The Department for Transport has begun a 10-week consultation on plans for the next South Eastern passenger franchise, which is expected to run from December 2018 until 2025. DfT's ambitions include longer trains, modernising or replacing older rolling stock and introducing smarter payment systems and automated delay refunds. It is planned that this would be the first franchise to have an integrated management team overseeing train operations and infrastructure.

Network Rail is seeking views on its Kent Route Study which sets out medium and long term options for infrastructure upgrading, including proposals for a link between High Speed 1 and the Ashford - Hastings line along with electrification of the line or the use of electro-diesel trains.

Network Rail has announced its intention to award Resonate Group a contract to upgrade the IECC Scalable traffic control systems at the Didcot & Thames Valley Signalling Control Centre. This would provide increased functionality for traffic management on the London - Bristol line, as a medium-term enhancement in advance of the deployment of a full traffic management system under the wider Digital Railway programme. The contract to be awarded under a negotiated procedure would comprise 12 months of development and a 12 month deployment trial to assess the benefits, with the potential for an additional three-year period plus rolling annual extensions for up to a further five years, which could take the total value to £27m.

Tees Valley Combined Authority and Darlington Council have launched a 'transformational vision' for Darlington station in 2025. Proposed infrastructure remodelling would facilitate improvements to local services, support HS2 services and provide better freight connections from Teesport.

The ScotRail Alliance has appointed Mott Macdonald to produce detailed designs for a £6m modernisation of Inverness station to enhance retail offerings and provide a 'more dominant frontage' and better links to the bus station. Tenders for construction works are to be called in autumn, with completion envisaged for 2018.

Rhino Doors is to supply five large noise-attenuating security and fire-rated maintenance access doors for the fan rooms at Farringdon station in London.

The Rolling Stock Strategy Steering Group of leasing companies and the Rail Delivery Group has published is fifth annual Long Term Passenger Rolling Stock Strategy, which sets out forecasts for the likely size of the fleet required to accommodate predicted ridership growth over the next 30 years.

Greater Anglia is installing 55 Scheidt & Bachmann ticket machines to replace 'outdated' Worldline machines and provide TVMs at 12 more stations. The touch-screen TVMs have contactless card payment and information screens. Future upgrades will include a 'cheapest ticket button', the ability to renew monthly paper season tickets, buy tickets 28 days in advance or starting from another station, and purchase PlusBus tickets, as well as a connection to an adviser who can assist with enquiries. Greater Anglia also says it has 'tried to remove anomalous split ticketing which causes confusion for customers trying to find the cheapest fare'.

Network Rail and principal contractor Siemens have begun a £45m project to upgrade signalling from Sutton to Wimbledon and Mitcham in south London, covering 60 track-km, five junctions and 70 signals. Mitcham Eastfields level crossing will also be upgraded. Commissioning is planned for Easter 2018, with control transferred to the Three Bridges Route Operating Centre.

Ricardo has been awarded a framework contract to provide expert support regarding the Common Safety Method on Risk Evaluation & Assessment for Network Rail's signalling and electrification programmes. Ricardo said that although the CSM RA process superseded legacy systems over a number of years, the transition had 'not been without the occasional problem and has been the cause of disruption to some projects'. In response to this, it has provided specialised training for more than 1 100 people.

Fly Enviro has used a Harris hawk to scare unwanted birds away from Inverness station. 'We used to have issues with pigeons and gulls, lots of them like to roost in the station, and one even stole a sandwich off a trolley', said Laura Cook, ScotRail Conductor Team Manager. 'Since he's arrived, the other birds are keeping well away.'