5 minute read – Step into STEM: London King’s Cross to hold day of educational activities for children

Network Rail has teamed up with partners to put on a day of free science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) activities at King’s Cross.

The event is aiming to get children involved in educational and fun-filled activities to help encourage them to participate in STEM subjects at school.

They can also learn about the railway right in the middle of the UK’s major transport hub and find out about career opportunities in the rail industry.

The event, which is for children aged 4 to 16, will take place on Tuesday, 10 August between 10:30 and 17:30. There is no need to book, people can just turn up and enjoy a range of activities, including: 

  • The chance to meet STEM Ambassadors – representatives who volunteer to talk about their careers and possible routes into STEM
  • Children can leave their legacy and brighten up the station on a 6m wide, 1.5m tall colouring wall
  • See inspirational entries from ‘If you were an engineer, what would you do?’ – a competition run by Primary Engineer which asks young people across the UK to identify a problem and design a solution to it
  • Visit a pop-up science stand or take part in activities to learn more about STEM and the railway with the National Railway Museum
  • Discuss career opportunities in the rail industry with Routes into Rail
  • Get a free STEM activity book to take home and complete

Laura Murphy, King’s Cross Station Manager for Network Rail, said: “We know many children are interested in the railway and holding free STEM activities here at King’s Cross will give them more confidence in science, technology engineering and maths subjects at school.

“As well as having lots of fun on the day, we hope it will get young people thinking about the amazing opportunities in the rail industry and in other STEM careers.”

Heather Lysiak, Community Partnerships and Events Manager for National Railway Museum, said: “The National Railway Museum in York inspires visitors with the past, present and future of the railways. Our team of Explainers will be at King’s Cross Station and are excited to meet you to explore the different types of energy that powers railways across the world.

“Help us to solve problems by using your engineering mindset, and experimenting with robots, energy and the forces. Anyone can be an innovator and creative thinker – these activities will show you how! We look forward to seeing you there.”

Dr Susan Scurlock, CEO and Founder of Primary Engineer, said: “If you were an engineer, what would you do? asks young people to identify a problem and design a solution to it and each year tens of thousands of pupils show us what the future could look like. 

“There is huge innovation happening in the rail sector in the UK with new technologies and infrastructure which is inspirational for pupils to consider and identify ways in which they can make things better. The exhibition at King’s Cross will showcase some of the brilliant designs we’ve received and encourage even more children and schools to get involved come September.”

Tom Quinn, Project Coordinator for Routes into Rail, said: “Routes into Rail are pleased to attend its first in-person event at King’s Cross station. We’re excited to collaborate with our partners in showing children that there’s a career for everyone in rail.”

The activity book can also be downloaded here: Emily the Engineer Activity book (networkrail.co.uk)

5 minute read – Network Rail launches art exhibition celebrating rail travel

Glenfinnan Viaduct – Laura Hurn

Winners of the ‘Wish I was There’  Competition are unveiled at an exhibition launched at London’s Waterloo station 

Network Rail has launched an exhibition showcasing work from the next generation of artists that celebrates the return of rail travel.

St Michael’s Mount – Leah Risby

Earlier this year, Network Rail launched a competition titled “Wish I was There”, asking art students from across the UK to create work that reflected the places they had missed travelling to during the pandemic – whether it be a town, city or beach, a shopping street or even just a pub or a park – a place that meant something special to them.

Nearly 270 images were submitted from across the country, including St Michael’s Mount (Cornwall), Lyme Regis (Dorset), Llandudno Promenade (Wales), Glenfinnan Viaduct (Scotland) and Bridlington (Yorkshire).

Llandudno Promenade – Chris Bunn

Sir Peter Hendy CBE, chair of Network Rail, said: “The standard of art submitted has been beyond exceptional and reflects how much we have all missed travelling by rail. I thank all the artists who have taken the time to submit their work that has paid homage to the places that they have missed travelling to.

“The railway has a long history of creating works of art to promote the destinations that people can travel to by train, and the art submitted completely and utterly reflects that. This art will become a part of history, documenting what has been an unprecedented time for all of us.”

Lyme Regis – Elbo Parkes

100 submissions were selected, judged by a panel that included artist Jacqueline Colley, who teaches at the Victoria and Albert Museum. They will be exhibited at major mainline stations across the country.

The railway network has been vital in keeping the country running during the pandemic, including by keeping key workers and freight on the move, and it will play a significant part in the country’s economic recovery. The industry is working hard to make sure it is safe for people to travel as restrictions are lifted.

Nothing like fresh lobster – JJ Raines

The top 20 winners are as follows: 

  • Dina Aldrich – The Norfolk Coast and beyond
  • Louise Allen – North Yorkshire coast
  • Chris Bunn – Llandudno Promenade
  • M A Chamberlain- Drumochter Pass, the highest point on the rail network
  • Mariya Darr – Sandals and the Sea
  • Esther Forse – Edinburgh
  • Laura Hurn – Glenfinnan viaduct
  • Jazz Lawrence – Canterbury Downs
  • Nataliia Marchuk – Chester Sunset
  • Emma McMillan – Edinburgh Castle
  • Amandine Mondion – London is my cup of tea
  • Elbo Parkes – Lyme Regis
  • Claudia Elestabeta Prospescu – By the sea in Suffolk
  • JJ Raines – Nothing like fresh lobster
  • Shakiba Raiki – Welcome back to Chinatown
  • Leah Risby – St Michael’s Mount
  • Andrea Stables – The Lakes
  • Ase Vikse – Dover
  • Catlin Whitaker – The Tyne Bridge
  • Abi Winter – The town of Britain

5 minute read – Station volunteers celebrate success at prestigious flower show

©Northern

Volunteers at one of Northern’s stations are celebrating success at a prestigious flower show.

Friends of Todmorden Station won a bronze medal at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park this weekend (21st-25th July) in the Community Borders category.

The garden, named Lovers Walk, was sponsored by the train operator, and was inspired by walks to the town’s local landmark Stoodley Pike, a monument where couples would graffiti dedications to each other.

Visitors to the show could see a replica of the monument alongside flowers that symbolise romance such as Larkspur, Dahlias, Geraniums and Nigella (Love in a Mist)

The garden will be dismantled and recreated at Todmorden stations for Northern customers to enjoy.

Tony Baxter, Regional Director at Northern said: “This is an amazing achievement by Friends of Todmorden Stations

“Our community partners are the heartbeat of the railway and we’re extremely proud to work closely with them to deliver such a wide-ranging positive impact for the North of England.”

5 minute read – Passengers to benefit from more reliable journeys following three days of track upgrades in Weybridge

©Network Rail

A three-day project to upgrade the railway near Weybridge in Surrey, between Saturday 7 and Monday 9 August, will improve reliability and increase train speeds in the area – but passengers are asked to check before they travel as it includes a weekday.

Network Rail engineers will renew sets of points – which allow trains to move between tracks – and replace worn-out track between Byfleet and New Haw and Weybridge. The scale of the work means that there will be major changes to train times.

It will allow us to remove our two longest standing speed restrictions which have been in place since 2017 which slow trains to local services between London Waterloo and Woking and long-distance services between London Waterloo, Exeter, Portsmouth and Weymouth.

Passengers are advised to plan ahead as trains to and from London Waterloo will be diverted, leave earlier or later than normal and call at additional stops between 7 and 9 August. Local services between Woking and Surbiton and Weybridge and Chertsey will be replaced by buses.

Making the most of the closure, engineers will also improve the canopy at Weybridge station and renew electrical cables in the Esher area.

Mark Killick, Network Rail Wessex route director, said: “We really appreciate the patience of our passengers while this upgrade to deliver faster and more reliable services takes place by removing longstanding speed restrictions.

“I know how inconvenient it is to close the line for three days including a Monday, but having looked at passenger numbers, delivering the work in this way will be less disruptive than spreading it over several separate weekends.

“We’re taking advantage of the closure to deliver as much work as we can and I would encourage passengers to check before travelling and to plan ahead.”

Alan Penlington, SWR’s customer experience director, said: “The improvements to this important section of track near Weybridge will improve reliability and punctuality for years to come. Removing these speed restrictions will mean trains can run at line speed again which is great news for our customers.

“With the line closed for three days, one of which being a working Monday, I know there will be some inconvenience for anyone traveling whilst trains aren’t running and I’d like to thank all our customers for their patience whilst these much needed improvements take place.”

When the points are renewed and the track’s alignment is corrected, trains will be able to pass through the area at the full speed of 90 miles per hour, keeping them on time and improving performance.

5 minute read – Free and fast WiFi for Liverpool Lime Street passengers

Passengers at Liverpool Lime Street station can now get free and unlimited WiFi that is fast enough to support video calls and streaming. 

Network Rail’s upgraded service uses the latest technology so passengers can connect multiple devices without having to create an account to log in.

It’s certified as ‘Friendly WiFi’ which means it complies with the Government’s safe filtering standards for the public and is child friendly.

The free connection has been introduced after feedback from railway passengers.

Phil James, Network Rail’s North West route director, said: “Passengers have told us that to enhance and improve things for them and free WiFi was a must – so, we’ve provided it. I’d urge anyone to take advantage of the new reliable and secure service when travelling through the station.

“This is the first station in the North West with the free upgraded WiFi. Next up is Manchester Piccadilly”.

The WiFi has launched in time to welcome passengers back to the railway after coronavirus lockdown measures.

Robbie Humphreys, shift station manager at Liverpool Lime Street station, said: “It’s a great improvement for our passengers -, it’s free to connect, you don’t need to enter any personal information, and it’s one of the fastest data connections you can get.

“It’s part of our wider efforts to encourage passengers back to rail travel and we can assure people they can travel in confidence. The station team has worked really hard to keep passengers safe throughout the pandemic and we will continue to do so.”

The new, unlimited WiFi service is being rolled out across Network Rail managed stations nationwide, with plans for the 19 biggest stations to be connected by the end of 2021.

For more information visit: www.networkrail.co.uk/free-wifi-at-our-stations/

5 minute read – Network Rail to connect ground-breaking 11,000-tonne tunnel near Peterborough to existing track this month

Network Rail will carry out vital work to connect a new tunnel north of Peterborough to the existing railway, ready to further improve journeys for passengers on the East Coast Main Line.

The project at Werrington will allow slower moving freight trains to dive underneath the famous passenger route.

It is part of the £1.2billion East Coast Upgrade, which has also seen major work completed to transform the track layout and reopen a tunnel at King’s Cross, making it easier for more trains to enter and exit the station.

Back in January, engineers pushed the world’s longest single underground jacked structure – an 11,000-tonne curved concrete box – into place at Werrington, in a UK first for engineering. Since then, vital work has taken place to install around 4km of track inside the new tunnel, as well as signalling equipment, without disrupting train services.

On Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 July, engineers will carry out an essential part of the project – to connect the new track to the existing Stamford lines.

During the weekend, services will continue running for passengers on the East Coast Main Line, however a section of the line between Peterborough and Stamford will be closed to allow teams to connect the tracks safely. The following changes will be in place to keep passengers moving:

  • Buses will replace CrossCountry trains between Peterborough and Leicester on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 July.
  • On Saturday 17 July, the 05:00 and 06:08 East Midlands Railway services between Nottingham and Norwich will be diverted via Grantham. These trains will not call at East Midlands Parkway, Loughborough, Melton Mowbray, Oakham or Stamford and bus replacement services will run.

Ed Akers, Principal Programme Sponsor for Network Rail’s East Coast Upgrade, said: “We used challenging industry leading techniques to push the tunnel into place and our teams have continued to work around the clock to install the new track without impacting on services.

“This work to connect the tunnel to the existing lines is only possible when there are no trains running on this section of the route. We’ve carefully planned the work and have bus replacements in place to keep passengers moving. We want to thank people for their patience whilst this vital stage of the project is carried out.”

Work on the dive-under is expected to be completed over the summer, ready for train services to use it later this year.

5 minute read – Improved reliability for rail passengers between London and Southend following track works

Network Rail has replaced track and completed drainage work to improve reliability between London and Shoeburyness.

The work took place at Upton Park between Fenchurch Street and Barking and included:

  • Replacing nearly one and a half miles of rail
  • Installing 40 new catchpits, 180 new drainage pipes and 1000 tonnes of top stone to improve drainage
  • Replacing 1700 new concrete sleepers and 4,500 tonnes of ballast, the stones that make the track bed.

Like road surfaces, track wears out from constant use by trains. Engineers carry out inspections and repairs but over time the track will need to be fully replaced in order to avoid speed restrictions that cause delays. Network Rail’s engineers have been busy over the last year on a programme of track replacement across the Anglia region in order to keep services running reliably.

Drainage work is essential to keep both the track and the foundations stable to prevent delays and cancellations caused by flooding and water damage.

Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, Ellie Burrows, said: “This work is essential to keep services running safely and reliably and to minimise delays on the whole line from Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, drainage work is essential to divert water away from the track and prevent the damage to equipment and embankments that cause delays.”

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

5 minute read – Wandsworth Common saviour gets a plaque at Clapham Junction

A blue plaque to commemorate John Charles Buckmaster who fought a campaign to save Wandsworth Common from developers has been revealed at Clapham Junction station.

The ceremony was attended by Network Rail’s chair Sir Peter Hendy, Lucy Mowatt, the deputy mayor of Wandsworth, along with Viscount Buckmaster, the great, great grandson of John Charles Buckmaster, who unveiled the Battersea Society plaque at the Network Rail managed station.

Mr Buckmaster, who lived circa 1819-1908 and whose home was near the site now occupied by the station is described on the plaque as an “educator, orator and campaigner for Wandsworth Common”, which this year celebrate its 150th anniversary.

William Robertson, Clapham Junction station manager, said “It was an honour to be part of a ceremony honouring a local legend who did so much to keep green spaces open for everyone to enjoy today.

“It was also amazing to hear speeches from Sir Peter and Viscount Buckmaster who paid tribute to the hard work and dedication of John Charles Buckmaster.”

Lucy Mowatt, the deputy mayor of Wandsworth said: “It was a privilege to welcome everyone to the unveiling of a Blue Plaque to John Charles Buckmaster. It was highly appropriate as it was 150 years almost to the day that the Wandsworth Common Act was passed in 1871, saving the green space of Wandsworth Common for the people of Battersea and Wandsworth in perpetuity.”

5 minute read – Summer staycation rail routes cleared from litter blight

North West rail workers are busy cleaning up key tourist routes in the Lake District and Blackpool ahead of the summer holidays.

Over five nights in late May and early July while people were sleeping, rail staff collected 16 bags of rubbish from St Annes and Squires Gate in Blackpool, and 20 bags from Windermere, Staveley, Burneside and Kendal on the Windermere branch line.

Network Rail and the Department of Transport are committed to make the railways more welcoming for when passengers return in large numbers to the North West’s world class visitor destinations.

Millions of pounds is spent every year removing litter, graffiti and fly tipping – money that could be better spent improving the railway for passengers.

Clean, litter-free environments make people feel safer, which is particularly important as the rail industry welcomes passengers back to rail.

Nigel McCann, North West railway planner for Network Rail said: “Litter is a big problem for the railway. It’s regularly reported to us by community rail groups, residents and politicians.

“Recognising passengers enjoy the convenience and views when travelling by rail to Blackpool or the Lakes for their holidays, we’ve used a hit squad to litter pick these key routes overnight, so we don’t disrupt vital services in the day.

“But our message to fly tippers is: the railway is not a dumping ground for litter and costs taxpayers’ money to remove.”

Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, said: “As restrictions continue to ease, we know more people will be returning to rail travel in the coming weeks, as an accessible, eco-friendly way to get around. Those all-important first glances at the stupendous Lake District views outside the train window set the scene for the holiday to come, so this large-scale litter pick is a credit to the hardworking rail workers who have been busy tidying up these key routes – enabling rail passengers to appreciate our world-class landscape at its very best.”

Cllr Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We really do appreciate the efforts made by rail staff. Litter collection is vitally important in a seaside destination and particularly at key arrival points such as car parks and railway stations.

“We hope that visitors will see the difference that has been made and will play their part by disposing of their own litter in a responsible way.”

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, said: “As we build back better, we are committed to making our stations and services pleasant, comfortable and safe for passengers ensuring it’s ready for the return of passengers as people venture to UK holiday destinations.”

The litter blitz was part of Network Rail’s efforts to support Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean 2021.

It’s not just tourist routes being targeted. All routes across the North West have regular litter sweeps to keep embankments clean and tidy, and the track free from obstacles to trains.

For safety reasons, rubbish removal takes place overnight.

This is to not disrupt passenger and freight services that support the UK economy by transporting commuters, leisure travellers, as well as medical supplies and food.

5 minute read – Better subway and ticket barriers for Rochdale rail passengers

Improvements to Rochdale station have taken place ahead of major railway upgrades in central Manchester this summer.

A £100,000 Great North Rail Project investment has seen Network Rail strengthen the station subway’s steel and concrete ceiling which holds the track and platforms above.

The underpass below has also been repainted to welcome passengers travelling between York, Leeds and Manchester. 

In the coming weeks £30,000 accessible ticket barriers will be installed for wheelchair users, families with prams or people with heavy luggage.  

This is ahead of closures between Stalybridge and Manchester Victoria, and Rochdale and Manchester Victoria, from 31 July to 15 August, as part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) when railway bridges will be replaced and track upgraded. 

Passengers are being urged to plan their journeys in advance at www.nationalrail.co.uk

Karen Hornby, head of customer relations and performance for the North West at Network Rail, said: “Our £130,000 subway makeover and ticket barrier improvements are part of the Greater Manchester stations’ accessibility plan to provide better and safer travel for passengers using Rochdale station. 

“Further improvements on the Calder Valley line are planned as part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) with a major milestone taking place later this summer to upgrade track and railway bridges in central Manchester. Passengers looking to travel between 31 July and 15 August are being urged to plan ahead.”

Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern, said: “The completed work looks fantastic and is a great example of the rail industry working together to improve the regions railways.

“Thank you to our customers for their continued patience. 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.”

Councillor Mark Aldred, chair of the Greater Manchester Transport Committee, said: “The Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) is a really exciting project that will transform the customer experience for train users across Greater Manchester and throughout the north of England.

“From better and more reliable journeys to upgraded stations; whether you catch the train all the time or every now and again, there is a lot to look forward to.

“We know accessibility is a significant barrier at many of our local stations, so we particularly welcome the investment being made at Rochdale and hope it helps open up public transport – especially local rail services – for even more people to enjoy.” 

Improvements are planned Saturday 31 July – Sunday 15 August as part of the TRU. 

TRU is a multi-billion-pound programme of railway upgrades that will radically improve connectivity in the North of England – providing faster, more reliable services for passengers travelling between York, Leeds and Manchester.

For more information on the Transpennine Route Upgrade visit: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/railway-upgrade-plan/key-projects/transpennine-route-upgrade/

Stretching across the North of England between York and Manchester, via Leeds and Huddersfield, the 76-mile Transpennine railway serves 23 stations, crosses over and dips under 285 bridges and viaducts, passes through six miles of tunnels, and crosses over 29 level crossings.

TRU will transform this line into a high-performing, reliable railway for passengers with greater punctuality, more trains and improved journey times. The scale of the project means that there will be planned disruption to train services to enable work to be carried out, but we are committed to keeping passengers moving on a train as often as possible, on time and in comfort as a key priority.

In July 2020, the government announced £589m of funding to kickstart the programme. A further £317m investment was announced last month, totalling £906m.

Travel advice for the period 31 July and 15 August is as follows:

Train:

Passengers travelling Leeds – Manchester Victoria via Todmorden and Rochdale

  • Trains will start/terminate at Moston station.
  • Express buses will run between Rochdale and Manchester Victoria and between Manchester Victoria and Moston*

*there will be no calling buses between Rochdale and Moston

Passengers travelling Ashton-under-Lyne – Manchester

  • Trains will not run, but Metrolink services will be available to/from Manchester Piccadilly (apart from Saturday 14 and Sunday 15August*)

*Metrolink services will not run on the Ashton line on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 August due to engineering work, but replacement buses will be in place.

Passengers travelling Liverpool Lime Street – Newcastle

  • Trains from Liverpool Lime Street will be diverted to run to/from Manchester Airport via Manchester Piccadilly. Newcastle services will start/terminate at Manchester Piccadilly for onward connections

Passengers travelling Manchester – Leeds/York/Hull/Redcar

  • Trains will divert to/from Manchester Piccadilly only

Passengers travelling Stalybridge – Manchester via Guide Bridge

  • Trains between Leeds (via Huddersfield) and Manchester Piccadilly will divert via Stalybridge and Guide Bridge.
  • Buses will run between Stalybridge, Ashton-under-Lyne and Guide Bridge


Metrolink:

Essential maintenance works are taking place across the Metrolink network at the same time to minimise overall disruption to passengers.

  • Between 31 July and 9 August, 14 – 16 August and 21 – 23 August, no services will operate through Victoria.
  • In addition, the Metrolink Eccles line will be closed between 19 July and 1 August and there will be additional changes to some services while work is carried out near to Piccadilly Gardens between 31 July and 6 August.
  • A bus replacement service will be in operation and additional staff will be out across the network to help customers.