News from Great Britain

24 November 2017

BAD WEATHER Heavy rainfall accompanied by very high winds struck both the south and north of England during 22/23 November 2017. The South Western Railway introduced speed restrictions over much of its network while buses replaced trains between Preston and Lancaster due to severe flooding between these points. Several routes in north west Wales and in Cumbria also experienced flooding.

NETWORK RAIL SELL – OFF In order to raise funds for more modernisation work and to pay off some debts, Network Rail is selling around 5,500 pieces of commercial property. Many items are individual railway arches that are used by a wide range of businesses and the sale will be leasehold so that the railway can gain entry at short notice if urgent repairs are needed. The sale is expected to generate at least £1bn.

SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY This TOC is to refurbish its fleet of class 444 and 450 trains. The work will cost £50m and will be undertaken at Eastleigh Works.

OVERGROUND 24 hour service on Friday and Saturday nights will be introduced between New Cross Gate and Dalston Junction from Friday 15 December 2017.

DOCKLANDS Transport for London has started to find a firm that will build 43 new trains for the DLR featuring air conditioning, on-board real time information, and mobile device charging points. Traffic on the DLR is expected to rise by 30% during the next few years.

THAMESLINK The full 24 trains per hour service has been put back to December 2019. Limited off-peak services to the East Coast Main Line will commence during April 2018.

NEW STREET STATION Services were disrupted during the morning peak on 22 November 2017 following a failure of signalling equipment which made it impossible to use three of the twelve platforms.

MIDLAND METRO The light rail line continues to attract investment in new housing close to the line. The latest developments are close to the Bradley Lane and Black Lake stops where extensive derelict areas have been cleared and levelled in preparation for large new developments.
On 20 November 2017 the Prime Minister announced the provision of £250m from the £1.7bn “Transforming Cities Fund” to build the extension from Wednesbury to Dudley Town Centre, Merry Hill Shopping Centre, and Brierley Hill Town Centre. Much of the Brierley Hill route will follow old heavy rail rights of way but the new route will operate along Dudley’s main street and not follow the railway tunnel under the town. The line as far as Dudley is expected to open in 2022 and will reach Brierley Hill a year later.

WOLVERHAMPTON Virgin’s First Class Lounge on platform 4 of Wolverhampton station will become available to all passengers of both classes from 11 December 2017. Few Virgin trains use platform 4 so the Lounge has been little used. Only passengers using Virgin services have been allowed to use the lounge. First class passengers using trains of other companies have been barred.

NORTON BRIDGE The station is to be closed as from 10 December 2017 but the replacement bus service that has operated since the long access footbridge across four main line tracks was removed must be part-funded until March 2019 when Staffordshire County Council will have the responsibility of providing transport in the area.

NOTTINGHAM The track along the short Phoenix Park branch was relaid during the period 21-23 October 2017.

BUS USE DROPS During the five years 2011/12 until 2016/17 the number of passengers using local bus services in Scotland has fallen from 436m to 393m because of increased use of trains and private cars, and changing work patterns with increasing numbers working from home.

ISLE OF MAN 2017 has been a good season for the Island’s historic transport lines. The Manx Electric Railway, Snaefell Mountain Railway and the Isle of Man Steam Railway have seen a 13% jump in traffic handled. It is thought that an increase in the number of cruise boats calling at the Island is responsible for the rise in business handled..

GLASGOW AIRPORT LINK The proposed rail service to Glasgow Abbotsinch Airport to/from Glasgow Central Station is being examined again. The £144m cost could be funded from the “City Deal” source but opponents fear that frequent tram:train services, often poorly loaded, would get in the way of extremely busy services from Ayrshire and Renfrewshire.

BREICH (A challenge – can you pronounce the name correctly?) The little used station on the Shotts route between Glasgow and Edinburgh was proposed for closure to avoid the cost of replacing the station footbridge to create space for overhead power wires. Collieries and stone quarries in the area closed years ago and the one regular commuter to Edinburgh has retired. There is just one call each way daily and in a busy week three passengers use the unstaffed halt. A Scottish Government study shows strong support for the station provided more trains call. The Scottish Transport Minister has agreed. Breich will remain open and a better service is awaited.

EDINBURGH AREA Services from Waverley Station to Glasgow Queen Street via Bathgate and Falkirk, and to Stirling were disrupted for most of 15 November 2017 after a broken rail was found near Edinburgh Park station. Waverley Station is being adapted for longer trains with platform 12 being extended for 8-car emu services to and from Glasgow Queen Street. Platforms 5 and 6 are being lengthened to handle 10 car class 800 and 801 intercity trains operated by Virgin East Coast.

8 November 2017

HYTHE PIER RAILWAY The two locomotives used to haul the trains celebrated their 100th birthday on 28 October 2017. These are the oldest electric locos in daily use in the UK. Some of the Manx Electric Railway trams may in fact be even older but they are not locomotives.

CLASS 700s The Transport Secretary is being urged to redeploy the still new class 707 emus (some are still being delivered) to the Sussex Coast routes when the South Western Railway declares them redundant upon the delivery of their new fleet of Aventra units in 2019. Some 707 emus have entered service on Kings Cross – Peterborough semi-fasts. They are in twelve car formations on two peak morning and evening trains.

LUL – HOLBORN STATION This is the 11th busiest station on the London Underground with 63m passengers each year. In order to cope with increasing traffic levels a series of improvements are to be made. There will be a new entrance on Procter Street, and three new lifts. New walking routes will be created between the Central and Piccadilly Line stations. Traffic is expected to rise by 30% during the next 20-25 years.

CAPACITY CANCELLATION TfL announced on 13 October 2017 a “pause” in the Jubilee and Northern Lines World Class Capacity programme. In reality this does not mean a delay. The plan to increase capacity on these lines has been cancelled with little prospect of a restart soon.

ELIZABETH LINE (CROSSRAIL) At the end of October 2017 work is 87% complete. The tunnels are finished and the last section of track was laid at Whitechapel during September. Abbey Wood station has been completed and is being used by Southeastern services. The completion of the other stations is being pursued actively. Work on the red sandstone pillars around the western ticket hallway at Bond Street is visible from the street. At Liverpool Street work on the glazed canopy at the Broadgate entrance is clearly visible. During the next few months the completion of the stations including the completion of the overhead power wire system, the building of platforms, installation of platform screens, ventilation systems, communications systems, and signalling will all take priority.

CROYDON TRAMS Tram drivers are to hold two 24 hour strikes – on 13 November and 06 December 2017 – in protest against the introduction of a device to detect if the driver has fallen asleep while driving. A constant infra-red beam is directed at the driver’s face causing headaches and blurred vision to some drivers. The derailment of a tram in November 2016 killing seven and injuring fifty one people happened after the driver fell asleep.

WEST MIDLANDS On 10 December 2017 when West Midlands Trains (Arriva/JR East/Mitsui) take over from London Midland operations of local and semi-fast services over the WCML and around the West Midlands, two “companies” will be set up to operate different groups of services. Services to Euston via Northampton will be worked by the “London Northwestern Railway” using Class 350 emus sporting a grey and green livery with green doors. Birmingham local services will be provided by the “West Midlands Railway” sporting an unusual purple and grey livery with bright orange doors. Both liveries include a small yellow panel in the centre of each end of the unit.

TYNE & WEAR METRO The apparently complex network of routes is in fact just two routes. The Green Line runs from the Airport, through South Gosforth, Newcastle city centre, then to Pelaw, through Sunderland city centre and then doubling back to South Hylton. The Red Line starts just west of Newcastle City Centre at St James, and runs east through the city centre interchanging with the Green Line at Monument before running east to Wallsend, then North Shields, the coastal towns of Tynemouth and Whitley Bay before heading west to South Gosforth and operating back to the city centre over the same tracks as the Green Line as far as Pelaw after which Red Line trains operate east through Jarrow to terminate at South Shields. Two sections of the South Shields line beyond Pelaw are single track. A BR freight line to a site near Jarrow occupies the space of one track and it has been deemed too costly to lay a third track. These single track sections mean that it is not possible to operate better than a twelve minute frequency service to South Shields and in turn this imposes a similar frequency over both routes across the network.

TYNE & WEAR METRO VISIT The following are notes from a visit on 08 November 2017. At many stations some of the buildings from railway days have been retained often with little use being made of them other than providing a sheltered area for the ticket machines. First, the trains themselves now have an odd livery. The car bodies are black with bright yellow doors and a yellow strip at the front and end corners of each car. The important stations serving “The Coast” all retain striking buildings. The Monkseaton building retains some stained glass windows while Whitley Bay has its fine clock tower. There is nothing to equal the scale of Tynemouth. When few people owned a car or went overseas on holiday special trains ran from the lines serving colliery villages enabling the people to have a “day by the sea”. The massive concourse at Tynemouth station would have been filled by the homeward bound crowds. The bay platforms have gone but the massive overall roof is in good condition. The platforms at North Shields have new stylish canopies and the bay platform track is still in place but access to the platform has been blocked off. The high viaduct near Howden was taken at some speed so its structure must now be more secure.

SOUTH SHIELDS A new Metro:Bus interchange station is to be built with work starting in 2018 using a site occupied by three little used carriage sidings just beyond the present station. It is now difficult to spot the site of the former Coal Board’s Westoe Yard served by the electrified railway that used to operate between nearby collieries, and the docks and a connection to British Railways near Chichester (pronounced Cheyechester) Metro station,

GLASGOW AREA A 16 year old boy was killed at Hillfoot station (Milngavie branch) when he was struck by a train while running across the tracks.

CLASS 320/321 Five 4-car class 321 emus are being refurbished and the units will emerge as 3-car class 320s. They will strengthen peak trains on the Glasgow Queen Street Low Level routes and the Glasgow Central to Neilston line which is one of the most overcrowded routes in Scotland.

EDINBURGH Edinburgh City Council has begun a search for contractors who could deliver the tramway extension to Leith and Newhaven for the estimated sum of £165m. The work has been divided into two parts. Contract 1, the infrastructure Contract, will build 4.6km of embedded, slab, or ballasted track; the construction of eight new stops and the removal of the existing York Road stop; two substations; and the construction of the overhead wire above the new tracks. Contract 2 , the Swept Path Contract, involves clearing the tram path below ground of all utilities and other obstructions; and ensuring that there are no clearance problems with existing structures along the extension. Proposals from contractors will be scrutinised and further studies undertaken to ensure that the traffic potential is good enough to justify construction of the extension. All being well the go-ahead to undertake the work will be given in September 2018.

EGIP The first class 385 emu to complete the full journey between Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street HL did so on the evening of 31 October 2017.

26 October 2017

RAIL INCOME FALLS Passenger numbers fell by 2.7% during the first quarter of 2017-8 compared with a year earlier. Season ticket sales slumped by a significant 11% but advance ticket sales rose by 8.4% as passengers learned how to obtain the cheapest tickets. The main traffic fall is in the London and South East sector.

STORM OPHELIA High winds swept across the British Isles on 16-18 October 2017 and as a result speed restrictions were imposed on parts of the West Coast Main Line north of Preston, and on the East Coast route between Northallerton and Darlington, and north of Newcastle upon Tyne to Edinburgh. Trees fell across the tracks at several locations in North Wales, south of Carstairs on the WCML, and between Doncaster and Leeds.. Damage to signal equipment resulted in diversion and speed restrictions on the Stour Valley Main Line in the West Midlands.

STORM BRIAN No sooner had Ophelia moved away than Storm Brian emerged from the mid Atlantic bringing very high winds to western parts of the UK on 21 October 2017. 50 mph speed restrictions were imposed along southern coasts of England including the lines from Portsmouth to Fareham and Petersfield, and from Brighton to Ashford International, Three Bridges, and towards Southampton. Trees brought down across the tracks near the coast caused additional problems. There were similar speed restrictions along the southern and western shores of Wales. It was deemed unsafe to operate along the Barmouth – Harlech and Portmadoc – Pwllheli sections. There were several restrictions between Carmarthen, Cardiff and through the Severn Tunnel to Swindon. P&O ferries to Calais faced delays of at least three hours while in Scotland the main road to Cairnryan was closed due to flooding although the ferries were still able to operate. Many air services between points in Britain were cancelled and planes had great difficulty landing at Birmingham International Airport due to very strong but intermittent cross winds.

HYPERLOOP Sir Richard Branson is investigating the Hyperloop System in which passengers and freight consignments would be carried within pods that are then blown through tubes at speeds of up to 670 mph. The system is reported to be “ready by 2021” and would reduce the travel time between Edinburgh and London to 45 minutes. The system is at present being tested at the “Devloop” in the Nevada Desert.

RETIRED LRVs Midland Metro T69 trams 1-15 and four T68 LRVs from Manchester Metrolink are stored at the ex-MOD site at Long Marston. The T68s and possibly some of the T69s may be used for test purposes by UK Tram. Midland Metro No 16 has been retained at the Wednesbury Depot for undisclosed reasons. Several uses have been suggested for these retired trams including on the Island Line or for re-use on Midland Metro extensions. A major rebuild would be necessary if this were so since the very steep gradient up Pinfold Street on the Edgbaston line was considered too much for the T69s and resulted in the present fleet of CAF LRVs.

SEATON TRAMWAY Work on building a £2m Seaton terminus on the 2’9” gauge tramway started on 18 September 2017. This is being paid largely from a Heritage Lottery Grant.

BRIGHTON The Volks Electric Railway did not reopen for a very short season on 16 October 2017 following reconstruction work. Apparently a special trip for staff was operated but with some work still to be completed it was considered not worth while attempting to run for a brief season. The plan is to reopen with a full service in 2018.

REDHILL The station facilities are being expanded to meet congestion problems due to rising traffic. Work has begun on building a Platform 0 for the surprisingly high sum of £50m. London bound trains will call at either platform 0 or 2 while platform 1 will be used by terminating trains.

CROYDON TRAMLINK Because of speed restrictions at four sharp curves following the disastrous Sandilands derailment, a new timetable is being introduced on 05 November 2017. The New Addington service will no longer run through to Wimbledon and instead will run round the Croydon town centre loop. Two trains per hour will be removed from the Elmers End branch and there will be some reductions in frequencies at some hours on other sections.

LUL A stabbing incident outside Parsons Green tube station at 1930 on 16 October 2017 resulted in one fatality and two seriously injured. Access to the station was restricted for the rest of the day. The location is adjacent to the station involved in a terrorist attack one month earlier.

EAST COAST MAIN LINE A pedestrian bridge is to be built between Darlington Station and the adjacent College and offices to avoid the need for large numbers of passengers to cross the intervening very busy road on foot. In the Winter period timetable commencing in December 2017 there will be a major increase in long distance trains running on Saturdays. Destinations such as Leeds, York, or Newark will have as many trains on Saturdays as they have on weekdays.

SWANSEA Plans have been prepared to construct a much faster route between Port Talbot and Swansea for inter-city trains. The original route through Neath would become a Metro Line calling at a number of new stations in the suburbs.

MIDLAND METRO The junction for the extension to Wolverhampton Station was laid during several days in mid-October 2017. The street track along Bilston Road is at present being relaid and the tram traffic is being carried by normal service buses so the work on the junction did not further disturb the tram service.

WEST MIDLANDS On 17 October 2017 the new operator for the West Midlands franchise – Abellio with Mitsui and JR East – placed an order worth £680m for new rolling stock so that overcrowding on local services could be reduced and additional services could be added. CAF will supply twelve 2-car and fourteen 4-car dmus. Bombardier will produce thirty six 3-car emus for local services and forty five 5-car emus for longer distance stopping services. There will be slightly fewer seats per carriage to create more standing space but the number of seats will be increased overall since there will be a 25% increase in the number of coaches. The design of the emus will be essentially the same as rolling stock being produced for other TOCs cutting about a year off the time to produce the first trains for Abellio. The new TOC is investing in all over £1bn with improvements to stations, the building of new stations on the Camp Hill route, the provision of 1000 additional car park spaces, and a major increase in bike parking spaces.

STOKE ON TRENT The magnificent station is to receive a major upgrade to prepare it to become a major transport hub when HS2 is built. There will be a new North Entrance and a large modern concourse.

MANCHESTER METROLINK Passenger numbers continue to rise and are now running at the level of 40m per year.

LIVERPOOL LIME STREET The major terminal station in Liverpool returned to normal operations on 23 October 2017 following completion of a £340m project to lengthen platforms, build one additional platform, and modify signalling. Trains had been turning at South Parkway station since 30 September 2017. Three additional trains per hour can now arrive and leave Lime Street each hour.

SHEFFIELD Supertram will issue a new timetable from 28 January 2018 with slightly increased running times through the centre of the city. This is the result of gradually increasing congestion in the heart of the city. Basically the Yellow and Blue routes will operate every 12 minutes throughout the day, every 10 minutes during the peaks, and every 20 minutes from mid evening until the services close. Purple route trams have only minimal alterations to their times.

BLACKPOOL Civil engineers John Sisk have been awarded the contract to build the 550m tram line between North Station and the Coastal Tramway at North Pier. Physical work will commence early in 2018 and the extension will open in April 2019.

ISLE OF MAN The 125th Anniversary celebrations for the Manx Electric Railway will take place on 1-8 September 2018.

TYNE and WEAR METRO Plans for a new Metro:Bus interchange at South Shields are being prepared and construction work could start as soon as Spring 2018.

GLASGOW – EDINBURGH ELECTRIFICATION For the fourth time the introduction of this £795m scheme has been put back because of production delays at Hitachi’s factory. Only about half of the 70 trains required will be available at the December timetable change so the introduction of full emu service on the route has been set back to May 2018.

GLASGOW A ceiling panel fell from the ceiling at the Dundas Street entrance to Queen Street station in mid-morning of 12 October 2017. The panel struck a passenger who required treatment at a nearby Accident Department. The entrance was closed for a few hours with access to the Low Level Station was via the east end only. On the same day the Central Low Level route was closed from mid-morning until 1800 because of a strong small of gas in the tunnel near Dalmarnock.

POLMONT A signalling fault at Polmont during the morning rush hour on 20 October 2017 disrupted commuter service to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Stirling – Edinburgh service was also halted until mid-morning.

CLASS 385 The first run by a class 385 emu between Edinburgh Waverley and Linlithgow was operated on 18 October 2017. The emu had still to have its interior fittings, seats, etc installed.

EDINBURGH The busiest month ever for the new tramway was August 2017 – during the Edinburgh Festival – when over 500,000 passengers were carried. An overnight service was operated on the tramway during the busiest period of the Festival. A new station on the East Coast Main Line at Blindwells, near Prestonpans, has been proposed to serve a new large housing development.

26 September 2017

STRIKE ACTION The RMT Union has announced two 24 hour strikes – on 3 and 5 October 2017 – against four TOCs – Southern, Northern, Merseyrail, and Greater Anglia. In all cases the issue in dispute concerns the role of the driver and the guard. Which official should close the train doors?

ALDERNEY The only operating railway in the Channel Islands is on Alderney where a two mile long trip is possible from a harbour on the northern coast along or the coast towards a lighthouse and Mannez Quarry. The line started as a 60cm gauge construction line for the harbour breakwater and was then used in maintenance work. Relaid as a standard gauge line and built along a new route towards Mannez the railway has had several small diesel locos and one steam loco hauling two London tube coaches. The first coaches were 1938 stock but these suffered rust problems and were replaced by two aluminium bodied 1959 coaches. Trains run during summer weekends.

SOUTHEASTERN A serious accident nearly happened at the Broad Oak Level Crossing near Canterbury on 20 July 2017. The 0953 Margate to St Pancras International ran through the crossing at 70 mph when the crossing barriers were still raised and a motorist passed over the tracks about 12 seconds ahead of the train. The signals showed green for the train although the train was already slowing as the driver had realised the danger. The Crossing was being worked on by a maintenance team and correct procedures for the control of the crossing had not been followed. Sixty eight additional class 377 coaches have been obtained to lengthen the most overcrowded trains mostly from 18 September 2017. On the Maidstone East line there will be more air-conditioned coaches and some peak trains will be doubled in length. On the Hayes, Bexleyheath, Woolwich, Sidcup, Bromley South and Grove Park lines some trains will be increased from eight to ten coaches. The 377s have come from Thameslink where class 700 units in 12 car formations now operate all Bedford – Brighton services.

VOLKS RAILWAY A new ticket office and Heritage Centre has been built and is operating at the Brighton Pier terminus. A new workshop and carriage building is being built at Paston Place. The rolling stock has been taken to Alan Keef Ltd for repairs and upgrading. There has been no service during the summer but it is hoped that the line will reopen in the autumn.

REDHILL The facilities are being expanded to deal with growing passenger numbers and additional trains. A new platform”0” is being built and on 20 September the main structure seemed complete, lamp standards had been erected along about one third of the platform, and construction of a new footbridge with toilet was well under way.

CROYDON TRAMLINK Croydon tram services may become “cashless” with travel paid for by Oyster cards or contactless methods. Ticket machines accepting cash or notes will be discontinued. Only 0.3% of journeys involve the use of ticket machines.

OVERGROUND Electrification of the Gospel Oak – Barking line was not completed during service closures in 2017, there will be a further closure from 17 September 2017 until 22 October 2017, with provision for an extension until 14 January 2018, to complete the work. Overnight trains on Fridays and Saturdays between New Cross Gate and Dalston Jct are planned for December 2017, with an extension to Highbury and Islington in January 2018.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   With a major upgrade to signalling and trains, the Victoria Line can now provide a train every 90 seconds throughout the day – the most frequent Metro service in the world. The Victoria Line working timetable dated 21 May 2017 has timings that are precise to just 5 seconds. Green marks have been painted on the platform at Kings Cross (Victoria) station to indicate the position of doors when the train comes to a stand. A similar idea works well in Japan where platforms are wide enough for a queue to form behind the line but the restricted space of a tube station bunches of commuters block the way for anyone wishing to walk along the platform. An explosion in a package on a District Line train at Parsons Green at 0820 on 15 September 2017 produced a small fireball and 29 passengers were slightly injured.

CROSSRAIL (ELIZABETH LINE). Track laying along the route was officially completed on 14 September 2017 when the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, affixed the final rail clips at Whitechapel.

CROSSRAIL 2 Business leaders have warned that if this £30bn project is delayed like Crossrail 1 costs may rise by up to £18bn.

WEST COAST/ HS2 A fire destroyed a timber yard at Headstone Lane on 15 September 2017. The wall adjacent to the tracks became unstable and the railway was closed for several hours until the wall was made safe. Virgin, London Midland and Caledonian Sleeper services all turned at Milton Keynes Central for several hours. Paul Griffiths became Managing Director for HS2 from the beginning of September 2017 having been Programme Director for Metro with Centro. When he was in post Midland Metro won three major awards as Operator of the Year, Manufacturer of the Year, and Project of the Year. He had earlier positions with Manchester Metrolink

CAMBRIDGE Dissatisfaction with the operation of the busway towards St Ives has lead to calls for its conversion to a light rail line.

SHEFFIELD A tram:train intended for the Rotherham service provided free trips across the city tram system on 17 September 2017. Starting at 1013 from Meadowhall terminus it ran to Middlewood, back to Sheffield station and on to Halfway, then back to the station and Malin Bridge before running to Meadowhall then Middlewood before terminating its travels at Cathedral at 1500. Although no fares were charged there were collection boxes to donate to the Sheffield Children’s Hospital. One of the tram trains entered public service on the system on 19 September 2017. Passengers paid normal fares to ride on these services.

LIVERPOOL Construction of the new Maghull North station has begun with opening planned for May 2018. Plans to provide a service to Skelmersdale are being studied. This would involve a new branch from Kirby with two intermediate stations.

MANCHESTER AREA Limited services were restored to the Manchester – Bolton main line on 6 September 2017 following repairs to an over-bridge and cutting that had been damaged by a burst water main. A new wall has been built to shore up the collapsed cutting. The opportunity has been taken to tackle upgrade work on adjacent Moses Gate station in preparation for the electrification of the Manchester – Bolton – Preston line. The last section of the stylish Ordsall Chord Bridge crossing the River Irwell was craned into position during the last weekend of September 2017.

ISLE OF MAN The Manx Electric Railway terminus in Ramsey has been cut back by about 50m and the new terminus features some seats and some neat white fencing. Traffic north of Laxey has been poor this year but between Douglas and Laxey has been very heavy. The horse tram storage building is in poor shape and is for sale. Three horse trams used for the regular service are kept out in the open overnight. The Snaefell line is to remain closed until braking problems have been rectified.

BLACKPOOL The railway between Preston and Blackpool North is to be closed from 11 November 2017 until early January 2018 to allow electrification of the line which will make possible through expresses to London Euston or Birmingham.

TRANSPENNINE / CROSSBORDER Twelve 5-car Civity emus are to be supplied by CAF for the Manchester/Liverpool – Glasgow/Edinburgh service. They will replace class 350 emus that will find new use on other routes. Maintenance will be undertaken at Longsight and Polmadie Depots. CAF will also supply 135 loco hauled coaches for the Liverpool – Leeds – Newcastle route replacing class 185 dmus. There will be an 80% increase in capacity on these routes.

TYNE & WEAR A new Metro and Bus Interchange is planned for the centre of South Shields.

GLASGOW A 3.1 miles long tunnel is being built between the Queens Park area and Shieldhall Waste Water Treatment Works to help prevent flooding in some south-side suburbs. Over two miles have been completed and a 2’0” gauge battery electric railway takes staff and equipment to the boring machine. Following overhead wire damage the Pollokshields East – Cathcart line was closed throughout the day on 19 September 2017. Cathcart Circle trains were cancelled, Newton via Kirkhill services all ran via Maxwell Park, while Neilston trains operated non-stop between Muirend and Glasgow Central having reversed at Cathcart and then taken the Maxwell Park route.

SCOTRAIL Vandals brought down the overhead wires between Easterhouse and Coatbridge on 22 September 2017. A displaced cable shattered the windscreen of a class 334 emu disrupting services for a couple of hours.

EDINBURGH Waverley Station was evacuated for several hours on 17 September 2017 after a fire was discovered at 1050 in an air conditioning unit. It produced a large volume of dense smoke and resulted in a major disruption to services

5 September 2017

CALEDONIAN SLEEPING CARS The first Serco built sleepers has been delivered to the Velim Test Track in the Czech Republic for dynamic testing and will then be transferred before the end of 2017 to Glasgow for further tests. The new sleepers will ender public service during 2018.

RAIL TRAFFIC SHARE Rail services are gradually nibbling away at air’s dominance in traffic handled between Central Scotland and London. Overall between 2005 and 2015 rail has increased its share from 20% to 34%. On the East Coast route rail now carries 37% of the traffic while the West Coast route lags behind at 27%

CROSSRAIL Work started in 2009 on the construction of Crossrail – more recently renamed “The Elizabeth Line” in honour of our extremely long-serving Queen. With 42km of tunnels completed, 10 new stations built, and most of the track laid, the £14.8bn project is nearing completion, on time, and within budget. A great deal of fitting out of the stations, installation of the power supply system and of the signalling remains to be completed but a timetable has been announced for the commencement of services along each section. The first services using the new emus started between Liverpool Street terminus and Shenfield in June 2017. These services were provided by seven car sets measuring 160m in length. Later trains will comprise nine carriages, measuring 200m in length, and providing space for 1500 passengers. The next section to see action will be between Paddington (Main Line platforms) and Heathrow Airport in May 2018. Paddington (Elizabeth Line platforms) to Abbey Wood starts services through the new tunnel under central London in December 2018 to be followed by Paddington (Elizabeth Line) to Shenfield in May 2019. The full service including to Reading will also commence during May 2019.

THAMESLINK The last workings by class 319 emus took place on 3 September 2017.

WATERLOO The reopening on 29 August 2017 of ten platforms, closed for nearly a month for £800,000 of engineering works, was disrupted by signalling faults. Services on the Shepperton, Hampton Court, Chessington South, and Weybridge – Virginia Water routes were replaced by buses and other services were hindered by delays of 10-15 minutes throughout most of the day. The problems continued to 31 August 2017 with services on the above routes cancelled and delays of around ten minutes affecting other services.

EUSTON During the late August bank holiday weekend (26-7 August 2017) sleeper services to/from Scotland were diverted to Kings Cross because Euston was completely closed while a large contingent of engineers undertook major work to prepare the station for HS2 services. The station was cleared of waiting passengers, and arriving trains were held outside the station, while police checked the entire concourse area following a small explosion in a passenger’s bag at 1940 on 29th August 2017. It is thought that a faulty e-cigarette packet had caused the explosion which was not linked to terrorist activity.

LONDON UNDERGROUND Night Tube services on the Piccadilly line were disrupted during the first weekend of September 2017 because of lack of staff to operate the trains. There were gaps of as long as 50 minutes between services.

WEST MIDLANDS The go-ahead for an extension of Midland Metro from Grand Central (New Street Station) was announced on 01 September 2017. Funded by a Department of Transport grant and cash from the West Midlands Combined Authority the just over one mile route will operate up an extremely steep grade to the Town Hall Square, then across Centenary Square and into Hagley Road. The line will operate through the Five Ways junction before reaching the terminus further along Hagley Road. The extension will serve the Entertainment District and then an area with many offices. Trams will operate from batteries and there will be no overhead wires along this extension. Visible signs of a start to work on the extension was seen during the first few days of September 2017. First the golden statues of the three founders of the Industrial Revolution, and then Anthony Gormley’s often criticised “Iron Man” statue were removed to make way for the tramway. They will be placed in new positions in a year from now. Midland Metro traffic rose by a third during 2016. Public use of the stairs and elevator from the Wolverhampton end of the Grand Central platform to street level close to St Chad’s Cathedral commenced on 29 August 2017.

MANCHESTER AREA Crumpsall Metrolink stop is to be rebuilt to provide an easier transfer between the Bury and future Trafford Park lines. There will be a clear foot crossing over the tracks and wider platforms to accommodate a larger number of passengers. A water main near Moses Gate station on the Manchester – Bolton main line burst on 24 August 2017 damaging the adjacent cutting and the road above the fractured main. Debris fell across the tracks and a large hole appeared in the road. A reduced rail service to Preston ran via Wigan and the railway through Moses Gate was likely to remain closed for at least four weeks with buses substituting for the trains.. The adjacent road would be closed for at least six weeks. A transport interchange next to Bolton station, costing £48m, was completed during July 2017 and opened on 3 September 2017.

LIVERPOOL Major engineering work took place at Lime Street Station in order to increase its capacity with an additional three trains per hour arriving and leaving the terminus. An additional platform was being built and two existing platforms lengthened. During the period 30 September 2017 until 22 October 2017 services from Manchester Piccadilly, London Euston, Birmingham, Newcastle and Crewe terminated at Liverpool South Parkway and passengers continued into Liverpool city centre using the Merseyrail services at South Parkway. Platform 4 at South Parkway was lengthened in advance of the work at Lime Street so that Pendolino trains could arrive and leave from there. Services from Warrington Central terminated at Hunts Cross for onward connections by Merseyrail.. Tickets showing a destination “Liverpool all stations” were accepted on Merseyrail trains but tickets indicating “London Midland only” were not accepted and passengers had to obtain a new ticket for the Merseyrail leg of the journey. Trains from Manchester Victoria, Preston, and Wigan terminated at St Helens Central or Junction for onward connections by bus.

ISLE OF MAN Snaefell tram No 2 suffered a brake failure on 6 August 2017 and ran away from Summit station with several passengers on board. It ran, apparently out of control through the Bungalow stop and over the Mountain Road level crossing before being brought to a halt. The passengers were thrown about but none sustained a significant injury. An 8 mph speed limit (instead of 12 mph) was imposed by the Isle of Man Health and Safety Work Inspectorate but after some trams were found to be ignoring the new limit all services were suspended on 10 August 2017.
The suspension is to continue until the railway can demonstrate that it can ensure that the speed limit will be obeyed by all services.

GLASGOW In a racial attack, an Asian man was pushed off Anniesland station platform on to the tracks at 1815 on 27 August 2017. Once he was pulled back on to the platform he was attacked again by a group of three people. One person was arrested by the police. A major signalling failure between Glasgow Central and Cardonald disrupted the morning rush hour on 31 August 2017. A reduced service was run from Gourock, Wemyss Bay, and Ayr with services on the Largs branch replaced by buses. On 31 August 2017 the 1343 Virgin Pendolino service from London Euston to Glasgow Central ran at slow speed into a herd of cows that had wandered on to the track near Uddingston. The train came to a halt briefly before proceeding to its destination. The cows were not badly injured. A lorry crashed into an over-bridge near Bishopton at 1230 on 1st Sept 2017 and rail services were suspended until engineers declared the bridge safe to use. The “TS Queen Mary” has found a long-term berth on the Clyde outside the Glasgow Science Centre on the south bank of the river more or less opposite the Exhibition Centre and Exhibition Centre Station..

EDINBURGH RAILWAYS In preparation for the arrival of the new East Coast Azuma trains platforms 5 and 6 (east end) and 11 (west end) at Waverley station are being lengthened. Redundant buildings on platform 11 are being removed.

EDINBURGH TRAMS On 29 August 2017 the City Council was told that the 4.6km extension from York Place along Leith Walk to Ocean Terminal and Newhaven would take 18 months to complete and traffic along Leith Walk would be disrupted for most of that time. The York Place stop would be replaced by a new “Picardy Place” stop with an adjacent bus interchange and shopping centre. The plans were referred to a special meeting of the “Transport and Environment Committee” and then considered by the entire Council in late September or early October 2017. Construction work could commence in the autumn of 2018.

22 August 2017

CAF The train manufacturer’s planned factory on the site of Llanwern Steelworks near Newport, South Wales, will have the capability of assembling dmus, emus, trams, and high-speed trains.

BUSSY BEAR National Express have created a life size model of a bear in bus driver uniform and positioned it at Bearwood, in Birmingham. The city has been sprinkled first by dozens of model owls and owlets, and more recently bears and bear cubs (there is a full-size bear in the ticket hall of this writer’s home station – Sutton Coldfield). These earlier ventures have raised large suns for the city’s Children’s Hospital but Bussy Bear simply advertises the local bus network.

BRIGHTON Volk’s Electric Railway is to open for a short season on 14 October 2017 following the completion of works to create a new workshop and car storage area.

EGHAM Commuters bound for Waterloo on the morning of 10 August 2017 were delayed by at least 30 minutes after an adult swan waddled on to the track near Egham and took at least half an hour to be persuaded to move off the tracks.

WATERLOO The £800m upgrade project is now well under way but work was disrupted at around 0540 on 15 August 2017 when a departing emu struck an engineering wagon and became derailed. Complex pointwork was damaged and all services to and from the station were halted. It took until the morning of 17 August 2017 for normal services to be resumed.

OVERGROUND The Secretary of State for Transport has given TfL powers to extend the Gospel Oak to Barking line by 4.5km to a station at Barking Riverside, in the heart of a new development of 10,000 homes. £172m of the total cost of £263m will be provided by the developers.

NIGHT TUBE Services through Friday and Saturday nights have operated on five TfL lines for a year. Eight million passengers have been carried (15% more than expected) and the West End has become full of life as venues stay open through the small hours.

WALTON-ON-THE-NAZE The branch line to this elegant resort was opened on 17 May 1867 and delayed celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the opening took place on Saturday 12 August 2017. The newest steam locomotive on Britain’s railways – “Tornado” hauled a special service “The Walton Pier Express” along the branch to Walton and then spent much of the day operating special shuttles to and from Colchester.

CHESHUNT A fifteen year old boy suffered severe electrical burns at an incident at Wharf Road level crossing at 1725 on 7 August 2017.

MANCHESTER – NEW RAILWAY The final two bridge sections to carry the tracks of the new Ordsall Chord were craned into place on 6 and 14 August 2017.

GLOSSOP LINE Most of the former LNER route into Manchester via the Woodhead Tunnel has long been closed but the suburban service to Glossop and Hadfield survives. A recent journey showed that ghosts of the past are everywhere. Former four-track sections in the inner suburbs are down to two but old overhead wire masts etc remain in place as shrubbery occupies the space left by the abandoned track. Further out double track has become single and a former yard receiving the many coal trains coming from the Yorkshire coal field is totally occupied by young trees. There are some newer passenger stations and one of these, Flowery Field, is regularly the busiest intermediate stop, followed by Guide Bridge with its large and busy car park. Glossop is overall the major source of traffic and significant numbers still travel between there and Hadfield.

MANCHESTER METROLINK Traffic on the Ashton branch is building up steadily with the Ashton terminus by far the busiest stop. The formerly very quiet inner stops are gradually attracting business and new housing is being built at several points along the branch.

BLACKPOOL Because of the Live Wire Festival on the Tower Headland on 25-27 August 2017, and again due to the Illuminations Switch-On on 01 September 2017 the Promenade is to be closed from 1300 on these days bus services will be diverted away from the promenade and the tram line will be split into two sections from 1500 – Starr Gate to Tower and North Pier to Fleetwood. A parade featuring three illuminated trams will be operated from Pleasure Beach on 26 October 2017.

SHEFFIELD The Supertram system carried 12.6m passengers during 2016-7 a rise of 9% on the previous period.

WINDERMERE Future services along the branch will be operated by Northern class 319 bi-mode units so the Department of Transport decision not to electrify the line will not prevent the operation of through services from Manchester Airport.

CARLISLE Network Rail is refurbishing the massive station roof at a cost of £14.5m. The glass panels will be replaced by panels made from ethylene tetrafluoroethylene. The same panels have been fitted at Birmingham New Street and Manchester Victoria.

EDINBURGH TRAMS A decision on plans to extend the line to Leith and Newhaven will be taken during the autumn of 2018 once a further detailed business case has been arranged. Tramway operations have notched up a profit of a quarter of a million pounds two years earlier than expected. Passenger satisfaction is running at a remarkable 99% in recent studies. Patronage during 2016 rose 10% over 2015 to reach 5.6m and fare income rose 12%. Two cases are before the courts with cyclists suing for damages following accidents when their wheels were caught by the tram tracks causing the cyclists to fall.

5 August 2017

LEAF FALL TIMETABLES The introduction of less frequent timetables on local services in some cities is a source of irritation to users who do not realise the benefits from them. When leaves fall on the rails a train can slip when the brakes are applied and in extreme cases can glide right through a station before stopping. On a frequent service such as Birmingham’s Cross City Line drivers tackle sections with significant gradients with considerable caution and as a result run late if the normal timetable applies. This is important south of the city where local trains share tracks with long distance passenger and freight services. The solution in Birmingham is to reduce the service from 6 trains per hour to 4 partly by running some trains express through inner suburban stations, and partly through cancelling some trains. The remaining services are lengthened using the stock freed up by the cancellations ensuring that the same number of seats per hour are provided. A few minutes are added to the running time to allow for cautious driving on steep sections such as down Gravelly Hill. The overall effect is the near perfect operation of the service avoiding delays to long distance services.

NEW STATIONS The Department of Transport announced on 31 July 2017 that five new stations are to be built by March 2020 funded Departmental and local funds. The stations are Bow Street, on the Aberystwyth line just south of the original station closed on 14 June 1965, giving park and ride facilities for the university and resort town. Reading Green Park will be on the Basingstoke line close to Junction 11 on the M4, the Madejski Stadium, and growing housing areas. Horden Peterlee will be on the Durham Coast Line where Horden station closed on 4 May 1964. It will serve several former mining communities plus the new town of Peterlee. Warrington West will be on the Cheshire Lines route close to the Omega Development site and growing housing areas. Services at nearby Sankey for Penketh station will be cut to peak hours only. Portway Parkway station will be on the Severn Beach line north of Bristol beside Junction 18 on the M5 Motorway where there is a long established Park and Ride site for 500 cars served by local bus routes.

TRAM SAFETY A tram safety body has been proposed to supervise safety measures on Britain’s growing tramway/light railway networks. Following the serious accident in Croydon when a tram crashed off the track because it entered a sharp curve at excessive speed, there are suggestions that some form of automatic braking should be installed to prevent any similar incident.

POST OFFICE RAILWAY The Post Office Museum opened to the public as planned on 26 July 2017 but the section of the narrow gauge underground railway that will give visitors a ride through part of the tunnels did not start operations until 4 September 2017.

WATERLOO Travellers have been warned of significant delays to services using Waterloo Station during the last three weeks of August 2017. Ten of the nineteen platforms will be out of use so that they can be lengthened to accommodate longer trains. Compensation payments will not be made to delayed travellers throughout this period. It is hoped that many regular passengers will be on holiday during this period while others will work from home.

ELIZABETH LINE Track laying is now virtually complete – the last sections to be laid are at Whitechapel and the work will be completed by late summer 2017. The fitting of the overhead power wires has begun in the Connaught Tunnel and the work will continue westwards. Platform construction has been completed except for a small bit of work still required at Whitechapel. The installation of lighting, and the platform screens/doors has now begun.

WEST COAST No services were to operate into Euston Station on the August Bank Holiday – 26 and 27 August 2017. Limited services will run as far as Hemel Hempstead on the 26th, and Milton Keynes Central on the 27th. Replacement buses operated from these railheads to and from Stanmore LUL station where passengers will have to continue their journey on the Jubilee Line.

CROSS CITY LINE Services were disrupted from early afternoon on 01 August 2017 following damage to the overhead wires near Erdington. A coach shuttle ran from laid Sutton Coldfield to Lichfield but passengers between New Street and Sutton Coldfield had to use local buses that started on the far side of the city centre.

CHASE LINE Electrification work continues on the Walsall – Rugeley line across Cannock Chase with rail services cancelled north of Tame Bridge Parkway through Walsall on 13-21 August 2017, and from north of Walsall on 22-28 August.

ROTHERHAM Work to bring a tram:train service from the centre of Sheffield to Rotherham is at last making good progress. Masts have been erected along the route from where it leaves the Meadowhall tram route along a BR freight line to beyond Rotherham Central Station (though not through the actual station. The over-bridge just north of Central Station is being rebuilt. So far no power wire has been put in place.

TYNE & WEAR METRO As part of the major modernisation scheme the bridge taking Metro over Killingworth Road is being replaced in a £5.5m project. The Metro was closed between South Gosforth and Four Lane Ends between 31 July and 11 August 2017 while the old span was removed and a new span slid into position. Services would not be restored to normal until 03 September 2017. The wrought iron parapet from the old bridge has been donated to the Stephenson Railway Museum.

EDINBURGH – GLASGOW The upgrade to this route whereby express services between Scotland’s two largest cities will take just 42 minutes instead of 52 minutes employing eight coach trains instead of the present six is being delayed by a year from December 2018 to December 2019. The main reason for the delay is the need to extend platforms at Glasgow Queen Street Station. This work is taking longer than expected to complete.

28 July 2017

PRIORITIES Days after the Dept. of Transport scrapped plans to electrify the route between Cardiff and Swansea and the Midland Main Line north of Kettering to Nottingham backing was announced for Crossrail 2 which will be in tunnel between Tottenham Hale and Wimbledon and cost 30bn. The Mayors of Manchester and Liverpool were quick to complain about the London orientated priorities.

BUSIEST TRAINS The most overloaded train in the UK is the 0716 from East Grinstead to London Bridge. Southern’s twelve coach train has seats for 640 people but the regular load has grown to about 1366. Comparable degrees of overcrowding are found on a number of other Southern services and significant numbers forced to stand can be seen on services around Manchester, Leeds, and Cardiff. Recent observations in Leeds showed that during the evening peak four car emus destined for Skipton or Ilkley were likely to be packed by standing passengers along the full length of the train. Four coach dmus for the Harrogate line were just as packed.

HS1 A consortium that includes the South Korea National Pension Service has purchased the 30 year concession to manage HS1.

BRIGHTON In January 1975 a plan was announced for a light railway/tramway between Brighton Station, the waterfront, and the Marina. The cost was estimated at £10m. How much would it cost today?

CANTERBURY A serious fault developed in the operation of the level crossing at Broad Oak on 29 June 2017. The driver of an emu approaching the crossing noticed that cars were on the crossing and that the half barriers were still raised allowing vehicles to cross. A collision was missed by 12 seconds. The crossing was closed to road traffic while an investigation into what went wrong was undertaken.

REDHILL The station is the latest to have a platform “0” following an enlargement of the station to meet growing traffic needs.

WATERLOO A major signalling failure on the tracks leading to Waterloo complicated by a points failure at Byfleet halted services during the morning rush hour on 24 July 2017, while later delays of around 45 minutes continued to disrupt services.

ELIZABETH LINE Work on creating the new cross-London route is running on schedule. The re-construction of Abbey Wood Station will be completed at the end of October 2017 and a new larger ticket hall will be reached on the level from the street. Lifts will then take passengers down to the platforms providing step-free access from street to the trains. From December 2018 trains will run through from Abbey Wood under the heart of London to Paddington then on the Reading and Heathrow.

NOTTINGHAM The Nottingham tramway network (NET) continues to build up traffic. During 2015-6 (April to end of March) 12m passengers were carried. The year 2016-7 saw this total rise to 16.5m.

BIRMINGHAM Improvements to Cross City Line stations following observations made by London Midland’s “Line Champions” include the creation of 42 car park spaces at Redditch where it was thought that there was no more space, the fitting of seats on the Birmingham platform at Wylde Green, and of extra information screens along the B-end bridge in New Street Station.

WEST MIDLANDS A new communication system “Transreport” has been developed by London Midland. Passengers reporting a train defect using their mobile phone, cannot usually identify the exact coach but “Transreport” can do so enabling repair teams to intercept the train at its next terminus and often enabling the correction of a defect there and then instead of having to wait until the whole unit can be seen at the Soho Depot that evening – or perhaps several evenings later.

CLASS 323 Faced by a significant number of failures in the 26 class 323 emus used in the West Midlands, London Midland engineers have developed programmes to replace the equipment most likely to fail during routine maintenance visits to Soho Depot. One emu is dealt with in the Depot most evenings meaning that each unit is seen at about monthly intervals. Over the past year 1900 relays have been replaced by more reliable versions. Some relays, considered less likely to fail have not yet been replaced but when funds permit this will be tackled. WiFi equipment and CCTV cameras have been fitted to all 26 units. The cameras are of high quality and are acceptable to Courts where there is a prosecution. New electric windscreen wipers are now being trialed since the existing equipment is at significant risk of failure. A failed wiper means that the unit is a “failure” and cannot enter service. Batteries in the complex door opening/closure equipment are a weakness and have been replaced with an improved version. Train cleaning has been reorganised so that the cleaning staff have a clearer plan to follow. “Feet on Seats” is a problem that will be tacked shortly by the imposition of a Penalty Fare on any passenger offending in this way. Finally, the external paintwork is now graffiti resistant and paint sprayed on to a train simply falls off.

HAMILTON CENTRAL This very busy station has become a gathering place for the local youth and both passenger and staff have been harassed. Scotrail has installed a “Mosquito” noise emitting device making a high pitch sound that is heard by mainly young people. The Children’s Commissioner has objected pointing out that most young people using the station do not cause trouble but sometimes find the noise irritating or even painful.

20 July 2017

HS1 The two Canadian Pension Fund owners of loss-making 68 mile long HS1 have sold the railway and the stations served by it to UK and overseas investors. HICL Infrastructure of London has bought 35% as has Fund Manager Equitix. 30% has been obtained by The National Pension Service of the Republic of Korea. The sale includes the company’s £3bn of debt.

HS2 Contracts to build the London – Birmingham section line were being issued on 17 July 2017. The routes to be taken by the Manchester and Leeds sections have been confirmed and will involve the demolition of sixteen recently built houses in Mexborough near Sheffield. HS2 has been described as the most expensive railway in the world at £403m per mile. Bidders were obliged to form consortia with other major engineering firms so that the combined bidders would have a wide range of experience. Brief details of the consortia awarded contracts are as follows:-
1. Euston Station approach tracks and tunnels and on to the Northolt Tunnels Skanska, Costain, and Strabag. Totals cost £1.84bn.
2. Chiltern Tunnels to Colne Valley Viaduct and Little Missenden. Bouygues, Volker, McAlpine. £965m
3. North Portal of Chiltern Tunnels to Long Itchington Carillion, Eiffage and Kier. £1.34bn.
4. Long Itchington – Delta Junction – Birmingham and north to the WCML junction Balfour Beatty and Vinci. £2.47bn.

FUTURE ELECTRIFICATION PLANS The Department for Transport has cancelled plans to electrify the Midland Main Line north of Kettering, the Great Western line between Cardiff and Swansea and the branch off the West Coast Main Line between Oxenholme and Windermere. It will rely on the use of bi-mode vehicles to run trains over these sections. The cost of electrification work has escalated at such a rate that it is now considered unaffordable.

CAF The tram and train builder is to construct a new factory at the Celtic Business Park which is on the site of the former Llanwern steelworks. It should be opened during the autumn of 2018.

SOUTHERN TOC FINED The Southern train operating company has been fined £13.4m by the Department of Transport because of its poor performance. It is bottom of the league as far as train cancellations and late running are concerned. The fine could have been higher but the Department took into consideration that much of the failings were due to action by the Trade Unions.

PADDINGTON A fire involving electrical equipment at 1930 on 12 July 2017 produced a large volume of dense smoke and resulted in the station being closed and all passengers having to leave the station until 2230. Suburban trains turned at various stations short of Paddington while long distance services turned at Reading. Services did not get back to normal until the next morning.

CROSSRAIL (ELIZABETH LINE). Transport for London is planning to enhance services on the line when services along the entire line start in December 2019. During off-peak hours services between Paddington and Whitechapel will operate 20 times per hour (up from a planned 16) with 24 services per hour during the peaks. Services from Reading will be increased from 2 to 4 per hour and from Maidenhead there will now be 6 per hour instead of 4. Off-peak an extra 2 trains per hour will run between Paddington and Shenfield and also from Paddington to Abbey Wood. The services will be provided by an emu fleet of nine walk-through cars, 200m long, Services to Heathrow will be served six times per hour with a study under way to see if it is possible to add a further two per hour to Terminal 5. Four additional emus have been ordered to operate the increased services.

WOLVERTON The historic workshop buildings are being demolished to make way for a smaller railway works and other industrial units.

MIDLAND METRO The tram:bus interchange at The Crescent stop provides a replacement service for tram passengers wishing to travel beyond Priestfield to Wolverhampton. The route 97 buses (Wolverhampton – West Bromwich) operate along Wellington Road close to the tram route. Passengers from Birmingham must leave the tram at The Crescent, cross the track to the “to Birmingham” platform and then climb up 23 steps (or use a long gently sloping step-free path) to reach Wellington Road. The bus stops for each direction are adjacent. There are numerous signs to direct passengers but no staff at the tram or bus stops. The Route 97 buses seemed to be very lightly loaded for a route that runs every 4 – 7 minutes throughout the day. However it appears that the local traffic between the Bilston area and Wolverhampton has been lost and there will need to a major effort to regain it once normal tram services are resumed.

WALSALL New mast foundations are being prepared in the station area and the existing overhead wires will be replaced as part of the electrification of the Rugeley platforms and the route north over Cannock Chase.

MANCHESTER METROLINK The contract to build the 3.4 mile long extension to Trafford Park has been awarded to the MTP Consortium which comprises Laing O’Rourke, VolkerRail, and Thales. MTP has been involved in the construction of the earlier extensions to Media City, Ashton, East Didsbury, and Rochdale. When completed Metrolink will extend for 64 route miles and serve 99 stations. Operation of the system was transferred on 15 July 2017 to KAM – KeolisAmey Metrolink – which has been awarded a ten year contract.

STOCKPORT The nearly £1m project to resurface all the platforms is expected to be completed by the end of August 2017.

TYNE & WEAR METRO The section between South Gosforth and Four Lane Ends will be closed from 31 July 2017 until 11 August 2017 and then the closure will be extended to Shiremoor until 2 September 2017. This is to allow track replacement, the strengthening of embankments, and replacing the Killingworth Road over-bridge at South Gosforth.

GLASGOW SUBWAY As part of the modernisation of the line Strathclyde Partnership for Transport has approved the expenditure of £4m to upgrade the substations at Shields Road and Bridge Street stations.

10 July 2017

ELECTRIC MUSEUM This unique museum near Coventry having a collection of electric locomotives and units is to close after its open day on 08 October 2017. Steps are being taken to safeguard the exhibits while a new site for the Museum is found.

ALSTOM The company opened a major train modernisation plant at Halebank in Widnes on 29.6.2017. The first task scheduled for the new facility is the repainting of the fifty six class 390 Pendolino West Coast trains.

THAMESLINK The Department for Transport has still to decide which TOC will operate which routes across London via the upgraded Thameslink line. There could be several TOCs operating alongside each other along this vital section, but Govia has announced its plans to greatly improve Thameslink services by introducing new through routes between suburbs south and east of London and communities north of the capital. 140 stations south east of London would have direct services to St Pancras International via Blackfriars compared with 80 in the present timetable. With a train every 2-3 minutes there would be 80% more peak period seats helping to relieve overcrowding on the Piccadilly, Victoria and Northern Lines. The timetable in May 2018 will be simplified taking into account the doubling of passenger numbers during the past 12 years. There would be an interchange with the future Crossrail (Elizabeth Line) at Farringdon and a major increase in calls at London Bridge. The new direct routes running across the city include Cambridge – Brighton; Horsham – Peterborough; Cambridge – Maidstone East; Luton – Medway Towns; Littlehampton – Bedford; and East Grinstead – Bedford. Faster seamless journeys will transform travel across the area. Examples include Cambridge – Gatwick Airport 20% faster; Greenwich – Luton Airport 37% faster. Examples of improved frequencies include Hertford Loop six trains per hour compared with the present three; The train length between Cambridge and Kings Lynn would be doubled. With the introduction of new trains the 40 year old class 313 emus will be retired.

CROSSRAIL There has been a major delay in the rebuilding of stations west of the new tunnel under Central London. The lengthening of platforms to hold the new trains and the provision of better offices etc at Acton, West Ealing, Hayes & Harlington, Southall, and Ealing Broadway due to be completed by January 2018 will not now be ready until mid 2019. The new trains will be able to operate services from summer 2018 but the necessary longer platforms will not be there. From December 2019 it is planned that there will be six trains per hour operating to Heathrow Airport, of which two per hour will run to/from Terminal 5.

LONDON UNDERGROUND LUL have produced a new system route map showing which sections of line and stations are underground. The sections of route are highlighted with a grey shadow following the sections of route involved. This is designed to help passengers who suffer from claustrophobia or anxiety who might be distressed of they found that they were confined to an all-enclosing tunnel.

LONDON OVERGROUND Following the success of Night-Tube services on parts of the London Underground at weekends, similar overnight services are to be introduced on the East London Line section of the Overground network on Friday and Saturday nights from a date in December 2017. The precise start date has not yet been announced.

MIDLAND METRO Services were disrupted on 04 July 2017 when a tree brought down the overhead wires on the to-Birmingham track near Soho. Shuttles were worked between Priestfield and Handsworth, and Handsworth and Snow Hill. The shuttles connected poorly with each other and large groups of passengers stood on platforms sometimes being directed across the tracks to the opposite platform before a tram arrived for them. Travel beyond Priestfield to Wolverhampton was made difficult by the closure of the on-street section for six months to allow track replacement.

BIRMINGHAM Plans for the Curzon Street station building as part of the HS2 project have been approved by Birmingham City Council. The building, built in 1838 as the terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway, will have on the ground floor a Visitor Centre. Birmingham City University will have offices on the first floor while History England will occupy the second floor.

SHEFFIELD The cost of the tram:train project has risen by over 400% from £15. to £75m as a result of many delays, and changes to the plans. The operation of tram over BR metals to Rotherham is now expected to commence during the summer of 2018 – two years later than originally planned.

GLASGOW SUBWAY Work to upgrade Sheilds Road and Bridge Street stations starts in July and August respectively. Planning is underway on the design of upgrades to Cowcaddens, Kinning Park, St Georges Cross and West Street to complete the modernisation plan.

HAMILTON CENTRAL This busy station near Glasgow has for long been a trouble spot due to the activities of local gangs that damage the fabric and threaten passengers. The ticket office had to be closed on a recent evening but the Transport Police have indicated that they can do nothing since most of the trouble makers are under age.

BREICH This station on the Shotts line may be closed when electrification of the line happens during the coming year. The station serves an old mining area but the mines are long gone, a few stone quarries have also closed, and the one regular commuter to Edinburgh has retired. The population in the area has fallen to 300.

28 June 2017

EAST COAST WOES The franchise to run long distance express services along the ECML should be the cream of all the franchises but three consecutive operators have hit trouble. GNER withdrew because its parent company, Sea Containers, were in financial difficulties. The National Express handed the franchise back after only a couple of years. Now Stagecoach and Virgin Train East Coast are losing money and are trying to renegotiate the terms of the franchise.

PRIORITIES Network Rail has numerous upgrade projects – so numerous that it is impossible for no more than a few to be given priority over the others. The three projects at the top of the list are HS2, HS3 and Crossrail 2.

VOLK’S RAILWAY UPGRADES A new building at Aquarium Station was craned into position on 15 June 2017. This includes a new Visitor Centre and small café, and is part of a £1.65m Heritage Lottery funded series of improvements. Other improvements in the scheme are the complete restoration of three original coaches and the provision of a new conservation workshop on the site of the former train sheds which had become uneconomic to repair suffering from serious wet rot and corrosion to steel supports.

SOUTHERN Drivers have been offered salaries of up to £75,000 in a final attempt to resolve the dispute concerning DOO operation together with altered duties for the train guard. On 20 June 2017 the track on the Brighton Main Line at Preston Park in the Brighton suburbs became distorted due to the extreme (34’C) heat. In contrast heavy rain flooded the tracks at East Grinstead on 27 June 2017 and the power had to be turned off at 2130. The electricity was able to be switched on again in time for the next day’s morning rush hour.

SOUTHEASTERN FRANCHISE Four consortia are shortlisted for the next franchise period.
1. London and South East Passenger Rail Services (Govia Ltd).
2. South Eastern Railways Ltd (Abeillio with East Japan Rly and Mitsui & Co.)
3. Stagecoach South Eastern Trains Ltd.
4. Trenitalia UK Ltd.

SOUTH WEST TRAINS First Group and MTR have signed the order for 90 new trains made from 750 coaches in 5 or 10 car formations that will boost peak hour capacity by 46% on the Reading, Windsor, and Inner Suburban services. Meanwhile SWT are closing the train doors 45 seconds ahead of the booked departure time to see if this will improve punctuality.

LONDON UNDERGROUND In an effort to improve the air quality at its stations on sections of route that are totally underground, 50 stations are to receive a deep clean using industrial vacuums and magnetic wands. Five tunnel sections are to be cleaned during the same period. The level of pollution in the air at many stations is to be closely monitored. The most polluted lines are the Victoria, the Circle and the Piccadilly lines.

CROSSRAIL Deliveries of new class 345 trains to Ilford Depot are now happening at a rate of one train per week. The new emus being delivered for service on Crossrail/Elizabeth Line will not have yellow ends. These are the first trains to be without a yellow visibility panel since the end of the steam era. The new trains have brilliant headlights that make them very visible from a great distance making the yellow panels redundant.

CROSSRAIL 2  Plans for the route have been reviewed and the proposed station at Kings Road Chelsea has been axed. The preferred route options are via Wood Green and Tooting Broadway so the suggested stations at Turnpike Lane and Balham have been dropped.

LUTON AIRPORT A new 1.4 mile long light rail link is to replace the bus shuttle from Luton Airport Parkway Station. Increasing road congestion is causing delays to the shuttle and traffic using the Airport is building up significantly.

WEST COAST FRANCHISE Three consortia have been shortlisted to operate the franchise for Intercity services on the West Coast Main Line plus high-speed services between Euston and Birmingham. The three groups are –
1. First Trenitalia West Coast (This group including Italian Rlys runs the c2c franchise).
2. MTR West Coast Partnership. (comprises Hong Kong MTR with Chinese Rlys).
3. West Coast Partnership (Stagecoach, Virgin Holdings, and SNCF).

MAJOR FIRE A fire on the night of 13/14 June 2017 in the 24 storey Grenfell Tower close to Latimer Road LUL station caused a major loss of life and disruption to road traffic in the North Kensington locality. The Circle Line / Hammersmith and City Line service between Wood Lane and Edgware Road was discontinued on 14 June 2017 while fire and rescue teams worked at the scene and has remained closed since the integrity of the Tower is in doubt and might fall due to vibration caused by the trains. Services were restored on 25 June 2017.

POST OFFICE MUSEUM The section of the former Post Office Railway that is to form part of the Museum carried Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, when she opened the museum formally on 13 June 2017. The museum opens to the public on 28 July 2017.

CROXLEY LINK The long planned diversion of the Metropolitan Line’s Watford branch to Watford Junction has been delayed for some years as the cost for the work has risen steadily. Transport for London has rejected suggestions that they fill the gap and have indicated that the extra money would have to come from Central Government sources. Further delays seem inevitable.

FLYING SCOUSEMAN This is the name chosen by public vote for Pendolino 390148 and unveiled in a ceremony on 12 June 2017 to celebrate twenty years of service by Virgin West Coast.

MIDLAND METRO The West Midlands Combined Authority has submitted a £200m expansion plan to the Department of Transport. The largest project is the 7 mile long extension from Wednesbury to Dudley, Merry Hill and Brierley Hill.

MANCHESTER METROLINK The completed Second City Crossing line is working smoothly and services has been rearranged so that seven of the eight routes now cross the city centre getting commuters right into the heart of the city. The only exception is route F – the Airport line which terminates at Deansgate-Castlefield at which there are frequent onward connections to both Piccadilly and Victoria. Exchange Square is the only intermediate stop along the Second City Crossing, is quite near the Victoria end of the route, and is beside an entrance to the Arndale Shopping Centre. Oldham route services whether terminating at Shaw (route H) or Rochdale (route G) all run via the new Second Crossing. Although named officially “Shaw and Crompton”, this stop is shown as simply “Shaw” on tram destination screens. Some new housing is appearing close to the line on the city centre side of Oldham but long expected new shops (including a large M&S store) in the Mumps area have not progressed. The multi-storey car park at Hollinwood, little used a year ago, is now more or less full each weekday. The massive Hartford Mill building at Chadderton, Oldham, has deteriorated very badly with parts of the roof gone and with trees growing through holes. Most window frames are missing. It cannot survive much longer and its demolition will mark the end of an industrial era. However it is a Grade Two listed building and will have to be delisted before it can be demolished. The local council want to build some 370 new homes on the site.

MANCHESTER BR Access to or from most platforms is now via a line of new ticket gates that are activated by the insertion of a valid ticket. Staff are on duty to assist any passengers who get into difficulties.

NEXUS (TYNE & WEAR) The Government has provided an additional £23m, bringing the total grant to £95m, which will allow the major refurbishment work to include renewal of the track bed between Tynemouth and Gateshead. A new train washer costing £800,000 is being obtained.

EDINBURGH TRAMS The City Council has voted to proceed with the construction of the planned three mile long extension from the city centre to Leith and on to Newhaven. The cost has been put at a surprisingly low level of £144.7m and profits from the city-owned bus network may be used to fund the tram extension. First there will be a further study to check how much work has already been done and how much actually remains to do.

15 June 2017

ROYAL TRAVEL HM the Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh travelled on a new GWR class 800 unit (800003) from Slough to Paddington on 13 June 2017, the 175th anniversary of the first railway journey by a UK monarch. The 1842 journey took Queen Victoria between the same stations in a train driven by Daniel Gooch assisted by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Accompanying the Royal couple on the 2017 journey were Gillian White and Isambard Thomas, direct descendants of Gooch and Brunel. Upon arrival at Paddington the Queen formally named the city end coach of the train “Queen Elizabeth 11”. The coach at the other end of the train carries the name “Queen Victoria”.

VOLK’S RAILWAY UPGRADES A new building for Aquarium Station was craned into position on 15 June 2017. This includes a new Visitor Centre and small café and is part of a £1.65m Heritage Lottery funded series of improvements. Other improvements in the scheme are the complete restoration of three original coaches and the provision of a new conservation workshop on the site of the former train sheds which had become uneconomic to repair suffering from serious wet rot and corrosion to steel supports.

STORM A powerful storm swept across the inner southern suburbs of London on 6 June 2017 bringing down trees across railway tracks and roads. Among services disrupted were the Central Line routes to Ealing Broadway and West Ruislip. Southern tracks near Brockley were similarly shut for much of the day.

CROSSRAIL The introduction of the first batch of new class 345 emus to operate between Liverpool Street Station and Shenfield has been delayed until at least late June 2017. The multiple checking of the new trains has taken longer than expected.

PADDINGTON – MAIDENHEAD Class 387 emus have commenced use on this suburban service along the GWR main line.

MAJOR FIRE A fire on the night of 13/14 June 2017 in a 24 storey tower block close to Latimer Road LUL station caused a major loss of life and disruption to road traffic in the North Kensington locality. The Circle Line and Hammersmith and City Line services between Hammersmith and Edgware Road was discontinued on 14 June 2017 while fire and rescue teams worked at the scene.

LONDON BRIDGE The third terrorist attack in recent weeks took place on the bridge at 2158 on 3 June 2017 when a van was driven deliberately into pedestrians. The three occupants then started to knife anyone within their reach. London Bridge LUL station was closed on 4 June 2017 only but the adjacent Borough Market was closed until 14 June 2017 while the Police undertook a detailed search of the entire area. Services at the main British Railways station were similarly halted on 5 June 2017. Nearby Southwark Cathedral was closed to all visitors until the morning of 11 June 2017.

MAIL RAIL The section of the former Post Office Railway that is to open to the public as a museum with a ride on part of the railway is to open to the public on 28 July 2017.

CAMBRIDGE NORTH The new station cost £50m to build and serves the close-by Science Park as well as the northern part of the city. There is a 450 space car park and space for 1000 cycles (reflecting a near unique feature of daily life in Cambridge) and local bus services have been altered. Guided Bus route N and citi 2 routes now serve the new station.

WEST MIDLANDS Two children received severe burns when they were climbing up the supports for the 25kV power wires near Wednesbury on 01 June 2017.

MIDLAND METRO The planned closure of the street running section between Priestfield, The Royal and Wolverhampton St Georges took effect on 11 June 2017. The closure will last for around six months while the track is relaid and the road itself is reconstructed. Because there is no easy way for passengers to transfer to replacement buses at Priestfield – a long walk would be required – a replacement bus service is provided by a regular route, strengthened to handle the increased volume of traffic, at The Crescent stop. The buses run to Wolverhampton Bus Station where additional staff have been made available to give information and to sell tickets.

NOTTINGHAM Tram 235 was derailed in Old Market Square at 1530 on 27 May 2017 and services were disrupted until near the end of that day. An improved entrance to the Queens Medical Centre from the tram stop will be opened later this summer.

SHEFFIELD A special scheme has been organised between Supertram and RSPCA Sheffield whereby passengers can book a regular parking place at the large Woodbourn Road car park and obtain a 50% reduction on the cost of six or twelve monthly Megarider scratch cards with the substantial sum saved going to RSPCA Sheffield. These special car parking and travel tickets can be obtained only from the RSPCA Animal Centre at 2 Stadium Way.

MANCHESTER TRAMS Free tram travel was provided for the massive crowds that gathered for a special concert at Old Trafford Stadium in memory of the 22 concert goers killed after Ariana Grande’s concert on 22 May 2017. Tram 3022 (chosen because of the date – 22nd – of the terrorist attack and the number killed) has been given a special livery and renamed “Spirit of Manchester” to mark the city’s stand against terrorism. Meanwhile Victoria station was reopened to normal heavy and light rail services on 30 May 2017 after repairs to its roof had been completed. However the adjacent Arena has remained closed while repairs and new security measures are installed. Several planned concerts have been moved to Old Trafford Stadium while others have been postponed or cancelled. A man was killed at the Victoria Station tram stop on the evening of 11 June 2017 when there was an argument between waiting passengers and the man was pushed into a moving tram ending up between the tram and the platform edge. A woman has been charged with murder.

GLASGOW AREA The overhead wires were seriously damaged near Cardonald on the morning of 07 June 2017 and services from the Ayrshire Coast and Greenock had to turn back at Paisley Gilmour Street. A bus shuttle was laid on to replace the trains between Gilmour Street and the city centre but serious delays resulted.

GRANGEMOUTH The freight only branch which serves several major petrochemical plants is being electrified. Masts have been erected along the double track line but there are no plans to reintroduce a passenger service since the station is poorly placed at the edge of the town.

EDINBURGH – GLASGOW The start of emu services along the main line through Falkirk High have been delayed yet again and is now expected to commence during October 2017.

31 May 2017

FAREWELL “BRADSHAW” George Bradshaw’s railway timetable was an invaluable guide to the general public from its introduction in 1839 until its demise in 1961. Thereafter various publishers issued a replacement all-in-one timetable book and during the past couple of years there has been a slim “Abbreviated Rail Times” volume showing main and rural lines only with an associated large volume giving full details of suburban etc services. Because most of the information is now available on-line sales of the large volume have collapsed and the new timetable introduced on 21 May 2017 was the Abbreviated volume only. The large volume was the nearest thing to the “Bradshaw” of old, which is therefore now extinct.

EUROSTAR SERVICES Eurostar hope to introduce two return services daily between London and Amsterdam before the end of 2017 taking just under four hours for each trip. Using the new e320 trains they will take on the low cost airlines with challenging fares. Between London and Brussels the e320 trains will be introduced from 28 May 2017 with fares as low as £25 single. They have run on the Paris route since 2015.

STRIKE THREAT The RMT Union plans to hold strikes against three companies on Tuesday 30 May 2017 – Southern, Arriva Rail North, and Merseyrail. In each case the dispute concerns the introduction of Driver Only Operation. In view of the disaster near Manchester Victoria on 22 May 2017 the strike action has been called off.

SOUTHEASTERN This TOC increased its fares by 3.4% (or 10p – whichever is the greater) from 21 May 2017.

SOUTHERN The timetable introduced from 21 May 2017 includes the cancellation of all services after 0005 from Sundays to Thursday, allegedly to allow track maintenance. No replacement buses have been provided and the cancellations are to be reviewed at the end of 2017.

HYTHE Blue Funnel Cruises took over management of the Southampton Ferry, the 640m long Pier at Hythe, and the Pier Railway from 21 April 2017. A newer boat to operate the half-hourly ferry service will be obtained at an early date and the Pier Railway is safe for the immediate future. The staff of the ferry and Pier had been given redundancy notices in October 2016.

CROSSRAIL (ELIZABETH LINE). The new Class 345 emus have been undergoing an intense programme of testing prior to entering service on the local service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield – a service that will be diverted through the Crossrail Tunnel when it opens for public services.

DOCKLANDS LUL wishes to obtain a new fleet of trains for the Docklands Light Railway but it cannot find suitable stock among the standard models marketed by the train manufacturing firms. Docklands requires trains that can operate round very sharp curves and traverse very steep gradients.

VICTORIA LINE The new timetable provides a train every 100 seconds – 36 trains per hour – providing spaces for an additional 1000 passengers per hour. The reconstruction of Victoria LUL station is making good progress with the North Ticket Hall opened in January 2017 and with the South Ticket Hall likely to be finished in early 2018.

CAMBRIDGE NORTH The new station was opened on 21 May 2017. Two Great Northern services call, one is the Cambridge – Kings Cross stopping service extended each way to and from Cambridge North while the other service to call is the Cambridge – Kings Cross non-stop service which is extended to Cambridge North and Ely each way (thus giving Ely a half hourly service to London). The Cambridge to Norwich Greater Anglia service also stops and an hourly service from Liverpool Street has been extended from Cambridge to Cambridge North. Ironically because of different stopping patterns it is not possible at the moment to travel from Cambridge North to the next station at Waterbeach! Services between Kings Cross and the Lynn Line are being worked by refurbished Class 387 emus.

MIDLAND MAIN LINE This key route was closed for over two hours in both directions during the morning peak on 30 May 2017 because of a signalling failure between Luton and Harpenden.

ELECTRIC RAILWAY MUSEUM The museum, situated just outside the eastern suburbs of Coventry, is under threat from Coventry City Council. Planners wish to improve the road network in the area and propose building a massive roundabout on the Museum’s land. There is no alternative place for the unique collection of locomotives and other rolling stock which face the prospect of being scrapped.

ASTON BOMB A 180kg unexploded World War 2 German bomb was discovered during building works in Aston, on the north side of Birmingham, at around 10 am on 15 May 2017. A 500m exclusion zone was declared at 1130 and this resulted in the closure of the A38M road – the Aston Expressway – the Cross City Line North, and the Walsall route as far as Perry Barr. The bomb lay under part of the Expressway and very close to the railway. Several hundred homes and numerous small manufacturing units were evacuated. Walsall was still able to be reached via the fast Soho route. No substitute buses were provided except between Sutton Coldfield station and Lichfield and the result was total chaos along the corridor between Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield. The bomb proved to be difficult to handle and it took until 1530 on 16 May 2017 to blow up the bomb which had been encased in sand. The closed roads reopened around 1600 but the Cross City Line North remained closed until the morning of 17 May 2017.

ISLE OF MAN Fire broke out under the leading end of tram 22 during the afternoon of 29 May 2017. Fourteen people were on board as the tram travelled from Laxey towards Ballaglass Glen. The fire was put out using on-board fire extinguishers and the tram free-wheeled to Cornaa where the passengers transferred to tram 23 that had arrived from Ramsey. Horse tram services resumed at the beginning of June 2017 following the recovery from illness of the horses.

MANCHESTER METROLINK The entire tram network had to be shut down during the afternoon of 14 May 2017 because a failure in the control system. Staff at the Control Centre could no longer see each tram as it moved around the system so trams could in theory sustain a collision. The problem was caused by a computer hitch which was put right before the start of services on Monday 15 May 2017. This problem was not connected to the world-wide computer hacking incident which affected computers in upwards of 150 countries on the same day.

MANCHESTER BOMB At 10.30 pm on 22 May 2017 a suicide bomber exploded his device amid the crowd leaving a concert by Ariana Grande in Manchester Arena – a venue that forms a part of the rebuilt Victoria Station. The singer attracts young women and girls and among the 22 who died immediately were a 14 year old from the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, and a young couple from Poland. Fifty nine concert goers were badly injured and a further two dozen had less severe injuries. Public transport around Manchester was significantly disrupted but most heavy rail trains that were due to call at Victoria were diverted to Piccadilly or Oxford Road stations. Metrolink tram services were cancelled and could not run through Victoria Station from 23 May until 28 May. Detailed Police searches were carried out at the station for two suspected bombs left by the killer but when these were found at a bomb factory some distance away services at Victoria were able to resume. Bury services had been turned at Queens Road, Rochdale line trams at Monsall, East Didsbury trams at Piccadilly, Eccles services ran as far as Cornbrook, while Airport services turned at Firswood, Additional car parks were opened at Etihad and Old Trafford Stadiums. As a reaction to the incident the Government announced that troops and/or armed police would be employed at all major transport hubs in the UK and on 24 and 25 May pairs of armed police officers were highly visible in the concourse of Birmingham New Street station. A one minute Silence held across the country at 11.00 am on 25 May, was followed by a large proportion of the public.

TYNE & WEAR METRO Work to complete the £350m modernisation project is nearing a half-way point. During the coming months 13 km of track bed will be renewed and new track laid – mostly along the Coastal section.

17 May 2017

SOUTH  WESTERN  FRANCHISE  The right to operate services on this franchise from August 2017 has been won by a joint bid by First Group and MTR.     A new fleet of class 707 emus for suburban services will be funded by Angel Trains and will arrive by 2020  while the class 442 trains will be remodelled for use on the Portsmouth route.    The existing relatively modern trains used on suburban services – some expensively modernised – are likely to be returned to Porterbrook which may have no further use for them.

WEST COAST PARTNERSHIP  Virgin, Stagecoach and SNCF are joining forces to make a bid for the West Coast Partnership franchise that will commence on 1 April 2019. It will be responsible for services on both the West Coast Main Line and designing and running the services on HS2 from 2026.

SOUTHERN   Services on the Brighton Main Line were disrupted during the morning rush hour on 1 May 2017 which fortunately was a public holiday so traffic levels were lower than normal.   A tamper machine broke down while on the Up main line between Gatwick and Earlswood.

CROYDON    Passengers have expressed concern that on at least four occasions drivers have fallen asleep while in charge on an in-service tram.    The accident that resulted in several deaths when a tram overturned on a sharp bend was caused by the driver “losing awareness” while driving.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   SNC-Lavalin has been contracted to design the layout of 952 tube coaches to improve the accessibility for disabled passengers including those with poor eyesight and thus prolong the useful live of the stock.   The entire fleets on the Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City lines are involved. There will be wheelchair and pram spaces, improved lighting, and passenger operated emergency alarms.

ELIZABETH  LINE  (CROSSRAIL)   Crossrail has been renamed “Elizabeth Line” in honour of the Queen who has reigned longer than any other British monarch.     Class 345 emus have been designed to operate services on this east – west line running right across central London.   The trains are built by Bombardier at their Derby Works.   Seven car formations will run between Liverpool Street and Shenfield in May 2017.  The trains are restricted to seven cars because Liverpool Street’s platforms cannot hold longer trains.    Nine-car trains will run between Paddington and Heathrow Airport (Terminal 4) a year later replacing the half-hourly Heathrow Connect service.    By late 2019 sixty six nine-car 345s will be in use – each coach having three double doors per side to speed loading.   The entire train will have an open layout with passengers able to see and walk along the full length of the train.   Once fully open the Elizabeth Line will have 24 trains per hour each way.

CROXLEY LINK  The several times delayed project to divert the Metropolitan Line service into Watford Junction station now faces a £50m finance shortfall.  The London Mayor is to ask the Department of Transport for help.

WEST  MIDLANDS    The new Combined Authority (WMCA) has published its transport development plans including proposals to extend the Metro and introduce new heavy rail suburban services to Walsall with new stations at Willenhall and Tame Bridge, and along the Camp Hill Line with the construction of the Camp Hill Chords allowing local services from Tamworth and the Camp Hill Line to reach Moor Street Station.    Electrification of the Walsall – Rugeley Trent Valley line is progressing and normal services will be replaced by buses between Tame Bridge Parkway and Rugeley TV on most weekends in May and June and all Sundays in July and August 2017.  A person fell from the platform at Tile Hill during the morning of 4 May 2017 and was killed.  The police halted all services until around noon causing chaos to travellers but Chiltern accepted Virgin tickets on their services from Moor Street station.   Some London – Scotland via Birmingham trains were diverted via the Trent Valley Main Line.

SCOTRAIL  OVERCROWDING   Four of the ten most overcrowded trains operated by Scotrail are worked by emus.   Many of the other services operate on the East Kilbride branch which may be electrified during the next decade.   Two peak morning trains from Neilston to Glasgow Central have a load factor of around 130%.  A longer class 380 unit is to replace the present unit on one of the trains from early 2018 and class 385 trains will operate both trains from late 2018.

GLASGOW   AREA     Late on 24th April 2017 a commercial vehicle struck a bridge carrying the Gourock Line between Bogston and Cartsdyke stations.   Services were not restored until the evening of the 25th.

WEMYSS  BAY   A statue of a little boy en route to a holiday in Rothesay is to be unveiled at noon on 13 May 2017 by John Yellowlees, formerly spokesman for First Scotrail.   The statue matches a statue of a little girl outside Gourock station (for the ferry to Dunoon).

22 April 2017

WATERLOO   More information is available about the £800m upgrade to London’s Waterloo Station – Britain’s busiest station.    There will be a 30% increase in passenger numbers once the work is completed.   Platforms 1-9 will be closed during the period 5 – 28 August 2017 so that they can be lengthened to handle longer trains.     During the August Bank Holiday Weekend (25 – 28 August) platforms 10 – 14 will also be closed.     During this period the number of trains that can be handled at Waterloo will be significantly reduced and some inner suburban stations will be closed altogether including the Chessington South branch.  At some other stations there will be fewer calls  than usual and large crowds are expected using each of the peak time calls that remain.   However  platforms 20 – 24 (the former International platforms) will be reopened and by December 2018 be remodelled to handle outer-suburban trains including the Reading route.   A problem is the access to the ex-International platforms which necessitates the use of a separate lower level concourse where there were formerly Customs facilities etc.   In future, access to platforms 20-24 will be via an extended main concourse.    Thirty new emus comprising 150 coaches will be added to the fleet from April 2018  and some commuter trains will be lengthened as early as December 2017.    Inevitably Waterloo station will have civil engineering work going on all the time with work under way 24 hours a day, every day.

CROSSRAIL   Deliveries of class 345 emus that will operate services on the new cross-London link are progressing with some units at Derby Litchurch Lane where they are undergoing testing.  Other units are at Old Dalby where they are undergoing commissioning work.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   The last District Line D Stock trains built by Metro Cammell in Birmingham in 1980 were withdrawn by mid April 2017. All services on the District, Circle, Hammersmith & City, and Metropolitan Lines are now worked by the same stock – the new S Stock.

EUSTON   A lineside cable fire on the afternoon of 19 April 2017 near South Hampstead station resulted in the failure of signalling equipment over several miles of route and cut the electricity supply to Euston station.    Euston station had to be evacuated and power was not restored until late that day.    Train services did not return to normal until late in the afternoon of the 20th.

CAMBRIDGE   The new Cambridge North station will open during May 2017 and will be served initially by one stopping service and one fast service each hour giving a direct link to Kings Cross.

DIDCOT  In preparation for the introduction of frequent fast services to London Paddington a six level car park to hold 1800 vehicles is nearing completion.

NORTHAMPTON    Northampton station building has been replaced by a massive black two levels structure featuring extensive areas of tinted windows.    Steps lead up from the street at the east end of the building and via stairs/escalators/ lift from the north side close to the taxi rank and two level busy car park.   The lower level of the building is mainly a circulating area while the upper level includes a concourse, ticket office, toilets, Starbucks café, and separate seating area.   Access to the platforms is through a line of ticket gates,  then along a bridge over the tracks with lifts and stairs down to the actual platforms.

LONG  BUCKBY  The station (between Northampton and Rugby) is somewhat to the west of the village but much of the grassy space between railway and village has been built over slightly north of the station by a large new housing estate.    Immediately east of  the station new approach roads and car parking spaces are being built.

WEST  MIDLANDS     Work to extend 25kV AC electrification down the Lickey Bank to Bromsgrove is making excellent progress with masts for the overhead wires in place in mid-April 2017 along part of the route beyond Barnt Green.

DERBY   The industrial site on the east side of the Birmingham line south of Derby station and on which stood the remains of a Boeing San Francisco tram has now been totally cleared and the remains of the tram have been removed and scrapped.    Two Boeing trams were brought to Britain to see if they could operate on the new Manchester tramways to relieve peak hour overcrowding but they were found to be unsuitable.

NOTTINGHAM    Planning has begun for the possible extension of the Toton Lane route to the future HS2 station and East Midlands Airport     The Broadmarsh Shopping Centre and Bus Station are being enlarged and will be served by a new tram stop a little north of the Nottingham Station stop.    South of the Station stop and on the Toton Lane route improvements are being made at the Queens Medical Centre stop to make it easier to reach the hospital from the trams.

SHEFFIELD   Steady progress is being made in the work to complete the link between the Supertram route at Tinsley, just north of the Meadowhall Shopping Centre, and the single track  freight line onwards to Rotherham Central and the Parkgate Shopping Centre.  The double track junction at Tinsley was completed during early April 2017 and most of the sharply curving track forming the link line was in place by the 20th April.   The link starts as double track but half way along its length  becomes single track before curving sharply to join the BR freight line.  Cathedral to Rotherham trams will run every twenty minutes.    The platform at Rotherham is being extended and modified so that it will be able to be used by normal British Railways trains and also by the tram-trains which require a lower level platform.   Testing of the seven Citylink tram-trains is now being undertaken during daytime hours.

TYNE  AND  WEAR  METRO    Approval has been given for the building of Gallowgate House, a massive tower block above St James Metro Station.    Although this residential building will contribute significant traffic to the Metro it will also prevent the Metro being extended west from St James since the massive foundations will block the route of any extension.

GLASGOW  AREA   The station forecourt and public space to the north at Lenzie station on the Glasgow – Edinburgh main line are being opened up and enlarged in an effort to attract more passengers.    For a while there were moves to close Lenzie station and replace it by a new station near new housing a mile to the east.

8 April 2017

SOUTH  WESTERN   South West Trains has lost the franchise to operate the routes from Waterloo station to a consortium including First Group and the Hong Kong Metro.   They had run the services for 20 years.   Tains will be speeded up on several routes saving fourteen minutes to Weymouth, nine minutes to Bournemouth, and ten minutes to Exeter.   There will be twenty nine additioonal weekday services between Portsmouth & Southsea and Southampton Central, and thirty five extras each weekday between Portsmouth & Southsea and Waterloo.   To operate the additional Portsmouth – London services the recently retired class 442 emu will be returned to service – a move that is likely to be popular with the travellers.

VOLKS  RAILWAY    Following the receipt of a £1.65m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund  £2m rebuild of the historic Volk’s Railway in Brighton has got under way.   Station buildings and the car shed will be replaced together with much of the track and rolling stock.

CROYDON  TRAMLINK   Notices have appeared on board trams and at many stops to assure passengers that following the Sandilands disaster measures have been taken to introduce speed restrictions at various points across the system.   Passengers anxious about the situation are invited to call 0303 222 1234 when they will be able to discuss the matter.     To enable track replacement work no trams were to operate between Reeves Corner and East Croydon Station – i.e. across Croydon town centre – during the period 8 – 17 April 2017.

LONDON UNDERGROUND    South Kensington Station may be made much more accessible if the buildings above and around the present entrances are rebuilt.   Plans for the possible redevelopment of the site were  announced on 29 March 2017.
The RMT and ASLEF Unions called off a threatened strike from 09 April 2017 over a decision by LUL to prevent drivers employed to operate the new night services from changing to day-time work until they had completed eighteen months of night-time work.  This restriction has been cancelled and time will show how willing the night-time staff are willing to remain on night-time duties.

POST  OFFICE  MUSEUM   This is to open during July and includes a ride on a section of the Post Office Railway.    Actual date and entry prices are still to be decided.

CAMBRIDGE    The 450 space car park at the new Cambridge North station has been completed during February 2017 – three months ahead of schedule.

EAST  COAST   Sunday 23rd April 2017 is a special day on the East Coast Main Line.    Four iconic trains from four generations will operate side by side along the four-track main line for six miles between Tollerton Junction (close to the site of Tollerton station) into York station.    The four trains will be a Class A3 steam locomotive 60103 “Flying Scotsman” built in 1923 hauling coaches;  A high-speed train which transformed long-distance services 1978;    A Virgin East Coast service powered by a class 91 electric locomotive introduced in 1989;    A brand new Azuma class 800 train due to be introduced to ECML services in the near future.   Engineering work on the ECML north of York has closed the line for the day making it possible to operate these special services.

GREAT  WESTERN    The overhead power cables between Hayes & Harlington and Maidenhead went “live” on 28 March 2017.

MIDLAND  METRO  Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is to take the Midland Metro into public ownership and will then be able to re-invest any profits into the expansion of the network rather than distributing funds to shareholders.    A man was murdered on the Grand Central direction platform of the Soho Benson Road stop on 31 March 2017 at about 1630.    The stop was closed by the police who arrived soon after, trams running through the stop slowly.    A large police team was still searching through adjacent shrubbery on 03 April.   The stop reopened on 04 April 2017.

WALSALL      A factory that will produce 600,000 concrete sleepers each year – 60% of the national requirement – is to be built on the site of unused sidings at Bescot, near Walsall.   The remaining 40% of required sleepers are being produced in a plant at Doncaster.

LIVERPOOL    The upgrade work is continuing at Liverpool Central but the installation of lifts has been postponed because of a lack of finance to pay for them.    Trains crews on the Merseyrail and Northern TOCs withdrew their labour on 8 April 2017 creating difficulties for the large crowds travelling to the Grand National race meeting at Aintree.    A non-stop shuttle service between Moorfields and Aintree was however possible.     The on-going dispute over “One Man Operation” of the trains and the role of the guard was behind the strike.

MANCHESTER  Work to provide two additional substations on Metrolink at Brooklands and Whitefield started on 29 March 2017.   This will enable additional trams to be in service during peak periods.

BLACKPOOL   The tramway has attracted a record number of passengers since the system was modernised in 2012 reaching a total of 5 million during 2016, rising steadily from a low point of 4.1 million in 2014     The modernisation in 2012 cost £101m and involved the relaying of the track, the provision of a new depot, and the purchase of sixteen Flexity 2 trams.    Two further trams are being obtained in preparation for the opening of a branch to Blackpool North station.

TYNE & WEAR  METRO  Control of the system returned to Nexus on 01 April 2017 after DB Regio’s seven year contract to operate the lines came to an end.

GLASGOW   There have been several proposals to rename Exhibition Centre station on the Glasgow Central Low Level line following the opening nearby of the Clyde Auditorium Concert Hall (known also as the Armadillo).   The station was called  Stobcross until it closed in 1959.    The then secretary of ERS was the sole user of the station for several years during the 1950s.    It reopened twenty years later as Finnieston and became Exhibition Centre in 1986.      It has been decided not to change the name again.
The side of a deep cutting near Lambhill Station collapsed after heavy rains on 4 April 2017.    The Queen Street High Level – Anniesland locals were cancelled and the West Highland Line services were turned at Crianlarich.   Bus services were provided to replace the trains.     Repairs to the cutting were expected to take until at least 12 April 2017.

27 March 2017

TO  WIRE  OR  NOT  TO  WIRE.    The suggestion that most of the UK railway network be electrified at 25kV AC is questioned following recent advances in battery technology.   Quieter branch lines may now be able to be served by clean battery powered trains with overhead wires used along main lines only.

CAPACITY  FOR  COMMUTERS    The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling stated on 13 March 2017 that he believed that first class on London commuter routes should be abolished to create more space for standard class travellers.   On the South Eastern TOC services around 35% of peak hour commuters have to stand while first class compartments are not totally full.    He also commented that trains should be longer (12 coaches instead of 8) and that services should operate more frequently.     He made no suggestion as to how these changes might be financed.  The infrastructure would require substantial changes to accommodate longer trains and a considerable number of additional coaches would be needed.     The South Eastern franchise is soon to change and the comments might be seen as a broad hint to a new TOC.   The Department of Transport is undertaking a consultation into how South Eastern services might be improved with the next franchise.   New high-capacity “metro-style” stock might be introduced, first class discontinued so that all available space might be used effectively, and an integrated operating team might be set up to ensure co-ordination between Network Rail and the new TOC.     The new TOC would be expected to maximise funding for improvements from private sector sources to ensure that improvements were not delayed purely because of a lack of funds.  New routes might be introduced such as a fast frequent orbital route using the Ashford – Tonbridge line.   A key improvement would be significantly faster services between Hastings and the City – at present it takes around two hours for a 65 mile trip.      Hastings, Bexhill and Rye might benefit from additional High-Speed services.

1300  EXTRA  TRAINS   As the traffic boom continues (1.73bn journeys in 2016) planners say that an additional 1300 trains will have to be added by 2021.  When the Elizabeth Line opens in 2019 there will be 805 new trains along the route.    In Scotland there will be a fifth route between Glasgow and Edinburgh serving Cumbernauld and new stopping services between Aberdeen and Glasgow/Edinburgh supplementing the limited stop expresses.

HS2 CONTRACTS    The issue of contracts for the civil engineering work for HS2 between London and the West Midlands, worth £8.6bn, has been delayed from April to June 2017.

VIVARAIL    Successful test are under way with a second train.   Earlier trials ended when the train caught fire due to a fuel leak allowing fuel to drip on to hot equipment.    The second train is testing battery powered equipment.

CROYDON   Transport for London has admitted liability for the tram disaster at Sandilands when tram 2551 was derailed on a very sharp curve travelling at 46 mph when the top speed allowed was 12 mph.   Seven people died and 51 were injured.

LONDON UNDERGROUND  The cost of the Metropolitan Line extension to Watford Junction has now risen to £284m and an additional £50m has been requested from the Government.     LUL has announced more details of the Bakerloo Line extension from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham.   The line would include two stations along the Old Kent Road, one at New Cross Gate for interchange with the Overground,  and finally at Lewisham to connect with various South Eastern lines.   Future extensions over heavy rail lines would be possible later.  The extension will trigger considerable housing developments with 25,000 new homes already planned near the new stations.    LUL would give a 2 – 3 minutes  peak service carrying 65,000 commuters each rush hour.   Westminster Station closed abruptly on  the afternoon of 22 March 2017 following a terrorist attack in adjacent Parliament Square.

WEST  MIDLANDS  The Metro carried 5m passengers during 2015 and is expected to have been used by 7m during 2017.     The extension from Bull Street to Grand Central and New Street Station has been strikingly successful.

LIVERPOOL   £340m is to be invested during the next three years to upgrade the city’s railways to allow longer trains and create space for an additional three trains per hour at Lime Street station. Network Rail will provide £229m and the City of Liverpool £111m.    The completion of work to lay slab track along the city centre Loop for Wirral services and perhaps the upgrade of the Halton Curve will also be included.     However there is a growing problem at Central Station where overcrowding at the below ground platform is becoming more severe.   The building of an additional underground platform or perhaps a totally new below ground station may have become essential by the mid 2020s. Stadler and BAM Nuttall are to build a new depot at Kirkdale to accommodate the new emu fleet that will enter service by 2021.   The new trains are expected to have a service life of 35 years.    The Depot at Birkenhead North will receive a new train washing machine so that a train cleaning facility will exist on both sides of the Mersey.

MANCHESTER   Transport for Greater Manchester (TGM) has submitted a proposal to the Department of Transport  for TGM to take over control of 94 local stations in the Manchester area allowing TGM to carry out major improvements including much better lighting, better access roads and paths, and generally making the stations much more attractive to potential users.

EAST  COAST    Work to extend the platforms at Stevenage station to accommodate the new Azuma trains starts on 20 March 2017.    Similar work has already begun at Northallerton and Durham stations.

12 March 2017

STORM  DORIS    Winds of up to 100 mph swept across Ireland before causing devastation in North Wales, Cumbria and more widely across the North Midlands, Northern England, and East Anglia.     Fallen trees brought down overhead wires in many areas or simply blocked the tracks.     The Ely – Kings Lynn line and the route from Liverpool Street to Cambridge were shut on 23 February 2017 while the Fenchurch Street – Shoeburyness route continued to operate but with a severe speed restriction.  The East Coast Main Line, the Midland Main Line to Sheffield and the South Western main line also ran with a speed restriction but fared better than the West Coast Route which remained closed for most of the 23rd February.   No services were able to enter or depart from Euston station for much of the day.   The Gatwick Express service was cut to half-hourly while the Stansted Express was cancelled altogether.    In the West Midlands a wall beside the railway was severely damaged by the wind and was in danger of collapsing across the tracks in the Cradley Heath area.   The northern part of the Cross-City Line was shut on 23 February by a fallen tree near Erdington.

CLASS  442    The last scheduled run by a train composed of this elderly but still very popular stock was the 1757 from London Bridge to Brighton on 10 March 2017..

COMMUTER  MATTERS     How long is a typical commuter prepared to travel on their daily journey to/from work?     A poll has shown that London commuters are prepared to travel for 74 minutes without complaint.    On some routes a 90 minute travel time is regarded as reasonable if it allows the family to grow up in the pleasant countryside or seaside.    Men appear to be prepared for longer times than women.     In provincial cities commute time of over 30 minutes are less common and the typical Manchester commuter feels that anything over 23 minutes is too long.

HS2    The Bill allowing the construction of the London – Birmingham section of HS2 passed all Parliamentary stages and received the Royal Assent on 23 February 2017.   This means that construction work can start without further permission.

EAST  COAST  MAIN  LINE    Services between Retford and Newark were disrupted after severe damage was caused to the overhead power wires on 8 March 2017.    Trains between Doncaster and Grantham were delayed by at least two hours while some were cancelled.     A crash on the parallel A1 highway significantly delayed replacement buses between Grantham and Doncaster.    The platforms at Northallerton are being lengthened by around 20m to accommodate the new Hitachi Azuma trains that will enter service during 2018.

MANCHESTER   The first timetabled regular passenger services will use the new Ordsall Chord line from the start of the new timetable in December 2017.   A medium-term plan to improve transport links around the city sees plans for a metro service in tunnel between Piccadilly and Victoria station – a plan reminiscent of the Picc-Vic plans of the 1970s.

LIVERPOOL   Services to/from Lime Street Station were halted on 1st March 2017 when part of the wall alongside the deep cutting leading to the station collapsed depositing rubble across all four tracks.   The location was close to Edge Hill station.    Some longer distance services turned instead at Runcorn from where a bus shuttle operated to Lime Street.    Some more local services were cancelled altogether or turned at Liverpool South Parkway from where frequent Merseyrail emu services run across the city centre through Central station.   Repairs were completed a little sooner than expected and the route through to Lime Street reopened at 1800 on 07 March 2017.

BLACKPOOL    The trams are getting steadily busier.   During the year 2014-5 the trams carried 4.1m passengers.   In 2016-7 the total had risen to 5m.

GLASGOW   Eversholt Rail has confirmed that the £6m upgrade to the twenty two class 320 emu sets will be undertaken at the Springburn Works of Knorr-Brense Railservice

EGIP  ELECTRIFICATION   If all goes smoothly the Glasgow – Falkirk – Edinburgh scheme will be completed in time for the timetable change in May 2017.     The use of class 385 four-car emus from the autumn of 2017 will mean that peak services will have 8 cars instead of the present six resulting in a significant boost to capacity.    Certain platforms at Queen Street High Level station have still to be lengthened to accommodate the eight car trains.   Electrification of the lines north to Stirling, Dunblane, and Alloa will commence after the Glasgow – Edinburgh work has been completed.

EDINBURGH   Damage to the overhead wires near Haymarket station caused significant delays to trains carrying thousands of fans travelling to Murrayfield Stadium for the Scotland v Wales rugby union match.    Most managed to arrive before the start of the match which was won by the home team.   The returning crowds were therefore in good spirits and filled trains to Glasgow and Fife for the rest of the evening.     Overcrowding has become a major problem on the North Berwick service on which services have been formed by a four-car class 380 emu.   Peak trains are now being formed by two three-car units but because some platforms are too short for a six car train selective door opening has been employed so that the doors not alongside a platform will remain closed.

23 February 2017

FUTURE  AIMS    A study designed to identify improvements in the operation of the UK railway network has indicated a desire to operate trains closer together and for trains to be timed to the second rather than loosely to the minute.    This would necessitate the resignalling of much of the system at enormous cost.

CROYDON  TRAMLINK   Four additional trams are to be ordered in order to boost the service between Croydon and Wimbledon from 8 to 12 services per hour.    The trams have become an increasingly popular way to travel between these large communities.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   Plans have been published for the redevelopment of the area around North Greenwich station.    The existing entrance and surface buildings would be swept away and three 30 storey towers would be built on the site.    A new entrance to the LUL station would be created nearby.
Plans have been issued for the planned extension of the Bakerloo Line from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham.   Two possible sites for a station on the Old Kent Road form part of the proposals.

MIDLANDS  METRO      Light Rail Route 1 between Wolverhampton St George’s and Birmingham city centre is now operated by TWM (Transport for West Midlands), replacing Centro.   The Midlands Metro Alliance launched in July 2016 a £1.35bn ten year expansion plan involving nine partners.   A third generation of trams is seen as being required by the early 2030s.     The Midlands Metro tram fleet is to be fitted with lithium-ion batteries that will weight 1.3 tons and will have a seven year life.   This will allow parts of the planned extensions where they pass through attractive areas to dispense with unsightly poles and overhead wires.    Recharging of the batteries at each terminus will take well under a minute when the batteries are new but a longer time may be needed when they are old.   A second Depot is considered necessary and will be south of Hill Top Tunnel so that if the tunnel is closed there will be a source of trams on both sides of the tunnel.
Four extensions  are planned.   In Wolverhampton the  existing route will be diverted just short of the St George’s terminus to run via the Bus Station to the railway station that will be totally rebuilt by 2019.   From Wednesbury a route will run across the Black Country to Brierley Hill following a former railway right of way but using the street through the centre of Dudley instead of a tunnel.   There will be two extensions from central Birmingham.  A branch will operate east from Bull Street in the heart of the city to Curzon Street, (future HS2 terminus), and High Street Deritend (1.7km).  Later this route may reach as far as the Airport.   From Birmingham Grand Central the line will extend up the 9% gradient on Pinfold Street to Centenary Square and Five Ways (1.3 km), and later to Edgbaston.   The Wolverhampton St Georges terminus will be used by a half-hourly shuttle to Dudley town centre using some of the modernised original trams.

COVENTRY  A plan for the redevelopment of the station costing £82.4m has been announced.  There will be a new south side entrance and an extra platform for Nuneaton trains.

SHEFFIELD   The link between the Meadowhall tram route and the BR freight line is advancing well.    The link will lie just under the double deck motorway/A Road bridge that spans the valley near Meadowhall.    The route of the link has been pegged out for some time and some of the track has now been laid although no pointwork has been laid at either end.

MERSEYTRAVEL   Stadler has signed an agreement to supply a new fleet of four-car emus for routes around Liverpool.   Bombardier have raised objections about the selection process.   The new emus will be entirely walk-through, will have the same number of seats as the old sets but much more space for standing passengers. Each train will hold 486 people – an increase of 60% on the present trains.

MANCHESTER    The Second City Crossing of the Metrolink tram system finally opened for public services on 26 February 2017.

GLASGOW   Vandals threw a shopping trolley from an over-bridge on to the tracks near Blairhill station on 13 February 2017 where it was hit by an Airdrie bound train.    Little damage was caused to the train but the police warned that the vandals risked their own lives since the trolley hit the live wires and if they had been broken live wires could have risked the lives of any onlookers.   Part of the roof over platform 1 at Anderston Station became dislodged early on 16 February 2017 and Argyle Line services were halted for several hours until the roof was declared safe.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   To encourage greater use of the Subway special ALL-DAY tickets were made available during half-term week in February 2017.    Smart Cards costing £2.70 adult and £1.35 (6-16 years) allowed unlimited travel all day long.   Passengers could board trains as frequently as they wanted.

ARDROSSAN   The historic ferry link to Brodick on the Isle of Arran from Ardrossan has been threatened by a proposal to divert the ferry link to Troon.   There is a very convenient railway link to/from Glasgow to Ardrossan but no equivalent at Troon where the station is a substantial distance from the ferry jetty.

EDINBURGH     Steps have been taken to get work on the tram extension to Leith and Newhaven underway.    Turner and Townsend have been appointed to manage the £145m project, Atkins will be the Technical Advisers, and Ashurst LLP will be the Legal Advisers.

10 February 2017

CROYDON   TRAMLINK   Track replacement work will result in the closure of the Wimbledon – Mitcham Junction section during the period 11-26 February 2017.

ELIZABETH  LINE   (CROSSRAIL)    Work on construction of this east – west below ground route across central London is now 80% complete and public services will commence in December 2018.    Major work completed by Network Rail over the Christmas 2016 period included the opening of a second ramp at the Stockley Flyover, a dive-under at Acton, and the completion of lengthening a bay platform at Hayes and Harlington.    At Farringdon the inclined roof comprising 100 diamond panels reflecting the adjacent jewellery businesses is nearly complete, as is the roof at Liverpool Street which is made of 109 geometric segments.   At Abbey Wood the new timber roof  has been built and a zinc lining is now being wrapped round the timber beams.   During February  work starts on the installation of platform screen doors at all eight below ground stations.   Building the new fleet of class 345 emus continues at Derby and the first completed train is under way at Ilford Depot.   345s enter public service between Liverpool Street (High Level) and Shenfield in May 2017.   By summer 2017 all track within the tunnels will have been laid allowing testing of the 345s to start along the tunnel sections.    At least 10,000 archaeology items were unearthed during the work charting the history of London from Roman times through the periods of the great plague and the industrial revolution.  500 of the most interesting items are going on display in the Museum of London Docklands.

LUL    The famous Paolizzi Murals at Tottenham Road Station, removed during extensive modernisation work at the station, have been restored to public view.

GOSPEL  OAK – BARKING   With electrification work now completed during an eight month closure period, the line will reopen on 27 February 2017. However further closures will be necessary later in 2017.

SOUTH  WALES   On a journey on 6 February 2017 between Newport and Cardiff electrification masts had been erected or foundations had been prepared with the mast lying beside it.

LEEDS   On 31 January 2017 the 0816 service from Ilkley to Leeds left Burley in Wharfedale station before the guard could get back on board the train.   The service was terminated at the next station, Menston, and morning peak travellers were subject to long delays many not reaching Leeds until after 1000.

ISLE  OF  MAN   The 2017 Heritage Transport Festival will be held on 26 – 30 July with a theme  celebrating the 60th anniversary of the nationalisation of the Manx Electric Rly.   Some trains will feature the green and cream nationalisation livery.

LIVERPOOL  AREA     Merseytravel has awarded the contract to supply 52 four-car emus that will replace all of the existing trains with Stadler of Switzerland.    The existing fleet is forty years old and costs increasingly more and more to maintain.   Stadler had been shortlisted along with Bombardier, CAF, Mitsui, and Siemens.    The trains will have no conductors or guards and all operations will be undertaken by the driver.    Safety measures will include “traffic light” indicators beside the doors to show when it is safe to board or leave a train.  The doors will have sensitive edges to detect if a finger or a tie has been trapped.    In all the new stock programme will cost £460m and will include refurbishment of the Depots at Kirkdale and Birkenhead North.  Bombardier is starting court action complaining about the award to Stadler citing various irregularities in the award process.

TYNE  AND  WEAR  METRO  Nexus plans to spend £35m on modernisation work during 2017.   The track will be relaid between Wallsend and St James  and also from Longbenton to Northumberland Park.   A start will be made on the renewal of 300 km of overhead power line. Passenger responses to plans for a new fleet of trains have shown a preference for longitudinal seating as in London Underground trains leaving lots of space for standees.

AYRSHIRE   Heavy rains on 30-31 January 2017 resulted in flooding of the track just north of Ardrossan and a bus shuttle was laid on between South Beach and Largs although flooding closed many roads so the journey around country lanes etc resulted in a road journey lasting 1½ hours. The railway was able to reopen at around 1600 on the 31st.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   Passengers will soon be able to pay their fares using their mobile phone. Those fitted with the appropriate app will be able to open the entry gates with the phone and the appropriate fare will be taken from their account.

SCOTRAIL   Planned enhancement work includes quadrupling of the ECML between Prestonpans and Drem, the provision of long dynamic loops south of Drem, and the building of a second platform at Dunbar where the town is growing rapidly.    Lines to be electrified include Glasgow – Barrhead – Kilmarnock – Barassie;  Glasgow Queen Street HL – Maryhill – Anniesland.    Some peak trains on the Ayrshire, Inverclyde, and Central LL routes are to be lengthened and platform extensions will be provided at stations along these routes.     Monthly and yearly season ticket holders are to get a week’s free travel as compensation for recent delays and disruptions to services mostly associated with upgrade work.

28 January 2017

FRANCHISE  SOLD    National Express has expressed unhappiness over its operation of the franchise for the lines between London Fenchurch Street to Southend on Sea and Shoeburyness.  Instead of handing the franchise back to the Department of Transport, National Express has sold the remaining part of this franchise to Trenitalia, the Government owned company that is responsible for a majority of trains run in Italy.     National Express has operated many different franchises over the years but has become dissatisfied at the results and this sale means that National Express has now left the rail industry.

HS2  FLEET   The Department of Transport began the process of selecting a company that will design, build, then maintain a fleet of trains that will provide the services along HS2.   Hitachi has expressed an interest in what will be one of the largest contracts ever for trains that will use a brand new railway.    They could build the trains at their Newton Aycliffe factory.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   A new entrance has been opened leading directly into the new North Ticket Hall at Victoria station.  Lancaster Gate station on the Central Line is to be closed from 4 January 2017 until mid July 2017 to allow the replacement of the station’s two fifty year old, 50 passenger capacity lifts. The option of replacing one lift at a time was considered allowing the station to remain open, but at peak hours one lift would have been unable to handle the number of passengers using the station.

SOUTHERN    As talks got under way between the Southern TOC and the Trade Unions over the roles of train drivers and guards, planned strikes were cancelled and Southern announced that a full timetable would be operated from Tuesday 24 January 2017.

DERAILMENT   Several wagons of a 1km long freight train were derailed on the up Nunhead line at Courthill Loop North Junction at 0540 on 24 January 2017.    Services bound for Charing Cross or Cannon Street had to be diverted to Victoria during the morning peak but some lines were reopened later in the day but delays continued for several more days.    A heavy lifting crane had to be brought from Warrington to assist.    There is only one such crane on the network and Warrington is just about in the middle of the country and therefore the best place for the crane to be based.

CLASS 442 EMUS    Some of these popular but elderly and now redundant Wessex Electric units may be obtained by Arriva Trains Wales to be operated on Manchester – Cardiff services.   They would be hauled by class 68 locomotives.

MIDLANDS  METRO   Site clearance along the overgrown route  of the next extension began in mid January 2017.     The extension will run from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill via Dudley mostly alongside an existing freight railway.     LRV 118 has been returned to CAF’s Zaragoza factory to be modified to run on battery power.   When the extension across Victoria Square opens the trams will operate past architecturally sensitive buildings and there will be no unsightly poles and overhead wires.    The trams will move using power from batteries stored in the roof.   These will be recharged from the overhead wires above other sections of the route.   The cost of modifying the entire tram fleet will be £15.5m.    There are four planned extensions parts of which will use battery power saving £9.24m in construction costs.    The four extensions are 1 across Victoria Square (to open May 2018); 2 Wolverhampton city centre (2018); 3 Extension from Victoria Square into Edgbaston (2021); 4link to the HS2 terminus at Curzon Street and onwards to the Eastside (2023).

EAST  COAST  MAIN  LINE   Virgin has completed the £40m scheme to upgrade all 410 coaches that are used on East Coast main line services.

SHEFFIELD   The Supertram network has recovered well following necessary closures to some services because of the need to relay some track in the city centre.    The Herdings Park route remains restricted operating on Mon – Sat between Herdings Park and the Cathedral only, extending to Meadowhall on Sundays only.     This restriction reflects a shortage of trams while refurbishment work is tackled.     The Blue (Halfway – Malin Bridge) and Yellow (Middlewood – Meadowhall) routes operate every ten minutes during the day and every 20 minutes in the evening and on Sunday.
The National English Senior Citizen concessionary pass (and London Freedom Pass) is accepted on the trams after the morning rush hour, that is 09.30 to 23.00 Monday to Friday and at any time at Weekends and Bank Holidays.   Work on making the connection between the tram and railway routes near Tinsley is making very slow progress.     Several of the new tram-trains are lying in the open at the Depot.

LIVERPOOL    Sefton Council has given planning permission for the new station at Maghull North, on the Ormskirk route.    The £13m project will include a car park with 156 spaces.

ISLE  OF  MAN    Tynwald has voted to retain the full length of the horse tramway in Douglas.    The funding required will now be the responsibility of the Manx Government.

TROUBLE  FOR  EDINBURGH  COMMUTERS    On 12th January 2017 there were very high winds around the Forth Road Bridge and these blew a large van on to its side lying across the opposite carriageway of this dual carriageway highway.     The bridge was closed to all traffic for the rest of the day while the van was slowly righted and hauled back to safety.    That morning signalling problems at Edinburgh Haymarket caused substantial delays to commuter traffic from Central Scotland and Fife meaning that Fife commuters had been struck by two simultaneous difficulties.    The only remaining way between Fife and Edinburgh was via the Kincardine Bridge – a very long detour.

EAST  LOTHIAN  PROTESTS    Commuters on the North Berwick service are up in arms at the news that the longer three-car emus at present used on the route are to be transferred to the Edinburgh – Falkirk – Glasgow route as soon as electrification work has been completed.   Even with the longer emus there is gross overcrowding on the North Berwick service with passengers at Wallyford and Mussleburgh unable to squeeze on board some days.    1300 new houses are to be built at Wallyford during the next couple of years and the use of two coach emus will make the situation much worse.

SHOTTS  LINE   More details are available about the £49m project to electrify the Holytown Jct – Midcalder Jct via Shotts line creating a 4th electrified route between Glasgow and Edinburgh.   Overhead wires will be erected along 74 track km of railway,  adequate clearance will be provided at all over-bridges, and new footbridges will be erected at Addiewell and West Calder stations.   The platforms will be lengthened at Carfin, Shotts, and West Calder while major improvements will be provided at Livingston South.    Future services will be given by Class 385 emus.     No details of the planned services have been publicised but lonely Breich station, situated beside a crossroads and with hardly a house in sight may well receive more than its present single call each way.    It was used by a solitary commuter who worked in Edinburgh but retired a few years ago leaving Breich with no regular traffic.

BATHGATE  LINE    The Airdrie – Bathgate section was closed for most of 18 January 2017 following a fire close to the tracks near Blackridge Station.    The fire was apparently started deliberately and spread to adjacent trees so that portions of blazing branches fell on to the tracks and spread along the ground engulfing signalling cables.

17 January 2017

STRIKES      LUL staff announced a strike commencing at 1800 on Sunday 8 January 2017 and continuing until the end of the service on 9 January.   They are in dispute with plans to reorganise station staff arrangements including the recent closure of booking offices at every station.   On the morning of 9 January 2017 the lack of tube trains meant increased overcrowding on those railway services that were not involved with other disputes.   The crowds at Clapham Junction became dangerously large and present a real safety hazard so the station had to be closed for a time and the platforms cleared of waiting passengers.     Southern TOC staff have been in dispute over plans to introduce One Man Operation on a large number of services with the driver taking over the tasks of opening and closing the doors from the guards.     The guards would become on-board sources of information and assistance and would be able to walk through the train interfacing with passengers but some shorter trains would have only a driver on board and the Unions fear that this would be a safety hazard.    The Southern TOC has started to recruit many new drivers in a bid to have enough staff to keep services running.   The dispute was likely to extend to the Northern TOC, perhaps to West Midland TOC services in the West Midlands and perhaps later to Scotrail over similar causes.

BERMONDSEY   The first line of the new Bermondsey Dive Under was opened on 27 December 2016.   The Dive Under will create a better approach to London Bridge station by avoiding conflicts between the various routes through the area.

KENILWORTH    The prototype Class 230 D-train – a three car multiple unit converted from D78 London Underground stock – caught fire when passing through the site of the soon to reopen Kenilworth Station on 30 December 2016.    One of the diesel motors developed a fault and smoke poured out from under the coach floor.    The plan by the Vivarail Company (chaired by Adrian Shooter) to introduce these upgraded elderly trains on an improved service between Coventry and Nuneaton during 2017 has been put on hold.

MIDLAND  METRO    The Snow Hill stop was renamed St Chad’s on 1.1.2017. Services were disrupted for over two hours during the morning of 4 January 2017 after a Police car parked too close to the tracks in Corporation Street trapping two trams at the Grand Central terminus and forcing other services to turn at Bull Street.

GLASGOW       A platform at Central Low Level station, disused since the line closed on 03 August 1959, is to be reopened to reduce overcrowding on the one island platform that is currently used.     In steam days there were two island platforms at the Low Level station – one for each direction of travel.     The through lines were served by one side of each island platform but there was a second platform face reached by a loop track.     The through platform was used by nearly all services but at  busy times there were occasions when a limited stop train would overtake a slower all-stations local lying in the second platform.     A few trains were timetabled to start or terminate at Central and these tended to use the second  platform.    When the Low Level line was reopened only one of the island platforms was reopened with the through tracks on each side.     Now overcrowding has become a problem and the second island platform, at present hidden behind a simple wall, will be reopened with the through track running  alongside one face.    A similar overcrowding problem exists at Argyle Street station where there is no easy solution although if Glasgow Cross station was reopened this might help to spread the load somewhat.    Services through both Queen Street Low Level and Central Low Level were disrupted on Hogmanay (31 December 2016) following damage to the overhead wire at Hyndland.,   Services through Queen St LL were cancelled for the rest of the day but limited services to/from the east resumed at Central LL by the use of the reversing facility at Anderston.

AIRDRIE  On 8 January 2016 at 1750 a child’s scooter was thrown from Gartlea Road over-bridge landing on the roof of a passing train.   There was slight damage to some cables.   Services were halted while the scooter was removed by police and the wires were inspected to determine whether it was safe for services to continue.     However, considerable disruption to evening peak services was inevitable.

SHOTTS   Work continues on the electrification of the former Caledonian Railway’s route between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Shotts.   During the long weekend 6-9 January 2017 two over-bridges at Shotts were demolished since there was insufficient space below them for the overhead wires.

EDINBURGH   The new tramway, built at a cost of £776m, is under-performing according to a new survey by a Conservative group in the city.   Despite carrying 5.3m passengers in 2016 and with extra trams needed at peak times due to overcrowding the overall filling of the trams throughout a whole day is reported to be just 25%.    This, according to the Conservatives who opposed the building of the line, proves that the project is a failure.    Critics state that this opinion shows that the Conservative Group does not understand the realities of public transport operations.    An empty class 380 emu was sent on 3 January 2017 from platform 0 at Haymarket station into a non-wired  track at Haymarket Depot..   The stranded unit was eventually rescued by a diesel unit which hauled it back under a power wire.

23 December 2016

SOUTHWEST  TRAINS   The first of the new Class 707 emus has arrived from the test track at Wildenrath in Germany and was stored in the open in sidings at Clapham.    Within 24 hours the train had been attacked by graffiti vandals who sprayed silver paint over the sides of all the coaches.

LONDON UNDERGROUND  Services on the Piccadilly Line have been affected significantly this autumn due to a heavy leaf fall on the tracks along open-air sections.    These have caused a need for slower speeds, frequent braking, and as a result a rise in the number of trains developing “flats”.    Several trains have had to be taken out of service to have wheels changed due to the flats.
Capacity on the Underground  is to be increased significantly over the next several years.  36 trains per peak period hour will be operated on the Victoria Line from May 2017.   This follows completion of work to modify the signalling system and improve the ventilation at several locations.    The Jubilee line will similarly be able to offer 36 services per hour at peak hours from 2021.    By 2023 capacity on the Circle, District, Metropolitan, and Hammersmith & City Lines will be increased following the installation of automatic train control signalling and boosting the voltage of power fed to the traction motors from 630V to 750V.

METROPOLITAN  TO  WATFORD  JCT    The plan to divert the Metropolitan Line to Watford Jct using for most of the way the track bed of the former Croxley Green branch faces a challenging rise in the cost of the project.   Originally the plan was expected to cost £116.8m but now the figure is judged to be £284.8m.    The Government has indicated that it will not increase its promised contribution leaving the local authority with a very large gap in funds to fill.

MIDLAND  METRO    Traffic on the Metro has risen by 25% (from 5m to 6.3m in a year)
since the extension along Corporation Street to New Street Station was opened.

WEST  MIDLANDS  RAIL  LTD.   The several counties that include the cities of Wolverhampton, Birmingham, and Coventry plus the surrounding more rural areas have come together as the West Midlands Combined Authority that will help to manage entities such as public transport throughout the area.    Plans for the railways include the branding of local services as “The West Midlands Railway”.    A total refurbishment of the Class 323 fleet, the provision of more frequent Sunday services along the lines of the Saturday service to reflect changing social patterns, and the establishment of more hubs in the suburbs where the buses can feed into the railway services.   7% of the main roads throughout the area carry 40% of the road traffic and the Combined Authority will attempt to develop the railway services to be able to provide an attractive alternative to the car.     Wolverhampton Station is to be totally rebuilt with a massive increase in the concourse area.

WALSALL   One of the changes brought in with the December timetable change affects the Birmingham New Street to Walsall line.   One of the two semi-fast services each hour now calls at Bescott during the daytime.

SERVICES  ACCELERATED   An important change brought in with the December timetable change is reduced timings between Birmingham and Manchester.   Following the opening of the Norton Bridge flyover train can now operate at a much higher speed between Stafford and the Manchester line because they can sweep swiftly across the new flyover instead of running slowly across all the main lines to access the Manchester route.    A time saving of around 15 minutes has been achieved.

MANCHESTER  Work will continue over the entire Christmas and New Year period to reconfigure the railway between Eccles, Deansgate, Victoria, and Salford Crescent.    Two new bridges will be installed and Castlefield Viaduct will be widened.  Oxford Road and Deansgate stations will be closed during the periods 25 – 27 December and again from 31 December until 2 January 2017.
However the construction of an additional two track viaduct between Piccadilly and Oxford Road to quadruple this section and the building of two extra platforms at Piccadilly (15 and 16) has been postponed and may be cancelled on cost grounds.

LIVERPOOL      The City Region leaders have authorised a £460m contract to purchase a new fleet of state of the art 4-car emus to replace the nearly 40 year old fleet of three car class 507 and 508s that provides services over the network of electrified suburban lines.   They will be built and maintained by Stadler from around 2020.   The new trains will accommodate 60% more passengers and cut journey times by up to 10 per cent..

ISLE  OF  MAN    Traffic on the horse tramway rose substantially in 2016 with 69,542 passengers compared with just 48,772 during 2015.    Although the loss on operations was reduced it still amounted to £60,000 – nearly £1 for every passenger carried.     Proposals for the repair and modernisation of the road along the Promenade include the provision of a double track for a tramway or light railway for about two thirds of the way to the Pier and a less well defined provision for a tramway all the way to the Pier.    This could create a possible option for the extension of the Manx Electric Railway over at least part of the horse tram route.

SHEFFIELD   The much delayed tram-train project to Rotherham is now likely to commence operations in early 2018 – about three years later than initially planned.

CLASS 385  EMU    Scotrail has taken delivery of the first of the 40 class 385 emus that are on order from Hitachi.   Test running has begun immediately.   It is hoped to introduce them on the key Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Waverley route in December 2017.    When all forty trains have been delivered and accepted they will be used also on routes to Stirling, Alloa, and Dunblane as well as some routes on the south side of Glasgow.

SCOTRAIL  “THANK  YOU”. Regular travellers are to receive one week’s free travel as a “thank you” for putting up with delays caused by major engineering work at several locations.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY    14 December 2016 marked the 120th anniversary for the line.   Coach number 55 has been repainted in the original red and cream livery as part of the celebrations for what is the third oldest underground railway in the world.     Initially cable operated, the line was electrified around 80 years ago using tram car motors squeezed into the old stock.   New stock subsequently obtained is itself now to be replaced by Stadler and Ansaldo as part of a total makeover for the line and the stations.

8 December 2016

TRAFFIC  CONTINUES  TO  GROW.   Figures for the year 2015-6 show that British railways carried 5% more passengers (2.9bn) than in the previous year.   Nine of the ten busiest stations are in London and are :-  Waterloo (99.1m),  Victoria (81.1m),  Liverpool Street (66.5m),  London Bridge (53.m),  Euston (48.6m),  Stratford (41.1m),  Birmingham New Street (39.1m),  Paddington (36.5m),   Kings Cross (33.4m),  Clapham Junction (32.3m).    In Scotland the busiest three were Glasgow Central (30m),  Edinburgh Waverley (22m), and Glasgow Queen Street 16m).   Cardiff Central (Canalog) was the busiest in Wales with 13m passengers.

ALLIANCE  HOLDINGS   This company plans to introduce a service of seven off-peak trips between Southampton and Waterloo calling at Eastleigh, Basingstoke and Hook at the timetable change in December 2017.   A year later they would add two peak hour services.    All would be worked by refurbished class 442 emus that were greatly appreciated on the route in pre-privatisation days.

TRAMS  RESTORED   Burton and Ashby 14 which spent three decades in Detroit USA before being repatriated in 2015 has been superbly restored at the Statfold Barn Railway.   Originally 3’6” gauge and later altered to 3’0”, the tram will go on display during 2017 and may actually operate on battery power since the use of a trolley pole and overhead wire has been ruled out.   Dudley and Stourbridge 5,  a typical 1920s 3’6” gauge single deck enclosed tram known as a “Tividale”, has been restored at workshops in Llangollen and is to return to the Black Country Museum where it operated during the 1970s.

HYTHE   Traffic on the Pier Railway has been declining gradually over several years and expensive repairs are now needed to the structure that carries the track.   Hampshire County Council provides a £55,000 grant to keep the line running but the repairs are likely to be considered unaffordable forcing the railway to close.

CROSSRAIL   (ELIZABETH  LINE)  At the end of November 2016 the contractors announced that civil engineering work on the new cross-London railway was 75% complete.

POST  OFFICE  RAILWAY    A section of the railway linking major postal centres and some railway termini which once carried 4m letters each day but was closed in 2003 will reopen as part of the Post Office Museum at Mount Pleasant during 2017.    New passenger carrying vehicles were craned into the railway’s workshop area at Mount Pleasant to be assembled there.   Trial operation of the stock has been successful.    The line will reopen in mid 2017 but the actual date has not yet been agreed.

LONDON  BRIDGE   The rebuilding of this London terminal is on schedule for completion in 2018 and a recent visit showed the major work has been completed .    The walk from the Northern Line station near the Joiner Street entrance to the main concourse show that a vast amount of work has been completed.     The present pedestrian route zigzags through the totally rebuilt station undercroft leading to rows of ticket gates giving direct access to all functioning platforms.  Access to the high level concourse is possible by-passing the rows of gates.    About half of the main concourse is complete with access to platforms 10-15 through further ticket gates.   Platforms 1-3 serving the Cannon Street etc route is separated from the higher number platforms by a wide area that remains a construction site.    Platforms 7-9 are basically under numbers 10-15.   What is striking is the fact that the station has remained open throughout a massive long-lasting civil engineering exercise.

WEST  MIDLANDS     Services along the Stour Valley Line were disrupted on 1 December 2016 following damage to the overhead power wires at Smethwick Galton Bridge.    Longer distance trains were diverted via Bescot but the stopping service was cancelled for several hours and with it the locals to Walsall most of which are Wolverhampton – New Street –  Walsall through stopping services.

ALSTOM   The Alstom plant in Washwood Heath a little east of central Birmingham has been sold to the Government and will become a maintenance depot for HS2 trains.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK  The first test operation along the recently completed Second City Crossing happened early on 1 December 2016.    The planned service pattern on the expanded Metrolink network from early in 2017 has a series of routes each giving a 12 minute frequency service mostly between 0600 and midnight.  These are  Altrincham – Piccadilly;   Bury – Piccadilly; Eccles – Ashton-under-Lyne;  East Didsbury – Rochdale Town Centre;   Manchester Airport – Deansgate Castlefield (and on to Victoria once civil engineering work at Victoria is completed.  This last route will start operation from the Airport at 0300.     In  addition there will be three extra routes operating over busy sections of the network during the hours 0700 to 2000.    Operating every 12 minutes it means that there will be a service every six minutes along these segments. These three extra routes are Altrincham right through to Bury;   East Didsbury to Shaw and Crompton;   Media City UK to Etihad Campus.     Many services during the daytime to/from Altrincham, Bury, East Didsbury, and Shaw & Crompton, are worked  by pairs of trams and additional journeys were operated during the pre-Christmas period.     A negative note is the information that fare dodgers have cost the network at least £8m during the past three years.
During November 2016 the Manchester tram network carried 3.3m passengers – a new record breaking the previous record of 3.1m carried during October 2015.
The MPT Consortium (comprising Volker, Laing O’Rourke, and Thales have won the £350m contract to build the Trafford Park extension.    ITV are objecting to the  work protesting that the noise of the trams will disrupt filming of the Soap “Coronation Street” that takes place close to the route.      Manchester United FC are concerned about crowd control at the Wharfside stop that will be used by many supporters attending home matches.

LEEDS    Three new stations are to be built in the suburbs to serve the Airport and major out-of-town shopping and office developments.    The city has £173.5m which had been allocated by the Department of Transport for the aborted trolleybus scheme and this can now be used on other transport projects provided these can be completed soon.   An additional £100m will now be provided by the developers whose projects have resulted in plans for the new stations.   Leeds Airport will be on the Harrogate line north of Horsforth and will have a substantial car park.  Thorpe Park will be six miles east of the city centre on the Selby line and will serve a major new housing and shopping development.   The White Rose halt will serve the expanding White Rose Shopping and business park and will have a station on the Huddersfield main line.   It will adjoin and large bus station.

TYNE  &  WEAR  METRO   Two large complexes to accommodate 1000 students are to be built beside Manors station which will therefore see a sharp increase in traffic.

CLEGHORN   A Virgin train struck a motor car stuck on the level crossing at Cleghorn at 1900 on 3 December 2016.   Cleghorn is on the West Coast Main Line near the junction for Lanark.

LAW   The South Lanarkshire Council is examining the case to reopen this station in view of the extensive new housing that has been built in the area.,

25 November 2016

FARES    A 2.3% average increase in regulated fares will take place during January 2017.

HS2    The Government announced on 15 November 2016 that it had issued contracts for enabling works on the initial section between London and the West Midlands.    It also announced details of the routes to be taken by the lines beyond Birmingham towards Manchester and Sheffield.

CROYDON     The reason for the immediate arrest of the driver of the derailed tram involved in the fatal accident at Sandilands was because he had apparently been using his mobile phone at the time of the accident, and therefore appeared to be not in full control of his vehicle.    Several drivers  have complained that rostering arrangements are “chaotic” and many are left exhausted by the frequency of their turns on duty.    The Management has denied that there is a problem.     An initial report from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch indicates that the tram was operating at 43.5mph as it approached the 30m radius curve near Sandilands.     There is a 12 mph limit at this point.   Various measures to warn drivers of the need to slow down have been suggested but not the one which succeeded in Glasgow.    The Barrhead to Spiersbridge tramway was mostly a ballasted light railway on a reservation along which high speeds were possible.   Half way along there was a steep down gradient at the foot of which was a crossing over a busy main road then a level crossing with a freight branch.      Darnley Hospital was adjacent.    There was a compulsory stop immediately before the start of the steep down grade and another immediately before the road crossing.    The thought of a double deck tram running away on the downgrade was an operator’s nightmare and happily with these compulsory stops in place no disaster ever occurred.    A similar compulsory stop before the Sandilands curve would be equally effective.

C2C     The first of the company’s new class 387 emus entered service on 18 November 2016. When all are delivered c2c will be able to operate four peak period semi-fast Shoeburyness – Fenchurch  Street services each way taking an hour or just under an hour once the new trains have been run in.

CLASS 442    These popular emus most of which are now in store, off-lease, could be brought back into use by either a new South West Trains franchise or by an alternative new operator both planning an alternative Southampton – Waterloo fast service using the 442s.

LT  FARES    Pay-as-you-go fares on London’s buses, trams, Overground, Underground and Docklands rail services are to remain unaltered during 2017.   Mr Kahn, London Mayor, confirmed in November 2016 that there would be no fares increases this year.

PICCADILLY  LINE   There is an on-going problem with the train fleet, half of the trains being taken out of service on 25 November 2016.   The wheels are sticking on leaves lying on the rails and are damaged, requiring to be replaced.   The RMT Union has recommended that the line should be closed completely until the trains are repaired

EAST  COAST  MAIN  LINE   Following the introduction of several additional services between Edinburgh Waverley and Newcastle (continuing to Kings Cross) from May 2016 traffic from Waverley to Kings Cross has risen by 7% (5,000 extra passengers) each week.

BIRMINGHAM  NEW  STREET      The rebuilt city centre station was given a striking stainless steel cladding over the entire exterior of the new building.      This unfortunately has produced dazzling reflections and has generated considerable heat in adjacent buildings.    Following complaints, the exterior is to be painted over to eliminate the glare and unwanted heat.    Numerous photographers have travelled to see the station in its unpainted form during late November 2016.
A record number of users, 230,000, passed through the station on 19 November 2016 beating the previous record 221,000 set on the previous day.

CREWE    The station buildings have been given Grade II listing so cannot be demolished  or suffer major changes as part of any modernisation project.

MANCHESTER    Track laying of the Second City Crossing was completed during September 2016 and the new link across the City Centre will open early in 2017.   Metrolink will then consist of 62 route miles of tramway, with 62 stops.     The trams carry 35m passengers each year.  A softwear failure on 21 November 2016 resulted in the points at Cornbrook being “frozen” and there were also delays in the train control across the network.  The system was virtually out of use all afternoon but trams got moving again at the start of the evening peak.

MERSEYTRAVEL    The Wirral Loop under the City Centre opened in 1977 and the track needs to be relaid.    In a programme for the £340m project Wirral services will turn at Birkenhead North or Central from 3 January until 12 February 2017.   Services will then be able to pass below the River Mersey and turn at St James from 13 February until 29 May 2017.   For a final period 30 May – 18 June 2017 trains will again terminate at Birkenhead North or Central.    Replacement bus shuttles will operate between the Wirral and the city centre but will not carry bicycles.    The Mersey Ferry will give a 20 minute frequency shuttle between Seacombe and Pier Head and will be able to take bikes.    Outside the peaks the Ferry will operate its usual River cruise.

TYNE  &  WEAR    There have been so many delays and service cancellations to Metro services in recent months that several Councillors have called for the contract to run the services to be recalled. Plans to widen a busy north-south road that passes below the Metro between South Gosforth and Longbenton will require the bridge to be demolished and rebuilt.    If this work goes ahead next summer it will mean that the South Gosforth – Longbenton section will be closed for six weeks.

SCOTRAIL    The Operator has been criticised recently for excessive overcrowding at peak times and for sometimes simply missing calls so that a late running rush hour train can arrive at its destination “on time”.      The company has now promised to cease this practise and make all advertised calls even if each call may result in further delays due to travellers having to struggle to squeeze on to an already over-filled train.

GLASGOW  AIRPORT    Plans for rail links to the Airport were confirmed on 24 November 2016 .   A heavy rail branch would link the Paisley – Glasgow main line taking special tram-trains straight into Central Station.   This service would cost £144m.   A separate tram route would operate to Gilmour Street Station in the heart of Paisley.

EDINBURGH  WAVERLEY       Work to renew the massive roof over the Scottish capital’s main station has been completed.       A taxi rank is to be created using part of the adjacent New Street Car Park.

12 November 2016

ELIZABETH  LINE (CROSSRAIL).   Work on the new route across Central London is now over 75% complete.    A major programme of work around Shenfield will start after Christmas 2016 continuing until May 2017.    The track at Shenfield will be remodelled and new platforms built.   During this work services between Brentwood and Shenfield will be subject to cancellation at weekends and sometimes during the week as well, and a substitute bus service will shuttle between Shenfield and Brentwood.     The overhead catenary between Shenfield and Liverpool Street Station is to be replaced since the present wires sag noticeably during hot weather resulting in the imposition of speed restrictions.

CROYDON  DERAILMENT    A serious incident occurred close to the Sandilands stop on 09 November 2016 at about 0610 when a tram derailed then overturned on sharply curved track that has a 12 mph speed limit.    Seven passengers were killed and fifty one were taken to local hospitals but most were “walking wounded”.    Five were trapped in the wreckage and it proved particularly difficult to free two of them.    The driver has been arrested by the police.

CLASS 442   Several of these attractive emus which are now off-lease have been moved for storage to sidings at Ely.   Others are stored at Three Bridges, Stewarts Lane, and Eastleigh Works.    If another TOC wishes to re-use the 442s, owner Angel Trains will then refurbish them.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND    All-night service at the weekend on the Piccadilly Line is to commence on 16 December 2016.

GREAT  WESTERN   The programme to electrify the Paddington – Bristol – Cardiff and Swansea main line plus several branches in the London area is having to be rearranged.   Costs have spiralled to around two and a half times the expected level.    The National Audit Office has issued a report and has raised the question about whether the programme represents good value for money.     The electrification of some sections has been deferred including the route from Didcot to Oxford, through Bath to Bristol Temple Meads, and to Windsor.     These may be delayed by up to eight years and in fact may never be completed.    The question of whether the programme will stop at Cardiff or continue to Swansea is being actively pursued by the Welsh Government.

BIRMINGHAM  NEW  STREET    With upgrade work on the twelve platforms now completed, the last major project – the creation of an exit to Hill Street from the Navigation Street bridge across the B end of the platforms on the south side of the station – was opened early in November 2016.

MIDLAND  METRO   A virtually new Mercedes Coupe was driven on to the reserved track between the St Paul’s and Snow Hill (to be renamed St Chad’s) stops at about 0700 on Sunday 06 November 2016 and then abandoned.    Trams from Wolverhampton had to turn at St Paul’s until the Fire Service and Metro Engineers managed to move the car off the tracks.     Normal services resumed at 1315.

WOLVERHAMPTON    The station is to be totally rebuilt in a £120m plan that will see a greatly enlarged concourse, enhanced ticket office, more retail and café units and the installation of ticket gates.   The building of a new multi-level car park is almost complete and the reconstruction of the station will commence during 2017.

HALTON  CURVE    This little used 1.25 mile long link has had just one train per week for several years to avoid having to put the line through the formal closure procedure.    An hourly Liverpool – Chester service will be restored over the line from the introduction of the new timetable in December 2018.

MANCHESTER   Metrolink services were halted during the morning peak when a problem at Queen’s Road station put the access to the adjacent Depot out of action.    Damage to pointwork at Cornbrook by a contractor at the same time added to the chaos.    Damage to the overhead power wire at Trafford Bar on 31 October disrupted the Altrincham line service for most of the day.

OLYPMIC / PARALYMPIC   SPECIALS    Manchester Metrolink tram 3091 was given a gold livery  to coincide with an Olympic/Paralympic parade through Manchester city centre on 18 October 2016..   A similar parade was organised through London on the next day.   Virgin Trains, Caledonian Sleepers, and Network Rail organised special trains to carry the athletes free of charge.

GLASGOW   A road vehicle struck the bridge carrying the Neilston line south from Cathcart Station during the evening peak on 02 November 2016.    Train services were able to resume a couple of hours later when the bridge was deemed to be safe to use, but road traffic was prevented from passing below the bridge until the next day.

EDINBURGH    There is rising dissatisfaction with the present operator of Scotrail concerning overcrowding on suburban trains in Edinburgh.    The Scotrail spokesperson claims that there are empty seats on all their rush hour trains.   The reality is that services on the North Berwick line have become so packed by standing passengers that it has sometimes become impossible for those waiting at Mussleburgh to squeeze on board.

EDINBURGH  GATEWAY    This new station on the Edinburgh to Fife line between South Gyle and Dalmeny stations is to open on 11 December 2016.   It will have two platforms that can hold ten car trains and a large concourse leading to an interchange with the tram to the Airport.    Through train and tram tickets will be available from stations in Fife and north to Aberdeen enabling an easy way to travel to and from Edinburgh Airport.     There will be six trains per hour each way calling at the new station for much of the day.    Nearby South Gyle station will see a cut in calls to just two per hour with one extra in the morning and evening peaks.

12 October 2016

THE  PRICE  OF  SUCCESS   Passenger numbers have doubled since the start of Privatisation but there has been a downside.    The number of carriages has not risen by a similar number and people take longer to squeeze on board an already crowded train at some stations.    The result is that the station dwell time is lengthened, and since the timetable has not been altered the train is then  slightly late.    When delays at several stations along a route are added together several minutes of lateness accumulate.    There are problems at junctions where trains on several routes have to pass through but further delays occur when a late running trains holds up other services.    Additional trains are on order and when in service will help to ease the problem but can do so only if platforms etc are long enough to hold longer trains.

VOLK’S  RAILWAY  The line closed at the end of the 2016 season on 4 September 2016 and work started immediately on a major reconstruction project funded by the Brighton and Hove City Council.    The work will be completed in time for the opening of the 2017 season.

HAYWARDS  HEATH   The discovery of a fault in pointwork necessitating urgent repairs meant that platform 2, used by London-bound services, had to be taken out of use during the morning rush hour on 27 September 2016.

EAST  ANGLIA   Bombardier is to build 665 Aventra coaches for Angel Trains that will be used by Abellio for their East Anglia franchise.   Bombardier has now won a further contract to maintain the new Aventra stock for seven years, or longer if Abeillio are awarded an extension to their operating contract.

MIDLAND  METRO   Metro services to/from Wolverhampton turned at Bull Street in Birmingham city centre between 1030 and 1500 on 25 September 2016.    Several streets in the city centre were closed to all vehicular traffic because of a march through the city centre organised by the TUC.
To avoid considerable confusion the tram stop called Snow Hill is to be renamed St Chad’s (after Pugin’s masterpiece, the nearby RC Cathedral) in January 2017.     The original terminus of the Metro was part of Snow Hill railway station but when the line was extended through the city centre the tram stop was relocated immediately alongside the railway station but with no access route to it.      Many passengers have been confused as a result.     The stop is close to two large office buildings known as One Snow Hill and Two Snow Hill but their existence is not sufficient reason to continue with the old name.     The nearest stop for Snow Hill railway station is Bull Street, a short walk away.

WEST  MIDLANDS   Because of an unacceptable rise in off-peak ticket-less travel, additional staff have been employed by London Midland to check and sell tickets on the local trains as appropriate.     Many ticket offices are now closed after the morning peak and some passengers are unhappy at having to use ticket machines taking so much time to push often the wrong buttons that other passengers simply cannot obtain a ticket before their train arrives.

BARLASTON    A group of pensioners was struck by a descending level crossing arm at around 2100 on 30 September 2016.      Several received minor injuries and the party narrowly avoided being struck by an express passenger train that came through moments later.    An enquiry is being held to identify what went wrong.

GLASGOW    A new station is to be built on the Cumbernauld line at Robroyston, a little on the Glasgow side of Stepps station.   A substantial number of new homes have been built in the area. A new ticket office is to be built at Blairhill station.    With the installation of slab track through Cowlairs Tunnel completed work has commenced on the provision of the overhead power supply down the Bank and through the Tunnel     Masts are being erected along the open air part of the route.

22 September 2016

SLEEPERS  AND  CLASS 92  LOCOS    The 92s have proved to be significantly unreliable in service and most have been out of use since at least April 2015.       Now they are seeing a new lease of life on the Scotrail Sleepers replacing Freightliner class 90 locomotives.    Two sleeper services are operated each night six days a week – the “Lowlander” between London and Glasgow and Edinburgh.    The “Highlander” runs to/from Inverness, Aberdeen and Fort William.    Both trains have 16 coaches and are the longest passenger trains operating regularly in the UK.    When Euston is rebuilt as part of the HS2 Project the Sleepers may be transferred to Kings Cross where the platforms are too short for 16 coaches so the introduction of a third train is being discussed.    These would have 12, 12, and 8 coaches each  and the possible introduction of a section for Oban is being considered.     The 92s have been given a major overhaul at Brush in Loughborough with parts that have given reliability problems replaced by new redesigned units.     The results are excellent with the altered 92s operating trouble-free for over 10,000 miles – the required standard.

GOLD  STATION  SIGNS    The London Midland TOC has replaced the black lettering on white station name signs to white lettering on a gold sign at six of its stations to honour athletes who live nearby and who won gold at the recent Olympic Games.    The stations are Sutton Coldfield  (Laura Unsworth, Women’s Hockey); Stone (Joe Clarke, cycling);  Bedworth (Nick Skelton, show jumping);  Leighton Buzzard (Charlotte Dujardin, dressage);   Hemel Hempsted (Max Whitland, gymnastics); and Bedford St Johns (Phelan Hill, rowing).

STORMS   Widespread storms on 16 September 2016 caused flash floods across North East London causing widespread delays.

TRANSPORT  FOR  LONDON   Night Tube Services will commence on the Jubilee Line on 07 October 2016.    Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, is pushing hard to be allowed to take over the complex suburban heavy rail suburban rail network around London.   He wishes to modernise and re-equip the network, improve service frequencies, and operate the network as Overground lines.

WATFORD  LANDSLIP   A heavy downpour on the morning of 16 September 2016 caused a small landslip just north of the tunnel between Watford Junction and King’s Langley.   The 0619 Euston to Milton Keynes Central struck the landslip, two coaches were derailed, and a Euston-bound local side-swiped the derailed train.    It was several hours before both trains could be moved, the landslip repaired, and the track repaired .   Two tracks remained unaffected and London Midland and Virgin operated reduced services until the evening when normal services began to be restored.

NEW  CROSS  GATE   Rebuilding work at this London station has been completed and there is now a lift to every platform.    The station has become much busier since Overground services began frequent through services between The City and West Croydon.    There is a message that is sometimes overlooked by service planners.    If a suburban station has only an infrequent service it will be quiet.   Provide a frequent service and the volume of traffic that then pours in will often reach astonishing proportions.

SHEFFIELD   The Supertram network continues to operate smoothly and some initial work has been started to make a connection between the tram route near Meadowhall and the adjacent BR freight line allowing through tram services to continue to Rotherham.    Regular services on the present route may seem rather widely spaced.    There is a tram every 20 minutes to Herdings Park, and a 10 minute frequency service on all other routes.    Where the routes overlap 5 minute frequencies are possible.    At busy times, such as when local schools finish for the day an extra tram follows a minute behind the scheduled tram so that the heavy traffic can be handled easily.

MANCHESTER   A tremendous series of thunder storms accompanied by a downpour during which a month’s rain fell within a couple of hours struck the city during the night of 13/14 September 2016.   Several city centre streets were flooded and the entire tram network was forced to close together with the heavy rail line to the Airport which was flooded at Gatley.   During the morning of 14 September many tram routes were able to reopen but flooding halted services that would normally have run across the central area.

GLASGOW    From the start of the new timetable in December 2016, services to/from Larkhall will call at Bridgeton and Dalmarnock. The former dense Victorian housing – almost all in tenements  –  around both stations was demolished several years ago. The Bridgeton Cross area is beginning to be redeveloped.  Dalmarnock is close to the new Celtic FC stadium and whenever a major event takes place there all trains are re-timetabled to call there.  To make virtually all services call regularly at the station eliminates the frequent need to issue alteration notices.

6 September 2016

GREENWICH    Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, has ordered Transport for London to sell a parcel of land next to Kidbrooke Station in Greenwich to a firm that will build houses there.   Half of the housing will be affordable lower cost homes and the selling price of the land is lower than if the all the new housing was in a higher price range.

SOUTHERN    On 29 August 2016 the company was able to restore 119 of the 341 services each weekday that it had to cancel due staffing problems.    However the Company is still in dispute with the RMT Union and strikes together with a higher than usual staff absence due to illness are imperilling the Company’s finances.   The Department of Transport has therefore provided a £20m grant so that normal services can continue

GOSPEL  OAK – BARKING    The electrification of this important link across the north of London is going ahead and will involve a major number of significant engineering tasks in order to provide sufficient space for the overhead wires.    In some cases a bridge span will be able to be raised but more often the track under a bridge will need to be lowered – often a major task.    To make it possible to complete the work within a reasonable time span, the line will close on 24 September 2016 and remain closed for a total of six months.     Electric services will commence in January 2018 and be given by four car emus – a marked improvement to the present service given by two coach dmus.

CLASS  345    The first of these Bombardier-built units is undergoing tests at the Wildenrath Test facility in Germany and will enter service on the new East – West Elizabeth Line (formerly Crossrail) across central London in December 2018 with the planned full service of 24 trains per hour being attained in December 2019.    Trains due to be used between Shenfield and Liverpool Street will be seven car units due to the limited length of the platforms at Liverpool Street.    The trains to be used between Shenfield/Abbey Wood and Heathrow/Reading via the Elizabeth Line will be 9 cars long.    To speed loading/unloading the coaches will have three double doors on each side. Seating will be longitudinal in the first and last coaches with some transverse bays in the others leaving a great deal of space for standees.   The central coach in each train has four areas for wheel chairs.     It will be possible to see and walk through the full length of the train.    The design is the first of Bombardier’s new “Aventra” family of trains replacing the “Electrostar” design which is now twenty years old.

CLASS 707   Thirty 5-car emus are being supplied by Siemens for the Waterloo – Reading service of South West Trains and are planned to be in service by August 2017 although it may be possible to bring this date forwards by three months.    The trains are standard class only and the 2+2 or 2+1 seating leaves a great deal of room for standing passengers.

GREAT  WESTERN   The first Class 387 “Electrostar” emus entered revenue service between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington on Tuesday 6 September 2016.    Two units, coupled to form an 8 car train, shuttled four times each way between these termini.

EAST  ANGLIA  FRANCHISE   Abellio Greater Anglia will run the new 9 year franchise from October 2016 and is committed to provide two London – Norwich expresses each way on weekdays taking just 90 minutes.    Similarly there are to be two services each way between London and Ipswich taking just 60 minutes.     Bombardier is to supply 660 new carriages of their Aventra design and eventually a total of 1043 new carriages will replace the existing rolling stock within the period of the franchise.

WEST  MIDLANDS  FRANCHISE   Two companies have been shortlisted to bid for the re-let franchise that will operate from October 2017.    They are London and West Midlands Railway Ltd (Keolis 35% with Go-Ahead 65%)  and West Midlands Trains Ltd (Abellio with East Japan Railway and Mitsui & Co).    Go-Ahead is the present operator of the franchise under the London Midland name.    Among the requirements in the new franchise the new operator must boost capacity for 30,000 additional commuters daily into Birmingham, increase daytime frequencies to Bromsgrove and the Rugeley (the latter after electrification of the line), provide a major increase to Sunday services bringing them to a level similar to Saturdays, and run more evening trains to Lichfield City, Kidderminster, Whitlock’s End, and Dorridge.      During the new franchise a new hourly Birmingham – Wolverhampton – Stoke – Crewe  service must be operated together with a   new direct peak services between Walsall and Euston.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK       The St Peter’s Square stop, which closed for reconstruction on 26 June 2015, was reopened on 28 August 2016 serving trams operating along the first route across the city centre.    From the same date the East Didsbury service was doubled in frequency with a service every 6 minutes throughout the day.    St Peter’s Square now has two island platforms and will serve additionally the Second City Crossing when this is opened throughout in 2017.

MERSEYRAIL      Evening services between Hall Road and Southport have been disrupted twice recently.    A collision between a private car and a local train on Crescent Road level crossing in Birkdale halted services for the rest of the day on 25 August 2016.    A trespasser was struck and killed near Freshfield station early in the evening on 02 September 2016 and the 999 services attended.    Trains were able to start running again at around 2300.

GLASGOW – EDINBURGH    The £742m project to modernise and electrify the main line between Scotland’s two largest cities is already seven months behind schedule and is now likely to fall even further behind since some sections of the already erected overhead power wires have been found to be too low.     Some work on over-bridges do not have sufficient clearance so a great deal of work requires to be re-done.

PLANNED  STATIONS  ON  ECML      Local Councils have increased the funds that they will give towards the cost of two proposed stations on the ECML in Scotland.     Borders Council will  provide £2.84m towards the total cost of £10.63m for Reston Station.    East Lothian Council will give £3.44m towards the cost of building East Linton Station.

24 August 2016

PROBLEM  WITH  NEW  SCHEMES   Although the Government has announced several extensive new electrification projects, there is a major problem.    Who will undertake the work?   Who will supervise each project as it is under way?    There is a significant shortage of appropriately trained electrical engineers and it will take years to train new recruits.    Many retired engineers, now in their 80s, are being recalled but most are prepared to take on only small jobs.    As a result some schemes have been postponed and some uncertainty exists as to when the work will actually start.   One such line is the Chase Line (Walsall – Cannock – Rugeley).

RAIL  OPERATIONS  GROUP    ROG has won the contract to move dmus, emus, and H-S Trains for Angel Trains when they are out of service and require to be taken to sidings etc.   ROG has recently taken two Class 442 emus to sidings at Eastleigh when they came off lease.

FOLKESTONE – DOVER   Repairs to the storm damaged line have been completed more quickly than expected and the line will reopen on 5 September 2016 – three months earlier than originally expected.

SOUTHERN   The troubled TOC  experienced further problems when part of the ceiling of a coach on the 0745 Tattenham Corner to Victoria fell off and struck two passengers.   Fortunately neither received significant injuries.

WATERLOO    Platforms 1-4 and 7-8 are to be lengthened to take 10 coach trains instead of just eight.      Platforms 5-6 can already hold ten coaches but are being modified to have signalling equipment fitted at the country end.    The work will be undertaken during August 2017 with ten coach suburban trains commencing operation at the timetable change in  December 2017.

LONDON  BRIDGE   The massive engineering project took a major step forward on Monday 29 August 2016 with the opening to the public of the new concourse.  Also new platforms 7, 8 and 9 will open for South Eastern’s services.   A new much larger ticket office will be opened together with the provision of numerous new self-service ticket machines.   New entrances to the station will open on St Thomas Street providing wider access to pedestrians.   Platforms 1, 2 and 3 will close until January 2018 while they are rebuilt and as a result trains to/from Cannon Street will not be able to call at London Bridge.

NIGHT  TUBE    Weekend (Fridays and Saturday nights) all-night services began on 19/20 August 2016 on the Central and Victoria Lines.   50,000 people used these night services during the first weekend.   If these services are successful similar night services will be provided on the Northern, Jubilee, Piccadilly and Bakerloo Lines.    In around a year from now similar services could be provided on the Circle, Hammersmith & City, District, and Metropolitan Lines.   Later still the Waterloo and City Line would complete the provision of through the night services on the entire London Underground.

GW  MAIN  LINE     Electrification of the route from Reading to Didcot was completed and the power switched on as from 03 July 2016.

WEST  MIDLANDS    Among proposals to boost capacity Birmingham is grade separation of the junctions at Kings Norton and Barnt Green by the building of flyover tracks.

MIDLAND  METRO    A Midland Metro Alliance has been formed between the West Midlands Combined Authority, Colas Ltd, and Egis (which will supply a team of design experts).     A large tree branch fell across the overhead power wires close to the Trinity Way stop on the afternoon of 23 August 2016 blocking the way for Wolverhampton bound trams.    Birmingham bound trams were able to creep slowly past the obstruction.    Two shuttle services were quickly established – Grand Central to Handsworth and West Bromwich Central to Wolverhampton St Georges.   The substantial tree branch was removed in time for most of the evening rush hour.

CLASS  323.   The Manchester based class 323 emus are to be moved to the West Midlands so that all members of the class will be together.   As a result many three-car Cross City Line trains will be augmented to six cars from the December timetable change.    This leaves a problem in Manchester.   The steeply graded Hadfield route needs units with the power of the 323s in order to keep to the timetable.    The solution may have to be the addition of several minutes to the runnng time on the line in the December timetable.

ISLE  OF  MAN     At least one of the double deck trams, hauled by two horses, is being used on the service along the Douglas seafront.    One such service, very well loaded with passengers was noted on 19 August 2016.     Six Victorian or Edwardian horse-drawn trams are to be auctioned in Douglas on 27 August 2016.        These include a Winter Saloon, three Bulkhead trams, and two Toastrack trams.

ROUTE  STUDY  –  SCOTLAND   The Route Study for Scotland has indicated that continuing growth in traffic will mean than local services south of Edinburgh Waverley station will be overcrowded by 2023-4.     Traffic around Edinburgh is predicted to rise by 135%, by 128% around Glasgow, and by a surprising 226% in Aberdeen.    The simple lengthening of trains will be insufficient and major capital investment will be necessary.    An ability for expresses to overtake local passenger trains or freight services will require the placing of stations such as Reston (if reopened), Drem, Longniddry, and Prestonpans on long loops.     Only this will create a sufficient increase in potential capacity.

11 August 2016

FOREST  HILL    A second sink hole appeared below the London Bridge tracks near Forest Hill station early on 05 August 2016.    The first – a 13 foot deep hole – appeared on 18 July 2016 and was the result of the collapse of a nearby sewer.    Both incidents resulted in disruption of London Bridge services operated by the troubled Southern TOC.

GREAT  WESTERN    The G W Railway has ordered a further seven class 800 Intercity Express Trains from Hitachi who are already building and supplying fifty seven trains that will transform express services between London, South Wales, and the far south west of England.   All the class 800s will be bi-mode and the first to be delivered took its maiden run on 01 July 2016 to mark the 175th anniversary of the Great Western main line.     The 800s are being built at Hitachi’s plant in Pistoia, Italy.

THAMESLINK    The new in-cab signalling system has been tested successfully using a suitably equipped emu.  The new ECTS will in future operate between the Spa Road area and Elephant and Castle to St Pancras.

TRANSPORT  FOR  LONDON    A contractor is being sought to build the 4.5km extension between Barking and Barking Riverside together with a station to serve east London’s largest housing development site.     The extension is planned to open in 2021 and will be an extension to the Gospel Oak – Barking service which is being electrified with four car emus replacing two car dmus sometime in 2017.

EAST  ANGLIA  FRANCHISE    Abellio Greater Anglia (part of Dutch Railways) has retained the East  Anglia franchise and in future will operate an up morning flier from Norwich, with a return evening fast, both taking just 90 minutes.    Commuter services will be upgraded by the introduction of new emus.   660 Aventra coaches have been ordered from Bombardier in Derby at a cost of £1bn.

CAMBRIDGE  NORTH    The new station is taking shape with new track and both platforms substantially complete and masts for new overhead wires ready.    Both lift shafts and stairways to serve the new new bridge between the platforms are nearly ready although work on the footbridge span across the tracks has not yet begun.     Due to open in May 2017, the station is expected to have 3000 users each day, many of them then walking some distance to the Innovation Centre and the Cambridge Science Park as well as the suburb of Chesterton.    There will be parking for 450 cars and (a Cambridge phenomenon) 1000 bicycles.     Ten percent of the electricity used by the station facilities will be generated from solar panels on the station buildings.

SOUTH  WALES    The UK vote to leave the European Union may have jeopardised a £130m grant of European funds to transform the Valleys rail services heading north from Cardiff and Newport.  The heavy rail routes along the major valleys would be electrified, extra stations built, and some lines reopened.    These would be complimented by light rail routes within the two major cities.

ISLE  OF  MAN.     Traffic on the Manx Electric Railway has been brisk during early summer of  2016 and new electronic ticketing contrasts with the late 19th century rolling stock,    The track is in much better condition with 1950s rail now replaced together with rotten wooden sleepers.  On some straight sections long-welded rail on concrete sleepers has been laid, giving a very smooth ride and  a higher speed.    Due to track layout changes the motor car used on Laxey short-workings has to cross the main road and a side road twice during the running round process at Laxey.    The old gravity shunt procedure survives at Ramsey.  On the Snaefell line a new source of traffic is a dining excursion from Douglas to the hotel at the top of Snaefell bringing welcome evening traffic.

MANX  HORSE  TRAMWAY    Traffic is higher than in recent years and a reliable timetable is being offered (every 20 minutes in morning, every 15 minutes in the afternoon).

BLACKPOOL   The illuminations will be lit up from 02 September until 06 November 2016.

POSSIBLE REOPENINGS   The local stations along the East Coast Main Line between Edinburgh Waverley and Berwick (57.5 miles) beyond those served by the North Berwick suburban service were closed on 4 May 1964.   Since then there have been many requests for Reston (46.25 miles) to be reopened  to serve a substantial rural area sprinkled by large villages such as Chirnside and Duns which have limited alternative road services.    Meanwhile the village of East Linton has grown substantially as Edinburgh’s commuter belt expands and there have been strong demands for this station (23.5 miles) also to be reopened.    Now the Scottish Government has announced that it will pay half of the £11m cost to rebuild each station and provide a large car park.     Both local councils have promised £3m towards the reopening costs leaving just £8m to find before on-site work can begin.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   Modernisation work including relaying the pointwork leading to the depot, and repairs to the tunnel lining, took longer than expected but services were resumed on 10 August 2016 rather than 01 August as originally planned.

EDINBURGH     During the period of the Edinburgh International Festival (5-29 August 2016) the last trams will run later leaving Princes Street at 2332 on Sunday to Friday nights, and 0039 on early Sunday mornings.

29 July 2016

BRIGHTON    The station had to be closed to further pedestrians on 19 July 2016 because the concourse had become totally packed by commuters awaiting a train for London.    The Southern TOC stated that although a train had been cancelled and there were some delays to other services there were not the actual cause for the build up of passengers in the concourse which was actually due to heavier than usual traffic arriving at the station.

VOLK’S  RAILWAY   Car No 4, built in 1892 but out of use for ten years due to underframe damage, is being restored and fitted with new electrical equipment.   It is hoped to have it in service in the spring of 2017.

DOVER – FOLKESTONE    Services on this main line which follows the coast closely were halted in December 2015 when the sea wall collapsed following stormy weather.     A viaduct 235m long now carries the tracks and work on restoring the railway has gone so well that it is likely to reopen with the start of the winter timetable on 11 December 2016, ahead of the planned date.

CLAPHAM  JUNCTION    A major fire in an industrial area immediately beside the running line close to Clapham Junction station resulted in severe delays to Southern services during most of the morning rush hour on 14 July 2016.

LONDON  BRIDGE   Several tracks leading to the station had to be taken out of service for several hours on 15/16 July 2016 after a flash flood had washed away the ballast near Forest Hill station leaving the track totally unsupported.    The first two thirds of the massive concourse under the platforms is to open at the conclusion of the end of August Bank Holiday.    The remainder will open in January 2018 completing the largest concourse in Britain.

WATERLOO  SERVICES   From December 2018 the services to both Reading and Windsor will operate four times per hour throughout the day – double the existing service.

ELIZABETH  LINE    Crossrail is now to be called The Elizabeth Line in honour of our extremely long serving Monarch.    Services along the route will be provided by a fleet of sixty six class 345 emus that are being built in Derby.    The first 345 was unveiled on 29 July 2016 although the internal fittings may well be altered from those in the first unit.    There are no doors between individual coaches so there is an excellent view right along the full length of the unit.    Seating in some coaches is longitudinal leaving much space for standees.   In some coaches part of the seating is in the form of 2 + 2 transverse seats.

CAMBERWELL    After it was confirmed that the Bakerloo Line extension would run via Old Kent Road rather than Camberwell, a means to reduce road congestion in the Camberwell area had to be sought.    The reopening of Camberwell Station, closed 52 years ago, is now being examined.    Calls could be made by Thameslink services.

CLASS  387  EMUS     The new units, intended for Great Western TOC services commenced trials between Bletchley and Brighton on 13 July 2016.   Bombardier are building twenty further class 387 trains as a speculative build.    Six have been snapped up by c2c and the others are being taken by the Great Western TOC.    Each train will seat 225 passengers and the seats are 10% wider than in earlier trains or in the class 357s used by c2c.

ESSEX  About 130 pedestrian crossings over railways in Essex are to be closed because train services are much faster and more frequent than in the 19th century when most of them were created.    Some crossings involve paths that have linked villages for hundreds of years and alternatives are  longer and over busy narrow roads.     The cost of providing footbridges is prohibitive.

CLASS 230 EMUS   The prototype three car unit made from body shells,  bogies and motors from surplus District Line trains is to be leased for twelve months by the West Midlands Combined Authority for use on the Coventry – Nuneaton line.    The coaches will be fitted out in a range of designs so the views of passengers can be assessed.

MIDLAND  METRO    On three weekends commencing 31 July 2016 Metro services from Wolverhampton will terminate at the inconvenient Snow Hill stop to allow engineering work between there and the Bull Street stop.

ISLE  OF  MAN      Tynwald approved on 20 July 2016 plans for the Isle of Man Railways to continue operation of the Douglas Horse Tramway until 2018 while the long-term future of the tramway is considered.

BLACKPOOL   The proposal to build a tramway from the Coast route along Talbot Street to North Station took a major step forwards in July 2016 when Blackpool Council approved the plans.    Powers to build and operate the tramway can now be sought under the Transport and Works Act.     The £18.2m plan is subject to final funding approval by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership during 2017.     On-site work may commence soon after and ten minute frequency services from North Station to both Bispham in the north and Pleasure Beach in the south could start April 2019.     Bombardier is to supply two additional Flexity 2 LRVs to give extra capacity since the present service is often overcrowded.    Once the new services start several further LRVs will be needed.   A tram route along Talbot Street was discontinued in 1936.    Local  pensioners are to be allowed to travel on off-peak trams free of charge and this is will increase the usage to above 5m per year.

NEXUS   £1bn is to be invested on local transport over the next 20 years.    Metro services will be extended over underused rail corridors across Tyne and Wear,  Northumberland and County Durham.    A new fleet of LRVs will be able to operate far from the present Metro tracks.  Planned destinations include north east to Blyth and the Ashington area;  north west to Ponteland; west towards Hexham;  south to Chester-le-Street;  south east via Washington to Sunderland.   In addition a line is planned between the northern and southern sections of the Coast Circle.

GLASGOW    A new station will be needed in Glasgow city centre once HS2 services commence operations.    It is intended to operate services to/from Central Station but the trains will comprise two units totalling 400m.     Central Station’s platforms cannot be lengthened sufficiently and at Queen Street, the other city centre station, space is even more limited.    One answer would be to divide each train into separate Glasgow and Edinburgh sections at Carstairs but the track and platform space there is also too restricted to make handling the 400m trains possible although this possible solution is still being looked at..     The extended concourse at Queen Street High Level is to open one day early than planned, on 8 August 2016.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY    The reopening of the Subway after a short closure to allow modernisation works to the tunnels has been delayed for at least two weeks after the original planned reopening on 01 August 2016.     The removal of a concrete lining along sections of the tunnels took longer than expected and recent heavy rains caused flooding in some sections.

EDINBURGH   The enquiry into the chaotic events surrounding the construction of the tramway has so far cost £3.7m.     During its second twelve months of operation the tramway carried 5.38m passengers.    To accommodate rising peak traffic trams will operate every five minutes during both the morning and evening peak periods.

11 July 2016

HIGH SPEED 2    Delays in starting work to build HS2 are resulting in increasing pressure on the available budget and it is likely that the initial section (London – Birmingham) will not now be completed until 2027 – a year behind schedule.    Unless the cost of building the railway can be cut it is possible that the extension north west towards Manchester will be dropped leaving only the route north east towards Leeds.    At the beginning of July 2016 £1.4bn had already been spent in advance planning.     In a separate bid to cut costs, the plan to build a station for the Sheffield area at Meadowhall has been axed and a spur will be built to take services into the main city centre Sheffield station resulting in savings of £786m.

CLASS  700    The first public service to be operated by emu 700109 departed from Brighton at 1105 on 30 June 2016.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   Colindale station on the Edgware branch of the Northern Line is to undergo a refurbishment costing £11m.    This will enable it to handle greatly increased traffic arising from two major housing developments very close to the station.   In all there will be 4400 new homes in the vicinity.    The East London Line will be partly closed at Whitechapel during the period 30 July 2016 – 07 August 2016 to enable numerous improvements at the station in connection with the construction of the Elizabeth Line (former known as Crossrail).   There will be the construction of new tunnels for the Elizabeth Line, new platforms, new lifts to all platforms making the station fully accessible, and improvements to the ticket hall at which there will be many more ticket gates.

SOUTHERN    The troubled train operating company at odds with the Unions concerning the role of the train driver and conductor and which should close the doors at stations, and also a plague of short absences due to sudden illnesses, is to introduce an emergency timetable on 11 July 2016 in  which 341 trains daily will be cancelled.     This will at least formalise the position where train cancellations occur every day but in an unpredictable manner.

SOUTH  WEST  TRAINS   The platforms at Martin’s Heron station are being extended to accommodate ten coach trains on the Waterloo – Reading service.

BROMSGROVE    The relocated station is to open on 12 July 2016 and initially will be served by dmus giving a regular service to Birmingham and Worcester.     There will be four platforms, a bus interchange, and a car park for 350 vehicles, built at a cost of £24m.    When electrification is completed in December 2017 from Barnt Green and down Lickey Bank there will be three Cross-City Line services hourly plus an hourly diesel service for Worcester.   One Cross City service hourly will serve Barnt Green.

BESCOT  JUNCTION   Many of the “Walsall fast” services that call at Tame Bridge Parkway only between Walsall and New Street, are to call also at Bescot Junction where the car park is underused while Tame Bridge’s facility nearby gets totally filled on many occasions.

MIDLAND  METRO   The Midland Metro Alliance has won the contract to design and build the planned extension from Grand Central to Centenary Square, Five Ways and a terminus on Hagley Road in Edgbaston.

LIVERPOOL   During the years up to 2004, Merseytravel spent £32m on a total refurbishment of its ageing class 507 and 508 emus.   Now its is seeking bids to completely renew its fleet most of which is around 40 years old.   The city centre stations at Lime Street, Central, James Street, Moorfields, and Hamilton Square have been refurbished at a cost of £40m.     Refurbished class 319 emus are performing well on the Preston – Wigan NW – Liverpool Lime Street – Liverpool South Parkway route    Finished in several shades of violet and dark blue, these units are labelled “Northern Electrics”.     The class 350 units used on Trans-Pennine  Express services to/from Manchester Airport on  services to/from Central Scotland are in a more garish livery.

MANCHESTER   METROLINK   Tram services were severely disrupted during the morning rush hour of 11 July 2016 following a computer failure.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   Services on the Subway ceased after the final public runs late on 01 July 2016 to allow upgrades to the track on the ramp up to Broomloan Depot from the operating tracks.
After this work is completed services will resume – probably on 01 August 2016.

CROSS  CITY  LINE  (West Midlands)     Following the extension of the London Midland TOC franchise to December 2017 a number of improvements have been made to the service.   The 26 class 323 emus that provide the service on the line (plus some services to Wolverhampton, Coventry and Walsall) are undergoing changes to the motors meaning that one unit at a time will be in Manchester for the fitting of new electronic and electrical equipment.  Similar upgrade work has already been completed on the 323s based in Manchester.   The 0750 Lichfield TV to Longbridge and the 1716 Four Oaks to Redditch will be formed of just one unit instead of two from the end of July 2016 until the end of the year while this work is completed.    Extra staff have been employed to keep the exterior of the units in clean condition, graffiti-free, so that each day the trains will be formed by newly cleaned trains.   CCTV is being fitted to all passenger saloons and similar equipment has been used in court to convict vandals etc.    Train operations are being aided by the employment of additional staff at University station – now the 4th busiest served by London Midland.    The greatest cause of delays to trains are now trespass/ suicide incidents and the effects of bad weather.     The operation of a leaf-fall timetable in the autumn has resulted in a sharp reduction in late running. Unusually heavy traffic during the morning rush hour of 30 June 2016 especially at stations south of the city centre resulted in significant delays to the entire service due to longer times spent at stations while the crowds attempted to squeeze on board.

7 July 2016

HS2    Delays in starting work to build HS2 are resulting in increasing pressure on the available budget and it is likely that the initial section (London – Birmingham) will not now be completed until 2027 – a year behind schedule.    Unless the cost of building the railway can be cut it is possible that the extension north west towards Manchester will be dropped leaving only the route north east towards Leeds.    At the beginning of July 2016 £1.4bn had already been spent in advance planning.     In a separate bid to cut costs, the plan to build a station for the Sheffield area at Meadowhall has been axed and a spur will be built to take services into the main city centre Sheffield station resulting in savings of £786m.

CLASS  700    The first public service to be operated by emu 700109 departed from Brighton at 1105 on 30 June 2016.

LONDON UNDERGROUND  Colindale station on the Edgware branch of the Northern Line is to undergo a refurbishment costing £11m.    This will enable it to handle greatly increased traffic arising from two major housing developments very close to the station.   In all there will be 4400 new homes in the vicinity.    The East London Line will be partly closed at Whitechapel during the period 30 July 2016 – 07 August 2016 to enable numerous improvements at the station in connection with the construction of the Elizabeth Line (former known as Crossrail).   There will be the construction of new tunnels for the Elizabeth Line, new platforms, new lifts to all platforms making the station fully accessible, and improvements to the ticket hall at which there will be many more ticket gates.

SOUTHERN    The troubled train operating company at odds with the Unions concerning the role of the train driver and conductor and which should close the doors at stations, and also a plague of short absences due to sudden illnesses, is to introduce an emergency timetable on 11 July 2016 in  which 341 trains daily will be cancelled.     This will at least formalise the position where train cancellations occur every day but in an unpredictable manner.

SOUTH  WEST  TRAINS   The platforms at Martin’s Heron station are being extended to accommodate ten coach trains on the Waterloo – Reading service.

BROMSGROVE    The relocated station is to open on 12 July 2016 and initially will be served by dmus giving a regular service to Birmingham and Worcester.     There will be four platforms, a bus interchange, and a car park for 350 vehicles, built at a cost of £24m.    When electrification is completed in December 2017 from Barnt Green and down Lickey Bank there will be three Cross-City Line services hourly plus an hourly diesel service for Worcester.   One Cross City service hourly will serve Barnt Green.

BESCOT  JUNCTION   Many of the “Walsall fast” services that call at Tame Bridge Parkway only between Walsall and New Street, are to call also at Bescot Junction where the car park is underused while Tame Bridge’s facility nearby gets totally filled on many occasions.

MIDLAND  METRO   The Midland Metro Alliance has won the contract to design and build the planned extension from Grand Central to Centenary Square, Five Ways and a terminus on Hagley Road in Edgbaston.

LIVERPOOL   During the years up to 2004, Merseytravel spent £32m on a total refurbishment of its ageing class 507 and 508 emus.   Now its is seeking bids to completely renew its fleet most of which is around 40 years old.   The city centre stations at Lime Street, Central, James Street, Moorfields, and Hamilton Square have been refurbished at a cost of £40m.     Refurbished class 319 emus are performing well on the Preston – Wigan NW – Liverpool Lime Street – Liverpool South Parkway route    Finished in several shades of violet and dark blue, these units are labelled “Northern Electrics”.     The class 350 units used on Trans-Pennine  Express services to/from Manchester Airport on  services to/from Central Scotland are in a more garish livery.

MANCHESTER   METROLINK   Tram services were severely disrupted during the morning rush hour of 11 July 2016 following a computer failure.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   Services on the Subway ceased after the final public runs late on 01 July 2016 to allow upgrades to the track on the ramp up to Broomloan Depot from the operating tracks.
After this work is completed services will resume – probably on 01 August 2016.

CROSS  CITY  LINE (West Midlands)      Following the extension of the London Midland TOC franchise to December 2017 a number of improvements have been made to the service.   The 26 class 323 emus that provide the service on the line (plus some services to Wolverhampton, Coventry and Walsall) are undergoing changes to the motors meaning that one unit at a time will be in Manchester for the fitting of new electronic and electrical equipment.  Similar upgrade work has already been completed on the 323s based in Manchester.   The 0750 Lichfield TV to Longbridge and the 1716 Four Oaks to Redditch will be formed of just one unit instead of two from the end of July 2016 until the end of the year while this work is completed.    Extra staff have been employed to keep the exterior of the units in clean condition, graffiti-free, so that each day the trains will be formed by newly cleaned trains.   CCTV is being fitted to all passenger saloons and similar equipment has been used in court to convict vandals etc.    Train operations are being aided by the employment of additional staff at University station – now the 4th busiest served by London Midland.    The greatest cause of delays to trains are now trespass/ suicide incidents and the effects of bad weather.     The operation of a leaf-fall timetable in the autumn has resulted in a sharp reduction in late running.
Unusually heavy traffic during the morning rush hour of 30 June 2016 especially at stations south of the city centre resulted in significant delays to the entire service due to longer times spent at stations while the crowds attempted to squeeze on board.

26 June 2016

RMT  STRIKES   The RMT Union has called a series of strikes during June and early July 2016   by conductors on the Southern TOC and by train crews on Scotrail.     In both cases the introduction of One-Man Operation is involved.     On Southern the proposal is to transfer the task of closing the train doors from the conductor to the driver with the conductor becoming an on-board supervisor assisting passengers.      On Scotrail the plan is to introduce Driver-Only Operation (DOO) with the elimination of the guards.     Around 80% of Scotrail trains already use DOO.

LIGHT  RAIL  GROWTH   The traffic carried on all UK tram systems has risen during the past year with the exception of Croydon Tramlink where engineering work in the town centre disrupted services significantly.    Details of the performance of each system shows the number of passengers carried in 2015-6; and the percentage change compared with 2014-5.
Docklands Light Railway    116.9m   Up 6.1%;    Tyne and Wear Metro   40.3m   Up 5.7%;
Manchester Metrolink   34.3m   Up 10.1%;    Croydon Tramlink  27m.  Down 12.1% due to engineering work in town centre,     Nottingham NET   12.2m   Up 50.2% (Two new lines opened).
Sheffield  11.6m    Up 0.6% despite sections closed for engineering work.      Edinburgh trams   5.38m   Up 9.3%;     Blackpool  trams  4.9m   Up 20.3%;   Midland Metro   4.8m   Up 10.4%.

UCKFIELD   Work to lengthen platforms along the Oxted – Uckfield branch to accommodate eight car trains is expected to be completed by July 2016.     At present there are 8 coach services during peak hours and Selective Door Opening is used to ensure that the doors will open only where they are alongside the platform.

JUNE  FLOODS    Extremely heavy rains resulted in the disruption of heavy rail and LUL services around London and the South East on 23 June 2016 with problems continuing on some routes on the next day.    The Maryland – Shenfield route into Essex was badly affected by floods and services to Norwich, Southend Victoria and Southminster were disrupted.    Services from Waterloo to Portsmouth, Shepperton, Hampton Court, Chessington South were halted at times.    From Victoria services to Brighton and Gatwick Airport had to be reduced in frequency as trains had to run at very slow speeds through flooded sections.      On the Underground flooding disrupted the signalling equipment at Farringdon, Mansion House, and near Upminster,  Wimbledon, New Cross, and Ruislip Manor.

PADDINGTON    The derailment of an empty stock service in sidings near Paddington on 16 June 2016 damaged electric cables and the overhead wires so that throughout 17 June 2016 Heathrow Connect trains were cancelled and the Heathrow Express service was cut to half-hourly.  Several long distance services were cancelled.     GWR will introduce the new class 387 emus on services to Hayes and Harlington on 5 September 2016.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   Lambeth North station on the Bakerloo Line will be closed from 13 July 2016 until February 2017 so that both elderly and unreliable lifts can be replaced.    It was not possible to tackle one lift at a time to allow the station to stay open because of the availability of just one lift did not give sufficient capacity.    The stairs are narrow and too long (over 100 steps).

GREAT  EASTERN    The overhead wires along the G.E. main line have been upgraded to make them more rigid during hot weather.    The wires had sagged when the temperature rose above 20’C and at higher temperatures there was a real danger of a train pantograph catching the wire and pulling the catenary down.    Weights and counterweights have been installed to hold the wire level and rigid irrespective of the temperature.   The speed limit has been raised between Chelmsford and Shenfield and further easements on other sections will be introduced as the work progresses.

SOUTH  WEST  TRAINS   A £65m project to add 108 coaches of classes 456 and 458/5 to peak services has been completed.   Thirty four morning and forty three evening trains have been lengthened on routes between Waterloo and Portsmouth, Yeovil, Southampton and Basingstoke.

CARDIFF    Preliminary electrification works have been completed in Cardiff including the completion of new platform 8 (for Valleys services) at Central Station and a new Up platform at Queen Street Station.     The St David’s Centre beside Queen Street Station has been expanded substantially and Cardiff now has top quality shopping facilities as good as those available in many other major cities.

WEST  MIDLANDS   Rows of automatic ticket gates are being installed all stations that are served by inter-city trains.    The latest installations are at New Street (Navigation Street entrance), and at some parts of Birmingham International station.     The new station at Bromsgrove will have four platforms and electrification works are starting along Lickey Bank to the new station which is a short distance south of the existing stop.

MIDLANDS   METRO   Powers to extend the Metro along Pipers Row in Wolverhamton were granted on 21 June 2016.    Construction work will begin in late 2016.     There will be stops at the major Bus Station and then at the main line railway station.

BOLTON    The main line to Preston will be closed every weekend from early June 2016 until 02 October 2016 to allow track lowering to create space for power wires under two overbridges..    Two pedestrian subways at Chorley will be reconstructed and strengthened and the station platforms are being rebuilt to handle longer trains.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK   Service personnel in uniform and veterans are to be granted free travel on the trams on showing their ID card.

TRAM – TRAIN    The planned Sheffield – Rotherham tram-train service has been delayed yet again as the Department of Transport continues to find problems with the design of the overhead electrical equipment.    The service was due to start in 2015, was then delayed to the Spring of 2016, and has now been pushed back to January 2017.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   More information has emerged concerning the introduction of new rolling stock by Stadler.    The new four-car trains seating 128 (twelve on tip-up seats) and with room for 204 standees will have six wide doors per side accessible by wheelchairs.   The new trains will give a more spacious feeling since there will be wide-open gangways between the coaches allowing  an unbroken end-to-end view.    Platform screens will increase safety since at some stations there is a single very narrow island platform resulting in a danger of a passenger being pushed off the platform in crowded conditions.    During a transition phase the new trains will operate in mixed operation with the existing three-car trains.

10 June 2016

TRAFFIC  INCREASES   Passenger traffic handled on Britain’s railways continues to rise.   During financial year 2015-6 there were 1.69bn passengers carried.   This was 2% higher than during the previous year, and a remarkable 129.8% higher than in 1994-5  at the start of privatisation.   Light railways are also seeing a steady rise in traffic with the Tyne and Wear Metro up 6% in the year 2015-6 to 40.3m passengers.  Manchester Metrolink showed a 10% rise during the same period to 34.3m while the Nottingham Metro doubled its traffic following the opening of two new routes.

CLASS 700   The new twelve car emus for the Thameslink TOC were showcased at a special event at Blackfriars station on 24 May 2016.    Each twelve car train can seat 52 first class passengers, 602 in standard class plus a further 18 on tip-up seats.    There is standing room for 1,100 making a grand total of 1754.    Thameslink is carrying 40% more passengers than ten years ago.

SOUTHERN   TOC   Selective door opening is used on trains that are longer than the available platform.    On emu classes 377/1, 377/3 and 377/4   the selective door opening for coaches that lie alongside a platform is operated by an on-board computer using a database of platform lengths.   Classes 171 and 442 employ a manually controlled system operated by the on-board train crew.

REIGATE   A third platform is to be built here that will be long enough for 12 coach Thameslink trains and is expected to open in 2018.     This has caused controversy since it will be built on land that at present forms part of the car park.     Car park space is already considered to be insufficient.   If the new platform is not built twelve coach trains will have to use the existing platforms, will be longer than these platforms, and will extend back across the adjacent level crossing preventing the movement of road traffic.

LONDON UNDERGROUND  Jubilee Line services between Stratford and North Greenwich were halted for over an hour on 26 May 2016 after a passenger ‘s foot became trapped between the train and platform edge.   The carriage had to be lifted slightly to free the foot.      The Metropolitan Line at North Harrow was flooded by torrential rain on 8 June 2016 and services were halted for several hours.   The first of the new SelTrac signalling for the “surface” lines was installed between Hammersmith and Edgware Road.    The installation of this Thales designed signalling will take until 2021 to be completed on the Circle, Hammersmith, District and Metropolitan lines.   When completed line capacity will be increased by 33% and up to 32 trains will be able to run in the peaks.

TRANSPORT  FOR  LONDON   The new London Underground route map issued in June 2016 includes future lines – the Elizabeth Line, and extensions to the Northern and Metropolitan lines.   It also indicates that there will be future work on the Gospel Oak – Barking line.

GREAT  WESTERN  TOC   This company has finalised its order for Bombardier Electrostar trains for service on the Paddington – Thames Valley suburban services.    Porterbrook Leasing has purchased ninety two class 387 trains the first of which will enter service between Paddington and Hayes and Harlington on 5 September 2016.     When this order is delivered GWR will have a totally new fleet of 180 vehicles providing a substantial increase in the number of seats on the Thames Valley services.

MIDLAND  METRO    The opening of public services on the extension across Birmingham City Centre from Bull Street to Grand Central (New Street Station) took place on Monday 30 May 2016. The end to end running time is 40 minutes.    This was a public holiday and large crowds were enjoying shopping trips in the city centre.    During the early morning crowds of camera laden enthusiasts used the trams but from mid-morning shoppers packed the trams with both new stations (Grand Central, and Corporation Street) handling very heavy traffic.    It was unfortunate that a public holiday service of a tram every 12 minutes was in operation since the traffic justified the new 6 minute frequency which operates for much of the day.   Previously trams had run every 7 – 8 minutes    The new station at Snow Hill was almost ready and did open on 1 June 2016 giving access to the north end of Snow Hill station and also serves the massive new office blocks  “1 and 2 Snow Hill”.   Passengers travelling by local trains from Kidderminster and Stourbridge have been quick to learn that a very easy connection between train and tram is possible at Jewellery Quarter  where the two stations are immediately side by side.   Traffic was very heavy throughout the half-term holiday week following the opening of the extension with many standing during the mid morning and early afternoon periods.    During the second week of the cross-city centre operation, traffic had settled down.    Bull Street remained the busiest city centre stop with Grand Central handling nearly as much traffic.  Corporation Street was quieter – a reminder that once there were five major department stores in the area and now there is just one.   Sales of “Swift” cards have risen sharply and give a modest reduction in tram fares.

PROPOSAL  REVIVED   Following the successful extension of Midland Metro across Birmingham City Centre, the plan for a branch linking Wednesbury and Brierley Hill has been revived by the West Midlands Combined Authority and will be re-examined to decide viability.  An extension beyond the Grand Central terminus in Stephenson Street to Centenary Square via Victoria Square has received formal approval by the Department of Transport after the planning inspector had refused permission because the route will take the trams past many listed buildings.    The trams are being fitted with batteries so that masts and overhead cables will not be required along sensitive parts of this extension.

DUDLEY   A feasibility study is being undertaken by the University of Warwick into a proposal for a light rail line linking Dudley Zoo and the Black Country Living Museum.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK   Between 26 June 2016 and the end of August 2016 there will be no north-south cross-city service while major work is completed at the enlarged St Peter’s Square stop.     The Eccles via Media City line will close during July and August while worn sections of track are replaced.      A Deansgate-Castlefield to Media City shuttle may be reinstated early in August 2016 while conventional double track operation will resume along Mosley Street at the end of August 2016.   The second City Crossing will open during 2017.

YORKSHIRE   The Bradford – Ilkley service was halted on 8 June 2016 following a landslip at Baildon due to torrential rains.

GLASGOW  AIRPORT   Two local engineers have proposed that a monorail be built between the Airport and Glasgow city centre following the river for much of the way and serving also a number of important traffic centres such as the Braehead Shopping Centre.     The official favoured solution is to create a tram:train service between Glasgow Central Station, the main railway to Paisley Gilmour Street station, and a new route into the airport terminals.

EDINBURGH   5.38m passengers used the tramway during its second year of operation – up from 4.92m during its first year.    Revenue rose by 6% during the second year.

23 May 2016

HS2    The French train builder Alstom has suggested that it could build a fleet of double deck trains for future services on HS2.     This would be the first use of double deck trains on main line services in the UK.

FIRST  CLASS   With traffic continuing to rise overcrowding is becoming a significant problem on many routes.   On the West Coast Main Line Virgin is converting one first class coach into standard class on some services but advice from the Department of Transport indicates that First Class might need to be eliminated completely if Standard Class traffic is especially heavy.   Calls at stations such as Crewe, Warrington and Wigan might be axed to reduce overcrowding on some services.   It is not possible to lengthen the trains since platforms at most stations are not sufficiently long.     On the East Coast main line First Group has been given permission to introduce five standard class only fast services each way between Kings Cross and Edinburgh Waverley probably from 2023.   Very low fares will be charged – probably only £25 for  tickets bought well in advance of use.   Stagecoach objects to this decision which could eat into its own traffic on the same route.

HYTHE    A Southampton to Hythe ferry struck the Hythe Pier structure at 2120 on 13 May 2016 causing substantial damage to the superstructure of the ferry but seemingly little damage to the Pier itself.   The electrically worked Pier train was standing close to the impact site awaiting passengers from the ferry but there was no apparent damage to the track or coaches.

LONDON  MAYOR   Sadiq Khan, Labour Party, has been elected as London Mayor and has come under immediate pressure to develop a network of tramways/light rail lines across the city as a priority.

LONDON UNDERGROUND Relaying 6.4km of track and the renewal of flood prevention and drainage systems on the Metropolitan Line between Baker Street and Finchley Road started on 09 May 2016.    The line will close early on Monday to Wednesday evenings for the next two years for this work to be carried out.     An embankment landslip just north of Rickmansworth halted traffic on 10 May 2016  until inspection by engineers showed that it was safe for trains to move over the damaged section at no more than 10 mph.
All-night services on Friday and Saturday nights are due to start on the Central and Victoria Lines on 19 August 2016 provided details of staff pay and conditions are agreed by then.  Similar services on the Jubilee, Northern, and Piccadilly Lines would follow in the Autumn once sufficient drivers had been employed and trained.    Earlier plans for all-night services came unstuck because of Union objections.

OVERGROUND    Effective from 15 May 2016 and because of steadily rising traffic, services during the period 2200 – 2330 have been increased from two per hour to four per hour on these routes .  Dalston Junction to New Cross and Clapham Junction.   Highbury and Islington to West Croydon and Crystal Palace.

MIDLAND  METRO       The tram station at New Street Station is to be called “Grand  Central – New Street Station” majoring on the name of the new shopping centre above the station.    Planning permission for the extension beyond Grand Central, across Centenary square, then to Five Ways was refused by the planning inspector because the tramway could spoil the city’s heritage assets.    Because Centro, which is responsible for carrying out the extension, has ordered battery powered trams there will be no need for poles and overhead wires so the Transport Secretary has overruled the inspector’s decision and work on the extension can get under way.  The tram route from the present Birmingham terminus at Bull Street along Corporation Street to a new terminus at the railway station was to have opened on 22 May 2016 but some alignment problems have been found in the track.   The opening has therefore been delayed until Monday 30 May 2016 allowing time for the track problem to be sorted and driver training to be completed.    Trams commenced training runs on 23 May 2016 and many pedestrians appeared to ignore the trams walking directly into the path of moving trams.    A steep learning curve on the part of the pedestrians will be essential if a serious accident is to be avoided.

BIRMINGHAM   New seating has been placed in all the waiting areas at New Street Station.  The seats are supposed to be more comfortable but this writer found them to be rather slippery.

CHASE  LINE   Electrification of the Walsall – Rugeley line across Cannock Chase is to be completed by December 2017.     Local MPs inspected the works on 19 May 2016.

ISLE  OF  MAN    The saga of the future of the horse tramway continues.   A “normal” service is assured for the summer season in 2016.    The roadway between the Sea Terminal and the Villa Marina is to be rebuilt with no provision for tram tracks because of safety concerns.   However there is a new proposal to retain the tram tracks between Villa Marina and Derby Castle and possibly link the horse and electric lines at Derby Castle.     Snaefell tram No 3, which was almost totally destroyed in a runaway accident on 30 March 2016 is to be completely rebuilt.

7 May 2016

EUROTUNNEL    Services were disrupted on 30 April 2016 following the breakdown of a freight train halfway through the tunnel, followed by power supply problems affecting the UK side.   Car carrying shuttle services were delayed by up to five hours before the power problems were resolved early on 01 May 2016.  This was a most unfortunate start to a busy holiday weekend.

MORE  PASSENGERS  CARRIED     In the year to 31 March 2016 the UK railway network carried 1.7bn passengers, an increase of 3.7%.     However London and the South East dominated the scene.    1.2bn passengers were carried in this region, an increase of 4.2%.

FAWKHAM  JCT  TO  SOUTHFLEET  JCT.     This line started out as part of the LC&D Rly branch from the Chatham Main Line at Fawkham Jct, through Southfleet to Gravesend West.  It was opened on 10 May 1886 but closed on 3 August 1953.    The line from Fawkham Jct to Southfleet Jct formed a link between the first section of HS 1 and the conventional railway network and was reopened in September 2003.      It created a route for Eurostar trains to/from a terminus at Waterloo International.   When the London terminus was moved to St Pancras International following the opening of the second part of HS 1 in November 2007, the spur to Fawkham Junction fell out of regular use although a few empty carriage workings and maintenance of driver knowledge runs occurred until sometime in 2013.    Since then the line has been out of use and the points at both ends have been locked and padlocked.

STRIKES  PLANNED    Three days of strikes (26 April,  10 May and  12 May – all 2016)  were announced by the RMT Union over plans by the Southern TOC to remove conductors from many services and introduce on-board Supervisors to check tickets and answer passenger queries.   The responsibility for closing the train doors will become the driver’s task.    Driver-only operation applies to 60% of services but the Union objects to this further extension.    The second and third of the planned strikes were then cancelled and replaced by one stoppage on 20 May 2016 to allow time for more talks.    Meanwhile the ASLEF union is in dispute with Govia Thameslink TOC  (GTL) which operates the Gatwick Express service.     Drivers refuse to operate the new class 387 twelve-car Gatwick Express services without a guard.    The trains have an in-cab CCTV screen to help the driver see the full length of the train.   The 387s replace class 442 units that ran as 5 or 10 coach trains.  GTL obtained a court injunction ordering ASLEF not to induce drivers to take strike action.

BOURNEMOUTH   The East Cliff funicular, opened in 1908, one of three in the resort, was forced to close in early May 2016 following a landslip in the adjacent cliff face    The track was in danger of becoming distorted.

ALTON      The branch from Farnham reopened on 09 May 2016 after the repair of a landslip at Wrecclesham was completed much more rapidly than expected.

VAUXHALL    A fire in signalling cables broke out at 0235 on 05 May 2016 and halted services in and out of Waterloo for several hours.    Vauxhall station was closed as was Clapham Junction until 1000 because of dangerous overcrowding on the platforms.    SWT could use only four of the 8 tracks through Vauxhall resulting in delays of at least an hour.   An emergency timetable was brought in cancelling Hounslow Loop services and many to Shepperton and Farnham.      Portsmouth trains turned at Woking or Guildford, and Salisbury trains at Basingstoke.

CROYDON  TRAMLINK   To meet rising traffic and enabled by the opening of a second platform at Wimbledon station the service frequency on the Croydon – Wimbledon route is being increased from 8 per hour to twelve per hour.

LIVERPOOL  STREET    If the rise in traffic continues making an increase in services necessary two additional platforms will be needed at Liverpool Street terminus plus other improvements such as providing double track into Norwich.

LEA  BRIDGE   The new station on the Stratford – Tottenham Hale line was opened on 15 May 2016 and has a half-hourly service.

CROSSRAIL     The first rail milling train in the UK is to be used on Crossrail to help keep the rails smooth and the ride comfortable.     A rail milling train costing £12m is on order from Linsinger.

THAMESLINK    New information screens are to be installed at Central London stations ahead of the introduction of Siemens Class 700 trains.   They will display much more information including departures over next half hour, stopping patterns, bike and wheelchair accommodation available.

CAMBRIDGE  NORTH   Construction of the new passenger station north of Cambridge on the main line to Ely began in July 2014 with a projected opening date of May 2017. Cambridge North is the currently proposed name for the station which will also be connected to the Cambridge Guided Busway.

BROMSGROVE    Construction of the enlarged station just south of the present stop is more or less complete.   There will be two terminal platforms (for Cross-City Line services) in addition to two platforms for through services to Worcester.   The line down Lickey Bank from Barnt Green will be closed for twelve days during October 2016 for electrification work.

BIRMINGHAM       The Navigation Street footbridge across the tracks at the north west end of New Street station was reopened for exit only on 01 May 2016.    A new ticket office/information centre is being built at the western side of the station, above platform 12, and when this has opened passengers will be able to enter the station via the bridge.

MIDLAND  METRO   Driver training on the Bull Street – New Street Station extension started on 2 May 2016 with public services commencing on 22 May 2016.

FOUR  ASHES   A new freight terminal is to be built a couple of miles north of Penkridge  passenger station on the Wolverhampton – Stafford line.    Exit 12 on the M6 Motorway is nearby and the new freight facility is expected to become a key road:rail interchange.

LEEDS   The new station at Kirkstall Forge on the line to Ilkley was opened on 15 May 2016 and has an hourly service.

HULL – SELBY   Delays in starting electrification work on this main line have raised questions in Parliament.   The privately funded £100m scheme is now two years behind schedule.

LIVERPOOL   Special services apply when there is racing at Aintree.    The 15 minute frequency service to Ormskirk is supplemented by an extra Central – Aintree train between each of the normal services.   All operate with six coaches rather than the usual three.

MANCHESTER  TRAMS     An early morning service from Firswood to the Airport was introduced on 21 March 2016.    Leaving at 0300 it has been well supported by members of staff whose shift starts at 0400, and by passengers using early flights.  Services across the entire network were halted on 25 April 2016 at 1130 until 1720 because of a power supply fault at Old Trafford..

ISLE  OF  MAN    The horse tram WILL run during the summer of 2016 being supported by the Manx Government rather that Douglas Town Council.

BLACKPOOL    Construction work on the short branch of the tramway from the Coast Line to North Station is to start in 2018.     When the Coastal line was relaid a few years ago points were installed for this branch.    Local taxi drivers have objected to the plans since they believe that tram traffic will eat into their business.

CARNFORTH    An engineering train was derailed on the WCML just before midnight on 24 April 2016 and re-railing the vehicles proved to be difficult and time consuming.     The WCML was still blocked both ways between Preston and Carlisle until the middle of the 25th before single line working was established on the southbound main line past the derailed train.     Track repairs were not completed until late on the 25th and normal services resumed 24 hours after the initial incident.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   Services will be suspended from  2 July until 31 July 2016 for the replacement of pointwork and track along the ramps leading to Broomloan  Road Depot.    The only crossover between the Inner and Outer Circles is at this location.

EDINBURGH  TRAMS   The tram service was opened in May 2014 and has experienced steady traffic growth with almost 5 million passengers carried during the first year of service, somewhat ahead of the predicted level.    Trams run every eight minutes during the busier times of day but  additional services are to be operated during the morning and late afternoon peak periods.   Tickets are issued from machines at the stops and to speed the process return tickets can now be purchased.   The return costs the same as two single trips but time is saved when the return journey is taken.  An extension beyond York Place in the city centre along Leith Walk to Leith and Newhaven is being actively planned.

20 April 2016

NEW  HOMES    Network Rail has made an agreement with the Homes and Communities Agency to develop disused railway sites in order to construct up to 10,000 new houses and businesses mostly close to existing stations.    The income generated will go towards the cost of regeneration projects at major stations similar to recent schemes at Birmingham New Street, Manchester Victoria and London Kings Cross.    The first station to benefit under the new arrangement is York.

PHILIP  SAYER      Few readers will have known Phil but his voice became very familiar to millions.    He made the pre-recorded voice messages heard on both trains and stations on the London Underground (“Mind the gap”) and on British Railways services.    Most of the standard messages broadcast in the rebuilt Birmingham New Street station were recorded by Phil.   He died from cancer  on 14 April 2016 aged 62 years.

GATWICK  EXPRESS   The new twelve car emus sporting a bright red livery were introduced on the Victoria – Gatwick Airport route on 11 April 2016.     These new trains will be operated by the driver with no conductor/manager on board and the drivers are against the change.   The trains that they replace were just 8 coaches long and had a conductor on board in addition to the driver.   A “soft launch” to the new service took place on Saturday 9 April 2016 and the driver on the initial trip operated the train to Victoria and back again with the doors closed so that no passengers could join the train.    The train operator has indicated that it is taking the Union to Court over this dispute.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND      Because of climate change leading to a rise in the water table a study has been made of stations on the London Underground.   Fifty seven stations have been identified as being at risk if present trends continue.    Among the stations at particular risk are Finsbury Park, Notting Hill Gate, Marble Arch, Seven Sisters, Colliers Wood, and Stockwell.
LILLIE  BRIDGE   LUL plan to sell some of the land at Lillie Bridge Depot to create space for new housing with the maintenance/repair work being transferred to Acton.

LUTON  AIRPORT    The slow shuttle bus service between Luton Airport Parkway station and Luton Airport terminal buildings is to be replaced by a light rail connection.    The 1.2 mile long line will be funded by Luton Borough Council and is expected to open in 2020.

GREAT  WESTERN   Electrification work along the main line is under way with foundations for the overhead line masts being constructed between South Marten and Royal Wootton Bassett.   Work between Didcot to Bristol Parkway is to be completed by December 2018 and into Temple Meads Station by April 2020.

WEST  MIDLANDS    Services across the West Midlands were disrupted by a series of signalling and traction power failures on 8 April 2016.    During mid morning parts of the Cross City Line were at a standstill, then the Coventry line was closed during the afternoon while in the evening virtually all services at New Street station were halted.     At least most of the morning and evening peak hour traffic operated without significant delay.     Vandalism early on 11 April 2016 put the power supply for the signalling around New Street station out of action during the first normal working day after the long Easter holiday.    A cable at Proof House Junction had been severed.  It was thought at first that the damage had been vandalism but closer study suggests that the damage was the work of rats.    Trains started to run again around 10.00 but services were still subject to cancellation or severe delays into the evening peak.

MIDLANDS  METRO    The erection of the overhead wires along the Bull Street – New Street Station extension were completed in time for tests to ensure that the power system was compatible with the electricity systems at New Street railway station.    During the tests on 2/3 April 2016 tram services from Wolverhampton were turned at the new Snow Hill stop.   The trams used the future “to New Street platform” using a crossover close by in order to use this single platform.    Services to Bull Street resumed on Monday 4 April and these special calls at Snow Hill were discontinued.   Work on the completion of stops at Snow Hill, Corporation Street, and New Street Station continues and it is hoped that public services to New Street Station will commence during May 2016.

MANCHESTER    Work to complete the Second City Crossing continues and the building of two surprisingly  broad island platforms at the St Peter’s Square stop has begun.    There will be two island platforms – one to serve the new Second Crossing route to Victoria station and the other for the route to Island Gardens and Piccadilly station.

PAISLEY    A football fan let off a smoke bomb at St James station soon after the conclusion of the St Mirren v Morton derby match on 16 April 2016 causing alarm and panic among the large crowd of fans packing the station platform.

8 April 2016

STORM  KATIE   Severe storms are now given names by UK Meteorological Agency to give a warning to the public that overhead cables, trees, and buildings etc may be in danger of damage.    Storm Katie hit south west and southern England on 27 and 28 March 2016 before moving north across the Midlands to reach north west England.    Gusts reached as much as 106 mph.   Cross Channel ferry services were disrupted by heavy seas.   There was extremely heavy rain during the night of 27/28 March with many sections of the third rail network south of London out of action temporarily.    On the East Coast Main Line the overhead wires were brought down near Sandy halting services between Kings Cross and Peterborough.    Gatwick and Heathrow Airports were significantly affected.    Some flights could not land safely and were diverted to airports in the West and East Midlands.     Over 70 flights were cancelled, diverted, or delayed by many hours.      The M6 Motorway was flooded so deeply near Stafford that the highway had to be closed completely for a few hours.     As the storm moved north the railway between Crewe and Manchester was flooded  north of Crewe and the signalling was put out of action.      Local trains from Manchester had to be turned at Sandbach or Alderley Edge.     Intercity services were still able to operate via Macclesfield.     There was flooding around Derby and Sheffield and the route west to Stoke on Trent and east towards Lincoln were both closed by floods.

DAME ZAHA HADID   The world-leading woman architect died in Florida following a heart attack on 31 March 2016.     Her innovative buildings featuring curves, striking roof lines, and remarkable shapes can be seen in major sport arenas, museums, and assembly halls/theatres across the world but in relatively few structures in the UK.    The children’s cancer treatment centre in Kirkcaldy, to which this writer had links, was her first work in the UK.   The Transport Museum in Glasgow together with a building for the London Olympics were among the last.

BRIGHTON  BELLE    Work to restore a 5 car train including some of the old Belle stock is now complete and trials on the main lines will start this year with passenger carrying services in 2017. For more information please follow this link:

Brighton Belle news

LIGHT  RAIL  TRAFFIC   The number of passengers carried on the UK’s light railways/tramways during the financial year 2014-15 at 239.8m rose 5.6% compared with the previous year.  However the number carried fell on three of the systems due to sections being closed for track renewal etc work. – Sheffield Supertram by 8.5% at 11.5m;  Midland Metro by 6.1% at just 4.4m; Blackpool by 5.9% at 4.1m.     Statistics for the system on which traffic grew are Docklands 110.2m (up 8.5%); Croydon Tramlink 32.3m (3.5%); Nottingham 8.1m (2.9%); Tyne and Wear Metro 38.1m (6.7%); Manchester 31.2m (6.6%).

FOLKESTONE  –  DOVER   Repairs to the collapsed sea wall are proceeding steadily and the line is expected to reopen with the timetable change in December 2016.

LONDON UNDERGROUND    A drivers’ strike shut the Piccadilly Line from late on 23 March 2016 until the end of normal services on 24 March.    Bus services on parallel routes were increased to compensate and to the joy of many travellers saw the use of mothballed vintage Routemaster buses operating some of the extra  services.   The refurbishment of four escalators at Euston station are to be refurbished one at a time, commencing on 14 April 2016 and continuing until mid 2017.

SOUTH  WEST  TRAINS  This TOC plans a major upgrade to its London terminal including the return of platforms 20-24 to regular service, and the extension of platforms 1-4.   The former concourse of the International Station will become additional space for local travellers.

C2C   A car was abandoned on the tracks near Pitsea Station early on 29 March 2016 and efforts to move it resulted in a wheel being torn off.   Services were halted until a crane lifted it clear.

CROSSRAIL   The £30m improvements completed over the Easter 2016 period included work on the electrification in West London and Berkshire and platform extensions at West Ealing, Southall, Hayes and Harlington, together with extensive track work at Maidenhead, Old Oak Common, Stockley (near Hayes) and Shenfield.

GOSPEL  OAK  TO  BARKING.    This route is to close for eight months while electrification and other upgrade work is completed to allow services to be worked by 4-car emus instead of the present two coach dmus.    The Barking – South Tottenham section will close on weekdays from 4 June 2016 until 25 September 2016.     The entire route will then be closed until February 2017.

EAST  ANGLIA  PLANS     The London (Liverpool Street) – Norwich main line is operating at near capacity and it is planned that the trip time between these cities will come down to 90 minutes.  Passenger numbers have risen steadily and further growth can be coped with by lengthening some of the train sets to twelve coaches.    The existing trains are near the end of their economic lives and plans for new trains are based around the concept of powerful emus that will have higher seating and the potential for more coaches – platforms will take two more per train since there will be no locomotive or DVT.      Some significant improvements in the infrastructure are required including the double tracking of various short single track sections and various branches, including the Felixstowe branch on which container freight traffic from the docks needs a major infrastructure improvement.    The single track swing bridge over the River Trowse leading into Norwich station needs to  be replaced with a double track structure. Additional platforms are essential at Liverpool Street to accommodate ever rising commuter traffic as well as a need to increase the Norwich express service to half-hourly.    There is sufficient space for two or even three new platforms but they will be costly to provide.

WEST  ANGLIA  PLANS   This area includes the Liverpool Street – Cambridge – Kings Lynn main line from which a short branch serves Stansted Airport.   There are a few other branches feeding into Cambridge or Ely and there has been a steady rise in freight and commuter traffic.  A faster and more frequent service to Stansted Airport is a major requirement and with new housing  being built alongside the Lea Valley Line capacity improvements are essential along some sections.     Some single track sections near Kings Lynn need to be double tracked if a half-hourly service is to be possible north of Ely.

EAST  MIDLANDS ROUTE STUDY    Passenger numbers are expected to rise by 40% by 2023 and 100% by 2043.    Freight traffic (as tonnes Km) will rise by 300% over the same period.  To accommodate these changes track capacity will need to increase to handle the key Harwich – West Midlands container traffic with pinch points around Leicester the most in need of change.  A new East Midlands Gateway Rail Freight interchange will be established also in the Leicester area.  Leicester station needs additional platforms as routes such as Birmingham – Leicester – Stansted Airport are doubled in frequency.

WEST  MIDLANDS   Companies shortlisted for the next franchise period include Govia, the present operator  (trading as London Midland trains),  West Midlands Trains (a joint venture of Abellio, East Japan Railway and Mitsui), and MTR Corporation (a subsidiary of the Chinese Company MTR).    Services between New Street and Coventry were disrupted for most of 5 April 2016 after an emu brought down 100m of the overhead near International station causing significant  damage to the overhead structure and to the train.     The multi-level car park at Wolverhampton station has been doubled in size and now has 800 spaces.

NORTON  BRIDGE     The new track layout including the flyover to separate main line services for the north from Manchester trains was commissioned during the last weekend on March 2016 and the first train to use the flyover operated on 29 March 2016.

HS2   PLANS    After the London – Birmingham initial section and the next section to Manchester have been built and are successful, the long-term plan to extend HS2 to Scotland may then be a  live issue.     The planners are hard at work already and have decided that a route via Shap and Beattock to the Glasgow area and perhaps with a branch to Edinburgh is the best route.     The long steep banks up Shap and Beattock would be replaced by long more or less straight tunnels enabling the route to be significantly shorter by eliminating the curving sections of route along the Lune and Upper Clyde valleys.   The northern end of the Beattock Tunnel would surface somewhere north of Crawford near Abington. The straighter route would make possible speeds of up to 400km/hour.     It would be necessary to avoid Carlisle but this commercial hub for the Border area has a modest population but could be linked to HS2 by links facing both north and south.

BLACKPOOL   Work on the £22m extension along Talbot Street to North Station will start in 2018.

SNAEFELL    A spectacular accident on the Snaefell Line at around 1430 on 29 March 2016 ended with the total destruction of car No 3.    The tram had taken around 30 tourists to the summit and was standing empty close to the Summit Hotel when it started to move on its own.   Gaining speed it finally left the rails shortly before Bungalow station and the level crossing with a main road.    The car was completely shattered and looked beyond repair. However, the Director of the Isle of Man’s railways, Ian Longworth, has indicated that it will be rebuilt with parts from the damaged vehicle.   The passengers and staff were stranded for some time at the Summit before being rescued by road. For photos please follow the link below:

Snaefell accident pictures

DOUGLAS  HORSE  TRAMS    The horse trams are likely to be operated on some peak days during summer 2016 by Isle of Man Railways, which means that the service has been nationalised and is no longer the responsibility of Douglas Town Council.    The provision of new tracks to the side of the improved highway along the sea front or along the pedestrianised prom remains unclear.   There are strong views that horse trams and pedestrians simply do not mix.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   Atkins Transportation has been appointed as technical advisers for the new driverless trains that are to be built by a Stadler/Ansaldo consortium.

25 March 2016

LORD  ADONIS  AND  NEW  RAILWAYS         The transport expert has welcomed the announcement in the Budget statement on 16 March 2016 giving support for the construction of HS3 and Crossrail 2.    Work on HS3 that involves a major upgrade to existing railways may be finished by the end of 2018 while work on Crossrail2 will take until 2033.

BIKE  PARKS    Massive secure bicycle parks are being built at Cambridge (2000 spaces) and London Waterloo (5000 spaces).    Thefts of bikes from non-secure parking areas have become numerous and the provision of a truly secure parking area is hoped to increase the numbers of commuters who will use a bicycle as part of their daily commute between home and workplace.

PORTSMOUTH    A new version of the proposal to construct a light rail line between Portsmouth and Southampton has appeared.     The earlier plan included a link to Gosport involving a tunnel under the river at Portsmouth Harbour but the Naval Authorities objected since there would be insufficient depth of water over the light rail line tunnel for the largest naval ships.    To place the tunnel deeper under the river would have resulted in the stops at Gosport and Portsmouth Harbour being too deep below ground to be practical.    The new plan omits any line to Gosport and the route would be adjacent to the third rail heavy rail line between the cities.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   As agreement is reached with the various Unions involved start dates for all-night services (“Night Tube”) have been suggested.    Services right through Friday and Saturday nights may commence on the Victoria and Jubilee Lines during August 2016.   Similar services would commence on the Central, Northern, and Piccadilly Lines during September 2016.

CROSSRAIL   An additional station on Crossrail in West London – in the North Kensington area – has been suggested and has received wide support from local transport bodies.

OVERGROUND    Arriva is the preferred bidder to take over the operation of the Overground lines from 2018.   A 4.5km extension of the Gospel Oak – Barking line to Barking Riverside is now fully funded and construction work can now begin.    £172m is being provided by Barking Riverside Ltd and £91m by Transport for London.     One of the largest housing developments around London is being built at Riverside comprising 11,000 new homes.

WEST  COAST   The departure screens at Euston station for West Coast long-distance services now display the proportion of seats that have been reserved on each coach.    On many trains a large proportion of seats on perhaps two of the coaches are reserved and the displays help passengers without reservations to seek out seats on coaches with seats that are mostly unreserved.

CARDIFF    £1.2bn has been allocated for the major electrification project that will take the wires along the network of Cardiff Valleys.    £500m will come from the UK Government and the remainder (£734m) from sources within Wales.

MIDLAND  METRO   A public opening for the extension across Birmingham City Centre to New Street Station is now likely towards the end of May 2016 when sufficient drivers will have completed training over the new route..     A special event for members of LRTA who will be able to ride along the new track is being arranged for mid May.    Because the £10 Penalty Fare for travelling without a ticket is no longer considered to be a sufficient deterrent it is proposed to increase this to £70, reduced by half if paid within three weeks.     Over Easter Weekend when testing of electrical equipment along the extension to New Street Station takes place the public service will terminate at the new Snow Hill stop even though the platforms are not yet finished.   After the Easter Weekend the service will again run through to Bull Street omitting the new Snow Hill stop which will open again once the civil engineering work has been completed.   Work on the extension from St George’s to Wolverhampton station will begin during summer 2016.

EAST  COAST    Virgin East Coast unveiled its first Class 800 “Azuma” (Japanese for “East”) train, one of 65 trains being built by Hitachi to provide an increased timetable providing an extra 12,200 seats daily on the improved services.    The trains will have better acceleration and will trim 22 minutes off the Kings Cross – Waverley trip time.   Talks are under way with Network Rail to achieve track improvements leading to further cuts in timings.

NORTON  BRIDGE    The construction of a flyover at Norton Bridge Junction to take Manchester via Stoke trains over the West Coast Main Line tracks is nearing completion.   These trains have to cross the main line fast tracks on the level causing many delays.   The civil engineering parts of the flyover were completed several weeks ago and the track has now been laid.   This track will be connected up to the rest of the system over the Easter Weekend.    The date when the flyover will come into use by service trains has not yet been announced.

ISLE  OF  MAN    Talks are under way to try somehow to have the horse tram in Douglas operational during the summer of 2016, the long-term future of the system and how capital can be obtained to fund improvements.    The Manx Electric Railway will operate a roughly hourly service during the 2016 summer season increased to half-hourly during the busiest period.    Trams will operate during the evenings with the last service completing its journey at 2340.    There will be a number of special events days throughout the season when many additional services will be run.

BLACKPOOL   Work on the extension of the tramway to North railway station at a cost of just £18m is likely to begin in 2017 opening during 2018.

HULL  TRAINS   This TOC has been granted an additional ten years to operate services between Hull and Kings Cross taking it to 2019.    The company intends to order a fleet of bi-mode trains so that it can take advantage of the electrification along most of its route along the East Coast Main Line.  The new trains are likely to appear in 2020.

LEEDS   The new station at Kirkstall Forge on the line to Shipley is likely to open in mid to late April 2016.

TYNE  &  WEAR  METRO   A report to the North East Combined Authority (NECA) and Nexus has criticised the existing franchise holder (DB Regio Tyne and Wear Ltd) for its operating and financial performance.    When the present franchise ends on 31 March 2017, NECA plans that Nexus will take over operations for a two year period during which time the effectiveness of services will be improved as much as possible..    It is agreed that a key to transforming operations is the purchase of a completely new fleet of LRVs although the slashing of funds (by £33m) to aid modernisation work has made completion of the upgrade work more difficult.

RAVENSTRUTHER    The short branch near Carstairs opened in 1989 to serve an automated coal loading facility was closed last year since coal was no longer obtained from the Douglas Valley opencast sites.    The striking loading structure was demolished during February and March 2016.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY    Despite a reduction in funds from the Scottish Government £45m to £20m this year the modernisation programme for the Subway will continue and the Government is expected to contribute £246m out of a total of £282m for the entire project.

14 March 2016

FINANCE    For the first time franchise payments paid by the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) have exceeded the sums paid by the Government to the TOCs as support funding.    This does not mean that the railway industry has become profitable since there are other sources of support funding but it does show that the recent major increase in passengers carried has had a positive effect on the day-to-day accounts.

PASSENGER  NUMBERS   The number of passengers carried on Britain’s railway network has doubled during the past twenty years and is now at its highest level for ninety years when there was a much larger network of railways.

SMART  TICKETS    Scotrail is launching a comprehensive plan to introduce Smart Ticketing throughout its entire network.    One of the first parts of the scheme will involve Season Tickets .

ISLE  OF  WIGHT    The Isle of Wight Council is to discuss in the near future the recent proposal to replace the ex-London Underground trains on the Ryde – Shanklin route with light rail vehicles.

GATWICK  EXPRESS   The first of the new Class 387/2 emus has entered service on the Victoria – Gatwick shuttles.    Twenty seven new units totalling 108 coaches are being built at a cost of £145m by Bombardier in Derby and display a bright red livery.    The giant letters GX appear on the side of each coach.     They will replace the class 442 units and give extra seats and luggage space.

ELIZABETH  LINE   London’s Crossrail line is to be named the Elizabeth Line in honour of HM The Queen who is the nation’s longest serving monarch.

HEATHROW  EXPRESS     Heathrow Express class 332 trains were taken out of service on 29 February 2015 after a crack was found in the main frame of one carriage.    The Express schedules were then worked by the Heathrow Connect trains and the slower Heathrow Connect service was withdrawn.   The Standard Class fare for the altered service was cut from £22 to £17.   First class fares were refunded completely.    Examination of the other class 332 sets revealed unexpected faults in several coaches and the entire fleet will remain out of service for the foreseeable future.

LONDON UNDERGROUND  District Line services on the Acton Town – Ealing Broadway branch had to be suspended after a District Line train was derailed on pointwork at 2200 on 1 March 2016 close to the Ealing station.     The line was reopened at 1020am on 2 March 2016 after the derailed coaches had been removed.    The Metropolitan line is to close between Aldgate and Wembley Park at around 2200 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to allow track relaying and drainage system repairs, The closure will start on 16 May 2016 and continue until the end of 2018.      The Jubilee Line will continue to link Central London with Wembley Park, and Metropolitan services north of Wembley Park will operate to Amersham/Chesham twice per hour, to Uxbridge six times per hour.
A six month trial will start on 18 April 2016 at Holborn station to see how escalators are used.    Traditionally passengers stood on the right leaving the left side for passengers wishing to walk up/down.    In an earlier experiment it was found that if both side of an escalators was used by standing passengers around 30% more passengers were able to travel from concourse to the platform and vice versa clearing congestion in the concourses more effectively.

CROSSRAIL 2    Lord Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, has supported the concept of the planned Tottenham – Wimbledon line that will be linked to suburban railways at both ends.

APPERLEY  BRIDGE   This station on the line running west from Leeds towards Shipley was officially reopened on 18 December 2015.     It is a brisk 9 minute run from Leeds station and is served mainly by the half hourly emu service between Leeds and Bradford Forster Square.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK   The closed stop at Woodlands Road, which comprised two wooden platforms, has been totally removed.   Off-peak traffic on the Ashton line remains very low. On 9 March 2016 a training exercise was under way as empty special workings were operated from the City Centre to Etihad Campus (for the Etihad stadium).    There is quite a tricky manoeuvre at the Stadium stop.  The specials run on beyond the stop then reverse into a central track before returning to the city. The next stop from the city centre is Velopark serving the Commonwealth Games cycling venue.     A new very attractive 7,000 seat stadium has appeared immediately beside the stop – the “Academy Stadium”.    Owned by Manchester City FC it is designed to host Youth Team matches and also provide a venue for general training purposes.     The most recently erected poles for the overhead power wires are topped by a pointed silver cap which glistens attractively in sunlight.

WEST  COAST    Although the line north of Carlisle has reopened throughout, on 19 March 2016 services were still crossing Lamington Viaduct at a slow crawl.    The arrival platform at Haymarket for West Coast services coming from England can hold only nine coaches and passengers in the last two coaches (usually First Class) walk through two coaches in order to leave the train.   Further heavy rains on the night of 8/9 March 2016 resulted in flooding of  the main line between Rugby and Wolverton with long delays to morning services.

GLASGOW  AREA    Trains scheduled to operate on all routes through Motherwell Station were halted for several hours on 1 March 2016.     A mouse had bitten through a key cable and the signalling system throughout the area failed.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY    A major part of the £288m refurbishment of the Subway was revealed early in March 2016.   A new fleet of coaches will be introduced, will be driverless, and the trains will comprise four coaches instead of the present three.   New signalling and train control systems will allow automatic operation of the trains.     They will have longitudinal seating, space for wheelchairs and half-height platform edge screens will protect the public from falling on to the track.   The contract to supply the new fleet has gone to a consortium including Stadler (expert coach builders) and Ansaldo (expert signalling and control system designers).    Station rebuilding work has been nearly completed at St Enoch to create a wide clear concourse, and is well under way at Buchanan Street.

EGIP (Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme)  Work on bridges and tunnels between Ratho Junction and Winchburgh is advanced but no masts have been erected.   Masts are mostly completed from Winchburgh Tunnel with the overhead wires strung through Linlithgow.    There is a gap in active work until Falkirk High after which mast erection is largely complete through Castlecary and beyond Croy.     There is nothing done down Cowlairs Bank and in Queen Street High Level station where a twenty week closure to all traffic begins shortly allowing electrification work  to get under way.

EDINBURGH    With the tramway between the city centre and the Airport now operating smoothly and traffic running well ahead of expectations, the City Council now plans to push ahead with three extensions.    The first will take the trams from York Place in the City Centre to the centre of Leith and then on to Newhaven.    This extension will be on roads with no land purchases required.   The second is from Newhaven to Granton Square, and third is the so-called Roseburn route following in part an abandoned railway right of way and taking the route south to join the existing tramway.    Various land purchases are needed for extensions 2 and 3 and the Council’s Tramway Compulsory Purchase powers expire on 7 May 2016.   Remembering this time constraint the Council is proceeding with purchases as far as its funds will allow.

22 Febuary 2016

CLASS 86  LOCOMOTIVES.    Freightliner has purchased  locomotives – 86229, 86251, and 86901, from Europhoenix.   They have been out of use for at least twelve years and will not be returned to active use by their new owner.   Instead they will be a source of spare parts.

CLASS 374    Seven of the new e320 trains – designated as class 374 – have been delivered to Eurotunnel and are in use on London – Paris services.

SOUTH EASTERN   All services by the SOUTH EASTERN TOC between Dartford and Victoria were halted for several hours on 10 February 2016 because of a major signalling failure.

CROYDON   A dramatic collision between a speeding car that was running through a red traffic light and a Croydon tram that was turning into Wellesley Road occurred at 2312 on 07 February 2016.    The car ran straight into the tram and the collision was so violent that the tram was derailed and pushed fifteen feet from the track.    The two occupants of the car were gravely injured and were rushed to a nearby major hospital.

MAIL  RAIL   The 6.5 mile long 2’0” gauge Post Office Railway was opened in 1927 and linked several mail sorting centres across Central London.   It was the first automatic driverless electric railway in the world but falling traffic lead to its closure in 2003.    A Postal Museum and Visitor Centre is being created at Mount Pleasant at the railway’s former engineering shops and will open in 2017.   A feature will be a one mile long ride along part of “Mail Rail” as the line became known during the latter part of its operation.   Two battery powered three coach trains each carrying up to32 passengers plus a driver will give the visitors a trip along part of the railway.   They are being built by Severn Lamb Ltd of Stratford-upon-Avon.   Longer trips are not possible because of the restricted dimensions of the tunnels from which there are no safety exits.

GOSPEL OAK – BARKING.     The electrification of this north London line will involve the replacement of four bridges and significant alterations to eight others so that sections of the route will be closed at times.    The entire route will be closed from October 2016 until February 2017.

PADDINGTON  LUL:  The Bakerloo Line station will be closed from 2 April 2016 until mid August 2016 while two escalators are renovated and civil engineering works for Crossrail are completed.

EAST  COAST    From May 2016 Virgin Trains are to extend four Kings Cross – Newcastle services both ways to/from Edinburgh Waverley, creating a half hourly service for most of the day between the two capitals.    New departures from Edinburgh will be at 0900, 1300, 1600 and 1935.    Kings Cross departures that will continue north from Newcastle to Edinburgh leave KX at 0615, 1030, 1330 and 1730.

WEST  MIDLANDS  RAILWAYS     The Cross City Line car park at Wylde Green Station was resurfaced during the period 15-24 February 2016.      Further extensions to the car park at Chester Road station have been possible by using parts of rear gardens of nearby houses.    The track at a junction just west of Smethwick on the Stour Valley Main Line is to be relayed during 25 – 30 March 2016, including the Easter Weekend, and this will trap many of the emus used on local services in the nearby depot.    Cross City and Walsall/Rugeley services will operate less frequently and the stopping service between Birmingham and Wolverhampton will not run.     Birmingham – Liverpool services will be disrupted by the Smethwick work and also by track work west of Stafford.   Buses will run hourly between Birmingham and Crewe with a train every second hour Crewe – Liverpool.     A long-running dispute over charges for taxis operating from New Street Station has been resolved and the new taxi rank has at last opened.

MIDLAND  METRO   Seventeen of the new fleet of CAF Urbos 3 trams are to be retrofitted with powerful lithium ion batteries so that they will be able to run past the Town Hall and Civic Buildings in Victoria Square without the need to erect unsightly overhead wires.   The last four of the new Urbos 3 trams were supplied with batteries already fitted.      The extension to New Street Station is now expected to take place during May 2016.   Safety checks to ensure that the tram electrical equipment does not clash with equipment used by British Railways will be undertaken by Centro in late April 2016.   Work to complete the platforms at Corporation Street and New Street Station is proceeding very slowly and finishing off the overhead power wires is similarly taking surprisingly long.

DERBY   Two trams built for the San Francisco system by Bombardier were brought to Britain after their withdrawal from service in America to see if they could be used on the Manchester Metrolink system as a stop-gap measure to relieve overcrowding on that system.   One went to Manchester and the other to a factory in Derby just south of the railway station.    The experiment failed and the tram in Manchester was broken up there after lying for a time outside the depot..    The tram in Derby has stood in the open near the main Birmingham – Derby railway line and has gradually deteriorated.   On 13 February 2016 it was a rusty shell with no glass in the windows.

LIVERPOOL   The new station on the Ormskirk route is likely to be called Maghull Moss Side recalling the famous Military Hospital that once existed beside the new station.   It is likely to open in January 2017.

ISLE  OF  MAN    Track replacement work on the Manx Electric Railway near Fairy Cottage and overhead wire renewal between Onchan Head and Howstrake will be completed before the start of the 2016 holiday season.    Traffic carried during 2015 shows an increase on the 2014 levels.
Manx Electric 72,182 (up 8.8%),  Snaefell Railway 52,055 (up 8.4%) and Isle of Man Railway (steam) 100,653 (up 1.2%).

BLACKPOOL   The Heritage tram fleet will operate the following services during the 2016 holiday season.    Pleasure Beach – Bispham  a tram every 15 minutes throughout the day.   There will be a service continuing to Fleetwood Ferry every 45 minutes.

SHEFFIELD   Supertram services were operating smoothly on 17 February 2016 with heavy traffic all day long on the Meadowhall route but there was lots of space on the Halfway and Herdings Park lines.     There was no sign of preparatory works for the link to British Railways near Carbrook for the planned tram:train service to Rotherham.    Similarly no work had started on the double tracking of the last section of the Meadowhall line.

TYNE  &  WEAR  METRO    Parts of the Metro through the north eastern suburbs will be closed during track relaying work over coming months.   The number of passengers carried exceeded 40m during 2015 – the highest total for many years.

WEST  COAST    Repairs to Lamington Viaduct have run ahead of schedule thanks to unexpectedly good weather and some services on the Carlisle to Glasgow/Edinburgh main line were restarted on 22 February 2016 rather than in March.

CLASS  385     A full-size mock-up of one of the new Hitachi built emus, showing the internal layout, has gone on public display in Edinburgh Waverley station.    These trains will operate the fast Glasgow Queen Street HL to Edinburgh Waverley service from late 2017.    There will be a 45% increase in the number of seats available from 2017.

SCOTTISH  HIGH – SPEED    The Scottish Government has had to abandon its plan to build a high-speed railway between Edinburgh and Glasgow until a high-speed railway from England has reached Central Scotland.    The UK Government is not willing to make any financial contribution to an isolated high-speed railway in Scotland but might consider doing so once an Anglo-Scottish line is opened.

6 February 2016

TICKET  OFFICES   A proposal has been put to the Department of Transport that the ticket offices at 675 stations be closed.    Many are suburban stops in the large cities where there is heavy use of the offices during the morning rush hour but much less use later in the day.    In the West Midlands the stations served by Inter-City services survive plus just a few suburban stops including Sutton Coldfield, University, and Solihull but not busy stations such as Four Oaks.

GREAT  WESTERN  ELECTRIFICATION      The planned dates for opening each stage of the electrification project along the GW Main Line have fallen behind the original plans and now are as follows:  Maidenhead to Didcot,   December 2017,    Didcot to Wootton Bassett Jct,  Bristol Parkway to Cardiff through the Severn Tunnel  and Newbury to Reading  ALL in December 2018,   Didcot to Oxford  June 2019,   Wootton Bassett Jct to Bristol Temple Meads  in stages between February 2019 and April 2020.

SOUTH  COAST    Restoration of the main line between Dover and Folkestone at Shakespeare Beach is proving to be a much greater task than first seemed.    Storms just before Christmas 2015 lowered the level of the beach by at least 2 metres exposing the foundations and seriously damaging  the wall that supports the railway.   In some places the track was totally undermined and large voids appeared below the rails.     The railway infrastructure needs to be rebuilt from scratch.    18,000 tons of rock have been placed on the beach in an attempt to protect it from further storms.    Next, work on the sea wall can start.     Further west the main line between Brockenhurst and Bournemouth had to be closed on 27 January 2016 due to flooding following more heavy rain.

SOUTH  WEST  TRAINS   Two rivals are to fight it out for the new franchise starting in June 2017.   They are First South West Trains (the present operator) and Stagecoach South West.    The franchise covers the complex suburban network from Waterloo, longer routes to Weymouth and Exeter, and the little Island Line.

GATWICK  EXPRESS   The new Electrostar class 387 emus will begin to enter service on the Victoria – Gatwick fasts during February 2016.

LONDON  SUBURBAN  TAKEOVER    The Government is supporting a proposal that Transport for London takes over all existing heavy rail suburban services in London and any new Metro/light rail services.     The transformation of several linked heavy rail routes in East London plus the East London Metro Line into the Overground has been an outstanding success and the sets of new class 378 emus have had to be lengthened from four to five coaches to handle the six-fold increase in  traffic, now running at 176m in a year.    Additions to the Overground have taken its routes right around the inner suburbs, again with a notable increase in service frequency and usage.   The proposal sees much of the “Southern Electric” network in South London plus other suburban routes in the north, east and west transformed in a similar way.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   Bombardier’s Derby works has completed in January 2016 the largest ever order for Tube stock comprising 191 trains of  “S Stock” totalling 1395 carriages.    Fifty eight car trains (S8 Stock) have been built for the Metropolitan Line, while there are 133 seven coach trains (S7 Stock) for the Circle, Hammersmith & City, and District Lines.    With regenerative braking the new trains will save significantly on energy consumption.    The trains feature walk-through carriages and have 25% more capacity compared to the trains that they replace.    The planned 48 hour strike starting on 6 February 2016 over the continuing dispute over the closure of most ticket offices, pay, and staff rosters was called off on 4 February as talks moved in a more positive manner.

EAST  COAST  MAIN  LINE    High winds brought down the overhead power wires on 1 February 2016 and disrupted services along the entire main line.

VIRGIN  WEST  COAST  Two seats are to be reserved on every “Pendolino” trains for pregnant passengers and other “vulnerable” customers using initially the Euston – Manchester service.
A landslide on 1 February 2016 following more heavy rain between Milton Keynes Central and Leighton Buzzard reduced the main line to just two tracks all day causing delays with some train cancellations.

MIDLAND  METRO   The Wolverhampton terminus of the Metro is called “St George’s” after the nearby church of that name.     However since nobody has lived in the area for several decades with various forms of shops or light industry taking most of the space, the church has been closed since before the Metro opened.      The building did however find a new use acting as an entrance hallway to a Sainsbury’s Superstore.     Now this store has closed, the site is for sale, and probably all the buildings will be demolished to clear the way for a totally new use.          A new £1 “City Hop” fare has been introduced permitting travel between Bull Street and Jewellery Quarter;  also Wolverhampton and Priestfield.     There has been a noticeable increase in travel between Bull Street and St Paul’s since the fare was introduced.

SUTTON  COLDFIELD   A memorial plaque was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Cllr Ray Hassall, beside the concourse of the station on 23 January 2016 in memory of the 17 people who died as a result of the disastrous derailment of the 1215 York to Bristol express at 1631 on 23 January 1955.   The ten coach train carrying three hundred passengers, headed by a Black Five 45274, had been diverted from its usual Tamworth route and ran through a sharply curved tunnel into the station at double the 30 mph speed limit.    It came off the tracks with coaches sweeping the canopies and buildings off the Lichfield direction platform.    The locomotive crew were killed along with fifteen passengers and twenty five had  significant injuries.     The centrepiece of the memorial is a representation of the Sutton Coldfield Rose with the names of those who died alongside.     Appreciation is expressed for the assistance of local townspeople who rushed to the scene.     The memorial marked the 60th anniversary of the accident although the ceremony took place on the 61st anniversary.    The Midcounties Co-operative Society donated the plaque following a vigorous campaign by the local newspaper, The Royal Sutton Coldfield Observer, and by a survivor then aged 6 years several of whose close family died in the accident.

ISLE  OF  MAN    Douglas Council decided in late January 2016 that it could no longer afford the large subsidy which is necessary to keep the 140 year old horse tram service going.    Services along the 1.6 mile long tramway along the Douglas seafront have been pared back in an effort to reduce costs but this has simply slashed the numbers going on what used to be an essential part of any holiday on the Island.     The tramway is no longer seen as making a significant contribution to the Island’s economy.    Local residents are however urging the Manx Government to provide a subsidy to keep the service in operation.    If the closure decision is taken now, the cost of relocating the tracks during the forthcoming road improvements will be avoided.

EGIP (Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme)  A report now being studied by Network Rail and the Scottish Government has proposed that further improvements will be needed in the infrastructure to make it possible to carry all the traffic. In the first version of the plan to upgrade Scotland’s most important inter-city route – between Edinburgh and Glasgow – trains were to operate every ten minutes.   In order to cut costs the plan was downgraded to give a 15 minute frequency but employing longer trains.   Traffic across Scotland has been rising steadily and it now seems likely that BOTH longer trains and a ten minute frequency will be essential.     Other improvements my be needed after 2019 include the building of a flyover at Greenhill where services towards Stirling and the cities to the north branch off.   The flyover would cost between £50m and £100m.    .

MORE  STORMS   Torrential rain plus winds of up to 105 mph swept across west and northern Scotland on 28/29 Jamuary 2015 and flooding halted services to Ardrossan and Largs, and further south between Girvan and Stranraer.     Waves from the Clyde estuary swept across the line between Dumbarton and Helensburgh Central (and shutting also the West Highland Line), while in the far north the Perth – Inverness main line was again closed together with everything north of Inverness. High winds, reaching 148 mph on the top of Cairngorm, struck the Highlands and Central Lowlands  on 31 January and 1 February 2016 and closed all high road bridges including the Forth and Tay Bridges (the railway bridges remained open) and selected main roads such as through Glen Coe where the wind was funnelled between the mountains to reach a dangerous speed.

19 January 2016

SOUTHEASTERN     Storms on 24 December 2015 damaged 250 yards of the sea wall between Dover Priory and Folkestone Central.    The line was to be closed on 12 and 13 January 2016 while the wall was repaired and the track bed stabilised but further damage was soon apparent and several sink holes appeared around the area.   The line is now not expected to reopen before late February and services to Dover are being maintained via Canterbury.     Meanwhile a new reason for a peak hour delay emerged at Lewisham during the morning of 12 January 2016.    A low-set sun shone so brightly from a cloudless sky that drivers could not see clearly from their cab whether the doors of their trains were closed properly and had to get out of the train to check.    Sometimes during the short delay the signalling centre set the signals to red allowing another service to proceed to London ahead of the sun-struck services.    A passenger complained about the situation on the Twitter website.   The Bexleyheath line was closed following an earth slip across the tracks at Barnehurst on 12 January 2016.  Services resumed on 14 January 2016.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   The Unions have announced that further 24 hour strikes by staff objecting to the planned all-night services will take place on 27 January, 15 and 17 February 2016.

QUEENS  PARK   On 5 January 2016 the 0739 Bletchley – Euston service comprising three class 350 emus totalling twelve packed coaches was driven through an emergency 5 mph speed restriction at Queens Park at the normal 75 mph.    The driver-manager acting as driver had been sent a personal e-mail warning him of the restriction which had been imposed on the previous day after the finding of a cracked rail.     Fortunately the train completed its journey without any problems but an inquiry into the incident is being held..

RUGBY  PARKWAY    Planning permission for this new station sited on the Northampton – Rugby “New Line” was granted by Warwickshire Council in October 2015.    Costing £11m, the station will have a 260 space car park and will be served at least twice an hour each way.    Near the station one of the largest housing developments in England is under way.    6,200 homes will be built on the site of the former BT Radio Station whose cluster of tall masts was once a feature of the skyline.

COVENTRY   A major new business centre is being built immediately in front of the station.    This will include large shops and many offices and should attract new commuter traffic to the station. The bus interchange outside the front door of the station has had to be moved about 150 yards away in a rather exposed position.

BIRMINGHAM    The Navigation Street exit from the “B” end of the platforms was closed from  17 January 2016 to allow upgrades to the bridge and the street entrances at both ends.    The work will take until the Spring of 2017 when it is promised that the bridge and exits will reopen.

NOTTINGHAM    The tramway extension through Beeston has attracted so much traffic that services on three bus routes to the area are being slashed.

ORDSALL   CHORD     Construction work on the new link across Central Manchester will result in the closure to services from Victoria on Sundays from 24 January 2016 until 17 April 2016.

MERSEYTRAVEL   The short list of train builders being considered to build a new train fleet for local services around Liverpool is – Bombardier, CAF, Mitsui, Siemens and Stadler Rail.    Tender documents are to be issued on 22 January 2016 and bids must be in by the end of April 2016.   The new trains are likely to be in service early in 2020.   The cost of the new trains plus necessary improvements at depots and to the platforms will be around £400m to be paid for through leasing charges to the service operator.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK  –  ROUTES     During the period when the Second City Crosssing is being built and only a single track is available along Lower Mosley Street the following routes have been established over the network.   They are designated by letter (although this does not seem to be advertised to the public) and normally operate every 12 minutes.  Many  routes overlap so there is a 6 minute frequency over much of Metrolink. The routes are:
A  Altrincham – Etihad Campus.
B  Altrincham – Deansgate Castlefield  (Mon – Sat).
C  Bury – East Didsbury.
D  Bury – Piccadilly
E  Eccles – Media City – Piccadilly. (There is now no separate Piccadilly – Media City shuttle).
F  Manchester Airport – Cornbrook.
G  Rochdale Town Centre – Piccadilly – Ashton under Lyne.
H  Shaw and Crompton – Exchange Square (Mon – Sat).
J  Rochdale Town Centre – Exchange Square  (Sundays only).
K  Victoria – Ashton under Lyne  (Sundays only).

MANCHESTER  METROLINK  –  OPERATIONS    Services were being well used on all routes during 16 January 2016 with double tram services seen at times on most routes.   The on-going work related to the Second City Crossing affected routes from Piccadilly Gardens through Deansgate-Castlefield with only a single track available along part of Mosley Street, all of Lower Moseley Street, and through the site of the still incomplete redesigned St Peter’s Square stop.  Trams are allowed to use the single track section only if in possession of the “key” for this section. At each end of the single track segment there are small “control points” from which the large key is handed to a driver who can then carry the key with him and hand it to an official at the far end of the section.   It is then available for use by a tram proceeding in the opposite direction.   This arrangement resembles the traditional railway “tablet” system.    Normal services have had to be reduced to make the operation possible.  The permanent single line sections at Newton Heath and Eccles are controlled by electric signals.   Half of the Altrincham workings run as far as the central track at Deansgate-Castlefield where they can connect with trams continuing into the city centre.   The Piccadilly – Media City route has been dropped completely and Media City is served by the Eccles route so the journey between the city centre and Eccles has been increased by several minutes.    The new Exchange Square stop on the first section of the Second City Crossing is  beside some large popular shops but is slow to build up traffic.   It is served by a new service from Shaw and Crompton giving Oldham a much more frequent service although only Derker, Mumps and Hollinwood seem to be showing a significant boost to passenger numbers so far.   The route through Central Oldham runs through a very depressed area “down the hill” from the main shopping areas.   However a new business centre is to be built beside the Mumps stop including many offices and the town’s first M&S store.

NEXUS   The Department of Transport has cut its promised allocation to part-fund the purchase of new stock for the Tyne and Wear Metro from £153m to 120m  and several parts of the upgrade scheme will now have to be cut.

WEST  COAST    Following the damage to Lamington Viaduct ten miles south of Carstairs, Virgin has operated most of its expresses to Carlisle and beyond as far as Preston only.    Only a few trains run on to Carlisle but most services over this section are  multiple units timetabled between Manchester Airport and Glasgow or Edinburgh but cut short at Carlisle.    The route between Carlisle and Glasgow via Dumfries is relatively congested so only a few Virgin services can run on from Preston to Carlisle, Dumfries, and Glasgow.      The West Coast Main Line is not now expected to reopen before mid-March 2016.      Sleeper services are running on the East Coast route.   The closure of the Carlisle – Newcastle line due to a landslip near Hexham has further disrupted travel across the north of England.

GLASGOW  QUEEN  STREET     The steep Cowlairs tunnel will close for refurbishment and installation of electrification equipment from 20 March 2016 until 08 August 2016.   The High Level station will be upgraded and platforms lengthened during the same period.     The important Queen Street HL to Edinburgh Waverley shuttles will be halved and diverted through the Low Level station via Springburn and Maryhill.    Users are being advised use the half-hourly fast services running via Bathgate.

SCOTTISH  HIGH  SPEED   The plans for a high-speed line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, announced in 2012, have been quietly dropped following a reduction in funding to the Scottish Government.

EDINBURGH  TRAMS   Mobility scooters can now be taken on board the trams provided the owner has a permit issued by the operator indicating that the scooter is of an appropriate design.

9 January 2016

DOVER    Severe storm damage was inflicted on the sea wall and track carrying the line between Dover Priory and Folkestone Central on Christmas Eve 2015.   Inspection of the wall showed that major work was necessary to make the track safe and it would take around two months to complete – i.e. until about the end of February 2016.

BRIGHTON   A £1.65m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has been made to the Volk’s Railway to build a Heritage Centre beside the Aquarium stop.

ROCHESTER   The re-sited station was opened on 13 December 2015.   The platforms are now long enough to hold twelve coach trains (the old station could handle no more than ten coaches). The new station is now served by the five peak hour trains which had to miss out a call there because of their length and there are plans to lengthen several other peak-hour services.

CROSSRAIL   With construction of the tunnels completed before the end of 2015 the work has now switched to fitting out the tunnels with the actual railway.    A railhead has been established at Plumstead in south east London, and another at Westbourne Park in west London is nearing completion where materials can be assembled for delivery and installation along the tunnels.   Around 80% of the track will be standard slab track and the first delivery of rail took place as long ago as August 2015 though actual installation work did not begin until January 2016.   Some sections of floating slab track will be used to reduce noise in theatres etc, including the Barbican.   Signalling and communication cabling will also now be installed while overhead the 25 kV ac power will be supplied through a  rigid conductor bar attached to the ceiling.

TRANSPORT  FOR  LONDON   Eight stations, formerly in fare zone 3 were moved to the zone 2/3 boundary from 5 January 2016 to recognise that the business hub of London is shifting to the east.    Stations affected are Stratford, Stratford High Street, Stratford International,  the Docklands stops at Stratford and International,  Canning Town, Star lane, and Abbey Road.    Travel between the West End and The City to the Stratford area has therefore become cheaper.      TfL has extended the use of the Oyster Card and contactless payments south to Gatwick Airport.    The on-going dispute about the introduction of overnight services on parts of the Underground shows no sign of resolution but TfL has decided to recruit 180 part-time drivers to operate the disputed services so that no existing staff will need to operate the night-time trains.

YORKSHIRE   Torrential rain storms swept across northern England during the last few days of 2015 and caused extensive flooding in many communities with Leeds and York especially badly hit.

MANCHESTER   The first section of the Second City Crossing between Victoria Station and Exchange Square (beside Debenham’s large store) was opened on 6 December 2015 – in time for the major pre-Christmas shopping spree.    Trams from Shaw & Crompton through Oldham  run every six minutes to/from Exchange Square.

SCOTTISH  WEATHER    Torrential rains remained a feature across the Borders and Highlands throughout the last week of 2015 and early 2016.     Flooding caused the closure of the Kilwinning  – Largs line throughout much of this period, and at times the route south to Ayr was also impassable.     On 31 December 2015 the bridge carrying the West Coast Main Line over the Water of Milk near Lockerbie was threatened by the torrent of water and a temporary speed restriction was imposed.    Much more serious damage was done by the  River Clyde to Lamington Viaduct,  10 miles south of Carstairs and the WCML was closed between Carstairs and Lockerbie and not expected to reopen until 31 January 2016 at the earliest.     One pier required to be totally rebuilt.    Electric services to/from the south turned at Carlisle, dmus between Manchester Airport and  Edinburgh turned at either Carlisle or Lockerbie with bus connections to/from points further north.   Some diesel services to/from Glasgow were diverted via Dumfries.

22 December 2015

NEW  FRANCHISES   Two  new franchises were announced by the Department of Transport in early December 2015, both to operate from April 2016 until March 2023 with an option for an additional year depending on their performance.    The Northern Franchise has gone to Arriva which will introduce 281 new carriages (98 train sets) with a top speed of 100 mph and these will replace the unpopular Pacer units.      There will be new modern trains for the local services from Leeds to Doncaster, Skipton and Ilkley.      A network of twelve longer distance “Northern Connect” routes will link important towns.     By 2019 there will be an additional 2000 trains per week.   Some  new services will be routes transferred from the Transpennine Express TOC.     Meanwhile the altered Transpennine Express franchise has gone to the existing operator First Group though not now in a partnership with Keolis.   Consultations have begun with local Councils into a proposal to create “West Midlands Rail” – a partnership between the local authorities to improve local rail services, reduce overcrowding and complaints, and introduce improvements such as free Wi-Fi.     A new franchise could be set up in 2017 when the existing London Midland franchise ends.

WEATHER    Severe weather struck north west England and Southern Scotland on 4/5/6 December 2015 with very heavy rain plus winds gusting at over 70 mph.    A month’s rain fell on Shap village during 6 December and for a time all rail traffic was halted since it was impossible to see if the way ahead was clear of debris.   The Weather Agency issued a Red warning for the area.  Throughout the weekend a 50 mph speed restriction was imposed on the West Coast Main Line through Cumbria, and 40 mph on secondary routes.     Landslips caused problems on both roads and railways and trees were brought down especially in Cumbria.     By 7 December 2015 so much rain had fallen south of Carlisle that part of the WCML was under several feet of water!     The radiating routes to Settle, Workington and Newcastle were closed to all traffic on 6 December 2015 and no traffic moved on the WCML north of Carlisle for the four days 6 – 10 December 2015.

ISLAND  LINE  The Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin line on the Isle of Wight is again in danger of closure because Government funding to the franchise is facing cuts.   The local bus company, Southern Vectis, has indicated that it could not cope with the traffic if there were no trains since it could not afford the extra buses required, many being used only during the summer season.  In addition it could not operate buses along the Pier to the Pier Head to beside the waiting ferries.

LYMINGTON    The foot ferry linking Lymington with Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight suddenly went out of business on 19 December 2015 with only one day’s notice.     Traffic on the Lymington branch will be affected to only a small extent.

WATERLOO    See note in “News from Asia” about the world’s busiest stations which are mostly in Japan and contrasted with the traffic at Britain’s busiest station – Waterloo.

WIMBLEDON  A new platform for Tramlink services has been opened allowing an extra four tram services to be operated each hour.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND     Following the completion of upgrade work the Central Line station at Tottenham Court Road was reopened on 14 December 2015.    Planning has begun for an extension from the southern end of the Bakerloo Line – from Elephant and Castle, under the Old Kent Road to New Cross Gate and then onwards to Lewisham.    Construction could begin in 2024 with services operating from 2030.

Follow this link for more information:

Consultation document for the extension of the Bakerloo Line

CAMBRIDGE   The track in the former Chesterton engineering depot has been lifted so the construction of the new Cambridge North rail and Guided Bus station can begin.

BIRMINGHAM   Early on Sunday 6 December 2015 a tramcar ran on to Bull Street in the centre of Birmingham to become the first tramcar to run on a street within Birmingham.    The extension of the Midland Metro out of Snow Hill station and into the city centre proper – beside what used to be the commercial hub of the city – with Lewis’s massive store on one side and the smaller  Grey’s   on the other side.   Though this is now an area with many offices the Lewis building still stands – empty.    The main shopping areas are now on top of New Street Station or beyond the station.    It is early days but the use of a terminus in a very visible location has boosted traffic and there are even people now riding only as far as St Paul’s – the first stop.

NEWTON – LE – WILLOWS    The station on the Manchester – Liverpool Chat Moss main line is to be rebuilt as a major transport interchange with bus bays, new waiting areas, and a new ticket office.   A 400 space car park will be built.

MANCHESTER    A new bus station was opened on 15 December 2015 at Radcliffe.  It is located next to the Metrolink station which is on the Bury – Manchester route.

BLACKPOOL    Blackpool Transport has introduced a 24 hour ticket which is valid on trams and buses for a full 24 hours after time of issue.   Also children fares are now valid all day long.

NEXUS   The Government grant to part-fund the improvement program for the Tyne and Wear Metro has been cut from £153m to £120m.    It will still be possible to complete the planned track, power supply, and signalling works but various upgrades to stations and rolling stock may be slowed or cancelled.   It was made clear that new  rolling stock will still be needed by 2021.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   The cleaning of the Subway tunnel lining is being undertaken over two years at a cost of £17m.   This entails much more than wiping down the surfaces but entails the removal of plant growth at joins in the surface and making good any minor defects.    The sections being tackled initially are Hillhead to Buchanan Street, and Shields Road to Kinning Park.

EDINBURGH  AREA  The Forth Road Bridge was closed to virtually all traffic on 4 December 2015 while a structural fault was assessed and hopefully repaired.   Only ambulances on emergency journeys to Edinburgh were allowed to use the bridge which will be phased out at the end of 2016 when the adjacent new replacement suspension bridge is opened.     Southern Fife has become a popular place for workers in Edinburgh to make their home and the closure of the Bridge has proved difficult for these commuters.   The nearest bridge open for road traffic was at Kincardine, fifteen miles upstream.     There are no longer ferries at Queensferry beside the bridges and a Burntisland – Leith ferry has also ceased operation.     Extra coaches were added to a few of the regular services using the Forth Railway Bridge and several additional trains added between Inverkeithing and Haymarket  while a queuing system was established at Inverkeithing and Waverley.    The Glasgow Queen Street – Maryhill – Anniesland shuttle was reduced to hourly and services between Cumbernauld and Falkirk Grahamston were replaced by buses in order to release dmus.   Initially it was thought that the bridge would be closed until early January 2016 but enough  repair work was completed to allow the bridge to be reopened on 23 December 2015.

EDINBURGH  TRAMS   The city is to spend £5m is a further study to determine whether it will be  wise to extend the tramway to Leith and Newhaven.   A lot will depend on the agreement of Lothian Buses to pay for the extension.   A decision is expected in 2017.     Record traffic was carried during the second quarter of 2015-6 with passenger numbers up 1.4% and revenue by 6% at £2.3bn.    Over a full twelve months traffic has risen by 12% and the expected total for 2015 will be about 5.1m – significantly higher than anticipated.

5 December 2015

NETWORK  RAIL    In order to raise funds to help pay for nation-wide upgrades Network Rail proposes to sell plots of disused land, arch spaces below viaducts, and shop locations within larger stations raising around £1.8bn     In a separate move the Government announced on 1 December 2015 that it could allocate the funds for the second phase of HS2 between Birmingham and Crewe bring the completion date forwards by six years to 2027.

WORST  STATIONS  IN  BRITAIN     A report has indicated that the worst station in Britain for anti-social behaviour, assaults on passengers, and other forms of unruly behaviour is Edinburgh Waverley.     The second worst is its rival in Scotland – Glasgow Central.        Not a proud achievement for Scotland’s two finest stations.

GATWICK  EXPRESS         In an effort to ease congestion along the London – Brighton main line Southern reduced the frequency of the Gatwick Express service from every 15 minutes to every half hour during the period 23 – 27 November 2015.    There was still sufficient seats for the expected number of  passengers.     From January 2016 it will be possible to pay for travel on Gatwick Express services using Oyster and contactless cards.

GREAT  EASTERN   Because of the frequent delays to rush hour services along the Liverpool Street – Colchester line some employers in The City are refusing to take on applicants for jobs if they live along this route.

CROSSRAIL 2 PLANS   Proposals for a north east – south west line across central London and linked at each end to the suburban railway network have been revealed.   Up to 30 trains per hour could use the core tunnel stretching from Seven Sisters/ Tottenham Hale in the north east, passing through Euston/St Pancras, and Victoria, to Clapham Junction.    Services would reach out to  Broxbourne, New Southgate, Shepperton, Hampton Court, Chessington South and Epsom.

LONDON  BRIDGE   As a result of the major upgrade work being undertaken in the area many peak hour trains have been delayed and The Office of Road and Rail has threatened to impose a £2m fine unless this improve immediately.   As a result Network Rail is spending £4.1m to improve Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express services.    Additional staff will be employed at the stations most affected by the upgrade work including 15 at Victoria,   information displays will be improved, and twenty additional track workers will be based at Brighton and Croydon to respond quickly to help sort out unexpected problems.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   Work has begun on the massive £52m scheme to create a new entrance to Victoria station leading to a new ticket hall, and then to four escalators and two lifts leading to the platforms.   The work will take until 2017 to be completed.     Work at Covent Garden station has been completed and the station is now open every day.   All four lifts have been replaced and their capacity has been boosted by 25%.    The Metropolitan Line extension to Watford Junction is to progress at last.   The extension will be delivered by LUL and will be completed in 2020.     Transport for London has found the £2.73m shortfall in funding so now it is “all go”.  Construction has begun on the Northern Line Kennington – Battersea extension.

GREAT  WESTERN   COST  RISE   The London – Cardiff – Swansea conversion will cost £11.2bn more than expected so the work is to be phased with Cardiff – Swansea wiring delayed until 2019-2024.

EAST  COAST    The management of the East Coast Main Line station at Dunbar has been transferred to ScotRail as a prelude for an increase in the suburban service to Edinburgh.   Virgin East Coast has reached the half-way point in the plan to upgrade all forty five train sets.

BIRMINGHAM  NEW  STREET   HM the Queen arrived on the Royal Train at New Street Station on 19 November 2015 to perform the official Opening Ceremony of the improved station and shopping centre.    She then laid a wreath in memory of the railway staff who died in both World Wars in the garden just outside the station entrance.    The signal box and signalling system at New Street Station is struggling to keep up with the ever increasing number of trains –   650 trains per day in 1960s but now 1200 daily with the prospect of having to deal with even more.     The West Midlands signalling centre in Saltley will take over responsibility for a renewed system in stages between 2016 and 2018.

MIDLAND   METRO    19 November 2015 was a big day for the Metro.   HM the Queen visited the recently completed Bull Street station which opens for public services on 6 December 2015 when the first section of the city centre extension opens for public services.     She performed an opening ceremony and named tram 35 “Angus Adams”.     Mr Adams was a long-serving member  of  Dudley Council,  and was a former chairman of Centro, the West Midlands transport authority.    He died suddenly in 2012.     The erection of the overhead power wire through the city centre to New Street station was completed during the week ending 28 November 2015.    The Government has earmarked an extra £97m for the planned Eastside extension.

CANLEY     A £30,000 reward has been announced to anyone who can give information leading to the arrest and conviction of arsonists who destroyed signalling cables on the London – Birmingham main line near the Coventry suburban station twice in mid November 2015.

BESCOT   Centro is to undertake improvements to the station costing £75,000.

SUTTON  COLDFIELD      A memorial is to erected to the seventeen people who died on 23 January 1955 when a diverted York to Bristol express derailed as it entered the station on a sharp curve at about 60 mph – double the speed limit.

MANCHESTER  AREA      Legal objections to to construction of the Ordsall Chord have been dismissed in court and work on the £85m project will start soon.    Meanwhile work to build a major transport interchange alongside Bolton Station is making excellent progress.  Due to the very large volume of traffic that is expected to be carried Deansgate station will be closed at 1800 every Friday and Saturday between 27 November and 19 December 2015.     Tram services will be able to run across the city centre from 06 December 2015.   Although they will not call at St Peter’s Square where reconstruction work is not yet complete, they will be able to run through the stop.

SHEFFIELD    The first three-section tram-train that will work the through service to Rotherham has left the Vossloh test site near Valencia, Spain, for service on the Supertram system.  Meanwhile Central Government has approved the plans for the short link line between the Supertram route and  the nearby National Rail freight line that will be used by the tram-train service.

LEEDS   Planners have decided that HS2 services should operate to new platforms that will be part of the existing city centre station rather than have separate stations for HS2 and classic services.

FLEETWOOD    The tramway north from Cleveleys through the centre of Fleetwood to the terminus at Fleetwood Ferry could be endangered by the latest council finance changes.    Central Government budget cuts in the sum allocated to Lancashire County Council will probably result in a reduction in the amount that the Council provides each year to maintain the tramway through Fleetwood.     The County Council gives £280,000 each year and the tramway brings large numbers of shoppers from Blackpool without which many Fleetwood shops would not be viable.

GLASGOW  AIRPORT       Proposals to link Glasgow City Centre with the Airport have been dusted-off and re-examined.    Two schemes are being considered – a tram-train through service from Central Station costing £144m, and a light rail alternative costing £102m.   Tram-trains would run over the existing heavy rail route from Central to Paisley Gilmour Street, and then continuing on a new tramway to the front door of the airport taking 16.5 minutes for the complete journey.   The less costly alternative would require passengers to change from the heavy rail service at Gilmour Street to a tram route on the street.

2 November 2015

IAN  ALLAN  OBE.   A memorial service for Sir Ian will be held in Guildford Cathedral on 23 November at 1400.    His pocket booklets launched railway enthusiasm as a truly major activity back in the 1940s and 1950s and he became a significant publisher of books on railway topics.

LONDON UNDERGROUND  Brush Traction has been awarded the £6.5m contract to refurbish and refit the traction motors on the Piccadilly Line trains.

GREAT  WESTERN  ELECTRIFICATION   Spiralling costs have trebled the likely cost of electrifying from London to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea to £2.8bn.    There is a possibility that the entire scheme will be deemed not viable.

POST  OFFICE  RAILWAY  Construction of this 2’0” gauge double track railway started in 1915 but track-laying was not completed until 1924.     The first section linking Paddington and the West Central District Office did not commence service until 1927.  The line lost much of its traffic when new Offices were opened away from the route of the in-tunnel line and it was closed completely and mothballed in 2003.   Now the station at Mount Pleasant Post Office is to be opened up as a tourist attraction and some visitors were shown round on 23 October 2015.   Eventually tourists will be able to walk along a section of the tunnel.

MANCHESTER  TRAMS   Four companies have been shortlisted by Transport for Greater Manchester to operate and maintain the Metrolink tram network for a ten year period commencing 2017.   The companies are KeolisAmey,   National Express,   Transdev,  and  RATP Dev which is the present operator.

ISLE  OF  MAN    Ballure Viaduct which takes the Manx Electric Railway across a ravine close to Ramsey was successfully refurbished during the winter of 2015 and the continued safe operation of the railway has been ensured.    The work cost £1.2m.   The summer services will commence in March 2016.

TYNE  AND  WEAR  METRO   Traffic carried on the Metro has been creeping up steadily while modernisation has been progressing and the numbers carried have now reached 39m per year.

EGIP   The £742m project to electrify the Glasgow – Edinburgh via Falkirk High main line is making excellent progress with several hundred masts already in place.    The stringing of the overhead wire got under way during October 2015.    Much of the work such as the installation of masts and fittings for the power wires is being done at night so that services between the cities can be disrupted as little as possible.

1 October 2015

RAIL  JOURNEYS  DOUBLE    The number of passengers using railway trains in the UK totalled 1.65bn during the past twelve months compared with just 801m in 1987.   This equates to 24.7 rail trips per person in the UK – up 60% since 1998.    Fares income now nearly covers the cost of operating the trains but Government support is still required to fund infrastructure projects.   Fares paid, adjusted for inflation, have risen by 6.7% since the mid 1990s but profits made by the Operating Companies have fallen from 3.6% of revenue to 2.3% during the past year.

ELECTRIFICATION  WORK  RESUMED    The plans to electrify the Midland Main Line and the Transpennine Manchester – Leeds – York routes which were halted to allow them to be re-examined and judged as to their affordability, were given the all-clear by the Transport Dept on 30 September 2015.    Work can resume but over a slightly longer period to spread the cost over a longer period.   It is expected that Bedford – Kettering – Corby will be completed in2019, and north to Nottingham and Sheffield in 2023.    Manchester – Leeds –  York will now be completed in 2020.

MOST  OVERCROWDED  TRAINS   Coupled with the rapid growth in traffic, many trains are becoming so busy that some passengers are having to stand.   The worst cases include the 0427 from Glasgow to Manchester Airport which has 191 seats but has up to a further 164 standees as the train approaches Manchester.    The number on board measure 186% of seating capacity.   Similarly the 0724 Thameslink service from Brighton to Bedford has 716 seats but has to handle a further 434 standing – 167% load factor.   The 0757 Heathrow to Paddington Heathrow Connect service has 476 seats and 332 standing – 171% load factor.

ISLAND  LINE   The future of the Ryde – Shanklin line on the Isle of Wight is in some doubt.  The short line costs £4m per year to run but fare revenue is just £1m.    It is part of the South Western franchise which comes up for renewal in 2017.   It is being suggested that the new operator will have to find ways of reducing the costs and by establishing community partners or even spin the line off as a separate business.    The former LUL tube trains that provide the services will not last for ever and one task looming on the slightly distant horizon will be where to find suitable replacement stock that has a sufficiently low headroom to negotiate to Ryde tunnel.

RUGBY  WORLD  CUP   A series of matches were taking place across the country from late September until late October resulting in a massive increase in traffic across the network as fans moved from city to city to see the next match.   On Friday night 18 September 2015 a fan fell from the platform at Twickenham station after the initial match of the tournament.    The power was turned off  for at least an hour while the man was rescued and the location was inspected causing long delays to the fans.

LUL    Control staff on the Waterloo and City line are to stage a 48 hour strike on 29 and 30 September 2015 over a long-running dispute over the re-grading of their jobs and a salary increase.    The management has resisted the claim and has suggested how the addition of some responsibilities could lead to the desired re-grading.     There is an unexpected sight for visitors to the Shoreditch area.   The former viaduct that ran to the Broad Street station has been partly demolished but sitting on top of a remaining section are four former Jubilee Line trains.   They can be reached by a steep spiral stairway and are in use as offices.   The Central Line station at Holland Park is to be closed from January 2016 for eight months while the two lifts are modernised.

LONDON  BRIDGE   As the billion pound makeover continues publicity images have been issued to show how the rebuilt station will look when the work is completed in 2018.    With additional through tracks taking up space formerly occupied by terminating platforms the whole station will be transformed by a massive new concourse extending across the site from Tooley Street to St Thomas Street.    At last it will have become a station in which finding your platform will be a simple and easy task.

AUTOMATIC TICKET BARRIERS   These are now operating at Coventry and Birmingham New Street stations but there have been delays at the rush hour because some season tickets are not accepted by the gates and it is expected that as these are renewed they will work properly.

BIRMINGHAM NEW  STREET      The massive new concourse opened on 20 September 2015 and the Grand Central Shopping Centre above the concourse four days later.    80,000 shoppers came to view the new shops on the first day.    As things settle down smoothly a number of queries have arisen and need to be addressed.    There has been a problem concerning passengers who cannot find when the next train to Sheffield runs.    The new departure boards include a welcome display “Next fast train to – – “ and lists information to many cities and towns but omits Sheffield.  The departure boards give a piece of new information – “the next train to X leaves from platform Y which can be reached via the Yellow Lounge”.    What is a lounge?      A quiet place with seats where the tired passenger can sit while waiting for their train.     There is no sign of any such place after the traveller has gone through the entry gates.    Station managers accept that the term may be wrong but it sounds user friendly.     There are many calls for the word “lounge” to be replaced by something like “zone” since the space concerned is simply a circulating area at the top of the escalators leading to the platforms.     Problematic for intending passengers is finding the ticket office.     It remains where it has been for the last couple of years but is hidden by departure screens and escalators.   Better signs please?

FOUR  OAKS   Work has begun on the construction of a second deck over part of the existing car park at a cost of £2m.   This will add 55 spaces to the existing 275 spaces.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK    Peak hour services between Shaw and Crompton and Manchester city centre are to be added  during the winter of 2015-6.

LEYLAND   The Manchester – Preston line station is receiving an upgrade costing £4.5m.  The footbridge is being replaced and there will be three lifts giving access to the platforms.

LEEDS  AREA    Construction of the new Apperley Bridge station is at an advanced stage.   It will be served by the Leeds – Bradford Forster Square emu shuttles.

NEWTON  AYCLIFFE   A 1.1 km long electrified test track is being built alongside the Darlington to Bishop Auckland branch beside Hitachi’s new factory.

LEAMSIDE   The reopening of the Leamside line to give a better service to Washington New Town has been included by the North East Combined Authority’s transport plans submitted to Government in early September 2015

BO’NESS    Following development over several years, the museum collection at the Bo’ness end of the heritage Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway has now evolved into The Museum of Scottish Railways.    Many of the preserved items relate to the steam era over the past 150 years including locomotives lent by the National Railway Museum in York, and the Glasgow Transport Museum.    Glasgow Subway coach 55, originally a gripper car dating from 1901, then an electrically powered car when the Subway was electrified in 1935, has been added to the displays recently.

EDINBURGH  TRAMS   A trial has begun to commence services at 0416, one and a half hours earlier than hitherto.    This is to provide a service for the increasing number of air passengers catching early morning flights.   Services on Sundays are being increased in frequency because of heavy demand.    The busiest week for the new tram service so far is the week ending 15 August 2015 with 137,000 passengers carried.   The busiest day so far is 29 August 2015 when 23,000 people were carried.

EDINBURGH  RAILWAYS    Cycle access to Waverley station is to be allowed once more.   A cycle route is being created along the North Ramp to/from street level.

SCOTTISH  OVERCROWDING    Peak hour trains between Edinburgh Waverley and North Berwick are so overcrowded that they have been branded as dangerous to the passengers.  If trains are lengthened once extra stock has been hired the platform at North Berwick will need to be lengthened again by either extending back across the car park and adjacent road or forwards requiring the demolition and rebuilding of a road over-bridge.    Services between Glasgow and Ayr,  Dunblane and Edinburgh and the reopened line to Tweedbank are also experiencing severe overcrowding.   Additional trains are on order but it will be two years before the first of them arrive.

4 September 2015

NETWORK  RAIL    The Chancellor has indicated that Network Rail will be required to accept a 25% cut in its finances like most other Government Departments.   The immediate effect will be to wreck modernisation plans which will be unable to go ahead within the new financial limits.  Doubtless the plans will be redrawn and a revised modernisation programme produced with a much longer time scale before completion is achieved.

TRAVEL  WITH  RAILCARDS    From 6 September 2015 Virgin Trains West Coast will no longer allow Railcard holders to use peak period trains when holding “off peak” tickets.    Full fare tickets or pre-booked tickets only will be accepted and these cost considerably more.     The concession was introduced several years ago when far too many people tried to travel from Birmingham to London on the first off-peak train.    Many peak trains carry significant numbers of Senior Railcard holders but without them some of these trains will become very poorly loaded indeed.

ROCHESTER   The reconstruction of the station on a new site adjacent to the new Riverside Development is advancing well and will open at the start of the new timetable in December 2015, or soon after.   The work will cost £26m but there are concerns that the adjacent car park will be nowhere near large enough.

LUL  STRIKES   The threatened strikes starting on 25 and 27 August 2015 were postponed by the Unions to 8 and 10 September 2015 allowing time for further discussions with the LUL management.    The planned introduction of “Night Tube” services on several lines has been postponed pending an agreement with the Unions.

CAMBRIDGE    The city council has given planning permission for the new £44m 3-platform station at Chesterton in north Cambridge.    The station will be at the site of the junction for the former St Ives branch, which is now a busway and to which the busway will be extended.    The station will be part of a major bus:rail interchange and some trains from London that have hitherto terminated at Cambridge will be extended north to the new station.

BATH   The lowering of the main line tracks from Paddington through the Sydney Gardens to provide sufficient space for the overhead wires was on target for completion by 1 September 2015.

CALEDONIAN  SLEEPERS   The overnight services between London Euston and several destinations in Scotland will be hauled by Freightliner class 90 locomotives while the present class 92s are taken out of service for repairs and modifications.   Class 47 diesel locos have hauled the services on occasions during recent months when the booked 92 broke down.

COVENTRY   New ticket gates were being installed during August 2015 and the W H Smith shop was removed to make way for an extended line of gates.    A new very small Smith’s outlet has been opened on platform 1 which is used by the frequent London Euston expresses.

MIDLAND  METRO     Looking back at the history of the T69 trams there were originally to be 15 plus a spare pair of bogies but in the end the spare bogies plus all the spare body parts were assembled into a 16th complete tram     The way these trams were assembled by the manufacturer was chaotic and as a result every tram had a totally different wiring system making it difficult to know what wires did when they were encountered during maintenance or repair work.    The extension to New Street station involves very steep gradients and the T69s were not powerful enough.    Therefore the new fleet had to be ordered and the T69s were taken out of service.  Six are at Long Marston and the remainder, still at the Wednesbury Depot, may soon join them.    They are capable of further work if some system can be found that can use them.

BIRMINGHAM  NEW  STREET   The long-awaited ticket gates were installed during the night of 19/20 August 2015, but were not actually in use during the 20th.

BLACK  COUNTRY  MUSEM.   The museum tramway was closed in December 2013 because of deterioration of the track but following the completion of repairs the first half between the depot and the coal mine was reopened on 20 July 2015.   The remainder is expected to reopen by the end of 2015.

STAFFORD   The new signalling around Stafford station was commissioned during the Late August Bank Holiday Weekend.   All platforms through the station are now signalled for bi-directional running.    Stafford Signal Boxes 4 and 5 have now been decommissioned.

NOTTINGHAM   With no advance notice the two tram extensions south of the city’s railway station were opened for public services on 25 August 2015.   However the eight months of delays have resulted in the contractor Taylor Woodrow (and owner Vinci) recording a loss of £165m due largely to the fact that most of the staff were retained on full pay throughout the delay.    The NET tramway now serves directly about 30% of Nottingham’s population.   The extensions have attracted massive traffic during the first week of service and peak frequency (tram every 7 minutes) has had to be operated throughout the day instead of off-peak (tram every 10 minutes on each route) because of the volume of traffic.     A separate article gives a description of the two new routes.

LIVERPOOL  The refurbishment of the Merseyrail Loop (Wirral Line) station at Moorfields was completed by the end of August 2015.    In addition to resurfacing the platform and installing brighter lighting, the approach walkways and both the Upper and Lower Concourses received similar improvements.    A new station close to the city centre is planned at Mount Vernon Road close to the University and Royal Liverpool Hospital.   It would be a transport hub with links to numerous bus routes.    Merseytravel has announced its desire to replace its 58 Class 507 and 508 emus which are nearly 40 years old.  Rising traffic has meant that the fleet is becoming unable to cope and a further 40% increase in traffic numbers is expected over the next few years.

HULL  TRAINS    First Hull Trains is planning to introduce Bi-Mode for its express service to and from Kings Cross with hope that the company will be awarded permission to operate the service until 2029.     The services are at present operated with Class 180 dmus which inevitably travel a long distance “under the wires.”     These are expensive to operate and maintain but a new 5-car train would make full use of electrified sections of the route while being able to run over the non-electrified section from the ECML to Hull and onwards to Beverley.

BLACKPOOL   More details are emerging about the Alliance Rail Holdings (operating as Great North Western Railway) off-peak service between London Euston/Queens Park and Blackpool.    At present Virgin runs a single peak Blackpool – Euston express daily and GNWR has now been given permission to operate six return off-peak services to and from London on weekdays and five on Sundays.    There may be access problems reaching Euston during the rebuilding of the terminus but firm access has been agreed to Queens Park.   Other stations served by all trains are Crewe and Preston while some calls may be made at Milton Keynes C, Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield TV, and Kirkham and Wesham.     To work the new services it is planned to obtain four 6-car Alstom Pendolino trains capable of operating at 140 mph.    Electrification of the Preston – Blackpool line has received a set-back due to the main contractor, Balfour Beatty withdrawing from the project so that the completion date of May 2016 is now unlikely.

MANCHESTER   Construction of Metrolink’s Second City Crossing has been delayed by the discovery of 270 graves around the site of a former church in Cross Street.   The bodies are being removed with care and are being reburied at a graveyard in Chorlton.    Vandalism is a growing problem on Metrolink with groups of youths throwing stones and even bricks at trams smashing windows and causing alarm to passengers.   The large site still occupied by the remains of Mayfield station which was once used by terminating suburban trains that could not be accommodated at the adjacent Piccadilly station may at last be redeveloped     A 350 bed hotel, 1300 homes, an office block, and six acres of parkland can be fitted on to the site.   The fourth platform at the Airport station was finally completed during early August 2015.   Various alterations to the track layout and the signalling had been required.

CARLISLE   The large glass roof over the tracks and platforms has been causing concern for a considerable time since pieces of thick glass have been falling on to the platforms but so far nobody has been injured.   Restoration work will commence late in 2015.

TYNE  AND  WEAR  METRO     The footbridge at Cullercoats station has been closed from 17 August 2015 for strengthening work but will reopen from the end of September.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY     The circular line is to be closed for four weeks during the summer holiday season in 2016 – a time when traffic levels are significantly lower than at other times of the year.    This will allow modernisation work to be undertaken on parts of the system that would be difficult to achieve when services are operating.    This will include the tunnels that were built around 40 years ago to provide a direct link between the depot (at ground level) and the running tracks (below ground).    Before the link was built coaches were lowered from the depot by a crane.

EDINBURGH  TRAMS   During the first year of operation, from the end of May 2014, the new tramway had an operating loss of £450,000 – significantly less that expected because traffic the traffic carried (3 million passengers) had exceeded expectations.    It is expected that it may take a further two years for the trams to break even.    Meanwhile Lothian Buses carried 118m passengers and made a profit of £8.24m.      Some additional services may have to be introduced during the morning peak to relieve gross overcrowding on the existing services.   Serious delays have built up at the west end of Princes Street each weekday morning due to large numbers of buses and the bulky trams both competing for a limited amount of road space.

14 August 2015

UCKFIELD    Traffic on this branch has doubled in recent years – trebled at Uckfield itself.
There are renewed calls for the line to be electrified and rebuilt back to Lewes, creating a second route between London and Brighton.  Platform extension work to accommodate ten coach trains is to be undertaken during three separate blocks of time – three weeks each in November 2015, March 2016, and April 2016 when there will be no service between the hours of 0920 and 1640.    Between Crowborough and Uckfield there will be no service at all between 4 January 2016 and 20 February 2016.   Replacement buses will operate instead.

ISLAND  LINE    No decision has so far been taken about the future of the Ryde  – Shanklin line on the Isle of Wight which has hitherto been part of the South West Trains TOC.   The Department of Transport has indicated that it would like the local authority to have input into how best to serve communities along the route.    Former London Underground tube stock is used to work the service.

CROYDON  TRAMLINK      Croydon tram services into Wimbledon station are suspended from 13 July 2015 until October 2015 with the trams turning instead at Dundonald Road.     An additional platform is being built at Wimbledon station    This work is part of the Wimbledon Line Enhancement Programme which will allow the service to be increased from eight to twelve services each way per hour.    Another part of this programme was the double tracking of the line between Mitcham Jct flyover and Beddington Lane (700m) in November 2014.    Four new Stadler Variobahn trams have been ordered to help boost services and the first arrived in May.

LUL   NORTHERN  LINE   Plans to split the Northern Line into two separate routes by the early 2020s are advancing.    It is hoped to operate 30 services per hour on both routes with a long-term hope that this will rise to 36 trains per hour at peak times.    Plans made in 2004 to separate the lines came adrift because the necessary rebuilding of Camden Town station would have resulted in the loss of several important buildings.    Modified plans see the station rebuilt with five stories below ground, with step-free access between the street and all platforms, and no destruction of nearby buildings.    Because extra trains would be needed funds to purchase the additional coaches and the creation of additional sidings upon which to store them require to be identified.

LUL   STRIKE    There was a further 24 hour strike by drivers whose Union objects to plans for 24 hour services on some lines at the weekend.      Trains ceased to operate at 1830 on Wednesday 5 August 2015 and services did not resume until the morning of Friday 7 August 2015.   Engineers took advantage of the strike and completed track work at Walthamstow Central ahead of schedule.
With no solution found to deal with the problems of working hours and the planned all-night service on several Lines the RMT called two further 24 hour strikes starting at 1830 on 25 and 27 August 2015 effectively disrupting services for most of the week.

GREAT  WESTERN  ELECTRIFICATION    Work has been taking place in the Bath area from mid-July until the end of August 2015.    The track bed has been lowered from a little west of Bath Station through Bathampton Junction and on through Box Tunnel.     Work has been undertaken south from Bathampton Junction across the listed Dendon Aqueduct, through Bradford on Avon station and through Bradford Tunnel.

GREATER  ANGLIA   Thirty class 321 emus are to be refurbished by Wabtec Rail at their Doncaster plant.  The trains will receive new air-conditioning and heating systems, larger vestibules and increased luggage storage space.

NOTTINGHAM   Preview trips along the NET Clifton and Chilwell extensions were made during the second week of August 2015 by winners of a local competition.

BIRMINGHAM NEW STREET  Work to replace the faulty escalators between the concourse and platforms moved on at the end of July 2015.    New escalators leading to platforms 6/7B and 10/11B have opened and those serving platforms 4/5B are now being tackled.    It takes about 6 weeks to complete the removal of the old equipment and fit replacements.   Dates have been confirmed for the opening of the new facilities at New Street Station – 20 September 2015 – and the opening of the related Grand Central Shopping Centre – 24 September 2015.

MIDLAND  METRO    The original fleet of trams has now been withdrawn from service.   The last use of these trams was on the morning of 14 August 2015.

ISLE  OF  MAN   A nasty derailment at Laxey on 7 July 2015 resulted in the closure of the Laxey – Ramsey route and the adjacent highway until late on 8 July 2015.   Winter saloon car 20 was propelling saloon trailer 58 through a crossover just north of Laxey station when No 58 came off the track and ended up on its side blocking the Ramsey route.    The task of righting 58 and getting it back on to the rails took much of the 9th July.     There were no passengers on either car.      Traffic carried on the railways/trams, and buses during the TT Race Period (1-12 June 2015) totalled 217,560 – the highest number during this period for several years.

MANCHESTER   The £44m upgrade of Victoria Station will be completed in August 2015 and an official opening ceremony will take place during September 2015.

MANCHESTER  TRAMS   Following a major downpour on 14 August 2015 services to the Airport and East Didsbury were first halted and then delayed by flooding near Firswood.     The work to rebuild the St Peter’s Square stop will take until the late summer of 2016.

MANCHESTER – PRESTON      Work in connection with the electrification of this key route is advancing.    The largest individual task is the total reconstruction of the two bores of the 270m long Farnworth Tunnel.    The tunnel boring machine that will pass through first one bore and then come back through the other has been named “Fillie” by a local Primary School pupil remembering a stables that once stood next to the tunnel.    “Fillie” will dig out the old decayed structure and install a new concrete lining.     Upgrade work is nearing completion at Bolton Station while at Leyland station step-free access is being created throughout the entire station.

BLACKPOOL    The Rail Regulator has approved a service by the Great North Western Railway of six trains each way on weekdays, five at the weekend between Blackpool and London calling eight stations en route including for the first time at the main line platforms at Queens Park.   Additional tilting trains will be obtained to work these services.    This will be the first direct competition on the WCML for Virgin and the new trains will start in 2018.

TYNE & WEAR  METRO   The refurbishment of the train fleet was completed in July 2015 – five months ahead of schedule.      This included the repair of all parts of the bodywork that showed corrosion, refurbishment of the seat covers, and the fitting of new lighting.    The life of the 35 year old stock has been extended to 2025.

MOSSEND   The freight terminal near Bellshill which handles most of the traffic for Central Scotland is to be greatly expanded by the construction of an adjacent Mossend International Railfreight Park as a move to shift long distance freight off the roads.

GLASGOW – EDINBURGH    The Union Aslef is objecting to plans to operate the class 380 emus that will take over the fast service between Scotland’s two largest cities with a driver only.   Class 380s operate between Glasgow and Ayr on a driver-only basis but the union objects to driver-only  manning on any service as a matter of principle.    The 380s will operate the service until the brand new Hitachi AT200 units arrive.    These can be operated as either driver only or as driver plus conductor operation.

STIRLING    The massive roof over Stirling Station, which is a listed structure, is being renovated over the next fifteen months.      The glass panels are being replaced by 2440 square metres of polycarbonate sheets which will remain clear for years to come and will require very little maintenance.    The completed work will be compatible with the electrification of the route from Glasgow and Edinburgh which is due to take place within the next 2-3 years.

3 August 2015

WHITE  RAILS   A recent development on the railway network is the painting with white paint of the sides of sections of rails, often involving pointwork.    The temperature of these sections are monitored by distant engineering centres to detect when  the rails have reached too high a temperature leading to the risk of distortion.    Steps can be taken to reduce the speed of trains through these areas which will reduce the risk of track damage.

LARGEST  FRANCHISE    The combination of several franchises from 27 July 2015 has produced the largest individual franchise in the UK.      Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern, Gatwick Express, together with some South Eastern routes combined to form the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern TOC which will be operated by a joint venture between the Go-Ahead Group (65%) and Keolis (35%).    At very short notice Southern decided to end its at-seat trolley refreshment service from the same day.     Customers have increasingly purchased their snack at shops at the station where they started their journey.     It was becoming difficult to reach all passengers on increasingly long trains making relatively short journeys.

WATERLOO    Network Rail has submitted plans to reopen closed platforms in the former International section of the station.     Five new platforms for domestic services could be provided but access from the main part of the station is difficult at the moment.  The new plans include redesigning the concourse making access to the platforms much easier.    The initial work will be to strengthen three bridges carrying the tracks to platforms 20 – 24.    Other work at Waterloo will include the lengthening of platforms 1- 4 so that they can hold ten coach trains.    Waterloo at present handles around 100m passengers each year and this is expected to rise by 40% by 2030.

“c2c”   This TOC introduced some of its upgraded emus to morning peak services on 27 July 2015.   The new timetable that will be introduced in December 2015 will provide 1400 extra seats for passengers travelling the longest distances providing space for 3000 extra travellers overall.

SOUTHEASTERN   The Ashford – Canterbury line was closed on 26 July 2015 when a train was derailed after it had struck a herd of cattle that had wandered on to the tracks.

THAMESLINK   The first of the Siemens Desiro City emus arrived at the Three Bridges traincare facility during the early hours of 31 July 2015.    The new fleet will increase substantially the number of seats available during the peak hours.

READING    The task of rebuilding Reading Station and the separation of conflicting traffic flows to the west of the station is a magnificent example of a major work well done.    ( See the separate “post” describing this project.)    One small problem has emerged.   When there is a strong wind it surges up the broad stair/escalator ways from each platform, races across the impressive 33m wide Transfer Deck, and then surges down the directly opposite stairways back down to the platforms.    The result is a distinctly windy and sometimes uncomfortable situation around the sales outlets which are arranged down the middle of the Deck.

FIRST  GREAT  WESTERN   First Great Western and Eversholt Leasing signed a £361m contract on 30 July 2015 for the building, leasing, and operating of new AT300 Intercity trains.   These will be 22 five-car and 7 nine-car train sets that will be built by Hitachi.    The trains will be built in Japan since the company’s new Newton Aycliffe factory will be fully occupied in building the class 800/801 super-express trains plus the AT200 emus for Scotrail.     The AT300s will enter service nearly a year late in May 2018 on the Paddington – Plymouth and Penzance route using electric power as far as Newbury and diesel power beyond.

NORTON  BRIDGE  JUNCTION    Work to create a flyover taking Stoke-bound services over the four WCML tracks is now advanced.    The WCML running north from Stafford bends towards the east as it approaches the junction, then sweeps back to the north west as the tracks continue towards Crewe.    Trains from the Birmingham direction have often operated along the most westerly WCML track and then had to cross all of the other tracks, passing the abandoned Norton Bridge platform, as they reach the Stoke line blocking all other movements along the WCML.    The WCML  through Norton Bridge has  four tracks but the layout was rather complicated at the junction but is being simplified.     The new arrangement will see a single line leaving the most westerly WCML line at the new Little Bridgeford Junction, which then heads north moving some distance west from the WCML as it rises on an embankment, and then turns eastwards to pass above the WCML on “Bridge 5” before then descending to join the Stoke track..     A single line continues north to rejoin the WCML well to the north of  Norton Bridge leaving the new Stoke route at Searchlight Lane Jct.       Nine other bridges along the new route cross streams and local roads.    Much of the work south of Bridge 5 has been completed, ballast laid, track in position, but the installation of the overhead wires remains to be done.     The span of bridge 5 has been placed across the four WCML tracks but the adjacent infrastructure is far from complete.

NOTTINGHAM    The new tram stop situated directly above Nottingham railway station was opened on 27 July 2015 and the original stop just north of the railway station was closed.   This represents the opening of the first very short section of the extension of the tram network into the southern suburbs.     Intensive test running along both extensions began at the same time with service trams from both routes simply continuing beyond the station stop empty..

MANCHESTER  METROLINK    The tram network has been split in two as work to build the second route across Manchester city centre means that no trams can operate between Deansgate and Piccadilly Gardens.    The St Peters Square stop is being totally rebuilt with four platforms rather than two.    The second city centre route comes alongside the initial route from Piccadilly Gardens shortly before Victoria Station.   The new track has been laid at this location  and there is complex pointwork allowing trams to operate to/from any of the possible routes.   At Victoria there are three tracks through the station stop with two island platforms.    The central tram track has a platform face on both sides.    Victoria station itself has been greatly improved with a vast arched curving roof covering the concourse, all BR platforms, and much of the Metrolink stop.   Both tram platforms have canopies over the platforms where they protrude beyond the new roof.      The historic frontages to the old restaurant etc have been retained as has the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway route map covering a large area the wall close to one of the entrances.      Many services on the Oldham route are now formed by two well filled trams.     Concern had been expressed about the poor level of traffic on the Ashton route.      However a departure from Piccadilly Station at 1638  was noted to be packed by standing passengers.     The transport information shop beside the Piccadilly Gardens stop has been moved to beside the Shudehill stop.    A transport hub in Wythenshawe  was opened on 31 July 2015 bringing together local tram and bus services.

TYNE  and  WEAR  METRO   The installation of new escalators is under way ay Four Lane Ends (work started 29 June) and Manors (work began 6 July).   The work at both stations is expected to take around twelve weeks.

HIGH  SPEED  TO  SCOTLAND   Following a study  by the UK and Scottish Governments a plan has evolved to a provide high-speed route from HS2 to Central Scotland with some new-build sections and upgrades to existing tracks along other parts.

WEMYSS  BAY     The Pier providing interchange between the railway service from Glasgow and Rothesay on the Isle of Bute was to be closed for heavy repairs on 1 October 2015 and was unlikely to reopen until late spring 2016.    The ferries have been diverted to Gourock.

GLASGOW  QUEEN  STREET    The High Level Station will be closed between 20 March 2016 and 8 August 2016 so that the slabs under the rails can be replaced.   Fast trains for Edinburgh will run half-hourly and be routed via Anniesland, Queen Street LL then Springburn.  West Highland trains will use the Low Level Station while Aberdeen/Inverness services will operate to Central Station travelling via Cumbernauld and Coatbridge.

WINCHBURGH  TUNNEL    Work to lower the floor through the tunnel to create space for the overhead power wires was to be completed by 27 July 2015.     The route used by the main service between Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street, and by Edinburgh – Stirling and beyond trains had been closed for several weeks to allow this work to be completed quickly but all trains resumed their normal times from 27 July.

17 July 2015

WEATHER   A record breaking heat wave struck most of the UK during the last days of June 2015 and the first couple of days in July.    Because there was a fear that the rails might buckle in the heat many services in the south of England ran at reduced speed and a number of services were cancelled.

STRIKES     A 48 hour strike at the First Great Western TOC by members of four Unions, ASLEF, RMT, Unite, and TSSA, over operating and maintenance conditions with the new electric express trains to be used on the Paddington – South Wales main line started during Wednesday 8 July 2015 and continued until Friday 10 July 2015.     A 24 hour strike by LUL Tube staff was called from the evening of 8 July until the evening of 9 July 2015 by the same Unions.   The dispute was over the planned staffing of stations during the weekend “Night Tube” service planned to be introduced on 8/9 September 2015.    However the concerns about some staff working overnight at weekends remained and a further strike was called for 5/6 August 2015.   Engineering staff with the Southern TOC  commenced a five day strike from 1700 on 12 July until 1700 on 17 July 2015.

SOUTHERN   The station at Haywards Heath is being upgraded is a scheme costing £35m.  A multi-storey car park with 1057 places is being built together with a new footbridge linking directly the car park and all platforms.    Road access to the station is being greatly improved and a new Waitrose Supermarket will be part of the project.

SOUTH  WEST  TRAINS       The company failed in its bid for an extension to its franchise which runs out in February 2017.    The franchise is therefore being put out to tender to any interested rail operating company.    This is to ensure that the public gets the best value for money.

CROSSRAIL    The amount spent up to the end of March 2015 is reported to be £7.5bn.

TRANSPORT  FOR  LONDON     Bombardier’s Derby factory is to supply forty five 4-car commuter emus for the new Overground services in north east London.    Bombardier will maintain the stock for a period of 35 years.   These emus are a shorter version of the Aventra design that Bombardier is supplying for Crossrail services.

St  ALBANS  ABBEY      Hertfordshire County Council has reported on its views about how best  to develop transport services between St Albans and Watford.    The rail service between the Abbey station in St Albans and Watford Junction is considered to be poor value for money failing to reach into the heart of either town.    A proposal to replace the present heavy rail service with a light railway that would run into the heart of both towns became beset by many complications.    The Council has suggested that the rails be ripped up and replaced by a concrete busway which would be used by vehicles able to reach not just the town centres but further away destinations as well.

HS2    Lord Adonis, the pro-railways Transport Minister in the last Labour Government, has joined the Board of HS2 Ltd.   The present Conservative administration is promoting the construction of the first section of HS2 between London and Birmingham.

WEST  MIDLANDS   Contractors are being sought to undertake various works in connection with extensions to the Midland Metro network over the next decade.

ISLE  OF  MAN   The 120th birthday of the Snaefell Mountain Railway will be celebrated by the operation of special services on 20 August 2015.   These will culminate with the running of two trains running along the double track line side-by-side and leaving the Summit Station at 1700.

WINCHBURGH   TUNNEL     Major civil engineering work at Winchburgh Tunnel on the Glasgow – Edinburgh main line has been taking place from 13 June until 26 July 2015.

EDINBURGH   A young man walked out deliberately in front of a tram near Edinburgh Park station on 6 July 2015.    The driver slammed on his brakes but could not avoid knocking the man down – the first such incident since the system opened over a year ago.     The man was badly injured but not killed.

1 July 2015

DELAYS  OR  WORSE   The Government announced on 25 June 2015 that several major upgrade projects were to be delayed or cancelled because Network Rail had failed to complete other projects on time or within budget.      Among projects affected are the electrification of the Midland and Great Western main lines, the Transpennine route together with associated schemes in Lancashire.    It is possible that all of these schemes will proceed eventually but they would have to be compatible with available finance and much tighter control of the expenditure would be essential.      There are considerable concerns within the Department of Transport  concerning the ever rising costs of HS2 to which the Government has given its support but construction awaits the completion of its Parliamentary Bill which is making slow progress.

UCKFIELD – LEWES   Plans to reopen this link to provide a second through route between London and Brighton have been set back.     Network Rail and the Department of Transport  have
declared that the reopening is not a priority.

TRANSPORT  FOR  LONDON        Information about the additional stock to be ordered for the Overground is seeping out.   Forty five 4-car trains are to be supplied by Bombardier but full details  have not yet been announced.   The new trains may resemble the existing trains but this is raising objections since the newest routes into the north east suburbs are longer.   The only seating on the earlier cars is longitudinal – uncomfortable for longer journeys.    Meanwhile the joint company that operates Overground, LOROL,  (Arriva and MTR) – is splitting into its component companies which are both bidding for the new Overground franchise starting  November 2016.    MTR has already won the franchise to operate Crossrail services.     The new operator will have to resolve the problems with the services in north east London since they were taken over by Overground.     They will have to show how they will increase North London Line services from eight to ten per hour.

OVERGROUND   EXPANDS    The transfer of operation of lines in the north eastern suburbs including the Chingford and Enfield Town routes happened from 31 May 2015 but got off to a poor start with many cancellations and many cases where trains usually with eight coaches had only four.

VICTORIA   LINE      Major changes to the ticket hall at Victoria Tube Station are planned to be completed on 6 July 2015.    The ticket windows will be closed permanently with the staff moved into the ticket hall to assist passengers.  New ticket machines will be introduced offering guidance in 17 languages and providing a wider range of ways to pay.     To enable engineering work to make possible the operation of more frequent services there will be no trains between Seven Sisters and Walthamstow Central, and a reduced service over the rest of the line during the period 8 – 30 August 2015 when many regular users are on holiday.

NIGHT  TUBE  SERVICE   Transport for London has announced details of the overnight services that are to be introduced on Friday and Saturday nights from 12 September 2015.     A ten minute frequency will operate on the following sections of line.   Jubilee and Victoria Lines – entire line.
Central Line – Ealing Broadway alternately to Loughton or Hainault via Newbury Park.
Northern Line – Morden via Charing Cross Line and then alternately to Edgware or High Barnet.
Piccadilly Line  – Cockfosters to Heathrow Terminal 5.

55 BROADWAY   Plans to transform the iconic Grade 1 listed Transport for London headquarters building into  modern office accommodation have been approved by Westminster City Council.

EALING   Two people committed suicide by leaping from the platform at Ealing Broadway station at about 1810 on 23 June 2015.      They were struck by an express First Great Western train.   Heathrow Express services were cancelled for the remainder of the day, First Great Western intercity services to and from Paddington were delayed for up to 90 minutes, and their suburban services were halted for nearly an hour then restarted but omitted calls at Ealing Broadway until the morning of 24 June.    It is proposed to build a greatly improved station building at West Ealing station as part of the Crossrail Scheme.   Plans for a bright spacious modern ticket hall featuring large amounts of glass have been submitted to the Council for approval.   The station will have a new footbridge complete with lifts to provide step free access to all platforms.

CROXLEY  GREEN    The plan to divert the Metropolitan Line Watford branch to Watford Junction is running into delays as the cost for the scheme rockets upwards.   Originally to be completed in 2016 the date has been pushed back to 2019.    Many question whether it will ever happen since additional finance is now needed.

HS2    The latest plans include a proposal to re-site the Heathrow Express Depot from Old Oak Common to near Langley.   This change would make easier the provision of a link between Crossrail and WCML/HS2.     The Bill before Parliament has gathered a large number of amendments so a start to construction remains as distant as ever.

CHASE  LINE   The electrification of the Walsall – Rugeley line is going well and construction work will begin soon.    Freight firm Pentalver is to build a road:rail interchange facility south of Cannock at a cost of £18m with the aim of taking a substantial volume of lorry traffic off the M6 and A5 highways.    They plan to run six services daily between their depot and south coast ports.

MANCHESTER   The 100th M5000 tram, number 3100, was delivered to Queens Road Depot from Vienna on 15 June 2015.

TYNE  &  WEAR  METRO    The modernisation programme for the Metro will involve spending £40m during the coming twelve months.   The track will be replaced across the QEII Bridge, between Tynemouth and Northumberland Park, and at Regent Centre.    There will be a modern Management System in the Control Room coupled with a new digital radio system for the train fleet.

EDINBURGH   The City Council has sought information about the cost of completing the initial phase of the tramway, and the likely traffic that would result.   The extension along Leith Walk to Newhaven would cost £144m  and the traffic carried by the system would more than double.  If Newhaven was reached 8.7m additional passengers each year would be carried.   If the line ended at Ocean Terminal there would be 7.7m new passengers, and just 3.5m if the terminus was The Foot of Leith Walk.    An extension to just the first new stop at MacDonald Road would generate only 0.7m new passengers.     Clearly Ocean Terminal would be by far the busiest stop.   A two-month trial of allowing up to two bicycles on board a tram has been successful.    Up to two bikes can be on board each tram during off-peak hours.   None will be allowed during the rush hours or during the Edinburgh Festival.

13 June 2015

EUROSTAR   A daily year-round service between London and Marseille started operation on 1 May 2015.

CROSSRAIL    The breakthrough near Farringdon in early June to complete the boring of the Crossrail Tunnel, was the result of continuous work over a three year period.   A total of 7 million tonnes of spoil was removed in 1528 shipments to Wallasea Island off the Essex coast where the RSPB is creating the largest bird sanctuary in Europe.       The tunnels measure 26 miles in length.    Track laying at the eastern end of Crossrail has made good progress with two miles of double track now in position from the Crossrail tunnel portal at Plumstead and the new interchange station at Abbey Wood.

BEAM  PARK    A new station is to be built on the Tilbury Line (c2c TOC)  at Beam Park, between Dagenham Dock and Rainham stations.     It is the first new station in London since Stratford International opened in 2011.    It will serve a new community of 2000 homes with a further 5000 new homes that are being built a little distance away.    There will be a 20 minute frequency service to and from Fenchurch Street

NEW  ELECTRIFICATION     Physical work for the electrification of the Barking – Gospel Oak line  will commence during the summer of 2015.     The scheme will cost £115m and will be completed in 2017.

EAST  COAST    First Group has submitted an application to operate five return services each day between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh Waverley making calls at Stevenage, and Morpeth as well as York and Newcastle specifically to capture traffic from competing air lines.      Brand new state-of-the-art trains are promised together with extra-low fares that will compete with air line bargain fares.   A trip journey time of about four hours is promised.

WEST  MIDLANDS    The completion of the new Bromsgrove station 500 yards south of the existing one has been delayed since ground decontamination must be completed before some of the work can be undertaken.    The new station is likely to open in November 2015 but there is no word of a start to the electrification of the route south of Barnt Green down the Lickey Bank.

MIDLAND  METRO    The number of passengers carried during 2014 fell by 6.17% to 4.4m due to the 6 month closure of the route between The Royal and the Wolverhampton terminus due to subsidence under the track.  The introduction of new trams has resulted in an increase in traffic on other sections of the route.

SHEFFIELD  SUPERTRAM   Because several sections of the network were closed for long periods for track renewal work passengers carried during 2014 fell by 8.5% to 11.5m.

MANCHESTER   AREA    The car park at Hazel Grove station has been increased by 100 spaces to a total of 400.    The electrification of the Transpennine route to Leeds and beyond is being delayed significantly while planning issues are addressed.

BLACKPOOL    Lancashire County Council is studying a proposal to extend the Blackpool Tramway to link with the poorly served Blackpool South railway branch with trams then continuing over the BR tracks to Lytham.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   A record 13m passengers were carried in 2014 – the total was boosted by significant Commonwealth Games traffic.    When this special traffic is taken out of the total the number carried fell by 1%.

EDINBURGH   Passengers are being allowed to take folded and unfolded bikes on to the new Flexity 2 trams during off-peak hours.    A maximum of two bikes per tram is allowed.

4 June 2015

SEATON   The tramway, which is built on  former railway right of way, plans to build a new terminus building at Seaton.    Drawings of the proposed building show something very striking which would make the tramway the most prominent facility on the sea front.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND     The familiar Underground map is being updated and will include an alteration to how the Central Line is shown as it passes across Central London.      At present the Central Line is shown running straight in a west to east direction from Shepherd’s Bush to Chancery Lane where it turns somewhat to the south to Bank.   In the new version the line will turn north at  Lancaster Gate then east until the Holborn area where it turns south to Bank.    The reason is to leave room for Crossrail, due to open in 2018.     Further Overground routes in the north eastern inner suburbs are also now included.

CROSSRAIL   The last breakthrough in the construction of the major tunnel under Central London was achieved by TBM “Victoria” at 0530 on 26 May 2015 near Farringdon.   The long suburban line to Shenfield will become part of Crossrail in a couple of years from now but the route has been transferred from the Abellio Greater Anglia TOC to Crossrail from 31 May 2015.   The Romford – Upminster shuttle was transferred on 1 June 2015 since this line does not have a Sunday service.  Substantial fare reductions will be introduced immediately since Crossrail is applying fares similar to those of the London Underground saving passengers around one third.

LONDON OVERGROUND    Several routes were added to the Overground network from 31 May 2015.    These are the lines from Liverpool Street to Chingford and Enfield Town and to Cheshunt via Southbury.   The Romford – Upminster shuttle is also now part of Overground.     A major effort was made over the changeover weekend to rebrand the 28 stations involved, set up new ticket machines, and give them all a superficial clean.    A deep clean was to be completed within the first week and reduce over half of the fares to LUL levels.    All stations are to be staffed throughout the entire operating day. There were some problems on the first day of Overground operation with a significant number of services cancelled but things settled down after the first couple of days.    Service frequencies are set to rise to a train every 15 minutes with an aim to improve this to a service every 5 – 6 minutes on most routes.    The public response to the introduction of the earlier Overground routes has been a significant surge in traffic.

CAMBRIDGE   A slow speed collision on 30 May 2015 in Cambridge station resulted in several passengers receiving minor injuries.    The 0914 express from Kings Cross formed by one 4 car emu was due to arrive behind a similar empty emu.   After unloading its passengers the two units were to be combined to form the 8 car long 1030 service to Kings Cross.    The arriving train did not stop in time and hit the empty emu throwing many passengers to the floor.

OXFORD   A tram network of two or three lines following key radial roads coupled with improved local railway services to form the “Oxford Metro” is planned.

WEST  MIDLANDS   An ultra light rail service is being planned for the West Midlands utilising the disused railway between Dudley Port and the long closed Dudley station (beside the zoo) with an extension through the town to Dudley Bus Station.    A centre for the development of Ultra Light Rail technology would be built at Dudley Station and one track between there and Dudley Port Station would be used by the new Ultra Light Rail service while the other track would become a test track for the Technology Centre.    £4.5m funding has been secured from the Local Growth Fund, and £13.9m is sought from European Union sources.   A further several million pounds would be raised from private investors.

WEST  COAST  MAIN  LINE      Virgin carried 34m passengers on its WCML trains during the year 2014.

LIVERPOOL   The first electric service between Liverpool Lime Street and Wigan Wallgate ran on 25 April 2015.

MANCHESTER   AREA   Official objections have been raised against a plan to build the so-called Ordsall Chord which would provide a through route between Piccadilly and Victoria stations.  The route would cause significant damage to historic features in the area and Historic England will bring the matter to Court in September 2015.    There is an alternative plan which would yield the same benefits, avoid damage to listed buildings etc, but would cost more than the Government’s preferred option.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK   The tram network will be divided into two halves from 28 June 2015 until the end of August 2015 to make possible the total rebuilding of the important St Peters Square stop which will be given two island platforms making it ready for the Second City Crossing line in 2017.     The decision was taken to close the key route through St Peters during the summer holiday season when lower numbers use the trams.

GLASGOW   AREA   Three passengers were arrested after an incident on the 1454 service from Largs to Glasgow on 31 May 2015.    The train manager was checking tickets and was stabbed when the train was in the West Kilbride area.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   When the Subway was modernised and the 1898 rolling stock was finally taken out of service trailer coach 41 was sliced down the middle and one half was mounted on the wall of Buchanan Street station ticket hall.    This historic relic was removed when the station was upgraded and enlarged.    Strathclyde Partnership for Transport is looking for a new home for the half-coach and has appealed to enthusiast bodies inviting them to give 41 a new home.

EDINBURGH   TRAM    The controversial 8 mile long tramway between the city centre and the Airport has exceeded expectations by carrying 4.92m passengers in its first twelve months,    370,000 higher than forecast and before the station/tram stop linking with the railway from Fife has opened.   Revenue exceeded forecasts by 3%.

22 May 2015

ALWAYS   LATE    Southern’s weekday train leaving Brighton at 0729 was late on every day during 2014.   Delays at some stations where large numbers join the train and then congestion near Victoria have resulted in the constant late arrival.    In the Spring 2015 timetable Southern have added 3 minutes to the arrival time and have cut out the call at Wivelsfield where smaller numbers used the train.     Indeed the changes have had an effect and the train reached Victoria two minutes early on 19 May 2015.

BIRMINGHAM   NEW   STREET   The farce continues at the rebuilt station as more and more of the escalators break down making it difficult to reach platforms 2/3B and 8/9B.    How fortunate that the Navigation Street entrance and bridge remained available for further use!   There are three sets of barriers between the concourse and the platforms mostly unmanned for much of the day.   Ticket gates are being installed to cut down on ticket-less travel.     The first set to be installed is close to the B-end of the high numbered platforms and while the installation work creeps forwards very slowly  this entry/exit is totally closed.    As a result passengers no longer visit this end of the concourse and the adjacent retail outlets (Starbucks and M&S) have lost most of their trade.   Jobs are at risk and the units may be closed.      The Southside entrance/exit is being enlarged at the same time and will be immediately beside a major entrance to the new John Lewis store.   For the time being however there will be no step-free access at this point.

WCML  UPGRADE   A siding has been built at Little Bridgeford so that materials for work on the  Stafford – Crewe section can be kept off the roads.   The £250m project involves re-signalling,  altering many over-bridges, and the construction of a flyover at Norton Bridge.

MANCHESTER   METROLINK   Passenger numbers continue to rise with 2.6 million carried during February 2015, an increase of 311,000 compared with February 2014.    The Manchester Airport line had opened during 2014 but carried only 102,000 passengers during February 2015 so that over 200,000 additional travellers had been carried on the other parts of the network.  The busiest line is that to Altrincham which carries about 700,000 people every month.   Traffic on the Bury and Rochdale lines dropped a little during the period when Victoria Station was being reconstructed to be ready for the extra cross-city line when this opens.     The new M5000 trams have been less reliable that the T68s which they have replaced.    A problem with the couplers has been identified as a major reason for trams being taken out of service and this is being addressed and miles between failures has roughly doubled as a result.     It has always been possible to roster the 76 trams required for weekday morning peak services.   74 trams are required on Saturdays and 45 on Sundays.

LIVERPOOL  AREA   Merseyrail operated many additional services between Liverpool Central and Aintree to carry the crowds to the Grand National Festival on 9 – 11 April 2015.     Six car services operated every 7½  minutes to Aintree from 1147 until 1402, returning from Aintree between 1626 and 1926.    Hamilton Square station in Birkenhead reopened on 27 March 2015 having been closed for several weeks while refurbishing work was undertaken.  Old posters and adverts dating from as far back as the 1940s were discovered during the work and some items have been put on display.     The station has new flooring, improved lighting, and better passenger information systems.    Similar upgrade work started at Moorfields station on 13 April 2015.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY    Govan Subway station serves the large new South Glasgow Hospital and rising traffic has made improvements to the entrance etc necessary.   A new ticket hall is being built together with new entrance doors and escalators to the platforms.   Additional passenger lifts are also being built and Govan will probably become the busiest station outside the city centre.

8 May 2015

MULTIPLE  DELAYS   (27 April 2015)  There were several incidents around London on 27 April 2015 resulting in long delays and considerable passenger frustration.     A passenger was struck by a train near Surbiton at 1400 to be followed by a fatality on one of the tracks close to Waterloo, and then a train failure at 1630 near Clapham Junction.    The combination of these incident s brought Waterloo to a near stand-still for several hours and the concourse was packed to bursting point with commuters who had no alternative means of getting home.      The London Underground faced many problems, due mostly to signal failures.    The service between Stanmore and Wembley Park (Bakerloo Line) was halted throughout the morning peak because of a signalling failure at Stanmore.   A fatality on the track at Victoria (Victoria Line) caused long delays while a train failure at Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo Line) caused lengthy delays.     Signal failures at Caledonian Road (Piccadilly Line) and Finchley Road (Metropolitan Line) caused significant delays.
(30 April 2015)    A major power supply failure between Wandsworth Common and Clapham Junction stations during the morning peak resulted in the suspension of services to Victoria Terminus and severe delays to services on all routes.   Some passengers were trapped in trains for up to five hours.

26 April 2015

PROMISES,  PROMISES.    Pre-election “we will do this” statements from various political parties during the last month before the General Election have included “£100m investment in important infrastructure, fares freeze for five year, better Wi-Fi on trains, plus support for HS2” despite open opposition to the plans from residents in the rural counties through which HS2 will pass – (Conservatives);  “Clear support for HS2, a fares freeze for one year, and a right for passengers to be given the lowest available fare at the booking office”  (Labour);   “Scrap HS2”, close all coal fired power stations, therefore abolishing much of the freight traffic on the railways” (Green Party);  “Hesitant support for HS2” (Liberal Democrats).    “ Total opposition to HS2 – a vanity project”  (UKIP); support for HS2 provided it is continued north into Central Scotland (SNP).   It will be interesting to follow what actually happens after the election..

CALEDONIAN  SLEEPERS   Groups of tourists booked accommodation a few days in advance for the Edinburgh – London Euston service due to leave late on 7 April 2015.    When they arrived at Waverley station there was no space for them – indeed the coaches on which they had booked berths were not on the train.    Worried officials found eventually that they were on the Glasgow to Euston service which is combined with the Edinburgh train at Carstairs so the tourists were able to ride in the seating coaches as far as Carstairs where they were at last able to get access to their sleeping space.    The error came at the start of Serco’s operation of the sleeper service franchise.

ISLAND  LINE   The line was closed south of Ryde St Johns Road for ten weeks until mid April 2015 to allow work to stabilise a cutting just south of Sandown station.    Two steel retaining walls were built to prevent slippage of the cutting sides.    A Ryde Pier Head – Ryde Esplanade – Ryde St Johns Road shuttle was maintained, connecting with the ferries with train replacement buses operating to/from St John Road.

BRIGHTON  DERAILMENT   As temperatures along the south coast reached 23.6C measures were taken by the Operating Companies to restrict train speeds and monitor areas with complex track-work.     Despite this a slow moving empty class 377 emu was derailed on buckled track just outside Brighton station on the morning of 15 April 2015.    Although some trains to/from the East and West Coastways were able to run after about 90 minutes, services for the main line to London remained disrupted and were not back to normal for around 24 hours.    The problem was not so much the bucked track, but the severing of electricity cables by the de-railed train.

THREE  BRIDGES  DEPOT    This new depot, one of two being built to handle the fleet of Class 700 emus for  Thameslink services, is nearing completion.   The other depot will be at Hornsey.

LONDON  MARATHON   This annual event was held on 26 April 2015 and attracted large crowds. The c2c TOC strengthened all services and laid on sixteen additional trains to handle the crowds. Canada Water station was renamed Buxton Water for the day in a deal done with the owning firm Nestle.

SOUTHWARK  PARK   The remains of the booking hall for this station opened in 1902 and closed in 1915 due to competition from tramcars were unearthed by engineers constructing the Bermondsey Dive Under.  This will separate services from Kent and the south east suburbs to London Bridge from Thameslink services to/from Croydon.

LONDON  BRIDGE   During the Easter period no fewer than 67 points were installed on the station approaches to eliminate conflicts that caused countless delays.    Trains will achieve even  smoother running conditions when an extra pair of tracks running through the high level section of the station has been completed.   In January Thameslink trains ceased to operate via London Bridge.   These services had to cross over multiple tracks and were a constant reason for delays.  Now a dive under is being built at Bermondsey  as part of a complex proposal to provide separate  tracks for Thameslink and South Eastern trains so that there will be no need for Thameslink trains to cross Southeastern Coy’s tracks.      However on 14 April 2015, there were very long delays during the morning peak for all routes into or through London Bridge due to seven unrelated equipment failures.  Railway staff handed out free coffees to the much delayed commuters when eventually they arrived at the London Bridge.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   There were lengthy delays on the Circle, District, and Hammersmith & City lines on 13 and 14 April 2015 due to a signal fault at Edgware Road.   The derailment of an engineering train near Holland Park on 24 April 2015 halted services on the Central Line between White City and Marble Arch until 1250.   Because of overcrowding Wanstead and South Woodford stations were closed during the morning peak.

PENDOLINOS   A start has been made on the conversion of coach G on the twenty one 9-car Pendolino sets from First to Standard class.   This will result in the provision of 5500 extra standard class seats per week – and a net increase of 2100 seats.    While this work is undertaken at Alstom’s Oxley Depot in Wolverhampton the rest of each train will be given an interior re-fresh and a deep clean.   The eleven car Pendolino trains will similarly receive a re-fresh and deep clean.

NOTTINGHAM    Thanks to the availability of five of the twenty two new Citadis trams the morning peak service has been increased to a 7-8 minute headway on both routes (formerly 10 minute frequency) so giving a tram every 3½ – 4 minutes on the long common section between Highbury Vale and the Station.

TYNE  &  WEAR   Modernisation of the escalators at Gateshead and Heworth and the replacement of the lifts at both stations has been completed.   Over the past six years Nexus has replaced twenty one escalators.     The next escalators to be tackled are those at Four Lane Ends and Manors.

GLASGOW  AREA   Two thieves attempting to steal signalling cable near Cambuslang station on the West Coast Main Line early on 8 April 2015 were spotted by three railway staff and in the subsequent struggle the thieves attacked the staff with sharp axes.    The thieves were eventually apprehended.    Historic Subway car No 55 has spent a considerable time dumped outside the Depot because there is insufficient space inside for it.   It has now been moved to the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway where it has a new home under cover and where restoration work can be undertaken.

10 April 2015

ABELLIO    The new operator of the Scotrail franchise is experiencing difficulties in retaining management staff.   The First Scotrail Managing Director of the franchise, Steve Montgomery, was thought to be staying on to guide Scotrail through the transition between operators but he has now decided to leave and will serve with Abellio for four weeks only.

HIGH  WINDS   Gales of at least 60 mph swept across the Midlands and Home Counties  on 31st  March 2015.     Overhead wire damage caused a cessation of services on the St Albans Abbey branch and the Birmingham Cross City Line (north).

CLASS  700 EMUS        The first of the completed class 700 units being built for Thameslink cross-London services were displayed at a press event in early April 2015 at the Siemens factory in Krefeld, Germany.    Fifty five 12-car sets accommodating 666 passengers, and sixty eight-car trains holding 427 passengers are being built.    Trials of the trains using Automatic Train Operation will commence later in 2015 on the Hertford Loop.

KENT    The resignalling of the railway between Longfield and Sittingbourne has been postponed with no future date for the work suggested.   This means that the completion of the new Rochester station is held up since the existing signal box stands in the way.   The new platform “0” at Rainham cannot be opened since access will be dependant on the new signalling system.

CROXLEY  LINK    London Underground Ltd is to take over responsibility for this work. It is expected that construction work will start later in 2015.

WATFORD UPGRADES   The route from Euston to Watford Junction and Hemel Hempstead was closed over the Easter weekend to allow the demolition and installation of a replacement bridge just south of Watford Junction.    Major repairs were undertaken to one of the Watford Tunnels just north of the Junction during the same weekend.     The opportunity was taken to undertake some track repairs and do work on some of the overhead wires.

ISLE  OF  WIGHT   The Ryde Pier – Shanklin line reopened on 30 March 2015 following ten weeks of closure due to a landslip in a cutting at Foxes Bridge near Sandown.   Two retaining walls have been built at the landslip site and the opportunity was taken to undertake track repairs and signalling upgrades.   The last train from Shanklin has been re-timed to operate later so as to give a better connection with a catamaran sailing to the mainland.

SOUTH  WEST  TRAINS  A £50m package of improvements is to be made over the next two years.   There will be 73 additional evening and weekend trains, extra seats on a number of services, and 1400 additional parking places across the system.   The four still out of use platforms at Waterloo International will be brought back into use.

WEST  MIDLANDS   Services between Bescot and Rugeley TV were halted during 2 – 8 April 2015 for major engineering work in preparation for the electrification of the Chase Line.   The track bed was lowered through Walsall station and Park Street Tunnel, and platform1 at Walsall station was rebuilt.  Midland Metro services returned to Wolverhampton St George’s on 31 March 2015 following completion of the track bed repairs which had been weakened by ancient mine workings.     The St George’s terminus has been remodelled with only the southern platform remaining.   The track serving the other platform face, which had been on the northern side, has been removed and the track bed covered by brick paving.   The southern platform can hold two of the new trams.   The track layout leading to the platform has been greatly simplified.

TAMWORTH    The 3’6” gauge Burton and Ashby Light Railway tram 14 has been repatriated from USA  and put on display at the Statfold Barn Railway near Tamworth.

MANCHESTER    The reaction to plans for a 3.5 mile extension to Trafford Park has been so strong that a Transport and Works Act application has been made so that it can be built in the near future.   Victoria Station was closed during an extended Easter period, 3 – 7 April 2015, to allow the control for the signalling to be transferred from the North Signalling Control Centre at Salford Crescent to the new Ashburys Centre.    Work was undertaken during the closure period to strengthen Farnworth Tunnels in preparation for electrification work.    Finally platforms 3 – 6 at Victoria were wired in preparation the widespread electrification much of which will open in December 2017.

EDINBURGH    Adjacent stops (Balgreen and Bankhead) are only two miles apart but the local residents have a very different life expectancy.   People living at affluent Balgreen live for upwards of 78 years while those in more humble Bankhead live on average for just 68.5 years.   The matter is being examined by the Scottish Parliament.

25 March 2015

INTERCITY EXPRESS PROGRAMME  The first Class 800 trainset for the Intercity  Express  Programme (IEP) was unloaded at Southampton Port from the vessel “Tamerlane” on 11 March 2015.   This is the first of ten sets to be produced at Hitachi’s Kasado factory in Japan, the remaining 112 trains being produced at the new factory at Newton Aycliffe.

SERCO  SLEEPERS   A mock-up of the upgraded coaches for Serco’s Anglo-Scottish sleeping car services went on display in Inverness on 23 March 2015.   There will be cradle seats, pod flat beds, berths, and en-suite berths.   A Brasserie car will serve meals.   Meanwhile Serco’s new web site allows bookings to be made up to one year in advance but has generated criticism since the range of fares advertised is incomplete and some of the least expensive fares are not shown.

HGH SPEED 3    On 20 March 2015 the Chancellor announced details of the so-called “TransNorth Network” or HS3, that would link the major cities of northern England  with railways capable of speeds of up to 140 mph.   Journey times between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and York would be virtually halved.    The associated conversion of the Selby – Hull line would involve significant investment by private companies and the construction of a new high-speed link north to Newcastle would be examined.    The cost would be £40 – 65bn depending on which options were followed.

CROSSRAIL   The tunnel machine “Victoria” broke through from the east into the Liverpool Street Box on 12 March 2015.    Tunnelling work is now 95% complete.

LONDON  BRIDGE  STATION    Despite measures taken to reduce congestion on the concourse during the evening peak period there was further severe congestion that was considered to be potentially dangerous to passengers during the week beginning 16th March 2015.

CROXLEY  RAIL  LINK    The plans to divert the Croxley Green LUL service into Watford Junction station have been delayed because the available finance was no longer sufficient.   The Department of Transport is providing the £50m required and the work is likely to go ahead in the near future.

CARDIFF   A proposal has been made to build a 5 mile long cable car link between Penarth and Cardiff city centre passing over Cardiff Bay and Harbour.   The estimated cost is £120m.  Peak hour  commuters would avoid the serious road congestion in the area while the cable car ride would be a major attraction for tourists because of the wonderful views of the harbour.    Opponents point to the  East London cable car over the Thames which attracts low levels of traffic.

MIDLAND  METRO    From 9 March 2015 all off-peak services have been worked by the new trams with eleven required for a 7-8 minute frequency including long  layovers at each end.    At the Wednesbury Depot just two of the original trams were being prepared for peak hour service when viewed on 11 March 2015.    The other original trams are lined up on two tracks looking extremely battered and worn out.    Other sidings are filled by new trams, many of which are still undergoing testing.     Work on filling the mine workings under the track west of The Royal has reach an advanced stage.    The track bed is beginning to be restored but it may take a further couple of weeks to complete the work including the relaying of the track.    The chosen route of the Eastside extension was announced on 20 March 2015.    This would continue beyond the HS2 terminus along Deritend High Street to serve the Coach Station and the Custard Factory site,

MANCHESTER  METROLINK   The layout at the St Peter’s Square stop is being amended to four tracks serving two island platforms – one for services to/from Piccadilly and the other for trams using the Second City Crossing.   A similar two island platforms/four track layout is being created at Victoria  where the Second City Crossing will end.

GLASGOW  QUEEN  STREET  HL.   Services were disrupted for several hours during the morning on 12 March 2015.    A track assessment train leaked fuel on to the rails inside Cowlairs Tunnel causing service trains attempting to climb up Cowlairs Bank to slip and come to a stand inside the Tunnel.

EDINBURGH  –  GLASGOW      Express services on the most important route between Scotland’s two largest cities will be halted from 13 June 2015 until 27 July 2015 to allow track bed lowering through Winchburgh Tunnel.   Details are still to be confirmed regarding services between Stirling and Edinburgh, and between Edinburgh and Linlithgow – both important commuter links.

9 March 2015

COMPANIES  SOLD   The Government announced on 4 March 2015 that it had sold its stake in the Eurostar service for £757m.    Canadian and British investment companies have acquired the Company.       95% of the Freightliner Group has been sold to the American firm Genesee and Wyoming for £490m.  G&W will take over Freightliner’s assets and £8.5m debts.   The existing management team will continue to own 5% of the Company.     G&W owns freight companies in several European countries, USA, and Canada and operates the freight services on the long Darwin route in Australia.

CROYDON  TRAMLINK   The Sunday service on the Croydon – Wimbledon route was doubled to a tram every 7 – 8 minutes from 14 December 2014 and there has been a significant rise in traffic as a result.    The doubling of the single track section between Mitcham Lane and Beddington Lane has been completed and a start is to be made to build a new bay platform at Wimbledon Station.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND   Members of the RMT Union called a strike from the evening of 7 March 2015 until the following morning.    A driver with 29 years service had been dismissed on the spot for failing alcohol breath tests on two separate occasions.    The Union claimed that the driver’s medication for diabetes would have raised doubts about the validity of the breath test.

LONDON  BRIDGE    Services through London Bridge station were halted for 45 minutes at 1620 on 3 March 2015 because someone was on the tracks at Streatham.    The through platforms quickly became overcrowded, so the ticket gates were closed resulting in severe overcrowding of the concourse.   Some passengers clambered over or under the barriers to avoid being crushed.     A safety review was being carried out as a matter of urgency.    The evening rush hour was again disrupted on 9 March 2015 following the derailment of an Engineering Department wagon.   Arriving passengers were guided into queues avoiding the crush danger of the earlier incident but many people could not even get into any part of the station.

EAST  COAST    The new franchise holder, Stagecoach – Virgin, but using only the Virgin name, ran its first train showing Virgin branding throughout on 2 March 2015.    The 1100 Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley arr 1520 displayed the Virgin logo plus a red line along the side of every coach, a temporary livery until a £13m full-scale revamp is undertaken on the fleet during 2015.   From 2018 sixty five Super Express trains featuring WiFi and at-seat meals for all passengers will be introduced and the standard Edinburgh – London time will be cut to 4 hours with key business services linking the capitals calling at Newcastle only.   There are plans to increase the speed over much of the route to 140 mph.    The Department of Transport announced on 3 March 2015 that it was reviewing the details of the franchise to provide a more frequent East Coast service at Dunbar.

NOTTINGHAM   Daytime testing of trams on part of the Clifton extension of the tramway has taken place since 9 February 2015.    No start date for public services has been made.

BIRMINGHAM    The transformation of New Street Station reached a significant stage at the end of February 2015 with the completion of all the demolition work required for the creation of the new atrium above the new concourse.   All that remains to be done is the fitting out of the concourse area before the upgraded station opens to the public in September 2015.

MIDLAND  METRO   The £13.8m extension to the Wednesbury Depot was formally opened on 5 February 2015.

NORTH  WEST   Class 319 emus commenced operation between Liverpool and Manchester over the Chat Moss route on 5 March 2015.

MERSEYRAIL    No decision has been made about the purchase of new emus to work services around Liverpool and The Wirral.   Class 507 and 508 units are to receive an internal refurbishment.

28 February 2015

ROCHESTER   The station is being relocated 500 yards to the north west and construction is going well.    Formal notices for the closure of the existing station have now been issued.

CROYDON  TRAMLINK    The double-tracking of the 700 ft section between Mitcham Junction and Beddington Lane has been completed and brought into use.

BRAINTREE    The branch terminus now has an under cover park for bikes.    The station has a very high number of commuters who use a bike to travel between their home and the station.

STANSTED   The journey time between Liverpool Street Station and Stansted Airport is around 45 minutes putting the airport at a disadvantage compared with London’s other major Airports which have a faster rail link.    The problem is congestion along the Lea Valley where the Airport trains get caught behind local trains.   A major increase in the population along the Lea Valley is probable during the next decade making it essential that the transport infrastructure is improved.    Plans to quadruple the line along the Lea Valley have always been held back but now the four-tracking has been given a boost by the Department of Transport and construction work may start in 2016.

OVERGROUND   Two stations are planned for the Old Oak Common area south of Willesden Junction.   They will be on the Richmond and Clapham Junction lines and will serve planned 24,000 new homes and industrial units employing up to 55,000 people.

LUL   As part of the £400m reconstruction of Tottenham Court Road station the striking murals by Eduardo Paolozzi have been dismantled.    Fears that they will be destroyed generated many protests but LUL have indicated that most will be re-erected in the altered station and that only a small amount of the murals will be lost.     The renewal of the crossover at Walthamstow Central on the Victoria Line will take place during 8 – 30 August 2015.     Service north of Seven Sisters will be suspended while the replacement of the track bed and rails is tackled.    From April 2016 the Victoria Line will be serviced by 36 trains per hour instead of 24 and all will operate through to Walthamstow Central instead of some turning back at Seven Sisters,  increasing services to Walthamstow by 40%.

READING    The new viaduct taking the Bristol and South Wales main line over the West Midlands to Southampton freight tracks came into use during early February 2015.     Masts to support the future overhead power wires are sprouting on lines around the station and the carriage sidings are already fully wired.

MIDLANDS  METRO   Information sheets posted at stops during early February 2015 inform customers about the nature of the problem that has halted services beyond The Royal stop into central Wolverhampton.    Mine workings, probably dating from the early years of the Industrial Revolution, have collapsed creating a deficiency 55 yards long, 33 feet wide, and 40 feet deep under the tracks.    The area had been filled with uncompacted debris which collapsed due to the weight of passing trams.   The deficiency is being filled by layers of compacted hard core with intervening layers of a geo-textile membrane which will help to bind together the fill.  On top will be a thick layer of concrete.     The work will be finished during March 2015.

BIRMINGHAM    Thefts of bikes left at New Street Station and some suburban stops have doubled recently despite the presence of cameras to keep surveillance on the parking areas.   The problem is that although thieves can been seen on camera cutting through bolts etc nobody can get there before the thief has made off with the bike.

BRIDGNORTH   The Castle Hill Railway Co. Ltd. has operated a funicular railway between Low Town and High Town in Bridgnorth for 120 years climbing the steep sandstone cliffs.   The alternative is a steep 200 step stairway.    170,000 passengers pay £1.20 return each year.    The line was purchased four years ago by mother and son property developers Eileen and Dr Malvern Tipping and they were considering selling the line when it was discovered that they were related to the original builder of the railway, engineer George Croydon Marks, and the Tippings have now decided to keep the railway as a sort of family heirloom.

Read more about the railway at this link:

Bridgnorth Cliff Railway

TRANSPENNINE EXPRESS   The new Transpennine Express service from Manchester Airport to Glasgow and Edinburgh is proving to be a major success.      The 4-car class 350 emus in a distinctive livery are frequently packed and some passengers have had to stand at the Manchester end of the journeys.    Useful numbers of First Class passengers have been attracted to the service.     Lockerbie is served by most of the trains transforming the once worst served main line station in Britain to a busy spot with a virtually hourly service.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK   The stop within Victoria main line station has reopened after rebuilding to handle the extra traffic that will need to be handled when the Second Crossing line is opened.    The stop now has two island platforms and traffic to Rochdale and Bury was handled from 18 February 2015.    The handling of traffic to Piccadilly and the Altrincham line restarted on 21 February 2015.

MANCHESTER  PICCADILLY   The controversial “next train to – – ” equipment is to be replaced.    This comprised three sides which together was arranged in a “Circular” display, and showed the next departure to every station that had a through service from Piccadilly.   The stations were listed in alphabetical order but every minute or so the lists moved round the display so that once you had found your station the details suddenly disappeared – moved anti-clockwise to the next position round the display.   Many passengers were distressed or consumed by fury as they chased their station round and round the equipment trying to read the information before it moved again.   A more conventional display is being considered.

CLASS  319  EMUS    Northern Rail plans to introduce its Class 319 emus on to the Liverpool – Manchester Airport service from 2 March 2015.

GLASGOW  AREA    The Cumbernauld shuttle that operates through Queen Street Low Level and Springburn stations is attracting growing traffic in the suburbs but traffic to the new town remains poor.   Services to Cumbernauld run into through platform 2 at Springburn where the driver walks to the other end of the class 318 emu before setting off for Cumbernauld.   Return journeys use platform 1.  Terminal platforms 3 and 4 have fallen out of use.      The once 4-track “speedway” between Shields Road Jct and Arkleston Jct was reduced to two tracks when the route was electrified and the freed up space was used for the new catenary masts.   Because of congestion a third track has been reinstalled and is used generally by city-bound expresses enabling them to overtake locals loading large numbers of workers at Hillington West and East stations.

EDINBURGH    Plans for the development of the area beside the Granton Marina include the erection of 4000 new houses and a tramway branch.     The existing tram route is being well used with standing passengers during the day and even the twelve minute frequency evening service attracts significant traffic, much of it to the Airport stop.

14 February 2015

EAST  COAST    A sink hole seven feet deep and thirteen feet long opened up without warning on 31 January 2015 at 1530 under one of the ECML tracks at Craigentinny, a little east of Edinburgh Waverley.  Services were halted while the area around the hole was examined by engineers and limited services restarted at 1800 on a single track bypassing the hole.    Engineers began  filling the sink hole with rubble on 1 February but normal services were not resumed until 4 February 2015.

NEW  ELECTRIFICATION   The Government announced on 12 February 2015 that the main line from Bristol to Derby via Birmingham New Street was to be electrified and would connect with the new electrification schemes along the Midland Main Line and between London and South Wales.

THAMESLINK    Thames Water is to face a claim for several million pounds following the rupture of a water main near Farringdon on 27 January 2015 causing flooding of the railway tunnels and disruption to Thameslink services.

CARDIFF   The Welsh capital has announced plans to rebrand itself as the “Cardiff Capital Region”.    Railways will play a key part in the transformation with already announced plans to electrify the line to London Paddington to give a travel time of under 90 minutes.   Also already announced is the plan to electrify the existing lines along the Valleys but the new proposals include the reopening of some lines to Abertillery, Tredegar, Maerdy, plus some sort of service, light rail or heavy rail across the Heads of the Valleys, Ebbw Vale, Hiwaun; between Miskin and Pontypool; and to Culverhouse Cross (?an entirely new branch).

CHILTERN  MAIN  LINE    BR engineers removed a dense forest of trees growing on the north east side of Harbury Cutting a little south of Leamington Spa.     Following heavy rains an estimated 350,000 tons of earth slipped down the side of the cutting at 1530 on 1 February 2015 coming close to the running tracks.     The line was closed promptly and it will take several weeks to stabilise the cutting over a length of around 170m.      Meanwhile a bus shuttle between Leamington Spa and Banbury or Oxford is bridging the gap for passengers but the 50 freight services that use the line each day (mainly taking goods to/from Southampton Docks) have had to be re-routed via the WCML.    As a result engineering work planned at Watford Junction on two weekends in February has had to be postponed.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK    The latest proposal for an addition to the expanding network is a line taking over the BR service from Piccadilly to Stockport via Bellevue then switching to the Guide Bridge to Stockport line giving well placed Reddish station a proper service.

SHEFFIELD  TRAM:TRAIN    The proposed tram:train service from Sheffield Cathedral to Rotherham town centre would follow the Supertram route as far as the  Tinsley -Meadowhall South stop where it would negotiate a newly built link passing below the massive Tinsley Motorway Viaduct before joining BR metals.   This would take the tram:trains to Rotherham Central station and an industrial estate.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY  MODERNISATION.    Subway authorities are in the final stage of negotiations with two preferred bidders for the £200m contract to replace the rolling stock and signalling/control systems.    The new trains will be unmanned giving passengers the opportunity to observe their progress along the tunnels through windows in the ends of the cars.    The bidders are Ansaldo/Stadler Rail/Babcock (Ansaldo has built driverless trains for Copenhagen) and CAT/Thales (builders of stock for the automated elevated system in Vancouver).    Platform screens will be built along all platforms with the doors opening only when a train has come to a stand.     Modernisation of the fifteen stations on the 4’00” gauge line is already under way but the transformation of the Subway will not be completed until about 2020.   The next station to be tackled will be Buchanan Street at which a £3m scheme awaits Council approval.

GLASGOW  AIRPORT  RAIL  LINK    A proposal for a tram:train link between Glasgow Central Station and the Airport is being examined again.    The tram:trains would operate on the main line to Paisley Gilmour Street and then take to the streets to reach the Airport terminals.    Worries have been expressed that the tram:trains might take up too much of the track capacity between Glasgow and Paisley whereas a heavy rail alternative using larger capacity trains would run less frequently and create less of a capacity problem.

29 January 2015

CHANNEL  TUNNEL   The tunnel was closed to all traffic during 17 January 2015 after a lorry on a shuttle service caught fire.    Twenty six passenger trains were cancelled and 12,000 passengers had to re-book.    One of the bores was reopened on 18 January 2015 but the other bore had been flooded by the mist of water sprayed over the train when the lorry fire was detected.    Nevertheless  it was hoped to run a near normal passenger service with a somewhat reduced car and lorry shuttle service but power supply problems during the morning resulted in the cancellation of eleven trains though eventually services restarted during the afternoon.     Repairs to the smoke and flood affected bore were completed and full normal services resumed by 23 January 2015.

NORTH   LONDON  FLOOD    A burst water main flooded the Thameslink Tunnel at Farringdon Station on 27 January 2015.   The Fire Service pumped 50,000 litres of water from the tunnel but cancellations and delays to services continued until late on 27 January.    The incident will result in a claim for several million pounds damages for Thames Water from Thameslink and Network Rail.

LONDON UNDERGROUND  An announcement was made by London Underground Ltd on 26 January 2015 that the buildings at about 50 stations were to be redeveloped over the next decade to generate about £3.4bn. Modernisation work has begun already at South Kensington and commercial space will be released for new use as a result.    The iconic art-deco headquarters building above St James’s Park station will be converted into 90 luxury flats.    The greatly enlarged ticket hall at Tottenham Court Road station was opened on 12 January 2015.

WEST  MIDLANDS   Work has begun on the £30m scheme to electrify the Chase Line (Walsall – Rugely TV) with work to raise clearances for the overhead wires at two bridges and due to start this summer at a third.     The electrification is to be completed in 2017.

MANCHESTER    The tram stop at Victoria Station will be reopened during the weekend of 21/22 February 2015 and there will be a rearrangement of services from the same weekend.

WEST  YORKSHIRE   Plans for around 50 new stations on the railways around the County have been rationalised to just four which are considered to be the most useful and most likely to pass strict viability tests.    The four on which work is to progress are at Elland, East Leeds Parkway in Micklefield,  Crosshills, and Haxby in the northern suburbs of York.

SCOTLAND    In a pre-election flourish the Labour Party has indicated that it would cancel the Scotrail franchise to Abellio – the Dutch-owned company –  and make Scotrail a “People’s Railway” and no longer part of the private sector.

HAMPDEN  PARK   Rangers and Celtic football clubs have issued advice to their supporters in advance of a Cup Tie between the rival clubs at Hampden Park on 1 February 2015.    Rangers fans are to use the train service to Mount Florida Station while Celtic supporters are to travel to Kings Park Station.    Both services will run from Central Station where an attempt will be made to start the two services from widely separated platforms with a strong police presence to ensure that the two groups of supporters do not make direct contact with each other.

16 January 2015

SCOTTISH  STORMS    Severe storms swept over much of Scotland during the night of 08/09 January 2015 with gusts of 113 mph recorded at Stornoway and 140 mph on top of the Cairngorm Mountains.   As a result, traffic across all high road bridges was halted following an incident when a van was blown over on the Forth Road Bridge.    All ScotRail services were cancelled on the morning of 9 January though some local trains were provided a little later when it was confirmed that the tracks were clear of debris and overhead wires were intact.     Most local air services were cancelled – a plane had been blown off the runway at Stornoway a few days earlier.    All electricity supplies to homes and industries were cut off throughout the highlands and islands.   Even four days later power supplies had not been restored to some areas and the Perth – Inverness main line was closed until 12th January.    Further storms resulting in debris covering the tracks, and heavy snow continued to disrupt railways in the highlands of Scotland with the Perth – Inverness, Inverness – Kyle, and the entire West Highland network shut again on the 13th January.   Storms in the Firth of Clyde halted services between Dumbarton Central and Helensburgh Lower, and also on the Largs/Ardrossan Harbour line but all routes were reopened later on 15 January 2015.

MAJOR  ENGINEERING  WORKS   The Department of Transport announced on 11 January 2015 that it would considering undertaking major works during the summer period when fewer people travelled and when days were longer allowing work to be undertaken over a shorter number of days.

CROSS  COUNTRY  TRAINS   Traffic on this network of routes has soared over the past five years.    During the past year traffic rose by 11% as more passengers deserted the air services for the trains.    Over the past five years traffic between Glasgow and London has leapt by 300% and between Edinburgh and Birmingham by 100%.

GATWICK EXPRESS The 0729 Brighton to London Victoria fast train has achieved the dubious record of never being on time throughout 2014.   Short delays at intermediate stops while crowds boarded  resulted in the train being a couple of minutes late as it neared London and therefore missing its slot as it traversed the complex network of lines criss-crossing the inner suburbs.

LONDON  BRIDGE     Yet more delays to morning rush hour services occurred on 11 January 2015 just two days after the Department of Transport issued a severe warning following the delays just after the Christmas break.

OVERGROUND   The plan to extend services to Barking Riverside has received overwhelming support from the public living in the areas that would be served by the improved services.

CROYDON  TRAMLINK   A Wimbledon bound service became derailed on 29 December 2014 shortly after leaving Mitcham Junction station.    Spring-loaded points were wrongly set but the driver manually reset the them and drove over the points at a very slow speed.   Unfortunately the central bogie and one set of wheels of the rear bogie came off the track.   The Rail Accident Investigation Branch is investigating the incident.

BATTERY   EMU   Unit 379013, an Electrostar emu, has been fitted with batteries and designated as an “Independently Powered Emu”.  It is the first battery Powered train on the national network for over 50 years.   After tests on the Old Dalby test-track, it has been used between Harwich and Manningtree.    When the trials are finished it will be converted back into a conventional emu.

MIDLAND  METRO    Following renewal of the track services were restored to The Royal stop in Wolverhampton from 15 December 2014 but work to restore the foundations for the track between there and the city centre was proving to be very time consuming.
BROMSGROVE   This West Midlands town (population 39,000) is to be the south western terminus of the Cross City Line but at the moment is served mainly by the hourly Birmingham – Hereford dmus.     The station is at the extreme south eastern edge of the town but attracts a steady sizeable traffic.     Trains are restricted to three coaches since the very short platforms cannot be extended.      Therefore a new station is being built just south of the present one with terminal platforms for Cross-City emus as well as a pair on the main tracks to serve the steady traffic to/from Worcester and beyond.    The construction site is a sea of mud at the moment and to date nothing has been done regarding the provision of the necessary overhead power wires.    The new station will be served by local bus routes – at present the nearest bus stops are about 150m away since buses cannot get any closer by squeezing down the narrow lane that serves the present station.

ISLE  OF  MAN    Work to relocate the Douglas Horse Tram to between the highway and the Promenade will cost £4m and funds are not available for the work to take place during 2015.   The tram will operate as normal throughout the 2015 season but may be altered in time for the 2016 or 2017 season.   Traffic carried in 2014 actually rose a little compared to 2013.

BLAENAU  FFESTINIOG   The steam locomotives “The Eclipse” and “The Coalition” that once worked in the Llechwedd Quarry were converted from Bagnall steam locomotives in 1927 and 1930 respectively.   The main frames and wheels were retained while the superstructure was new.   They have been disused for about 40 years but have now been moved to a safe under cover location to await conservation work.

MANCHESTER  AREA   Work is to proceed on the construction of a second deck to the car park at Hazel Grove station.   It will create 100 additional spaces.

8 January 2015

LONDON UNDERGROUND  Because of engineering works to upgrade Tottenham Road station in preparation for Crossrail, Central Line trains will not stop there throughout 2015.

LONDON  BRIDGE   The planned major track, signalling and platform upgrade work was completed on schedule during the 16 day long closure of London Bridge Station over the Festive Season.   There was considerable trouble for the first couple of days after services resumed.  It proved too difficult to squeeze the already revised services through the reduced track then available and five London – Bridge to West Croydon and three return services were removed from the evening peak timetable to create space for the remaining trains.   Additional staff were brought to London Bridge Station concourse to guide passengers and attempt to prevent an excessive build up of passengers.

ST  ALBANS   The branch from Watford Junction was closed for most of December 2014 to improve the power supply and upgrade the junction with the West Coast Main Line,    This work formed part of the Watford Junction project that closed the West Coast Main Line during the Christmas and New Year holiday period.    The branch reopened on schedule on 29 December 2014.

NORTHAMPTON   The new two storey station building opened on 12 January 2015 having been delayed from the earlier planned October 2014 date.    There had been delays to the improvement  to the power supply to the new building.    The booking office is on the higher level and the exit from the booking office leads through eight ticket gates (twice the previous number to reduce delays) to a bridge over the tracks.    Four shops will be located within the building – two on each floor – and access from the car park is suitable for wheel chair users.

BIRMINGHAM  NEW  STREET   Following a major problem with the signalling system on 2 January 2015 all trains passing through New Street Station were subject to delays of up to 1 hour for much of the day.

MANCHESTER    The city’s midnight New Year celebrations were briefly halted when a tram arrived at Piccadilly Gardens at precisely midnight halting in an area where the fireworks display was about to be activated.    There was a four minute delay until after the tram had left the area. The altered Deansgate-Castlefirld stop was opened after the Christmas closure period and now has three platforms with two served by a Manchester-bound island platform.   This summer work will start at St Peter’s Square stop to convert it to four platforms.   All these works are in connection with the construction of the Second City Crossing that will open in 2017.

SCOTRAIL   Winchburgh Tunnel on the Glasgow – Edinburgh Main Line is to be closed from 13 June until 27 July 2015 for repairs and the creation of sufficient space for the overhead wires in connection with the electrification of the route.   Trains will have to run via Dalmeny (close to the Forth Bridge) where they will need to reverse.   The result will be a 25 – 30 minute increase in running time and a reduction in the service frequency.   Services between Edinburgh and Stirling will also be affected. Although many business travellers will be on holiday at this time the closure coincides with the Open Golf Tournament at St Andrews and many extra trains would normally have been provided but this will be impossible with the need for many trains to reverse at Dalmeny blocking the way for  extra trains.

23 December 2014

DOUBLE  DECK ?     The idea of introducing double deck trains as a means of handling the ever rising number of passengers has surfaced again.    A well designed double deck coach will carry about 50% more passengers than single deck vehicles.   The need for wide stairs to access the upper deck taking some space from both decks means that it is impossible to double the number of passengers.    It is often very difficult to add more coaches because some of the platforms cannot be lengthened.     Network Rail is examining at the possibility of  using double deck trains on the route from Waterloo to Basingstoke and Southampton.     It is thought that these lines have at least some overhead structures with sufficient headroom for double deck coaches, keeping the cost per route mile lower than on many other routes.      Other changes being looked at include the building of a new terminus in London with a sufficient number of long wide platforms and good links to the Underground, constructing “by-pass” lines so that trains can rush past a busy station while another train is loading passengers there to create a situation where more trains per hour can be run, or the guaranteed unpopular move to have narrower seats on the existing trains (and narrower bottoms?).

ACCESS  FOR  ALL   Department of Transport funding of £26m will permit “Access for All” work to be undertaken at the following stations.   In London and South East:  Alexandra Park, Bexley, Brondesbury, Canterbury East, Carshalton, Coulsdon South, Crawley, Ewell East, Palmers Green, Plumstead, Selhurst, Shortlands, Teddington, and Tring.   Other locations in England:  Meols, Mill Hill (Lancs.) , Scunthorpe, Stechford,  Torquay, Totnes.    Wales:   Taffs Well, Treherbert.   Scotland:  Kilmarnock. Kilwinning and Westerton.

BUSIEST  STATIONS    The busiest station in the UKJ during the period 1 April 2013-31 March 2014 as Waterloo which handled 98,442,742 passengers, well above second place Victoria with 81,356,330 passengers.  Teesside Airport was the quietest with only 8 passengers during the year.

LONDON UNDERGROUND  New lifts to the Piccadilly Line platforms at Gloucester Road station have been installed in a job that lasted just 7 Months instead of the expected 13 months.   The old lifts were completed 25 years ago and were now proving difficult to maintain and repair due to a lack of new spare parts.

GREATER ANGLIA  Tottenham Hotspur FC is renewing its White Hart Lane ground,  linked upgrades will create a public open space between the station and the ground, a substantial number of new homes will be built, and Tottenham High Road will also be improved.   White Hart Lane station will be rebuilt with a new entrance near its south end nearer the football stadium than at present and will be better able to handle the large crowds that need to be handled on match days.  Public consultation on various options will be open until 21 June 2015.

EAST  COAST  MAIN  LINE   Services were disrupted from 14.46 until late evening on 17 December 2014 after a woman was struck and killed by a train at Goswick level crossing, south of Berwick-on- Tweed.

NORTHAMPTON   The new station building, double the size of the old one, and costing £20m, is due to open during January 2015.   Traffic has soared in recent years, especially peak hours commuter traffic to London Euston.

NOTTINGHAM    Service frequencies on both routes have been increased to a tram every 10 minutes throughout the day and every 15 minutes in the evenings giving a 5 minute/7.5 minute frequency along the long common section.   The opening of the two extensions south of the railway station has again been delayed until early 2015.

MANCHESTER   A car park for 140 vehicles has been built at Guide Bridge station in the eastern suburbs. The Metrolink system is to be the first light rail network in the UK to be completely Wi-Fi compliant.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   A $17m contract has been awarded to Freyssinet Ltd to undertake repairs to the tunnel lining and track bed including water sealing and the filling of voids.   Most of the work is required along two sections.   North of the river the work is needed between Hillhead and Buchanan Street station while south of the river between Shields Road and Kinning Park stations.  The work will last for 2 – 3 years and will generally be undertaken during hours when the Subway is not in operation.

GLASGOW  ACCIDENT    On 22 December 2014 at 1445 a bin lorry travelling along Queen Street to George Square in the heart of the city centre ran out of control, the driver having sustained  a suspected heart attack.     The lorry struck a pedestrian on a pedestrian crossing then ran through red traffic lights before mounting a busy pavement close to the main entrance of Queen Street Station then ploughing into the Millennium Hotel (the former railway owned North British Hotel).    Six pedestrians were killed outright and eight others badly injured.    The entrance to Queen Street station was closed until late on the 23rd December, but the Dundas Street entrance, just around the corner, remained available.    All road traffic around George Square was halted until the afternoon of the 23rd, but the ice rink and funfair within the Square were closed, and illuminations along adjacent streets were turned off.   The Hogmany gathering in the Square to bring in the New Year will be cancelled this year, reducing the volume of traffic at the station during this Festive Season.

EDINBURGH    The trams, reintroduced on 31 May 2014, will have carried 3 million passengers by the end of December 2014.    The target traffic level was 4.5 million per full year so the new tramway is already exceeding expectations.

13 December 2014

VIOLENT STORMS   An area of intense low pressure over the Mid-Atlantic on 9-10 December 2014 resulted in winds of 80 – 100 mph and waves of 40-50 feet over much of the west coast of Scotland.    Ferry services were at a standstill and debris on the tracks resulted in rail services north of Inverness and on the West Highland line (including to Helensburgh Central) being halted.  On the Largs/Ardrossan Harbour route waves crashed over the tracks near Saltcoats and services were stopped.  Trains were cancelled also between Ayr and Stranraer.    By 11 December the winds had died down somewhat but high seas were now striking the coast of Ulster and Mid-Wales.

LONDON UNDERGROUND D78 STOCK   Redundant D78 stock may be converted into diesel-electric dmus to replace the disliked Pacer stock which is used extensively across Northern England.

EAST COAST FRANCHISE     The Department of Transport announced on 27 November 2014 that the franchise for the next eight years would be a Virgin -Stagecoach consortium.    They will pay a premium of £3.3bn over the franchise period, will use the new Hitachi I-C fleet from 2018, and will introduce new services from London Kings Cross including Huddersfield, Harrogate,  Shipley and Sunderland and Stirling.   The services had been provided since 2009 by the Department of Transport following the withdrawal of the previous operator, National Express, which had experienced financial problems in other parts of its businesses.

WALES   Agreement over the funding of the electrification of the Valleys Lines has been reached and the work can therefore proceed.   The UK Government is funding the London – Swansea main line electrification but there was a dispute concerning the funding of the Valleys routes.  The   Department of Transport wanted this to be paid for by the Welsh Government but the Welsh authorities expected the UK Government to foot this bill.   The agreement for the £230m scheme will see a payment of £125m from the UK Government with the rest met by the Welsh Government.

GATWICK  AIRPORT   The station is to receive an upgrade at a cost of £120.5m.

CHARING  CROSS   At about 1050 on Sunday 23 November 2014 as a Hastings service was loading its modest number of passengers a loud bang accompanied with sparks and flashes came from the front coach.   Fearing that this might be a bomb passengers rushed from the train and the station was soon cleared of all members of the public while the fire service tackled the fire.    An electrical fault seems to have been the cause and no evidence of terrorist activity was found.    The station reopened for normal traffic after about two hours.    The Argos retail chain is to open its first store in a station at Charing Cross.

LONDON  BRIDGE     The station will be closed to permit engineering work connected with the Thameslink project over an extended Festive Period – 20 December 2014 until 04 January 2015.

C2C    Two services each hour on Saturdays and Sundays from late November until 21 December 2014 between 0900 and 2000 were diverted from Fenchurch Street to Liverpool Street so that they could call at Stratford enabling shoppers to reach the adjacent massive Westfield Shopping Centre

LONDON UNDERGROUND  The London Underground had its busiest ever day on 14 November 2014 when it carried 4.576m passengers. The Central line station at Tottenham Court Road will be closed to passengers from 3 January 2015 until sometime in December 2015 for major engineering work in connection with the adjacent Crossrail station.  There will be a massive increase in traffic for the Central Line station and a major increase in circulating space is being created. Jubilee Line passengers were able to alight at Bond Street and access the street from 24 November 2014 since parts of the ticket office modernisation work had been completed ahead of schedule.    Access to the Jubilee Line escalators had been blocked by this work.  However passengers will not be able to enter the station until mid December and passengers are advised to start their journey at Marble Arch, travel on the Central Line to Bond Street and change to the Jubilee Line there.    Eventually there will be new escalators and lifts to make Bond Street a “step-free” station.    The work is part of the preparations for an interchange with the new Crossrail station which will increase traffic at the  station by at least 45%.

GREATER ANGLIA   A new shelter is to be built at Ely to give parking space for 360 bicycles. A study has recommended the use of new 110 mph emus for the Liverpool Street – Norwich intercity service replacing the present Class 90 locomotives with hauled stock once the planned track improvements and installation of loops at Haughley Junction have been completed.

BIRMINGHAM  NEW  STREET    Traffic at this station has risen to such a high level that access to the station has had to be restricted at times.    Following the opening of the German Market in the city centre in the middle of November 2014 larger than usual crowds have poured through the station from neighbouring towns and cities and homeward bound crowds have had to be kept outside the station for a short period until there has been sufficient space for them.   The heavy traffic has had a knock-on effect on the escalators linking the concourse and platforms.   Many have broken down leading to the discovery that they were not the most robust versions since the level of use had never been specified.   The escalators are now receiving appropriate upgrades. The cost of the upgrade work has risen from £483m before work began to £661m in mid 2013 to $708m in December 2014.

WEST  MIDLANDS   The car park at Kings Norton (on the Cross City Line) is to be enlarged and will have 100 additional spaces.

MIDLANDS  METRO   Just six of the original trams were in service on 11 December 2014, with new trams operating more than half of the services.   Several trams have been moved away from the line to Long Marston and some remain dumped at Wednesbury Depot being considered to be beyond economic repair.   Tram 3 has been sold to Walsall Fire Station and will be used for training in emergency procedures.

WEST  MIDLANDS  ULTRA  LIGHT  RAIL      An experimental ultra light rail link is planned to operate from Dudley Port Station along the former heavy rail route to the site of Dudley Station (beside Dudley Zoo).    A new National Centre for the Development of Ultra Light Rail Technology would be built beside the Dudley terminus.

NOTTINGHAM   The opening of the two new tramway extensions has now been delayed by at least six months from the originally hoped for December 2014.

BLACKPOOL   The tramway is to operate a “Santa Special” service on 20 December 2014.   The illuminated Western tram will carry Santa Claus, resplendent in his grotto, and any adult holding a valid tram ticket will be able to take a child (no charge) on to the tram to visit Santa.

WINDERMERE  The 10 mile long branch from Oxenholme on the WCML is to be electrified.  The Transport Minister announced on 28 November 2014 that the £16m required for the work would be made available by the Department of Transport.

GLASGOW   The two entrances to St Enoch Subway station are to be given decorative steel and glass canopies to complete the £5.3m upgrade to the station.

EDINBURGH    The City Council is to undertake a comprehensive study of the present tramway operations and the planned extension towards Leith.    A decision of whether to complete the tramway to Leith will not be made until the  £400,000 study has been completed.

1 December 2014

EAST  COAST  FRANCHISE     The Department of Transport announced on 27 November 2014 that the franchise for the next eight years would be a Virgin -Stagecoach consortium.    They will pay a premium of £3.3bn over the franchise period, will use the new Hitachi I-C fleet from 2018 and will introduce new services from London Kings Cross including Huddersfield, Harrogate,  Shipley and Sunderland and Stirling.   The services had been provided since 2009 by the Department of Transport following the withdrawal of the previous operator, National Express, which had experienced financial problems in other parts of its businesses.

WALES   Agreement over the funding of the electrification of the Valleys Lines has been reached and the work can therefore proceed.   The UK Government is funding the London – Swansea main line electrification but there was a dispute concerning the funding of the Valleys routes.  The   Department of Transport wanted this to be paid for by the Welsh Government but the Welsh authorities expected the UK Government to foot this bill.   The agreement for the £230m scheme will see a payment of £125m from the UK Government with the rest met by the Welsh Government.

CHARING  CROSS   At about 1050 on Sunday 23 November 2014 as a Hastings service was loading its modest number of passengers a loud bang accompanied with sparks and flashes came from the front coach.   Fearing that this might be a bomb passengers rushed from the train and the station was soon cleared of all members of the public while the fire service tackled the fire.    An electrical fault seems to have been the cause and no evidence of terrorist activity was found.    The station reopened for normal traffic after about two hours.    The Argos retail chain is to open its first store in a station at Charing Cross.

LONDON  BRIDGE     The station will be closed to permit engineering work connected with the Thameslink project over an extended Festive Period – 20 December 2014 until 04 January 2015.

C2C    Two services each hour on Saturdays and Sundays from late November until 21 December 2014 between 0900 and 2000 were diverted from Fenchurch Street to Liverpool Street so that they could call at Stratford enabling shoppers to reach the adjacent massive Westfield Shopping Centre

LUL   The London Underground had its busiest ever day on 14 November 2014 when it carried 4.576m passengers.

BOND  STREET  (LUL)  Jubilee Line passengers were able to alight at Bond Street and access the street from 24 November 2014 since parts of the ticket office modernisation work had been completed ahead of schedule.    Access to the Jubilee Line escalators had been blocked by this work.  However passengers will not be able to enter the station until mid December and passengers are advised to start their journey at Marble Arch, travel on the Central Line to Bond Street and change to the Jubilee Line there.    Eventually there will be new escalators and lifts to make Bond Street a “step-free” station.    The work is part of the preparations for an interchange with the new Crossrail station which will increase traffic at the LUL station by at least 45%.    Upgrade work at nearby Tottenham Court Road station is to begin early in 2015

GREATER ANGLIA   A new shelter is to be built at Ely to give parking space for 360 bicycles.

BIRMINGHAM  NEW  STREET    Traffic at this station has risen to such a high level that access to the station has had to be restricted at times.    Following the opening of the German Market in the city centre in the middle of November 2014 larger than usual crowds have poured through the station from neighbouring towns and cities and homeward bound crowds have had to be kept outside the station for a short period until there has been sufficient space for them.   The heavy traffic has had a knock-on effect on the escalators linking the concourse and platforms.   Many have broken down leading to the discovery that they were not the most robust versions since the level of use had never been specified.     The escalators are now receiving appropriate upgrades.

WEST  MIDLANDS   The car park at Kings Norton (on the Cross City Line) is to be enlarged and will have 100 additional spaces.

NOTTINGHAM   The opening of the two new tramway extensions has now been delayed by at least six months from the originally hoped for December 2014.

BLACKPOOL   The tramway is to operate a “Santa Special” service on 20 December 2014.   The illuminated Western tram will carry Santa Claus, resplendent in his grotto, and any adult holding a valid tram ticket will be able to take a child (no charge) on to the tram to visit Santa.

WINDERMERE  The 10 mile long branch from Oxenholme on the WCML is to be electrified.  The Transport Minister announced on 28 November 2014 that the £16m required for the work would be made available by the Department of Transport.

GLASGOW   The two entrances to St Enoch Subway station are to be given decorative steel and glass canopies to complete the £5.3m upgrade to the station.

20 November 2014

EUROSTAR   The first of the new e320 stock for Channel Tunnel services was displayed in St Pancras International station on 11 November 2014.    The ten car trains can carry 900 passengers – 20% more than in the original Chunnel trains – and will run at up to 320 kph.   Ten trains were ordered of which nine are now completed and Eurostar has decided to order a further seven trains.    The e320s can operate coupled to the older stock and will enter service during 2015.

HITACHI  STOCK    Hitachi has put on display the first completed intercity emu which from June 2017 will take over services on the Great Western Main Line to Plymouth and South Wales, (57 sets) and on the East Coast route to Edinburgh and Aberdeen (65 sets).     Five and nine car versions, all capable of operating at 140 mph, will be produced and some will have sufficient diesel power to operate at 100 mph to points beyond the overhead wires such as Plymouth and Aberdeen.
All sets will have diesel power to enable the trains to move following a power failure or in depot sidings.    There will be a total of 866 coaches in this massive order.

BOMBARDIER  STOCK   A further 27 four-car Electrostar emus have been ordered for Govia’s Thameslink services.    Designated class 387/2, they will feature 2 + 2 seating and more space for luggage.  They will be used as dedicated stock for the Gatwick Express service.   The earlier order for 29 class 387/2 units will see their introduction to Thameslink services from early 2015 allowing replacement of the class 319 emus.

LONDON  BRIDGE      Network Rail has built a 30m long signal gantry across the tracks at the London terminus as part of the remodelling of the station.

LONDON UNDERGROUND  The planned Northern Line extension to Battersea was given the go-ahead by the Department of Transport on 13 November 2014.

GREAT NORTHERN  The new multi-storey car park with 378 spaces was opened at Hatfield on 17 November 2014.

LONDON MIDLAND   The Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey branch is to be closed from 29 November 2014 for about four weeks while the signalling system serving the branch and the West Coast Main Line between Euston and Milton Keynes Central is upgraded.

WEST  COAST  MAIN  LINE   A broken rail was discovered on the main line near Crewe on 12 November 2014 and this resulted in numerous cancellations but with extra calls added to those trains that did run to maintain the normal service frequency at the quieter stops along the route.

MIDLAND METRO  During work to relay the two miles of street track between Priestfield and the Wolverhampton St George’s terminus long abandoned mine workings were found below the track bed.     Four metres deep uncompacted brick rubble and loose debris have had to be excavated to allow the site of the old workings to be filled with concrete to give a solid foundation for the new track.    The route will reopen as far as The Royal stop in early December and to St George’s by the middle of December 2014.    The scrap metal site on the north side of tram route in Handsworth appears to have been closed down.   The site had rail access so the Snow Hill – Wolverhampton light rail route had to pass over this rail access and the structure taking the trams over this siding is one of the largest engineering features on the line.

BURTON      The Burton and Ashby light railway, owned by the Midland Railway Company, linked the two towns in its name between 1906 and 1927.   Services were provided by open-top double deck tramcars of which No 14 was sold for restoration and operation as a street attraction in Detroit, USA.     It ran for about 20 years along a city centre street until interest in the service faded away and the tram was then put into store.     When it was announced that No 14 was to be sold a group in the Burton area decided to buy the tram and bring it home.    They were successful and have paid £37,000.    The aim is to put No 14 on display in a museum in the Burton area.

TYNE  &  WEAR  METRO.   Steps are being taken to increase the visibility of five level crossings on the Metro with the installation of brighter traffic lights and clearer warning signs at the crossings.   The crossings are at Callerton Parkway, Bank Foot, Kingston Par, Fawdon, and Howdon.

GLASGOW   A 21 year old man fell from a bridge carrying Nursery Street across the Cathcart Circle between Pollokshields East and Queens Park stations at 0620 on 11 November 2014.   He struck the overhead wires as he fell and sustained serious burns.   The line was closed until around 10.00.

EDINBURGH    Following a power supply failure at 10.00 am on Friday 14 November 2014 the central section of the route between Edinburgh Park and Murrayfield was out of service until mid-afternoon.    Shuttle services were maintained over the city centre and outer segment to the Airport.
Approval for the construction of two new stations on the East Coast Main Line was announced on 20 November 2014.    East Linton lies between Drem and Dunbar and will serve a rapidly growing community from which there is likely to be strong commuter traffic.   Reston lies south of Dunbar in a rural location but will be a railhead for a substantial part of Berwickshire and will be served by a bi-hourly Edinburgh – Berwick-on-Tweed local service.

7 November 2014

HS3/4?    The Government has authorised planning for a future fast rail link linking Manchester with Leeds with an ultimate extension west to Liverpool and its Docks, and east to Hull.    This new line named as HS3 would not be mostly for very high speed passenger trains but would be capable of handling a much greater flow of freight traffic with a significant boost to passenger services coming almost as a bonus although cutting times between the cities strung along the route by nearly 50% will mark a massive improvement in connectivity between the major northern cities.  Some Midlands business interests have demanded that a further higher-speed line, HS4, be built to link Birmingham with cities to the east and south west but there are no details of this suggested line.

CROSSRAIL 2   Proposals for new railways includes a north-south link in tunnel across central London fed by suburban heavy rail services from the Cheshunt area in the north and Epsom in the south.    The tunnel route would start at Tottenham Hale and at New Southgate in the north and run south to Clapham Junction via Dalston Junction, Euston/St Pancras and Victoria.   The route could be carrying 90,000 commuters during the morning rush hour in 2030.   Boris Johnson, the London Mayor has backed the plan but the source of finance for this and the various other schemes now being publicised remains uncertain.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND    Public consultation has started on the proposed extension of the Bakerloo Line to Lewisham and Hayes which would interchange with the Docklands Light Railway at Lewisham, and the Croydon Tramlink at Elmers End and Beckenham Junction.    A new staff uniform designed by Wayne Hemingway has been introduced for the staff.   It includes a zip-up gilet with a bright red collar, and a “fleccington” – a cross between a fleece and a jacket.    The uniform has produced a mixed reaction.

LUL  PLANNING?    A spectacular display to mark the Centenary of the start of World War 1 and the deaths of 888,246 British and Colonial soldiers in that war by planting a ceramic poppy in the moat of the Tower of London resulted in massive crowds to see the remarkable result.   On the first weekend of November 2014, the end of the half-term school holiday, it was expected that especially large numbers would come to see the poppies.    However LUL decided that on this particular weekend it would close Tower Hill tube station for maintenance work leaving very large numbers of visitors without a convenient means of transport to the Tower.    Good planning?    In all 4 million people came to see the Poppies – most of them coming by the tube to Tower Hill Station.

SOUTH  WEST  TRAINS   The Shepperton branch celebrated its 150th anniversary on 1 November 1864 and was electrified on 30 January 1916.

LAST  4VEP    The sole surviving slam-door 4Vep emu numbered 423417 “Gordon Pettitt” is receiving a refurbishment, corrosion repair and top quality repaint at Ilford workshops.   The unit was built in 1967 and operated by South West Trains until withdrawn in 2005.  It is owned by the Bluebell Railway and cared for by the Southern Electric Traction Group and when the upgrade is completed the unit may become the first emu in preservation to operate on British Railways tracks although there is a race with the restoration of a 5BEL unit to see which will be first.

CROYDON  TRAMLINK   The Wimbledon route was closed between Mitcham Junction and Ampere Way and route 4 (Elmers End – Therapia Lane) was suspended during the period 25 October 2014 – 2 November 2014 to allow double tracking work to take place at Beddington Lane.

OVERGROUND   The first five car trains were run on 6 November 2014 on the East London Line.        On the Euston – Watford Junction route an upgrade to the power supply system will be necessary.

ABELLIO GREATER ANGLIA The Liverpool – Norwich main line is to receive an upgrade costing £170m. The 60 Year old overhead wires in the Chelmsford area will be upgraded and track improvements will be carried out at Witham and Colchester.    At busier stations there will be improvements to increase the capability to handle the increasing passenger loads.   New rolling stock will be coming in 2017 to handle the growing traffic on the Shenfield locals.

REDDITCH   Work has more or less been completed on the upgrade to the Barnt Green – Redditch branch so that the service can be increased from half-hourly to every 20 minutes in December 2014. The village at Barnt Green has increased in size recently and the car park is to be enlarged to match the growing traffic.    With the half hourly service Redditch trains pass each other just south of Barnt Green station and the junction. The line curves very sharply through and beyond the station resulting in a severe slow along this section.    Alvechurch was once a tiny village and the stations’s single platform had only a lane as access.   Today many new houses have been built and a decent road leads to the station and its packed car park.     A loop almost 2 miles long has been built starting just north of the station and continuing for a significant distance along the single track branch.   The station has two platforms long enough for a six car train, a footbridge with lifts, and ticket machines on both platforms.   There are shelters for a decent number of passengers plus small shelters around information point machines.    The station at Redditch is still just a single platform and a ticket office is open for much of the day.     The route of the line that used to continue to Evesham and Ashchurch is clearly visible passing under a bridge a short distance south of the station.

NUNEATON   Construction of Bermuda Park station in the southern suburbs of Nuneaton, beside a large industrial estate and near a new housing area, began on 22 October 2014.    The station is on the branch to Coventry on which there will be another new station beside the Ricoh Arena.   The line is to be electrified as part of the Southampton Docks to the north freight artery.

MANCHESTER    The 9.1 mile long Metrolink route between Cornbrook and Manchester Airport opened on 3 November 2014 in the presence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer  – a year ahead of schedule.    The Chancellor brought the happy news that funding was being granted by the Government for the next extension – to the Trafford Centre – costing £350.    Until the second city crossing between Deansgate and Victoria is opened in 2017 it will not be possible for the Airport trains to run beyond Cornbrook because they would cause too much congestion along the city centre route.   A new substation is to be built at Brooklands so that the tram service to Altrincham can be provided by double tram trains.   A new Mayor is to be appointed for the Manchester conurbation with powers similar to those of the London Mayor.    This will include the planning and organisation of public transport.

LEEDS   Construction of the new station at Kirkstall Forge on the Leeds – Shipley line started during October 2014.   Work to build a station at Apperley Bridge on the same route is to start shortly and both stops are likely to open at the start of the winter 2015 timetable.

TYNE  &  WEAR  METRO   Nexus plans to spend nearly £1m on safety improvements on the level crossings at Callerton Parkway, Bank Foot, Kingston Park, Fawdon and Howdon.

EDINBURGH    A ride on the new trams has emerged as one of the top ten “must does” for tourists visiting the city.

ELECTRIFICATION   WORK   Costain and Morgan Sindall have been awarded the £250m contract for the electrification of the Glasgow – Edinburgh main line.   The work includes lengthening platforms at Croy, Falkirk High, Polmont and Linlithgow.   Clearance through Winchburgh Tunnel has to be increased and Glasgow Queen Street will receive a giant glass façade.

GLASGOW  AREA   Electrification between Whifflet and Glasgow will come into use with the new timetable on 12 December 2014.    The trains will be diverted to Central Low Level station calling at Rutherglen and all stops along the Argyle Line.    The Argyle Line timetable will be reorganised from this date.    The outer-suburban service to Lanark will be transferred back to the High Level platforms at Central Station with trains taking about 15 minutes less for the journey.
An additional 80 car park spaces are to be provided at Johnstone station which is served by the Ayr and Largs routes.     Two decorative glass and steel shelters are to be erected over both entrances to St Enoch Subway station as part of the major station upgrade.   In addition to affording protection to passengers they are intended to be eye-catching and cause comment.    The Subway was closed for two hours from 1730 on 2 November 2014 after a man had fallen on to the tracks at Bridge Street.

24 October 2014

STORMS    The UK was lashed by extremely strong winds, being a remnant of Hurricane Gonzalo, and heavy downpours on 20 October 2014 causing widespread disruption to all forms of transport.    On the railways, both the Virgin and East Coast TOCs imposed speed restrictions to protect the overhead wires and a massive tree fell across the tracks a little north of Rugby blocking the route to Coventry.   London Euston to Birmingham services were re-routed via Stafford (reverse) and Wolverhampton with no through London services at International or Coventry stations.    At Heathrow Airport many internal flights to UK points, and also to European cities, were cancelled due to the high winds.    Road services were disrupted when large vehicles were blown over by the wind and some ferry services were cancelled especially in Scottish West Coast waters.

EAST  COAST   The East Coast TOC paid tribute to the 20,000 railway staff who died in the First World War by renaming locomotive 91111 “For the Fallen” on 14 October 2014.   The date was exactly 100 years since the raising of the Tyneside Scottish Regiment into which many railwaymen were drafted.

BRIGHTON   The Brighton Tram 53 project is making steady progress and is now a recognised charity.   Major body work repairs are under way and a suggestion has been put to the Council that the tram be able to operate on 3’6” track along part of the sea front.

GATWICK  EXPRESS   The Government has given its approval for Govia to purchase of 27 four-car class 387/2 emus that will replace the class 442 stock.   The 25 five-car class 442 sets were built by BREL at Derby during the 1980s and were refitted in 2008 but they have never been ideal for use on an airport link.    In a related move Bombardier is building 29 four-car 387/1 emus for eventual use on the restructured Thameslink services where they will replace the class 319 stock that will then be cascaded to newly electrified routes in the north west.

GREAT  WESTERN   Maidenhead station is being upgraded to make it ready to receive longer emu trains from Crossrail in 2017.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND    LUL has confirmed that the effect of the most recent upgrade on the Jubilee Line will be an increase in the peak period service to 36 trains per hour – a train every 100 seconds. Moreover this is the target for other lines once new signalling and rolling stock are in place.

LONDON OVERGROUND   The platforms at Willesden Junction, High Level, are being lengthened to accommodate five car trains.

CROSSRAIL   Construction of the new tunnels at Docklands and in south-east London were completed during October 2014.

COTSWOLD  LINE   A proposal to re-double and electrify the line from Oxford to Charlbury to serve the substantial potential commuter traffic is being examined.    The work might be done as an addition to the conversion of the freight spine running north from Oxford to the West Midlands.

CROSS  CITY  LINE   Services along the north – south suburban line across Birmingham were disrupted on 20/21 October 2014 due mainly to the effect of fallen leaves making the rail surface slippery.    Many trains were cancelled and some omitted inner suburban station stops in an effort to catch up on the timetable.      The special leaf fall timetable was to be introduced from 3 November 2014 with some peak hour Lichfield Trent Valley services cut back to Lichfield City, and some suburban calls omitted throughout the day so that late running trains could keep time.

ISLE  OF  MAN   Tynwald has approved the third stage of track repairs and improvements on the Snaefell Mountain Railway which will include work on the pointwork some of which dates to 1894.    On the Manx Electric Railway it is hoped to overhaul the Ballure Viaduct near the northern end of the route.   When completed it will help to ensure that the line north of Laxey will be safe for the foreseeable future.

MANCHESTER   METROLINK   The reconstruction of the tram stop within Victoria station is taking three months longer than initially planned because of the complex nature of the work.   It will now continue until February 2015.    During the work trams have been able to operate non-stop along a single track through the station and this will now continue until February 2015, a year after the work began.

EDINBURGH    The bi-centenary of the publication of Sir Walter Scott’s novel “Waverley” was celebrated at the station that was named after the book on 14 March 2014.     Quotations from the book were on the concourse, passageways and windows.    The book was innovated by adding fictional characters to a true story about the follow-up to the 1745 Rebellion    It set new standards in writing followed by many contemporary writers including Charles Dickens.    Restoration work on Horse Tram 226 is making good progress and the new steel underframe that was manufactured a few years ago has now been placed before the lower saloon in Lothian Buses’ Seafield Works.  Much of the bodywork was in poor condition and has been replaced by new hardwood cut and dressed to the correct profile.   New bogies will need to be built from scratch.   The original plan was to rebuild the car as a double deck electric tram but the idea to bring it back to its original horse tram state has caught the public’s imagination and many donations have been received to help pay for the work.    There have been three significant collisions between the trams and local buses in the short time since the tramway opened.   Bus drivers seem surprised that the trams cannot move to get out of their way!

3 October 2014

LONDON  OVERGROUND   A study is under way to consider a proposed extension of the Gospel Oak – Barking line 4km to Barking Riverside where construction of a massive new housing complex has just been approved.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND   Loose concrete was found in the roof of the tunnel near Kings Cross in early afternoon on 17 September 2014.    All Circle and Hammersmith and City  lines services were halted for the rest of the day and Metropolitan Line services that ran on to the City were turned at Baker Street.    A crush of 14,000 people soon gathered around Kings Cross LUL station trying to find an alternative way home and the station was closed to new arrivals until after the evening peak.    A ten minute frequency service operating right through the night at weekends is to start from 12 September 2014.  Ferrovial Agroman Laing O’Rourke has been selected to design and build the 3.3km branch from Kennington to Battersea.   The six year contract will cost around £500m.
On 30 September 2014 LUL announced a £3bn plan to extend the Bakerloo Line from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham via New Cross Gate and then perhaps taking over the British Rail services to Beckenham Junction and Hayes. The extension would involve a new tunnel through Camberwell or below the Old Kent Road.    There have been frequent suggestions that the line should run beyond its 1906 terminus at Elephant and Castle but this new proposal has the backing of Boris Johnson, the London Mayor,    A public consultation on the proposal is open until 7 December 2014.

For more information please follow the link below:

Bakerloo Line extension proposals

SOUTHEASTERN RAILWAY  The TOC is to discontinue trolley refreshment services on its trains from the end of October 2014. The service is deemed to be uneconomic.

WEST  COAST  MAIN  LINE    Virgin is to invest a further £50m in station improvements and on-board facilities as it gears up efforts to retain the Operating Franchise.

WEST  MIDLANDS    The reconstruction of Birmingham New Street station reached a major milestone on 17 September 2014 when the atrium roof over the new main concourse was completed. Three large areas in the roof will allow light to flood into the concourse. New rules were introduced from 29 September 2014 at all park-and-ride facilities at railway stations and tram stops.     The car parks are usually full and irregular parking blocking roadways has become frequent. Under the new rules all cars must be properly within spaces marked by white lines and only if the driver then uses public transport. Cars in disabled spaces must show the blue badge. Any vehicles parked in roadways are liable to be removed.  A £100 charge will be made on any cars that break these rules.

SHEFFIELD   Supertram services were disrupted from 1st to 13th  September 2014 after a large hole appeared beside a pole for the overhead wires at Park Square.  Services returned to normal during 13 September after engineers had stabilised the area.

CRICH  “ELECTRIC  50”    The National Tramway Museum celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the operation of a tramcar using electric power during the weekend of 13/14 September 2014.    Invitations had been sent to Tramway Museum Society members who had been in membership for all of the intervening 50 years and 54 had accepted.     During the day fifteen trams ran a frequent service for visitors and in the early afternoon a grand parade of 25 trams ran from the country end of the line to the town end.    However planning for this event on the Saturday was inadequate.   It took longer than expected to move the 25 trams into position for the start and when the Parade  reached its destination the track through the Town was not long enough.   The 21st tram ended  up  across the points into the Depot and four trams were left standing on the main line.

TYNE  &  WEAR  METRO   Ticket offices at Monument, Four Lane Ends and Heworth were closed during October 2014 because the regular users have become accustomed to using the ticket machines. The offices at Central and Haymarket are being retained since they are used by many visitors and students.

GLASGOW  A second public consultation into the £104m transformation of Queen Street station has been launched.

ARDROSSAN    A 14 year old boy received a major electric shock and 55% burns following an incident at 1925 on 23 September 2014. The boy was one of a group standing at the Dalry Road  level crossing between Ardrossan and Saltcoats on the Largs branch.  Someone had apparently thrown a rope up to the overhead wires resulting in an explosion. One boy received the shock, his clothes were set on fire, and he was taken to a local hospital before being moved to a major burns unit in Glasgow.

28 August 2014

HIGH – SPEED  DEVELOPMENTS      The railway network consists to a large extent as a series of main lines radiating out from London most of which have been upgraded, often electrified, in recent years to speed the journey to reach London from major provincial cities.    If HS-2 is built travel to/from Manchester will be transformed but connecting services to points beyond will remain unaltered.    A series of major cities are straddled across the north of England and a new link between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle connecting these cities and feeding into HS-2 has evolved into HS-3.    This is inevitably a long-term project but the benefits arising from this link across the North seem to be undeniable.     Meanwhile both Liverpool and Stoke on Trent are campaigning for direct access to HS-2

BATTERY  EMU     A class 379 emu has been fitted with lithium ion and hot sodium nickel salt batteries at Derby Works and is being tested on normal railway routes.    The idea is that similar trains could be used on through services utilising a section of route that was not electrified and therefore save on the cost of electrification until it was clear that this work would be justified.    The railway press has hailed this development as being “the first battery powered train” but a Derby lightweight dmu was equipped with batteries and worked three return trips daily between Aberdeen and Ballater in 1958 to1966.    Southern had ten battery electric luggage vans used on Kent Coast boat trains from 1959.    The 379 unit could perhaps be described as the first battery/electric hybrid emu.   BR Research at Derby investigated the use of sodium sulphur batteries many years ago.

CROYDON  TRAMLINK    Designed to carry 15m passengers each year, the light rail routes around Croydon now carry 31.2m passengers and the total is heading up to 37m during the next couple of years.    The line between East Croydon and Sandilands was closed on August 9 – 17 2014 while the track was being renewed.
SOUTH  WEST  TRAINS    Following a torrential downpour early on 10 August 2014 the track of the Shepperton branch was flooded and services could not operate west of Fulwell – the first station on the branch.    Services were able to resume about 1800 after the flood water had receded.

WEYMOUTH   Condor Ferries are to move their operations to Poole Harbour in spring 2015 leaving Weymouth Harbour with no ferry services.    Connections to rail services are more convenient at Poole compared with Weymouth.

GOVIA  THAMESLINK    When the new operator takes over the expanded Thameslink franchise from First Capital Connect major changes are promised to the emu fleet to be used.    The new class 700 emu will be introduced on various shorter distance suburban services during 2016-18 and the existing class 377 units will be moved from their present territory on the Southern Railway taking over the Kings Cross – Kings Lynn route.    Many older emus will be withdrawn including those of classes 317 and 321 in 2016, Class 313 in 2018, and probably class 310 over the period 2014-18.   Older members of class 455 will also be retired by 2018.

CROSSRAIL   The future Crossrail Line may serve the present Euston to Watford Junction and Milton Keynes suburban route.    Commuters would save around 15 minutes on their daily journey to The City.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   On 21 August 2014 the £500m contract to design and build the 3.3km long Northern Line extension from Kennington to Nine Elms and Battertsea was awarded to Ferrovial Agroman Laing O’Keefe.       A 24 hour strike on 22 August 2014 shut the Central Line (apart from an Ealing Broadway – White City shuttle) and the Waterloo and City Line over a dispute about how disciplinary matters are handled by management.  From 30 June 2014 services on the Victoria Line were  increased during the rush hour peaks to 34 trains per hour.    After the 2012 upgrade the frequency was increased to 28 trains per hour but new signalling and other improvements led to the recent further improvement.    Thanks to new signalling service frequencies have been boosted off-peak services on the Northern Line from 16 to 18 trains per hour and from 20 to 22 trains per peak hour.

BIRMINGHAM  NEW  STREET   The plans to upgrade the station have been modified to meet concerns from the City Council about some of the access way between platforms.

MIDLAND  METRO      From 1 September 2014 passengers will no longer be able to take their Mobility Scooter on to a tram unless they possess a special permit which will be issued after the scooter has been examined and passenger has completed a capability assessment at the National Express Training Centre in Walsall.     This is to confirm that that the Scooter is of a type suitable for taking on the Metro since of the 300 different types of scooter only a couple of dozen are deemed to be able to go on the Metro.    The assessment will confirm that the driver can safely control the Scooter since there have been incidents where bad driving has resulted in an accident involving other passengers.     Other tramways will be undertaking similar measures.    The twenty Urbos 3 LRVs with space for 210 passengers will be introduced on public services after a ceremony at Snow Hill station at 1040 on 5 September 2014.     Over a period of time they will replace the Ansaldo trams which have space for 158 passengers.     Relaying the two miles of street track in  Wolverhampton begins on 6 September 2014.    Much more durable rail is to be used.

ISLE  OF  MAN   On the Horse Tramway no public services have run during the 2014 season while the track is renewed and relocated along the seaward side of the road.  However it seems that little of the work has actually been done. The stables may be relocated to the Strathallan Depot where there is enough space for the smaller number of horses now required.    The historic Summerhill stables site could then be sold for redevelopment.

MERSEYSIDE   Hamilton Square station in Birkenhead is to be upgraded so that it can handle ever rising traffic.   It will be closed from 29 September 2014 until Spring 2015 and passengers will be taken to/from Conway Park station by shuttle buses.   Trains will continue to operate through the station but will not stop.

MANCHESTER   The largest rib, 100m long, for the new roof at Victoria Station was lifted into place during the weekend 2/3 August 2014.     A new footbridge is to be built to link Deansgate Station to the adjacent Metrolink stop.    A pair of trams reached Manchester Airport station during the early hours of 19 August 2014 – the first LRVs to reach the Airport via the new tramway branch. There will now be a period of driver training before the route opens to the public – perhaps by the end of 2014.

STRATHCLYDE   The Port Glasgow – Wemyss Bay branch was closed for much of 10 August 2014 due to high winds and torrential rain which swept across the area during the previous night destroying parts of the signalling system.   The attractively modernised Gourock station was officially reopened on 2 August 2014 upon the completion of the £8m project.

EDINBURGH   The new tramway carried around 19,000 passengers each week during the first couple of months of operation, in line with expectations.   This total is similar to the  traffic handled every day on the Sheffield system.

5 August 2014

ISLE  OF  WIGHT   The Ryde – Shanklin line will celebrate its 150th anniversary on 30 August 2014.

SOUTHERN    Torrential downpours struck the south coast in the Brighton and Worthing areas early on 28 July 2014 causing sudden flooding in a number of areas.    Lightning hit a substation near Hove and the power supply to the railways over a wide area was cut off for most of the day.   At East Grinstead flooding disrupted services during the same morning.

READING   To celebrate the conclusion of the complex rebuilding and modernisation of Reading station, the Queen  formally opened the station on 17 July 2014 and met a large number of the workers who had undertaken this task.   In a group photograph the workers were all dressed in orange work outfits while the Queen was in blue.

CROSSRAIL    The MTR Corporation (Crossrail Ltd) was named by Transport for London on 18 July 2014 as the preferred bidder for the Crossrail operating concession.   This will start in May 2015 and run for eight years with the option of a further two years.

OVERGROUND   Following a further 25% increase is passenger numbers several platforms are being lengthened to hold longer trains.   In connection with this work Willesden Junction LL station will be closed during the period 29 October – 02 November 2014.  The Bakerloo Line service will not operate beyond Queen Park during this period.    Train Depots serving the Overground are also being enlarged.

UNDERGROUND    Services in West London were halted briefly during the morning of 28 July 2014 after a torrential downpour produced flash flooding..

EUSTON   Work on the £12.5m upgrade starts this summer.  A new balcony will be installed above much of the existing concourse and will have restaurants, a bar, and a significant amount of seating for passengers waiting for their train.

HS-2   It was announced during July 2014 that the construction HQ would be at Curzon Street close to Birmingham city centre.

BIRMINGHAM NEW  STREET    Work to substantially enlarge the concourse and improve the ticket offices etc is planned to be completed by late summer 2015 with an official opening of the adjacent Grand Central shopping centre together with the improved station facilities in September 2015.

VIRGIN  TRAINS   As part of their West Coast franchise extension Virgin must install ticket gates at Coventry, Wolverhampton and Crewe in order to slash ticketless travel.

MIDLAND  METRO    The Government’s Local Growth Fund has made a £385m grant to fund extensions to the Metro and achieve a variety of road improvements.   The Midland Metro will be extended beyond New Street Station to Centenary Square, along Broad Street to terminate at Five Ways.     Future extension to the planned HS-2 terminus in Eastside will now be possible.   In Wolverhampton the line will be extended across the city centre to the main railway station.  A future Busway will link the city centre with the HS-2 station near the Airport.     Four of the T69 trams that will be withdrawn when the new fleet enters service will see new use.   Two will join the Light Rail Vehicle Test fleet and will be used for research and innovation purposes.  The other two will go to the railway industry Old Dalby test facility.

CROSS COUNTRY TRAINS ( & others)  Passenger numbers on trains linking Birmingham and Manchester have risen by 75% over the past ten years.

MERSEYRAIL    The West Kirby service in the Wirral was cut back to Hoylake during the Open Golf Championship on 17-20 July 2014 on the Royal Liverpool Course in Hoylake.   Very large crowds crossed over the railway at a level crossing near Hoylake station and it was unrealistic to attempt to close this crossing eight times per hour.

MANCHESTER METROLINK  Almost all of the T68 and T68a stock had left Manchester by 19 July 2014,  most being taken to a scrap yard in Rotherham.     Although not especially old, serious bodywork corrosion had made the trams unsuitable for further use on a different system.   Funds  to obtain twelve additional trams have been made available by the Government.   Traffic is rising steadily making additional trams necessary.

During the rebuilding of Victoria station the tramway island platform was removed and passengers for the BR station had to use the nearby Shudehill stop, and then walk.    On 19 July 2014 the outline of one island platform for Metrolink had taken shape and a second island platform is to follow.    The new platform will be slightly south of the original one.    The first ribs for the stylish new roof over the Metrolink area were now in place and the large concrete bases for further ribs had been completed.   Only a single track remained open through the Victoria Station site and safety procedures ensured its safe bi-directional operation.   At Shudehill a barrier extended across the northbound track at the platform end.    Only after clearance from a central control point was this barrier moved to allow a tram to proceed.   In the other direction trams from Bury or Rochdale were halted at a manned control point and not allowed to proceed until similar clearance had been given.

During the single track operation through Victoria Station, the following services were being operated, mostly at 12 minute intervals.    Altrincham – Bury (using two coupled trams on most services);  Altrincham – Piccadilly;  Bury – Abraham Moss (reversing in the sidings of Queens Road Depot);    Eccles – Piccadilly – Ashton;   Media City UK – Piccadilly     (sometimes running every 4 – 6 minutes);   West Didsbury – Market Street – Oldham – Rochdale.

The demolition of Woodlands Road station has not made much progress.   Concrete posts supporting the concrete slabs that form most of the platform surfaces all remain in place.    The platform edges, station signs lighting, and shelters have been removed  but little else has been done so far.     Shaw and Crompton has become one of the busiest stops on the Oldham/Rochdale route with problems arising in accommodating everyone during the rush hours. The car park becomes full before the morning rush hour is over and it is now to be doubled in size.

Major reconstruction work at Deansgate – Castlefield, an important Metrolink station, got under way in mid July 2014.   During the weekend 26-27 July 2014 a heavy crane was used to lift several sections of the new station into place.   The station will be the terminus of services from the southern suburbs during two periods of closure of the route through St Pater’s Square (in the summers of 2015 and 2016) while the Second City Crossing is built.    Between the two total closure periods a single track will be available through the station and safety measures similar to those at Victoria will apply.

BLACKPOOL    0n 20 July 2014, during the Fleetwood Transport Festival,  heritage tram trips were organised operating approximately every half hour from 1040 until 1800 between North Pier and Fleetwood Fisherman’s Walk.

GLASGOW   An electrical supply problem made it impossible to change points on the Clyde Bridge outside Central Station from 1800 on 22 July 2014.     There were very long delays but services were back to normal on the following morning.

EDINBURGH    The body of a man who had apparently been electrocuted was found some distance west of Haymarket at 0850 on 23 July 2014.    Services to/from Carstairs and Glasgow Central were halted until 1020.    Work has begun to strengthen the tunnel immediately east of Haymarket station before work can start of building the Haymarket Centre which will contain shops, offices and an hotel.    The tunnel work will be undertaken during night-time possessions over a 14 month period.

16 July 2014

WCML CAR  PARKS   There have been major improvements to car parks at stations alongside the West Coast Main Line in response to significant new business attracted by the increased services.   At Wigan North Western station a new 3-level car park was noted to be virtually full on 3 July 2014.   On 4 July a new 4-level car park built on the site of the former L&Y terminal platforms at Preston was similarly nearly full.

HS3     The Chancellor has suggested that a high-speed link, HS3, be built between Manchester and Leeds following the Standedge route.    This would link together the Manchester and Leeds limbs of HS2 and could be a start point for the extension further north to York, Newcastle and Scotland.        Others see it as a start of a port-to-port route between Liverpool and Hull.

VOLK’S  ELECTRIC RAILWAY    The Brighton seafront railway has received a grant of almost £1.6m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to provide a Visitor Centre and Ticket Office at Aquarium replacing the former tramway shelter that has been an uninspiring facility for around 70 years.   There will be a new Depot at Halfway with a public viewing gallery and new pits and facilities to restore historic vehicles.    Cars 4, 6 and 10 will be retored to working order so that the service frequency can be increased while Volk’s Electric Railway Association plans to restore car 3 at its own expense.  New educational facilities will be generated for visiting school parties.

DOCKLANDS      The franchise to operate the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) until 2021 has been won by a consortium that includes Keolis and Amey.      Keolis already holds the Southern, Southeastern, and London Midlands franchises.    Serco had run the DLR since 1997 during which time the network had expanded and total business handled had risen dramatically.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND   Bombardier S Stock commenced public operations on the District Line on 13 June 2014.

WEST  MIDLANDS    The Redditch branch service was halted from 6 July until 31 August 2014 to allow the installation of a two mile long loop between Redditch and Alvechurch where a second platform and improved access will be provided.   Redditch station will get an additional platform and the service from December 2014 will be increased from two to three trains hourly.   With the introduction of a similar frequency to the new terminal platforms at Bromsgrove there will be a ten minute combined frequency north from Barnt Green.      The southern ends of most platforms at New Street station which taper to become very narrow, have been given yellow criss-cross markings indicating that passengers should not walk on these potentially dangerous areas.

ISLE  OF  MAN     On 1 June 2014 the Manx Electric Railway opened a museum at its Derby Castle base.   Memorabilia extending back to the early days of the line are on display.

MERSEYSIDE      The Chancellor has announced grants to the two major universities in Liverpool to examine ways to improve technology and also to fund a number of public transport improvements.    A major enlargement to the car park at Newton-le-Willows and the long desired upgrade of the Halton Curve is to go ahead.   This will create improved links between Liverpool and Cheshire.  In all around £40m is being allocated to Merseyside.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK    The European Regional Development Fund has made a £10.8m grant to advance the construction of the Second City Crossing project.      The Victoria Station – Exchange Square link will now be built by summer 2015.     The Deansgate – Castlefield stop is to be greatly enlarged with an island platform serving inbound services.   The footbridge to Deansgate railway station will be rebuilt and both a lift and steps provided to increase access.   A double crossover will be built at both ends of the stop allowing trams to terminate there from both directions.     Construction of the nine mile long branch to Manchester Airport is well ahead of schedule.    There will be fifteen stops and initially trams will operate to and from Cornbrook where passengers will require to change to city centre destinations.    Once the second city crossing is open additional services will be worked between Shaw and Crompton and the city centre.

PRESTWICK  AIRPORT.     Glasgow’s No 2 Airport, which is served by a station on the Glasgow – Ayr route, faces the loss of its remaining passenger services.    Ryanair proposes to shift all its flights to the more convenient Glasgow (Renfrew) Airport leaving Prestwick with only parcels and air-freight  business.    For a major concern with two runways this does not appear to be viable.

COMMONWEALTH GAMES IN GLASGOW   Because a major increase in traffic is expected on the Argyle Line during the Games (24 July until 3 August 2014) special measures are being taken to manage the regular commuter traffic on the route, especially on the key city centre section between Central Low Level and Argyle Street stations.   Any passengers wishing to board services to the western suburbs (Partick, Milngavie, Dalmuir, Helensburgh etc) will have to board at Central LL and will be refused entry at Argyle Street.    Passengers for the south and east including Hamilton, Larkhall, Motherwell and Lanark, will not be able to join at Central LL and will have to join their trains at Argyle Street.   There have been a number of light-hearted temporary station name changes, some at stations beside the home of Games athletes.    Joke name boards have been erected alongside the normal name signs.    The following have been noted:-   Sprintburn (at Springburn),   Polevault (at Polmont), Longerniddry (at Longniddry), Muscleburgh (at Musselburgh), Falkirk Higher (at Falkirk High) Ding-Dong! Wall (at Dingwall – home of one of the boxing team) while at Cambuslang a long name board shows the joke name Cambus  ( long gap)  langjump.

EDINBURGH    The new tramway carried around 500,000 passengers during its first month of operation – roughly in line with expectations.     Critics feel that there are too few stops in the city centre and that the route serves too few residential areas instead calling at industrial estates where traffic off-peak will be small.

1 July 2014

CHANNEL  TUNNEL    Freight traffic through the Chunnel has started to rise following a long period of disappointing volumes.

VOLKS  RAILWAY    The mile-long railway in Brighton which is the oldest existing electric railway in the world, is to receive major repairs organised by the City Council.  The Heritage Lottery Fund is making a major grant towards the costs.

LT&S  LINES     National Express has been awarded the 15 year concession to run this group of lines which it has marketed under the title “c2c”.   One condition of the new concession is that up to a quarter of weekend trains are operated via Stratford to Liverpool Street rather than to Fenchurch Street.

WINDSOR    A plan to link the two stations in Windsor via a new tunnel is edging forwards.   The line would make possible better services between Slough and The City and a new route to Heathrow Airport.

CROSSRAIL   Tunnel boring machine Ellie, working at a surprisingly rapid rate completed work on the north east spur on 17 June 2014.

CAMBRIDGE   An additional 546 cycle parking spaces are to be provided bringing the total to 1332.  This total is to be doubled over the next two years.  The bike is the mode of transport favoured by many of the students in this university city.

MANCHESTER    Planning and the holding of a Public Consultation are going ahead for the proposed 5.5km long branch from Pomona to Trafford Centre.   Among the places served by the route will be Old Trafford football ground, the Imperial War Museum, and Event City.    There will be a turnback facility at Warren Bruce Road to handle extra workings to the Old Trafford Stadium similar to the one serving the Etihad Stadium.    Both of the city’s major football stadia would have a similar facility for short workings to serve home games.     A major housing development is now planned for empty land near the Etihad Stadium bring a major source of new traffic for Metrolink.  Trial running on the first segment of the Airport line began on 23 June 2014 many months earlier than planned.

MERSEYSIDE  Thirty possible sites for a new station have been identified and twelve of these are in priority areas where new housing will soon be built.   Plans for 370 houses to be served by a new station at Maghull North have been submitted to the Council.

BEAMISH  MUSEUM    The circular tramway measuring 1.75 miles long is an important transport link between the various parts of this magnificent open-air museum.    In mid June 2014 three trams were in use and were handling very heavy traffic.    Operating clockwise were Newcastle 114 (built in 1905) – an open top double decker – plus Oporto 196, a single deck car in Blue and primrose livery.   Operating anticlockwise was the former Blackpool 703 double decker of 1934, repainted as Sunderland 101.   Various replica buses operated anti-clockwise, one of them providing a service for wheelchair users.    On the short Pockerly wagonway a reproduction of an 1830s steam locomotive operated bumpy passenger trips.

TYNE  AND  WEAR  METRO    The £389m upgrade is nearing completion.    The 90 articulated metrocars are being modernised at Doncaster Works with over one third of the fleet now refitted with new seats, a new floor, and new lighting.    Wheelchair access is easier due to a changed seating layout.    The new livery of the upgraded cars is striking.    The body is black and metallic grey with bright yellow doors, a yellow panel on the front of each car, and yellow columns at the front corners of each coach.      The livery has received a mixed reception, some finding it dismal or  oppressive but it compares well with the faded colours on cars that await their upgrade.   The stock is at three quarters of its lifespan and thoughts are focusing on possible replacement stock including some cars that might run on streets in the Killingworth area.  New ticket machines and barriers have been installed at thirteen key stations.    Passengers will be able to “touch in” with new smart card tickets to open these gates.      Nexus is considering future extensions including Pelaw – Washington – South Hylton;    Team Valley Trading Estate – Gateshead Quays – Central – St James – West Denton.     East Denton – Metrocentre – Gateshead;  Northumberland Park – Cobalt (major housing development) – Percy Main;  Sunderland – Seaham;  Sunderland – South Shields (only 1.5 miles of new track needed to create this route); Sunderland – Doxford

GLASGOW    Sites for two park and ride stations on the Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Waverley main line have been identified.   They are at Westerhill (in Bishopbriggs) and Woodilee (on the site of a former hospital in Lenzie).

16 June 2014

EAST  ANGLIA    Passenger numbers on the East Anglia group of lines has soared by 17.5% over the past three years putting a strain on resources.

EAST  COAST  MAIN  LINE.    The call for the introduction of a local service between Berwick and Edinburgh is gaining support and would involve the opening of two new stations.   East Linton, between Dunbar and Drem, would handle significant commuter traffic while Reston would provide park-and-ride facilities for a wide range of communities including Duns.

WELSH  VALLEYS   The cost of electrification work on the Valleys Lines north from Cardiff will be met by contributions from the Welch Government.    The Department of Transport will be responsible for all the work on the Severn Tunnel – Newport – Cardiff – Swansea main line leaving responsibility for work on the branches along the valleys with the Welsh administration.

GREAT  NORTH  WESTERN  RAILWAY  (GNWR)      This open-access company has reached agreement for slots along the WCML for six return services between Euston and Blackpool in 2017, and six return slots for a Euston – Manchester Victoria – Huddersfield (and some to Leeds) by 2018.   GNWR will purchase eight “Pendolino” trains to operate these two routes, but there are suggestions that these might be built in China rather than Italy.   The company plans in the longer term two other routes branching off the WCML including a service along the Cumbrian Coast.

NOTTINGHAM   The new Alstom 5-segment Citadis trams for the NET system started testing in April 2014 and are due to enter revenue service in June 2014.

WEST  MIDLANDS    Dudley Port station, one of Centro’s scruffiest, has been given a complete makeover with new lighting and complete repainting of platform structures and the pedestrian access tunnel, and new platform lighting.    Out of control vegetation alongside the access road has been severely cut back.    One of the new CAF Urbos 3 trams went on display to the public at the Wolverhampton St Georges stop on 14 June 2014 between the hours of 0900 and 1500.    These are built at CAF’s Zaragoza works and will hold 210 passengers (seated and standing) compared with  156 in the present trams.

MERSEYRAIL     As part of a comprehensive project to make all busier stations user friendly for all passengers, a new footbridge complete with lifts has been completed at Birkenhead North Station and opened for use by the public on 4 June 2014.    A 274 space car park at this station was completed in December 2012.     An additional lift is to be installed at Liverpool Central Station.

GLASGOW    Workers on the Subway and with the First Glasgow bus company have threatened strike action to disrupt the Commonwealth Games since they have been offered only small cash incentives to work the greatly extended transport services to the various Games sites.

3 June 2014

TSGN  FRANCHISE     The Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern mega-franchise has been awarded to the Govia Group for a seven year period from 14 September 2014.   The South Central lines will be brought into the franchise when the present franchise period ends.   First Capital Connect is the holder of the present Thameslink franchise but lost its bid to retain the franchise.
There is to be a major renewal of the rolling stock to give 10,000 extra seats into Central London by the end of 2018.      1140 additional carriages are already on order and Govia will add 108 coaches to replace the 25 year old trains on the Gatwick Express service.  A further 150 new coaches will replace the 40 year old stock operating from Moorgate to northern London, and Hertfordshire.  The class 313 emus are certain to be scrapped and even the class 442s used to Gatwick Airport use now outdated technology and may also end up on the scrap heap.

WEST  ANGLIA  / OVERGROUND  FRANCHISE   Transport for London has appointed LOROL, operator of the Overground lines to run the local West Anglia services from Liverpool Street until November 2016 when the Overground arrangement ends.   The combined West Anglia/Overground franchise will then be let to a new operator.    New trains are on order and will arrive in 2018.  Meanwhile the existing stock will be given a deep clean and continue in service.

HEATHROW  EXPRESS   Staff working this service were to strike during 4-5 June 2014 because there are plans to cut costs which will probably result in redundancies.

SLEEPING  CARS   The new fleet of sleeping cars for the Caledonian Sleeper services is being built by CAF – the same builder having built the new Edinburgh tram fleet.     “Pod beds” will be provided for standard class passengers.

WCML & ECML The new multi-level car park on the east side of Rugby station was virtually full on 20 May 2014 indicating that significant traffic has been attracted by the fast Virgin and London Midland services between the town and London.    Closer to London, the car park at Leighton Buzzard was completely full on the same day despite having received a second deck in the recent past.   Clearly even more space is required there.  On the East Coast Main Line a four level car park is nearing completion at Hatfield.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND    New boarding ramps, similar to those used extensively at main line railway stations, were introduced during May 2014 at three Jubilee Line stations – Kilburn, Stanmore and Wembley Park – providing step free street to train access.   Similar ramps were to be introduced at other Jubilee Line stations during the summer, and if successful, at other stations across the network later.    Gloucester Road station is closed from 24 May until mid December 2014 while both lifts are replaced.

GREATER ANGLIA  The track through Colchester station is to be upgraded at a cost of £7m.  The work will be done on each weekend from 17/18 May 2014 until 5/6 July 2014.    Some tracks will remain open through the station throughout the work.

LONDON  MIDLAND   Following the closure of many ticket offices during quieter hours and the de-staffing of ticket barriers including Birmingham New Street for much of the day, the number of passengers travelling without a ticket has risen significantly.    Ticket inspection teams began a programme of  checks at major stations and on trains in May 2014 and a surprising number of passengers were found with no ticket.

MIDLAND METRO   The first tram track in Corporation Street in the heart of Birmingham appeared during the last week of May 2014.

WEST MIDLANDS  Engineering work was performed at Smethwick Rolfe Street and at Penkridge over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend (25/26 May 2014) and There were no trains between Birmingham New Street – Wolverhampton and Stafford with an extensive service of replacement buses in operation.

MANCHESTER  TRAMLINK   The final run by T68 stock – the original trams to wok on the system – was on 26 May 2014.   Tram 1007, packed by tram enthusiasts, rode on a special working across the system.   Tram 1007 will be preserved at the Heaton Park Museum but the other T68s will be scrapped.

LEEDS   The Department of Transport agreed to fund £9.5m of the £16m Leeds Rail Growth Scheme which includes the opening of two new stations – Apperley Bridge (a major park and ride facility) and Kirkstall Forge (to serve 1000 new houses and industrial units on the site of the old forge).    £5m is being given by the developer of the Forge site towards the cost of the station and additional rolling stock.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   The Subway will remain open until 0130 on three key days during the Commonwealth Games – Saturday 26 July and Sundays 27 July and 03 August 2014.   Services normally terminate at around 2330 on Mondays to Saturdays and finish at 1800 on Sundays.

GLASGOW  RAIL    A thirteen year old girl who had been on the track was killed when she was struck by a train at Whitecraigs station on the Neilston line at 1400 on 27 May 2014.

13 May 2014

BOMBARDIER   On 7 May 2014 the Litchurch Lane factory in Derby completed the 1000th carriage for the Southern TOC.   Production for the TOC commenced in 2002 and various types of  electric and diesel multiple units have emerged from the factory since then.

MARSHLINK  LINE   Plans are being developed to electrify the Hastings – Ashford branch at 25 kV ac rather than the third rail system that is used on most of the traditional “Southern Railway” lines in the area.    A link to HS 1 would enable the introduction of a St Pancras – Hastings service taking about 68 minutes compared with around 100 minutes on the classic route via Tonbridge.  The loop at Rye will need to be lengthened as will some platforms at intermediate stations.   Three class 171 dmus would be available to strengthen services to Uckfield.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND   Talks with the RMT Union about the closure of ticket offices at all stations broke down so the threatened 48 hour strike during 28-30 April 2014 took place.  There was a restricted service on all lines except the Circle Line and the Waterloo and City Line.   Some progress in further talks meant that a further strike on 5-8 May 2014 was cancelled.

LONDON  OVERGROUND   The short shuttle between Romford and Upminster and the suburban branches from Liverpool Street to Chingford, Cheshunt via Seven Sisters and Enfield Town are to be taken over by the Overground from May 2015.

DAUNTSEY   As part of the London – Bristol electrification project a bridge over the railway at this Wiltshire village will be closed until September 2014.   The railway splits the village in two equal parts and because local roads are poor the only alternative route is via Royal Wooton Bassett – a distance of 24 miles.   Network Rail has indicated that they can suggest no alternative.

NORTHAMPTON   The station serving this County Town and major terminus for many outer suburban services from Euston, may have its original name “Northampton Castle” restored.  The station is built on the site of the Saxon castle but lost the suffix in 1964 when the other station in the town was closed.   However town residents still refer to it as “Castle”.   The station is being rebuilt and roughly doubled in size with new shops, cafes and waiting areas.   There is pressure from local users for this opportunity to restore the former name before new name boards etc are obtained.

WEST  MIDLANDS  RAIL   Work began during April 2014 on two projects that will transform the southern section of the Cross City Line.    Construction of the new Bromsgrove station, a little south of the existing very inadequate halt, has started.  Linked to this new terminus for half of the Cross City Line services will be the electrification of the main line from Barnt Green, down the Lickey Bank, and into the new station.    Work has also started on increasing the capacity of the Barnt Green – Redditch branch by the building of a new 2 mile long passing loop with the provision of a second platform at Alvechurch station.   When these improvements are completed Cross City Line services  will operate alternately to Redditch or Bromsgrove with a ten minute frequency service north of Barnt Green.

MIDLAND  METRO   Passengers wishing to board peak hour trams towards Wolverhampton at the St Paul’s stop have faced increasing difficulty since the trams leave the Snow Hill terminus totally full.   Now groups of 20-30 passengers board a tram for Snow Hill, stay on board (with a seat!)  before heading to their proper destination leaving 50 or more passengers on  the Snow Hill platform since the trams are too small to carry all the traffic on offer.   British Railways services carry most of the passengers wishing to travel from Snow Hill to Jewellery Quarter, the next tram and rail stop, so there is a serious space problem here for Wolverhampton passengers.   Senior Concession railcards are now treated as smart cards and inspectors on the Metro read them electronically.

NOTTINGHAM   Visits in early May confirmed that excellent progress was being made with the building of the two new tram routes south of the main line station.   The new double track extension is taken over the main line station on a magnificent bridge and soon after the new route drops steeply to ground level, at first following the former Great Central Railway right of way.  However new housing forces the line to be diverted to the west for a short distance with the Beeston route branching off from the Clifton line which resumes a southerly direction to regain the  Great Central right of way.    The track has been laid, including some sections in the highway, masts for the overhead are in place, but so far no overhead wires have been erected.    In the city centre staff are in place at the city centre stops to help passengers find the correct tram or bus to reach their destination.

STAFFORD     Work has begun on the £250m flyover that will take services for the Stoke-on-Trent line up and over the Up Main Line.    When completed it will be possible to operate two additional services per off-peak hour between Euston and the North West, one extra service hourly between Birmingham and Manchester, and one additional freight service hourly.

HAZEL  GROVE   The Buxton branch is electrified as far as Hazel Grove and for several years there was a Piccadilly – Hazel Grove emu shuttle to supplement the Buxton dmu services.  In recent years the Hazel Grove trips have been extended back across Manchester city centre towards Bolton and Preston leaving eventually a single emu trip running in the early evening.   This last emu service has been extended back to Preston in the new timetable of 18 May 2014 and so has become a dmu service like all the others.     When the “electrification triangle” work is completed the Preston line will be worked by emus bringing the wires to Hazel Grove back into use.

MANCHESTER   METROLINK   Services on the Bury line were disrupted at 1330 on 5 May 2014 when a man was struck and killed by a tram at Prestwich station.   The section between Whitefield and Crumpsall was closed for the rest of the day and a bus shuttled filled this gap.    Modernisation of Victoria station in the city centre has taken a major step forwards with the erection of the first of fifteen curved steel ribs of the striking new roof costing £16m that will follow the Metrolink tracks as they curve through the station.       £28m will be invested in improvements to the Victorian buildings many of whose features will be restored and preserved.    Ticket sales at the new Queens Road station during March 2014 amounted to 17,422 compared with just 9,840 at Woodlands Road in March 2011 (the stop since that date had been open for limited hours only).   With the installation of a second deck at the car park completed and with spaces up from 127 to 216 the car park at Whitefield station reopened on 18 May 2014.    Similar work is under way at Radcliffe station where spaces will rise from 250 to 369.     The victory parade for the new Premier League Champions, Manchester City, on 12 May 2014 caused the closure of several city centre street and a sharp increase in tram traffic.

LIVERPOOL   The line between Huyton and Roby stations (2 km) is being quadrupled and station platforms at both stations lengthened while extra headroom for overhead electrification equipment is being created by raising bridge spans.

COMMONWEALTH  GAMES IN GLASGOW   Services on all routes around Glasgow will be increased during the period of the Commonwealth Games which will be held in several venues around Glasgow from 21 July until 3 August 2014.    Trains between Glasgow and Mount Florida for Hampden Park where many major events will be held, will be doubled in length and increased in frequency.   The number of coaches on services from Queen Street LL to Carntyne, Partick, and Scotstounhill will be at least doubled for those attending bowls, rugby sevens, swimming, squash and table tennis events.     There will be eight trains per hour, mostly of six coaches, from Central LL to Exhibition Centre, Bridgeton and Dalmarnock for badminton, boxing, cycling, gymnastics, judo, netball and weight-lifting events.   Longer distance services across Scotland will have coaches added especially on the key Glasgow – Falkirk – Edinburgh route.    Suburban services through Queen Street LL and Central LL will all be lengthened  to cope with a significant increase in travel around Glasgow during these important games.

GLASGOW  AIRPORT   The proposal for a 1.8 km long branch between Paisley St James and the Airport Terminals has surfaced again.   Costing £137m the line would be privately funded.  There would be four trains per hour to Glasgow Central and two per hour through to Edinburgh.   At present 56% of the air passengers arrive by car and it is deemed important to reduce the number of cars that clog surrounding roads.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY   A party of seven officials from the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport ran up costs of £38,000 on trips to Canada and Europe to assess the work of companies seeking contracts to upgrade the Subway.      The expenditure has been criticised by local residents.

EDINBURGH    The 8.7 mile long tramway between the City Centre and the Airport was to open on 31 May 2014 after six years of construction work costing nearly £800m.     ERS Member Colin Frew noted trams making frequent training trips along the line on 8 May 2014 and his taxi had to wait at a level crossing while a tram rolled through.    Although the Airport tram stop seemed to be ready, work on the adjacent railway station was far from finished.   Work on the planned route from the city centre to Leith and Newhaven was halted for financial reasons despite the fact that much preparatory work had been completed.    Now a developer of a planned major retail complex in Leith has offered to part-fund the 2.8 miles to Leith and talks are under way to see if it will be possible to build this second section of the tramway.

28 April 2014

SOARING TRAFFIC   Btitain’s railways carried 1.27bn passengers in 2013-4 compared with just 590,000 in 1995-6.

SEATON   The full length of the Seaton Tramway was reopened on 29 March 2014 following the severe storm damage inflicted on 14 February 2014.   The track bed over a 800m stretch had been swept away and 600 tonnes of fill had to be transported to the site to make good the damage. Tramway operations were restricted to north of the Axmouth Loop.   Trams 6 and 8 had in effect been shuttling between Colyford and Colyton

TRANSPORT  FOR  LONDON     TfL is seeking a supplier for a new fleet of 39 emus to operate the West Anglia group of suburban services which are soon to be taken over and become part of the Overground network.    Thirty units will be needed for the West Anglia main line services, one for the Romford – Upminster shuttle, and eight for the Gospel Oak – Barking line which is to be electrified.    The new fleet will resemble the trains used on the initial Overground network with  walk-through coaches and air conditioning.    A new Garden City is to be created at Barking and the Gospel Oak – Barking service will be extended to a new terminus, Barking Riverside, serving the new area.   A  separate Garden City is being planned south of the river at Ebbsfleet.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND    The last escalator with wooden steps was taken out of service at Greenford station on 11 March 2014.     It had been installed in 1947.     The next stage in the on-going RMT union dispute over the proposal to close most ticket offices are two strikes of all Underground staff.    On 28 April 2014 from 2100 there will be a two day strike.  On 5 May 2014 a three day strike will start at 2100.

DOCKLANDS LIGHT RAILWAY   The doubling of the line through Pudding Mill Lane station and the total reconstruction of the station drew to a close in late April 2014.   When the rebuilt station opens it will be able to handle 1100 passengers per hour and will be a major stop for the Olympic Park.

THAMESLINK    A new station at Brent Cross to hold twelve car trains has been proposed and the Department for Transport is prepared to make a contribution towards the cost.   It would serve the adjacent shopping centre which is to be enlarged.

CHARING  CROSS   STATION    The 150th anniversary of the London terminus was celebrated on 11 January 2014.

EAST  COAST  MAIN  LINE  £2.7bn funding has been confirmed enabling the construction of 497 coaches of Class 800 trains to go-ahead.    They will be built at the new Hitachi plant at Newton Aycliffe and are expected to enter service in 2018.

MIDLAND  METRO    The street track along Bilston Road between Priestfield and the terminus at Wolverhampton St George’s is being relaid at a cost of £13m of which £5m is being contributed by the Department for Transport.      Tram services during the weekday peaks carry two conductors in an effort to sell and check tickets.   Individual trams can have 50 standees making it quite difficult for a conductor to squeeze his way along the vehicle.

NOTTINGHAM    A visit to Nottingham on 18 April 2014 showed how NET is operating during the construction phase of the new extensions.   At Nottingham Station terminus the tracks serving the two platforms now  continue south as a new double track ballasted railway passing over Nottingham Station’s platforms on a broad new bridge and continuing for a considerable distance along the former Great Central Railway’s right of way.   The route west towards Beeston branches off the Clifton route south of the railway station.   Masts have been erected for the future overhead power wires.   The link to the railway station has been broken since the bridge across Station Street has been removed  but passengers can change between NET and the station by using stairs to street and then stairs to the NET tram terminus.   A lift to the NET station but it was out of action.    Most tram services use the western or southbound platform since access to the eastern/northbound  platform involves a significant walk to a crossing point over the tracks.   Because only one platform is in regular use NET services have been trimmed to a tram every 12 minutes.     The fifteen existing LRVs are receiving the new signalling system that will be used throughout the expanded network.

SHEFFIELD   Track relaying started in late April 2014 in the city centre and between Halfway and Gleadless Townend.     The new rails will be suitable for use by tram:trains which will be introduced in 2016 and will have a life of up to 30 years compared to 20 years of the present rails.

MANCHESTER  METROLINK   The two new stations on the Bury line, Queens Road and Abraham Moss, are generating about double the traffic, 18,000, that used the now closed Woodlands Road stop (9,000) .     At Altrincham a new pedestrian bridge was lifted into position on 13 April 2014.    It is part of a new access route from the station car park and access to all four platforms is provided by stairs and lifts.   Altrincham is being developed into a major interchange between National Rail, Metrolink, and local bus routes.

BLACKPOOL    English bus pass holders aged 60 and over are no longer able to travel free on the trams.   The Council introduced this change from 01 April 2014 and expect to save £700,000 per year as a result.    The effects of the recession and the decline of Blackpool as a resort have made Blackpool’s finances more difficult to manage.

CUMBERNAULD    Driver training on the newly electrified Springburn – Cumbernauld section commenced on 19 March and the service to/from Glasgow will be operated by emus from May 2014.   Cumbernauld station has been largely rebuilt with the buildings on the down track set back since it was feared that they were too close to the newly erected overhead power wires.   The footbridge has been removed and passengers wishing to reach a Glasgow or Motherwell bound train must use the road bridge over the tracks just beyond the platforms.

EDINBURGH   The driver training programme for the Edinburgh tram service was delayed because of cars parked very close to or even on the tracks.    After a ban on parking at crucial places training has got under way with trams running every five minutes between Haymarket and the city centre terminus.

8 April 2014

CROSSRAIL   The Department of Transport announced on 27 March 2014 that the Crossrail route  will now run west from Maidenhead to Reading, the more obvious major town and transport hub. Only about a third of the Crossrail services are likely to operate west of Maidenhead so the turnback and stock storage sidings at Maidenhead will still be required.   Bond Street Underground station is being upgraded to handle the extra traffic (15,500 to 22.500 passengers daily) that will follow the opening of Crossrail.   A new entrance is being provided on the north side of Oxford Street together with a new ticket hall plus lifts down to the platforms.   Central Line trains will not call during the period 23 April – late June 2014 while work is performed for the lifts.   Jubilee Line services will not call from early July until early December 2014 while improvements are made to escalators.

CHART  LEACON   The depot at Ashford, opened in 1961 as part of the Kent Coast electrification project, was closed after the last units left on 29 March 2014.    The depot had been operated lately by Bombardier as a centre for maintenance and upgrade work.

LONDON  BRIDGE    The creation of the upgraded Thameslink route was achieved when the first two of the new through platforms opened on 31 March 2014.   These are long enough to hold long trains of the new capacious class 700 emus.    Changes to the track will remove old bottlenecks and allow trains to operate every 2 – 3 minutes during peak periods.   The new concourse will extend below the platforms making the task of changing trains much easier.

COVENTRY – NUNEATON   The upgrade, and electrification of this line is to start during 2014 following the announcement from the Department of Transport that it is making £4.75m available for the work.   Two new stations are to be opened as part of this project.

MIDLAND METRO   The laying of tram tracks along Stephenson Street beside the entrance to New Street Station began at the end of March 2014.    Trials of the new CAF LRVs also commenced on 31 March 2014 and one of the new trams was put on display at Snow Hill station on 5 April 2014.

SHREWSBURY   Virgin announced in late March 2014 that it planned to introduce a through service between Shrewsbury and Euston with the timetable change in December 2014.   This would be achieved by the extension back from Wolverhampton to Telford and Shrewsbury.   The Shrewsbury trains would be worked by SuperVoyager dmus which have been used successfully on a  few Birmingham – Euston trips, the dmus being able to keep to the challenging timetable.   The Shrewsbury trains will reach Euston around 0900 and return at 1823.

MANCHESTER METROLINK   The 1.1km long extension from Rochdale Station to Rochdale Town Hall was opened to public services on 31 March 2014.     The new terminus is in Smith Street beside a new bus station

LIVERPOOL    Services between the city centre and Aintree station for the Grand National Meeting operated every 7 ½  minutes throughout 3, 4, and 5 April 2014.

SCOTRAIL     The new timetable to be introduced from 19 May 2014 sees the extension of the hourly Glasgow – Irvine semi fasts to Ayr to give four trains per hour to Ayr.     Some Ayr services are extended back to Edinburgh via Carstairs in an effort to introduce through trains to attract  leisure travellers who do not want to change trains in Glasgow.
It has been proposed that the planned tram:train link to Glasgow Airport be extended to Renfrew which is the only significant town in the Glasgow area to have no rail link to the city.

24 March 2014

HITACHI   The Japanese train builder announced during March 2014 that it was moving the headquarters of its train business from Japan to London in order to manage better its growing business in the UK and the rest of Europe.

HS-2   If and when work starts on the reconstruction of Euston Station as part of the HS-2 project, the Scottish sleeping car services will have to be diverted from Euston to Waterloo, since the latter station will be the London terminus capable of handling these very long trains.    Possible operators of the new franchise for the sleeping cat trains have expressed alarm that the change of terminus would deter traffic and add significantly to the overall running time.    The new franchise expects that the new TOC would invest heavily in the services including the major upgrade or replacement of the individual coaches.

EBBSFLEET   A new “garden city” comprising 15,000 homes is to be built on empty, partly derelict, land close to Ebbsfleet station guaranteeing swift transport to/from London for city-bound commuters.

LONDON UNDERGROUND   The tube station at Brompton Road on the Piccadilly Line was opened in 1906 to a design by Leslie Green, but never attracted the level of traffic that would make it profitable so it was closed in 1934.   Thereafter the above platform portions of the station were sold to the Ministry of Defence which added new rooms below ground in which were operations control rooms and a secure telephone exchange.   Other sections became a training base for air cadets and naval reservists.    The original street level entrance with its brown tiled facing and distinctive arched windows typical of a Green design survive intact.    Initial suggestions that the station become a visitor attraction failed and instead the entire complex was sold towards the end of March 2014 to an overseas buyer for an impressive £53m.   It is thought that the station is to be converted into a series of luxury flats.

MANCHESTER  AREA   The car park at Hazel Grove station is to receive a second deck increasing capacity by around 100 spaces and bringing the total available to just over 400.

EDINBURGH   TRAM   TEST    1000 volunteers took part in a “Crowd Test” exercise between the Airport and Haymarket station on 13  March 2014 to test the ability of the tramway to handle a crowd similar to the expected massive load that will require to be handled on 3 June 2014 following a One Direction concert in Murrayfield Stadium.   The tramway is expected to open for public services during mid-May 2014 and the concert crowd will be the first major test of the system’s crowd handling ability.

5 March 2014

HS-1   DB Schenker began operating an additional 16 freight services each week along High-Speed 1 from 13 January 2014.   These trains carry in refrigerated containers perishable foodstuffs grown in several localities in Europe plus automotive components that originate in Valencia (in Spain) bound for Barking.   This is one of the strongest growths in Chunnel freight traffic so far seen.

STORMS  AND  FLOODS    High winds and torrential rains had a catastrophic effect on several sections of railway during early February 2014.    Embankments near Botley and Battle collapsed and a landslide near Sandown closed the Island Line.    On non-electrified routes the destruction by high seas of Brunel’s Great Western line through Dawlish made international headlines closing the railway into Cornwall and much of Devon.   For a time Exeter was cut off following the flooding of every railway line into the city.   By the 9th February flooding caused by the Thames bursting its banks damaged lineside signalling equipment or compromised the third rail resulting in chaos on the routes from London to Oxford and the third rail branches south of the river.   Further downpours accompanied by gale force winds continued to bring havoc right across southern England and the London – Brighton main line was halted for a time on 17th February.    Major landslips occurred on the main line to Hastings – near Wadhurst, Stonegate, Wheatlington, and Battle but repair work was completed in time for normal services to resume by the end of February 2014.

VOLK’S   ELECTRIC   RAILWAY   The rolling stock shed is in extremely poor condition being held together by scaffolding.   The Council has allocated £250,000 to provide a temporary shed but two bids for Lottery funding have failed.      A revised bid to convert the railway into an all-weather attraction and therefore serve the needs of a greater number of people has now been submitted.

SOUTH  WEST  TRAINS     Ten-coach commuter trains on the Windsor line will be introduced from the May 2014 timetable change giving 23,000 additional seats on the services every weekday.

SEATON  TRAMWAY   The narrow gauge line built along the right of way of the former heavy rail branch line was severely damaged by the floods in mid February 2014.   The ballast had been swept away from below the rails putting the line out of action with only a little time before the start of the holiday season.   The Company hoped to obtain some local authority flood damage emergency funds to help pay for the repairs since otherwise the line will be unable to reopen until well into the summer.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND.   The £354m contract to resignal the Sub-Surface Lines (Circle, District, Metropolitan, and Hammersmith & City) is to be re-let.    It had become apparent that Bombardier, who won the contract in June 2011, could not complete the work in the required time.    Preparatory work had been completed for which Bombardier has been paid £85m.    The firm’s Derby Litchurch Lane factory will continue to supply S-Stock trains for the Sub-Surface lines.
The Victoria Line was brought to a standstill on 22 January 2014 when quick-set liquid concrete poured into a relay room at Victoria Station knocking out the power supply.  All   trains were standing at stations at the time so no passengers were trapped in the tunnels.    The concrete was filling a void below a removed escalator but the weight of the concrete broke down a breeze block wall allowing the concrete to pour into the relay room.   Sugar was poured on to the concrete within a few minutes to delay the concrete becoming solid and team shovelled out the concrete but many relays had been inundated and had to be replaced by spare relays.   Within a few hours the line north of Warren St reopened and the entire line was in use by the next morning.
Following the announcement that LUL Planned to close all Underground ticket offices, the RMT and TSSA unions announced plans for 48 hour strikes from 2130 on 4 February 2014 until early on 7 February, and at similar times one week later.   LUL indicated that as many trains as possible would run but many stations would be closed and some entire lines would be closed or would not operate into the central areas.   Many bus services would be increased and additional buses would be hired from provincial or rural operators.  On 5 February the Bakerloo, Piccadilly, Circle and Waterloo & City lines had no service but many parts of the other lines saw a reduced level of service.    The Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines had some service on 6 February.   Following successful talks between management and the unions the second of the planned 48 hour strikes was called off.    It had been agreed that “some” ticket offices would remain open.

HAYWARDS  HEATH   A additional three-deck car park is to built at this busy station to provide an additional 430 spaces.

POST  OFFICE  RAILWAY    Closed in 2003 because many of the postal distribution centres that it  served had closed, part of the line from Mount Pleasant may reopen as a tourist attraction .Visitors would be able to ride on a train converted to carry passengers but a £20m grant from Lottery funds would be needed to upgrade the line and achieve necessary safety standards.

CLASS 321   Eversholt Leasing has upgraded a class 321 unit to show a range of possible improvements and will display it around Greater Anglia during 2014 to test reactions.     The unit features air conditioning, plain windows instead those with hopper openings,  plus better lighting and heating.   Possible seating improvements include 2+2 and 2+3 arrangements and  high back seats instead of the existing low backs.  First class areas could have 2+2 leather seats and computer plug-in points.     94 units will be upgraded once the views of the public are known.

CROSSRAIL    Tunnel boring had been completed in January 2014 along 28km of the route –  two thirds of the total.   The outstanding third will be finished by the end of 2014.   The Department of Transport announced that the £1bn contract to supply 65 trains for the future Crossrail services had been awarded to Bombardier keeping the Derby factory busy for several years.

BLACKFRIARS   The bridge carrying the railway and station across the Thames has 4400 photovoltaic units on its roof and this is largest such installation in the world.   It supplies 50% of the station’s electricity needs and was declared officially open on 23 January 2014.

TWICKENHAM   This station is used by 5m passengers each year and is to be upgraded at a cost of £5.2m before the Rugby World Cup matches in 2015.     The work will start in May 2014 and will take a year to complete.   The platforms will be resurfaced,  the canopies repaired, while new toilets, lighting, and a new footbridge will be installed.

CAMBRIDGE   Construction of the new station at Chesterton in the northern suburbs is to start during the summer.    There will be parking for 450 cars and a remarkable 1000 bikes.

EAST  COAST  FRANCHISE    The Department of Transport announced its preferred bidders for this franchise which will start from February 2015.     Three consortia have been ask to submit bids at the end of February 2014.   They are (with owning companies in brackets) East Coast Trains Ltd (First Group);  Keolis/Eurostar East Coast Ltd (Keolis and Eurostar International Ltd);   and Inter City Railways Ltd (Stagecoach Holdings Ltd and Virgin Holdings Ltd).    The winner will be expected to make major investments, upgrading the infrastructure including the track and the often failing power supply system.

WALES   In addition to the electrification of the Paddington – Swansea main line and the many routes along “The Valleys” substantial measures are being taken to increase “park and ride” traffic into Cardiff by enlarging car parks where there is space and by building new stations – some in virtually open countryside – with large car parks to attract car drivers off adjacent main roads to  diminish the severe congestion that clogs up Cardiff’s roads.  For the future there is talk of HS3 – in effect an upgrade of the old Great Western Main Line – but there is no solution in sight for a future major problem.   How long will the Severn Tunnel remain usable?    The brickwork lining the tunnel is 150 years old and there is a constant massive flow of water into the tunnel requiring constant pumping to keep it clear.   The North Wales main line would be electrified in the future.

WEST  MJIDLANDS   The car park at Four Oaks on the Cross-City Line is to be reconstructed to provide 63 extra spaces bringing the total to 335.

ISLE  OF  MAN   The track rearrangement at Laxey Interchange station took place during November/December 2013 but to save money the improved street lighting, seating, and modified station entrance was not carried out.    The Ramsey bus station in is to be relocated to beside the MER station, the railway facilities are to be upgraded, and renamed Ramsey Plaza Interchange.

MANCHESTER   METROLINK   The route through Oldham town centre serving four stops  was opened on 27 January 2014 – the first time since August 1946 that trams had run through the streets of the town.   The heavy rail route running south of the town centre including a temporary stop at Mumps closed ten days earlier so that an intensive test service could be operated through the town streets.   The removal of the up platform of the closed Woodlands Road station on the Bury line began during February 2014.    Trams still slow down sharply as they pass through the station.
Work to rebuild the Metrolink part Victoria station has begun and from 21 February 2014 shuttle buses operated on two routes to the city centre from Abraham Moss  and from Central Park.    From 24 February only a single bi-directional track was available through Victoria with trams passing through non-stop and passengers for Victoria had to use the nearby Shudehill stop.   The East Didsbury – Rochdale and Altrincham – Bury routes had a service every 12 minutes with double trams on the latter route.   Victoria will have two island platforms with space for services on the new second route across the city centre.    All of the original tram fleet has been withdrawn but several of the batch built for the Eccles route remain in regular service.

MANCHESTER   BR     Work has begun on the construction of a fourth platform at the Airport Station.    It was noted in mid-February 2014 that Mayfield station (the annexe of Piccadilly station used by some suburban trains until 28 August 1960) was now partly dismantled.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY      The £5.3m upgrade to the line continues with work started on St Enoch station which is used by 2 million passengers each year.     An arch canopy will cover the entrance facing Buchanan Street giving protection to the escalators leading to the concourse.   There will be shops lining the concourse and lifts down to the platforms.    Meanwhile the upgrade at Ibrox was completed in mid January 2014 and the entrance features a large canopy displaying the round “S” logo and the word “Subway”.    Work at Hillhead and Partick was completed earlier.

GLASGOW  AIRPORT    A new proposal has been announced for a tram:train service to the Airport.   LRVs would run from the terminals along the streets to Gilmour Street Station and then use the heavy rail tracks to reach the city centre.    Plans to build a heavy rail branch to the Airport were abandoned five years ago.

GLASGOW  AREA    Schoolchildren were attacked by two knife bearing men at Hamilton Central Station on 6 February 2014.   The children were not physically injured and the men were arrested.  There has been significant growth in new housing around several suburban stations including Carstairs, Carluke, Shieldmuir (where massive new estates surround what was once a desolate location), around both sides of the main line at Newton, and around the long closed sites at Wishaw South.     Services to/from Whifflet will be cancelled during the periods 24 February – 01 March 2014; and 24 March – 29 March 2014 to allow electrification work to be completed before the Commonwealth Games.     An extra £3m is being spent on stations around Glasgow – the lengthening of platforms, building of extra ramps to platforms, and the provision of additional ticket machines to ensure that travellers to the games can use the local rail network without difficulty.

EDINBURGH    The City Council has issued videos showing various dangers linked to the introduction of tram services in the city centre including the danger caused by the quietness of the trams.    They may not be noticed by a pedestrian especially if they are wearing headphones.   In mid February 2014 the Council announced that it was seeking 1000 volunteers to partake in tests of operational and safety procedures before the tram service opened for public service.       A feeder bus route between Wallyford station and Haddington commenced operation on 10 February 2014.

5 January 2014

HS-2   Local Councils wishing more information about the project and its possible effect on their locality have been sent 28,000 pages of plans for the route plus the promise of a further 33,000 pages of technical data once these have been prepared.    Each Council has been given 58 days to read and digest it all before the time to make submissions or objections runs out.

AVENTRA  EMU   Bombardier is developing this new design of emu that will be able to operate at up to 125 mph and will be available to new franchise operators in a couple of years time.  Versions will be suitable for commuter services, or for longer distance stopping or express services.

SOUTHERN RAILWAY TOC   The first of the new class 377 emus entered service on 24 September 2013.   A new fleet of class 387 units is also in the pipeline to boost capacity.

SOUTH  WEST  TRAINS   This TOC took delivery of the first of its converted class 458 five car emus in early December 2013.   Coaches from ex-Gatwick Express 460s are being merged into the 458 sets.

CLASS 442   There were three fires affecting cars from the 442 sets in the space of a week during late November/early December 2013.   The entire fleet is being inspected urgently.

VAUXHALL   Work is to start soon on the £36m upgrade to Vauxhall station.   The work is part of a transformation of the entire locality with the building of many new flats and business premises.

THREE  BRIDGES    the new signalling centre was opened on 8 January 2014.    It will control the entire area across Kent and Sussex and will be one of just eight centres that will handle routes across the country, replacing around 800 traditional signal boxes.

FOLKESTONE   HARBOUR    The short branch leading to this station is to be closed.  It has seen no regular use since 2001 apart from occasional specials.   Any business for the Harbour can be handled easily at the nearby Central Station.

CROSSRAIL    Tunnel boring machine “Phyllis” completed digging the 6.8km long tunnel from Royal Oak to Farringdon after 18 months work in early November 2013.    In all a total of seven boring machines had by then completed 25km of the 42km required for the new railway.     Major improvements are under way at Maidenhead, the western terminus of future Crossrail services.  A sixth platform is being built, major improvements made to the ticket office, while the station footbridge is being improved by the installation of lifts and improvements to the stairs.

BISHOPS  STORTFORD   A secure cycle park for 238 bikes attracted a daily average of around 200 users during its recent first week of operation.

TOTTENHAM  HALE   The station is to receive a major upgrade that will see the booking hall doubled in size plus the creation of more ticket gate entrances to the platforms.

ARLESEY   The car park is being expanded by 400 spaces.

DISS  The car park is being enlarged by over a third with the construction of 85 extra places.

READING   The first beams of the 2km long viaduct that will carry services towards Oxford, Bristol, and South Wales over the route from the Midlands to the South Coast were placed in position during early November 2013.

LONDON  UNDERGROUND    LUL plans to close all station ticket offices by 2015 with the loss of 750 jobs.   Many passengers use pre-paid cards or obtain zone tickets from machines in the station, and fewer and fewer individual tickets are sold.    Some of the savings will be invested in 24 hours services on Fridays and Saturdays on the Piccadilly, Victoria, Central, Jubilee and Northern Lines.    Tourist information desks will be set up at six Central London stations and more may be opened at other key stations.   As part of moves to commercialise the Underground, LUL and ASDA are introducing a “Click, Commute, Collect” service at East Finchley, Highgate, High Barnet, Harrow & Wealdstone, Stanmore and Epping stations.  Customers can place an order by e-mail, and collect it at the station later in the day.   There will be a £1.50 charge for the service.   If successful the service may be introduced at a further 56 stations, all of which have a car park.    The Public Inquiry into the planned Northern Line extension through Nine Elms to Battersea has been told that travel times to the city would be cut by 15 minutes encouraging the construction of 16,000 new homes and 25,000 new jobs in the area.    A new set of ten storage sidings for Overground sets is being built at Silwood, near New Cross Gate.    Bombardier’s Derby plant produced recently the 1000th S Stock car for use on the Underground.   The work to produce a total of 191 full-length train will continue until mid 2015 allowing the last of the C and D stock to be withdrawn. Bakerloo and Northern Line trains will not call at Embankment station during the period 8 January – November 2014 while four escalators are rebuilt.    Circle and District Line trains will continue to call.

WEST  MIDLANDS   A 102 space car park is being built at Longbridge station on the Cross City Line.   This is part of the creation of a brand new town centre on part of the vacated site of the Longbridge motor car factory.    A new Bournville College, hotel, and shopping complex have been completed during 2013.    Lichfield Trent Valley station is to receive a £1m upgrade which includes the provision of 120 extra car park spaces.     The proposal to build a new station at Bromsgrove 250m south of the existing station is to go ahead.    The new platforms will hold six car trains and be capable of being extended later to hold nine cars.   The £17.4m cost will be met by Worcester County Council, Centro, and the Dept. of Transport.    Electrification of the line south from Barnt Green and down Lickey Bank to Bromsgrove will be financed separately.

NORTON  BRIDGE   Preparatory work for the new flyover and resignalling in the area began late in 2013.      WCML line speeds will be raised from 75 to 100 mph through the area.

MANCHESTER   METROLINK    The new Queen’s Road stop opened on 16 December 2013 and the last calls at Woodlands Road were made on 13 December 2013.    The last of the original trams  was withdrawn on the same date.    Traffic on the Rochdale line is double that on the former BR service and is set to soar once the Oldham Town Centre line opens.    Work to move water, gas, and electricity services below the route of the city centre second crossing between St Peter’s Square and Victoria Station commenced during January 2014.     A second deck is to be added to the car park at the Whitefield stop on the Bury line increasing the capacity from 127 to 216 cars.  The car park will be closed for five months from 13 January 2014 while the work is completed.  The Rochdale line was closed between Central Park and Rochdale Station from 18 until 26 January 2014 while final test running was undertaken on the Oldham town centre route.

HULL    First Hull Trains hopes to electrify the Temple Hirst Jct – Selby – Hull line (35 miles) and operate its Hull – London services with new emus.

ISLE  OF  MAN   Tynwald approved track replacement work costing £678,000 in the Laxey Station area and on the Snaefell line during December 2013.    This is the final phase of work undertaken  during the last three years.   Repairs to the track bed on the Snaefell line in the Upper Laxey Valley area where part of the formation had collapsed forcing single track working, has been completed.   New drainage has been installed and double track working was to be restored from the end of 2013.

NEW   ELECTRIFICATION    SCHEMES    The Department of Transport announced on 16 December 2013 its approval for the Bolton – Wigan line electrification which will see an end to the use of the unpopular diesel Pacer units – the bouncing “Nodding Donkeys”.    Plans for other electrification schemes in northern England are now being assessed by the Department of Transport including these routes:- Selby – Hull;  Leeds – Harrogate – York; Sheffield to Leeds, Doncaster and Manchester; East Coast Main Line to Middlesbrough;  Warrington – Chester;  Crewe – Chester.

STORMS   A major storm swept across Scotland during 5 December 2013 disrupting all forms of transport.    The wind touched 106 mph at Stirling and 140 mph near Fort William.    The Forth, Tay, and Skye road bridges were closed, ferry services were halted, and Glasgow Airport closed for a time.    The railways did not open until at least 0700 after inspections confirmed that the tracks were clear of fallen trees and debris.    Severe speed restrictions were imposed and several lines remained closed because the power supply to the signalling was out of action.   It was soon apparent that new obstructions affected routes across the country and at Glasgow Central glass from the massive roof crashed on the concourse.    The entire Scottish network was then closed but by late afternoon  limited services across the Lowlands resumed as the storm headed towards eastern England.
Torrential rains swept across Southern England on 23 December 2013, and  into Scotland by the 24th.     High winds brought down trees blocking the tracks at 200 locations while flooding and debris disrupted services in other areas.    The Island Line was put out of action for three weeks after the track bed was swept away at 20 places near Ryde.    The overhead power wire was damaged and Virgin imposed a 50 mph speed limit along the West Coast Main Line delaying many services.    On the morning of the 24th First Great Western and the TOCs operating  London’s third rail network delayed the start of services while routes were checked for obstructions. Several routes remained closed all day because of damage.    Many ferry services were cancelled due to high seas, and several high bridges were closed to all traffic.      80 mph winds and torrential rain swept across Kent, North Wales, Northern England and parts of Scotland on 27 December causing more flooding and damage to power lines.     The Southern and Southeastern TOCs were especially badly affected.    The Horsham – Dorking line was closed by a rain induced landslip at Ockley that would take at least a month to rectify.  Early in January further high winds struck Kent and Central Scotland with emus to Largs and Helensburgh cancelled due to the adjacent high seas.

TYNE & WEAR   Nexus has been awarded an additional £23m by the Department of Transport which is in addition to the £60m awarded earlier for upgrade work on the Metro.   This will be used to renew the track between Tynemouth and Gateshead, the replacement of the overhead power wire, and upgrades to the signalling and communications systems.     New £800,000 train washing equipment is to be installed at the Gosforth Depot.

GLASGOW  SUBWAY  New automatic ticket gates at Partick entered service in November 2013. The new Bramble smartcard was made available to passengers from 30 October 2013  and fares will cost less if payment is made with the smartcard.

EDINBURGH  One of the new trams travelled along the Haymarket – Princes Street section on the night of 3 / 4 December 2013.     This was the first time for over 50 years that a tram has travelled along Princes Street.     One of the new trams fitted out with a new silver livery and crewed by staff in a new grey uniform ran down Princes Street to St Andrew Square for a press publicity event on 17 December 2013.    Wifi will be available on the trams once service start.
The £24m upgrade to Haymarket station was completed and opened to the public on 19 December 2013.   The upgrade including platform improvements and the construction of the large new building and substantial concourse behind the historic Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway structure of 1842 had taken 18 months to complete.

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