UK railway news round-up
HS2 Ltd is consulting on plans for a 2·3 km elevated peoplemover which would link the future Interchange station in Solihull with the National Exhibition Centre, the existing Birmingham International station and Birmingham airport. Services would run every 3 min, with a capacity of 2 100 passengers/direction/h and a journey time of 6 min. The maintenance facility would be on the eastern side of the M42 crossing, rather than at Arden Cross as previously planned.
The House of Commons approved the second stage of the High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill by 263 votes to 17 on July 15. It now moves to the House of Lords for consideration.
Network Rail has awarded Story Contracting a £4m contract to design and build Horden station in County Durham. This includes the construction of two platforms with step-free access via a footbridge and ramps, piling, signalling, track realignment, lighting, information and public address systems, CCTV and platform furniture. Opening is planned for spring 2020.
Network Rail has launched a track worker safety task force backed with a £70m fund. This will bring together multiple programmes across the company including developing protection and warning systems, a fatigue improvement programme, rewarding contractors for positive safety performance and holding weekly safety hours.
West Midlands Trains is offering prospective students free travel to a University of Worcester open day in September. ‘We hope these steps will help make travel costs less prohibitive for people visiting the University of Worcester, enabling them to see for themselves what we have to offer’, said Pro Vice-Chancellor Ross Renton. Students should register in advance with the university, which will provide details of the process for obtaining a one-day pass.
In a written answer to Lord Scriven on July 12, Baroness Vere, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Transport, said that owing to 'delays in manufacturing of new trains' for Northern, 'a small number’ of Pacer Class 14x DMUs ‘may continue on the network into the beginning of the new year to ensure a stable service for passengers'.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has released its report into a fatal accident at Stoats Nest Junction on November 6 2018. One recommendation is addressed to Network Rail, to improve the way labour suppliers manage the risks associated with the use of workers on zero hours contracts, in particular regarding lifestyle and fatigue. The second recommendation is addressed to Vital Human Resources, to commission an independent review of the actions it has taken following the accident. Learning points highlight the need for safety-critical staff to be aware that distraction caused by family issues or other employment may affect their fitness for duty; the importance of being alert to risks, even when they believe that they are working under protection; and the limitations of the Sentinel system if it is used for establishing the presence of staff on site.
Govia Thameslink Railway has been fined £1m plus costs after pleading guilty to an offence under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 relating to a fatal incident on August 7 2016 when the head of a passenger on a Class 442 EMU with an opening droplight window struck a trackside gantry at Balham. ORR told the court that the risks associated with droplight windows should have been identified by a suitable assessment, and control measures introduced.
MTR Crossrail has entered into a union recognition agreement with TSSA covering management-grade staff. ‘Now almost every person working for MTR Crossrail will be covered by collective bargaining’, said TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has released its report into a collision between road-rail vehicles at Cholmondeston on September 19 2018. There are two recommendations: one addressed to RSSB to review the effectiveness of technical standards; the second is similar but is addressed to Network Rail. Five learning points relate to the use of safety-related communications protocols, awareness of measures to be taken when visibility is compromised, taking account of machines’ limitations when planning their use, the control of risk in long worksites, and ensuring that machine operators are fully trained.
On July 10 the Public Accounts Committee published its Brexit and the UK border: out-of-court settlement with Eurotunnel report into the £33m agreement which ended the Channel Tunnel concessionaire’s challenge to Department of Transport’s procurement of ferry services in case of a no-deal Brexit. PAC Chair Meg Hillier MP said ‘public benefits from the settlement with Eurotunnel amount to little more than window dressing. The Department needs to keep a close eye and ensure that Eurotunnel deliver what is promised.'