Monday news roundup – Bumper edition!

Chepstow residents invited to find out more ahead of £25m summer resilience upgrade on Newport-Gloucester line

Credit – Network rail Air Operations

Buses will replace trains from Monday 18 July – Saturday 3 September while major work to upgrade the line is delivered.

Communities in Chepstow are being invited to a drop-in event to find out more about plans to improve resilience and upgrade the track on the railway between Newport and Gloucester. The drop-in session takes place next Wednesday 25 May, between 5.30pm and 8.00pm at the Drill Hall, Lower Church Street, Chepstow. 

Connecting South Wales with the Midlands, west of England and north of England, the Gloucester-Newport line is a vital passenger and freight link, but its position alongside the Severn Estuary means it’s exposed to rain, wind and sea. 

Climate change and more frequent extreme weather events have led to five major landslips in the last two years alone. This has devastated the line with extended closures of the railway and speed restrictions – estimated to have impacted more than 200,000 trains.

The £25m upgrade will include the removal of approximately 30,000 tonnes of material from the cliff face along a three-mile stretch of railway near Lydney, in the Forest of Dean. A state-of-the-art mesh and bolt system will then be installed to protect the railway from falling debris. 

The railway will be closed between Lydney and Gloucester from Monday 18 July to Saturday 3 September. From Monday 18 July to Saturday 30 July, the closure will extend to Severn Tunnel Junction, as work will also be undertaken to renew the railway track over Chepstow Viaduct, on the River Wye.

Network Rail is working with Transport for Wales and CrossCountry to keep passengers moving while work is underway. Buses will run every hour between Gloucester and Newport, stopping at all stations. A bus service will also operate between Gloucester and Severn Tunnel Junction, during the two-week closure of that section of the line. 

Cross Country train services will run Nottingham – Birmingham New Street – Gloucester. Customers travelling between the Midlands and Cardiff Central can travel on GWR train services via Bristol Parkway. 

Residents and passengers with any questions about the work can drop into the Chepstow event any time between 5.30pm and 8pm, where members of the Network Rail project team will be on hand with more information. 

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

Bill Kelly, Wales & Borders route director at Network Rail said: “This is a vital passenger and freight link so we must act now to protect the line from extreme weather events and our changing climate. 

“We’ve carefully planned this work to take place during the summer holidays to minimise disruption for those who rely on the line for work and education. I’d like to thank everyone for their patience as we work to protect this important stretch of railway and make passengers’ journeys more reliable.”

Jan Chaudhry van der Velde, Managing Director of Transport for Wales, said: “Work on the rail infrastructure to improve weather resilience has become more urgent, as climate change effects and severe weather have disrupted train services on several occasions in recent years.

“We will be providing buses in place of trains during this work to keep passengers moving, and thank passenger in advance for their patience.  The long- term benefits will bring more reliable train services.  During the works, we ask customers to check before setting off at https://www.journeycheck.com/tfwrail/.” 

CrossCountry’s Regional Director, Tom Birch, said: “This line is crucial for both local rail journeys and connectivity between Wales and England, so ensuring its resilience against weather-related events is important for everyone.  We’d like to thank customers for their patience while the works are completed and look forward to the quick return of our regular train services.”

Cot Hill bridge in Plympton reopens following essential structural repairs

Cot Hill bridge following essential repairs

Network Rail has reopened Cot Hill bridge in Plympton, Devon, today (Friday 20 May) following essential maintenance and repair work.

The century-old bridge was strengthened to allow for use by heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) with repairs made to the structure and a protective coat of paint added to the steelwork.

Network Rail’s engineers began work on Sunday 3 January, working throughout the night during weekends and all day during the week.

A succession of named storms in February caused extensive damage to a protective plastic shell covering the work site, unfortunately delaying the completion of this work with engineers working extra weekend shifts to finish the project as quickly as possible

Dawn Welsh, Network Rail project manager, said: “This vital maintenance and strengthening work will allow for HGVs to make safe use of the bridge without the need for a diversionary route, while improving traffic flow in the area.

“I’d like to thank local residents for their patience, especially given the difficulties encountered during storms Eunice and Franklin. The understanding of the local community has been very much appreciated.”

Multi-million-pound upgrade begins on Hope Valley railway line

Multi -million-pound upgrade begins on Hope Valley railway line

Ground-breaking work on a £145m rail reliability upgrade between Manchester and Sheffield will start later this month.

This essential work will remove several bottlenecks on the Hope Valley line to allow passenger trains to overtake slower freight trains and improve reliability, helping people get to their destinations on time.

On Sunday 29 May, and every weekend throughout July, Dore & Totley, Grindleford, Bamford and Hathersage stations will be closed to allow Network Rail and contractor VolkerRailStory Joint Venture to begin building an additional railway line and make key station improvements.

Passengers are being urged to plan ahead with National Rail to keep their journeys on track.

The work is part of a £145m package of improvement and includes:

  • A new platform and accessible footbridge with lifts at Dore & Totley station 
  • A railway loop between Bamford and Hathersage 
  • A new overbridge at Hathersage West, replacing the current foot crossing to improve safety 
  • Signalling improvements along the line to improve reliability 
  • Platform extensions to allow for more carriages on services 

Dore & Totley station car park will also be partially and fully closed at different periods over the next three months. Alternative parking spaces will be available at Abbeydale Sports Club and local businesses will remain open and accessible throughout.

Hannah Lomas, Principal Programme Sponsor for Network Rail, said“We’re so pleased to see this major work begin – it’ll make Hope Valley stations and train services better, and improve reliability for passengers in the future.

“There will be some changes to services and car park closures while our work takes place, so I’d like to thank passengers for bearing with us and apologise for any inconvenience.”

Tony Baxter, Regional Director at Northern, said: “This work will improve Hope Valley stations and services and we are delighted to be working with our partners on this project.

“We are sorry for any disruption during the improvements and our customers can be assured that both Northern and Network Rail will do everything possible to minimise the impact of the work and deliver alternatives that keep people on the move.

Chris Nutton, Major Projects Director for TransPennine Express, said: “These works are a vital step towards delivering better services across the Pennines between Sheffield and Manchester, improving the infrastructure to help make our customers journeys more reliable and upgrading stations we serve.

“While these engineering works take place on the Hope Valley line, there will be a number of changes to TransPennine Express services, and we’d advise our customers to check carefully for the latest advice before they travel.”

Darren Lockwood, Project Director from VRSJV, said: “We thank the local community for their patience and understanding while we carry out these essential upgrade works on the Hope Valley line. The work plays an important part in facilitating this important investment in Northern travel infrastructure.”

Network Rail thanks residents and motorists as Torbay Road bridge reopens

Torbay Road bridge has reopened this morning

Network Rail is thanking the community of Torbay, Devon, for their patience and understanding following the delayed reopening of the road over Torbay Road bridge this morning (Monday 23 May).

Work to replace the life-expired bridge which provides a link for pedestrians and vehicles from the communities of Torquay and Paignton to cross over the railway via Torbay Road, was originally planned to be completed in March. However, supply chain issues and difficulties working around the existing BT cables pushed the completion date back to May.

The bridge has this morning reopened to two-way traffic and at the end of the week a temporary pedestrian walkway on the south side of the bridge with protective barriers will open to allow pedestrians to cross the bridge. This will remain in place for the entire duration of the English Riviera Airshow in Torbay over the Jubilee weekend.

Following the Jubilee weekend, the temporary walkway will then close on the evening of Sunday 5 June to allow Network Rail’s contractors, Dyer & Butler, to install the new permanent walkways. During this time, a pedestrian diversion route will be in place.

From Monday evening, the bridge will be closed overnight to both traffic and pedestrians to allow Dyer & Butler to complete the construction of the bridge parapets and install the new permanent pedestrian walkways. The installation of the permanent walkways and construction of the bridge parapets is expected to be completed by the start of August.

Stuart Calvert, Network Rail Capital Delivery Director, said: “I would like to firstly apologise for the delay in completing this work to replace Torbay Road bridge and extend our sincere thanks to the local community for their patience and understanding during this time, which we know has caused disruption for longer than anticipated.

“We pride ourselves on our punctuality and efficiency when undertaking complex projects such as this, however on this occasion we regrettably have not maintained these high standards owing to a number of unforeseen challenges which resulted in delays to the project. We’ll be working closely with our contractors to review the difficulties we faced, taking these lessons on board and working to ensure we don’t face similar issues in the future.”

Kevin Foster, Member of Parliament for Torbay, said: “It is a relief all round to hear these works are now coming to an end and one of Torbay’s key roads will be re-opened in time for the Jubilee Weekend and Airshow. I have appreciated the weekly updates from the Network Rail team as they brought this job to a belated close and now look forward, like many other constituents to being able to travel across the new bridge from Monday.”

Councillor Mike Morey, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, Environment and Culture at Torbay Council, said: “This project has taken a lot longer than expected and I am sure like us, residents who have been living around these works and who travel between Torquay and Paignton, are breathing a sigh of relief that this main and popular road is now opening to vehicles. The Leader, myself and the local Ward Councillors will continue to meet with Network Rail to receive updates and push for the remainder of the work to be finished as quickly as possible.”

With the road now open to traffic, pedestrians are able to use a temporary footpath on the south side of the bridge until Monday 30 May, when the new footpath will be open for public access.

Works to reopen Essex footbridge start today

Varde Bullers bridge works

Works to repair a footbridge that connects Durham Road in Langdon and Mandeville Way in Laindon Hills, Basildon, start today (Monday 23 May).

The bridge, which carries pedestrians over the rail line between London and Fenchurch Street, was closed in October 2020 after inspections carried out by Network Rail showed it was deteriorating quickly and no longer safe for people to use. Both the age of the structure and the local geology has caused the bridge to move and fracture, making it unsafe for pedestrians.

Emergency remedial work was completed shortly after the bridge was closed but permanent repairs are required in order to safely re-open the bridge.

The work is expected to take eight weeks and the bridge will reopen in the summer. The rail line will not be affected by the work.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “This bridge has been closed for much longer than anyone wanted, or expected, for which we’re sorry. The condition of the bridge means complex repairs are required and these types of repairs take time to plan and complete.

“I am pleased to be able to say that the work has started today and this will enable us to reopen the bridge in the summer. I’d like to thank residents for their patience while we carry out these repairs.”

Reston station welcomes first passenger services

Minister and Reston Primary children at Reston station

Passengers services today called at Reston station for the first time in almost six decades.

The reconnection of the Berwickshire village to the national rail network follows completion of work to construct the station as part of a £20m of investment from the Scottish Government to boost the local transport network.

The first passenger service since 1964 – the 05.29 TransPennine Express (TPE) from Edinburgh Waverly called at Reston at 06.16 completing the Village’s return to the railway.  

Jenny Gilruth, Scottish Government Minister for Transport travelled to the Scottish Borders village aboard the 09.33 TransPennine Express service to Reston.  The train’s arrival was greeted by a piper and Ms. Gilruth was met by a party of children from Reston Primary school.

To mark the first day of service, pupils from Reston Primary then travelled to Edinburgh courtesy of TPE to experience travelling by train for the first time from their home station.

Reston will be served by eight trains per weekday in each direction mainly operating between Edinburgh and Newcastle.  Seven services will be offered by TransPennine Express with the other being offered by London North Eastern Railways.

The new station, which sits on the East Coast Mainline, boasts 270m platforms which cater for 10 carriage trains and is fully accessible with step free access from ground level onto platform 1 and across the railway via a footbridge with lifts.

It will serve the village and wider Berwickshire area and will enable easy access to Edinburgh and Newcastle and onwards across the national rail network. As well as improving transport connectivity, it will help transform the economic outlook of the area it will serve.

Jenny Gilruth, Scottish Government Minister for Transport said, “I am delighted that work to construct the new Reston station is now complete ahead of services calling at the station for the first time today.

“Our Programme for Government made a commitment to decarbonising Scotland’s Railway and growth in rail use is an essential part of decarbonising the total transport mix. 

“The £20m investment provided by the Scottish Government for Reston station and investment in other new stations is one way to make travelling by rail an easier option and enable more people to choose the sustainable transport option as an alternative to using the car. 

“The new Reston station will provide a step-change in provision of public transport in the area and will help transform Reston and the surrounding communities that will benefit from the transport interchange and the improved connectivity it delivers”.

Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland’s Railway said, “It is part of our commitment, alongside the Scottish Government, to expand the rail network and open-up Scotland’s Railway to new communities.

“The opening of the new station at Reston is an exciting development that has the potential to transform life for local people and the communities it will serve.”

“This station will create new social and economic opportunities for people in the Village and in the surrounding area and we look forward to seeing the positive impact the railway will have in years to come.”

Matthew Golton, Managing Director at TransPennine Express, said, “We are honoured that our 6.16am service from Edinburgh was the first service to stop at Reston Station in more than 50 years and we’re delighted that this service, has boosted connectivity across communities in the Scottish Borders and Northumberland.

“It’s fantastic to see that hundreds of customers have already bought advanced tickets to travel from Reston Station and we can’t wait to welcome them on-board so they can experience travelling on our modern Nova trains.

“Our customers – and their communities – are at the heart of everything we do and we’re delighted to be able to connect so many of those communities by rail for the first time in more than 50 years.”

David Horne, Managing Director at LNER, said: “We’re proud to be introducing our revolutionary Azuma services at Reston as it becomes the newest destination along our iconic 956-mile East Coast route. The arrival of our services will transform travel for residents and generate further economic opportunities for the area, with our world-class services making business and leisure travel simpler, smarter and greener.

“Our Azuma trains offer customers greater comfort and space, keeping people connected with free onboard WiFi and sockets at every seat. Our superb at-seat catering offers in both Standard and First Class further enhance our customer experience.”

Sam Smith, Chief Officer for Economic Development at Scottish Borders Council said, “The completion and opening of the new Reston station is a momentous occasion for communities across Berwickshire and I am delighted to welcome a train service to the village again after a gap of almost six decades.

“Easy access to services on the East coast mainline services opens up a world of opportunity for local people but also provides a platform to attract people to Berwickshire and capitalise on its fantastic leisure and tourism potential.

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

Let’s Walk: Free walking maps at Network Rail stations in London to get more people walking this summer

Lets Walk London maps

10,000 free copies of a new walking map that charts a network of quiet and interesting streets in central London is now available at Network Rail’s London stations. 

A new edition of a beautifully illustrated walking map has today been released by Footways, plotting hundreds of kilometres of scenic, safe and pedestrian-friendly walking routes in central London. The paper map – also available as a digital copy with geolocation – encourages Londoners to choose walking to get around their city, just in time for summer, London’s Platinum Jubilee and the opening of the Elizabeth Line. 

The vibrant map also features a ‘Quick Connections’ tool on the back, making it easy for people to incorporate walking into A-to-B journeys. Whether on their own, with friends or as a family, Londoners and visitors can take 15 minutes to stretch their legs between a railway or Crossrail station and many of London’s most iconic attractions such as museums, galleries and green spaces, while getting their step count up.

The Footways network has been designed to connect major places with London’s most appealing, accessible and interesting streets. The printed and digital maps also reveal hundreds of interesting features which can only be explored when travelling on foot. This means walkers get a glimpse into London’s diverse culture and long history when choosing London’s most enjoyable form of transport.

The second edition of Central London Footways is a collaborative initiative made possible thanks to key sponsors Network Rail, London North Eastern Railway, King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership, the Northbank BID, Urban Partners for King’s Cross, Euston & St Pancras, Central District Alliance BID, City of London Corporation, with support from Transport for London, London boroughs and Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking. 

Susan Holden, stations customer experience manager, Network Rail, said:

“Network Rail is pleased to have worked with Footways London in the development of this walking map, which highlights safe and accessible walking routes across London for locals and visitors. We know that our customer journeys do not begin and end at stations, so to connect rail – the best long-distance, low-carbon travel – with walking – the easiest, most accessible and enjoyable form of transport on short distances – creates the ultimate integrated, sustainable transport. Ten thousand initial copies of this map will be made freely available across our Managed Stations in London, for the benefit of our customers and people in our communities.”

David Harrison, co-founder of Footways and transport historian said:

“We’re incredibly proud of the second edition of Central London Footways, launching in time for Living Streets’ National Walking Month. London boasts such an interesting history, so what better way to discover this and all its hidden gems than by foot? Londoners are often surprised to discover just how close destinations are to stations; many are within a 15-minute walk.

“This summer we want to see more people walking, particularly families with their kids. That’s why our definition of ‘walking’ covers all uses of the ‘footway’, including feet, wheelchairs, mobility scooters and kids on bikes. Although we want everyone to use these walking routes to experience the city, walking infrastructure must be improved to make the city truly accessible to all Londoners.”

Michael Richardson, Project Director, Urban Partners for London King’s Cross, Euston and St Pancras, said: “Urban Partners is delighted to have sponsored Footways’ updated walking map of London. We have been working for 10 years to encourage people to take an alternative, lower-carbon walking route through King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston. Partnering with Footways on the latest iteration of their map not only means we can encourage active travel by those visiting, working in and living in our area, but also support this across London

Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, said:

“Walking is a fantastic way to get around and explore our wonderful capital. We’re making London a city where walking is the most obvious, enjoyable and attractive means of travel for all short trips. This map is a great tool for exploring quiet and interesting streets across central London. I hope Londoners and those visiting enjoy using it this summer. I know I will.”

Roberta Fusco, Director of Policy, Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, said:

“Walking for just 20 minutes a day can have fantastic health benefits, reducing the risk of long-term health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, depression and certain cancers. The Footways maps will help make walking and wheeling an easier option for people living, working and visiting the capital, improving people’s connectivity to the people and places around them.”

First train runs on Midlands’ newest and longest railway bridge

First train over SAS 13 bridge

The Midlands’ newest and longest railway bridge is now fully functional after carrying its first freight train.

Tracks reopened today (Monday 23 May) on the Stechford to Aston freight line in Birmingham following the installation of a massive 2,600-tonne bridge* built by Network Rail in partnership with HS2.

At 92 metres long, the steel and concrete structure becomes the longest single-span railway bridge in the Midlands.

It needs that clearance underneath so future tracks for Britain’s new zero-carbon railway can be built below for HS2 trains to access its Washwood Heath depot.

The demolition of the old railway viaduct and installation of the new bridge has closed this connection to Birmingham rail freight terminal for 23 days.

But today the first train passed over the new structure, reopening the important rail freight route and marking a huge milestone for project contractor Skanska.

Patrick Cawley, director for ‘On Network Works’ for Network Rail and HS2, said: “Seeing the first train pass over this iconic structure is a proud moment for the hundreds of people who’ve worked throughout the pandemic to make this new bridge a reality.

“It’s also a key part of the jigsaw to ensure the existing railway network works in harmony with HS2. I’m conscious this work has disrupted some passenger journeys over recent weeks and I’d like to thank CrossCountry customers for their patience while we carried out this major project.”

Rosario Barcena, Skanska Rail programme director, said: “Installing a railway bridge over an existing railway line is a complex engineering project that requires a huge amount of skill and dedication from all those involved. To have delivered this on time and despite of Covid-19 restrictions is a fantastic achievement and testament to the team involved.”

Building and installing the bridge, known as SAS 13, involved precision planning and engineering and the use of some heavy-duty equipment.

Earlier this month the structure was driven into place by remote-controlled vehicles after being pre-assembled on site in a civil engineering project which has taken over two years.

Building it on site reduced carbon emissions and cut the number of lorry movements on local roads, minimising impacts on the local community.

CrossCountry passengers are being given advanced notice of future work later in the summer on the same Birmingham New Street to Coleshill Parkway route.

Journeys will be impacted by more work to ready the railway for HS2 at weekends in August and early September.

Over four consecutive weekends from 13 August to 4 September, work will take place to:

  • Upgrade railway signals at Washwood Heath
  • Install piles in preparation for a new underbridge at Duddeston
  • Engineering work on a bridge at Heartlands Park
  • Carry out maintenance activity on this section of railway to make it more reliable.

To carry out the work safely, CrossCountry services between Birmingham New Street and Coleshill Parkway will be replaced with rail replacement buses.

Some long-distance services will also be diverted which means journeys will take longer.

Network Rail is working with CrossCountry to keep people informed.

Passengers should plan their journeys in advance at www.nationalrail.co.uk

London’s Schoolchildren turn Paddington to Abbey Wood purple to celebrate the opening of Elizabeth line

TfL Press Release - London’s Schoolchildren turn Paddington to Abbey Wood purple to celebrate the opening of Elizabeth line: Artwork by Marylebone Boys School at Paddington Elizabeth Line station
Artwork by Marylebone Boys School at Paddington Elizabeth Line station

  • Local schools have created purple decorations and artwork at landmarks near the new stations to mark one day to go before opening
  • The transformational Elizabeth line will open to customers on Tuesday 24 May

With one day to go until the opening of the Elizabeth line, landmarks across the central section are today (May 23) turning purple with a little help from local schoolchildren.

A school close to each of the nine new stations has created purple decorations and artwork – inspired by the colour of the new line – which will be available to view between 10am and 4pm.

The full list of schools and locations – and the Elizabeth line station that they are close to – are as follows:

  • Departures Road (Paddington) – Marylebone Boys School
  • Phoenix Gardens (Tottenham Court Road) – Soho Parish Primary School
  • Charterhouse (Farringdon) – St Mary Magdalene Academy
  • Whitechapel market (Whitechapel) – Kobi Nazrul Primary School
  • Spitalfields market (Liverpool Street) – Swanlea School
  • Konstantin Grcic’s Six Public Clocks (Canary Wharf) – New City College
  • Cable car ticket hall (Custom House) – Royal Docks Academy
  • General Gordon Square (Woolwich) – Royal Greenwich Trust School
  • Lesnes Abbey Wood (Abbey Wood) – London South East College (Bexley campus)
Artwork by Marylebone Boys School at Paddington Elizabeth line station 2
Artwork by Marylebone Boys School at Paddington Elizabeth Line station

Ann Gavaghan, Customer Experience Manager at Transport for London’s People and Places Programme, said: “TfL has a long legacy of collaborating with local communities both within our stations and beyond. With just one day until the Elizabeth line launches, it has been fantastic to drum up excitement within the local community using the railway’s eye-catching new colour.   

“The new line will transform travel across London and the South East by dramatically improving transport links, cutting journey times, providing additional capacity, and transforming accessibility with spacious new stations and walk-through trains. It will serve Londoners and beyond for many decades to come.”  

The first Elizabeth line services will depart Paddington and Abbey Wood Elizabeth line stations from 06:30 on 24 May. Trains will run every five minutes between 06:30 – 23:00 Monday to Saturday.

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

The north’s biggest train operator given special recognition for improving gender balance, equality, diversity and inclusion

Northern is delighted to have received special recognition at the Women in Rail awards. 

The north of England train operator, which employs close to 7,000 people, including c.1400 women, was recognised by judges for its work in improving Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the rail industry. 

Northern was picked out of 300 nominations and shortlisted entries in the awards ceremony dedicated to celebrating the contribution of women to the UK rail industry. 

The Women in Rail Awards aim to showcase and reward individuals and companies (large and small) who have made a significant contribution to improving gender balance, equality, diversity and inclusion within the UK railway industry. 

Northern launched a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy in 2020 with the aim of creating a culture where everyone who works for us or travels with us feels included and valued. 

Judges from the Women in Rail Awards were pleased to see that EDI in Northern is not just a HR task but that it involves commitments from everyone within the business.  

50 colleagues volunteer from across the business to advise on how equality, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of everything Northern does and the group have spearheaded continuous EDI based learning and development, raised awareness of key issues and helped to introduced workplace policies on Menopause, Domestic Violence Support, Becoming a Parent and Transgender Support.   

Northern also has a blind sifting policy, meaning information on CVs that could indicate a person’s background or gender is removed to ensure there is no potential unconscious bias. This has led to an increase in new recruits into Northern from ethnic backgrounds. 

Emma Yates, Northern’s Programme Director commented: “The Women in Rail Awards is a very important occasion that celebrates the contribution and opportunities for women across the UK rail industry. 

“We have worked extremely hard to make sure that we are an equal, diverse and inclusive business for both our customers and our colleagues, and it is fantastic news that the judges gave us special recognition for our work in this area. 

“We are continually working on our strategy to attract the best and most diverse people into Northern and we will work with all our communities to let everyone know that Northern and the rail industry is a great place to be with opportunities for all.” 

The Women in Rail event is attended by a cross section of the UK rail sector, including key stakeholders and decision makers, infrastructure providers, operators, manufacturers, rolling stock companies, technical consultancy companies and suppliers, to name only a few. 
 
Northern was also shortlisted for the Women in Rail Social Inclusion award for its work with young and diverse communities in West Yorkshire and in particular Bradford, which has the youngest population in Europe. Northern have worked with the National Citizen Service to educate communities on the benefits and huge variety of opportunities working within the rail industry.  

Northern’s commitment to Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Mobility was one of the reasons that attracted Tahira Bibi, the UK’s first female Pakistani train driver to the industry.

She commented:  “Representation in any industry matters because it shapes how people from minority backgrounds are viewed by wider society and how they view themselves. Representation allows people to feel validated and create a team environment where ideas are diverse, perspectives are varied, and everyone feels different.”  

GWR to provide 40 trains for fans heading home from Ed Sheeran concerts

Principality Stadium

Great Western Railway will provide 40 trains and nearly 20,000 seats for music fans leaving Cardiff following this week’s Ed Sheeran concerts.

GWR will operate 15 services from Cardiff Central after 22.45 on both Thursday and Friday night, and a further 10 services on Saturday night.

Trains are however expected to be very busy, with thousands of concert goers walking the short distance from the Principality Stadium to Cardiff Central station following the gigs.

In a repeat of the queueing system in place for this year’s Six Nations fixtures, people travelling to Newport after the game will be asked to queue on the square in front of Cardiff Central station, rather than from Riverside Car Park.

Ed Sheeran map

Customers are advised to keep checking social media for the latest information on queuing times.

On Thursday and Friday, GWR will run six services to Swansea from 22.53, two IET services to Newport at 22.56 and 23.25, plus seven services to either Bristol Temple Meads or Bristol Parkway from 23.13.

On Saturday it will operate four services to Swansea from 23.00, two services to Newport at 22.58 and 23.09, and four services to both Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads from 23.22.

My Chemical Romance are playing at Sophia Gardens Cricket Ground on Saturday night, increasing demand for services from Cardiff Central.

GWR Customer Service & Operations Director, Richard Rowland, said:

“We’re doing all we can to help customers home following these concerts and we are pleased to be able to provide these additional services.

“But Cardiff Central is going to be especially busy after the gigs and we would encourage customers to check journey times and allow sufficient time to queue to board trains safely.”

Transport for Wales Planning and Performance Director, Colin Lea, said:

“With more than 50,000 people expected at the Principality Stadium each night, services in and around Cardiff will be very busy, so we kindly ask people plan ahead, check the latest timetables and leave plenty of time for journeys.

“We’ve paused evening improvement works on the Valleys lines to help more customers to get home by train after the event and we are strengthening services where we have trains and crew available.

“Colleagues will be working hard to assist everyone to get home safely and we would advise customers to familiarise themselves with the post-event queuing system and make sure they are prepared for the possibility of extended waiting times.”

For more information, or to check your journey, please visit GWR.com.

ScotRail to introduce temporary timetable

From Monday, 23 May, ScotRail will introduce a temporary timetable to provide greater certainty and reliability for customers.

This is a result of the ongoing impact of a significant number of drivers declining to make themselves available for overtime or rest day working, following an announcement by the drivers’ union ASLEF that it will ballot for industrial action over pay.

The temporary timetable for Monday – Friday can be viewed online at scotrail.co.uk/timetable-update

ScotRail is currently working on temporary timetables for Saturdays, which will be broadly similar to the Monday to Friday timetable, as well as timetables for Sundays, and will update customers in the coming days.

The train operator said it’s right to make these changes to provide greater certainty for customers as the current level of cancellations is not sustainable for customers and colleagues.

Like many train operators across Britain, ScotRail has relied on drivers working overtime or on their rest days. In 2019, ScotRail committed to employing more drivers to phase out the reliance on this practice, however, the pandemic meant that driver training was significantly delayed.

ScotRail is still awaiting formal notification from ASLEF and the RMT on the details of the ballots of its members for industrial action.

ScotRail is disappointed to find itself at this stage with both trade unions, despite a very good offer being made. ScotRail has made a good pay offer that recognises the hard work of our colleagues and the cost-of-living challenges faced by families across the country, while delivering value for the taxpayer.

The details of the 2022/23 offer are as follows:

  • A 2.2 per cent increase in pay, consistent with the October 2021 agreement reached with other grades.
  • A top-up revenue sharing arrangement that could potentially deliver up to an extra £195 for all staff per period. The full package would apply where revenue targets are exceeded.

ScotRail remains open to further talks to engage in a meaningful conversation with ASLEF and the RMT.

David Simpson, ScotRail Service Delivery Director, said:

“We are very sorry to customers for the disruption of recent days. We know what customers want more than anything is certainty and reliability, which is why we are introducing a temporary timetable.

“We want to resolve this dispute with the trade unions and move forward together to provide the safest, greenest, and most reliable railway we can for Scotland. We remain open to further talks with the trade unions.

“We’re asking customers to check their journey on our website, mobile app, and through our social media channels as train times will have changed.”

CrossCountry appoints Regional Directors for North East and Scotland and Wales and West

Britain’s largest long-distance operator, CrossCountry, has announced the appointments of two Regional Directors in a bid to further embed its regional structure. They will be responsible for the operational and financial performance for their regions, helping to instigate change to benefit the customer.

Ben Simkin, who has been covering the role for an interim basis, has been appointed Regional Director for North East and Scotland. Ben has a wealth of experience both from a commercial perspective, having held the position of Commercial Director, but also operationally, in his role as Regional Customer Service Manager for the East Midlands and East Anglia.

a man wearing a blue tie

Huw Margetts will join CrossCountry as Regional Director for Wales and West in the summer.  Huw has almost ten years’ railway experience, having joined the sector as a graduate at Network Rail. He has held numerous operational roles including Head of Performance and most recently Head of On-Train Service at South Western Railway while his knowledge of managing operational colleagues and the importance of developing strong stakeholder relationships will be invaluable in his new role at CrossCountry.

a man smiling for the camera

On his appointment, Ben Simkin said: “I have been lucky to gain a broad spectrum of experience at CrossCountry, both from a commercial and operational perspective. This has helped to give me a strong understanding of the complexities of our business which will be hugely beneficial in my role as Regional Director.”

Huw Margetts commented: “CrossCountry is unique in that it runs services across the length and breadth of Great Britain. I am looking forward to building on the great work that has taken place in the region so that we have long-lasting relationships with the communities we serve and shape the business to benefit existing and future customers.”

Tom Joyner, Managing Director at CrossCountry added: “We are seeing lots of interest in our leadership positions at CrossCountry both internally and externally. This is incredibly positive as we evolve our business to tackle the challenges of tomorrow and position ourselves as a customer-focused long-distance business.”

Wednesday News Roundup

Around the news rooms from the past couple of days.

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

Caledonian Sleeper names engine in honour of Railway Heritage Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EMR launches real-time SMS alert service

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot 2022-05-06 095938

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rail industry welcomes Queen’s Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

New rail timetable from THIS SUNDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

North West  

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

North East 

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

Yorkshire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about how your journey could be affected. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Grant MP visits Levenmouth Rail Link

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Railway re-opens following train derailment at Coatbridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four-day railway closure to ready railway for Commonwealth Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ScotRail’s half price seat sale kicks off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth MSP said:

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

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

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

Lesley Kane, ScotRail Commercial Director, said:

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

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

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

News Roundup

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

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

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

Jake Mills – Brighter Journeys campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

London Liverpool Street, 9-11 May

Leeds, 13-15 May  

Edinburgh Waverley, 17-19 May

Birmingham New Street, 9-10 May

Stevenage, 12-13 May  

East Croydon, 15-16 May

Cardiff, 18-19 May  

Barrow Haven’s new £1.3m platform underway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passengers urged to plan ahead when using Lichfield Trent Valley station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glasgow’s Argyle line reopens on time for passengers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps said: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TfL image - Bank new southbound Northern line platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samaritans to lead new mental health study for rail industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CASE STUDIES

Darran Hickery

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

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

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

Carol Foster

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

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

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

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

Local brewery helps transform disused spot at Lancaster station

Copyright Stuart Walker Photography 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dartmoor Line set for upgrade work in preparation for start of hourly services

NR Press release 20/04/2022

Network Rail is set to begin 15 days of engineering upgrades on the Dartmoor Line in preparation for the introduction of hourly services.

Next week, from Monday 25 April until the early hours of Tuesday 10 May, Network Rail engineers will be upgrading parts of the 14-mile stretch of Dartmoor Line which currently carries two-hourly Great Western Railway (GWR) passenger services between Okehampton and Exeter.

Along the Dartmoor Line, at Fatherford and Coleford, engineers will be further improving the drainage and track bed to enable faster line speeds ready for the increase to hourly services from mid-May.

These latest upgrades form part of the second stage of the Dartmoor Line reopening, building upon the reintroduction of regular passenger services last year to now delivering an hourly service.

While this engineering work is ongoing, a reduced train service will continue to operate between Exeter and Crediton with a rail replacement bus service in operation between Crediton and Okehampton. Trains services on the Tarka Line between Exeter and Barnstaple will continue to run as usual. Two-hourly train services to Okehampton will resume from Tuesday 10 May, with hourly services starting from Sunday 15 May.

The Dartmoor Line reopened to regular passenger services for the first time in nearly 50 years last November and was the first former line to reopen under the Government’s Restoring Your Railway programme.

Since services resumed last November, the Dartmoor Line has proven extremely popular with an average of 2,000 journeys made every week supporting local businesses, providing a launchpad for visitors to explore Dartmoor and greater access to education and work for thousands of people who live locally.

Following confirmation of over £40m of Government funding last March, Network Rail’s team of engineers worked tirelessly to deliver a huge programme of work to physically reopen this mothballed former freight railway line in less than nine months and more than £10m under the original budget.

These upgrades included laying 11 miles of new track and installing 24,000 concrete sleepers and 29,000 tonnes of ballast in a record-breaking 20-day period.

Christian Irwin, Network Rail’s Industry Programme Director (South West), said: “These latest upgrades are critical in enabling this important railway line to increase to hourly services –something we had always committed to achieving upon receiving Government funding.

“We have been delighted with how popular the Dartmoor Line has proven to be and we now need to make some further enhancements to parts of the track in order to facilitate increased line speeds which are required to enable hourly services.

“There is never a good time to close such a well-used and relied upon railway such as the Dartmoor Line so we would like to thank passengers for their patience and understanding while we make these critical upgrades for the benefit and future of this railway line.”

Matt Barnes, GWR Head of Strategic Service Development, said: 
“This final upgrade work is important to ensure we can introduce our additional services later in May and we thank customers for their patience in advance.

“Introducing hourly services on the Dartmoor Line has been a key aspiration for the community and the rail industry since the project was launched, and the demand we’ve already seen on the line shows just how important good rail connections are for the community they serve.

“We have been working hard to provide a replacement bus service that ensures people can continue to travel with minimal disruption. However, we strongly recommend our customers check their times carefully before travelling to ensure a smooth journey with us.”

Richard Burningham, Manager of the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, said: “It is incredible to think that from 15 May, not six months since the Dartmoor Line reopened, Okehampton will have trains every hour through much of the day, seven days a week. This engineering work is essential to make that possible. Obviously, there will be a bit of short-term inconvenience and that’s unfortunate, but for passengers, I’d say it will be worth it once those hourly trains begin, very soon now.”

For the latest information about the Dartmoor Line please visit https://dartmoorline.com/ and for ticketing and timetable information please visit https://www.gwr.com/

Railway Restored: regular trains to run on Dartmoor Line for first time in 50 years

  • First passenger train on the first Restoring Your Railway reopening will run on Wednesday 17 November, ahead of public services resuming on Saturday 20 November  
  • Restored in just 9 months, and delivered £10m under budget, transforming a mothballed former freight railway to regular services.
  • Reopening is the first of the Government’s Restoring Your Railway schemes to return to service, fulfilling a manifesto commitment. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will today dispatch the first passenger train to run on the Dartmoor Line for over 50 years, as the line once again becomes part of the UK rail network for passengers.

This has been made possible thanks to over £40 million of Government investment through the Restoring Your Railway programme.

The line links Okehampton to Exeter and will officially reopen to the public for regular year-round, all-week passenger services on 20 November. 

The first train runs this Wednesday, travelling from Okehampton, and will carry local school children, campaigners, railway staff, and supporters who all helped make the project happen. 

The Department for Transport, Network Rail and Great Western Railway (GWR) have worked together to reopen this line ahead of time and under budget. Benefitting from the application of Rail Project SPEED approaches, the Dartmoor Line has been transformed from a mothballed former freight railway with occasional Summer Sunday services to a full seven days per week passenger operation in a mere 9 months since confirmation of funding, coming in more than £10m under budget.  

A service will run every 2 hours, with plans to expand to an hourly service in 2022. This will benefit students heading to colleges in Exeter as well as tourists travelling towards Dartmoor, easing congestion on local roads and helping boost local economies,

Since 1997, the line has only been open during some Sundays in Summer after regular services were withdrawn in 1972. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: 

“Improving transport links is essential to levelling up and spreading opportunity across the country, which is why we are driving forward our pledge to reverse the Beeching cuts in Devon today.

“As we reopen the Dartmoor line, we are rightly reconnecting communities, giving passengers the chance to choose rail over the road and travel from Exeter to Okehampton on greener, cleaner modes of transport.”  

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“By restoring the Dartmoor Line we are undoing 50 years of damage, reconnecting a community and creating new opportunities for jobs, tourism, education and recreation.

“We have made it our mission to reverse cuts made in the Beeching era of the 1960s. The passion, nostalgia and enthusiasm for that ambition is clear right across the country.

“People love their railways, and rightly miss them when they’re gone. Today – ahead of time, and under budget – we’ve made a decisive step in fixing that, cutting the ribbon on a line and making a real difference to people’s lives.”

The Restoring Your Railway fund was launched in January 2020 to reinstate axed local services and restore closed stations, many of which were cut following Dr Beeching’s report on ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’ in 1963.

The fund is focused on delivering schemes that can level up the country,  reconnect cut-off communities,  improve access to jobs, homes and education and boost opportunity across the country.

The Department and its partners have accelerated the reopening of the railway, delivering passenger services in only 9 months from the original funding being approved to entry into service, and saving money at the same time. As the Government continues its overhaul of the railways following the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, more lines and stations will be re-opened. 

To make the restoration possible, Network Rail’s team of engineers worked tirelessly to deliver a huge programme of work to physically reopen the line in just 9 months, including laying 11 miles of new track and installing 24,000 concrete sleepers and 29,000 tonnes of ballast in a record-breaking 20-day period.

Repairs have also been made to 21 structures along the route including 4 bridges. Other infrastructure work has included level crossing improvements and the installation of railway communications equipment.  Vegetation clearance, earth and drainage works and fencing have also been completed and further infrastructure work will continue to take place to increase the line speed to enable an hourly service in 2022. 

Michelle Handforth, Network Rail’s Wales & Western regional managing director, said: 

“Today marks a significant milestone for the railway and the local community and I am delighted to have been able to welcome the Secretary of State to Okehampton to mark this special occasion.

“I am so proud of our engineers whose hard work and dedication has resulted in this line reopening ahead of schedule and today enable the Secretary of State, campaigners and supporters of the Dartmoor Line to enjoy a first passenger journey.

“I would like to thank the local community, our partners and everyone who has supported us in reopening this railway line and I am excited to think that this Saturday, regular passenger services will resume for the first time in nearly 50 years.”

Great Western Railway identified suitable rolling stock and developed a robust timetable with franchise funding ahead of funding being agreed for the infrastructure elements of the project. The project has also hugely benefitted from strong local support spearheaded by Devon County Council, without which it would have taken far longer to reach the point where regular year-round services can be restored after almost 50 years. 

Great Western Railway, Dartline Coaches and Devon County Council have also made sure that local transport is all coordinated, ensuring easy bus and train connections to the rest of Britain are easily accessible from the Dartmoor Line. 

More work will be carried out over the winter including on the station buildings to enable the restoration of the café and other facilities. 

Mark Hopwood, GWR Managing Director, said: 

“This has been a key aspiration for the community and the rail industry for some time and today is a significant day for everyone who has been involved. I am delighted to have been able to invite the Secretary of State, and leading community campaigners, to enjoy a first passenger journey on this restored line.

“The support and advocacy of the local campaigners over the years has helped deliver a fantastic new service for customers, which we hope will grow from strength to strength.”

Hitachi and Eversholt Rail to develop GWR intercity battery hybrid train – offering fuel savings of more than 20%

In a UK-first, Hitachi Rail and Eversholt Rail have signed an exclusive agreement aimed at bringing battery power – and fuel savings of more than 20% – to the modern Great Western Railway Intercity Express Trains that carry passengers between Penzance and London.

The 36 longer, faster trains – with their iconic sleek design – have already transformed journeys for passengers in south west England, since their introduction by GWR in August 2018. Now the partnership between Hitachi, the train builder and maintainer, and Eversholt Rail, the trains’ owner, will develop a plan to install batteries on a modern Intercity Express Train. The trial will demonstrate that the innovation meets passenger service and safety standards.

The line between the South West and London is only partially electrified, with the majority of the 300 mile journey requiring diesel power. The partnership is looking at batteries replacing a diesel engine as a power source on an existing Hitachi-built five-carriage train – currently known as a bi-mode for its ability to switch seamlessly between electric and diesel power.

Adding a battery creates an electric-diesel-battery hybrid train (tri-mode). On non-electrified sections of the route, the batteries will supplement the power of the engines to reduce fuel usage and carbon emissions by more than 20%. Whereas when travelling in and out of stations and surrounding urban areas, the train would rely on battery power only. This has the benefit of improving air quality and dramatically reduce noise levels, creating a more pleasant environment for passengers and people living nearby.

GWR’s Intercity Express Train fleet currently calls at 15 non-electrified stations on its journey between Penzance and London, all of which could benefit from trains running on battery-only power.

Hitachi Rail will draw upon market-leading expertise in Japan, and the support of its battery partner – Hyperdrive Innovation. The two North East-based companies reached an agreement in July 2020 to create and develop battery packs for mass production at Hyperdrive’s HYVE facility in Sunderland, the UK’s first independent battery pack manufacturing facility.

The projected improvements in battery technology – particularly in power output and charge – create opportunities to replace incrementally more diesel engines on long distance trains. With the ambition to create a fully electric-battery intercity train – that can travel the full journey between London and Penzance – by the late 2040s, in line with the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target.

Installing battery technology on trains can complement electrification and helps to improve the business case for upgrades that can level-up the South West and provide a low emission alternative to domestic air travel.

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton Harris, said:

“This is an exciting partnership to develop technology that can make rail travel more sustainable across the UK’s network. Battery powered trains will support us in our battle against climate change and poor air quality, and improve the overall passenger experience. As we continue to build back better, developments like this are major stepping stones towards achieving the UK’s 2050 net-zero emissions target.”

Jim Brewin, UK & Ireland Country Lead, Hitachi Rail said:

“This partnership is an exciting opportunity to unlock new greener trains for passengers, reduce running costs for operators and cut carbon. At Hitachi Rail we share the UK’s ambition for a net zero emission future. Britain is in a unique position to become a global leader in battery trains, we want support the UK’s green economic recovery and levelling-up.”

Mary Kenny, Eversholt Rail Chief Executive Officer said:

“We are delighted to continue working in partnership with Hitachi to investigate the conversion of our Class 802 fleet to tri-mode by introducing battery technology. Eversholt Rail is committed to ensuring our fleets meet the UK Railway’s decarbonisation commitments.”

Matthew Golton, Interim Managing Director, GWR said:

“We are committed to reviewing emerging technologies such as battery power and assessing feasibility for services and rolling stock on the GWR network. This is a really exciting development and we look forward to working closely with both Hitachi Rail and Eversholt Rail on this trial.”

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s interim Wales & Western regional managing director, said: 

“We welcome this agreement particularly as it supports our recently published Traction Decarbonisation Strategy and our commitment to supporting the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target. It also builds on the positive impact of electrification and our ambition to deliver greener and more sustainable travel.”

New longer platform for St James Park station and better railway journey to Exmouth

Network Rail will be extending the platforms at St James Park and Lympstone Commando as well as improving track between Exeter and Exmouth over half term week 25 – 30 October

The work will ensure that passengers using the station will be able to travel sustainably and will have better access to trains when alighting and boarding.

The work to replace the track at Exmouth Junction will ensure that people travelling to the south coast will have more reliable journeys.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s Western route director, said:

“It’s great that we are able to undertake a number of projects at the same time during closures of the railway.

“We have been working with our train operator colleagues to plan a coordinated work package to reduce the impact on the travelling public.  By undertaking as much work as possible during a closure, we are able to minimise the impact to travellers.

“Whilst carrying out this work during half term may affect some people, the majority of people will be at home and therefore less inconvience is caused.” 

Mel Harvey, GWR Station Manager for Mid-Devon said,

‘’This essential work will see the platforms at St James’ Park and Lympstone Commando extended, allowing customers the opportunity to take better advantage of the trains we are able to run; as well as vital track renewal work.

We have been working hard to make sure that people can be confident to travel safely, and that includes running as many trains and carriages as we can to make extra room, and replacement buses where trains cannot operate, as well as enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures. 

Please do however, check before you travel and be considerate of others.” 

Alan Penlington, South Western Railway’s customer experience director, said:

“Whilst there’s never a good time to close the railway, half term is historically a quieter time and the works taking place at Exmouth Junction will improve reliability and performance along this this important stretch of railway for years to come.

I realise these works will mean disruption for our customers, however, replacement buses will be in operation and this longer closure will save months of weekend engineering works. I’d like to apologise to our customer for the inconvenience caused and thank them for their patience.”

Rail Minister visits Brunel Plaza regeneration

The Rail Minister has visited Plymouth to meet those responsible for the regeneration of Brunel Plaza.

The Brunel Plaza scheme involves an upgrade for Plymouth Railway Station, along with a major revamp of the surrounding area, including the redevelopment of Intercity House by the University of Plymouth to train the city’s future health professionals; a new hotel and multi-storey car park; and improvements to public areas and links to the city centre.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“Our stations serve as gateways to our towns and cities, ensuring communities are connected, enabling access to education and employment and facilitating tourism. 

“The Brunel Plaza Scheme will mark an exciting new chapter for Plymouth and I was delighted to visit the station to see first-hand how it will help transform the area into a vibrant catalyst for regeneration. 

“This government will continue to invest in vital projects such as this to ensure we boost regional economies and build back better from Covid-19.”

Plymouth station

Pic shows L to R: Network Rail’s Francis McGarry; University of Plymouth’s Tim Brooksbank; Cllr Tudor Evans, Chris Heaton-Harris, the Minister of State for Transport; GWR’s Richard Rowland and Plymouth City Council Chief Executive Tracey Lee during a visit to Plymouth Station to have a look at the Brunel Plaza regeneration project. 

Improvements for the station concourse include doubling the capacity of the existing gate-line with better shops and facilities for passengers. 

The project involves: 

• refurbishment of Plymouth Station concourse 
• refurbishment and change of use of Intercity Place for use by the University of Plymouth 
• re-location of facilities within the RISC building to a new building to the west of the station 
• demolition of the RISC building 
• construction of a new multi-storey car park on the site of the former RISC building 
• new-build accommodation for the University of Plymouth 
• demolition of the existing multi-storey car park 
• construction of a new hotel on the site of the demolished multi-storey car park 
• improved and re-configured pedestrian, cycle and vehicular access to the station and city centre 

Permission was granted in September for the Intercity Place project, which will involve the complete regeneration of an 11-storey building overlooking Plymouth Railway Station. 

It will be reconfigured and refurbished throughout – with the exterior also being rejuvenated – so that the finished development creates a striking and welcoming entrance to Britain’s Ocean City. 

The University has now signed a long-term lease on the building from Network Rail, and work will begin imminently to give it a new lease of life. 

Once completed, it will house inter-professional clinical skills facilities for the University’s Faculty of Health and be used to train future nurses, midwives, paramedics, physiotherapists, and other allied health professionals. 

There will also be additional educational services, enabling staff to work together in one location to support the future health workforce. 

Council Leader Tudor Evans OBE said: 

“This is huge and this is happening – you can already see change on the ground. The corner car park at Station Approach has been turned into a compound for contractors, diggers have been on site – and we’ve had a mural painted at North Cross, to give a nicer welcome for visitors.  

“We need to give people a much better impression when they arrive in Plymouth. We need them to feel this is a city going places, a city that is on the up. It’s an ambitious project that is coming together like a giant jigsaw, with key organisations each playing their part. It couldn’t come at a better time.” 

The existing car park opposite the entrance is also earmarked for demolition and a new hotel and second university building created in its place. The masterplan proposes a new car park, almost doubling the capacity to 469 spaces, for the site of the RISC building. Station staff accommodation will be modernised and significant new public space created including a direct pedestrian link to North Cross and the city centre. 

GWR Deputy Managing Director Richard Rowland said:
 “It is easy to see why the station is regarded as the gateway to the South West.  

“Over the last two years we at GWR we have delivered new Intercity Express Trains, and more frequent and faster journeys to and from the city, and I am delighted that this major upgrade work can begin creating the entrance the city deserves. 
Network Rail Route Director, Western Route, Mike Gallop said: 

“Training future NHS staff is essential, and we are excited to offer Intercity Place back to the city in order to support the future of the NHS. We believe that Plymouth provides opportunity for young academics across the country and the world.  

“This is why we are upgrading Plymouth railway station to meet the city’s growing need of a transport hub that evokes an arrival that lets you know you have reached Britain’s ocean city.”
Tim Brooksbank, Interim Director of Estates and Facilities at the University of Plymouth, said:
“The Intercity Place project will be a landmark development in every sense and demonstrates our commitment to, and confidence in, the city of Plymouth. 

“It will transform an iconic building on Plymouth’s skyline to create a modern and attractive welcome to the city for residents, workers, tourists and students alike. But its role in training future generations of health professionals means it can be an inspiring place for all those who work and learn there, and enhance our place as the largest provider of healthcare training in the South West.”

The entire scheme is expected to cost in the region of £80m and has the backing of Plymouth City Council; the University of Plymouth; Cornwall and Heart of South West LEPs; the DfT; GWR and Network Rail. 

Let’s travel safely this summer as GWR announces enhanced getaway services

Additional train services for Devon and Cornwall have been announced from this weekend to help people returning to rail travel do so safely, but customers are reminded to consider others and wear a face covering, and to wash their hands regularly.
 
As more people return to rail after the easement of lockdown restrictions, train operator GWR has been working hard to welcome people back on to its services. 
 
This includes increased cleaning regimes and the use of a virucidal spray; extra staff at key stations to offer help and guidance; and processes in place to help customers maintain a safe distance where possible such as restricting the number of reservations available. 
 
GWR Interim Managing Director Matthew Golton said:
 
“As the lockdown eases and government advice on travel changes, we are seeing more people coming back to the railway. 
 
“Staff across GWR have been working hard and we continue to take sensible steps to look after ourselves and each other, and to start welcoming people more widely back on to the railway.
 
“An awful lot of hard work has been done to make sure people feel that they can travel safely, and that includes running more trains and carriages to make extra room. 
 
“From Saturday we will re-introduce even more services into our timetable as more people return to the train. Please do be considerate of others and wear a face covering unless you are exempt, be mindful of others; plan ahead; avoid busy times where possible; and do take advantage of the extra hand-washing facilities we have had installed.”
 
To further maximise space on board, from this weekend GWR has announced more trains for Devon and Cornwall, including restoring a significant number of direct London to Cornwall services.
 
The enhancements will mean three additional services from London Paddington on Saturdays from this Saturday [25 July]. Two will run to Plymouth and the third directly to Paignton, restoring direct services to Torbay in time for the summer. There will also be four more round trips (8 services) on local trains between Exeter/Plymouth and Penzance.  
 
During the week, the train operator will extend four London services through to Penzance, restoring direct London services to Cornwall. A further six round trips (12 services) from London Paddington will operate: two running to Exeter, one to Plymouth and three running direct to Paignton. In addition to the London services, there will also be a further three round trips (6 services) between Exeter/Plymouth and Penzance to provide the extra capacity needed to support safer travel through the summer. 
 
GWR is encouraging customers to travel safely this summer. People are reminded to:
 
• wear a face covering
• travel at quieter times where possible
• wash your hands more regularly
• buy tickets online, on a smart card or by using the GWR app

Great Western Railway unveils special livery

Great Western Railway unveils special livery thanking key workers and celebrating diversity

Unique design features the ideas of three teenagers from across GWR network

Great Western Railway (GWR) today unveiled a special livery thanking key workers for their incredible efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, inspired by the company’s design a train competition.

With a theme of ‘The nation says thank you’, the special design features words of gratitude in 116 different languages used by those living across the GWR network.

The livery, carried by Intercity Express Train number 802020, incorporates the ideas of three teenagers who entered a competition on GWR’s social media channels to design a train livery.

The nation says thank you’: The striking new livery credit GWR

Sam Smith, 13, from Gloucestershire, suggested the words ‘The nation says thank you’; Sam Moorey, 15, from Newton Abbot, proposed saying ‘thank you’ in different languages; and Ned Thompson, 16, of Guildford, crafted the overall design.

GWR worked with local authorities and NHS trusts to ensure the diversity of communities across the network was represented. The livery features 109 speech bubbles, using 116 languages from at least 166 countries.

It has been unveiled days before the nation joins in one final NHS clap on Sunday 5 July at 1700, to applaud all those who have helped through the pandemic and recognise the vital community connections that continue to support us all.

Tribute: The new livery incorporating the ideas of three competition winners credit GWR

The ‘design a special train livery’ competition was judged by Railway Historian and broadcaster Tim Dunn, who admitted it was a tough task settling on the final design.

Tim said:

“Everyone is incredibly grateful to those key workers, including the railway family, who have been working tirelessly to help us through the pandemic.

“We wanted the design to represent the thoughts and thanks of those living across the network and believe the inclusion of these different languages is the perfect way to illustrate everyone’s gratitude. Hats off to the two Sams and Ned for coming up with such original concepts.”

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“GWR has chosen a great combination of designs and I am pleased to see the rail industry saying “thank you” in such a great diversity of languages. 

“This serves as an excellent reminder of the hard work of so many people in our NHS and so many other crucial industries, and I am delighted to join with GWR and add my thanks to all the key workers across the nation.”

GWR Head of External Communications Dan Panes said:

“We wanted to give people the opportunity to express their thanks to key workers in a unique way. This design on one of our Intercity Express Trains will provide a lasting tribute to the selfless dedication of all those who have given everything to help us through these unprecedented times.”

Gratitude: The livery features a ‘thank-you’ message in 116 different languages credit GWR

The special livery has been funded by rolling stock leasing company, Eversholt Rail, and Intercity Express Train manufacturer Hitachi Rail.

Mary Kenny, Chief Executive Officer at Eversholt Rail, said:

“We are proud to support Great Western Railway with this fantastic initiative to thank all of the key workers who have supported the country throughout these difficult times. The number of fantastic entries to the competition shows that so many people appreciate the hard work and dedication of our key workers and want to say ‘thank you’. Congratulations to the two Sams and Ned for their winning entries.”

Andy Radford, UK Projects Director at Hitachi Rail, said:

“We have seen first-hand the resilience of key workers, either as passengers using our trains for essential travel or rail staff who kept trains running safely during the peak of the pandemic.

“Hitachi Rail is proud to be part of this fitting tribute, but equally delighted to be giving passengers a reason to smile.”

GWR continues to remind customers to do all they can to follow social distancing guidance. As well as wearing a face covering, planning ahead and avoiding peak travel times where possible, customers are urged to buy tickets online, on a smart card or by using the GWR app.

Video courtesy of GWR