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UK railway news round-up

20 Jul 2017

The Department for Transport has extended Govia’s current London Midland franchise from October 15 to December 10 under the existing terms. DfT has an option for a further extension to February 4 which it can exercise by August 18. The Govia joint venture of Go-Ahead and Keolis and the West Midlands Trains Ltd joint venture of Abellio, East Japan Railway and Mitsui & Co are shortlisted for the next West Midlands franchise.

Train operators are to adopt a new method of measuring punctuality, reporting the proportion of trains arriving to the minute as well as the existing government-set measure whereby trains are considered ‘on time’ if they arrive within 5 min (short distance) or 10 min (long distance). According to the Rail Delivery Group, current technology means that punctuality can be measured to the minute for around 80% of station calls, and it is looking to improve this figure, possibly using GPS data. RDG expects the new benchmark to become one of the official measures of punctuality and reliability from April 2019, and to be introduced into new franchise agreements.

Following a decision by Secretary of State for Transport Chris Graying that Govia Thameslink Railway could not claim force majeure for some of the long-term service disruption affecting Southern services, the operator announced on July 13 an agreement with the Department for Transport which will see GTR pay £13·4m to fund a package of performance and passenger improvements.

On July 19 the first Class 180 DEMU to be fitted with ETCS onboard equipment was returned to open access operator Grand Central by leasing company Angel Trains. Installation of the Alstom Atlas 200 equipment was undertaken at Arriva Train Care's Eastleigh site with funding from Network Rail managed by the national joint ROSCO ETCS project. Grand Central intends to equip 10 Class 180s with ETCS under a phased development and testing programme; full authorisation for Baseline 3 R2 operation is expected in 2019.

On July 11 the Department for Transport published Research Into The Appraisal Of Long Term Benefits Of Transport Schemes, exploring assumptions that should be made about long-term travel demand and how to account for uncertainty in scheme appraisal. It recommends DfT consider specifying that the 20-year complex modelling period be run from the predicted year of scheme opening rather than the date of the appraisal; attaching a higher weighting to a downside outcome in appraisal than to a central outcome; removal of the demand cap; and research on how an uncertainty equivalent could capture uncertainty and be implemented in appraisal.

Transport for London is to increase the order for Bombardier Class 345 Aventra EMUs for the Crossrail Elizabeth Line from 66 to 70 units, to enable an increase in service frequencies to Reading and Heathrow Airport.

Network Rail has completed a £12m modernisation of Putney station. This included the provision of lifts, three more ticket machines, extra information screens, accessible toilets and a new ticket office, as well as extending the platforms to accommodate 10-car trains.

Translink is consulting on plans for a £5·5m upgrade of Portrush station to ‘provide modern facilities to cater for growing passenger numbers and contribute to the overall regeneration of the town’ ahead of the Open Golf Championship in July 2019.

The Office of Rail & Road has undertaken an audit of train company websites against the retail information code of practice, to check that they provide the information passengers need to make informed decisions on buying tickets. ORR found most information is provided, but some was only available by hovering over a word or linked via unintuitive icon, and some potentially unclear industry jargon was used.

Sulzer’s York service centre has installed new wear plates on the bogie saddles holding the axle bearings on 250 coal wagons.

Law firm Winckworth Sherwood advised the Department for Transport on the High Speed Rail (West Midlands – Crewe) Bill which was introduced to parliament on July 17.

The Department for Transport and local sources have allocated £1·6m for the provision of more than 1 000 extra cycle spaces at Taunton, Didcot Parkway and Newbury stations.

Great Western Railway has signed a one-year sponsorship deal with tourism promotion body Visit Bath.

Network Rail has completed a £6·5m project to extend platforms at Ascot and install a fully-accessible footbridge providing step-free access to all platforms via lifts.