panel event taking place tomorrow (Thursday, November 19) with the Rail Minister and leading voices from across the rail and technology sectors who will be taking part in an interactive discussion on how digital technology can transform our rail network.

The panel will discuss the impact and progress of vital digital signalling projects, and the wider innovations that digital technology can bring to rail.

Government bailout to keep London transport running

The Government has agreed a second extraordinary funding and financing package for Transport for London worth up to £1.7bn. 

The package, which will provide financial support until March 2021, is focused on protecting services and ensuring the Capital’s transport network stands ready to support the recovery from Covid-19. Government funding will ensure those who need to, such as NHS staff, can continue to be able to travel as the nation enters tougher national restrictions restrictions.

As with the national rail operators, buses and tram systems, the Government will make up all the fare revenue which TfL has lost due to the Covid pandemic through this support package.

National taxpayers will also continue to fund free travel concessions to standard English levels and free travel to school for children who qualify under national legislation. Nearly all the package will be grants and £95m will be loans.  

The Mayor has also chosen to make £160m in savings over the next six months in TfL and raise fares by RPI+1 per cent.

The Mayor has further stated that, if he wishes to maintain Londoners’ concessions above the English level, he will raise the money to pay for them himself.  If he decides to do this, he will come forward with a plan to raise revenue to fund this.

In the agreeing the bailout, the Mayor proposes that he could, pay for these concessions by retaining the central London congestion charge at its current level and by increasing the existing TfL element of the GLA’s council tax precept. He must make his final choice by January 2021, at the same time as he presents a plan for the long-term financial sustainability of TfL.  

Expanding the congestion charging zone to inner London has been ruled out by both the Government and the Mayor. The Freedom Pass for pensioners will continue as now, as it is not funded by TfL or the Mayor.

The two Government special representatives will continue to sit on TfL’s board. A new Government-chaired government oversight group will monitor the implementation of the agreement and the sustainability plan. 

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said:

“This deal is proof of our commitment to supporting London and the transport network on which it depends. Just as we’ve done for the national rail operators, we’ll make up the fare income which TfL is losing due to covid. Londoners making essential trips will continue to be able to use tubes, buses, and other TfL services, thanks to this Government funding.

“At the same time, the agreement is fair to taxpayers across the country. The Mayor has pledged that national taxpayers will not pay for benefits for Londoners that they do not get themselves elsewhere in the country.

“Over the coming months, as we look to move beyond the pandemic, I look forward to working with London’s representatives to achieve a long-term settlement, with London given more control over key taxes so it can pay more costs of the transport network itself. This agreement marks the first step towards that, potentially allowing a longer-term, sustainable settlement for TfL when the course of the pandemic becomes clearer.”

Vital rail services protected through new deal with Arriva CrossCountry

  • Government signs new contract with Arriva to ensure train services continue across the UK’s most extensive rail network, from Aberdeen to Penzance
  • New contract takes CrossCountry in line with ERMA agreements, and brings stability to CrossCountry services for the future, providing certainty for passengers and staff
  • By building back better on this railway, passengers will benefit from an extra 20,000 seats per week, there will be more operational staff and a greater focus on more environmentally friendly services

Vital long-distance rail services that people the length of Great Britain rely upon will continue to run and support the UK’s recovery from COVID-19, thanks to a new contract signed between the Government and Arriva CrossCountry.  

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has announced today (Friday, 16 October) that Arriva CrossCountry, which has run the service since 2007, will continue to operate the franchise for three more years until October 2023. This will provide certainty for passengers and staff as the future direction of rail reform takes shape.

As people return to the railway, passengers will benefit from increased capacity, and more train drivers and on-board staff to improve services and performance. This comes alongside new measures to help passengers with disabilities, including the ability to reserve space for assistance dogs and better staff training to meet the high standard, best practice seen across the rail industry.

The contract also has a renewed focus on tackling environmental impacts.  To reduce diesel emissions, Arriva CrossCountry will trial the use of electrical shore supplies when their Turbostar fleet are in depots for cleaning, which will reduce the use of diesel engines.

The Department will also continue to work with the owners of the Voyager trains to trial the use of on-train batteries when they enter and leave stations, so that engines are turned off when they’re at platforms further improving air quality.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“This agreement ensures that vital train services will continue across the UK’s most extensive rail network, as the country continues to fight and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The deal announced today reaffirms our commitment to ending the complicated franchise system, and is focused on the best interests of passengers, delivering better services and helping create a new kind of railway.

“With a real focus on boosting capacity and seizing the opportunity to create more environmentally sustainable services, this new contract will benefit passengers in the long term, improving their experience when travelling on our railways.”

This new contract complements the Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs) announced in September, in place for up to 18 months, where the Government pays train companies a small management fee to keep services running through the pandemic.

The contract will see the Government take on the revenue and cost risk associated with the franchise and pay Arriva a performance-linked fee to run the service. This will incentivise the company to deliver improvements to operational performance, passenger experience and service quality.

Stretching from Aberdeen to Penzance and from Stansted Airport to Cardiff, CrossCountry’s network is the most geographically extensive passenger rail franchise in Britain. Calling at over 100 stations, it connects seven of Britain’s ten largest cities.

Captain Sir Tom Moore presented with first Veterans’ Railcard

Military veterans of every generation will soon benefit from cut-price rail travel, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced today, as he presented Captain Sir Tom Moore with the very first Veteran Railcard.

Aimed at supporting veterans’ post-service, the newly unveiled Railcard will provide up to a third off all peak and off-peak fares, as well as discounted travel for adult companions and children. It forms part of the Government’s commitment to make this country the best place to be a veteran, helping repay the debt we all owe to those who have served.

At his home in Bedfordshire Captain Tom Moore, who served in World War II and won the nation’s hearts with his incredible fundraising efforts, was presented with the very first card.

The card pays tribute to the Royal Navy, RAF and Army, using the colours featured on the Veterans flag. An estimated 830,000 veterans, who are not eligible for existing railcards, will now be able to get up to a third off rail travel from 5 November 2020.

The new card will be on sale at an introductory price of just £21 until 31st March 2021.

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said:

“We have an eternal debt of honour to those who have served our country, and this railcard is part of marking our gratitude. For veterans looking to re-enter the world of work and connect with friends and family, it will cut the cost of travel to open up new opportunities. Delivering this Manifesto promise will improve lives for veterans and their families across the United Kingdom.

“I am also delighted to present Sir Captain Tom Moore with the very first railcard. Through his service and his inspirational fundraising, he has shown the selflessness and indomitable spirit of all those who have served.”

Captain Sir Tom Moore, Captain Tom Foundation, said:

“This is a wonderful occasion to accept the first Veterans rail card.

“It is a rare opportunity to show thanks and gratitude to Veterans and this rail card is a necessary recognition and investment in Veterans, giving them the ability to re-connect and combat loneliness, something that we promote and support at The Captain Tom Foundation.”

The Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris also visited the Building Heroes centre in Wandsworth, to meet with veterans undergoing a 6-week training course in building and construction.  

Targeted at teaching veterans’ new skills and tackling unemployment by delivering a seamless transition into a career in the construction industry, Mr Heaton Harris discussed how the railcard would support re-entering civilian life after service.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said: 

“Providing discounted rail travel is a fantastic way to underline the debt of gratitude we owe to those who have served.

“For younger veterans, it will also help boost employment prospects, allowing more flexibility in their travel to work or job interviews.”

Charles Byrne, Director General of The Royal British Legion said:

“Every day our Armed Forces community provide an incredible service in so many ways and it’s right their unique contribution is recognised.

“We welcome the introduction of measures such as the new Veterans Rail Card that will allow veterans and their families to enjoy discounted rail fares.

“At a time when many veterans are facing significant financial hardship, we hope as many as possible will be able to enjoy the benefits this card will bring when travelling by train.”

Help for Heroes CEO, Melanie Waters said:

“We are pleased that the Government will make good on its promise to introduce a railcard for veterans and extend discounted train travel to former service personnel in England.

“The pandemic is having a lasting impact on veterans and their families both financially and socially, and its introduction will come at a welcome time.” 

Rail franchising reaches the terminus as a new railway takes shape

Ministers today ended rail franchising after 24 years as the first step in bringing Britain’s fragmented network back together.

The new system, creating a simpler and more effective structure, will take shape over the coming months. The first stage, today, is moving operators onto transitional contracts to prepare the ground for the new railway.   

From this morning, franchising is replaced with more demanding Emergency Recovery Management Agreements (ERMAs). These address the continuing impact of the pandemic on the railway and delivers on a Government commitment to replace the current franchising system.

These management agreements have tougher performance targets and lower management fees. The new contracts allow us to make an early start on key reforms, including requiring operators to co-ordinate better with each other and driving down the railways’ excessive capital costs. 

Management fees will now be a maximum of 1.5% of the cost base of the franchise before the pandemic began. The ERMAs are a transitional stage to the new system, the biggest change to the railways in a quarter of a century. 

Under current public health guidance, the intention is also for operators to run an almost a full service, to ensure there is space to help passengers travel safely.   

ERMAs pave the way for wider rail industry reform that prioritises the passenger. In 2018 Keith Williams, the chairman of Royal Mail, was asked to review the railways after a chaotic timetable change and the failure of some franchises.

Today’s announcement, which has his full support, is the prelude to a White Paper which will respond to his recommendations. The White Paper will be published when the course of the pandemic becomes clearer.  

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said:   

“The model of privatisation adopted 25 years ago has seen significant rises in passenger numbers, but this pandemic has proven that it is no longer working. 

“Our new deal for rail demands more for passengers. It will simplify people’s journeys, ending the uncertainty and confusion about whether you are using the right ticket or the right train company.   

“It will keep the best elements of the private sector, including competition and investment, that have helped to drive growth – but deliver strategic direction, leadership and accountability.  

“Passengers will have reliable, safe services on a network totally built around them. It is time to get Britain back on track.” 

Until passenger numbers return, significant taxpayer support will still be needed, including under the transitional contracts announced today. But the reforms will enable substantial medium and longer-term savings for taxpayers.    

Keith Williams, chair of the Williams Review, said: 

“These new agreements represent the end of the complicated franchising system, demand more from the expertise and skills of the private sector, and ensure passengers return to a more punctual and co-ordinated railway. 

“I am ensuring the recommendations I propose are fit for a post-Covid world, but these contracts kickstart a process of reform that will ensure our railways are entirely focused on the passenger, with a simpler, more effective system that works in their best interest.”  

Calls to end ‘blight of graffiti’ on roads and railways as part of Great British September Clean

Action is being taken to tackle the ‘blight’ of graffiti on Britain’s roads and railways as part of the Great British September Clean, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced (Tuesday 15 September).

In a letter to the rail industry, the Transport Secretary has called for long-term plans to tackle the issue. These proposals should build on action already taken, including a review of response times to graffiti vandalism so any instances are dealt with quickly, helping to prevent more serious crimes and passengers to feel safe when returning to the railway.

Network Rail has already undertaken significant work in this area, allocating an additional £1million in the spring to carry out a graffiti blitz on top of its annual £3.5million programme of anti-graffiti measures.

Graffiti on the railway can be unsightly, make passengers feel unsafe and, if not dealt with quickly, can lead to further crime taking place. People often put their lives at risk in the act of spraying difficult surfaces, such as bridges or trains in sidings. 

During the lockdown period, Highways England has also undertaken a cleaning blitz around main roads – removing 33% more graffiti compared to the same time last year. Highways England will now double the level of its resources and activity, to speed up graffiti removal rates on the road network across England.

The Transport Secretary visited London Bridge on Monday (14 September) to see first-hand the clean-up work carried out by Network Rail’s southern graffiti taskforce.

He also visited a railway arch mural created by street artist Jimmy C.in memory of the victims of the London Bridge terror attacks. The series of hearts floating in space on Stoney Street is one of a 100 murals produced by the artist – and fellow street artist Lionel Stanhope – set to be in place across stations in the South East by Spring 2021.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“The phenomenal efforts have been made throughout this pandemic to ensure our transport network is clean and maintained to the highest standards, helping keep people safe, and people deserve roads and railways that are not blighted by graffiti and vandalism.

“As we continue our focus on building back better as we recover from COVID-19, I want us to feel proud of our transport infrastructure and public spaces. Our extra investment to remove graffiti from our roads and railways means we can double our efforts to fight this issue and represents a positive step in the right direction.”

Richard McIlwain, Deputy Chief Executive of environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, said:

“We would encourage everyone to do their bit to help clean up the country and, during the Great British September Clean, ridding our transport network of the graffiti would be a positive step towards creating a better environment for everyone.

“Places that are covered in graffiti, particularly low-grade tagging, signal to the community at large that an area is unloved and uncared for and leads to increases in other environmental crimes such as littering and fly-tipping so we would urge everyone who is responsible for looking after our transport network to keep it graffiti and litter-free.”

The Government has been working closely with train operators to increase services back to close to normal levels as passenger numbers increase, putting in extensive measures in place to make sure their services are safe to use, including heightened cleaning procedures, queue management systems, and providing hand sanitiser in the busiest stations on the network.  

Action taken to improve resilience of railway following Stonehaven tragedy

Network Rail’s interim report on the Stonehaven tragedy, commissioned by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps immediately after the event, has been published today (Thursday, September 10), setting out immediate and long-term action to improve the railway’s resilience to extreme weather events following the derailment of a passenger train in Aberdeenshire.

While the report in no way pre-empts the outcome of formal independent investigations being carried out by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, or those by the Office of Rail and Road, British Transport Police and Police Scotland into the tragedy on August 12, the initial findings suggest that after a period of heavy rainfall the train struck a pile of washed-out rock and gravel before derailing.

The interim report assesses the current controls and management of thousands of miles of earthworks – the sloped ground beside railway tracks – and sets out how the industry plans to reduce the risk of landslips on the network in the future.

The report highlights the need for an increased focus on deploying technology across the network to predict failures, and investment in better forecasting to enable local decisions for imminent weather events. Network Rail’s extensive research and development portfolio is helping to accelerate the development and deployment of this technology.

Key findings also suggest that industry rules for reporting and responding to adverse rainfall will be improved and strengthened, helping signallers better manage services during bad weather. Other plans include discussions with meteorologists to understand how real-time information can be better used to inform train operations about unpredictable extreme weather.

Hundreds of sites across the country have been inspected over the last three weeks by engineers, specialist contractors and supplemented by helicopter surveys to identify any significant issues requiring emergency intervention.

It follows the launch of two independent task forces, which will be led by distinguished experts in their field – Lord Mair and Dame Julia Slingo – to help Network Rail better manage its vast number of cuttings and embankments and its response to severe weather events.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
“The incident at Stonehaven was a tragedy, and my heart goes out to the friends and family of Driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie, and Christopher Stuchbury.

“We owe it to those who lost their lives, were injured, and were affected by this incident, to learn and act on every possible lesson to ensure this is never repeated. The independent investigation will enable us to understand exactly what went wrong, and make sure it does not happen again.

“We cannot delay learning the lessons. That is why I immediately commissioned this report and am making the interim findings available. I welcome the work setting out the challenges in adapting our rail infrastructure to cope with increasing extreme weather events caused by climate change. The task is now to overcome those challenges.

“We will use the findings of this interim report to improve, shape and accelerate our work to build a more robust and resilient rail network, so that our railway continues to be one of the safest in the world.”

The Secretary of State is also writing to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Iain Thomas Livingstone, recommending that PC Liam Mercer, one of the first people on scene following the derailment, is commended for his bravery.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said:
“My thoughts remain with the families and friends of the three people who lost their lives, those who were injured and everybody affected by the tragedy at Stonehaven last month. We owe it to them, and all our passengers, to make sure we understand what happened and what more we should be doing to reduce the risk of it ever happening again.

“We are all aware that we are increasingly seeing more incidents of severe weather and as the report published today shows, earthworks and drainage infrastructure– some of which are more than 150 years old – prove to be a real challenge as the country experiences more heavy rainfall and flooding.

“Our railway is one of the safest in Europe and tragic accidents are incredibly rare, but something went wrong on 12 August near Stonehaven and it is a stark reminder that we must never take safety for granted. We are improving and accelerating our resilience work and will do everything we can to minimise the impact of weather on the safety and reliability of the railway as our climate continues to change.”

Between 2019-24, Network Rail has made a record investment of £1.3 billion in strengthening the railway’s resilience to extreme weather, compared with £550m from 2009-2014 and £952m from 2014-2019.

Network Rail has developed industry-leading techniques to monitor and manage ageing cuttings and embankments deemed high risk, while the Government’s Committee on Climate Change recognises its resilience planning for climate change adaptation as well advanced. However, with the impact of severe weather events experienced in recent years it has become even more important to swiftly implement these plans.

Today’s interim report will be followed by a final report which will be published in due course. This will provide greater detail on work that can be accelerated to improve the railway’s management of extreme weather and earthworks.