Network Rail has announced a move to immediate payments for its suppliers to provide firms with a boost to their cashflow during the coronavirus crisis. This means payment could be up to seven days quicker for SMEs and up to 28 days quicker for other suppliers. ‘Our priority is to support the supply chain as much as possible through these unprecedented times’, said Commercial & Procurement Director Clive Berrington on April 2. ‘We have therefore moved all our suppliers to immediate payment terms, or as close as you can get following approval of the invoice, and we expect that to flow down to the supply chain.’
Management of Romsey, Dean and Mottisfont & Dunbridge stations has been transferred from GWR to South Western Railway, which now manages 187 stations. GWR staff at Romsey have transferred to SWR, and help points at the three stations are now being answered by SWR’s control centre in Basingstoke. GWR will manage the passenger information system and retail services ‘for a short interim period’. Romsey station car park will now also be managed by SWR through third party supplier APCOA.
Network Rail intends to award Dreicher & Sohne, Morris Line Engineering and SDCEM contracts worth £5·6m to supply 25 kV AC disconnector motor mechanisms and remote securing modules for retrofitting to existing equipment.
Network Rail is seeking to understand the capability of the market for alternative designs and manufacturing techniques for face masks and face visors, should the requirement arise to provide its workforce with this equipment. It is also seeking responses from suppliers who have additional capacity in supplying FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 respirator masks and three-ply surgical masks.
Greater Anglia has increased the wi-fi bandwidth on its Stadler trains. ‘The reliability of the wi-fi on our new train fleet is much better than on our old fleet, so more people will be using it to work, use social media or stream’, said Himesh Patel, Head of the IT Service Delivery team. ‘To ensure that they still enjoy fast browsing speeds, we’ve increased the bandwidth to ensure it keeps pace with demand and delivers a good experience.’
Following the appointment of Jim McMahon MP as Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Railway Industry Association Chief Executive Darren Caplan said ‘we look forward to working closely with the new Shadow Transport Secretary to ensure there is a strong rail supply sector that supports passengers, freight services and UK plc, its economy and connectivity more widely, in the months and years ahead. I would also, on behalf of RIA and our members, like to offer sincere thanks to outgoing Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald, who was very supportive of, and accessible to, the rail supply sector and a strong advocate of providing a consistent, visible pipeline of work for the railway industry.’
On April 6 Transport Focus called for improvements in communicating the process for obtaining season ticket refunds to people who are not travelling because of the coronavirus. It said it should be made clear that claims would be backdated to a March 17 ‘hand in’ date, the day after the government called on people to stay at home, and not the date they are received by the train company or retailer. Passengers should not have to physically go to their station to hand in their ticket; and the amount to be refunded should not be affected by how quickly claims are processed. It also called for the £10 administration fee for processing season ticket refunds to be waived in England, as has already happened in Scotland and Wales.
Network Rail has extended the public consultation period for proposals to upgrade the route between Huddersfield and Westtown (Dewsbury) until April 30. A planned series of public events about the proposals have been cancelled in line with government guidance on Covid-19.
West Midlands Railway began using rail replacement buses at all stations between Hereford and Worcester when a new timetable came into force on April 6. ‘I apologise to any affected key workers that it has not been possible to maintain a train service at every station on our network’, said Customer Experience director Jonny Wiseman. ‘Train drivers and guards are not immune from Covid-19 and with increasing numbers of railway workers going into self-isolation I am sure our customers will understand the difficult decisions we have faced in building a timetable which keeps as many key workers moving as possible.’
The Railway Benefit Fund has launched a ‘friends’ programme, with the first four participants being Abellio Rail, Merseyrail, East Midlands Railway and Porterbrook. Companies commit to an annual fee for a minimum of three years, and get access to RBF’s services, a profile in its campaign and communications material, and priority booking and discounts on events.
All passenger operators are to cover the cost of train tickets for women or men and their children travelling to recognised refuge accommodation while coronavirus lockdown measures are in force. The announcement on April 9 came in response to campaigners reporting an increase in domestic violence reports since the measures came into force, and follows successful ‘rail to refuge’ initiatives at Southeastern and GWR. Tickets can be accessed through Women’s Aid Federation of England, Welsh Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Aid and Imkaan once a refuge place has been offered; 22 members of WAFE provide refuge accommodation for men.
GWR has launched an ‘EnterTrainment’ package to help home-schooling parents keep their children entertained and educated during the pandemic. It includes interactive documentary videos about the history of the railway and the southwest of England; downloadable colouring sheets from GWR’s Iron Horses of the West book; and a social media build-a-train competition, with further content to include activity sheets with word searches, quizzes and more.