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UK railway news round-up

02 Nov 2017

Incumbent Arriva has withdrawn from the competition for the next Wales & Borders franchise. ‘This has not been an easy decision and we wish Transport for Wales well in concluding this competition‘, said a spokesman on October 30. TfW said it was ‘not uncommon for bidders for major projects to withdraw during the tender process and Arriva have been clear they have done this for their own commercial reasons.’ The remaining shortlisted bidders are Abellio Rail Cymru, KeolisAmey and MTR Corp (Cymru) Ltd.

On October 30 train operators, Network Rail and suppliers launched the ‘In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity’ campaign. This includes four commitments: to strengthen the railway’s contribution to the economy, keeping running costs in the black, freeing up taxpayers’ money; to increase customer satisfaction by improving the railway to remain the top-rated major railway in Europe; to boost local communities through localised decision making and investment; to create more jobs, increase diversity and provide our employees with rewarding careers.

Govia Thameslink Railway has awarded Pod Point a contract to upgrade 48 electric vehicle charging points at 23 stations on the Southern network. These will be rated at 7 kW and able to charge two vehicles at the same time. ‘The project will see the power supply upgraded, meaning quicker charging, as well as the addition of a simpler interface to improve the customer experience’, said GTR Head of Safety & Environment Colin Morris.

The Rail Delivery Group has awarded BemroseBooth Paragon a £14m two-year extension of its contract to supply tickets. The company has also been named a preferred supplier for smart ticketing.  ‘BBP’s paper ticket pedigree makes it a leader in the field and this wider co-operation means that the company will also make its smart ticketing knowledge and ITSO manufacturing expertise available to RDG and UK train operators’, said RDG Technology Services Director Dennis Rocks on November 1. 

An updated long term rail strategy is scheduled to be presented to the Liverpool City Region Transport Committee for endorsement on November 2. The 30-year strategy was orginally launched in 2014. ‘It is important that we are realistic about our long term rail aspirations and our ambitious plans to provide an improved network for the future, meeting passenger needs and boosting economic opportunity‘, said Councillor Liam Robinson, Chair of the committee. ‘Whilst we already enjoy good levels of service there is more that we can do to provide increased capacity and frequencies, which would support projected economic growth and maximise the economic benefits of the City Region’s assets and potential.’

In a three-month scheme costing £2·9m, Network Rail stabilised 0·8 km of subsiding embankment in Buckinghamshire by using a Giken silent piling machine to drive 865 steel sheet piles to form solid barriers behind which it packed 27 000 tonnes of stone topped with soil seeded with grass. 'By using this innovative Japanese piling method we got the job done quicker and cheaper than traditional kit would have allowed', said Works Delivery Programme Manager Mark Evans. 'The Giken machine grips the neighbouring steel sheet pile and silently uses it to lever in the next one, and so on. It’s simple, safe and saves taxpayers’ cash'.

Following Secretary of State for Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s appearance at the Transport Select Committee on October 16, the committee published correspondence on October 31 providing additional information on the benefit:cost ratios and net present values of the cancelled Swansea, Mindland Main Line and Windemere electrification schemes.

Network Rail has announced that alliance with Amey, BAM Nuttall and Arup has been awarded a contract to design infrastructure options including civils, track and railway system enhancements and electrification for the Trans-Pennine route west of Leeds. The contract was awarded in March, but the formal announcement was delayed by the general election.

Balfour Beatty has published a paper Fast Track to Digital Railway: Delivering the Vision, outlining three factors which it says are necessary to make the Digital Railway programme a success. These are evolving relationships between Network Rail and its supply chain from 'transactions to partnerships across the asset lifecycle'; considering whether Digital Railway should be placed outside the industry’s five-year funding cycle; a culture of continuous improvement to ensure that workers stay on top of fast-evolving technology as the rail industry competes for skilled personnel with many other sectors.

Arriva Rail North has opened a £23m depot in Blackburn which will be used to maintain, fuel and clean up to 30 DMUs and provide a base for more than 100 staff including drivers and conductors.

Working with Great Western Railway and Arriva Rail North, Transport Focus has published an update of its 2012 research into passenger priorities during disruption. The watchdog found passengers prefer being kept on a train for up to 40 min longer than usual rather than switching to a bus when their journey is affected by planned engineering works; has been little change in perceptions and expectations of railway engineering works since 2012; experiences during planned disruption remain varied; and passengers are following ‘check before you travel’ guidance and there is no clear evidence of passengers choosing not to travel at weekends.

Network Rail has launched the 'What the truck' campaign in an effort to reduce the number of lorries hitting railway bridges. ‘Every incident creates potential delay for tens of thousands of passengers and potential costs for taxpayers, and this is happening multiple times a day‘, said Chairman Sir Peter Hendy.

Network Rail is carrying out a £1·4m modernisation of the timber viaduct over the River Artro in Gwynedd which involves jacking up the tracks which repairs are undertaken. The technique will also be used during the upcoming refurbishment of the Barmouth viaduct.

As part of the testing of the newly installed 25 kV 50 Hz electrification equipment, a Hitachi Class 385 EMU ran on the full route between Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street in the early hours of November 1.