Railway news updates so far this week

Spike in near misses at a level crossing in East Sussex prompts safety warning

Pedestrians in the Tidemills area are being reminded of the importance of obeying signals and signs at level crossings, following a spike in potentially dangerous incidents at the pedestrian level crossing near the site of the abandoned village of Tidemills in East Sussex.

There has been nine recorded near misses in only four months (between June and October 2020) where people have risked their lives by using the crossing in front of a train. The footpath crossing which takes people across the railway is regarded as the busiest pedestrian crossing in Sussex and has been identified as ‘very high risk’.

The dangerous behaviour at Tidemills include level crossing users filming the emergency stop of an oncoming train. In another incident, bike users narrowly missed a train while large groups of pedestrians have also experienced close calls by trying to beat approaching trains. Cameras have also captured a funeral procession using the crossing.

Each incident could have resulted in fatal or life changing consequences.

Local people and visitors are set to enjoy safer access across the railway at Tidemills in the South Downs National Park after Network Rail’s proposals for a stunning new footbridge were approved last year.

The footbridge, which has been designed to blend with the local landscape and heritage features of the old village of Tidemills, will provide safer access to Seaford beach and the surrounding landscape.

Once the new footbridge is in place, the footpath crossing will permanently close.

Tracy Partridge, East Sussex level crossing manager for Network Rail, said:

“I cannot stress enough the danger people are placing themselves and others in by not using crossings correctly. Pedestrians in Tidemills need to look in both directions and should not cross if they see a train approaching.

“Trying to save a couple of minutes is not worth the potentially devastating consequences.”

Jonathan Pine, British Transport Police Inspector, said:

“There is simply no excuse for not following safety procedures at level crossings. We have seen first-hand what the consequences of taking a shortcut over a level crossing can be, and we remind anyone using the pedestrian crossing near Tidemills to be patient and responsible when doing so.

“Education on using level crossings is essential, which is why we continue to work closely with Network Rail on improving knowledge on the dangers of misusing them. However, we will also prosecute anyone caught misusing level crossings in the hope this will make them think twice in future.

“If you see anyone misusing a level crossing, please contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40.”

Network Rail donates production fee from York TV filming to help vulnerable young people

Network Rail has chosen for its location fee from the filming of the popular drama series Gentleman Jack to be donated to Railway Children, a charity which supports vulnerable young people across the UK.

The cast of Gentleman Jack, which airs on BBC One, have been busy filming the second series of the show and have been using York railway station as one of the locations. The team needed a place to store vans and production equipment during filming and approached Network Rail about renting space in one of the organisation’s car parks, which is nearby.

The rental fee will be donated to one of Network Rail’s charity partners, Railway Children, which supports vulnerable young people across the UK who have been found at risk on the rail network.

Railway stations are a magnet to children who are running away from, or unknowingly towards, danger. Some are victims of child sexual exploitation, trafficking or abuse, and use trains to escape, run away or meet new people. Railway Children’s highly skilled project workers support these children and their families to tackle the issues that led them into danger and help to set them on the path to a brighter future.

George Drum, Infrastructure Maintenance Delivery Manager for Network Rail’s North and East Route, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been a very challenging year, particularly for those young people who are vulnerable to exploitation.

“We know that charities have been badly hit during the pandemic and, in the run up to Christmas, we wanted to do something which would enable Railway Children’s dedicated workers to help those who need it most.”

Mary McLaughlin, Corporate Partnerships Manager for Railway Children, said: “We are so touched that Network Rail chose to turn this payment into a donation to help support vulnerable children across the UK. At a time when fundraising activity has been hit hard, thoughtful ideas like this really do make all the difference and go a long way to ensuring that our vital work can continue throughout the pandemic and beyond.”

Reliability improvements on the London Overground Gospel Oak to Barking line as vital upgrades complete

Track upgrades and bridge strengthening work has been completed on the London Overground Gospel Oak to Barking line to keep services running smoothly and reliably for passengers.

Two miles of track has been replaced since the work began at the end of August and engineers have been working hard every weekend to ensure the work between Harringay Green Lanes and Upper Holloway stations was completed.

Vital strengthening work has also been completed at four bridges along the route to maintain the safety and reliability of the track and train services running over them. These include two bridges at Beaumont Road and Capworth Street between Leyton Midland Road and Walthamstow Queens Road and two at Sebert Road and Balmoral Road between Woodgrange Park and Wanstead Park.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “We have carried out as much work as possible during this time to improve reliability of the track and equipment. As a result, services will be more reliable, with fewer delays and cancellations. I’d like to thank both passengers and our railway neighbours for their patience while we carried out this important work.”

Rory O’Neill, TfL’s General Manager for London Overground, said: “We would like to thank our customers for their patience while Network Rail completed work on the Gospel Oak to Barking line.  The vital upgrade work will ensure services can run smoothly and reliably for customers for many years to come.”

Rail improvement works to take place in West Cornwall

Works to improve the railway in West Cornwall begin this Saturday (5 December 2020), with amended train services and replacement buses in operation to keep people moving.

Network Rail will undertake track work in Penzance on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 December, affecting services between Penzance and St Erth. This will extend to include between Penzance and Truro, and the St Ives Bay line, from Monday 7 to Thursday 10 December.

GWR continues to operate over 90% of its pre-Covid train timetable, but to allow for train travellers to be able to socially distance with ease, the operator is asking those intending to do so to plan ahead and to check journey times before travelling.

Mark Chorley, GWR Regional Station Manager, West, said: “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. 

“This work is important to ensure we can continue to maintain and improve reliability and we thank customers for their patience in advance.”

Where the main line remains open, amended train services will operate through Cornwall towards Plymouth with roughly one train per hour in each direction.

Buses will replace trains from Penzance to St Erth (5/6 December) and from Penzance to Truro (7-10 December), with buses also running between St Erth and St Ives from 7 to 10 December. Services will still run on the Falmouth branch line but up to 10 minutes earlier than usual.

Long-distance services from London Paddington to Devon and most of Cornwall will continue to operate. Replacement buses will connect with trains, adding up to 50 minutes to journey times. Some train departure times will also be changed, and passengers are advised to check beforehand.

Lee Hildreth, Network Rail’s Project Manager, said: “We thank passengers in advance while we carry out these vital upgrades across Cornwall and remind them to check before they travel.

“The improvements will help provide passengers with more reliable journeys and represents further investment in the railway in Cornwall following recent signalling upgrades in the South West.”

GWR has been providing rail services throughout the pandemic and has worked to ensure that these are as safe as possible. 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. 

Levenmouth rail links to online public information sessions

The Fife public are being given a platform to share their views on the plans for the Levenmouth Rail link through online information sessions.

Network Rail has launched a new Levenmouth project site (ScotlandsRailway.com/projects) to host the sessions and is sharing more information on the proposals for recreating the link between Leven and the mainline rail network to enable direct train services to Edinburgh. 

Though focussed on the sites of the new stations, the project will welcome views on all aspects of the project such as active travel links, station facilities or integration with other transport modes.

Given the current situation, information will be published online on the Scotland’s Railway web site and the information events will be held via video call which will let people speak directly with the team developing the project, discuss the proposals and ask any questions.  

Anyone interested can book fifteen-minute slots with the team between 4pm and 7pm on Wednesday 9th Thursday 10th and Wednesday 16th December with more than 30 appointments available initially.

For those unable to access the online sessions, the web site will provide an opportunity to provide online submissions and an email address – LevenmouthReconnected@networkrail.co.uk – is also open for comments and questions.

Graeme Stewart, Network Rail’s sponsor for the Levenmouth project said: “The current restrictions means that we cannot engage with communities like we would in normal times, but we are still keen to share information about the project and get feedback from local people ahead of coming to any decisions. 

“Thankfully, technology gives us the opportunity to meet with people online and hear their views and concerns. It offers us the chance to talk about the project and the benefits it will bring to the local area.

“In reinstating the Leven line, we are looking at how we can get best value from this investment and are working with key stakeholders to develop proposals which positively impact on the local economy, communities and future opportunities for the whole area. 

“We would encourage anyone who is interested to take part and I am looking forward to meeting with you online and hearing your views on the proposals.” 

West Coast Partnership announce research collaboration with the University of Leeds

West Coast Partnership to invest £1m plus as part of The University of Leeds’ plans for The Institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration, to drive High Speed rail advancements. 

  • £1 million plus investment to drive High Speed rail advancements
  • Partnership will help deliver a UK centre of excellence for rail engineering in the Leeds City Region.
  • Move intended to drive improved customer experience and operation of HS2

West Coast Partnership (WCP) has announced a research tie-in with the University of Leeds with an investment worth more than £1 million to deliver advancements in High Speed Rail.

The university and WCP will also collaborate on the launch of The Institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration.

When fully operational, the Institute will be capable of simulating the conditions found on busy rail networks, the findings of which will play a key part in the shaping of HS2 services.

The research will focus on:

  • Automatic Train Operation and European Train Control System – technologies, which include signalling, to keep trains operating safely.
  • Passenger movement on trains and in stations.
  • Full scale testing of rolling stock and their system integration.
  • Driver training and simulation
  • Passenger experience

Caroline Donaldson, Managing Director at West Coast Partnership Development, said: “We are at the start of a huge technological revolution on the West Coast Main Line, in addition to HS2 which will transform services between the nation’s biggest cities.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be partnering with the Institute for High-Speed Rail and System Integration. Their highly-skilled research engineers and scientists will be key to ensuring we make the very most of the very latest leading edge technology to drive a real step change in high speed rail operations.

The cutting-edge facilities at the Institute for High-Speed Rail and System Integration include:

  • A specially designed vehicle testing rig – in effect, a rolling track that can test trains and carriages at speeds up to 250 mph. Using a tilting platform, it will be able to simulate bends, ascents and descents.
  • An infrastructure testing facility that will be able to re-create the enormous forces that are generated on tracks, ballast and embankments by conventional and high-speed trains. It will allow engineers to significantly cut the time it takes to design and test new track and support structures.
  • A system-integration laboratory that will measure how well different railway technologies – power, track, signals and customer information services – operate as an integrated whole to reduce delays.

The Institute’s director, Professor Peter Woodward, said: “The Institute was designed to speed up the time it takes to get new innovative ideas introduced to the railway – and to ensure that when they are brought into service, they work as intended.

“Our founding philosophy is to work closely with the rail industry, and I am excited that we are forming a research partnership with a partnership that will be shaping the UK rail industry for decades to come.”

Work has started on building the Institute for High-Speed Rail and System Integration on a site next to the Leeds Enterprise Zone, on the south eastern edge of the city. The Institute will form a key part of a wider strategy involving Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority/ Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership to develop a UK centre of excellence for rail engineering in the Leeds City Region.

50% More Long Stay Parking for Customers at Durham Station

London North Eastern Railway (LNER) has added fifty per cent extra car parking for customers using Durham Station from December 2020.

A total of 147 additional spaces have been created following the completion of a new two level car park at the station, which is just a short walk from Durham’s historic city centre. It takes the total number of long-stay spaces for customers using the station to 435.

David Horne, Managing Director at LNER, said: “Durham is one of the key destinations on the LNER route and we are delighted to be able to enhance the experience for customers using the station. The additional spaces mean more than 50 per cent extra parking will be available, making it easier for people wishing to make journeys from Durham Station, whether it be for business or leisure.”

LNER, which manages the station, has invested £3.7 million in the project. The new car park has improved, energy-efficient LED lighting and full CCTV coverage.

David Horne added: “As the car park stands within a conservation area and within sight of the World Heritage Site of Durham Cathedral and Castle, great care has been taken with the aesthetic appearance of the structure. The upper deck of the car park has been fitted with aluminium beams that have been printed to give the appearance of Italian walnut timber to complement the backdrop of the woodland behind the station.”

It’s the latest in a series of improvements at the station, which dates from 1857 and has recently been recognised as ‘Highly Commended’ Large Station of the Year at this year’s prestigious National Rail Awards. Stonework has been restored and enhancements made to the subway connecting the station’s two platforms, including a new walkway and wall panels showcasing vibrant images of County Durham.

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “The completion of LNER’s new two-storey car park at Durham Railway Station is very good news for County Durham. Providing additional long-stay spaces will boost parking capacity, while also enhancing facilities at the station for residents and visitors travelling across the region and beyond.

“Improving connectivity and transport infrastructure is a major part of our long-term regeneration plans for the county.”

Durham is also one of LNER’s managed car parks to benefit from a parking offer. Customers can currently park for £5 a day after 09.30 Monday to Friday, or for those having a long weekend, park anytime Friday to Monday for just £12.

E-tickets available at more Sussex and Surrey stations, helping Southern and Thameslink passengers socially distance

People can now travel using Southern and Thameslink smartphone e-tickets at 11 more railway stations in Sussex and Surrey, helping people socially distance, preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Barcode readers have just been installed on ticket gates at:

  • Hassocks
  • Burgess Hill
  • Haywards Heath
  • Three Bridges
  • Horsham
  • Crawley
  • Dorking
  • Leatherhead
  • Ashtead
  • East Grinstead
  • Oxted

They allow passengers to scan e-tickets bought via the Southern OnTrack app, Thameslink OnTrack app or online at southernrailway.com and thameslinkrailway.com and displayed on their smartphones or printed out at home.

Barcode e-ticket sales have increased in the UK from 25% of UK rail ticket revenues pre-Covid to 33% as people realise the benefits of non-contact travel. E-tickets can help passengers travel with confidence and are ideal for advanced singles, peak and off-peak singles, and peak and off-peak day return tickets.

Another 18 Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern stations will follow across the Govia Thameslink Railway network over the coming months, in addition to the 42 stations already fitted with the technology (see editor’s notes for a full list).

Season ticket holders looking for similar Covid-safe benefits are urged to use the free Key smartcard which is also now available over most ticket office counters and not just by ordering it online, a process that would otherwise take up to five days.

Southern Managing Director Angie Doll said: “Customers who need to travel can already do so with confidence thanks to our intensive cleaning regime and long-lasting viruscide.

“Now, by rolling out e-tickets to even more stations in Sussex and Surrey, and making our free Key smartcard available over the counter, we’re making it even quicker and easier to book tickets online, speeding our passengers’ journeys through the station, minimising contact and helping everyone to socially distance.”

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Making public transport more modern and accessible is a top priority in all the work that we do. The roll-out of smartphone ticketing across the Southern and Thameslink network makes it quicker and faster for passengers to pass through stations, simplifying their journeys and delivering a more seamless experience.”

Travel as early as you can and book your space, says GWR

GWR continues to operate over 90% of its pre-Covid train timetable, but to allow for train travellers to be able to socially distance with ease, the operator is asking those intending to do so to plan ahead.

Book tickets in advance and remember and remember you must reserve a space before travelling*: help keep everyone safe and maintain social distancing. More information on what GWR is doing to support safe travel can be found here: www.gwr.com/safety

Avoid busy trains:

  • travel as early as you are able to. Services on Friday evening, at weekends, or as we approach the 23 to 27 December Christmas bubble are expected to be in demand. Please be aware that rail services will shut-down earlier on Christmas Eve
  • find out more about busy trains at GWR’s dedicated busy trains webpage: www.gwr.com/travel-updates/our-busy-trains

Use your mobile: Purchase tickets online to reduce unnecessary contact:

  • tickets do, however, need to be shown during travel. To help railway staff, charge your phone and keep railcards together for ease of checking

Do not take more luggage than you can carry:

  • there is space for luggage on board, however you can reduce unnecessary contact with others by not needing help to carry it

Hands. Face. Space:

  • hand sanitising equipment has been installed across the GWR network to help safe travel
  • face coverings must be worn in the station and on the train unless you are exempt
  • pay attention to station posters and floor markings and remember to reserve a seat to help maintain social distancing advice

GWR Head of Customer Experience Samyutha Bala said:

“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, as well as enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures.

“Please do, however, plan ahead, reserve a seat, and be considerate of others.”

From Sunday 13 December rail operators will introduce their December timetables and customers should check their journey before travelling, especially if they are used to taking a train at a particular time.

Network Rail engineering work in the Bristol area, and on the North Downs line between Reading and Gatwick may also affect the normal timetabled service between Christmas and the beginning of January and customers asked to check the details of their journey before travelling.

GWR has been providing rail services throughout the pandemic and has worked to ensure that these are as safe as possible. 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.

*: To help make sure everyone can travel safely, you must reserve a space before travelling on many of our trains. This helps us limit the number of people on these trains so it’s easier to socially distance. For reservable trains, we’ll automatically allocate you a space if one is available or ask you to try another service if not. Don’t worry, we always leave space on board for those with walk-up tickets, such as season tickets, or those who may have been disrupted.

Scotland’s Railway gives students Christmas tickets

Christmas is coming early this year for Scottish students, thanks to a massive 50 per cent discount on tickets from Scotland’s Railway.

University students will be able to take advantage of half price travel on any off-peak ScotRail service until 24 December.

And, the train operator is getting into the festive spirit even more by simplifying the process of buying the tickets.

All a student needs to do is turn up at a staffed ticket office with their ID, jump on board and head home to their loved ones.

The offer will be a huge boost to students who are worried about getting back to their families under the current coronavirus travel restrictions.

They need to record a negative Covid-19 test before they travel, but test appointments and the time taken to produce results mean students will find it almost impossible to book specific train services.

The off-peak half price offer will be a flexible, open-return ticket valid for one month after purchase, which will allow most students to return to their studies in January after another negative coronavirus test. The discount will be available on both off-peak day return and off-peak return tickets.

Students will be able to purchase the discounted tickets up until 24 December, which would mean they would have until 23 January to use the return portion of the journey.

Lesley Kane, ScotRail Commercial Director, said:

“Students are going through a hard enough time just now trying to keep up with their studies while worrying about catching coronavirus and balancing their finances.

“We think this half price deal on tickets is the best gift we can give them before Christmas and we’re sure it will be very popular amongst students who want to get home to see loved ones at this special family time of the year.

“We are confident ScotRail will be able to carry all passengers safely over the festive period by observing the five rules for safer travel, including wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distancing.”

New fogger, powerful disinfectants and record number of cleaners – EMR continues cleaning investment

East Midlands Railway (EMR) has further boosted its investment in measures to keep its trains and stations clean.

Throughout 2020, EMR has introduced enhanced cleaning and safety measures across all its depots, staff areas, trains, and stations – this has included more cleaning of all touch points, more staff and increased monitoring.

But as the railway gears up to exit the latest round of lockdown measures, it is going even further to make sure the services it runs can be as clean as possible and to help those customers returning to the railway to be confident that they can travel safely.

The new measures include employing the most cleaners in its history, sourcing powerful disinfectant products and purchasing new specialist cleaning equipment.

As well as buying a new piece of equipment called a Motorscrubber, which generates micro droplets for enhanced cleaning of touch points, EMR has also bought a specialist fog machine.

The new fog machine uses an antiviral disinfectant to sanitise large areas – making it perfect for the inside of carriages. The mist not only kills viruses on hard surfaces but also in the air.

It will be used across the network by cleaning staff who now number 577, the highest in the company’s history. EMR staff have been redeployed successfully from other areas of the business meaning there are now nearly a third more cleaners than before the pandemic. Customers want to visibly see staff engaged in cleaning and EMR has responded to that challenge.

Kay McCrindle, Cleaning Supervisor at Churchill Group, a contractor that EMR use, said: “Everyone in our team is so motivated, as we know how important our work is to customers and how vital it is in making sure EMR can run its services. It’s simple really, our hard work is helping to protect customers and staff, and its great that we have this new equipment to help us.

“There is a little army of us now, cleaning everything in sight and it feels good to be part of a team that can really make a difference to how safe passengers feel when they take a trip with EMR.”

Neil Grabham, Customer Services Director for East Midlands Railway, said: “Customers have repeatedly told us throughout the pandemic that Covid clean environments are their absolute priority and that is why throughout 2020 we have worked incredibly hard to make sure our trains and stations are as clean as possible. It is vital that customers returning to our network can travel with confidence.

“We have learnt a lot throughout the year and changed our approach to cleaning to embrace new systems and technology, particularly as the understanding of Covid has developed. We are always looking to invest in the best equipment possible to keep our customers safe.

“Our investment in unique specialist equipment and disinfectants, as well as having more than 500 people cleaning across our network, shows our commitment in this area and how passionate we are to make sure our passengers feel at ease when they use our services.

“We are so grateful for all the hard work by our cleaning team. It is clear to see how motivated they are, and we are all so thankful. They are doing a great job.”

Network Rail takes advantage of quieter period to make improvements to two of London’s busiest railways, in partnership with train operators

Network Rail engineers are getting extra time to make improvements to two of London’s busiest railway lines thanks to lower passenger numbers during the second national lockdown.

Working closely with operators Thameslink, Southern and London Overground, the company’s Southern region is working overnight to tackle the causes of some recent delays to trains on the core Thameslink central London route between St Pancras and London Blackfriars, and the Sydenham Corridor between New Cross Gate and Norwood Junction.

Both those routes are crucial for the punctual operation of trains across South London and – thanks to Thameslink – even well into the north, on lines to Bedford, Cambridge and Peterborough. However, they are also very busy 24 hours a day.

Network Rail Southern region director John Halsall said: “One of the challenges of running a busy railway is that the routes we most need to do work on are the routes where people need them to be running 24/7 and it’s hard to get the time to do the job. That means the big jobs get done but the smaller work – such as managing vegetation or even wildlife – is hard to fit in and the smaller problems build into big ones.

“Working closely with our colleagues at Thameslink, Southern and London Overground, we’ve been able to take advantage of this unusually quiet time on the railway to plan some ‘quick wins’ working overnight. It will also give the opportunity to properly look at the condition of some of the technology so we really know the state of the railway and what we might need to do in future.

“We’ve had some performance problems on these corridors recently and I know passengers will want to see improvements quickly, which this plan delivers.”

Thameslink Customer Services Director Jenny Saunders said: “These difficult times do at least give us an opportunity to improve the railway, to make it more reliable. This is why, with Southern, we have collaborated with our industry colleagues at Network Rail to make this time available for extra engineering work. Passengers should please check online at thameslinkrailway.com to plan their journeys.”

Rory O’Neill, TfL’s General Manager for London Overground, said: “We are always looking at ways we can reduce unnecessary delays for our customers and welcome this improvement work Network Rail is doing to help tackle these.  Some late-night London Overground services may finish early to allow this important work to take place safely and we recommend you check your journey before you travel.”

As a result of the work, there are changes to late-night train times between Loughborough Junction/London Bridge and Finsbury Park/Kentish Town as of Monday, 23 November – Friday 27 November, and between London Bridge/New Cross Gate and East/West Croydon and Crystal Palace from Monday 30 November until Friday, 4 December.

Work planned includes improvements to the quality of the track for a smoother ride, signalling improvements, removing and cutting back some trees and bushes from the trackside, clearing scrap rails and even bird-proofing structures and the former King’s Cross Thameslink station. 

Network Rail news round-up

Unique road-to-rail vehicle to help emergency services reach emergencies faster

Emergency services will have a better chance of saving lives when responding to incidents in the Severn Tunnel thanks to a new innovative road-to-rail vehicle which has been provided by Network Rail.

The 7.25 tonne Mitsubishi Canter can travel by road before switching to rail in as little as three minutes and can then travel on the railway at speeds of up to 20 mph, enabling firefighter and ambulance crews to reach emergencies faster.

The vehicle will be stationed at Avon Fire & Rescue’s Technical Centre in Avonmouth while its Welsh ‘twin’ will be kept at Maindee fire station in Newport, allowing faster response times from both sides of the Severn Tunnel.

Network Rail has been working on the design with Avon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, G.O.S Tool & Engineering, Welsh Ambulance Service Trust and South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT), to ensure the vehicle provides the quickest response times possible while carrying their life-saving equipment.

Robyn MacNamara, Network Rail’s Project Manager, said: “The safety of our passengers is our priority and these vehicles will allow for a faster and more effective multi-agency emergency response.

“The Severn Tunnel is over four miles long so should an emergency incident occur, quick access for emergency services is vital. That is why we have developed this bespoke vehicle which has dedicated provisions for both firefighters and ambulance crews onboard.

“We would like to thank our emergency services partners and our supplier G.O.S Tool & Engineering for their help in bringing this replacement incident response vehicle to life.”

Station Manager for Avon Fire and Rescue Service, Neil Stradling, commented: “Since the late 1990’s, Avon Fire and Rescue Service have continued to work in collaboration with Network Rail and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service to provide a rescue capability within the Severn Tunnel. 

“The fire service exercises emergency procedures, within the tunnel in the early hours of the morning, on a quarterly basis and are joined by multi-agency partners such as South Western Ambulance Service.

“The past few years has seen the collaborative development of a new road rail vehicle to provide a future proofed capability which is designed to work in conjunction with modern infrastructure such as electrification of the rail system.

“Avon Fire and Rescue Service are delighted to take receipt of the new vehicle to maintain and enhance our ability to access the length of the tunnel in an emergency.

“Training has already commenced for both operators and technicians, which will culminate in the operational readiness of the vehicle in the coming months.”

Ben Murley, SWASFT Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) Officer for BNSSG and Somerset, added: “We are most grateful to receive this new vehicle. It replaces a similar vehicle that is no longer fit for purpose, and has been specifically designed for use by our Trust and Avon Fire and Rescue Service.

“Network Rail allowed our Hazardous area response team (HART) involvement in the design stage of the project, which means we will be able to use it effectively for the benefit of our service to patients. For example, the vehicle has dedicated space for breathing apparatus and other equipment.

“Our people are already trained to use the vehicle, so we are prepared and drilled to deal with an incident in the tunnel if and when one happens.”

Passengers to benefit from new lifts at Macclesfield station

Passengers are being advised about upcoming work to replace lifts at Macclesfield station.

A much-needed £400,000 investment as part of the Great North Rail Project will make step-free access more reliable to station platforms.

Work will start on Wednesday 20 January and take place until Wednesday 31 March 2021.

During the work, staff will be on hand at Macclesfield station to assist passengers.

Both lifts will be improved at the same time and will be out of use.

For passengers this means:

  • No step free access will be available at Macclesfield station between Wednesday 20 January and Wednesday 31 March.
  • Anyone who needs step-free access should book assisted travel with their specific train operator*.
  • During the lift upgrade work, tickets will be valid for passengers to travel via the nearest step-free stations**.
  • While the lifts are out of use, only Platform 1 will have step-free access. This platform is used for trains travelling north.

Tom Wadsworth, senior asset engineer for buildings at Network Rail, said: “This investment into the lifts at Macclesfield station is much-needed and will greatly improve reliability for passengers.

“We understand the upgrade will be disruptive for passengers and we are working closely with station operators to make everyone’s journey as easy as it can be during the work.

“I’d urge anyone planning to travel to or from Macclesfield during the ten-week project to plan ahead and book assisted travel with their specific train operator.”

Laura Harper, Avanti West Coast station manager at Macclesfield, said: “We’re working with Network Rail and industry partners to help customers as the works to upgrade the lifts at Macclesfield station take place.

“As always, our teams will be on hand to help customers travelling to and from Macclesfield during this time but we strongly recommend customers plan ahead, check before they travel and leave extra time for their journey.

“We would like to thank customers for their patience while Network Rail undertake this latest scheme for the Great North Rail Project.” 

John Robson, CrossCountry regional director West Midlands and North West, said: “We understand this work may cause some short term disruption for passengers. However, when complete it will mean better and more reliable step-free access, and an easier travel experience for everyone using the station lifts.”

Councillor Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “We warmly welcome this significant investment at Macclesfield railway station which will improve access facilities for passengers and visitors to the town.

“I would like to thank rail users in advance for their patience while these works are undertaken and for any inconvenience experienced.

“I would also encourage any passenger with access needs or disability to contact their train operator’s passenger assistance service, in advance of their planned trip, to arrange support for their journey.

“The rail station is a key gateway for Macclesfield and it is great news that this investment will improve passenger facilities and help prepare the station for the expected increase in passengers once HS2 high-speed rail to Crewe and beyond is delivered. It is another vote of confidence in the future of Macclesfield.”

Passengers are being advised to allow extra time for their journeys and to plan in advance on the National Rail Enquiries journey planner at www.nationalrail.co.uk

Trespass film scoops prizes at EVCOM film awards

A film that highlights the dangers of rail trespass picked up two gongs at a prestigious awards show that showcases corporate films.

Tegan’s Story won a Silver in the health and safety category and a Bronze in the documentary category at the EVCOM London Film Awards on 19 November.

The film made by Network Rail and The Edge Picture Company tells the story of Tegan Stapleton, who was 16-years-old when she was badly hurt falling on the 750V live rail at Bournemouth station. She had jumped down onto the tracks to get to her friend on the opposite platform when the accident happened, the day after her school prom.

In the film which was made as part of the You Versus Train campaign, Tegan talks candidly about her horrific injuries following the electricity which passed through her left arm, crossed her heart and went through her right arm. She suffered a cardiac arrest, third-degree burns over 10% of her body and her heart stopped beating for seven minutes.

The film also details the quick and decisive action by members of South Western Railway station staff who pulled Tegan away from the tracks and resuscitated her on the platform.

Tracey Captick, head of safety for Network Rail Wessex, said: “We work tirelessly to educate young people about the risks associated with making the wrong choice around the rail network.

“I’d like to pay tribute to Tegan for telling her story through this powerful film that highlights the devastating and wide-reaching consequences that trespassing on the railway can have.

“Winning these prestigious awards will hopefully result in the film being seen even more widely and prevent others from making the same horrific mistake.”

Pete Stevenson, executive director at The Edge Picture Company, said: “We’re very proud of this film at The Edge and delighted that it has won further recognition from our peers.  

“This was such a sensitive and difficult subject, so our all -female production team worked closely with Tegan to earn her trust.  Tegan was given final approval to make sure that the film we produced told this amazing story in a way that felt right for her. “

£0.6m investment at Elmers End station to refurbish footbridge in south London

Engineers completed extensive steel work repairs on the structure as well as repairing and replacing timber panels and supporting beans and brick work. The deck walkway has been renewed with an anti-slip surface and the structure has been repainted.

Elmers End station is on the Hayes Line with three platforms. Platform 1 is used by the tram service while national rail trains use platform two and three. A footbridge links platform 2 and 3, which has been refurbished.

During the project, engineers:

  • Replaced footbridge canopy sheets
  • Installed and replaced mesh on the parapet wall
  • Repaired and replaced electrical items
  • Replaced all timber stair treads and decking with new GRP products
  • Repainted the entire footbridge
  • Repaired damaged steel work
  • Repaired tarmac at the bottom of the stairs

A temporary scaffold footbridge was also installed adjacent to the permanent footbridge during the works, which allowed the project to finish 10 weeks ahead of schedule. Final finishing works to the footbridge canopies will also be completed in the coming weeks.

Fiona Taylor, Kent route director for Network Rail, said:

“We are delighted to have completed this work at Elmers End which sees the station refreshed for the benefit of passengers and the local community.

“The upgrade at Elmers End will bring many benefits to all those who use the station, making the experience more pleasant for travellers.”

During Monday to Saturday daytime hours, trains from Elmers End depart every fifteen minutes towards Central London (heading either to Cannon Street or Charing Cross) and towards Hayes in the opposite direction. On Sundays, this schedule runs half-hourly.

Scott McMillan, Station Manager for Southeastern, said:

“We’re always wanting to do more for our passengers at Elmers End, and so work to refurbish and improve the footbridge by Network Rail will not only improve its appearance, but also improve the experience of everyone using the station to cross between platforms for trains on the Hayes line and on Tramlink.”

Grade II listed footbridge at Prudhoe station reopens after £500,000 refurbishment

Network Rail has reopened the Grade II listed footbridge at Prudhoe station for passengers after a major project to strengthen, clean and repaint it.  

Work began on the £500,000 refurbishment to restore the bridge to its former glory in July. Network Rail teams lifted it out in sections so the improvements could be carried out off site, keeping disruption to passengers to a minimum.

Once the bridge was removed, sand was blasted at the bridge to remove the layers of old paint and strip it back to bare metal. This meant teams could carry out detailed inspections to find out where further strengthening and repair work was needed.

The work was done carefully to preserve the heritage of the footbridge and where possible, new material to strengthen the bridge was put over the original metal.

After new coats of paint, the fully refurbished bridge was put back in place at the station earlier this month. The final stages of the project involved installing the new floor surfacing on the bridge before it could open for passengers.

Whist the footbridge was having its transformation, passengers could access both platforms via the pedestrian footpath over the level crossing at the station.

Paul Rutter, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Coast Route, said: “The transformation of the footbridge at Prudhoe station is astounding and it’s great that this work has been completed in keeping with its heritage.

“It’s so much more than a fresh coat of the traditional red and white paint. Our teams have looked closely at every detail and restored the bridge back to its former glory.

“We want to thank passengers for their patience whilst temporary changes were made in the station. Now the footbridge is back in place, it can be used by passengers for years to come.”  

Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, said: “I am delighted that the refurbishment of the footbridge at Prudhoe station is complete and that it is now open for use again. Continued investment in the rail network along the Tyne Valley is hugely welcome as it improves passengers’ experience and, in this case, also safeguards a part of Prudhoe’s rail heritage for future generations.”

Kerry Peters, Regional Director at Northern, said: “Improvements like these at Prudhoe are essential in delivering our long-term strategy for the rail network and is a great example of the rail industry working together to improve the network.

“The work on the footbridge looks fantastic and is part of our ongoing commitment to make our stations better for customers.”

Network Rail teams up with Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust to reduce flooding and restore historic waterway

Network Rail is investing £350,000 to help restore a section of the historic Draycott canal route in Derbyshire to reduce flooding on the railway, rebuild heritage and create new recreational facilities for locals and tourists alike.

The section to be restored, known locally as the Golden Mile, was infilled in the 1960’s after freight trade stopped using the waterwayIn 1999, a drainage ditch was installed along the canal route to help to prevent flooding on the nearby Midland Main Line, which connects Derby and London. Whilst this did help, increased rainfall has seen the railway flooded 19 times in the past eight years, costing around £2million and causing over 357 hours, a massive 14 days, of delays for passengers.  

Work on the scheme has now started and will see a 1.1km stretch of canal restored, as well as low points of the canal bank raised by 1 metre to reduce the chances of water overflowing onto the nearby rail route. This will help to create a more reliable railway and reduce train service disruption for passengers. This is a key step in reducing flooding in the area, but further work will also be required.

Network Rail’s contribution joins a £100,000 investment, which has been fundraised by the Canal Trust over the last three years.  As well as reducing flooding, the project will create a new section of canal which can be used by boaters and will ultimately form part of the restored canal to Derby. New leisure facilities will also be created, providing provisions for angling, canoeing, paddle boarding and even outdoor swimming. Existing facilities for walkers, cyclists and horse riders will also be improved with the current footpath re-laid.  An old mill, which was built in 1812, will also be restored and turned into a community hub, with toilets and a café for visitors.

The scheme will also bring significant environmental benefits. The reopening of the canal will improve biodiversity in the area through planting native plants to support insects and amphibians, which will encourage birds into hawthorn hedges, which the Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust have already created. Water voles already live in the area and all work will be carefully managed to protect them on site until they can be released back into the canal when complete. The new arrangements will provide a much better habitat allowing them to thrive. The scheme is expected to complete in Summer 2021.  

Gary Walsh, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Midlands Route, said: “This is a fantastic project and we are proud to be a part of it.

“We have seen issues with flooding at Draycott over the past few years and this work will help to reduce this. Whilst further work will be needed to solve the problem, this is an important step in reducing delays for passengers.

“We’re really proud to be working with the community on this and it’s great that we can play a part in a wider scheme, which will benefit both residents and visitors in Derbyshire, help to boost the economy and restore this section of the canal to its former glory, preserving vital heritage.”

Chris Madge, Chairman for Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust, said: “We’ve been working for many years to bring this project to fruition and we are delighted that work has been able to begin.

“We are very grateful to Network Rail for working with us and providing the final piece of funding which will mean we can prevent flooding on the railway, as well as bring about change which will have a lasting impact on the community.

“The fact that local supporters have donated over £100,000 demonstrates the groundswell to preserve heritage in the area. Our redevelopment of an old mill building adjacent to the canal section to provide a café, museum and housing, will attract many more people out to enjoy the wonderful countryside, wildlife and activities on offer.”

Laser and drone technology recreates Ribblehead viaduct like never before

Laser scanners and drones have been used to map every inch of the iconic Ribblehead viaduct as part of a major restoration project to secure its future for passengers and tourists.

An essential upgrade to brickwork and drainage is underway on the 144-year-old structure which carries the historic Settle to Carlisle railway 400 metres across the Ribble valley.

As part the £2.1m Great North Rail Project investment, North Yorkshire’s most recognisable railway icon was 3D scanned and turned into a computer model by surveyors.

This detailed digital recreation will help engineers make repairs now and closely monitor areas needing any further attention in the future.

Phil James, Network Rail’s North West route director, said: “We’re always looking to innovate on the railway and seeing drones and lasers being used to care for such an historic structure is really impressive.

“I was at Ribblehead viaduct when we started work a week ago and saw for myself the huge scaffolding platforms now in place so my team can improve brickwork, mortar and drainage. Great care and attention is going in to make sure our work is right from a heritage perspective. This digital model plays a major role in that as we secure the Grade II listed-structure’s future for passengers and tourists as part of the Great North Rail Project.”

Network Rail has today (Monday 23 November) released the impressive footage of the Victorian viaduct as realised by the 21st century technology.

A LiDAR survey* was carried out by contractor Commendium in conjunction with heritage consultancy firm Wardell Armstrong.

Ribblehead viaduct is the biggest man-made structure Commendium has ever scanned.

Drone flights also took place as part of the survey taking high definition photographs of the Grade II listed structure.

The data gathered was then used to build up the 3D computer model by Network Rail’s specialist computer aided design (CAD) team.

Richard Walters, chief executive officer for Commendium, said: “We have all known and loved this location for most of our lives, it is even part of our childrens’ cultural awareness with them learning songs about it at school. So to survey it has been a privilege.  The resulting LiDAR scan not only shows areas which need repair, but also areas where water could damage the stonework in the future, so leading to other preservation works.”

The maintenance work on Ribblehead viaduct taking place between now and February 2021 involves:

  • brickwork repairs 
  • removal of vegetation and repairing the damage caused by plants and weeds
  • upgrades to drainage across the viaduct’s 24 arches
  • repainting metal and pipework

No major disruption is expected for passengers using the Settle-Carlisle line during the viaduct’s 2020/21 maintenance.

Passengers are reminded to continue following government Covid safety advice and to check before travelling at www.nationalrail.co.uk or with their train operator.

Network Rail News Round-up

Important freight route secured by £4.5m Cheshire railway bridge upgrades

Freight services through Cheshire are now benefiting from a more reliable railway after work to replace two railway bridges.

The Middlewich branch line reopened today (Thursday 19 November) following a £4.5m Great North Rail Project investment.

The railway was closed for five days so the bridges over the Trent and Mersey canal and Whatcroft Hall lane in Northwich could be rebuilt to modern standards.

An 800 tonne crane was used to lift the new structures into place.

This will secure the future of this important rail freight route which is used to supply vital construction materials across the country.

The new bridges are safer, more reliable and will need less maintenance in future.

Oluwole Osunneye, scheme project manager for Network Rail, said: “Work to replace the Trent & Mersey Canal railway bridge is part of a £4.5m investment, which will mean that the structure remains safe and reliable for the economically important freight services that use it for many years to come.

“During a closure of the line, we’ve now installed the new bridge deck and I’d like to thank freight operators, motorists and local people for their patience.”

Michael Leadbetter, planning & resourcing director for Freightliner, said: “The Middlewich branch line is a key route for freight traffic moving between the Peak District, the markets in the North West and the Midlands. Allowing heavy freight trains to access this route is crucial to the success of moving aggregates on these corridors, which will only become more important with increasing volumes for HS2 and other customers. Freightliner welcomes Network Rail’s ongoing investment in this route to allow these critical flows to take place.”

Quentin Hedderly, network capacity manager at DB Cargo UK said: “We are pleased that the work to reconstruct the railway bridge in Northwich has been successfully completed in line with the expected timescales. The replacement of this asset enables Network Rail to restore heavy axle-weight capability to the route which will allow more freight to be transported by rail across this line in the coming months.”

Ian Kapur, head of strategic access planning for GB Railfreight Ltd, said: “GB Railfreight is very pleased that Network Rail has now carried out its strengthening works on the Trent & Mersey Canal railway bridge on the Middlewich route. This will ensure that the new-to-rail HS2 aggregate flows from the Peak District quarries serving the various receiving terminals with building materials can operate with full loads and keep even more freight movements off the road.” 

To complete the engineering work safely, the Middlewich branch railway line was closed from midnight on Friday 13 November until the early hours of Thursday 19 November.

Whatcroft Hall Lane has now reopened to traffic after the new bridge decks were installed.

Network Rail join forces with Southern Water and a local community group to recycle rainwater and help the environment

Network Rail are pleased to be working in partnership with the Southeast Communities Rail Partnership and Southern Water to recycle rainwater for use by station volunteer partners at West Worthing.

Southern Water have kindly donated a water butt and the installation of it free of charge. It was installed last week on Network Rail land at the station to enable volunteers to harvest rain water to maintain the community gardens.

This is the second station on the Sussex Coast Line to benefit from this joint initiative. In March 2020, Angmering station received a Southern Water butt, installed by GTR contractors, with approval from Network Rail to connect it under the footbridge.

Rowena Tyler, Community Development Officer at South East Communities Rail Partnership said: 

“Working with the Friends of West Worthing Group, we identified a secure area where rainwater could be captured and used by the volunteers to maintain their garden. I was delighted with the supportive attitude from Network Rail which meant we could accept the generous offer from Southern Water who donated and arranged installation for free. This is a great example of partnership working to achieve Community Rail objectives.”

Sharon Willis, director of communications, Southern region at Network Rail said: 

“This is a great initiative and one that we’re committed to continuing across the Southern region in partnership with our community groups and Southern Water. We are not just here as an organisation to improve and invest in our infrastructure, equally we’re here to make a positive difference at the heart of the communities we serve.”

Barbara Hine, on behalf of the Friends of West Worthing, said:

“Our group at West Worthing is very pleased to have rain water available for the garden at the station. We appreciate the support from both Network Rail and Southern Water with this project and that we are able to be as eco-friendly as possible.”

Improving the environment is vital to make sure that we bring every person with us as we manage and maintain the railway. Our new strategy, Sustainable Southern will do just do that – our vision is simple: to create a cleaner, greener, socially responsible region.

Our plan incorporates six key programmes and strives to reduce energy consumption, carbon and waste, to improve air quality, and to protect our wildlife and nature. We want to leave a beneficial and lasting railway legacy for our people, our passengers and the communities.

If your community group have an idea or project that you’d like to get started involving Network Rail – get in touch at southernregionstakeholders@networkrail.co.uk or via Southeast Communities Rail Partnership at info@southeastcrp.org

Graffiti hotspots targeted in major railway clean-up at London Euston

Unsightly graffiti around London Euston is being removed as part of Network Rail and HS2’s war on railway vandalism.

Over the next few weeks teams will be getting rid of graffiti in Camden, including on Mornington Crescent and Harlesden Bridge.

The clean-up supports Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ ongoing commitment to improve the railway for passengers and residents who live beside it.

James Dean, route director for West Coast South, said: “Graffiti makes the place look messy for neighbours and passengers. We want the railway to be a clean, welcoming environment for people who travel on it and live and work near it. That’s why we’re declaring a war on graffiti.

“There’s a safety aspect here too. Graffiti vandals risk their lives trespassing on the railway. Trains leave Euston every three minutes powered by overhead wires carrying 25,000 volts of electricity. It’s a seriously dangerous place to be. Our advice is to always stay off the tracks.”

Mark Recce, head of delivery unit for Euston On Network Works, HS2 Ltd, said: “We are happy to be supporting Network Rail in their efforts to remove rail side graffiti around our worksite in Euston to improve the area for passengers. HS2 is committed to creating a clean, reliable and safe rail network, not only for passengers in the future, but also those who use it now.”

Chris Heaton-Harris MP, Rail minister, said: “We’ve been clear that the blight of graffiti on our railways must be tackled, and I am delighted to see Network Rail are focused on dealing with the problem.

“As we build back better removing graffiti across London will improve our railway and make stations and services more pleasant for passengers.”

Annually Network Rail spends £3.5million removing graffiti.

The railway at Euston is one of the busiest in Europe and graffiti can only be cleaned up when trains aren’t running.

Trespassing on the railway and committing acts of vandalism with graffiti is a crime. Incidents of graffiti can be reported to Network Rail’s 24-hour national helpline on 03457 11 41 41.

Network Rail staff receive some cygnet-ure training after an influx of swans to the railway

We’ve all heard of leaves on the line, but swans disrupting trains are more common than you think so Network Rail has come up with some cygnet-ure training for its staff to safely remove swans from the track.

Network Rail Wessex – which runs trains from London Waterloo to the South of England – has partnered with the Swan Sanctuary, a charity in Shepperton, Surrey to provide its new recruits with some beak-spoke training.

There are usually between 15-20 visits from swans each year which are at risk of touching the third rail (which carries 750 volts) and can cause significant delays to passengers while staff safely remove the swans from the track.

Clyde Howarth, head of operations delivery at Network Rail Wessex, said: “We’ve seen a rise in visits from our feathered friends, and as they have a reputation for being aggressive, we wanted to provide new starters with some training as the staff will need to know how to handle swans on a track which carries 750 volts.

“Our goal is to safely remove the swan from the track as quickly as possible, so that train services can start running again.”

One of the staff who attended the training was James Sinclair, local operations manager at Network Rail. He said: “It was a really useful course which provided some tips and techniques on how to pick-up swans safely.

“I know that if I come across a swan on the track, I feel confident I’ll be able to use the training so that I can remove the swan and take it to a safe place away from the live rail.”

Sally Thompson head of training at The Swan Sanctuary, said: “We’re only too happy to provide the skills to enable Network Rail staff to safely remove the swans from danger to a place of safety.

“We look forward to assisting Network Rail with their swan related issues in the future.”

Passengers and road users reminded of Blackburn level crossing work this weekend

Passengers and road users are being reminded of essential upgrades to railway track and at a level-crossing in Lancashire starting this weekend.

The £2.1m Great North Rail Project investment will see Daisyfield level crossing modernised in Blackburn.

Railway track will also be renewed between Preston and Blackburn to make future journeys smoother and more reliable for passengers.

Road and railway closures will be needed for the work to be carried out over three consecutive weekends starting from 21 November.*

While the railway is closed Network Rail will be:

  • Replacing Daisyfield level crossing gates and installing lighting
  • Moving the associated signalling and telecoms equipment
  • Replacing two signals with modern LED ones
  • Carrying out track improvement work between Preston and Blackburn (Hoghton + Entwistle)

Train operator Northern will run rail replacement buses to get people to where they need to be.

Passengers are being advised to check www.nationalrail.co.uk to plan their specific journey in advance.

Mark Rothwell, project manager for Network Rail said: “Making Daisyfield level crossing and the railway track between Preston and Blackburn fit for the future will mean fewer delays and more reliable journeys for both motorists and passengers. This essential work as part of the Great North Rail Project will mean some disruption in the short term and for that I’d like to thank people in advance for their patience.

“Passengers are advised to check with train operator Northern or at www.nationalrail.co.uk so they know what to expect from their journey while the work is taking place.”

Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern, said: “The work to upgrade the railway in Lancashire will help futureproof our network and will deliver a more resilient railway for our customers.

“We will work closely with colleagues from Network Rail to keep disruption to a minimum during the engineering and will do all we can to keep our customers on the move.”

Passengers are asked to continue following Government guidance around the use of public transport.

Travellers must wear a face covering on train services and any replacement bus services. Those who fail to do so risk being fined £200.

However, some people are exempt, including young children and people with hidden disabilities or breathing difficulties.

For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers

GoPro brainwave keeps passengers moving and railway workers safe

Passengers were kept safely on the move over a track fault thanks to innovative use of a GoPro camera by Network Rail workers.

Smart thinking by rail management engineer Steve Rand and section manager Scott Morrison, after spotting the cracked railway crossing on the West Coast main line south of Milton Keynes, prevented two days of delays to passengers.

It also brought safety benefits – removing the need for engineers having to make repeated trips on foot on to the live railway.

Scott and Steve identified the problem at 2pm on November 10. It wasn’t possible to fix it until the following night (November 11).

Cracked crossings require close monitoring to ensure they don’t get worse.

The bigger the crack in the steel rail gets the less possible it is to run trains.

Often this monitoring is done by railway staff physically walking on to the track to make checks after each train passes.

As the crack was in the middle of the busy main line, Steve and Scott would have had to get the local signaller to close the line after every train so they could make inspections in person.

This would in effect have shut the West Coast main line causing widespread disruption to passenger and freight services.

Steve and Scott’s ingenuity meant the GoPro acted like a CCTV camera and the crossing could be monitored without stopping trains from running and keeping them off the live railway line.

This kept passengers and freight on the move, albeit at reduced speeds, until the problem could be fixed.

Martin Ball, Route Infrastructure Engineer for WCS, said: “I’m really proud of Steve, Scott and the team. Rather than just thinking about fixing the problem, they thought how they could do the best thing for passengers. Their smart use of a GoPro kept them and their colleagues safe and kept passengers on the move. We’ll look to do this elsewhere in future.”

For more on how we maintain the track visit www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/looking-after-the-railway/track/ 

Burgess Hill station in West Sussex receives £1.2m facelift

Network Rail has replaced two 50m canopies which stand over the platforms as well as making a raft of improvements to the station building. 

Burgess Hill railway station is on the Brighton Main Line and Thameslink in West Sussex. It is 41 miles down the line from London Bridge via Redhill and is situated between Wivelsfield and Hassocks on the main line.

The cast iron columns, longitudinal timber beams, timber cross beams, timber box gutter and roof sheeting have been replaced and a new steel frame structure supports the steel sheeting roof.

The first station at Burgess Hill was opened on 21 September 1841 by the London and Brighton Railway (L&BR), at the time of the completion of the route to Brighton. The original facilities were all in the small wooden hut (which still stands on platform 1) and wooden platforms set beside the main line.

The L&BR became the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) in 1846 and a track plan of the station dating from 1874 shows that by then, several sidings and a signal box had been constructed at the station. Trains changed the town’s fortunes, and the second half of the 19th century saw a residential boom that continues today.

Shaun King, Sussex route director for Network Rail, said:

“We are committed to investing in the rail network to improve facilities for passengers. The improvements at Burgess Hill station represent a significant investment, which will result in a modern and pleasant environment for rail passengers and staff at the station.”

Burgess Hill station sees over one and half million passengers per year, who still use the original 1877 station, although it’s been renovated several times. Located on the Brighton Main Line, trains run to Brighton and London Victoria.

Chris Fowler, Customer Services Director for Southern, said:

“We’re working with Network Rail to make Burgess Hill station look and work better for our customers. The town’s population will grow considerably over the next few years so it’s important that its historic station is ready for more customers.

“This welcome investment by our partner will be complemented by projects from our own network-wide, multimillion-pound station enhancement programme, including a new waiting room, more seating and improved toilets.

“I’d like to reassure our customers that if you need to use the train, our intensive cleaning and testing regimes ensure you can travel with confidence. Please follow Government advice and wear a face covering.”

Five triumph as next phase of railway station design competition is announced

Network Rail and RIBA Competitions have revealed the names of the five design practices selected to compete in the next phase of their competition to shape the future of Britain’s railway stations.

Entrants to the competition were asked to reimagine small to medium-sized stations, which make up 80% of all those on Britain’s railway. More than 200 submissions were received, from designers based in 34 different countries. Five will go through to the next stage (listed in alphabetical order):

The selected practices will now develop their proposals for final judging in February 2021. At the end of that process, up to three will be chosen to be taken forward for development.

Commenting on the announcement, Anthony Dewar, Head of Buildings and Architecture at Network Rail, said: “At the launch of the competition we were hoping to receive some creative and forward-thinking designs and my fellow judging panellists and I were happily inundated with submissions that met that brief. It was a tough decision to narrow the field down to just a handful to go through to the next stage, but we were particularly impressed and intrigued by the concept proposals put forward by the selected five practices.

“We look forward to seeing how they will develop their ideas to create design solutions which will help Network Rail to improve the experience of both the communities and passengers it serves.”

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “It’s fantastic to see from the sheer amount of entries to this competition – and from more than 30 countries – that this challenge has really captured the imagination of designers from right across the globe.

“Harnessing creativity and ambition through competitions like this will ensure the great spirit of design that can be seen in stations right across the country continues. I look forward to seeing these proposals as they progress, as part of our focus on delivering better journeys for passengers.”

Somerleyton track renewal to improve reliability of services between Norwich and Lowestoft

Network Rail will replace track at Somerleyton over two weekends starting at the end of this month (November) to improve reliability of services between Norwich and Lowestoft.

Engineers will replace one mile of track, 2420 concrete sleepers and 6240 tonnes of ballast, the stones that form the track bed. New decks, where the road and the tracks cross, will be installed at two user worked crossings along with handrails and fencing.

Just like road surfaces, track gets worn from constant use. Network Rail’s engineers carry out inspections and repairs regularly, but over time the track becomes so worn that a full replacement is the only option to avoid speed restrictions that cause delays and cancellations.

The work will take place on Saturday 28 – Sunday 29 November and Saturday 5 – Sunday 6 December with follow-up works on Sunday 13 December. Replacement services will run between Norwich and Lowestoft and passengers are advised to check before they travel.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “We’re carrying out this work to keep services running safely, smoothly and reliably. The work will reduce the number of delays and cancellations caused by track faults at Somerleyton, benefitting passengers traveling between Norwich and Lowestoft.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia Manging Director, said: “This work will help to improve punctuality and performance along this vital part of the line.

“We will be running a rail replacement bus service while the work takes place so customers will be able to complete their journeys. Passengers should check before they travel, allow more time for their journey and wear a face covering when travelling by train or rail replacement bus.

“We would like to thank customers for their patience while this work takes places.”

Safety plea to pedestrians after shocking near miss near Princes Risborough

Network Rail and Chiltern Railways today issued a plea to Princes Risborough residents to use Ridgeway Path level crossing safely after a jogger narrowly missed being hit by a train.

The driver of a Chiltern Railways London to Oxford service reported the harrowing incident shortly after 8.30am on Friday 6 November.

Video footage was captured of the jogger – who was wearing earphones – using the level crossing without looking when the approaching train was only metres away.

Up to 121 trains per day pass over Ridgeway Path level crossing at high speeds.

Rhys Evans, level crossing manager at Network Rail, said: “The difference of just a few seconds could have led to tragedy for this level crossing user. No matter how well you think you know a crossing, all users must stop, look and listen every single time they cross the railway. Additionally, you must always remove headphones when using a level crossing.

“It would be easy to believe that level crossings in more rural areas would be less dangerous, but all crossings must be approached with the same caution and users must avoid distractions and concentrate on crossing the railway safely.”

Ian Hyde, engineering and safety director at Chiltern Railways, said:

“Trains run frequently on the Chiltern network and the safe use of level crossings is critical to protect pedestrians who need to cross the railway as well as customers onboard our trains. Near-misses leave drivers feeling very shaken and we would urge people to please respect the railway and when crossing, follow the instructions and remain vigilant at all times. This near miss, but for a few seconds, could have had far worse consequences.”

For more information and resources on how to use all types of level crossings safely, visit the Network Rail website: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/communities/safety-in-the-community/level-crossing-safety/

Network Rail begins £1million upgrade to improve Lincolnshire level crossing

Network Rail will begin major improvements to Swineshead level crossing next month in a £1million investment.

Work begins on Monday 7 December and will see the road surface on the crossing, which sits on the busy A17, replaced, bringing smoother journeys for drivers.

The project involves digging up and completely removing the old level crossing surface, as well as the track and ballast – the stones which support the track.

New, stronger concrete will then be installed on the crossing, which the new track will fit into. This will be the first time that this type of level crossing surface has been used in the East Midlands. The improvements will make it much smoother for drivers and cyclists using the crossing and quieter for people who live nearby. The new level crossing surface will also require less maintenance, reducing the number of road closures and disruption for drivers in future.

For this work to be carried out safely, there will be some road closures on the A17 at the level crossing. A clearly signposted diversion route will be in place for drivers.

  • Overnight road closures from 21:00 until 07:00 on Monday 7, Tuesday 8, Wednesday 9 and Thursday 10 December. Pedestrians and dismounted cyclists will still be able to use the crossing.
  • From 19:00 on Friday 11 December until 07:00 on Monday 14 December there will be no access for drivers, cyclists or pedestrians.
  • Overnight road closures from 21:00 until 07:00 on Monday 14, Tuesday 15, Wednesday 16 and Thursday 17 December. Pedestrians and dismounted cyclists will have access over the crossing.

Most of this work will take place without disrupting train services. However, buses will replace trains between Sleaford and Boston on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 December so Network Rail can install the new level crossing surface and track.  

Passengers who need to travel are strongly advised to check their journey via National Rail Enquiries or with their train operator. People can travel with confidence by wearing a face covering, washing or sanitising their hands and maintaining their social distance.

This project follows on from work in May when Network Rail replaced the old level crossing barriers with modern, new ones to help create a more resilient railway.

Vinny Briggs, Route Level Crossing Manager for Network Rail, said: “This work to upgrade the road surface and the track at Swineshead level crossing is vital to improve journeys for drivers on the busy A17 and to make sure train services can continue running reliably for years to come.

“We’ve already upgraded the barriers and it’s great that Swineshead level crossing is now the first one in the area to benefit from this new crossing surface. 

“We’ve planned this work carefully so it causes as little disruption as possible and we’re sorry for any inconvenience that the road closures cause.”

Neil Grabham, Customer Services Director for East Midlands Railway, said: “The investment at Swineshead crossing is significant and will bring about long term benefits to both road and rail users and East Midlands Railway will be working in partnership with Network Rail throughout the period of works, to minimise the potential disruption to our passengers.  

“We are therefore asking any passengers who are travelling over the weekend of Saturday 12th December and Sunday 13th December to check before they travel, and we will provide buses to replace trains between Sleaford and Boston.

“Additional East Midlands Railway colleagues will be at the stations to assist customers and ensure all journeys can be completed in a safe manner, as comfortably as possibly.

“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused during this time.”

Full train service expected at Sheffield railway station tomorrow

Network Rail has confirmed that a full train service is expected to run at Sheffield railway station tomorrow following six days of changes due to a derailed freight train.

Since Wednesday, 11 November, there has been a reduced service in and out of Sheffield railway station to allow recovery and repair work to take place.

Since the incident, Network Rail teams have been on site 24/7 and have worked round the clock to remove 11 derailed wagons from the tracks, as well as carry out significant repairs to track and signalling equipment which was damaged in the incident.

Network Rail teams made good progress over the weekend, with all of the derailed carriages now removed. Final repairs to the tracks and signalling equipment is ongoing, with this work expected to complete early tomorrow morning, meaning a full train service is planned.

Matt Rice, Route Director for Network Rail’s North and East Route, said: “We’d like to thank everybody for their patience whilst we’ve worked to clear the area and carry out repairs to enable a full service to resume once more.

“Fewer people are travelling on the railway because of the four-week lockdown, however, we know that people do still need to make essential journeys and this incident has impacted on them.

“We’re very grateful for their patience during this time and we’re glad that from tomorrow, a full train service is planned and you’ll be able to travel as normal once more.”

Repairs and recovery of derailed freight train in Sheffield to continue over weekend

Network Rail has confirmed that work to recover a derailed freight train and fix track and signalling equipment which was damaged in the incident will continue over the weekend.

Network Rail workers have been on site since the early hours of Wednesday morning, when a freight train carrying cement en route from Hope to Dewsbury derailed in Sheffield station.

Work is now underway to assess the full extent of the damage to railway equipment and work on a plan for repairs. Network Rail has successfully removed all of the wagons which didn’t derail in the incident and yesterday, workers began removing cement from those wagons which did derail, to enable them to be safely lifted and removed by a crane. The cement is being removed by heavy-duty vacuums which are operating from nearby Sheaf Street, meaning one of the two lanes in front of the station is closed.

Work to remove the wagons will continue overnight and into Saturday, at which stage the track repairs can begin. Further updates to follow over the weekend on when services are likely to return to normal.

CrossCountry and TransPennine Express are running a near normal service, and will continue to do so over the weekend, however Northern and East Midlands Railway’s services are still heavily impacted, with bus replacement services running across many routes.

Passengers who need to travel over the weekend and on Monday are urged to check before travelling via National Rail Enquiries or with their train operator.

Matt Rice, Route Director for Network Rail’s North and East Route, said: “We have made progress on site and we’ve begun to remove some of the derailed wagons, which is testament to the hard work of our teams, however there is still a significant amount of work to do. We’re really sorry for the impact this is having on passengers and we’re really grateful for your patience whilst we carry out recovery and repairs.”

As good as new- Network Rail completes restoration work on two historic Darlington railway bridges and releases historic photos

Network Rail has completed work to restore two historic railway bridges on Yarm Road in Darlington as part of a £60,000 investment.

The bridges, which were built in 1932, have been repainted in their original green colour. Historic crests on the structure have also been restored, making them much more visible and eye-catching, which helps to celebrate the town’s railway heritage. 

The upgrade to the structures, which began in July, has also seen minor repair work to the bridges. This will reduce the likelihood of disruption for passengers and make sure that trains can continue to run over the bridges reliably for years to come. The repairs also included cleaning and updating drainage, making it more pleasant for pedestrians walking under the structures.

Network Rail has worked closely with Darlington Borough Council on the project, which will also see work to freshen up the Grade II listed railway bridge on North Road. Here, the bridge will be repainted and some small defects will be mended.

To help mark the town’s rich railway history, Network Rail has released new images from its own archives of the construction of the bridges on Yarm Road over 80 years ago. The photos show workers installing track and equipment onto the bridges.

Paul Rutter, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Coast Route, said: “It’s so important that we continue to preserve and protect railway heritage and I’m really happy with the results of this work.

“Not only have we improved the look of the bridges for residents and visitors, we’ve also made sure train services can continue to use them reliably in the coming years, which helps to maintain robust railway connections in and out of Darlington.”

Peter Gibson, Member of Parliament for Darlington, said: “It is fantastic that this work has been carried out. Network Rail has done an outstanding job in carrying out the remedial work on the bridges which now look brand new. I am incredibly grateful to both Network Rail and Darlington Borough Council, and I look forward to seeing the work completed on North Road bridge.

“I was pleased to join the Network Rail team during the renovation and chat with them about the progression of the work on the bridge whilst it was undertaken. It is also wonderful to see Locomotion No. 1 brought back to life in the refreshed Coats of Arms on the bridges.”

Leader of Darlington Borough Council, Cllr Heather Scott, said: “We’re delighted to have assisted in this project. The project marks a good beginning ahead of work to upgrade Darlington railway station next year, as well as the 2025 railway celebration. This close working partnership with Network Rail is crucial moving forward.”