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UK railway news round-up

13 Jul 2017

On July 12 Labour MP for Nottingham South Lilian Greenwood was elected Chair of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee for the 2017 parliament. Greenwood will formally take up the position when the remaining members of the committee have been named.

From July 10 to August 13 the Department for Transport is to undertake consultation on a relaxation of planning restrictions along the route of HS1. Proposals include reducing the safeguarding boundary from 60 m to 30 m, removing safeguarding restrictions from 14 km2 of land and retaining restrictions for all tunnels. ‘These proposed changes will have no effect on the high speed service for passengers‘, said Transport Minister Paul Maynard. ‘They will simply reduce the restrictions on developments close to it.’

Network Rail is seeking to engage with suppliers to understand options for the supply of geo-synthetic products for reinforcing and protecting the track bed during track constructions and renewals.

Alstom is refurbishing two redundant Eurostar Class 373 power cars which will be donated to the National College for High Speed Rail sites in Doncaster and Birmingham, giving students the chance to study existing high speed train technology. 

The Information Commissioner's Office has ruled that Virgin Trains East Coast did not break data protection law when it published CCTV footage of Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn looking for a seat on a train in August 2016, because Virgin had a legitimate interest in correcting what it deemed to be misleading news reports that were potentially damaging to its reputation and commercial interests. However VTEC did breach the law when it published images of other passengers on the same service without obscuring their faces. ICO said it had stopped short of formal regulatory action because of the exceptional circumstances. 

Primesight has retained exclusive rights to market Network Rail's roadside advertising in a seven-year deal worth £125m. According to NR it is the single biggest roadside contract in the UK, covering more than 2 000 billboards reaching 78% of the population. Primesight will also take over the advertising rights on NR bridges from Clear Channel in April 2018.

The Competition & Markets Authority has concluded that there are no competition concerns on the majority of routes which First MTR is to operate from the start of the next South Western franchise on August 20, other than on the London –  Exeter route which competes with FirstGroup’s Great Western Railway franchise. CMA is concerned that FirstGroup’s control of both routes could reduce competition and lead to higher fares or worse service, and so has requested undertakings to address its concerns and avoid an in-depth investigation. In previous cases CMA’s concerns have been resolved by the operator agreeing to price caps.

Babcock is reviewing the structure of its track business in the light of a planned reduction in Network Rail renewals work, and plans to cut 89 jobs and close its Newport and Eastleigh depots. 

Transport for London has selected Taylor Woodrow for a £17·8m contract to rebuild White Hart Lane station. Aims include providing step-free access and improving passenger flow.

The University of Wolverhampton’s West Midlands Manufacturing Club has announced a programme part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund which aims to help regional SMEs benefit from High Speed 2 contracts. ‘The common misconception is that HS2 is only open to major players’, said Business Development Manager Rebecca Macdonald. ‘Get On Track has been specifically designed to make the opportunity more accessible to Midlands SMEs, equipping them with the know-how and more importantly the confidence to tap into the wealth of opportunities HS2 can present’.

Translink NI Railways introduced a new timetable on July 3, offering an hourly Londonderry – Belfast service from Monday to Saturday. This follows the completion of a £46·4m project to install a passing loop and new signalling and telecoms between Coleraine and Londonderry. There are also additional morning and evening peak trains between Newry and Belfast, a route which has seen a 4·5% growth in passenger journeys over the past year.

RSSB has published research into platform edge safety incidents in Great Britain in 2010-15. It found 1 fatality & weighted injury per 26 million journeys, with risk related to train dispatch being 1 FWI per 850 million journeys. ‘Our research shows that the risks to passengers are extremely low, to the point that it is impossible to distinguish any meaningful difference between different dispatch techniques and so illustrate that both operation with a guard and driver controlled operation (or driver only operation) are equally safe’, said Director of System Safety & Health, George Bearfield.