News from Great Britain

12 October 2020

CORONAVIRUS MEASURES A rapid rise in the number of new pandemic cases led to extensive measures being taken across Central Scotland affecting 3 million residents. Pubs and restaurants will be closed unless customers can collect pre-ordered items and take them away to eat outdoors at home. Because of rising numbers of cases similar measures were expected to follow across northern England with high numbers in Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.

747s FINISHED Enthusiasts are mourning the withdrawl of the last |Boeing 747 long-haul airliners owned by British Airways which ceased service on 11 October 2020.

LINK TO IRELAND The construction of a tunnel or bridge between Galloway in south west Scotland and Ulster is to be part of a National Review of transport connections across the UK.

ISLAND LINE The Ryde – Shanklin shuttle had to be suspended on 3 October 2020 following a breakdown of the one set that can run on the line. There was no immediate indication of when the shuttle might resume. However services were moving again on 5 October 2020. The existing stock has worked for 80 years – first on the London Underground, and more recently on the Isle of Wight for South West Trains. Soon they will be withdrawn and replaced by class 484 units supplied after modification by Vivarail.

WEYMOUTH HARBOUR A branch 1.25 mile long running partly on the streets was opened in 1865 but has been disused since 1999. Various organisations in the town would like to see the line reopened to help bring in tourists but the track is in such poor condition that it would need to be replaced before any service could run along it. The Government has provided £1m to remove the rails and restore the road surface but is unwilling to consider restoring a public rail service.

LIFTS COMING New footbridges with lifts are to be provided at Theale and Tilehurst stations, but not at Reading West where physical problems make lifts not possible just now.

DAWLISH The first section of the new Sea Wall alongside the traccks of the Penzance Main Line was opened on 25 September 2020.

LUL The diagramatic route map of the London Underground network is to have added the Thameslink route as it runs north – south across the Central Area. This will show several interchanges that exist at stations served by both networks.

GREAT EASTERN MAIN LINE A variety of tasks will be undertaken mostly at weekends during the period 17 October – 22 November 2020. Worn out track at Manningtree will be replaced and an improved overhead wire tension system installed at Stratford and Maryland.

ESSEX A class710 emu is to commence operations on the Romford – Upminster shuttle on 5 October 2020 replacing the elderly class 315 unit that has operated the line for many years..

NORTH EAST LONDON The electricity supply problem at Silver Street that has halted trains to the Enfield area continued to affect services through the weekend to 4 October 2020.

CLASS 720 Greater Anglia has altered its order from Bombardier for Class 720 emus. Originally the order comprised 22 ten car trains (Class 720/1) and 89 five car trains (Class 720/5). The order has now been changed to 133 five car trains with no ten car versions. The total number of coaches to be supplied remains unaltered.

EUSTON A major signalling failure delayed all services heading for Euston throughout 7 October 2020.

HS2 Construction work, including the closing of a road near Rugby is taking much longer (9 months) than expected (3 – 4 weeks). The eastern branch north of Birmingham may be cancelled as a cost reduction measure. The western part of the route – to Manchester – could be extended across the Pennines to Leeds although this would by-pass Sheffield.

COVENTRY The frame for the new 8 storey station buildingwas more or less complete by the end of September 2020 and work is starting on the new footbridge across the tracks. There will be a 633 space car park and everything is supposed to be completed by summer of 2021.

TIPTON Redundant structures associated with the former heavy rail line have been removed in preparation for the new light railway between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill.

WOLVERHAMPTON Work has begun on digging foundations for new buildings on the station platforms.

PLANS TO REOPEN STATIONS The stations at Willenhall and Darlaston will be reopened when the Wolverhampton – Walsall direct line is reopened as part of the HS2 Project.

TELFORD The station has become so busy that it has become impossible to follow social distancing and coronavirus advice. The numbers allowed into the station are therefore to be strictly limited at busy times.

BARMOUTH VIADUCT Major repair work to thje nearly half mile long bridge will take three years to complete . The Grade II listed structure will have work to replace timber and metal structures and there will be three periods of total closure – as follows. 16 Octoer – 4 November 2020; 17 September – 18 December 2021; the exact dates in 2022 have not yet been finalised. The project is expected to cost £25m . This is the only major timber railway bridge still in use.

LLANDUDNO & COLWYN BAY ELECTRIC RAILWAY. Replica tram No 7 is to star in an episode of “Cynefin”, an S4C Welsh language TV programme. The date has not been announced.

MEADOWHALL The massive car park at the Retail Centre has been resurfaced at a cost of £166,000

HUDDERSFIELD The planned electrification of the route together with 4-tracking the main line through the station will make alterations to or rebuilding of every overbridge between Huddersfield and Ravensthorpe necessary.

LEEDS Major engineering work (track and signalling) is planned for the weekend 31 October / – 1 November 2020 in connection with the opening of the new Platform Zero. The number of trains that can be handled at the station will rise significantly.

NEXUS Tyne and Wear Metro services to Sunderland, together with regular railway services through Sunderland, were delayed for four hours during the afternoon of 4 October 2020 following damage to the overhead power wires. Work is proceeding to adjust the height of the track at forty stations so that when the new fleet arrives there will be level platform to train entry.

LIVERPOOL A landslip near Roby on the Liverpool – Manchester direct line caused problems for several hour on 5 October 2020 before the area was stabilised and services could move past the area at reduced speed.

PARBOLD Flooding, complicated by a later landslip halted services between Wigan and Southport throughout 7 October 2020.

NEW COLLIERY The first new coal mine for many years is to be created at Woodhouse in Cumbria, its output going to power stations or heavy industries in the north east and South Wales. It is assumed that rail links will be opened up to handle a significant traffic over the next 25 – 30 years. The creation of Woodhouse Colliery will mean that the import of large quantities of coal from Europe or North America will cease. Plans for an opencast colliery in the north-east of England have been rejected because of its visual effect on the tourist industry.

DREADFUL WEATHER Because of Storm Archie bringing high winds and extremely heavy rainfall, Scotrail started to wind down services in Eastern Scotland especially in Fife and north to Aberdeenshire from 1600 on 4 October 2020. By 1900 there were no trains operating in these areas as Storm Archie caused flooding within an hour or two. During the morning of 4 October 2020 the tracks had been flooded on two sections of the Aberdeen – Inverness main line – Dyce to Inverurie, and Keith to0 Elgin. Services along the entire route were suspended. More detailed preparations were in place on Monday 5 September 2020 with services across almost all of Scotland ending with departures from the cities around teatime.

MAINTENANCE WORKS Several centres in Scotland where repairs or modifications can be made to rolling stock have been closed in recent years. The Springburn plant (St Rollox) was shut in July 2019, and the famous Kilmarnock factory (Andrew Barclay) in March 2020. The last repair centre in Scotland, at South Queensferry is endangered by Network Rail’s decision to issue contracts for some of the work to overseas firms and transfer what remainss to centres in England.

RUSH HOUR DELAYS Because of a broken down emu sitting at Hillington West station on the morning of 6 October 2020 the flow of morning rush hour services from Ayr, Largs, Wemyss Bay, and Gourock was brought to a halt. Trains did not start to move again until around 0840.

275th ANNIVERSARY The Battle of Prestonpans took place on 21 September 1745 when the Covenantors had their last maajor victory over English forces. It was fought across the main line of the Tranent and Cockenzie Wagonway (opened 1722). The event was marked by the unveiling of Scotland’s fourth “Red Wheel” sign denoting a significant Industrial Heritage event.

GLASGOW SUBWAY Traffic fell almost to zero when the coronavirus pandemic struck the area. Between April and June 2020 the line had an operating loss of £4.5m and emergency funding from the Scottish Government kept the line afloat. This funding ceased at the end of September 2020 and the circular route could have been closed down if alternative funds was not found. Traffic carried remains at a very low level.

CARDROSS A collision between a private car and an emu heading for Helensburgh at the level crossing at Cardross complicated operations already disrupted by Storm Archie.

PAISLEY CANAL LINE Services between Glasgow Central and Paisley Canal were delayed during the morning peak by someone on the tracks being hit by a train.

CAIRNGORM It is planned to reopen the Cairngorm Mountain Funicular Railway during the winter of 2021-2 thanks to a £20.5m investment by the Scottish Government and HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise). It is hoped that the line will become an all-year tourist attraction with active backing by HIE. Balfour Beatty has been asked to undertake the work.

ARBROATH Kerr’s Miniature Railway which ran alongside the Aberdeen -Dundee main line, closed on 11 October 2020. It was opened in 1934 and had always been owned by the Kerr family. The track is worn out and not suitable for re-use but the locomotives and coaches are being retained by the family in the hope that they can find further use somewhere else. Traffic on the line had fallen since a children’s play area 50 yards away had been moved to another part of the town.

Arbroath had been in the news in 1959-61 when the owner of a steam traction engine used it daily in the town centre “as his car” to the dismay of some residents. His desire to build a large maintenance building to store his engine and undertake maintenance on it went to court which decided that everyone could own a car and maintain it in working condition even if “the car” was unusual in any respect.

KINTORE The station on the Aberdeen – Inverness main line was reopened on 15 October 2020. Opened originally in 1854, it was closed along with most other local stops along the route in 1964. The reopening was made possible by the double-tracking of the Aberdeen – Inverurie section . The platforms are linked by a footbridge with lifts and there is an adjoining large car park.

IRELAND Initial planning is under way for a high-speed railway between Londonderry, Belfast, Dublin and Cork.

1 October 2020

FRANCHISES ENDED The Government scrapped the franchise business model on 21 September 2020 and existing operators received cash payments to operate services along their former franchised routes. £3.5bn on support was provided by the Government to support services and although traffic was starting to return to the trains it was still less than half of the previous level.

DB FREIGHT DB Cargo – UK as been awarded a 5 year contract to transport train loads of aggregates between quarries and a base in London taking many lorries off the roads.

STATION AWARDS Penrith has been declared the medium sized station of the year, and Reading the major station of the year at the National Train Awards ceremony.

MOST OVERCROWDED The most over-crowded train in the UK is the two coach 0802 Chiltern Railways service from Oxford to Marylebone with a load factor of 196%, almost double the official capacity. Next is the 0732 South Western Railway Woking to Waterloo with a load factor of 182%.

POWER SURGE All trains on the Brighton Main Line were halted during the morning of 25 September 2020 following a power surge that turned the current off for a short time.

ALDRINGTON The platforms at the East Sussex station have been cleaned comprehensively and minor repairs undertaken.

WESTGATE-ON-SEA A new footbridge costing £800,000 has been opened at the Kent station. There are no lifts – just steps to take passengers across the Chatham main line.

SWANLEY Grants of £2.25m have made possible improvements to passenger facilities at Swanley station. The entrance hall has been enlarged and a much more attractive ticket purchase facility installed.

EUROSTAR Services between London and Brussels will not call at any stations in Kent until 2022 when it is hoped that traffic will have returned to something like normal..

CROYDON The planned reconstruction of the railway through East Croydon Station has been well received by user groups and the local authority. The track layout will feature fly-overs and dive-unders. The site for the present station is hemmed in by buildings on both sides so it will be moved 100m to the north and totally rebuilt with eight, rather than the present six, platforms. The new platforms will be long-enough to accommodate a twelve-car train.

LUL The “Night Tube Service” gave 24 hour service on Friday and Saturday nights but was discontinued when the pandemic struck in March 2020. It will not be re-introduced before March 2021 at the earliest.

POWER SUPPLY The Greater Anglia TOC experienced a power supply shut down at Silver Street on 21 September 2020 and as a result there were no local trains between Hackney Downs and Enfield Town, or to Cheshunt. Problems continued into 26 September 2020.

CLACTON DEPOT Greater Anglia TOC is installing four additional lifting jacks so that together with the 16 existing jacks a whole train can be lifted at the same time.

SERVICE THREATENED The Cross Country TOC has indicated that it will discontinue all services to Whittlesea, March, and Manea stations because of staffing difficulties following the coronavirus pandemic. Children from these communities attend school in Peterborough and would be stranded when trying to return home in the afternoon. Alternative bus services are not available.

ECML FIRE A train trravelling along the East Coast route caught fire near Grantham at 1900 on 26 September 2020. The passengers wer evacuated without injury.

ECML – KINGS CROSS Major changes are being undertaken to the approaches to Kings Cross terminus. The 1970s layout had four tracks leading to/from the station but work now under way at weekends and sometimes during the week will increase this to six tracks by mid 2021. A tunnel closed in the 1970s will be brought back into use. Services at Kings Cross were disrupted twice during the morning of 7 September 2020. The signalling system had been restored after a first failure when a second failure caused the system to shut down again. Network Rail then indicated that services between Kings Cross and Peterborough might be out of action during most of that day.

STEVENAGE A fifth platform was opened on 2 August 2020. Planned to take the Hertford Loop service it may not see full use for at least a year while traffic makes a very slow recovery.

ECML POWER SUPPLY £216.2m is to be spent to increase the power supply along the ECML. There will be no services at KX or at the Thameslink station during the weekend of 17/18 October 2020 while new signalling is tested.

ECML – WERRINGTON Major changes to the track layout at Werringtom, just south of Peterborough, will include the construction of a new tunnel and new track over a two mile section.

This will enable slow moving freight trains to move across the ECML main tracks without holding up expresses. The capacity of the ECML will be increased significantly as a result.

TYNE & WEAR METRO Stadler has released images of what the 46 five-car trains that it is building will look like. The upper half of the bodies will be in a brilliant yellow that will extend over the entire doors. Pale grey will be used on the lower sections of the bodies with a black area around the blocks of windows. The first of the new trains is expected to enter service in 2023.

WALES The Cardiff suburban station at Cadoxton now has step-free access to both platforms and the new footbridge.includes lifts. The station upgrade has cost £3m. A further £2.2m is to be invested in flood prevention measures along the Conwy Valley line parts of which have been swept away twice during the past two years. Towns along the Rhondda Valley were put into lockdown on 16 September 2020 because of a rise in the number of new COVID 19 cases. On 28 September 2020 both Cardiff and Swansea and two adjacent rural areas were placed in lockdown.

MOTORWAY SPEED RESTRICTIONS A 60 mph speed limit was introduced on Motorways in the West Midlands on 28 September 2020 in an attempt to reduce emissions, and a risk of more virus cases.

SOLIHULL A new housing area covering a space similar to London’s Hyde Park, is set to go ahead. It will be close to the new HS2 Interchange station, construction of which has just begun.

WEST COAST MAIN LINE Signalling problems resulted in at least 15 minute delays between Watford Jct and Milton Keynes Central on 17 – 20 September 2020. A person walking along the tracks at Stechford was struck be a train and died at the scene on 21 September 2020.

MIDLAND METRO Passers-by have expressed surprise when they see an LRV newly arrived from Wolverhampton lowering its pantograph as it sets off on the final section of its journey to Library. The LRVs operate on battery power along that section. The tracks across Centenary Square have been welded to the recently laid tracks heading onwards towards Broad Street. The final 120m of track were to be laid in a project commencing on 24 September 2020. A new timetable is to be introduced on 12 October 2020 with weekday peak services slightly trimmed but with trams every 6 – 8 minutes during the day and every 15 minutes in the evening. Weekend services are unchanged.

PERRY BARR Plans to upgrade the station before the 2022 Commonwealth Games have been revealed.

CROSS-CITY LINE The timetable was altered to give an extra train each hour (3 increased to 4) from 7 September 2020. Traffic has built up extremely slowly since some services were restored and the six-coach formations look very thinly occupied even at the rush hours. Plans to reopen Moseley Station were approved by the City Council on 24 September 2020.

SUTTON COLDFIELD Police chased off a person who tried to enter the station carrying a large unshielded blade and a large amount of drugs on 28 Seoptember 2020. Passengers were not faced by any immediately dangerous situations.

NEW TRAINS The first completed set of coaches was demonstrated for the press on the Cross City Line on 9 September 2020. 333 new coaches are being assembled at Derby Works for use from late 2021 across the West Midlands on semi-fast services between Euston, Northampton nd Birmingham, and between the West Midlands and Liverpool.

SHEFFIELD The next area where tram rail replacement will take place is around Crystal Peaks. Work started on 15 September 2020.

MANCHESTER AREA A suspicious package was found on a bus at Piccadilly Gardens Bus Station at 1315 on 5 September 2020. Several roads in the area were closed to all traffic including that used by the tramway leading to Piccadilly railway station. The package was declared to be not dangerous at around 1730 and normal road and tram traffic resumed soon afterwards. The CO-OP organisation is to invest £350m in a new arena to be built beside the Etihad Stadium – the ground of Manchester City FC.

STOCKPORT Plans to upgrade the station in a £530m project include a new public square, a car park, and improved passenger facilities.

BOLTON A crop of new coranovirus cases hit the Bolton area on the weekend of 5 – 6 September 2020 following an earlier crop of cases on 2 September.

WIGAN NORTH WESTERN The WCML station is being generally upgraded to handle higher traffic levels. Platform 3 is being lengthened to take four coach trains that may become necessary as traffic across the north west of England rises.

PRESTON The 60 year iood wooden window frames along the north aspect of the 140 year old station have been replaced with aluminium replicas meeting the needs of the Listing Agency.

BLACKPOOL NORTH Grand Central’s planned Euston – Blackpool North service has been dropped due to the collapse in the potential market caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

NORTH EAST Because of a sharp increase in new cases of coronavirus infections restriction were brought in to social activities from 28 September 2020. A proposal to bring back into use the second platform at Hartlepool station has now been agreed.

MOTHERWELL The building that was the signalling centre has now been adapted to become an emergency electrical control room acting as a back-up to the major Control Centre at Cathcart.

CLACKMANNAN LINE Survey work is under way along the route of the closed line between Alloa and Longannet. Their are plans to restore passenger services between Alloa and Longannet with new stations at Clackmannan, Kincardine, and Longannet.

TESCO FREIGHT The grocery chain now sends its bulk supplies for shops in the north of Scotland on a special freight service between Mossend and Inverness six days per week. (Never on the Sabbath!!). The train comprises a string of special wagons incorporating the lorry that has brought its container to the train, and this allows the lorry to be re-activated at its desination enabling it to be driven away with its container. See News from Europe for Tesco’s new service from Spain. If anyone knows more about this Tesco arrangement please send information to the site.

OVERHEAD WIRES The power wires at Dalmuir were damaged on 16 February 2020 and emu services between Dalmuir and Helensburgh and Ballochn were disrupted for most of the day.

LADYBANK Large numbers of new houses have covered the previously undeveloped land around the station. Land around Markinch and Thornton station have similarly been built over as commuting to Edinburgh has become more popular.

HIGHLAND MAIN LINE Services on the Perth – Inverness line ran mostly on time during a visit in mid September 2020. Many services were worked by rebuilt intercity 4-car railcars which appeared to be popular with travellers. I did not see the sleeping car trains but through services to Kings Cross (via ECML) and Birmingham (via WCML) were very poorly loaded. The 1215 from Birmingham New Street carried around 5 – 6 people per coach with First Class almost empty. A moderate number joined the train in Central Scotland but it was diverted via Kirklcaldy owing to flooding in the Polmont area. After torrential rains on 16-17 September 2020 the adjacent Union Canal overflowed and destroyed around 350 yards of the adjacent railway. Engineers worked through several nights and the railway through Polmont was restored during 21 September 2020.

3 September 2020

ISLAND LINE The 8.5 mile Ryde – Shanklin line on the Isle of Wight will be closed for about 3 months (January – March 2021) while track and platforms are readied for the “new” trains that will take over the service. New? Well over 80 year old stock will be replaced by 40 year old class 484 units that ride on 20 year old bogies. On such a short route high-speed operation is not in the plans!

VOLK’S RAILWAY The line has operated limited services on Wednesday to Sunday between Black Roack and Aquarium with the stop at Halfway closed.

SEATON TRAMWAY Half-hourly services resumed on 4 July 2020 – increased to every 20 minutes during the peak of the summer season (25 July – 28 September 2020). Services will cease until 2022 on 1 November 2020.

CATFORD Southeastern TOC services will be speeded up by the replacement of a Victorian bridge at Catford during the late August Bank Holiday weekend. Track improvements including the replacement of points at nearby Crayford will remove a 15 mph slow section.

COULSDON SOUTH Access to the platforms has been made easier by the construction of a bridge across the tracks, with lifts providing step-free access. Tactile paving has been placed along the platform edges and platform lighting has been improved. The improvements have been paid from the “Access for All” Programme.

FENCHURCH STREET A new more spaceous site may have to be found for the compact London terminus. Traffis is expected to rise steadily from localities including West Ham, Brentwood, and Castle Point (the western edge of Southend on Sea).

LUL Two elderly escalators at Marylebone station are to be replaced by new ones and the stairway between the two escalators will become a third escalator whosedirection of travel can change to meet the various rush hour flows. Three stations which had remained closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, were reopened for limited hours on 31 August 2020 – Goodge Street, Stepney |Green, and Tufnell Park.

HS2 RICKMANSWORTH HS2 is to build a new play area beside Maple Cross School in Rickmansworth following receipt of a letter from a year 6 pupil askig that some of the soil excavated from the HS2 Tunnel 600m away be sent to the school so that they could make a “hill to roll down”. HS2 is anxious to have good relations with its neighbour and have decided to not only send some earth but to build a complete play area beside the school. What do the mothers think about having a “hill to roll down”?

MIDLAND MAIN LINE Newly erected power wires along the main line north of Bedford to Wellingborough and Corby were energised during late August 2020. Public emu services will start operation late in 2020.

St ALBANS Because of steadily rising traffic which has lead to significant crowding on the station footbridge a second footbridge across all four tracks and with access to all platforms is being built at St Albans City station. It is expected to be completed by January 2022.

CROSSRAIL The long-promised but ever-delayed opening of the new east – west route across central London has been put back again to “2022” together with a request for a further £1.1bn.

WALES – MAJOR FUNDING. Transport Secretary Shapps announced on 21 August 2020 a grant of £343m towards the cost of several improvements in rail services. Part funded will be the cost of redesigning Cardiff Central station including the lengthening of some platforms. The signalling system along the 241 route km of line from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and around the coast to Pwllheli. Various improvements will speed journeys between Cardiff and Swansea – a city pair that should be busy but often disappoints.

DERAILMENT A freight service carrying a long line of tank wagons filled with diesel was derailed near Llanelli and several wagons caught fire. 300 people were moved from their homes and twelve hours later many wagon were still burning strongly.

KNIGHTON Damage to the Heart of Wales Line by the recent severe downpours have swept away all the ballast over a 350m section and damaged bridges and other parts of the infrastructure. Buses have replaced trains between Shrewsbury and Llandrindod Wells.

BRISTOL AREA A bike storeage area for 450 bikes has existed on platforms 4 and 5 for some time but this is being removed to allow upgrade work on the station roof costing £24m. A new bike storage area is being created adjacent to the station. £3.5m funding for the planned new station at Portway, between Avonmouth and Shirehampton, has been resolved and construction is expected to begin in early 2021.

WEST COAST SERVICES RESUMED Avanti West Coast plans to restore most of the services discontinued or terminated short of destination when the Pandemic struck in March 2020. On 8 September 2020 Avanti will again operate trains through to Shrewsbury, Wrexham, Blackpool, and Edinburgh Waverley (via the West Coast route).

COVENTRY BR Work has started on an £82m project to rebuild the station. A seven storey building has been built between Station Square and Warwick Road. This will play a significant role when Coventry is UK City of Culture for 2021.

COVENTRY VLR The planned Very Light Rail network in the city hyas been given publicity recently. There will be four “out and back again” loop routes from the city centre operating along normal streets. These will be colour coded. Line 1 (Purple Line) will serve the eastern suburbs serving the University Hospital, Ansty Park, and Binley Business Park. The south western suburbs will be served by the Dark Blue line serving the University of Warwick and Tile Hill Station. This line could be extended with a long branch reaching the HS2 Interchange and Birmingham Airport. The Northern suburbs will be served by the Light Blue line serving the Coventry Arena and extensive housing areas. The Coventry South East suburbs will be served by the Red Line and the Kings Hill Development. A branch may be added to reach the proposed Coventry South Station. Relatively small, 11m long and 2.65m wide, railcars are being designed at the National Innovation Centre in Dudley (itself still not complete) and these vehicles will not require underlying utilities to be moved and required civil engineering works will be much less for Very Light Rail compared to “ordinary” light rail.

WASHWOOD HEATH The first delivery of aggregate by rail for HS2 arrived on 25 August 2020. This was the first of an estimated 15,000 train loads of aggregate totalling about 15,000 tonnes that will be delivered direct to construction sites for HS2.

DUDLEY An abandoned railway bridge that crosses over Sedgeley Road in Tipton was to be demolished during August 2020 to make way for the Metro extension to Dudley and Brierley Hill. The future Dudley town centre stop on the Metro extension is being re-named Dudley Castle instead of Dudley Station Street.

WOLVERHAMPTON A visit to the station on 13 August 2020 revealed the recent progress made in replacing the station facilities. The portion of the new building that was completed during the last few weeks is now in use. The new entrance is a short walk from the Bus Station and is an attractive wide passageway leading to an attractive concourse off which is a staffed ticket window and six self-service ticket machines. Continuing towards the platforms the wide passageway takes the traveller to platform 1 (for north and west-bound services) and platform 5 – a rather sharply curved platform for local services from the west that terminate there. From the rusty condition of the rails this platform has not seen recent use. The entry on to platform 1 is adjacent to large new toilets, and stairs with lifts taking travellers up to the bridge across the station and to platforms 2, 3, and 4. So far modernisation has not yet reached the structures on these platforms. However the removal of the remaining old buildings around the entrance to the station is proceeding actively and it will not be long before the tram extension from the St George’s terminus is able to be opened.

LONGER PLATFORMS are to be provided at Albrighton, Bilbrook, Hartlebury, and Oakengates to accommodate new 4-car demus that will take over the services in 2021.

BEESTON & TARPORLY There are growing moves to reopen this station on the line to Crewe, which is close to the growing edge of Chester.

KINGS LYNN Doubling of the track, platform extension work, and the creation of a long siding just outside Kings Lynn Station were among the work completed during the late August 2020 Bank Holiday weekend. From the December timetable change it will be possible to operate longer trains (up to eight coaches long) between Cambridge and Kings Lynn. The new siding will accommodate the last arrival of the day, and the first early morning departure next day.

LIVERPOOL AREA During the weekend of 29/31 August 2020 control of the signalling will be transferred from Ditton to the state-of-then-art Manchester Rail Operating Centre. The Liverpool City Regional Authority has offerred £3.5m towards the cost of building a new station at Headbolt Lane. This will have a 500 space car park and will be part of a long-term plan to take Merseyrail into Skelmersdale.

MANCHESTER AREA Tram services were improved to run until midnight on six nights per week from 24 August 2020. A solar powered “scarecrow” emitting the sound of a hawk is scaring away birds that have been damaging overhead line equipment and on Pendolino trains. Services between Euston and Manchester were being delayed while damage was repaired.

MARPLE ROSE HILL So many staff have not returned to work due to the pandemic that it is impossible to operate a full service on routes around Manchester. The Rose Hill service will be axed until the end of 2020 but this has resulted in complaints to local MPs etc.

NORTH YORKSHIRE MOORS RAILWAY The steaam worked tourist line is importing coal from Russia since locally mined stocks are running low.

DERBY Major upgrades are to be undertken to the lifts at the main entrance and the Pride Park entrance. While the work is under way passengers will be able to use the subway route under the tracks and platforms. The work will cost £750,000.

DRAX The North Yorkshire power station used to be the largest coal fired power plant in Europe. Two of its three generators now burn wood pellets but this “green” policy is generatring protests since the pellets come from trees felled in a wide range of nations including USA and Russia.

TYNE & WEAR METRO A transformation of the Metro has been planned for some time and thanks to a series of Government grants can now proceed. A completely new fleet of Stadler trains costing £337m will replace the existing 40 year-old stock. The 1.5kV DC overhead power supply is becoming rare and the 12.5 tonne axle load limits a new design. The new fleet will be larger than the old and the temporary Howden Depot will become a long-term facility. Extensions north to Ashington and south to Washington and Ferryhill will help to fill the Depot space.

PS WAVERLEY The 1947 paddle steamer returned to the Clyde on 7 August 2020 following the replacement of its boiler at a cost of £2.3m.

COLLISION The 0600 Glasgow Central to Ayr semi-fast service struck at 0626 a motor vehicle that had been sitting on the tracks at Janefield Street in Johnstone. The car driver received slight injuries but the nine people on the train were OK. The motor vehicle seems to have rolled back from a parking area (or been driven backwards in error).

GLASGOW AREA Work on the planned Barrhead South station on the Neilston branch serving the growing edge of Barrhead will restart in 2021, funds having been found. The Merrylee Road rail overbridge at Cathcart is undergoing a total refurbishment causing delays to peak services. Services between both Queen Street LL and Central LL stations and Partick were disrupted for most of 1 September 2020 following a fire in the tunnel. A detailed inspection of the tunnel structure was essential before trains could resume operation. The Subway provided a helpful link between the city centre (Buchanan Street and St Enoch stations) and Partick but some services serving western suburbs had to be turned at Anniesland making journeys to/from the city centre rather difficult.

FLOOD DAMAGE The Edinburgh – Glasgow main line was closed on 19 August 2020 after very heavy rain caused the adjacent Union Canal to overflow and wash away 300m of the railway infrastructure near Polmont. Several masts for the overhead power wires were swept away. Engineers indicated that repairs could take up to 2 months to be completed.

SILENCE TO REMEMBER All railway stations in Scotland fell silent for one minute at 0943 on 19 August 2020 to remember those affected by the serious derailment at Carmont (near Stonehaven) one week earlier. Three people on the train died and the other six on board were rushed to a local hospital when a train was derailed by a landslip across the tracks.

TEMPORARY SHUTTLE A shuttle service was introduced between Aberdeen, Portlethan, and Stonehaven on 31 August 2020. This replaces a service that has not run since the Carmont derailment. Some of the shuttle trains operate across Aberdeen to Dyce or Inverurie.

MODEL RAIL GLASGOW 2021. The event has been cancelled since the Exhibition Centre in which it would be held has been converted into a Nightingale Hospital (thankfully unused so far) and it is necessary to keep this emergency hospital ready for service should the virus pandemic become more active.

EAST KILBRIDE Scotrail announced on 2 September 2020 that after electrification has been completed a service of four trains per hour would operate for much of the day. Hairmyers station would be moved 600m to the west to serve a new housing area.

EDINBURGH TRAMS An overnight stabling area is to be provided at the Newhaven terminus so that the first services each day can be a little earlier.

ISLE OF MAN The Snaefelll Mountain Railway should have celebrated its 125th anniversary this year but apart from a single special working in June 2020 there have been no services at all up the mountain this year. Some sort of celebration may take place during 2021.

12 August 2020

FREIGHTLINER has acquired a further thirteen Class 90 electric locomotives bringing the number owned to twenty five.

MORE GOVERNMENT FUNDS A further £37.4m was allocated on 8 Aug 2020 by the Dept for Transport to help fund the nation’s light railways over the next 16 weeks on which passenger levels remain low.

TUNNELLING MACHINES The machines that will eat their way through the Chilterns for the 10 mile long twin tunnel for the HS2 main line, have been named after local personalities by the pupils of nearby Meadow High School and Chalfonts Community College. “FLORENCE” is named after Florence Nightingale the pioneer who changed nursing and who lived in Claydon, Bucks. “CECILIA” is named after the pioneering astronomer and astrophysicyst Cecilia Payne- Gaposchkin who was born nearby.

FARES CUT LNER slashed its fares on Mondays – Thursdays for journeys on the ECML including to Leeds, from 10 August until early September 2020 – but not over the late August Bank Holiday weekend. London – Edinburgh was cut to £20 single in standard class or £40 in first class. London – Leeds is just £10 standard class. Senior Railcard discounts do not apply!

CLIFFSEND This is a planned new commuter station near Ramsgate in Kent. The cost has been spiralling upwards and is now £34.5m but the Department of Transport has chipped in with a grant of £12m making the building of the station a possibility again.

REDUNDANT SIGNAL BOX London Bridge Signal Box is a large 1970s structure that sits above the arches carrying the railway above Bermondsey Street and below London bridge station. Any ideas about possible future uses for this large building? It may end up as a large empty space.

CHERTSEY A large water main close to a level crossing and the station burst at about 0635 on 4 August 2020. The water shot into the air reaching higher than adjacent buildings. The road across the adjacent railway was closed for several hours but trains were able to crawl slowly past the fountain of water.

LUL Various planned developments have been either cancelled or delayed due to the virus pandemic. Cancelled is the £2.45bn project to resignal the Piccadilly Line allowing trains to operate every 90 seconds boosting capacity by 60%. New rolling stock for the line is being delivered in 2022 and this will increase capacity by 20% but without the new signals the old timetable will remain. The reconstruction of Camden Town station on the Northern Line has also been halted for at least a year. Planning work on Crossrail 2 has also been delayed.

CLASS 345 The new trains started operating in nine car formations between Paddington High Level (i.e. the main line station) and Heathrow Airport on 30 July 2020.

EAST FARLEIGH The level crossing at this station on the Maidstone – Paddock Wood line was upgraded from manually operated gates in 2019 but the new electrically powered gates are now controlled from a signal box some distance away. A major problem now exists since a significant number of cars are being driven round the closing gates past flashing red lights. The car numbers are being recorded and passed to the police.

BRANDON The future of the 1845 station building on the Ely – Norwich main line has been secured by grants from various charities. The ticket hall featured in the TV show “Dad’s Army”. The car park is to be enlarged from 6 to 100 spaces.

BURY ST EDMUNDS The Ipswich – Cambridge line had to be closed for a short time during the afternoon of 7 August 2020 due to a fire in the adjacent British Sugar factory. Once it was felt that trains could pass the site slowly but safely services were resumed.

NORWICH Services to London Liverpool Street, Stansted Airport, and Cambridge were delayed for at least an hour after a lorry struck a railway over-bridge close to Norwich Station around noon on 3 August 2020. A Costa Coffee unit is to be set up on then Norwich station concourse.

EAST COAST MAIN LINE The 1139 Newcastle to Penzance Cross Country service was found to be on fire when it called at Darlington on 6 August 2020. A bird had become stuck in an extractor fan incinerating the poor bird.

PORTWAY This new single platform park and ride station is to be built between Shirehampton and Avonmouth. Construction begins in the near future and the station will open in the summer of 2021. Central Government’s “Getting Building Fund” will provide £1.5m towards the cost.

CARDIFF PARKWAY Public consultations are under way concerning this planned station midway between Cardiff and Newport. It would serve a new business park creating more than 6000 jobs and provide much needed park-and-ride facilities. The station will cost £120m.

WOLVERHAMPTON Work to demolish the last parts of the old High Level station building started on 3 August 2020.

WEST MIDLANDS Several projects are now under way or about to start following the receipt of Government funding. To summarise, the projects now funded are 1. University Station which is being completely rebuilt. The new station will be substantially larger than the old. Cost £15.1m. 2. The Very Light Rail Innovation centre at Dudley, overlooked in many surveys, to receive £12.4m to continue develop cheaper, and faster modes of transport. 3. The Very Light Rail system in Coventry is to receive £1.8m.

HS2 BRIDGE A 2700 tonne bridge was eased into place across the M42. This is a significant part of the civil engineering works required at the future interchange between the Motorways beside the NEC.

REDDITCH The southern terminus of the Cross-City Line is to be enlarged with a new building and a 70 bed hotel. The car park will be substantially enlarged.

WALSALL Suggestions to open stations at Darlaston and Willenhall will depend on the local Council first giving approval at its meeting on 20 October 2020. Passenger services ceased at Darlaston on 4 October 1965 and Willenhall 1 November 1965. The Department of Transport will later decide which plans across the country to finance.

ROSE HILL The Marple (Rose Hill) to Manchester Picadilly line may be closed from early September until early December 2020 because the operator (Northern) has a staffing problem due to the pandemic. Local MPs are urging Northern to rethink since passengers will be stranded.

HEYSHAM A bridge over the railway linking the town to the port and the power stations is to be refurbished during six weekends in August and September 2020.

ISLE OF MAN The 2020 Tourist Season has been dealt devastating blows by the virus pandemic. The Manx Electric Railway summer service started on 13 March 2020 but was suspended six days later due to the pandemic. A limited service was restarted on 25 July 2020 with visitors from Guernsey in mind. Trains operated basically at weekends until mid September 2020 with eight Douglas – Ramsey return trips and a single late afternoon short working between Douglas and Laxey. No service was provided to Snaefell.

MANCHESTER – LEEDS In an statement on 8 August 2020 the main line via Huddersfield is to be electrified and Government funding of £589m was released so that the work can get under way. It is hoped that much of the freight clogging the trans-Pennine highway will switch to rail.

TYNE & WEAR METRO The glorious sunshine at the end of July 2020 tempted many people to take the Metro to the seaside with a total of 57,000 using the trains on 31 July 2020. This was the busiest day since the lockdown hit the community in March 2020. Major track replacement work is taking place during August 2020 between Gateshead and along the South Tyneside line. A third hand out of money from the Department of Transpoprt (£8.5m) will enable upgrade work to begin.

EDINBURGH WAVERLEY The large station in the heart of Edinburgh is to be the subject of a masterplan. The most obvious feature will be a mezzanine floor over the entire station area above the platforms. There will be easy access from several streets and then down to each platform.

FLOODS Very heavy rail fell on south west Scotland on 4 August 2020 resulting in line closures due to floods. These included Queen Street – Lenzie, the West Highland line north of Helensburgh, the A83 “Rest and be Thankful” road to Inveraray, the railway between Shotts and Hartwood, and around the Glengarnock area affecting both the roads and railway. More downpours struck on 11 and 12 August 2020 resulting in widespread floods and delays to all forms of public transport.

GLASGOW HIGH STREET This station on the east-west Queen Street Low Level network is tired and weary looking. It is just down the hill from the traditional hub of the city grouped around the medieval Cathedral, the dispensary established by the church (now grown into The Royal Infirmary where this writer was trained in medicine), and various ecclesiastical buildings including Provand’s Lordship, the oldest building still standing in the city (built 1471). For those who failed to follow the guidance of these forces for good – Duke Street Prison was adjacent! Glasgow City Council with Transport Scotland have agreed a grant of £10m towards the upgrade of the station as part of plans to attract more tourists. At present the station is used by 400,000 people each year, but this could rise to 1.5m if more tourists visited the area. (A personal aside – while I was working in the Royal Infirmary the Government introduced charges for prescribed medicines. It really hurt to have to take money from ill people. The Dispensary had provided medicines of all sorts totally free of charge for about five hundred years. Progress I suppose.)

SCHOOL SPECIALS Many pupils are staying close to the school in Oban to avoid having to travel long distances to or from their remote homes. They are staying for four nights each week in school premises in Dalmally, travel on a special train from Dalmally arriving Oban at 0835, and returning back to Dalmally on a special service leaving Oban at 1611.

ARBROATH Sad news from the resort seaside town. The well known miniature railway that runs alongside the ECML just south of the town is to close down in September 2020. Originally 7.25” gauge, but soon relaid with 10.25” track, the line opened in 1935 and carried 13,350 passengers in it first year. Traffic was often over 14,000 in a year, but recently has fallen to just 3500 in 2019. The Kerr family have owned the line throughout its existence and the present owner will retire this summer. The only hope would be a new owner who would have to pay to refurbish the track.

SERIOUS DERAILMENT The 0638 from Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street was derailed at Carmont, just south of Stonehaven, at about 0945 on 12 August 2020. Thunderstorms had hit the area and the train driver saw that the track ahead of the train had been disrupted. The driver reversed direction using Carmont crossover but the track bed became distorted ahead of the moving train which was derailed. Part of the five coach train came off the track plunging down the side of an embankment. The driver, conductor and one passenger were killed while six other passengers required hospital treatment.

TIMBER TRAFFIC Timber cut down in the far north of Scotland is being taken by rail from Georgemas Junction to Inverness where it is transferred to a sawmill. This is an experiment intended to last for six weeks and could see bulky traffic taken off the A9 road.

3 August 2020

MODEL RAIL GLASGOW The 2021 show will be held in Hall 3 of the Exhibition Centre on 26, 27, and 28 February 2021. Advance booking of tickets is advised to avoid the usual very long queue to reach the ticket sales point.

ALSTOM The French company is reported to be poised to purchase Bombardier’s rail business.

FREIGHTLINER Some Freightliner services are being lengthened to make operations more efficient. The termini at Southampton, Manchester, and Leeds are being adapted.

CLASS 317 The Department of Transport have given permission for members of the class not yet modified to meet disability requirements to continue in operation for a further period. The trains require modifications to seating, handrails, and toilets so that they can be used by disabled people.

ISLAND LINE £26m having been secured to update the track and infrastructure of the Ryde Pier – Shanklin line, the replacement of the Class 483 rolling stock is under way. The two-car class 483 trains started life in 1938 on the London Underground and have worked the Island Line service since 1959. They are to be replaced soon by Class 484 two-car trains which have been rebuilt by Vivarail from Underground D78 stock – built originally by Metro-Cammell in the late 1970s.

FAWLEY BRANCH A special train ran on 28 July 2020 along the branch to allow Hampshire County Councillors see the areas that could be served by a restored service.

BRIGHTON Superb weather attracted crowds seeking a spell beside the sea on 1 August 2020 and producing dangerously packed trains and packed-solid concourse at Brighton station.

WEYMOUTH HARBOUR The street track in Weymouth will be removed during October 2020.

MARSH BARTON There have been years of needless delays but at last the plans for a new station between Exeter and Newton Abbot have been completed and submitted to Devon County Council for approval. The station is designed to take workers to and from a new industrial estate and there is no car park at the station.

DEVON METRO? Network Rail’s plans for development of services in Devon include an hourly “Devon Metro” service between Axminster and Exeter St David’s. This might be extended across the County to Barnstable.

NEW SIGNALLING London Bridge Signalling Centre closed in late July 2020 as the £81m signalling scheme covering much of South London reached the half way point. In all 92 LED signal heads are being installed plus controls for 86 sets of points. The power supply is being upgraded and new turnback facilities installed at Hither Green, Grove Park and Lee.

SOUTHEND PIER New trains are nearly ready to take over services along the UK’s longest Pier Railway. Severn Lamb supplied the existing diesel trains that have seats for 180. The new train will hold 244 people and the green + cream livery was chosen by the users in a poll giving three choices. The new trains will be powered by lithium batteries and there will be audio-visual displays on the trains to make the ride more enjoyable.

STANSTED EXPRESS The first two of ten Stadler class 745/1 emus entered service between Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport on 28 July 2020.

CATERING LNER is to resume on-board catering, discontinued in March 2020 as a result of the virus pandemic. As an experiment at seat service will be introduced in Standard Class coaches. Passengers will order their drink or snack using their phone and these items will be brought to the passenger in their seat. There will be no buffet counter and no need to walk along the train to get some food. LNER hopes that if the new arrangement is successful in initial tests it will be introduced on most LNER services.

HS2 The French design for the catenary over the London to West Midlands section of HS2 is to be adopted. It is the only design that is OK for speeds of up to 360 km/hour.

GRAND CENTRAL The Company resumed its services between London and Northern England on 27.July 2020 adding one return trip to each route.

CROSSRAIL The total cost of building the cross-London line is nearing £20bn.

IPSWICH – CAMBRIDGE Services could be doubled if track improvements were implemented. Cambridge station and the line to Bishops Stortford were 175 years old on 29 July 2020.

STEVENAGE A £40m upgrade has been completed a year ahead of schedule. A fifth platform and track have been added and a half-hour service established to and from the Hertford Loop line. Better connections are now available all-day-long between suburban stations and ECML fast services which are now calling regularly at Stevenage.

TRANSPORT FOR WALES This Welsh Government organisation is moving to brand new headquarters in Pontypridd and the move is seen as one that brings new employment and hope to an area of Wales hit very badly by floods earlier in 2020.

CARDIFF CROWDS Particularly strong sunshine on 31 July 2020 brought out massive crowds anxious to enjoy the delights of Barry Island, near Cardiff. The road to Barry was packed solid by a three mile long traffic jam. The trains were running smoothly but were jam-packed with sun-seekers.

UNIVERSITY STATION The final go-ahead for the total reconstruction of this West Midlands station was given in late July 2020. The station is expected to double its present use to over 7m per year. When built only 40,000 people were expected to use it annually.

LEA HALL A passenger waiting for a train had a cardiac arrest at 1250 on 30 July 2020. The emergency services responded with ambulance and medical teams. But could not revive the man. The station was closed until late afternoon.

LIVERPOOL AREA The new class 777 Merseyrail emus are, sadly, arriving already covered in graffiti that will take thousands of pounds to clean off. Some of the new emus were stored for a short time in Tonbridge, Kent before being taken north.

AVANTI/WCML The West Coast Main Line runs through a cutting near Stoke-on-Trent and the earth near the top of the cutting has become unstable and cracks have appeared in the road surface close to the top of the cutting. The earth has been stabilised by driving steel roads deep into the earth and it is hoped that the cracking problem will now have been solved. Avanti’s Voyager fleet is to be overhauled by Bombardier at a cost of £8.3m. The overhead power cable between Preston and Carlisle is to be made more stable in a project lasting between Summer 2020 and Spring 2021. The strength of the winds over Shap Summit can be extremely challenging.

MANCHESTER Two tall blocks are to be built on vacant land alongside Victoria Station. The first will contain a range of one, two or three bedroom flats. The second block will be for office developments only. Both will add to traffic handled on the local railways and to Metrolink trams.

BLACKPOOL The heritage trams are to make their first appearance this year at the August Bank Holiday and remain in use until the end of September. The illuminated trams will run between October 2020 and January 2021. Advance booking will be essential at busy times.

BUCKSHAW PARKWAY This station, opened 3 October 2011 has built up more traffic than expected and the car park is full before the end of the morning rush hour. A £20,000 study has been funded by Chorley Council to decide if a multi-storey car park is needed.

HUDDERSFIELD A £1.9m upgrade is likely to go ahead with the support of the local Council. A feature of the improvements will be a smooth pedestrian walkway between the railway and bus stations which are some distance apart.

GLASGOW SUBWAY A passenger was refused a ticket because he had offered to pay the correct amount with money. Someone behind him in the queue then paid with a card and accepted the money from his fellow traveller. The passenger was then followed down to the platform by an angry staff member complaining that the customer had used money. In fact there is no ban on the use of money to pay for transportation and the passenger concerned had no other means of payment.

GLASGOW AREA Hillington East on the main line towards Paisley, Ayr, Wemyss Bay and Gourock was closed for most of the afternoon of 26 July 2020. A passenger fell off the platform landing on the track. The emergency services were in attendance almost immediately and the man was found to have received serious head injuries. It took a considerable time to move him to an ambulance during which time normal services along the route were halted. Before track reduction work this was a four track main line with a pair of central tracks for non-stops and the local stations served by often infrequent services. A very heavy downpour fell on the area south west of Glasgow on 26 July 2020. The main road through Johnstone towards Milliken Park was flooded and all traffic was halted until the water had soaked away. Linwood Toll roundabout was brought to a standstill but later a 20 mph speed limit was introduced and road traffic resumed, albeit slowly. The fire alarms went off at Central Station at 1030 on 31 July 2020 and it appeared that there was a problem in the Low Level section. Fire crews and ambulances were alerted but no sign of a fire was found but it took until early afternoon for the Low Level platforms to be reopened.

AYR The fragmenting station hotel has still not been removed but new staff accommodation is being built on platform 4 replacing a temporary structure that is taking up space in the car park. A new ticket office is also to be built.

NEW ELECTRIFICATION Initial work on conversion of the lines from Glasgow Central to East Kilbride and Barrhead has begun.

EDINBURGH AREA The City Council has approved a £1.3m Waterfront regeneration scheme that will include 3500 houses, modern offices in what used to be the NBR station complex (closed to passenger traffic 2 November 1925, and freight 1 June 1960).

BINDWELLS This is the name of a new town being built on the site of the former Cockenzie Power Station. Initial plans show a new station in the middle of the town. Network Rail plan to quadruple the ECML through the area with the platforms for the new station on the outer tracks. A semi-fast service between Edinburgh and Berwick would be introduced and this would serve the reopened halts at East Linton and Reston.

LONGANNET This location near Dunfermline was the site of the last coal-fired power station in Scotland. It closed in 2018 but the site is to be developed by several industries including Spanish train builder Talgo. The West Fife railway serves the area which includes the medieval village of Culross (pronounced “Cooras”) and will be developed into part of an electrified circular route through South West Fife and towards Stirling. Culross has a stunning selection of medieval buildings ranging from a palace to commercial buildings and to humble homes.

13 July 2020

MISS HAZEL HILL (Mrs Hazel Baker) is not a name often associated with war-winning actions. Hazel as a 13 year old school girl proved to be a mathematics genius and was asked by her father to help him during the mid 1930s with his design for the all important Spitfire fighter plane. Hazel’s youthful suggestions made it possible to double the number of guns on each Spitfire from 4 to 8 – a factor of great significance during the Battle of Britain and enabled the British force to win mastery in the air. She went on to enjoy a career in the field of mathematics, was a founder member of the Sutton Coldfield Association of University Women, and was sometimes present at meetings in this writer’s home. Hazel died ten years ago but only now is some of her work becoming recognised.

CRICH The National Tramway Museum at Crich, Derbyshire reopens to the public on 11 July 2020. There will be various restrictions for visitors and volunteers. Visitors will have to follow designated routes around the exhibits and although it will be possible to ride on a tram boarding and departing will take place at the Town End Terminus only.

SHORT PLATFORMS Several stations in Wales plus a few in northern England are being closed temporarily while problems with the length of their platforms is resolved. Llanfair PG, and Valley on Anglesey, Conwy, Gilfach Fargoed, and Sugar Loaf in Wales, plus Yorton, Prees, Hopton Heath, and Earlestown in England are affected and in some cases it may be necessary to relocate the station completely since there is inadequate space to extend the existing platforms.

RAMSGATE Power to the third rail had to be turned off during the late evening of 6 July 2020 when a confused individual was noted to be wandering on the track. The British Transport Police safely removed him and services resumed after a two hour standstill.

WANTAGE ROAD After many protests including from the local MP this station has now been included in the list of those that might be reopened.

CAMBERWELL The inner south-London station, closed as long ago as 1916 is being considered for reopening since the locality around the station has altered greatly with many work places nearby.

MANNINGTREE A horse box towed by a private car became stuck on 12 July 2020 trying to pass through a low railway bridge and held up road traffic for several hours.

MANEA Many calls at this little halt near Ely (Cambs) were axed from 6 July 2020 “until September” with little warning. A significant community has been built beside the station during the last few years, about a mile from the main part of the village.

NOTTINGHAM NET is replacing worn rails between Royal Centre and Old Market Square during the period 20 June until 19 July 2020. A bus shuttle is being run between Royal Centre and Nottingham Station.

DONCASTER WORKS The famous works that produced “Flying Scotsman” may make 450 staff redundant since modern trains need less work to keep them going. The site could be sold off and a famous Works become history if talks with the Trades Unions do not produce agreement.. In August it will be 80 years since LNER 6701 emerged from the Works – the prototype electric locomotive intended for the 41.5 mile long Manchester to Sheffield Woodhead Route. A further 57 Bo-Bo locomotives – Class EM1 (later designated class 76) emerged plus 7 of the larger Co-Co machines. The Woodhead Line system was intended to be the standard for long distance electric operation in the UK but this had not seen the emergence of high voltage AC operation as the new standard.

GOOLE A new fleet of Piccadilly Line trains will be built at a new £200m Siemens factory in Goole. The factory will be seeking the contract to build trains for HS2.

SHEFFIELD Finance for a £5.4m new tram stop at Magna on the Parkgate route has been obtained. Work is likely to start on the project later this year.

DRIVERLESS TRAINS The Government has given £1.6bn to support West Coast services due to the collapse in traffic due to the virus pandemic. Before further grants are made the Government wants Transport for London services to become driverless. The Trades Unions point out that TfL do have have sufficient money for signalling upgrades that will be necessary if driverless operation can be introduced.

BRIGHTON – LEWES This line was closed for two hours on the evening of 4 July 2020 after a pedestrian, trying to sprint across the track was hit by a speeding train and died at the spot.

EXBURY GARDENS The 200 acre attraction in the New Forest has a narrow gauge railway that threads its way though the gardens. The railway will reopen for visitors during July 2020.

AVANTI WEST COAST The first nine body shells for the new fleet that will run between Euston, the West Midlands, North Wales, and Liverpool arrived at Southampton Docks on 5 July 2020. They were built in Hitachi’s Kasado factory in Japan en-route to Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe factory in Co Durham. There will be 13 class 805 five-car bi-mode trains and 10 class 807 all-electric seven car trains all introduced by 2022 on services at present given by Voyager trains.. Despite this Avanti West Coast has given the £8.3m contract to overhaul the Voyagers to Bombardier but it is unclear which services these might operate.

TILE HILL The Birmingham – Coventry was closed for a short time on 5 July 2020 following the failure of a train at Tile Hill. Another train was able to approach behind the failed train then push it into Coventry station allowing normal services to resume.

BIRMINGHAM INTERCHANGE Construction of the planned new station where the HS2 line to Birmingham Curzon Street, the WCML International Station, Birmingham Airport, long distance and local bus services, and the major Exhibition Centre all come together is to start during the summer of 2020.

HS 2 Park Street, alongside the site of the future Curzon Street HS2 terminus in Birmingham, is to be closed permanently to allow the building of the station.

MIDLAND METRO A major Black Country road, Sedgley Road West, will be closed for up to six weeks during autumn 2020 in order to remove a fragile bridge on the route of the extension to Merry Hill.

BRIDGE STRIKES The bridge taking the Cross City Line over St John Street close to Lichfield City station is hit more often than any other bridge on Network Rail. It has been struck 28 times during the past twelve months. Road works on the nearby A5 highway begin during the weekend of 11/12 July 2020 and quite lengthy diversionary routes have been signposted. Some commercial vehicle drivers may attempt to use a shorter diversionary route known to them and this will lead in some cases to too high vehicles attempting to travel below the St John Street bridge.

TETTENHALL Plans for a station in the suburbs of Wolverhampton are advancing. This would be the first stop out from Wolverhampton by semi-fasts and locals heading to or from Shrewsbury.

HEART OF WALES Damage to a rail over river bridge near Pontarddulais halted services between Llanelli and Llandrindod Wells and replacement bus shuttles were introduced. Because some stations are in remote locations the replacement service comprised a normal-sized coach plus a minibus which ran to the remote halts and connected with the coach at several points. It was expected to take until 3 August 2020 before through rail services could resume along the full length of the route..

SNAEFELL The Snaefell Mountain Railway was opened on 21 August 1895 and to celebrate the 125th anniversary a set of six postage stamps was issued by the Isle of Man Post Office on 25 June 2020. A celebration pack of these stamps is available for £8.75 and a commemorative book has also been published.

BRIDGNORTH The Cliff Railway is to reopen at weekends after the staff have received training about dealing with the virus pandemic.

MERSEYSIDE A major bridge strengthening/renewal project will enable the railway bridge over the A570 Rainford Bypass in St Helens to be fit for purpose for many decades to come. Fifty caravans belonging to travellers occupied the station car park at Spital during the weekend of 11/12 July 2020. The car park at Bromborough (in the Wirral) is being reconstructed and will have 50 extra spaces when it reopens early in 2021.

LEIGH Moves to reopen two stations to serve the largest town in the north west with no direct rail service are being backed by the local MP. Although there was once a town centre station which cannot easily be reopened, both Kenyon Junction (Closed 2 January 1961) and Golborne (closed 6 February 1961) could serve the town and both lie on lines with existing passenger services.

MANCHESTER The Department of Transport has awarded £10m to Network Rail to explore ways to ease the severe congestion on railways around the west side of the city, especially on the Castlefield Corridor.

SHEFFIELD VICTORIA A grant from the Department of Transport will examine the possible reopening of this city centre station which might become the terminus of a reopened route to Chesterfield via Barrow Hill, closed in 1963.

NEW SERVICE STARTS An Azuma train left Bradford Foster Square terminus at 0843 on 6 July 2020, calling at Shipley at 0850 before continuing to Leeds en route to Kings Cross. A return train left Kings Cross at 1633.

KEIGHLEY & WORTH VALLEY There has been talk of operating morning and evening commuter services, connecting with trains to/from Leeds or Bradford since the line closed on 18 June 1962. Discussions are under way again with the commuter services as an addition to the off-peak heritage trains.

STALLINGBOROUGH The level crossing at this station near Grimsby was closed for several hours on 6 July 2020 after a pedestrian trying to run across the crossing as a train approached, was struck and killed.

CONSETT This rapidly growing town south west of Newcastle upon Tyne used to have rail links in several directions including two to Newcastle. A firm proposal to rebuild the line leading to MetroCentre on the Newcastle – Carlisle line is being considered in a £50,000 study.

TYNE & WEAR Metro car 4001 has been given special liveries to mark the 40th anniversary of the Metro service. One end comprising one third of the car has been given the original attractive white and yellow livery. The middle third shows two liveries used after a refurbishing project involving solid blocks of blue or red. The final one third shows the current black and grey scheme.

TS QUEEN MARY The famous Clyde Steamer is undergoing a major refit at a berth in Govan. When the work is completed it will once again operate carrying large loads brought by routine and special emu worked services.

GOVERNMENT AID £9m of emergency funding has been made by the Edinburgh Government to the Glasgow Subway and Edinburgh tramway, both of which have lost a large proportion of their traffic and income from fares due to the pandemic.

REOPENED The Fort William – Mallaig line, washed out at Lochailort by heavy rains, was reopened on 13 July 2020.

DISTURBANCE Three men were arrested following a brawl at Queens Park Station, on the Cathcart Circle, during the evening of 11 July 2020.

INVERNESS The Ness Islands Railway – a miniature line on an island in the middle of the River Ness near the heart of Inverness – is operated to aid the Highland Hospice in Inverness. It opened for its 2020 season on 6 July 2020 having been delayed from March by the pandemic.

2 July 2020

FIFTY REQUESTS The Department of Transport has received fifty requests to reopen lines and stations that had been closed by Beeching. These range across the country and include attempts to restore significant towns (such as Consett, Ashington and Blyth in the north east) to the railway network. Meanwhile the Prime Minister announced availability of £10m to help plan schemes to improve capacity and reliability issues. Rail Minister Chris Heaton – Harris had received already ten bids to reopen lines lost in the Beeching cuts.

3RD RAIL ELECTRIFICATION A study has been undertaken into this form of electrification with most 3rd rail 750V dc being in south east England plus a small amount around Liverpool. “Fill in” schemes may be appropriate in the south east although there are always safety considerations with a third rail. New schemes could include the Fawley branch, and Isle of Grain line. Extensions in Merseyside to Skelmersdale are often talked about.

FALL IN TRAFFIC In the past three months British Train Operating Companies (TOCs) have carried just 30m passengers compared with 439m a year before. Traffic has fallen by 93%. The TOCs are demanding cash from the Government or they will stop running the trains.

SCHEMES ABANDONED Electrification projects that have been held up for long periods, have now officially been abandoned. These include the main line between Cardiff and Swansea (there have been arguments about whether the UK or Welsh Governments should pay for this); Leeds to Manchester; and the Windermere branch.

BATTERIES Zenobe Energy has secured £20m finance to power 100 buses using improved more efficient batteries. The bus companies would no longer have to pay for the batteries used on its buses or for the equipment used to service the batteries. The cost of battery power would become part of a service contract which would overall save the bus operator a significant amount of money.

BEACH TRAFFIC Trains running from London to points along the Channel Coast were packed during the sunny weather on 24/25 June 2020. It was apparent that many people crowding on to the beach at points such as Bournemouth were ignoring the social distancing rules and the Police felt unable to do anything about it. Later a “major incident” was declared as thousands flocked to the sands and Dorset Police later issued Disposal Orders enabling them to clear the beaches.

NORMAN’S BAY All services were halted between Eastbourne and Ashford following an incident at Norman’s Bay station at 0500 on 24 June 2020. A person walking along the track was hit by a moving train and later died at the scene.

NEWHAVEN HARBOUR The passenger station here has been disused for several years and will be formally “closed” later this year. The area will then be redeveloped for freight traffic.

CRAYFORD A serious incident took place at 1900 on 23 June 2020 when someone was hit by a train and sustained serious injuries. All services through Crayford were at a stand for two hours.

SOUTH WESTERN Trains from Reading and Windsor to Waterloo are being replaced by new stock boosting capacity by 46%. Ninety new trains (sixty with ten cars and thirty with five cars are being delivered with testing of the trains starting in early July 2020. Among new facilities for passengers are phone charging systems, Wi-Fi, and toilets. They will be based at Feltham Depot.

UCKFIELD LINE Oxted Viaduct, built 1881, takes the Uckfield branch over the A25 and River Eden and is to be completely refurbished at a cost of many millions. On the same line the Eridge station footbridge is to be replaced.

GUILDFORD LANDSLIP A landslip in a deep cutting beside the entrance to St Catherine’s Tunnel held up services during the weekend of 20/21 June 2020. It will take months of work by civil engineering staff to complete repairs.

BRISTOL AREA The Bristol MetroWest project may be extended north to Gloucester and east to Westbury with several new stations opened in the Bristol area and more frequent services provided. Phase One has been under way for some time and includes the reopening of the Portishead branch and improved services to Severn Beach and to Bath. Phase Two includes the reopening of the Henbury line (hourly service) and a half-hourly service to Yate. Later phases include an extension of local services to Gloucester (the “natural” or “obvious” terminus for local services) and the extension of Bath local to Westbury.

EXMOUTH Large scale disturbances on the beach, in front of the station, and on the concourse took place around midnight on 24/25 June 2020. The disturbances seem to have started after a car crash outside the station.

GWENDRAETH CYCLEWAY? A proposal to convert part of the branch from Burry Port along the Gwaendraeth Valley into a cycleway awaits an answer from the Transport Department. A similar request to reopen the 2.3km Queensbury Tunnel near Bradford produced an offer of £4m which has been described as disappointingly small.

DOCKLANDS Transport for London has selected CAF to supply forty threee 5-car driverless light metro cars to work on the Docklands lines from 2023.

WRONG WAY! A Chiltern Railways “up” London-bound service at Chalfont & Latimer station on the morning of 23 June 2020 ran through points and ended up on the track for down Metropolitan Line services. It stopped just feet from an incoming service. Because of the damaged points the Chesham branch was replaced by a bus shuttle for the rest of the day.

EAST – WEST RAILWAY Work will progress between 1 September and 7 December 2020 in creating a new railway between Oxford and Bedford, with work already advanced to remove the former flyover at Bletchley. A later phase will continue the route to Cambridge. The completed East – West line will link the Great Western, Chiltern, West Coast and Midland Main Lines.

ECML A £350m investment in new electronic signalling will help to cut journey times and prevent delays. Signallers will know precisely where every train is and there will be no conventional trackside signals. As the speed of trains increases these would become increasingly difficult to spot. A disused tunnel bore on the approach to Kings Cross terminus is being brought back into use with a conductor rail rather than a conventional power wire along the roof.

LNER AWARD The London North Eastern Railway Coy has been given a Direct Award to continue operating East Coast Main Line services for a further three year period.

PETERBOROUGH GB Railfreight has started to use new sidings at the intermodal depot.

CLASS 803 The construction of five all-electric trains for use on the ECML began in late June 2020 at the Hitachi factory in Newton Aycliffe.

CAMBRIDGE SOUTH The site of a possible new station at Cambridge South is open for discussion. It would serve the largest biomedical research facility in Europe that includes the world-famous Addenbroke’s Hospital. The new Cambridge North station has become a major success after a seemingly slow start.

SPALDING The cost of upgrading this station is now estimated at £2.5m. The work is on-going and includes the installation of a lift.

DONCASTER-SHEFFIELD AIRPORT There are calls for a rail link to be built to this airport. It will need to leave the ECML near Bawtry by means of a flying junction.

HULL TRAINS The train operator has been unable to run trains or earn income from selling travel tickets and is reported to be on the point of collapse unless it receives a bale-out from the Government as given to several other operators.

MORE STORMS Extremely heavy rainfall on 17 June 2020 resulted in flooding in many towns across the Midlands including in parts of North Birmingham and Nottingham. A quite horrendous downpour flooded the tracks in the Chinley area on 27 June 2020. Services between Manchester and Sheffield were halted.

HS2 Iron Age burial sites have been discovered on the route of HS2 at Coleshill, near Solihull. Three firms or groups of firms have been shortlisted for the contract to build Curzon Street Station in Birmingham. They are Laing O’Rourke, Mace and Dragados and BAM Nuttall. The new station is expected to cost £570m.

BIRMINGHAM NEW STREET The station has been reorganised with a series of walking routes into and out of the station. Staff are positioned throughout the station to direct people in the one way to go when most passengers seem to want to walk in another direction. Most of the snack outlets in the station have been closed for the duration of the virus pandemic.

BIRMINGHAM TRAMS These were operating smoothly on 20 June 2020 with apparently no need for specific boarding or leaving points on each tram.

LICHFIELD TV New lifts are to be installed between the WCML and Cross Country platforms.

DUNSTON A new station is proposed between Penkridge and Stafford to serve an adjacent garden village that will have 3000 residents.

WALSALL – WOLVERHAMPTON Passenger services linked these towns until 1965 and in 1998-2008. The line will soon be reopened once more with restored stations at Darlaston and Willenhall, There will be an hourly local service between the two towns plus an hourly service from Birmingham New Street via Tame Bridge Parkway, serving the two reopened stations and running on to Wolverhampton and Crewe. It will be formed by amending the existing Birmingham – Crewe local service.

TRENT BRIDGE A depot for trams was opened here in Nottingham in 1901 and was used until 1920. The building has now been granted Grade II Listing.

LIVERPOOL AREA Testing and staff training on the first of the fifty two class 777 Stadler emus has begun on the Wirral branch to Chester.

ISLE OF MAN In Douglas the reconstruction of the Strathallan horse tram depot was finished in late June 2020. Work on the horse tramway route along the Promenade is intermittent and nothing will be done during the summer of 2021. The Manx Electric and Snaefell lines have been closed for the 2020 season allowing the planned winter 2020-1 engineering work to be handled during the better weather of the summer season.

MANCHESTER AREA The platforms and car park at Hyde North station have been resurfaced as part of a £500,000 scheme to improved the appearance of thirteen suburban stations.

BLACKPOOL TRAMS Services were replaced by buses on 29 March 2020. Tram services will be restored on 19 July 2020 as visitor numbers to the resort start to climb.

SOUGH TUNNEL This 175 year old 1842m long tunnel required civil engineering work done to keep out trespassers. Being on the busy Clitheroe Line it was important not to disrupt the heavy flow of traffic. In a unique procedure a helicopter lowered equipment down one of the two shafts leading up from the main bore and the work was completed without interfering with the trains.

SETTLE & CARLISLE A three times per day tourist service is to operated on Mondays-Saturdays between Skipton and Appleby from 20 July until 12 September 2020. Class 47 locomotives will be used on these services. Connections from Leeds and Bradford will operate using normal services.

NEWCASTLE ON TYNE AREA The Grade 1 listed Central Station buildings are to be adapted to handle increased numbers of passengers, while preserving the main features of the 1840 structure. Work can begin later this year. The pedestrian tunnel from the Sunderland University stop under the adjacent main road was closed after a fire on the evening of 20 January 2020. Repairs have now been completed and the exit may reopen early in July 2020.

HORDEN The station on the Durham coast, closed on 4 May 1964, was reopened on 29 June 2020 at a cost of £10.55m. Closure came at a time when Peterlee New Town was starting to be developed just inland from the station. Constant campaigning has finally led to the reopening of the station. Until now most people working in Newcastle or Middlesborough have had to drive along the ever-busier A19 road. Peterlee now has a population of 70,000.

EDINBURGH AREA A second platform was completed at Dunbar station early in 2020 and work to finish off this £13m project was paused for three months but is restarting in July 2020.

FACE MASKS With the use of face masks now compulsory for anyone using public transport in the UK, Scotrail has decided to hand out free masks at its busiest stations – Glasgow Central and Queen Street, Edinburgh Waverley and Haymarket, and Paisley Gilmour Street.

GLASGOW AREA An empty double deck bus that was not following its expected route had its roof sliced off when it attempted to pass under the railway at Townsend Road close to Dumbarton town centre early on 27 June 2020. Reconstruction work at Glasgow Queen Street terminus was to restart in early July 2020.

GLASGOW SUBWAY The line has operated a one-way only service for some time and traffic is at an extremely low level. Faced with an operating loss of £20m the Subway is threatened with closure unless Government finance is provided to keep services running. A Council Committee met on 26 June 2020 to discuss the possible closure of the line. The entire Subway will be closed anyway during the weekend of 4 – 5 July 2020 to allow the installation of signalling and power cables in the Depot area.

MOTHERWELL The £14.5m redevelopment at Motherwell station started on 29 June 2020. There will be improved interchange facilities with bus services in the area, a better taxi arrival and departure point, improved ticket sales windows, and better waiting areas for passengers. Balfour Beattie has won the contract to carry out the work.

LANDSLIP The Fort William – Mallaig section of the West Highland Line was closed on 25 June 2020 following a landslip between Lochailort and Glenfinnan.

KINTORE Work on the new Aberdeen suburban station (cost £14m) is restarting during July 2020.

18 June 2020

BAIL OUT With the virus pandemic making nonsense of traffic expectations, the Government has given TOCs a £3.5bn bail out to tide them over a difficult period.

MAJOR LANDSLIP Part of a cutting near Madeley, between Stafford and Crewe, gave way around 1900 on 16 June 2020. Debris covered all four tracks and no trains could run along this section for several hours but diversions via Stoke and Macclesfield, or via Alsager were used.

NEW ELECTRIFICATION Network Rail is hopeful that the Government will authorise some projects including Didcot – Coventry, a northern extension from Market Harborough along the Midland main line, and some fill-in schemes in Great Western territory.

NEW FREIGHT ROUTE A weekly service has begun between Dove Holes Quarry (Buxton), and Crawley. The train comprises 22 wagons with a total load of 1675 tons.

TEMPLECOMBE The Waterloo – Exeter line will be closed between Gillingham and Yeovil Junction on 13-20 June 2020 to allow engineers rebuild the side of a deep cutting at Templecombe which had slipped during the recent very dry weather. Through trains will be diverted via Westbury.

WARNING LEAFLETS Information notices are being handed out to passengers joining London Underground trains on Monday 8 June 2020 telling them about the rules designed to slow the transmission of the corona virus. The RMT Union is threatening strike action because these are distributed by unpaid volunteers.

UNIPART The spare parts firm based in York is closing its Leeman Road factory during June 2020. The demand for parts has shrunk since older locomotive classes have shrunk in number and will be withdrawn from service during the next few years.

SEVERN TUNNEL Electrification of the Paddington – Cardiff main line through the 4 mile long Severn Tunnel was completed by 5 June 2020. Power is taken along the Tunnel on an aluminium power rail attached to the tunnel roof. Around 15 minutes has been taken off London – South Wales services and the route has now been electrified between the capitals of England and Wales.

FALLEN TREE The line between Brockenhurst and Lymington Town was closed throughout the morning peak on 11 June 2020 by a tree that had fallen across the tracks. A branch of the tree actually broke through one of the front windows of the train.

CLASS 701 The first ten-car emu 701002 was delivered from Derby Litchurch Lane Works to Eastleigh Works on 10 June 2020. The 701s are part of the Aventra family of trains, designed and built by Bombardier. The trains feature regenerative braking, wide entrance doors and wide gangways along each coach and between coaches, 2 + 2 seating throughout, Wi-Fi and at seat charging points, real-time information screens, air conditioning, and toilets accessible by disabled passengers.

LONGER PLATFORMS Platforms at Cooksbridge, Lancing, and Goring-by-Sea have been lengthened so that some peak trains can be lengthened to 8 coaches and not extend across level crossings, blocking road traffic. The work is part of the £150m Gatwick Airport station upgrade with services run by Govia Thameslink.

DOCKLANDS The Docklands Light Railway has started the process of taking out of service the first and last doors on all trains to give further protection to Passenger Service Agents.

CLASSES 803, 805 and 807. Avanti West Coast has ordered inter-city trains from Hitachi Rail Europe, and these will be built at the Newton Aycliffe factory. Thirteen 5-car bi-mode trains of class 805 will be used on services between Euston, Chester, and North Wales. Ten 7-car all electric trains will be used between Euston, West Midlands, and Liverpool. Five class 803 five-car trains are also being produced at Newton Aycliffe for use between Kings Cross and Edinburgh.

THAMESLINK Services were disrupted for several hours on the mornings of both 8 and 9 June 2020 following incidents when trespassers were struck by trains.

LUL The Grade 1 listed old headquarters building at 55 Broadway, designed by Charles Holden is to become a luxury hotel.

EBBW VALE A study is under way to enable the long branch to improve the service to a fifteen minute frequency, as part of the South Wales Metro project.

MILTON KEYNES A group of offices near the station is to be redeveloped into 200 flats. The work will cost £9.7m.

CROSS-CITY LINE Birmingham City Planning Committee gave permission on 4 June 2020 for the erection of new station buildings and a more capacious footbridge at University Station. The work will enable the station to handle greatly increased traffic during the 2022 Commonwealth Games. A failed emu between Longbridge and Redditch cause significant delays along the southern section of the Cross-City Line until late afternoon on 6 June 2020.

BLAKEDOWN The peaceful little used station at Blakedown on the Kidderminster – Stourbridge Junction line is about to be transformed. 6000 new houses are to be built close to the station and the car park is to be enlarged considerably. The final capacity has still to be decided.

KIDDERMINSTER The completely rebuilt station building, double the size of the old one, was opened for use by passengers on 7 June 2020. Approach paths and parking facilities have also been improved.

SCUNTHORPE A landslip close to Scunthorpe station shut the line towards Sheffield on 14 June 2020 and work to repair the damage will take until 24 June2020.

ORMSKIRK The footpath and cycleway between Ormskirk rail and bus stations, closed in January 2020, have been reconstructed with long-lasting materials and were reopened for public use at the beginning of June 2020.

SKELMERSDALE The new town near Liverpool has never had a proper station although there was a branch line through the area in pre-Beeching days. Now the site of the former Theological College has been purchased for £1 and will create a site for a station and car park.

WEST YORKSHIRE New stations are planned beside the White Rose Shopping Centre in Morley, and a Park and Ride stop at Thorpe Park at the edge of Leeds. The plans were announced two years ago and the Transport Department is now being asked for funds to make them possible.

SKIPTON An upgrade scheme for the station and its approach roads was revealed in early May 2020 and will cost £5.8m A full business case is being drawn up and funding would be from the Skipton Town Centre and the Combined Authority funds.

MIDDLESBROUGH The worn-out station with its derelict undercroft is to be completely transformed in a £35m scheme that will see every part of the station transformed and an additional platform, No 3, provided. Services will be increased with additional through trains to London, and more suburban services.

BEAMISH MUSEUM The famous museum near Durham hit the headlines on 6 May 2020 when serious financial irregularities in its management were unveiled. There have been complaints about who can use the disabled bus that takes people around the museum. Most however find that the £20 admission fee gives them a good day’s entertainment.

NEXUS A failed metro train caused long delays on the Sunderland route on 8 June 2020. Local campaigners have called for the Leamside Line to be reopened to become a point from which Tyne & Wear Metro services can be extended into County Durham. The section between St James and North Shields was closed all day on 12 June 2020 following the small hours theft of 300m of copper cable alongside the track. Metrocar 4001 has been given a special livery to mark the 40th anniversary of the metro. One side is in the 1980s colours and the other side in the 1980s scheme.

NEW DEPOT VolkerFitzpatrick is to build the new Tyne and Wear Metro Depot in Gosforth at a cost of £70m. This will provide State of the Art facilities to maintain the innovative new fleet.

WISHAW Services between Glasgow and Lanark were disrupted during the afternoon of 9 June 2020 when a wild boar wandered on to the track close to Wishaw station.

GLASGOW CENTRAL Services to/from the High Level Station were disrupted for several hours on 12 June 2020 due to a signalling equipment breakdown. Normal services resumed at 1500.

MILNGAVIE Services to/from the branch from Westerton were disrupted throughout the morning rush hour on 15 June 2020 because of a signalling fault. A £5m improvement scheme is about to start at Milngavie station. Both platforms are to be lengthened from 141m to 205m and some signals will require to be re-positioned. Changes are also needed to the positioning of the overhead power wires.

BIKE COACHES Five class 153 coaches have been modified to become “Active Travel Carriages” with space to carry safely twenty bikes and their owners. They will operate on the West Highland lines during the summer of 2020. There has been a significant increase in the use of bicycles on British roads since the start of the pandemic and unsurprisingly a similar use on trains..

SLOCHD The Highland Main Line between Carr Bridge and Inverness has been at risk of a cutting collapsing at a point just north of Carr Bridge station. The long dry spring of 2020 has threatened to destabilise the earthwork. A £4.8m project has been completed to install a new drainage system with concrete ditches to channel water away after excessive rainfall.

5 June 2020

FACEMASKS The use of a face mask when using any form of public transport is to become compulsory from 15 June 2020.

BUSIEST & QUIETEST The top ten busiest stations in the UK in 2018-9 were Waterloo (94.2m), Victoria (74.7m), Liverpool Street (69.4m), London Bridge (61.3m), Birmingham New Street (47.9m), Euston (46.1m), Stratford East London (41.2m), Paddington (38.1m), St Pancras (35.9m), Kings Cross (34.6m). Equal quietest are Denton and Stanlow & Thornton (both with 46 users in the entire year).

RADIO FAULT A nation-wide failure in the railway’s communication system has caused delays to all routes on the morning of 29 May 2020. A 100 mph speed restriction was imposed on all main lines but normal communications were restored by early afternoon.

MPs SEEK REOPENING of long closed stations. The growing list includes St Anne’s Park (near Bristol) and Killamarsh, Eckington, Whittington, and Staveley (near Sheffield), and also from Sheffield to Deepcar, Oughtibridge, Wadsley Bridge, Neepsend, and Stocksbridge. The local Council has started moves to reopen the York – Market Weighton – Beverley (with trains continuing to Hull) line – the “Minsters Line”.. Further north the reopening of Ferryhill station has been requested. However a campaign to reopen Etruria station in the Potteries has been rejected.

GOVERNMENT FUNDING The Government has so far provided £28.6m to help keep the English light rail systems operating at pre-pandemic frequencies. The sums for individual systems is Manchester Metrolink £13.3m; Tyne and Wear Metro £7.6m; Nottingham Express Transit £3.5m; Sheffield Supertram £2.6m; and West Midlands Metro £1.6m.

WATERSIDE LINE The plan to reinstate passenger services from Southampton to the Fawley branch was one of sixty submitted by local Councils to the Department of Transport which had funds to reopen a few of the routes closed by Beeching. The Waterside proposal is one of the few to be given funding that will allow the business case for reopening to be completed.

ELIZABETH LINE (Crossrail) The Paddington – Reading service has used 7-car class 315 trains that are now nearly 40 years old and were inherited from Abeillio Greater Anglia in May 2015. Now 9-car trains are taking over some services on the Shenfield section but those trains requiring to use the old stub-end platforms within Liverpool Street remain 7 cars long since these platforms are too short for nine cars. When the Elizabeth Line is fully open all trains will be 9 cars long and the platforms within Liverpool Street station will be lengthened to provide an emergency turning point if required. The new Central London Stations are to be handed over the Transport for London sooner than planned during autumn 2020. Construction work at Bond Street and Whitechapel stations had caused problems resulting in delays but work there has now been signed-off and a start to trial running is likely this summer.

LUL Thirty four Underground stations mainly in Central London were closed when the pandemic made the available work force too small to keep everything operating. The first four stations to reopen did so in early June 2020. Under 18 year olds and those over 60 have been able to travel free of charge on Mondays to Fridays between 0430 and 0900 if they had a Freedom Pass, a National Bus Pass, or 60+ card.. Temporarily this concession will no longer apply after 15 June 2020 despite its availability being linked to the Government’s £16bn bale-out. It will create space for a growing number of normal fare-paying passengers. Holders of a Disabled Person’s Card will continue to be able to use their card at all times.

SELHURST TRIANGLE This route between Victoria and East Croydon is a constant cause of delays which result from even a brief delay to any service using the Junction. Network Rail would like to install a series of flyovers and diveunders and are making their proposals to speed up Brighton Main Line services through Croydon public in early June 2020. Part of the Master Plan would see East Croydon station relocated slightly closer towards London.

CAMDEN HIGH LINE The 1.2km long walkway between Kentish Town Road and to Granary Square follows an abandoned railway right of way making it similar to the High Line in Manhattan Island, New York City. Both provide traffic-free safe walking routes through interesting areas.

SWINDON Vandals have caused substantial damage at the preserved Swindon and Cricklade Railway.

HARBURY The deep cutting at the entrance to Harbury Tunnel (Leamington – Banbury route) is being stabilised at a cost of £9m to prevent a further slippage incident. In 2015 one side of the cutting slipped closing the route for six weeks.

WEST MIDLANDS Older people have been able to use their free travel pass on local railways and buses before 0930 since late March 2020 when most people were “staying home”. As many were returning to work by the end of May 2020 this concession came to and end on 1 June 2020.

CLASS 230 battery hybrid trains are being built by Vivarail for Transport for Wales for use on their Wrexham – Bidston service. Adrian Shooter is CEO of Vivarail which is producing a new fleet for the West Midlands Railway. The on-board batteries will have a range of 60+ miles and have fast-charge re-charging taking just 10 minutes. Vivarail is moving from a cramped Leamington Spa site to spacious premises at Southam and are obtaining a test track facility at Barry in South Wales.

WALES Barmouth Viaduct is to receive extensive repair and upgrade work costing £25m during the second half of 2020. Much of the timber and steel work in the bridge will be replaced. The Welsh Assembly announced on 4 June 2020 that it wanted funds to build four stations – Carno and St Clears to open up rural areas, and Deeside Parkway and Ely Mill, both on the edge of Cardiiff to be park and ride facilities to reduce congestion in Cardiff.

WOLVERHAMPTON The first phase of the rebuilding of the city’s railway station was completed on 23 May 2020 and work has moved on immediately to the demolition of still standing sections of the old station. Work will now be possible on completing the extension of the West Midlands Metro to the station – a branch that will require the trams to use battery power.

DUNSTON Plans have been announced for a new garden village of 3000 homes alongside the main railway between Birmingham and Crewe. The village will have its own station on the main line between Penkridge and Stafford.

TOTON More and more information is emerging about the plans for HS2. Toton Sidings were created to handle the once massive coal traffic that used to centre on London and the south east. The coal industry is no more but Toton is to be a major transport hub midway between Derby and Nottingham costing £2.7bn where rail, bus, and tram services will come together and provide a link to many large towns around the East Midlands. In addition 4500 new homes will be built in the area and an extension to the existing Nottingham tram network will run through the new housing areas and reach Derby city centre.

NOTTINGHAM NET services through the city centre will be disrupted from 20 June until 19 July 2020 to allow the replacement of the rails.

MANEA The formerly remote and little used station near Ely has found new life after a quite large number of new houses were built next to the station – the village itself is nearly a mile away. Now a 112 space car park is to be built and a Sunday rail service provided for the first time.

HESSLE Someone walking on the track was struck and killed by a train at 1955 on 25 May 2020.

TYNE & WEAR METRO Services beyond St Peter’s have been disrupted after a BR freight train damaged the overhead power wire in the tunnel close to Sunderland Station. Repairs have been made difficult by the constrained site and Metro trains have been replaced by buses between St Peter’s and South Hylton.

WISHAW A wild boar was found on the tracks near Wishaw station during the afternoon of 4 June 2020 and could not be captured for several hours. Local trains were diverted along the WCML through the site of Wishaw South station. The boar was thought to have escaped from a private zoo.

GLASGOW SUBWAY The unusual operation with trains every six minutes on the clockwise Outer Circle only continues into June 2020. There is no service on the anti-clockwise Inner Circle. This gives an adequate service to passengers travelling to/from stations in the western part of the city but is unsuitable for people wishing to go for only one or two stops.

AIRDRIE Services on the line between Airdrie and Bathgate were halted during the afternoon of 31 May 2020 after a passenger was taken ill on board a train at Airdrie station.

FIFE CIRCLE The use of locomotives on two morning and evening peak trains to/from Edinburgh Waverley ended on 28 May 2020. Permission to use the non-compliant Mark 2 coaches on these services expires at the end of May 2020 but a sufficient number of “new” units re-using coaches from old inter-city units are now available to take over.

25 May 2020

REPAIRS Transport Secretary Shapps announced on 14 May 2020 that a major effort was being made to repair the infrastructure of the nation’s roads and railways during the pandemic when fewer trains and lorries were operating. There are literally “millions” of potholes in the roads and while traffic is lower than usual it will be easier to repair them to give the user a smoother ride. Obvious necessary repairs at stations will similarly be tackled. On 24 May 2020 the Department of Transport made available a further £35m to protect sixteen vital routes to the Channel, North Sea, and West Coast ports to ensure that supplies of food and medicines could reach the major cities.

POSSIBLE RE-OPENINGS The Department of Transport has made available funds to study the reopening of services to Newport and Ventnor line on the Isle of Wight, the Ivanhoe Line (Leicester – Burton 31 miles) and the stations at Devizes and Meir (Stoke-on-Trent).

HST MARK 3 COACHES Around 100 Mark 3 coaches from the original High Speed Trains are being scrapped since nobody is willing to lease them, accept the costs of modernising them and installing maintenance facilities for them. Scotrail has brought a few back into service in its new shorter high speed trains but otherwise there seems to be no further use for them.

OLD OAK COMMON This planned new station for which planning approval was given on 22 May 2020, will be the largest new station to be built in the UK. There will be 14 platforms, six of them for HS2 high-speed trains, all enclosed below a glorious arched roof which will need no pillars to help support it. In addition to HS2 the station will be used by the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail), Heathrow Express, and trains for Wales and the West of England.

KILSBY TUNNEL The WCML structure near Daventry was reopened on 18 May 2020 after completion of extensive repairs and upgrades. The 1.5 miles long tunnel was opened in 1837 and for many years has suffered extensive water leaks through the brick walls which were becoming degraded. The work done included laying 1.3 miles of new track, the replacement of 2458 sleepers, the removal of old ballast and laying 7700 tonnes of new ballast, the installation of 740m of new drainage, the replacement of signal cabling and maintenance of the overhead power wires. Avanti West Coast looks forward to smoother operation of the tunnel with a reduction in delays.

SOUTH EASTERN Network Rail is closing the track through Hither Green together with the Bromley North and Sidcup branches between 25 July 2020 and 2 August 2020. The signalling system in use is elderly and needs to be replaced. The £81m work was to have been done in four days over the Easter Weekend but social distancing rules now mean that the work will take nine days instead of four. The five busiest stations served by the South Eastern TOC are Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Bromley South, Dartford, and Lewisham.

GATWICK AIRPORT Work on the £150m transformation of this station entered a new phase on 17 May 2020. Innovative ways of working will be introduced keeping the activities within the revised COVID-19 social distancing safeguards. Platform 7 will be closed on 17 May 2020 so that work on the new concourse immediately above the platform can take place. In 2023 when the improvements to the station have been completed there will be wider platforms, improved step-free access, five new lifts, eight new escalators, and the concourse will have been doubled in size.

CENTRAL LONDON Large areas of central London are being declared “car free” by London Mayor Khan so that people can walk more safely with only cyclists and buses to compete for the space. London Bridge and Waterloo Bridge are to be restricted to pedestrians, bicycles, and service buses. Motor cars entering the Downtown area will pay the daily charge of £15, (formerly £11.50). Temporary measures are to be introduced to compensate for the steep drop in passenger numbers due to the Pandemic. Fares are to rise by the RPI rate +1% and concessions linked to the 50+ card, and to the Freedom Pass are suspended. Free travel for the under 18s is also suspended.

BRENT CROSS WEST A new Thameslink station in the North London suburbs is being actively planned to serve 7500 new homes and new employment centres for 20,000 workers. The local Council gave its final approval on 20 May 2020.

LUL FUNDING The Government announced emergency funding of £1.9bn to LUL to restore the former level of service on the London Underground and bus network. As people return to work gross overcrowding on the Underground caused alarm to most passengers. The additional funds will last until the end of September 2020 by which time a clearer picture may have emerged. The income shortfall is expected to exceed £3bn in a full year.

SOMERSET The County Council is building up the case for reopening Wellington station which will cost £15m. A case for the reopening of Collompton station is also now under way.

HS2 Two massive bridges that will be needed close to the future Birmingham Interchange station are being constructed in factories and will be assembled on site later this year.

CROSS CITY LINE The northern half of the route had on 15 May 2020 a half hourly service but has had few users since the pandemic struck. At Sutton Coldfield the large car park contained just 9 cars and the platforms were deadly quiet. The one member of staff on duty was delighted to welcome back “an old friend”. Some days nobody asks him anything and he takes literally not a penny in fares. We are told that the numbers carried will remain low until the pre-Christmas rush. However on 18 May 2020 the service rose to three trains per hour ensuring that there was sufficient space for social distancing between off-peak passengers. Damage to the overhead wires at Duddeston by debris blown into the wires by strong winds disrupted service between New Street and Aston until 1400 on 17 May 2020.

KINGS LYNN A points failure at Kings Lynn effectively closed the line to Ely for much of 14 May 2020. Buses were laid on to replace the trains until late afternoon.

EAST MIDLANDS TOC The company introduced a new timetable on 18 May 2020 with one fast and one semi-fast service each hour from St Pancras to both Nottingham and Sheffield.

FIRE Through trains between Manchester Victoria and Liverpool Lime Street were halted for much of 21 May 2020 when a major fire broke out in the Sankey Valley Industrial Estate in Newton-le-Willows.

CHESTERFIELD A £3.8m master plan for transport around the station includes a future HS2 station, a new road to take traffic away from the town centre, and a new commercial development creating many new jobs.

GRAND CENTRAL The company has withdrawn its services between London and Bradford, Halifax, and Sunderland in June 2020 and is keeping a close watch of the traffic potential as it considers when to reintroduce these services.

HAXBY Plans to open a station in the northern suburbs of York at Haxby, on the Scarborough line, have existed for many years. In view of the need to provide better transport in a rapidly growing locality the City of York Council is taking a new detailed look at the proposal.

RIBBLEHEAD VIADUCT The Grade II listed 144 year old viaduct in North Yorkshire is to receive a £2.1m upgrade following the fall of some stonework from part of the structure. Although the recent incident did not in fact weaken the viaduct and trains on the Settle & Carlisle line have continued to run, general repairs will now take place with the replacement of fallen bricks, and repointing of the whole structure.

MANCHESTER Congestion on the east-west twin track link across central Manchester uses a viaduct for most of the way and this cannot be widened to ease the delays. Experts have indicated that the problems along the Castlefield Corridor between Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations can be remedied only if a tunnel for an additional two tracks is built along the route.

KEARSLEY The signal box on the Manchester – Bolton main line was burnt down by vandals early on 19 May 2020 and services along this key route have been disrupted.

LIVERPOOL The network of suburban lines operating under the “Merseyrail” name has lost a major amount of its traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic. Merseyrail is the only regular TOC not to have received a grant from the Department of Transport to make up for the income shortfall and is asking the Department about this deficiency. Hull Trains, an operator that hopes to make a profit from new services is in danger of collapsing since its revenue has faded away.

BLACKPOOL All tram services were suspended on and from 29 March 2020, and remain cancelled at the end of May 2020. The replacement bus route No 1 operates only a half-hourly frequency.

APPERLEY BRIDGE 300 additional car parking spaces are to be created at this Leeds suburban station. The County Council are paying for the work since they are seeking way to reduce the number of cars on the roads.

LEEDS Platform 1 is being closed on 26 May 2020 until November 2020 to allow it to be realigned alongside new platform zero. The new platform will be used by Harrogate line trains.

DARLINGTON A fire close to Darlington station during the late afternoon of 13 May 2020 disrupted services through the station. Services to Saltburn or Bishop Auckland were delayed by 10 – 20 minutes, and some missed out their call at Darlington completely. There were also some delays to ECML expresses. Plans have been announced to modernise the station at a cost of £100,000

TYNE & WEAR METRO From 18 May 2020 service frequencies on all Metro routes are being increased from a train every 24 minutes to 12 minutes. With the virus endemic perhaps past its peak people are returning to work in large numbers and the services provided must try to provide space for social distancing. Final design work on the new trains has been delayed while the requirements of social distancing are assessed. Hand sanitiser points have been installed at the following stations – Haymarket, Monument, Central, Gateshead Interchange, Heworth, South Shields Interchange and Park Lane Interchange.

ASHINGTON The plan to resume passenger services between Newcastle-on-Tyne and Ashington has taken an important step forwards. The £162m scheme has moved into the Planning Stage.

KILMARNOCK LINE Train services were disrupted on 25 May 2020 between Barrhead and Kilmarnock due to a major fault in the signalling system.

GLASGOW AREA A tree branch, blown by strong winds, was caught in the overhead wires near Pollokshields East Station delaying services for Neilston, and the Cathcart Circle throughout the morning of 23 May 2020. The lines from Glasgow Central to Gourock and Wemyss Bay were closed from 1800 until the end of services on 23 May 2020. Meanwhile services to Ardrossan were halted by tree branches that damaged the overhead wires. Ardrossan and Largs services had to turn at Kilwinning. Ferry services between Ardrossan and Brodick (Isle of Arran) and between Oban, Tiree and Coll were suspended due to the high winds and very rough seas.

EDINBURGH TRAMS A system to monitor the driver and detect signs of fatigue or falling asleep while driving is being installed at a cost of £168,000.

NEW FREIGHT Starting on 18 May 2020 a new flow of calcium carbonate carried in large tank cars commenced operation between Aberdeen and Spalding. The weekly service will take many lorries off the roads.

NEWTONHILL A reopened station at Newtonhill on the ECML south of Aberdeen and Portlethen is being studied closely by the local Council. The original station was closed in 1956 but the area is growing rapidly.

13 May 2020

HS2 The planned high-speed line may have to be re-designed and the trains similarly modified as a consequence of the virus pandemic.

FRANCHISE RULES The Prime Minister announced on 10 May 2020 that the rules concerning the lockdown of people forcing them to stay in the own homes were to be eased. The change was meant to take effect from 13 May 2020 but large numbers of workers set off for work on the 11 May causing mayhem on trains and the London Underground on which services had been reduced. There was considerable confusion about when changes were to take place.

FELTHAM South West Trains were able to complete cable and track connections to their new £60m flagship depot during the VE Day holiday weekend period (8 – 11 May 2020). The depot will eventually be home to ten 10-car class 701 emus that will transform services on the Reading, Windsor and West London suburban routes.

P&O FERRIES The Company has lost much of its traffic due to the lockdown and indicated that Government aid of £257m was essential to avoid the collapse of the company.

GWR HONOURS WW2 HEROES Several trains leaving Paddington on 8 May 2020 (the 75th anniversary of the end of WW2) were named after WW2 leaders or heroes – Sir Winston Churchill, Odette Hallowes, Harry Billinge MBE, Ken Rees, Alan Turing, and Corporal George Sheard.

OLR Because of a significantly high level of service cancellations and the numerous complaints from passengers about the services provided on the Northern franchise by Arriva Rail North (owned by DB) the franchise is likely to be taken over by the Operator of Last Resort (OLR). The East Coast Main Line inter-city franchise was earlier taken over by OLR when Virgin became unable to continue with the losses made on the franchise.

CLASS 387. Four-car emus were built by Bombardier for service on the Great Northern, Gatwick Express, c2c, and Great Western TOCs, and 107 units were built. Testing of 387s fitted with the ETCS control system on the Great Western main line between Heathrow and Reading has been completed successfully and the units will appear on Heathrow Express services later in 2020. They have a top speed of 110 mph.

GATWICK Many services booked to call at Gatwick Airport Station did not call on 5 May 2020 because the majority of the booked air services had been cancelled. However development plans for the Airport are continuing including the construction of a second runway.

SOHAM Work on building the new station, on the line from Ely to Bury St. Edmunds, is likely to start later this year with services starting in 2022. There will be a single 102m long platform and a 50 space car park. Should the route be double-tracked there is space for a second platform.

EUSTON When HS2 reaches Euston a new entrance to the Euston terminus will be created from the south side of Euston Road as part of a below ground link from Euston to the east end of Euston Square station.

BLETCHLEY Fourteen of the original thirty seven spans of the 1960s flyover taking the west – east route over and the WCML are being dismantled to allow the construction of a new flyover incorporating up-to-date standards. The rebuilt flyover will take the Oxford – Bedford route over the junction and station at Bletchley.

KILSBY TUNNEL The 1.5 mile long WCML tunnel is receiving extensive repairs during the two Bank Holidays in May 2020. Normally 400 trains pass through the tunnel every day.

COVENTRY The suggested very light rail scheme around the city has been awarded £1.5m by the West Midlands Combined Authorrity to develop and design light-weight track suitable for use by very light weight trams.

WEST MIDLANDS TRAMS Work on the extension beyond Library to Hagley Road was halted for two weeks but has now restarted although with a smaller workforce.

KIDDERMINSTER The Severn Valley Railway station is the latest structure to be bathed in blue light as a tribute to the work done by the NHS.

SHEFFIELD HUB PLAN Proposals to develop railways around Sheffield and build new stations to serve better several areas. These include a new Midland Main Line station in Rotherham, a new Barnsley Dearne Valley station, and a stop on the East Coast Main Line to serve Doncaster-Sheffield Airport. Sheffield and Chesterfield stations would receive major upgrades, and the trams would run outside the front of Sheffield station rather than hidden away behind the station.

BUXTON Two embankments on the Stockport – Buxton route near Chapel-en-le-Firth are being modified to make the slope of the earthwork less steep, and therefore more stable.

CARDIFF Central Station (otherwise known as Canolog and formerly known as General) was lit up in blue on the evening of Thursday 30 April 2020 to honour the NHS and its staff who tend those struck down in the virus pandemic. The station is to continue its blue illumination every night until further notice.

ABERNANT The 1.4mile long Abernant Tunnel which once was used by a rail route between Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil may be reopened as a pedestrian and cycle route. The tunnel was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and would become the longest cycle tunnel in Europe.

CONSENT FOR FREIGHT I/C On 4 May 2020 the Transport Secretary gave development consent for the major West Midlands Strategic Freight Interchange. It will be close to Junction 12 on the M6 Motorway, and will attract potentially large quantities of freight and parcels traffic from across the West Midlands bound for all areas of Great Britain and far into Europe.

COLNE – SKIPTON Plans to reopen this link between Yorkshire and Lancashire have now moved on to the “develop” stage. Accurate estimates of how much necessary reopening work will cost and confirmation of the potential traffic that the restored route might attract will now happen.

TYNE & WEAR There was a collision between a Metro train and a motor car on a level crossing close to Fawdon station at 1820 on 5 May 2020. Trains from Newcastle turned at Regent Square for about an hour before normal operations resumed.

YOKER A fault with equipment in the Yoker Signalling and Control Centre resulted in delays of around 15 minutes to services between Dalmuir and Hyndland for most of 7 May 2020.

SHOTTS Services between Glasgow and Edinburgh via Shotts were disrupted during the evening peak on 6 May 2020 due to a signal fault between Holytown and Carfin.

TRANENT The Tranent and Cockenzie Railway, one of Scotland’s earliest lines, opened in 1722 with wooden rails on which horses hauled coal from pits around Tranent, near Edinburgh, to salt-pans at Cockenzie and the nearby Port Seton Harbour. Later, much of the line was relaid with steel rails for steam locomotives. A low embankment was used in 1745 by victorious Jacobite forces led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Battle of Prestonpans. Because it had been in existence for decades and was still in use, the line was not be removed when the ECML was built and the two railways crossed on the level. Recently archaeologists have discovered remains of the wood rails and sleepers about a metre below the present ground level in Cockenzie and hope to build a visitor centre. Part of the line remained open until recent years serving a power station.

ARBROATH The seafront miniature railway at the south end of the town runs alongside the East Coast main line and has run since 1935 being still owned and operated by the Kerr family. One of the original locomotives, “Tibby”, has turned up in Denmark and it is hoped to bring her “back home” for a short visit to celebrate the Arbroath line’s 85th year. The Covid-19 pandemic means that the line has had a bad start in 2020, and only 3500 passengers were carried in 2019.

1 May 2020

JOHN FARROW Sadly John Farrow, owner and main organiser of UK Railtours, and for a time Hertfordshire Rail Tours, died from a coronavirus infection on 8 April 2020., aged 78. All tours organised for May and June 2020 had already been cancelled because of the pandemic but it is hoped that new railtours will be operated once it is safe to do so.

BILL BEST The founder of the 2’0” gauge Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway which was built in the grounds of his house, died on 9 April 2020 aged 89.

COLONEL TOM MOORE The fund raiser for the NHS celebrated his 100th birthday on 30 April 2020, and was given a celebratory promotion from Captain on the day before. His wish to raise £1000 for the NHS took off remarkably and reached £30m in time for his special birthday. His old Regiment held a special parade in his honour and one of two fly-pasts over his Bedfordshire home was of World War 2 Spitfires. Great Western Railway and Railfreight have named respectively Intercity train 500025, and locomotive 66731 “Captain Tom Moore”. The Queen and Prime Minister sent personal greetings to Mr Moore.

RESPECT FOR NHS At 20.00 on 23 April 2020 trains operated by South Eastern Trains sounded their horns one long blast followed by eight short blasts – spelling out NHS in Morse Code. Across the country at the same time members of the public stood outside their homes clapping their hands to show similar respect for the Health Service. A similar “Sound the Horn” salute to health and emergency services workers was arranged for 28 April 2020 across the USA. Structures lit up with blue lights on 23 April 2020 included Royal Albert and Brittania Bridges, and the London terminals at London Bridge, Waterloo, Victoria, Charing Cross, Liverpool Street. On the night of 30 April/1 May 2020 Findhorn Viaduct near Tomatin was illuminated in blue light.

GOVERNMENT FUNDS CONFIRMED The Department of Transport confirmed on 23 April 2020 that it will provide funds for the tram systems in Sheffield, Manchester, Tyne and Wear, Nottingham, and West Midlands which had lost about 90% of their traffic due to the pandemic.

GREATER ANGLIA This TOC used fifteen electric class 90 locomotives on its hourly Norwich – Liverpool Street expresses for close on twenty years. Most are now moving on to Freightliner after an overhaul and repaint in Freightliner’s new orange livery. Their last use on a Norwich “flier” was 31 March 2020 after which the coaches used no longer complied with new disability regulations. They were built originally for use on the WCML and they are now being replaced on Greater Anglia by Stadler I-C units.

LUL Waltham Forest Council has given formal approval for the planned £18m upgrade to Leyton Station ticket hall. A new ticket hall is to be built alongside the existing cramped hall. The new hallway will be three times larger than the existing facility and there will be eight gates into the station compared with the present five gates. 4500 new homes are to be built in the neighbourhood and annual users of the station are expected to rise from 14m to 17m.

SOUTHEND VICTORIA The overhead power wires along the Shenfield to Southend Victoria branch, installed in the 1950s, have been replaced by a new system at a cost of £46m.

TACKLEY This halt near Oxford is adjacent to a notorious pedestrian level crossing at which users break the rules about once a month creating potentially dangerous situations. A footbridge has been built between the platforms at Tackley and was officially opened on 28 April 2020. The level crossing was closed officially on the same day removing a danger point on the route.

TRACK WORK The West Coast Main Line between Milton Keynes and Rugby will be closed during the period 2 – 16 May 2020 to allow track replacement and tunnel maintenance work. Trains will be diverted via Northampton adding several minutes to the running time.

WEST MIDLANDS METRO Although there has been an 86% drop in the numbers travelling and the timetable has been adjusted, there is still a tram every twelve minutes throughout the day, and every 15 minutes after mid evening. Traffic has edged up a little in late April 2020 as some people have returned to work – often part time, working at home at other times. However the daytime service was cut to every 15 minutes from 27 April 2020. Evening and weekend services are being continued so that essential workers can continue to get to/from work.

CURZON STREET TERMINUS Formal planning permission for the planned 7-platform plus tram stop HS2 station was given by the City’s Planning Committee on 22 April 2020.

TOWYN With all train services suspended the Talyllyn Railway has found a new way to keep vegetation growing beside and within the track under control. Two donkeys have been set the task of eating the growing grass and keeping things neat and tidy.

MERSEYTRAVEL The service now provided is half-hourly on all routes between 0700 and 1900 each weekday. There are a few trains on some routes up to 2200. Most reduced fare bargain offers have been withdrawn but NHS workers are given free travel upon showing their work ID passes.

HOOTON A passenger was trapped in a lift at Hooton Station in the Wirral Peninsula on 22 April 2020. The Fire Brigade attended the scene and freed the passenger after about half an hour.

MANCHESTER METROLINK The severe downturn in passenger numbers has brought about an urgent plea for funding from HM Government. Revenue of £6m per month has dropped to £1m and the operating Councils cannot afford to keep the services running. If no emergency funds are provided the Councils may have to mothball the system until more normal conditions apply.

NEW MILLS NEWTOWN The Grade II listed footbridge at this station has been refurbished. Erected in 1863, the steel structure had weakened considerably but it has now been strengthened, and the steel structure grit blasted before being given a total repaint.

ROCHDALE Large housing developments are to take place close to five stations in the Rochdale area with initial plans announced for 7000 new homes. The stations involved are Rochdale, Castleton, Smithy Bridge, Littleborough, and Mills Hill.

SHEFFIELD From 1 April 2020 the Supertram timetable provides a 30 minute frequency on the Yellow and Blue routes between 0600 & 0900 then hourly until 2200. An hourly service applies at the weekends. The Purple and Tram-Train service is hourly at all times throughout the week.

HARROGATE The rail service between Harrogate and York is to be doubled to half-hourly from December 2020. The cost will be just £9.4m for low-key upgrades including minor track improvements and upgraded signalling.

TYNE & WEAR The Metro system, like most other local suburban rail networks, has lost about 90% of its passengers and is losing around £1m per week. Like systems in Manchester and Merseyside, Government assistance is sought urgently or the services may have to be discontinued.

GLASGOW SUBWAY From 28 March 2020 the Subway offered an unusual service. The Inner Circle was completely closed but services run every 8 minutes on the Outer Circle between 0630 and 2100 (timed from St Enoch). Longer distance travellers – i.e. between the city centre and Govan, Partick, and the University, had a usable service. People wishing to travel just one or two stops may have to travel right round the 6½ mile line for a journey that is normally a short hop.

LOUISA JORDAN HOSPITAL The new NHS Hospital built in a matter of days at the SEC Centre in Glasgow and staffed by a substantial team of nurses, technical staff, and doctors is close to Exhibition Centre station and additional services are being provided to carry the staff.

EDINBURGH TRAMS In line with other local tram services there has been a reduction of nearly 90% in the traffic carried. From 22 March 2020 the service was reduced to a tram every 15 minutes and from 12 April 2020 further reduced each evening from 1930 to a tram every 30 minutes.

INVERNESS The proposed single platform Airport Station on the Aberdeen line received planning permission in 2017 and these were about to expire with no work started when they were hastily renewed on 29 April 2020. The plans are now being upgraded for two platforms and an improved service as far as Elgin.

21 April 2020

BLUE FOR NHS WORKERS Starting on 26 March 2020 communities along the length and breadth of the nation bathed their outstanding buildings in blue light as a mark of appreciation for the workers in the NHS during the virus pandemic. Major stations, cathedrals, multi-storey car parks, major bridges were among the structures turned blue and every Thursday at 20.00 people stood outside their homes to clap hands in a show of appreciation for the NHS staff who put their own lives at risk helping others. Among buildings bathed in blue light were London Euston, Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street stations, and in Glasgow both Central and Queen Street HL stations. On Glasgow Central concourse the seats were rearranged to spell out the words “National Health Service”. Buildings in blue light included Portsmouth Tower, Royal Albert Hall, London Eye, The Shard, Windsor Castle, Wembley Arch, Principality Stadium Cardiff, Royal Albert bridge, Lincoln Cathedral, Liverpool St George’s Hall, Blackpool Tower, Penshaw Monument near Sunderland, SSE Hydro in Glasgow and, remote among the mountains, Glenfinnan Viaduct.

HS2 On 15 April 2020 the Government issued a “notice to proceed” to the contractors that will organise the main civil engineering work between London and Birmingham. This means that work can start on final design details after which there will be a substantial number of jobs within the construction industry boosting the national economy.

ESSENTIAL SUPPLIES With passenger services all across the nation reduced because most people are doing as they have been told by the Government and are “staying home” space has been created for additional freight or parcels trains carrying freight, foodstuffs and medicines. Passenger traffic at Kings Cross for example was down 92% by Easter Weekend. Over a million tons of extra supplies have been moved efficiently by rail services using a much smaller number of staff than by using lots and lots of lorries. Emus with the seats removed are being used to move food and other important items between Kings Cross and Newcastle-upon-Tyne with the probability that services will be continued north to Edinburgh or Glasgow.

KENT Plans have been announced for a major development in the Hoo Peninsula on the Thames estuary coast near Gravesend. 12100 new homes would be built and served by a new railway station, a massive car park at the station, and major road upgrades in the area. The £150m project would be built during the next twenty years.

THANET PARKWAY Work on the planned park and ride station near Manston has been halted until the COVID-19 emergency is over. Kent County Council have allocated £17.8m towards the project and some Councillors would prefer to see the money spent on health related matters.

CLASS 707 The South Eastern TOC is to take over the thirty 5-car Class 707 emus built by Siemens in Krefeld, Germany, for the South Western TOC. Before they could be used South Western had decided to replace its entire fleet by ninety Bombardier class 701 units.

DERAILMENT A freight service was derailed early on 10 April 2020 at Higham, and as a result the line between Gravesend and Strood was shut. Repairs were to be undertaken over the Easter Weekend and it was hoped to reopen the line on the morning of Tuesday 14 April 2020.

PLEAS TO REOPEN With services being cut back due to falling numbers of travellers, groups seeking to have stations reopened have stepped up their efforts with one group wishing to have stations near Peterborough area reopened – Donington, Deeping St Nicholas, and Littleworth where bus services have crumbled away and the villagers fear that they may become cut off.

SWANAGE The preserved Swanage line is facing financial ruin due to the near total shut down of the tourist industry caused by the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Other tourist related lines are in a similar fragile financial state.

GUILDFORD AREA The biggest rail investment in 40 years transforming the track and signalling systems around Guildford starts on Good Friday, 10 April 2020, and continues until 30 April 2020. 1200m of conductor rail on the route towards Clandon, and 1500m of track is being renewed on the lines for Wanborough and Worplesdon. Much of the signalling in the area – involving 41 track circuits – is being upgraded. Services on the Cobham route will be replaced by buses during this period.

LEYTON The Central Line tube station in East London is to be reconstructed at a cost of £18m – half from TfL and half from Waltham Forest Council. Up to 15,000 new houses are to be built in the area and the station in its present state will not be able to cope. Work will start in August 2020 and the improved station will be ready by summer 2023. . Lifts will be provided to assist the disabled reach the platforms.

BUS REPLACEMENT Buses have replaced trains on two branches north of London. They are Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey, and Bedford to Bletchley. The bus substitution frees up staff to operate busier services during the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

EAST WEST RAILWAY This company has sought tenders for 12-14 multiple units that will operate a service between Oxford, Milton Keynes, and Bedford.

NEW SHELTERS New platform shelters have been erected at Whittlesea and Manea stations between Peterborough and Ely. Substantial new housing has been built next to formerly isolated Manea station. Improvements at March station are now being discussed.

FIRE A major fire of grass and vegetation in a cutting at Cheddleton, Staffordshire, beside the Churnet Valley Railway’s sidings broke out around 1500 on 8 April 2020. Signalling cables were damaged and three fire engines were required to put out the blaze. Minor damage was done to rolling stock in an adjacent siding. Repairs were not completed until 1500 on 9 April 2020.

NEWPORT A 2.4 mile long single track which used to serve Llanwern Steelworks is to find new use as a stabling point for extra services bringing crowds to rugby internationals or pop concerts at the Principality Stadium in Cardiiff.

LINE CLOSED The route between Worcester and Hereford via Great Malvern has been closed for the duration of the pandemic. An hourly bus service substitutes for the train taking one hour 55 minutes compared with about 58 minutes by train.

WEST MIDLANDS Rail services between Walsall and Birmingham were halted on Easter Monday morning (13 April 2020) after a tree fell across the tracks near Bescot Junction station and brought down the power wires. Services were restored by mid-afternoon. Metro frequencies of a tram every 12 minutes during the day, and every 15 minutes in the evenings, were introduced on 30 March 2020.

LUL The train drivers’ Union ASLEF has demanded that drivers of the Underground trains be equipped with appropriate safety masks and gloves to protect them from the Covid-19 virus. LUL managers have expressed concern that during the rush hours there is still overcrowding on the central sections of three Lines – Victoria, Jubilee, and Central. The numbers of people working in “The City” has dropped significantly but overcrowding remains a problem on these three lines. On the morning of 14 April 2020 passengers complained that there were still too many people in Underground coaches. With all seats occupied many customers were standing quite close together rather than the 6 feet apart as thought to be the safe distance. With more people returning to work it is feared that things will get worse.

SOUTHAM The little Warwickshire town has become the location of Vivarail’s manufacturing base. The company will have the space to tackle its growing order book including the five-car emus for service in the Isle of Wight, and the Class 230 hybrid units some of which are working on the Marston Vale Line.

KENILWORTH A lorry carrying a skip has struck the arch of a bridge carrying the Coventry to Leamington Spa line and caused £200,000 worth of damage. The incident happened on 20 March 2020. There are on average five bridge strikes every day and many lorry drivers admit that they do not know the height of their vehicle.

MANCHESTER Transport for Greater Manchester has allowed NHS staff, and social care workers to travel on Metrolink services free of charge from 11 April 2020 until, initially 1 June 2020. With local churches closed in an effort to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus food donations to local charities have dried up so a reception point for food donations has been opened on the concourse of Piccadilly Station. The tram service has been amended by running the Sunday frequency throughout the week.

STEETON & SILSDEN This Yorkshire station which serves busy Airedale Hospital is to have a second additional car park adding spaces for 220 extra cares.

SIGNALLING FAILURE A signal failure due to faulty cable delayed services at Rotherham Central on 8 and 9 April 2020.

HUDDERSFIELD AREA An upgrade is planned for the York – Huddersfield – Manchester main line with considerable improvements between Dewsbury and Huddersfield including development of the stations at Ravensthorpe and Deighton. Public consultation into the planned works has been extended to 30 April 2020 in view of the considerable interest from the public into the plans.

NEXUS In a £8m project the track bed and track will be replaced along a 250m section over the Crossgate Viaduct. The line between Hebburn and South Shields will be closed during the period 16-19 April 2020 with buses substituting for the trains. The three single track bottlenecks between Pelaw and Bede (actually points where freight only sections occupy one track leaving only one track for the passenger services in both directions) are to be altered to become a conventional double track railway. The £98m cost will be paid for from the Transforming Cities Fund. The South Shields line will be able to carry an extra 30,000 passengers per year.

TYNE & WEAR Frequencies on all routes were reduced to a tram every 24 minutes. The overlapping of routes means that a frequency of every 12 minutes is available on all busy sections.

RAVENSTRUTHER Cloburn Quarry Co. is the new tenant of the Ravenstruther aggregates terminal near Lanark. They will load large quantities of decorative aggregates, much of it red granite chips, for customers across Europe.

GLASGOW AREA Large numbers of day trippers have been crowding on to trains “to see the empty streets”. Local citizens have been following the Government instructions – hence the empty streets. A fault with a level crossing between Cardross and Craigendoran at 1327 on 7 April 2020 halted trains to/from Helensburgh for three hours while the fault was put right. The service on the Subway was reduced to a train every eight minutes and last services run earlier at 2100.

EDINBURGH Police have been interviewing passengers on Edinburgh-bound trains asking if their journey is really necessary and reminding them of the Government advice to travel if their journey is for a really important reason. Construction work on the Newhaven extension was halted from 22 March 2020 and the service frequency was reduced to a service every 15 minutes.

1 April 2020

NATIONAL EXPRESS The long distance bus operation halted all services from 5 April 2020 to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and because so few people are travelling

FRANCHISES EXTENDED The Department of Transport has given Govia authority to continue its South Eastern operation of the franchise from 1 April 2020 for two years. Similarly First Group will continue its Great Western operation until 2023. Basically the Government has taken control of all franchises since seriously dropping numbers of passengers are being carried with difficult financial consequences for the franchise holders.

MAIDSTONE EAST This well placed station near the centre of Maidstone has gained a new ticket office with three booths over the holiday period.

LONDON AIRPORTS Most flights from London City Airport are used by the business community and there has been a massive recent downturn in numbers recently. The Airport has closed until the end of April 2020 when the position will be reviewed. Gatwick Airport usage has also plunged as numbers taking a holiday have dropped significantly. Services calling at the Airport station have dropped but the number of commuters using the trains has held up better.

HULL The Hull – Kings Cross service operated by Hull Trains has ceased operation temporarily due to steep drop in longer distance rail travel in the UK. Rival LNER is operating a morning Hull – Kings Cross train returning in the early evening and accepting Hull Trains tickets.

NEXUS There are fears that the coronavirus pandemic will delay a start to the building of the new fleet for the Tyne and Wear metro. Stadler won the contract to build the new trains but the virus pandemic has caused many delays at the Swiss factory where the trains will be built.

NORTHAMPTON LINE From 26 March 2020 the Euston – Northampton – Birmingham stopping service operated by London Northwestern Railway was split in two. Longer trains now operate between Euston and Northampton while lower traffic levels mean that shorter services now operate between Northampton and Birmingham New Street.

NIGHTINGALE HOSPITALS The Excel Conference Centre in London’s Docklands became an emergency field hospital for coronavirus victims. Much of the space at Solihull’s NEC (it’s not actually in Birmingham) is to be converted into a 5000 bed emergency hospital and the exhibition centres in Manchester and Glasgow are to be adapted to serve a similar purpose. Any conference or exhibition location converted to hospital use will be known as a Nightingale Hospital. They are not fully equipped hospitals with recognised 30 or so bed wards, but are more extensive areas with limited bedside equipment but with the means to help patients to breathe more easily, or will take patients with simpler problems to release beds in conventional hospitals for more Covid-19 patients.

EUROSTAR The through services between St Pancras International and Europe are deleting calls at Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International for the duration of the coronavirus emergency.

LUL Despite new rules designed to keep people 2m apart from each other during the coronavirus pandemic, London Underground trains were just as crammed with passengers as usual since commuters tried to get to work on 23 and 24 March 2020. Pictures in newspapers showed that passengers were so close together that they could barely breathe!

LUL CUTS Several less busy stations were closed from 1 April 2020 so that it was easier to maintain services despite many staff being ill. The stations affected, line by line, are as follows. Bakerloo Line;- Regents Park, Warwick Road, and Kilburn Park were closed and the service frequency was cut to half hourly (every 10 minutes Elephant & Castle to Queens Park).
Central Line:- Holland Park, Queensway, Lancaster Gate, Redbridge, and Barkingside shut.
District Line:- Bow Road, Bayswater, Gloucester Road, Mansion House, St James Park, Temple shut. Hammersmith & City Line:- Great Portland Street, Stepney Green shut. Jubilee Line:-
Swiss Cottage, Bermondsey, Southwark shut. Metropolitan Line:- No station closures but trains to run half hourly to Amersham and Chesham, every 15 minutes to Uxbridge and Watford.
Northern Line:- Charing Cross, Borough, Goodge Street, Hampstead, Chalk Farm, Clapham South, Mornington Crescent South Wimbledon, and Tufnell Park shut. Piccadilly Line:- Arsenal, Caledonian Road, Hyde Park Corner, Manor House, Bounds Green, Covent Garden, North Ealing shut. Victoria Line:-Pimlico and Blackhorse Road shut. Docklands Light Railway:- Island Gardens, Prince Regent, shut. Overground – No service between Surrey Quays and New Cross.

CROSSRAIL As part of the Government’s strategy to slow the spread of the corona virus across the UK all work was halted on the finishing of work on Crossrail. The new Cross-London route is so far behind its original completion date that a further delay will hardly be noticed.

WEST MIDLANDS A low-speed derailment of a freight train close to Bromsgrove Station resulted in delays to passenger services of up to an hour. Most Cross-Country expresses were diverted via Kidderminster omitting calls at Worcestershire Parkway and Bromsgrove.

BIRMINGHAM NEW STREET An empty retail unit at the station has been made available to the NHS and will become a convenient place where patients can have blood samples taken for tests.

FREE PARKING is being offered to NHS staff and other care workers at Manchester Piccadilly and Liverpool Lime Street stations.

MANCHESTER PICCADILLY The station concourse has been marked out with circular marks to indicate what “6 feet apart” as required by coronavirus legislation actually means.

CABLE THEFT Metal thieves ripped out 300m of signal cable between Alderley Edge and Crewe early on 28 March 2020. This section has been targeted 28 times during the past 12 months.

BLACKPOOL The introduction by Grand Central of five inter-city services between the north western resort and London Euston is being delayed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. At present, so few passengers are travelling and are following Government advice to “stay home” that there is no need for the new service.

ISLE OF MAN The new Strathallan Depot for the horse tram service was to be officially opened on 13 April 2020

EDINBURGH TRAM Construction work on the extension to Leith and Newhaven has been halted until after the coronavirus emergency is over.

GLASGOW AREA A new entrance to Queen Street Station from the George Square direction was opened on 23 March 2020 as part of a £120m improvement scheme. The Dundas Street entrance has been closed until 30 March 2020 because of continuing improvement work. Children playing on the tracks has become a significant problem in the south eastern Glasgow area with Shettleston, Wishaw, and Shieldmuir the most troublesome locations..

GLASGOW SUBWAY Traffic has slumped due to9 the coronavirus pandemic and partly to reflect this and to reduce the ability to spread the virus services are to terminate at 2100 every day.

KILMARNOCK Wabtec plans to close its plant in Kilmarnock and concentrate its work on its main Doncaster factory. The Kilmarnock factory was opened in 1840 and became the centre of internationally known locomotive builder Andrew Barclay. The firm amalgamated with Hunslet in 1972 becoming Hunslet-Barclay. This ran out of funds and was taken over by Brush in 2007 to become Brush-Barclay. Wabtec took over in 2011 following further financial problems operating as Wabtec Rail Scotland which will now leave the Kilmarnock site with the loss of 100 jobs.

30 March 2020

GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER The Department of Transport scrapped all franchises and took over the running of the entire railway system on 23 March 2020. The moves to reduce service frequencies had already begun (see item below).

SERVICE REDUCTIONS With traffic falling away as a result of fears about the coronavirus pandemic, service reductions began to be applied across the country from Monday 23 March 2020.
With traffic down by as much as 70% the financial state of many Operating Companies was becoming unsustainable so the Government stepped in, cancelled the contracts with the Operating Companies and paid them instead a modest fee for running the trains with the Government retaining the fare income and operating costs.

SLEEPING CAR SERVICES The Euston to Fort William and Aberdeen overnight services were axed temporarily from 23 March 2020 leaving only the sleepers to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Inverness. The reductions are due to staff shortages and the need for extra cleaning of the coaches due to the coronavirus pandemic.

HYTHE REOPENING? The branch line near Southampton from a junction at Totton to Hythe (with its well-known Pier railway) and Fawley may see regular passenger services restored. There have been moves for a reopening for several years but the County Council has rejected the plans on cost grounds. There would be insufficient passengers to justify the costs of reopening and then the operation of such a service. Now plans have been announced for 1500 new homes at Fawley that would add significantly to road congestion if there was no rail service.

ISLAND LINE The Ryde – Shanklin service had to be shut down from around 1600 on 19 March 2020 when a signalman was taken ill and no replacement could be found quickly.

LUL Transport for London is using its reserves to make up the £500m shortfall in income caused by the significant drop in passenger numbers due to the coronavirus pandemic. Forty tube stations were to close on 19 March 2020 as traffic plunged in response to the virus pandemic. Tube services were to be reduced in frequency with no night service. Traffic on the Waterloo and City Line fell away to a very low level so this service was discontinued altogether until numbers travelling picked up again.

MANNINGTREE 220 additional car parking spaces have been created in a £3.1m scheme. The total number of spaces is now over 800.

ELY The Queen Adelaide junctions immediately north of Ely Station where routes from Kings Lynn, Norwich, Cambridge, and Peterborough meet have a poorly designed layout restricting the number of trains that can operate through the junctions. The cost of reconstructing the junctions has soared from £35m (ten years ago) to £600m in a recent estimate but work to ease train operations is going ahead.

WEST COAST MAIN LINE Although earlier on 14 March 2020 there had been problems caused by fallen or unstable lineside trees, by mid evening services were operating smoothly. The 1943 departure from Euston to Wolverhampton left a couple of minutes late but had to wait at least two minutes at Rugby awaiting its correct departure time. Arrival in New Street was on time.

CHESTER The station was cleared of passengers in mid-evening of 14 March 2020 because of fears that a fire on a train might result in an explosion. In fact firefighters brought the fire under control quickly and normal operations were resumed after an hour.

BIRMINGHAM A “local” service was operated along the Camp Hill Line from New Street to Kings Norton on 16 March 2020. The special paused at the site of the three planned stations along the route to give an idea of what the future local service would be like.

BLACKPOOL The first of five Class 90 locomotives hired from DB Cargo UK has been given its new livery ahead of the introduction of a through service to/from Euston which may grow into five services each way on weekdays. Four six-car sets of Mark IV coaches have been hired from Eversholt Rail until December 2026.

ISLE OF MAN The reconstructed Strathallan Depot will be opened at Easter 2020 and will accommodate 13 horse trams plus five Manx Electric trams. The Depot facade is similar to the facade of the old Depot. The 2020 Season dates for all the heritage lines will be 20 April until 21 September 2020. 2019 was a poor season for the heritage line with all showing a drop in business apart from the steam line which boosted loads from 113,197 in 2018 to 128,107 in 2019. The MER carried only 135,857 in 2019 compared with 244,863 in 2018.

NOTTINGHAM Because motor cars are driven quite frequently on to “tram only” reserved sections near Nottingham Station, drivers are being warned though several bright red notices at the entrance to the reserved sections.

SHEFFIELD Long-term plans for the area around Midland Station would see the tram diverted from its present route along the back of the station – rather “out of sight”, and instead the tram would be diverted to cross above the railway tracks with new stops at Granville Square and Sheaf Square (for the station). The trams would be very visible from the station entrance. The tram would run past Sheffield Hallam University and the coach/bus station.

HULL TRAINS The operator has experienced a significant drop in loadings and is dropping all catering on its trains until further notice.

TYNE & WEAR METRO Because of a significant drop in traffic due to the coronavirus epidemic, all peak hour “short distance extras” (Pelaw to South Gosforth or Monkseaton) will be discontinued from 18 March 2020. Services were disrupted on 21 March 2020 after a man was hit and killed by a train at Shiremoor station.

SCOTRAIL Rail passenger numbers have plunged by 30% and the immediate response has been to operate the Sunday timetable on many routes. The numbers travelling by bus have fallen by 20% and a close watch is being kept while timetable reductions are considered. Connecting ferry services in the Clyde estuary have similarly seen a drop in use and Cal-Mac is keeping a close watch on the use being made of its services before deciding how to react. When some routes have only a single service that can be used by commuters working in Glasgow, it is very difficult to decide how to reduce costs while preserving the important parts of the service.

MOTHERWELL Work will start shortly on a major upgrade to Motherwell Station costing £14.5m.The station will become a major railhead for the eastern and southern suburbs of Glasgow and also for the nearby towns of Hamilton, Coatbridge, and Airdrie.

27 March 2020

VIRUS SERVICE CUTS There are reductions in timetabled services from 23 March 2020 on the majority of routes and these are examples. Victoria – Brighton – hourly taking 53 mins plus half hourly semi-fast; Paddington – Bristol TM hourly; to Plymouth every second hour; Worcester via Oxford – hourly; Gloucester every second hour. Thames Valley locals hourly on most routes. West Coast Main Line – Hourly service provided from Euston to Wolverhampton, Liverpool and Manchester. There is often an hourly service to Glasgow calling at Crewe to provide connections. Euston – Holyhead – a single through service is provided daily. On the Sheffield main line via Derby there is just one service each hour. Merseyrail local services run every 30 minutes on all routes. On the East Coast Main Line trains run half hourly between Kings Cross and Edinburgh Waverley with extensions as now to Inverness and Aberdeen but sleeping car services have been reduced to a single 16 coach train. Eight coaches run to Glasgow and eight to Inverness. There is no sleeping car service to Fort William or Aberdeen. The recently added Kings Cross to Lincoln and Harrogate services are cancelled. In the West Midlands the majority of local services to outlying towns run hourly. On the Cross City Line a half hourly service operates between Lichfield TV and Redditch via Sutton Coldfield and University supplemented by a half hourly service between New Street and Bromsgrove. In Glasgow – Edinburgh via Falkirk runs half hourly with hourly stoppers on the routes via Bathgate and Shotts. Other suburban lines such as to North Berwick run hourly.

LONDON CITY AIRPORT Most flights from here are used by the business community and there has been a massive recent downturn in numbers recently. The Airport has closed until the end of April 2020 when the position will be reviewed.

NORTHAMPTON LINE From 26 March 2020 the Euston – Northampton – Birmingham stopping service operated by London Northwestern Railway was split in two. Longer trains now operate between Euston and Northampton while lower traffic levels mean that shorter services are able to run between Northampton and Birmingham New Street.

EXCEL The Docklands Conference Centre is to become an emergency field hospital for coronavirus victims and will be known as the Nightingale Hospital. Much of the space at Solihull’s NEC (it’s not actually in Birmingham) is to be converted into a 5000 bed emergency hospital and the exhibition centre in Manchester may be adapted to serve a similar purpose.

LUL Despite new rules designed to keep people 2m apart from each other during the coronavirus pandemic, London Underground trains were just as crammed with passengers as usual since commuters tried to get to work on 23 and 24 March 2020. Pictures in newspapers showed that passengers were so close together that they could barely breathe!

CROSSRAIL As part of the Government’s strategy to slow the spread of the corona virus across the UK all work was halted on the finishing of work on Crossrail. The new Cross-London route is so far behind its original completion date that a further delay will hardly be noticed.

WEST MIDLANDS A low-speed derailment of a freight train close to Bromsgrove Station on 24 March resulted in delays to passenger services of up to an hour. Most Cross-Country expresses were diverted via Kidderminster omitting calls at Worcestershire Parkway and Bromsgrove.

NEW STREET An empty retail unit at the station has been made available to the NHS and will become a convenient place where patients can have blood samples taken for tests.

GLASGOW AREA A new entrance to Queen Street Station from the George Square direction was opened on 23 March 2020 as part of a £120m improvement scheme. The Dundas Street entrance has been closed until 30 March 2020 because of continuing improvement work.

13 March 2020

90 NOT OUT Two regular contributors to this news column are celebrating their 90th birthday this year. Bill Vigrass celebrated reaching this milestone with a family gathering on 10 March 2020 at his home near Philadelphia, USA. He was working part-time until quite recently and keeps up to date with developments in USA. Nigel Macmillan is the best informed historian concerning the narrow gauge Campbeltown and Machrihanish Railway and his book about the line is a classic. He is an active supporter of 7mm scale modelling and was working at the O Gauge Guild’s stand at Model Rail Scotland in Glasgow at the end of February this year. Nigel lives in Clarkston, Glasgow, and has in his garden a short garden railway plus a massive O Gauge layout under the roof. His models of Glasgow tramcars are among the finest that this reader has seen.

FLYBE Europe’s largest regional airline collapsed suddenly on 5 March 2020 leaving some passengers stranded at holiday destinations or unable to leave for booked travel. Over half of the services at these airports were provided by Flybe including Anglesey, Southampton, Belfast City, Exeter, Newquay, Wick, Jersey and Cardiff. A few routes have been taken over by other regional airlines but the fate of most Flybe routes remains very uncertain.

ISLE OF WIGHT The introduction of five 2-car Class 484 emus to the Ryde – Shanklin line will require some platforms at stations along the route to be altered so that they will be level with the coach floors as required by accessibility regulations. Once the platforms are altered the existing Class 483 will no longer be able to be used since the platforms will all be at the wrong height. It is planned that a regular half-hourly service will be introduced with the May 2021 timetable. Only two trains of the old stock are on the island and one train has been out of service for over a week leaving just one train set able to operate. The timetable has been altered so that this one train can operate an hourly service connecting at Ryde with the Portsmouth ferry.

SEATON The Seaton Tramway is to have an additional stop – “Wetlands” – opening during Spring 2020 which coincidentally is the tramway’s Golden Jubilee year. The timetable is being revised so that services will be able to call at Wetlands, and also at Riverside which was a temporary stop opened while the Seaton terminus was being rebuilt in 2017. New walking and cycling routes are being created linking up with the tramway and providing new opportunities for tourists visiting the wetlands area and Seaton Jurassic Coast.

NEWPORT (WALES) HRH The Prince of Wales, opened the new CAF factory on 21 February 2020. Body shells of new emus or dmus arrive from Spain and are completely fitted out in the new Welsh factory.

WEST COAST MAIN LINE Operations were disrupted by at least three periods where the overhead power wires were damaged between Euston and Rugby, and in one case over a mile had to be replaced. Work to repair a landslip near Acton Bridge near Crewe has continued to disrupt many Liverpool services.

COTTAM PARKWAY park and ride station is to be built on the Blackpool North line close to Preston. Funds were made available by Chancellor Sunak in his first Budget statement on 11 March 2020.

LNER There will be through services between Huddersfield and Kings Cross, and a doubling of services operating between Bradford and Kings Cross from 18 May 2020. The new services will use Azuma trains.

FIRST ROUNDHOUSE On 10 March 2020 during preparations for the HS2 terminus in central Birmingham, adjacent to Moor Street Station, the remains of the very first roundhouse engine shed were discovered. The position of the central turntable and the various individual lines running north east into the building are clearly visible. The facility was designed by Robert Stephenson as part of his London and Birmingham Railway of 1837. The locomotives became larger as traffic built up and many were now longer than the 15 foot turntable so the roundhouse was closed in 1860 to be replaced by a larger more conventional style of engine shed and the roundhouse was covered over and forgotten for 160 years. The original Curzon Street station building is Grade 1 listed and will become one of the entrances to the HS2 station. The question now to be faced is “What can be done with the remnants of the very first roundhouse?” The British love to keep things but will this rediscovery be too large a problem for HS2 whose tracks will run across the turntable? The turntable is beside the Euston – New Street main running lines. This is a truly remarkable archaeological find.

WEST MIDLANDS TRAMS Work is now under way on the 11km long Wednesbury – Brierley Hill extension. Ground breaking took place at an official ceremony in Dudley town centre. The line is expected to open in 2023. Meanwhile the “Westside” extension is making progress. The first section to Library opened during December 2019 and the first sections of track have been lain on the 1.35km of route along Hagley Road passing through the Five Ways underpass to reach a terminus at Edgbaston. Work has begun on the new Brindley Place stop near the underpass.

WEST MIDLANDS HUB Chancellor Sunak made £20m available to help put together the funds required to build the West Midlands Hub which will see an additional 24 trains per hour on links between Birmingham terminals and neighbouring towns or cities. An additional 6m passengers will be able to be carried on the additional trains.

MERSEYRAIL The first of the new Stadler Class 777 emus has arrived at Kirkdale Depot following operational testing at Wildenrath, Germany. These new 4-car “Metro” emus will replace the elderly 507 and 508 class emus.

MANCHESTER METROLINK. The 3.5 mile long Trafford Park route is to open for business on 22 March 2020. Meanwhile the Mayor of Greater Manchester has restated his wish to see the East Didsbury branch of Metrolink extended into a new transport hub in Stockport. Lower fares are now available on weekdays before 0700 with higher peak fares charged only between 0700 and 0930 on weekdays.

TYNE & WEAR Several suggested extensions to the Metro are to be studied to determine which might have sufficiently strong cases to be taken to a more detailed planning stage. Among the suggested new routes is one to the planned International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) which will be on the edge of Sunderland and which will have large numbers of employees. Chancellor Sunak gave an extra £95m so that after improvements have been completed the Metro will be able to carry an extra 30 thousand passengers daily.

EDINBURGH Work on the 2.91 mile extension from York Place to Newhaven has been under way since 19 November 2019. The York Place stop will be replaced by the new Picardy Place stop near the start of Leith Walk. Work between Queen Charlotte Street and Constitution Place will be finished in autumn 2020. Foot of Leith Walk – Coatfield Lane by Spring of 2021 and London Rd Crown Rd by summer 2021. New stops along the extension are Picardy Place, McDonald Road, Balfour Street, Foot of the Walk, The Shore, Port of Leith, Ocean Terminal, and finally Newhaven.

1 March 2020

NO SCOTRAIL TIMETABLES The Scotrail management has decided that passengers no longer require small timetable leaflets because most of us have a Smartphone and would not want to have anything on paper. Loud criticism has been voiced and overseas visitors are left unable to know when the trains run. There are fears that significant traffic will be lost to the railways as a result of what seems to be a nonsensical decision.

NORTHERN FRANCHISE The franchise was taken back from Arriva on 01-03-2020 because of poor performance. Too many trains ran late or were cancelled sometimes at short notice.

TAKEOVER BID The French company Alstom has agreed a takeover of the Canadian train builder Bombardier at a cost of £8.2bn. This will enable Bombardier to be part of business agreements that have been won by Alstom and may not involve the closure of any factories in the UK owned by Bombardier. However the future may depend on Alstom/Bombardier winning the contract to build the new stock for HS2 services.

MAGLEV TRAINS The Government is to look at the concept of Magnetic Levitation trains on future HS lines. They are capable of moving at 268 mph and possibly as high as 300 mph eventually.

CROSS COUNTRY BOOST The Railways Minister announced on 24 February 2020 that £2.5m is to be invested in improvements to Cross Country services from May 2020. Longer trains will be introduced to services between Birmingham and Nottingham, Leicester, and Cardiff. In mid 2021 longer trains will operate from Birmingham and Cambridge or Stansted Airport. In December 2020 trains will be lengthened between the North East/Manchester to the South West or South Coast.

HS2 CRRC, the Chinese railway company which has substantial experience in building high-speed railways, has offered to build HS2 in just five years and at a cost tens of billions less than estimates by British contractors. The Government has entered preliminary discussions with the CRRC but has indicated that it wishes British construction firms to gain experience with this category of work.

ROMSEY – SALISBURY Services were disrupted on 18 February 2020 when a landslip halted services for the rest of the day.

EAST GRINSTEAD The branch from Hurst Green was closed on 13 February due to a further landslip just as engineers were about to start work on an earlier slip.

LUL Between 17 February 2020 and early March 2020, one of the three escalators at Brixton station will be receiving major maintenance. To handle the heavy traffic with only two escalators available a managed queuing system will control entry to the station during the morning peak. Passengers will be asked to join a queue and allowed access to the station in controlled batches until 1000. Between 1630 and 1930 the station will be “exit only” but buses will be available to take passengers to alternative stations. A signal failure at Gloucester Road early on 17 February 2020 resulted in significant delays to District and Circle services. During the period 2-12 March 2020 there will be no step-free access to Kilburn Station while maintenance work is done at Kilburn. Southwark Council is making available an additional £7.5m towards the cost of a step-free interchange between the Northern and Bakerloo Lines at Elephant and Castle Station. Piccadilly Line services were disrupted on the afternoon of 25 February 2020 after a passenger threw himself off the platform at Gloucester Road Station at around 1510.

WEYMOUTH – YEOVIL Bridge repair work, tunnel lining maintenance, and track renewal was undertaken during a line closure on 15-21 February 2020.

BEXLEYHEATH LINE The route was closed for nine days during February 2020 to allow the repair of four separate landslips caused by the recent very heavy rains.

ISLE OF WIGHT Continuing problems with the reliability of the elderly rolling stock has resulted in a cut to the timetable so that now there are only hourly services, connecting with the ferries at Ryde.

DOCKLANDS LIGHT RAILWAY A new cross-river branch from the Gallions Reach area to Thamesmead is being studied. It would serve extensive new housing areas.

SUGGESTED NEW LINES An extension to the South London tram network is recommended after a public consultation. Alternative routes could run from tube stations at South Wimbledon or Colliers Wood south to St Heliers Hospital and then onwards to Sutton Station. These new lines could be operated by trams or guided buses. A third possible route would run between South Wimbledon and Sutton west of the above routes and could be run using only trams. In the long term a further extension south from Sutton would reach Belmont, serving the hospital which is the UK’s most important cancer treatment centre with around 10,000 employees.

EAST COAST Ten class 91 locomotives, each with a rake of Mk 4 coaches, will be kept by LNER until the end of 2021 in case their new stock experiences problems.

EUSTON The London terminus had to be closed to passengers arriving by the Tube or on foot at 1327 on 15 February 2020 because people armed with knives had started violent fighting across the concourse. The concourse was reopened by around 1700.

OVERGROUND The Gospel Oak – Barking line reopened to passenger services on 19 February 2020.

WELWYN GARDEN CITY A signal failure here during the morning rush hour on 17 February 2020 caused many delays to services heading for Kings Cross.

GATWICK and HEATHROW Airports were closed for much of 15 February 2020 because very high winds had made them too dangerous to use. Major improvements have been announced to increase the capacity of GATWICK Airport Station. The Concourse is to be doubled in size and a glass roof will allow sunlight to brighten it. There will be new staircases, five new lifts and eight new escalators. Platforms five and six will be widened substantially to accommodate the rising traffic.

COLCHESTER Services on the Greater Anglia main line were suspended during the morning peak on 13 February 2020 due to damage to the overhead wires by a fallen tree near Manningtree. Another fallen tree blocked the nearby Sudbury branch.

WORCESTERSHIRE PARKWAY The new station opened on Sunday 23 February 2020.

WALES Very heavy rain resulted in flooding along the Cardiff Valleys towards Aberdare on 18-19 February 2020 and resulted in a total shutdown of services to Treherbert and Rhymney. 100 tonnes of debris crashed on to the Aberdare line near Mountain Ash on 29 February 2020 halting all services.

WEST MIDLANDS New zero emission “Sprint” buses will be used on a new 25 mile long route between Walsall and Solihull via Birmingham City Centre that will be introduced as part of the preparations for the Commonwealth Games. The new route will use new bus-only lanes and have priority at traffic signals.

CROSS CITY LINE The 2305 departure from New Street Station to Lichfield on 27 February 2020 was boarded at New Street and at Aston by a large gang of youths who then went through the train robbing passengers of phones and money before leaving at Chester Road station.

WEST MIDLANDS TRAMS A new 200 space car park has being built beside the Bradley Lane stop and was opened on 6 February 2020. Many mature trees alongside the tram route have been felled during January 2020 between Bilston Central, The Crescent, and Priestfield. Services were disrupted during the mid-morning period by damage to the overhead power wires but services were back to near-normal by mid afternoon. The first sections of track have been laid at the Five Ways underpass on the Edgbaston extension.

MERSEYRAIL A £400,000 upgrade is underway at Spital station on the Chester/Ellesmere Port Line. The car park is being doubled in size from 70 to 141 spaces (including 7 disabled and 2 motorbike spaces). The platforms will receive new lighting, better drainage, and CCTV. Funds have come from Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s Sustainable Transport Package (STEP) programme.

MANCHESTER The rail service from Manchester Piccadilly was to be replaced by a bus shuttle on 1 March 2020 to allow repairs to the rail bridge over Slade Road in Levenshulme. Congestion along the Castlefield Corridor (Piccadilly – Deansgate) causes many delays to rail services. Instead of 15 trains/hour the number allowed is now 13/hour. Improvements including the provision of two extra platforms were stopped by the then Transport |Secretary.

MAYFIELD The site of the former “overflow” terminus adjacent to Manchester Piccadilly is to be transformed into offices, 1500 homes, a multi-storey car park, a 350 room hotel, and a public park.

BURY The opening of Bury Interchange station replacing Bolton Street took place 40 years ago on 17 March 1980.

WIGAN The overhead wires were damaged near Wigan on the Manchester – Preston route and services were cancelled or delayed by up to 60 minutes.

BLACKPOOL Grand Central has invested £21m on the hire from DB Cargo of five Class 90 locomotives. They will haul trains of six Mark 4 coaches between Blackpool North and Euston.

ROTHERHAM Tram services north of Tinsley Meadowhall South did not restart immediately when flood waters receded on 17-18 February 2020. Inspection by engineers of the bridge taking the tram route over the River Ouse into Rotherham confirmed that the bridge structure had not been damaged before services resumed around midday on 18 February 2020.

AIRPORT LINK Doncaster-Sheffield Airport has never had a heavy or light rail link to any of the cities that it serves. A plan has been announced to build a branch 4.5 miles long off the ECML that could provide routes for through trains to Sheffield, Doncaster, and Lincoln – among other destinations.

HOWDEN DEPOT A temporary Depot for the Tyne and Wear metro is to be built at Howden. This will allow the rebuilding of the Gosforth Depot at a cost of £70m.

G&SW ROUTE A massive landslip between Sanquar and Dumfries on 10/11 February 2020 has resulted in services between Kilmarnock and Carlisle being cancelled. The line may not reopen until 16 March 2020.

AYR The owner of the former station hotel is unwilling to spend £10m to make the building safe and as a result operations at the adjacent station are restricted. The scaffolding supporting the building will remain safe for a further five years and a long-term solution must be found by then.

GLASGOW SUBWAY Trains were extremely busy throughout 22 and 23 February 2020. Older employees spoke very warmly about John Wright, their former boss and our former President. There is a seat in the Govan Depot named after John, placed there in his memory, and available for any staff who feel tired after a long shift. He is remembered for his kindness to anyone who has experienced any sort of problem.

GLASGOW AIRPORT Glasgow and Renfrewshire Councils have agreed that the light rail link between the Airport and Gilmour Street Station will be funded from the City Deal Fund. It may later be extended to the city centre via Braehead.

GLASGOW FLOODS In a season of very heavy rainfalls flooding has become a common result. On 10 and 11 February 2020 the main line to Kilmarnock and East Kilbride was flooded at Crossmyloof, and other floods were noted in Govan and at the Renfrew Ferry. Flooding following a downpour from Storm Dennis knocked the Mount Florida route from Glasgow Central out of action. Newton and Neilston services were diverted via Maxwell Park and delayed significantly. Cathcart Circle services were cancelled for the rest of the day.

LONGNIDDRY A person was struck by a LNER express on the ECML here on 14 February 2020. Local services from Edinburgh Waverley to North Berwick and Dunbar were cancelled for the rest of the day. LNER and Cross Country long distance trains were delayed by up to 80 minutes or in some cases were cancelled.

EAST FORTUNE Work has begun on the station at East Fortune between Dunbar and Drem which is being reopened. Many new houses have been built around the station site. Plans to reopen Reston, further south along the ECML, have also been announced.

INVERNESS AREA Services on the Highland Main Line were running smoothly on 21 and 22 February 2020 with trains generally overloaded with passengers. Connecting services to Nairn and Elgin left from an adjacent platform at Inverness and there was insufficient time to obtain an Inverness – Nairn ticket but the on-train crew reasoned that since the Glasgow – Inverness and Glasgow – Nairn tickets cost the same amount there was no need for me to have an extra ticket for the connecting journey. On my return Nairn ticket office was closed and the Inverness ticket barriers were unstaffed. The evening rush hour saw services towards Dingwall, and to the Nairn route leave well loaded, but the 1725 to the south carried just four commuters to Carr bridge and six to Aviemore. I could see no evidence of work being under way for the restored station at Dalcross which will serve the Airport and the growing Tornagrain area.

ULSTER Public transport road and rail services have operated at a loss for many years and the

11 February 2020

MASSIVE TRANSPORT BOOST APPROVED. Government approval for the entire HS2 scheme, for the purchase of 4000 zero-emission buses, and for at least 250 miles of cycle routes was announced on 11 February 2020. In a “something for everyone” package the Government will give long distance passengers from London to Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds faster rail journeys. Bus travel will become cheaper for many in the hope that more passengers will find bus travel acceptable. In the 1950s nearly half of short local journeys were made by bus. Today only 4% of such journeys are made on local bus routes. 250 miles of Cycle Lanes or routes are to be created and hopefully people will get on their bike to make local journeys safely on the new lanes.

BUSIEST STATIONS Waterloo remains the busiest station in England clocking up 94m users in 2018-9. Next, but far behind, was Victoria with 74m, Liverpool Street with 69m, and London Bridge with 61m. There is then a gap before Birmingham New Street with 47m – the first in the list that is not a London terminal. Euston follows with 46m. Other major stations handle smaller totals. Glasgow Central nearly 33m, Leeds 31m, Manchester Piccadilly 30m, and Edinburgh Waverley nearly 24m. In contrast the quietest station is Denton with only 46 users in 2018-19.

STORM CIARA The latest bad weather event to endanger travel across the UK hit on 9 -11 February 2002 with particular problems in South East England. Network Rail advised Anglia TOC to reduce their top speed to 75 mph, later cut to 50 mph, to try to prevent damage to the overhead power wires. LNER had already announced that its expresses from Kings Cross to Leeds and Edinburgh would be restricted to 50 mph. Air and ferry services were also disrupted. Flooding following very heavy rains resulted in the closure of the following lines on 9 February 2020:- Preston – Lancaster (WCML); Preston – Blackpool North; lines through Rochdale and Burnley; Coventry – Leamington Spa (tree on line); Liverpool Street – Stansted Airport; Norwich – Wymondham; Ipswich – Beccles. Steam lines similarly flooded or blocked included Embsay & Bolton Abbey; Keighley – Worth Valley. By 10 February 2020 Storm Ciara had resulted in chaotic conditions especially in northern England since snow was now added to the problems caused by torrential rain and 90 mph winds.

PENALTIES The Department of Transport has imposed a requirement of £20m extra spending on measures to keep trains running properly on West Midlands Trains (due to excessive delays and cancellations towards the end of 2019), A similar sum must be spent by Northern Rail and also by the Southern Company.

EUROSTAR Two through trains daily between London and Amsterdam will commence operation on 30 April 2020, eliminating the need to change trains in Brussels. A third through service will be added “soon” and eventually a fourth.

SOUTHEND ON SEA The new trains for the Pier Railway will be built by Severn Lamb Ltd. They will have electric power in contrast to the existing diesel powered trains (also by Severn Lamb) that are now 35 years old.. The new trains may be in service as soon as 2023.

CLASS 91 LNER is to retain its class 91 locomotives and mark 4 coaches to supplement their new Azuma fleet. This will enable it to meet it planned timetable from December 2021 in the event of any of the Azuma trains being out of service for any reason.

TfL RAIL Harold Wood Station in Essex, on the Shenfield route, is now step-free from the street to platforms following the construction of three lifts. These improvements are part of the preparations for the opening of the Elizabeth Line.

TICKET OFFICE CLOSURES London Mayor Khan planned to close most ticket offices at London Overground stations but following objections from both Trade Unions and passengers these plans have been modified. Most of the offices will remain in use, often only during the morning peak, when most tickets are issued. Several very busy stations will retain a ticket office all day.

ANOTHER LANDSLIP A substantial landslip on 7 February 2020 affecting an embankment on the Rugby – Northampton line caused long delays for the rest of the day. Recent heavy rain had weakened the structure of the embankment. Services were standing on the Coventry – Rugby section and for a time nothing was able to run from New Street towards Rugby (and London).

WEST MIDLANDS With a serious threat of losing their franchise unless there was a significant improvement in performance, the West Midlands Railway produced significantly improved results in its arrival times at most destinations. The Department of Transport will however continue to monitor performance closely but for the moment re-nationalisation appears to be no longer an immediate threat. The car park at Coseley station is being enlarged substantially.

MIDLAND METRO Construction work has begun along virtually all sections of the new line to Brierley Hill. Birmingham City Council announced on 7 February 2020 that a start was to be made on building the mile long Eastside extension from Bull Street to the planned HS2 terminus and High Street Deritend. Eventually this line could reach the Airport. It was planned initially to serve crowds going to the Commonwealth Games in 2022 but it will not open until 2023. A Government study has indicated that the Eastside extension will be “very high value for money”. The Library extension carried much heavier traffic than usual on 10 February 2020 on the occasion of the City Organist’s 800th concert in Symphony Hall in the presence of members of the Royal Family. Additional tram services were operated to carry the crowds.

WEST MIDLANDS PLANS The West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, has spoken widely about his plans for local transport in his campaign for re-election in May 2020. He sees spending of £750m each year for 20 years and new stations would open at Dudley Road (for the hospital) on the Stour Valley main line, and Balsall Heath on the Coventry route, three on the reopened Camp Hill Line, and four on the Kenilworth – Coventry – Nuneaton line. Very light rail trams/pods would link the University of Warwick and the Jaguar Land Rover factory with Coventry city centre.

SPRINGS YARD A new £46m depot for Northern TOC trains has been opened on the WCML near Wigan. The Northern TOC was stripped of its franchise due to unreliability of its services but this new facility will be a step towards achieving better operation of the trains.

LIVERPOOL AREA The freight-only Bootle branch may see passenger services restored with a new station close to Liverpool FC’s Anfield stadium. The ground is being enlarged from its present capacity of 54,000 to 61,000 but a condition for this increase is that better transport is made available to get people to the ground. A service to/from Lime Street station to the ground is considered necessary.

MANCHESTER The Trafford Park branch of the Metrolink tram network may open in April 2020 and will serve Manchester United’s stadium, the Imperial War Museum North, Event City, and the Trafford Centre retail and entertainment complex. The line will run through Trafford Park, Europe’s largest trading estate with 35,000 employees in 1300 different businesses.

LEEDS AREA The planned £22m White Rose station on the Leeds – Huddersfield line would serve a major office and shopping complex but Cottingly station, under 1 km away, might be closed. Local trains between Leeds, Ilkley, Skipton, and Bradford did not run on 10 February 2020 due to floods.

YORK Physical work on station improvements has begun including the creation of a First Class Lounge. LNER has been asked repeatedly about the provision of a lounge for its First Class travellers.

SCARBOROUGH – YORK The service on the branch from York will be doubled to two trains per hour in May 2020.

TYNE & WEAR Most users of the Metro now use contactless cards at ticket machines. 4.2m day and season tickets were issued using such cards. Fewer than one third of passengers now use cash.

EDINBURGH Waverley station in the heart of the city had to be closed during 9 February 2020 because it had become dangerously overcrowded by passengers who were hoping that trains were running to their desired destination. The City Council has indicated long-term plans to build extensions to the tramway including a north-south route from the Newhaven area right across the city centre into the southern suburbs. There would be car-free zones in the city centre.

BATHGATE LINE The morning peak service on 6 February 2020 suffered delays due to problems with the overhead power wires.

GRANGEMOUTH The local MSP has called for a passenger train service to be restored to the important town and port of Grangemouth, near Falkirk. The original passenger station was closed on 20 January 1968 but the branch remains busy with freight traffic to the docks. My memory of Grangemouth station was that the station was very badly located in the town.

ULSTER Belfast Central has been renamed Belfast Lanyon Place (it was never really central in location). A number of additional early morning peak services have been added to the Bangor, Larne, and Portadown routes. All trains on the Derry Line now have six coaches because of steadily rising traffic. During the year 2018-19 the railways carried 15.8m passengers – the highest total since Northern Ireland Railways were created in 1967.

2 February 2020

LINES TO REOPEN The Transport Secretary announced on 28 January 2020 that passenger services were to be restored on the Poulton-le-Fylde to Fleetwood line (cost £500,000 after a £100,000 study to decide whether this should be a light rail linked to Blackpool trams, or heavy rail service). Also to be restored is a service from Newcastle Upon Tyne to Blyth and Ashington at a cost of £1.5m. Bere Alston to Tavistock is another line that might be reopened under this scheme. A frequent service between Bristol and Portishead has been proposed for many years and Council funding has now been identified to meet most of the cost.

NORTHERN FRANCHISE The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, announced on 29 January 2020 that he was taking back into public ownership the Northern Franchise operated by Arriva Rail North, with effect from 1 March 2020. The operator, had given an inadequate service with too many train cancellations, too many services running late, and with poor rolling stock. Mr Shapps has warned that the Trans-Pennine Express, and West Midlands franchises are performing poorly and must improve immediately. The South Western franchise has also faced major reliability problems recently. Looked at overall the franchise system seems to be in significant trouble.

FLYTIPPING A new problem has hit many railways – especially those in the “steam/museum” category. People are dumping rubbish on railway tracks or walking routes to stations etc. The railway companies involved have to clear up the mess at their own cost.

SANDOWN A badger was electrocuted when it tried to cross the Isle of Wight track and touched the third rail. This was the first such incident suggesting that most badgers have learned that the third rail is dangerous.

EAST – WEST RAILWAY The route of the central section of the proposed line has now bee agreed. It will run via St Neots and Cambourne.

REDHILL – TONBRIDGE This important link south of London was closed on 22 December 2019 following a major landslip near Edenbridge. The location is relatively remote and engineers had to build a new road so that their equipment could reach the site. Since then a weekday shuttle service has operated between Edenbridge and Tonbridge with a bus shuttle providing a replacement service between Edenbridge and Redhill. The line is expected to reopen throughout during March 2020 but the exact date has still not been agreed.

NORWICH The 0740 express from Norwich to London Liverpool Street broke down in the outskirts of London on 28 January 2020. The train was stuck there for five hours with 400 commuters unable to leave the train but eventually they were able to climb down from the coaches and walk along the track to a station. A tree fell across the tracks between Diss and Norwich early on 31 January 2020 causing long delays.

CROSSRAIL The fitting-out of the Crossrail tunnels is confidently expected to be completed by the end of January 2020.

BILLERICAY A major upgrade to the Essex station will cost £2m but the work is going ahead and may be completed by the end of 2020.

FINSBURY PARK The new Wells Terrace entrance to the station was opened on 17 December 2019.

LONDON UNDERGROUND Uxbridge Station was evacuated during the morning of 25 January 2020 following an unspecified “incident”. After an hour or so the Metropolitan Line service restarted followed soon after by the Piccadilly service.

BRISTOL AREA A new park and ride station is being built on the Severn Beach line at Portway Park. The cost has risen because the platforms are being lengthened from those originally planned. Traffic surveys suggest that the traffic generated will be too high to be handled by short platforms.

WEST MIDLANDS DEPOT A new depot for the new train fleet at present being built in Derby may be located in the Bescot Yard area. There would be 100 new jobs at the new depot. Service frequencies on many local routes will be increased when the new stock and depot are available.

CROSS-CITY LINE The north – south route across Birmingham carried 13m passengers during 2019 – a million more than in 2018.

LIVERPOOL AREA A start is to be made this year in the building of a new station at Headbolt Lane in Kirkby. Several cars parked at Freshfield station on the Liverpool – Southport line were seriously vandalised on 28 January 2020 by intruders.

LEEDS AREA A new multi-level car park with 250 spaces is being built at Steeton and Silsden station on the Skipton route. The City Council has abandoned plans for a new road to take traffic to the Leeds Bradford Airport. Instead they are examining the value of a new park and ride station at Cookridge on the Leeds-Harrogate line. A bus shuttle from there could serve the Airport. The Harrogate line was closed between Leeds and Horsforth on 25 January 2020 due to over-running engineering works. The service on the Harrogate – York line is likely to be doubled to half-hourly with the trains passing each other at Poppleton – the only passing place on the single track branch.

SCARBOROUGH The beautiful spacious station is to receive an upgrade that will include modern toilets.

BLACKPOOL The closure of a Wilkinson’s store alongside the planned route of the tram extension to North Station enables construction of the tram extension to North Station to be completed.

TEESSIDE AIRPORT This is one of the quietest (and least served halts) on the national network. Just 74 passengers used it during 2019 but several new routes are starting to use the Airport so £6m is being invested in a major upgrade to the station which, hopefully will be matched by a much more frequent service, and loads of passengers.

TYNE & WEAR METRO Stadler has been declared the preferred bidder to renew the Metro fleet at a cost of £362m. Three possible liveries have been suggested and the views of users is sought. These are near white body with yellow doors, dark grey body with yellow doors, and yellow body with white doors. A variant is for the grey to be a lighter grey. The new stock will be “15 times” more reliable than the old stock. The entire system was brought to a halt between 1030 and 12 noon on 30 January 2020 due to a fault in the Control Room affecting the signalling system. Fortunately it was sorted quite quickly and the rush hour that morning was not affected.

GLASGOW SUBWAY Payment of fares became cash-only at all ticket offices on the morning of 29 January 2020 because the maintenance procedures on the ticket issuing machines had not been completed.

SCOTRAIL The ability to reserve seats in advance has been withdrawn since the Operator cannot tell in advance which of three classes of train might be rostered for each service.

EDINBURGH The massive St James redevelopment of the shopping mall half way up the long stairway between station and Princes Street will be completed by the end of 2020 (perhaps!) and will transform shopping possibilities when open.

EAST LINTON Preliminary work has begun on the reconstruction of a station on the East Coast Main Line. The original station was closed in 1964 in the Beeching era. It is also planned to reopen the nearby station at Reston.

BLACKFORD The Highland Spring bottled water company is pushing ahead with construction of a siding so that much of its product can go out by rail.

TUNNEL/BRIDGE TO IRELAND? A fixed rail link (a tunnel or a £15bn bridge) between Scotland and Ireland has been proposed many times but an obvious stumbling block is the use of different gauges in the countries involved. The suggestion that Irish Railways relay their track to the slightly narrower Standard gauge has major cost implications but the latest proposal is to lay a new standard gauge track along side the existing railway as far as Belfast. A large proportion of the traffic would be between Central Scotland and the Belfast area.

31 January 2020

STORM BRENDAN With 80mph winds roaring in from the west, precautionary speed restrictions were enforced on the WCML over Shap, all schools in the Western Isles were closed and all bus services in these islands cancelled. Ferry services were disrupted. A trampoline was blown from a garden into the overhead wires near Stafford causing a disruption to services. A major power failure near Cambridge similarly caused long delays to all trains using lines south of Cambridge station on the 13 January 2020. Trees were blown down across the tracks at many locations including Seahill (Bangor branch in Ulster), Atherstone on the WCML, Guildford in Surrey and between Faversham and Dover in Kent. High waves in the Channel halted services between Southampton and Bournemouth, and also between Rochester and Rainham on 14 and 15 January 2020 since it was felt that the force of the massive waves could endanger any train using this section. Powerful waves smashing into the sea wall at Dawlish on 16 January 2020 broke windows in a passing train and a few passengers received minor injuries.

MEASUREMENT TRAIN A newly equipped measurement train has been created from a retired High-Speed Train. It will be able to record track conditions while travelling at 125 mph.

LOCOMOTIVE 90044 has been given a new livery by operator Freightliner.. The sides are mostly bright orange with two black stripes along the lower part of each side. Freightliner proposes to repaint most of its locomotives in this new livery.

FLIRT AND KISS EMUS These emus are produced by Stadler in Switzerland and operate widely on local services across the UK. FLIRT trains are articulated units and the name is an acronym standing for “Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train. KISS emus are often in a double deck format across many rail systems in Mainland Europe. The name is an acronym of the German name for these units. Translated into English the train is “comfortable, innovative, sprint-capable, suburban train”.

HS2 As controversy continues about the possible cost, the latest figure is £106bn, three times the figure given three or four years ago.

AWARDS The Heaton Park Tramway has been declared by the “British Trams” site “Tramway of the Year 2019” to mark the speedy restoration of operations following the theft of the overhead wires. “Traditional Tramway of the year” is again the Manx Electric Railway. “Modern tram of the year” is a tie between Blackpool 001 and Manchester 3006.

ISLE OF WIGHT £1m has been raised from local sources releasing £26m from the Department of Transport to boost services and the trains. A passing loop will be re-created at Brading allowing trains to operate every 30 minutes and not at 20:40 minute intervals as now. A replacement of the 1938 ex LUL rolling stock will also now be possible.

NEWHAVEN MARINE The planned closure of this station has been announced and objections to the closure sought. Closure will make possible better access to a new freight facility at a new dock. The station used to serve a cross-Channel ferry service which has been moved slightly so that Newhaven Town station can now provide a better more convenient service.

SANDWICH The platforms are being lengthened for longer trains that will take crowds to watch the July 2020 Open Golf Tournament, played on the nearby Royal St George’s Course.

GILLINGHAM A young man was struck by a train while trying to cross the tracks at about 1400 on 15 January 2020. No trains were able to run between Rochester and Rainham while emergency teams were in attendance trying to rescue the casualty.

CLASS 442 Four 10-car sets of refurbished class 442 stock are entering service on South Western Railway and are providing fast services from London to Portsmouth and Poole. The trains have roomier 2+2 seating in Standard Class, while First Class seating is new and covered in leather. Attractive carpeting is on the floor of all coaches.

SEVEN KINGS This suburban station in NE London which is served by the Shenfield locals, was the centre of serious public disorder at about 1940 on 19 January 2020. Despite the attendance of at least eight paramedic teams and an air ambulance, three young men died from stab wounds at the scene.

FINCHLEY CENTRAL Transport for London and Taylor Wimpey have modified plans for new flats above the station on the Northern Line High Barnet branch. There will now be 560 new homes with blocks of flats 7 – 20 storeys high. About 100 more flats were planned at first with one tower containing 27 storeys.

EALING BROADWAY Access to the platforms is being improved with a new staircase and lifts.

TAFFS WELL Construction of a depot for the South Wales Metro began on 18 January 2020.

CLEETHORPES – LONDON A twice daily through train service between Cleethorpes and London via Grimsby is likely to be restored using the new Azuma trains.

MARKET HARBOROUGH The Midland Main Line is being straightened as it passes through the station allowing higher speeds to be achieved. The station car park has 300 spaces but an additional 200 is being provided since traffic on the semi-fast services is rising swiftly.

WEST COAST MAIN LINE Avanti West Coast and Alstom have come to an agreement worth £642m for the maintenance and refurbishment of the 56 Pendolino trains that provide the intercity service along the WCML. The overhead wires between Lancaster and Oxenholm were damaged on 16 January 2020 and services were halted for several hours until late afternoon.

WEST MIDLANDS The route between Wolverhampton and Walsall, and onwards through Aldridge to Birmingham looks increasingly likely to have a local passenger service restored. Funding for the new Aldridge station has been allocated by local Councils and confirmation of funds for Tettenhall, Willenhall and Darlaston is awaited.

CONSIDERATE BEHAVIOUR West Midlands Railway launched a “Considerate Behaviour” campaign on 18 January 2020 asking passengers to keep their feet off the seats, keep doorways clear, and turning stereos down.

SUTTON COLDFIELD A sheltered parking area for 50 bikes has been opened in the car park.

WASHWOOD HEATH DB Cargo UK has run its first train of aggregates into a new Tarmac Asphalt Depot at Washwood Heath, Birmingham. The Depot will receive regular supplies from Leicestershire by rail and none will come by road.

ABERYSTWYTH The often sought reopening of Bow Street station in the outskirts of the University city is going ahead. The station was closed in 1965 as part of the Beeching cuts but the area has grown steadily and work on the £8m new station, just south of the former site will begin before the end of January 2020.

FFESTINIOG RAILWAY This magnificent narrow gauge line uses sleepers made from recycled material. The sleepers arrive in standard gauge length but are then sawed in half to produce a sleeper of the correct length for the narrow gauge track. The recycled material used to make the sleepers uses a large amount derived from old milk bottles!

LIVERPOOL AREA Passenger trains ceased to link Liverpool with the growing new town of Skelmersdale in 1956 but Lancashire County Council has now decided that improvement in the service is required. The traffic likely to be generated by a spur from the Ormskirk Merseyrail line is being assessed. The case for other suggested new stations in the Liverpool area include Kirkby Headbolt Lane, another in the Baltic Triangle business area, Halton in Widnes, Woodchurch in the Wirral, and Carr Mill in St Helen’s are also being assessed but a source of the substantial finance involved is unknown.

MANCHESTER AREA The Trafford Park Metrolink line will open at a still-to-be-decided date in April 2020. The 5.5km line branches off from the Eccles line at Pomona.

NEWCASTLE AREA A further study into the reopening of passenger services to Ashington with a total of six new stations is strongly in favour of a restored service. The route was closed in the 1960s but many more people now live along the route.

TYNE & WEAR METRO Two thirds of fares are now paid using a contactless card rather that money. Over 4.2m transactions were made in 2019 using a card.

BORDERS RAILWAY There is mounting pressure from local industries and public bodies for the Borders Railway to be extended to Hawick or Carlisle.

PAISLEY A power supply failure on 11 January 2020 halted services between Glasgow and Ayr/Largs all morning. Storm Brendan produced massive waves which crashed across the Ardrossan and Largs tracks near Saltcoats on 13 January 2020. Train services were halted for most of the day. Trains for Gourock and Wemyss Bay were however able to run to the normal timetable.

HIGHLAND MAIN LINE More torrential rain resulted in flooding between Kingussie and Aviemore shutting the line throughout 11 January 2020.

2 January 2020

TIMETABLES With the closure of Thomas Cook, travel agent, the famous Cook’s European Timetable (relatively recently upgraded to include details of services across the world) was threatened with closure. However a new publisher was found and the timetable reappeared in mid December 2019 entitled “European Rail Timetable, winter 2019/2020 edition.” On the front cover there is statement “It is produced by the compilers of the former Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable”. As before there is a great deal of helpful information about requirements for travel in each country and the “city maps” section shows the location of the various termini in a selection of cities. There is no attempt to show all the suburban/commuter trains in distant continents so the entries in, for example Australia, show very infrequent services on almost all routes ignoring the fact that trains may run every few minutes on some sections of the route. Also, as before, there is no mention of the half-hourly service to East Kilbride, one of the largest communities in Scotland. In Birmingham the former Ian Allen bookshop closed in September 2019 when the rent for the unit was increased to an impossibly high level. Smith’s outlet in adjacent New Street Station has increased the number of railway magazines that it displays and a new shop, Tornado Books and Hobbies has opened in Dalton Street near the Magistrates Court selling books, modelling supplies etc about trains, trams, and shipping..

RAIN AND FLOODING Extremely heavy rain has continued to cause transport problems in southern and parts of eastern England. The Brighton Main Line was impassable on 19 and 20 December 2019 and many roads and railways in Sussex and Kent have been impossible to use. A tornado hit Surrey with winds exceeding 90 mph coupled with driving rain on 20 December 2019. Cars were blown from their parking places and blown across the road while being driven.

FARES A 2.7% increase in fares applied from 2 January 2020. However recent poor on-time performance by West Midlands Trains and London Northwestern Railway in the West Midlands resulted in a decision to reduce season ticket prices by 3% by operators – effectively cancelling the nationally agreed increase. For several months 20% of trains operated by these companies have reached their destination late.

SOUTHERN Services between Brighton and Shoreham were disrupted for several hours on Christmas Eve after a passenger was taken ill while travelling from Brighton to Worthing.

LANDSLIPS A significant landslip from the top of an embankment on 22 December 2019 closed the route between Redhill and Tonbridge. The location is inaccessible and buses replaced trains until 5 January 2020 when a rail shuttle started between Tonbridge and Edenbridge with a bus shuttle between Edenbridge and Redhill. A new road and a bridge will have to be built before repair work can begin. A slip occurred between Epsom and Ewell West on 15 December 2019 and this has been repaired. A less serious landslip occurred between East Grinstead and Hurst Green on 28 December 2019 and trains are passing over the area with a 20 mph speed limit.

MAJOR TUNNELS A 20 mile long tunnel is to be dug between Crayford (near Dartford) and Wimbledon to replace a multitude of cables laid below the streets. These cables are wearing out and rather than dig up many streets to replace them a single deeper tunnel will be able to replace all of them. The £400m contract to dig the new tunnel has been won by Hochtief and Murphy. A similar tunnel may be dug across the north London suburbs later.

CROSSRAIL Will the Elizabeth Line ever open? Further delays were announced on 5 January 2020 with the opening now possible in summer 2021 – three years behind the original schedule.

LOW LINE A new walking route may be created following the pillars of the arches carrying the Southwark – London Bridge and Bermondsey – Blackfriars “Low Lines” as a way to provide a convenient route for tourists visiting the places of historical interest including The Globe Theatre and other Shakespearean venues. Trees will be planted along the route with notices telling the history of the area.

GWR The Paddington – Bristol main line was closed near Bath during the evening of 28 December 2019 after a tree fell closing both tracks and causing damage to an inter-city train. The first electric intercity train between Paddington and Cardiff Central was run on 5 January 2020.

WEST MIDLANDS Football Specials are operated for those attending games at Villa Park and The Hawthorns. Away supporters use specials to/from Witton Station with home supporters handled by Cross City Line trains and occasional specials at Aston. West Bromwich Albion’s ground, The Hawthorns, is served by the Metro and extra services are run to carry supporters.

UNIVERSITY PLANS Local transport officials and a group of architects have produced a detailed plan to rebuild the station and enable it to cope with steadily rising traffic. The station was built to handle 400,000 users per year but the number using it today is 3,500,000. Large attractive buildings are planned for both platforms plus a new spacious access to the University of Birmingham to the west as well as major improvements to the access to the city’s main hospitals, to the west. Traffic is expected to rise to 7 million within three years.

CHRISTMAS LUNCH A free festive lunch was served to 350 homeless people in the concourse of Birmingham New Street station on Christmas Day.

NORTHERN Following multiple train cancellations and often as many as half of the trains arriving at destination late, the Transport Secretary decided on 2 January 2020 to take back the franchise from Northern Rail. He has not yet decided how to operate the franchise in future.

HORDEN-PETERLEE This new station on the Coast Line south of Sunderland is expected to open in mid 2020 but the planned service is just a single train each hour by the stopping train that runs from Newcastle to Middlesborough. The station is meant to become a hub for bus and rail services throughout the area.

LIVERPOOL A link by a new light rail line between John Lennon Airport, and the Pier Head has been suggested – reviving an earlier proposal which was deemed too costly. Nothing was done and there is still difficulty for travellers between the Airport and the city centre.

MANCHESTER Concessionary off-peak free travel on buses is available across the country but is not automatically available on trams, light rail or local heavy rail services. Manchester accepts bus passes on its large light rail network but financial pressure has made this unaffordable. A local resident can pay a £10 annual fee to upgrade their bus pass for use on trams and local rail services.

BLACKPOOL The tramway system could be expanded by trams taking over quiet heavy rail and abandoned railway rights of way. Blackpool, Fylde, and Wyre Councils are considering applying for cash from the Department of Transport to help pay for a £2m feasibility study into the expansion of the tramway system. At the south end a feasibility study will assess the value of an extension into Lytham St Annes.

LEEDS AREA A 450 strong workforce completed the construction of the new Platform Zero at Leeds Station. It will provide extra capacity for the growing numbers of trains that are required for the growing passenger traffic. Ben Rhydding Station near Ilkley has been adopted by a local group “Out of the Box” that decorated the station over the Christmas period and will publicise the services. Suggestions that several local stations closed in the 1950s and 60s be reopened as part of plans to combat climate change are being examined by Leeds City Council.

YORK £2m is to be spent on passenger facilities at York station during 2020. There will be a new First Class Lounge, enlarged ladies toilets, a new M&S food outlet and two additional shops in a new “passenger zone”. The ticket office will be replaced by a new “over the counter” issue point.

NEXUS A dispute between the RMT Union and management of the Tyne & Wear Metro, Nexus, has resulted in a plan for strike action in early January 2020. The Union has rejected a 15% pay increase and wants a significantly higher offer from Nexus.

GLASGOW AREA The gap in services over the Christmas and New Year period allowed a large team of engineers to upgrade 300m of track near Shields Road. A major signalling upgrade was completed in South Lanarkshire with control over the WCML transferred from Motherwell Signalling Centre to the £200m West of Scotland Signalling Centre in Glasgow. The Paisley Gilmour Street – Greenock line will be closed during the first two weekends of 2020 to allow bridge refurbishment at Dellingburn Road, Greenock, and also the near total rebuilding of a bridge at Parklea Road, Port Glasgow.

GLASGOW AIRPORT LINK A fast link between the city centre and the Airport is again being studied with a tram:train on the streets between the Airport and Paisley Gilmour Street Station, and the heavy rail line onwards to Glasgow Central. An alternative idea is the use of personal pods between the Airport and Gilmour Street Station. The idea of having a heavy Metro route all the way seems to have been dropped because of the high cost.

EDINBURGH Haymarket East Junction was renewed during the period 25 – 29 December 2019. The junction is used by around 30 trains each hour on weekdays. A rugby match at Murrayfield on the evening of 28 December 2019 drew large crowds to Edinburgh tram services and to trains passing through Haymarket station. Track work at the East Junction had been completed so a full service of trains was available to Edinburgh Park station – the nearest station to the ground.

DUNBAR A second platform, 271m long, was brought into use with the new timetable on 15 December 2019. Together with a new footbridge, lifts, and information screens, the project cost £13m. It will be possible to provide improved services to the town now that north-bound and south-bound services will be able to call at the same time, and terminating trains will be able to stand there without blocking other services.

20 December 2019

SOUTH EASTERN A twenty eight day crackdown on fare evaders on trains serving the Medway Towns produced 8,500 travellers with no tickets. Around 6,500 penalty tickets were issued and a significant number will appear later in the Magistrates’ Courts.

SHEERNESS BRANCH New class 375 emus are replacing time expired stock on the branch shuttle service.

POOLE A proposal has been made to relocate Poole station a little to the east, closer to the town centre. This would enable a level crossing beside the present station to be removed.

TARKA LINE The Exeter – Barnstable branch has got an hourly service in the new timetable from 15 December 2019.

DAWLISH Services along the section close to the sea were halted on 19 December 2019 as storms lashed over the tracks.

ELIZABETH LINE (CROSSRAIL). As the Christmas and New Year holiday period approaches there is still no sign of this massive project opening. The Mayor of London has however indicated on 18 December 2019 that additional funds will NOT be required to complete the work and get the line open to the public.

CROYDON There is a suggestion that new trams be obtained for the Croydon Tramlink network where the present hard-worked stock is at least 20 years old. A major signalling failure at 1620 on 18 December 2019 resulted in no services being able to move through East Croydon to/from points south. The concourse at Victoria quickly filled up with commuters and alternative routes between The City and Croydon soon overflowed with traffic.

LONDON OVERGROUND From 15 December 2019 services on the Richmond and Clapham Junction branches will be increased from 4 to 5 services each hour, and to ten per hour on the Willesden Junction – Stratford section. Traffic has been rising rapidly along these routes and the increase in services will keep overcrowding in check.

IPSWICH AREA Continuing signalling problems meant that on the morning of 11 December 2019 eighty four services had to be cancelled including all on the Felixstowe branch.

CAMBRIDGE SOUTH A series of public consultations into this planned station close to Addenbrooke’s and Papworth Hospitals and a growing industrial area is planned to open in the mid 2020s but many want it now. £15m has been allocated by the Dept of Transport and local bodies.

AVANTI WEST COAST The new operator of services along the West Coast main line plans to have three classes of travel on its upgraded trains. First class, Premium Economy, and Economy on its Pendolino trains. It has not yet indicated what fare difference there will be between them.

WEST MIDLANDS The first section of the rebuilt Wolverhampton inter-city station will be completed during January 2020 and the long newly built branch of the West Midlands Metro light rail line will probably open soon afterwards. There were long delays to morning rush hour trains on 17 December 2019 following signalling failures at Bromsgrove and along the line towards Oxford. Plans for a concrete manufacturing plant at Bescot Yard have been rejected by Sandwell Council on grounds of noise and the generation of dust. The existing plant at Washwood Heath will have to close since the planned HS2 line will run through the site.

WEST MIDLANDS METRO Public services between “Grand Central” and “The Library at Centenary Square” commenced on 11 December 2019 without any fanfare. The trams had been running test services for weeks and it was decided to allow the public to use the trams from what was a Wednesday morning. No fares were charged since the conductors’ hand sets did not yet include the appropriate fares although it will cost £1.50 on weekdays to ride the half mile section. The route starts at the Grand Central/New Street Station stop and climbs up steeply to the famous Grade 1 listed Town Hall – a venue where first performances took place of now famous works during a Triennial Festival for new works in 19th century (These include the oratorias Elijah; Dream of Gerontius; and Sullivan’s Concert Overture Di Ballo etc) and which houses a magnificent Victorian organ. The new Town Hall stop is at the end of the much columned building. The line then runs alongside Broad Street to a terminus in Centenary Square beside the main Library and close to the International Conference Centre (ICC) which includes Symphony Hall, itself the home of another major organ. The Repertory Theatre, and the Hyatt Regency Hotel are adjacent. There is no overhead wire along the extension and the trams operate from their on-board batteries. Unfortunately the day was marred by an incident at Bradley Lane which brought down a substantial length of overhead power cable and services beyond Wednesbury Parkway were impossible until the following morning.

LIVERPOOL In order to make it easier for fans to get to games at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool FC have suggested that a station could be built nearby on a freight line. At present it is a thirty minute walk from existing stations on the Southport and Ormskirk lines to Anfield.

HORWICH The public are to be allowed to visit the old locomotive works before the structure is demolished. A new road between the town and the railway station will be built once the site has been cleared.

ADLINGTON A tree fell across the tracks of the Crewe – Manchester main line at the start of the morning rush hour on 19 December 2019 causing long delays. Part of the overhead catenary was damaged during this incident.

SHEFFIELD SUPERTRAM All tram-trains were withdrawn from service on 14 December 2019 on the urgent instruction from the manufacturer, Stadler, which had identified a hydraulic fault that could affect all of the tram-trains. After inspection, which revealed no problems, the tram-trains were returned late on 16 December 2019 and a partial return of services began on the next morning with a half-hourly service on each route. By the end of the day the full service was in operation.

EAST COAST MAIN LINE The overhead power wires were brought down on 12 December 2019 during high winds at Drem. Passengers from the London area or the West Midlands were advised to travel on Avanti West Coast services which would accept all relevant tickets.

TYNE & WEAR METRO A few morning and evening peak Metro services were cancelled on 11 December 2019 since a few of the drivers were unavailable because of the RMT Union strike affecting rail services used by the drivers to get to or from work. He RMT has called for a strike of Metro drivers on 20 and 21 December 2019 after a 15% wage increase was rejected by the Union.

SCOTRAIL The franchise to operate services on the Scotrail network was granted to Abellio in 2015 with a review to take place in 2022 and an expected continuation until 2025. Because of many complaints from the public about poor service the franchise will now end in 2022 leaving time for a new operator to be found to take over operations in 2022. Abellio will however be able to bid for the new franchise starting in 2022.
CLASS 314 After 40 years of service on routes around Glasgow class 314 emus are being withdrawn before the end of 2019. To give travellers a last chance to ride on the old trains three special “there and back” workings are being laid on from Glasgow Central to Ayr, to Carstairs and Cumbernauld, and to Helensburgh on 18 December 2019.

RAIN AND FLOODS Very heavy rain on 9/10 December 2019 resulted in significant flooding around Largs and Skelmorlie with Largs trains cut back to Kilwinning. Trains between Dumbarton and Helensburgh were replaced by a bus shuttle due to flooding near Cardross and West Highland line trains were halted by flooding north of Helensburgh. Following continuing heavy rain the Gleneagles – Perth section of the Aberdeen main line was closed to all traffic on 11 December 2019 due to worsening flooding of the track. In Glasgow the line between Mount Florida and Glasgow Central had to be closed on 11 December 2019 because of flooding. This section, used by Cathcart Circle, Neilston, and Kirkhill trains, runs through a deep cutting lined by stone walls which restrict drainage. By the morning of 12 December the worst flooding was in the area of Pollokshields East station. Cathcart Circle trains were cancelled and Barrhead locals cut to once an hour in an attempt to get some sort of service restarted to Neilston and Kirkhill, emus crawling through the worst of the flooded areas.

GLASGOW SUBWAY Services on the Inner Circle were suspended and Kelvin Hall station closed to all traffic for much of 10 December 2019. Trains on the Outer Circle ran through Kelvin Hall at a slow speed. Emergency services were in attendance at Kelvin Hall following an incident involving a passenger.

ROBROYSTON The sixtieth suburban station in Glasgow, on the route to Cumbernauld, was opened on 16 December 2019. It has a half-hourly service and a car park with 258 spaces.

HAYMARKET A major power failure in late afternoon on 17 December 2019 plunged the area around Haymarket Station into blackness with street lights, shops, and office blocks all left without power. The platforms at Haymarket station remained lit and trains were able to run as normal.

TRANENT & COCKENZIE RLY Archaeologists digging along the route of this early waggonway which was opened in 1722 and was later crossed on the level by the East Coast Main Line a few miles east of Edinburgh, discovered remains of wooden rails that had been used on the original coal carrying horse-powered line. The 4km long waggonway was of 4’6” gauge, and not 3’3” gauge as with other early Scottish lines. Iron rails replaced the wooden ones in 1815. During the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 the Jacobite forces were ranged along the low embankment carrying the waggonway giving them a winning advantage. The Coal Board retained a theoretical right of way across the East Coast Main Line since its long closed line was there first!

9 December 2019

VOLKS RAILWAY For the first time, on 3 November 2019, the pioneer electric railway operated a three train service using the passing loops between the intermediate stop at Halfway and the termini at Aquarium and Black Rock/Marina.

LEWES – SEAFORD The branch was closed between 28 November and 1 December 2019 to allow major upgrade work including replacing the signalling which is now controlled from Three Bridges.

MERSEYTRAVEL A points failure at Bidston disrupted services on the West Kirby route during the morning rush hour on 28 November 2019.

SHEFFIELD The tram:train service to Rotherham has been cut from three services to two until 13 December 2019. A team of engineers from tram builder Stadler is undertaking modifications and improvements to ensure that the tram:trains continue to give reliable service. For the moment there are only enough trams available to guarantee a twice hourly service. The tram service is to be revised from 15 December 2019. The Herdings Park route (Purple Line) will operate until midnight. Trams will run on all lines until after 2300 on Mondays – Saturdays, and to encourage evening travel there will be a new “After 8” ticket costing just £2 until late May for passengers joining at Rotherham Central or Parkgate.

EAST COAST The first Azuma train in public service left Aberdeen at 0752 on 26 November 2019 heading for London Kings Cross. The train used its diesel engines to operate as far as Edinburgh Waverley, and then electric power along the East Coast Main Line through Newcastle and York to Kings Cross. The trains have been making test trips along the Aberdeen – Edinburgh line for several weeks but this was the first trip carrying fare-paying passengers.

HULL The first of the bi-mode class 802 “Paragon” trains entered service between Hull and Kings Cross on 25 November 2019.

TYNE AND WEAR METRO A dispute over pay levels and working conditions has resulted in a ban by the RTM Union against overtime working since 1 December 2019. A total strike is threatened for 20/21 December 2019

WEST MIDLANDS A man came into contact with the overhead power cable in New Street station at 0800 on Sunday 1 December 2019 and received extensive burns. Observers indicated that he seemed to be on fire. An air ambulance landed on the roof of the station car park and was able to lift the badly injured man from the area and took him to a specialist burns unit. Rail services were disrupted until 1100.

WEST COAST MAIN LINE Services north of Preston were delayed for up to seven hours on 27 November 2019, then cancelled altogether after power cables snapped at 0835 and formed a tangled mass which proved difficult to remove and then replace with new cables. It was hoped that normal services would be able to resume on 28 November (in fact it was not until late in the morning that services could resume) and all tickets for services on 27 November were accepted on all services on the 28th.

FAREWELL VIRGIN Virgin Trains operated the West Coast franchise for 22 years – the longest individual franchise operation to date – but was barred from applying for the new franchise and ran its last train – the 2142 from Euston to Wolverhampton on 7 December 2019. The last Euston – Manchester service broke down while the train was standing in Stockport station.

AVANTI WEST COAST The new operator, from 8 December 2019, on the West Coast Main Line and its related branches to North Wales, Blackpool, Liverpool, and Manchester has been named Avanti West Coast. The name has been chosen by First Group and Trenitalia, the two companies that won the franchise. Avanti West Coast promises additional services within a couple of years once the 56 Pendolino trains have received total refurbishment with new seats, improved catering, and an improved range of tickets. The Euston – Liverpool service will be doubled to half-hourly. Eventually a few services will run through to London from Gobowen and Walsall. “Avanti” (an Italian word) means “Go ahead”.

NEW TRAINS Hitachi is building 23 new trains for Avanti West Coast at a total cost of £350m. There will be ten seven-car emus for services between Euston, the West Midlands, and Liverpool each seating 453 passengers. Thirteen five-car bi-mode trains will be used between Euston and North Wales each seating each giving 301 seats. A class 221 Voyager train has 258 seats – the higher capacity of the new trains is because the individual coaches are longer.

WELSH HIGHLAND RAILWAY The pioneer Beyer-Peacock locomotive K1, built at Gorton Works, Manchester, in 1909 was withdrawn from service in 2014 when its boiler ticket expired, is to be moved to the Statfold Barn Railway, near Tamworth, where it will receive a cosmetic repaint but in the longer term it is planned that k1 will be returned to an operational condition.

BISHOPTON A fault with the signalling system caused cancellations and delays on evening peak services between Glasgow, Gourock, and Wemyss Bay. The Paisley Canal line was also out of service at the same time due to this signalling failure.

SIGNAL FALURE Services from Helensburgh, through Queen Street LL, and east to Edinburgh Waverley via Bathgate were disrupted early on 7 December 2019 following a signalling failure between Bathgate and Uphall.

BLACKFORD The Highland Spring Water bottling plant between Gleneagles and Perth is to have its own siding to enable much of its output to go out by rail instead of causing congestion on the roads.

CAIRNGORM FUNICULAR The cost of dismantling the funicular (before restoration work) will be at least £13.3m.

23 November 2019

GENERAL ELECTION PROMISES. The Conservative Party has indicated a spend of £500m to reverse the cuts applied by Beeching many years ago. Experts indicated that the required spend would be MUCH greater unless the Party means to restore a service to just one or two lines. Both the Conservative and Labour Parties agree that lines that should be reopened are Newcastle to Blyth and Ashington; a branch to Skelmersdale New Town near Liverpool; Thornton-Cleveleys to Fleetwood; and a service to Willenhall and Darlaston in the West Midlands.

GRAND UNION TRAINS The Grand Union Co has submitted a proposal for a four times a day stopping service between Stirling and London Euston which aims to provide a long distance service to towns that have only a more local service. The trains would start at Stirling and call at Larbert, Greenfaulds, Whifflet, Motherwell, Lockerbie, Carlisle, Preston, Crewe, Nuneaton, Milton Keynes Central and Euston. Class 91 locomotives are seen as providing the traction. Grand Union propose also a bi-hourly Cardiff – Paddington service calling at an expanded Severn Tunnel Junction station and the planned Llanwern Park and Ride station. Trains that formerly worked on the East Coast Main Line would be used initially while new trains similar to those to be used by GWR were obtained to operate every hour to Swansea and Llanelli and providing an urgent package service. Also in the pipeline is a service between Euston and Blackpool.

LOCOMOTIVES 86101 “Sir William A Stanier” and 87002 “Royal Sovereign” were used in recent years to haul empty rakes of Sleeping Cars between Euston and Glasgow Central and depots where the coaches could be got ready for their next use. New Mark 5 sleeping cars are now in use and the elderly locomotives cannot couple with the new coaches. 86101 and 87002 were declared “redundant” but have been purchased by Locomotive Services Ltd (LSL), will remain capable for main line use, and will be used on LSL’s heritage special services. 86401 “Mons Meg” also remains operational but is now part of LSL’s fleet as is at least one HST set redundant from the Great Western main line.

LONDON – OXFORD Express coach services on the Motorway have been significant rivals to the Paddington – Oxford rail service. From 6 January 2020 the Oxford Bus Co’s X90 express bus service will cease to run leaving the fast road service in the hands of Stagecoach’s “Oxford Tube” service. This claims to provide so many express buses the service is almost like a London Tube service – “miss one and there will be another shortly”.

LONDON – GLASGOW The improved faster London Euston – Glasgow Central passenger service has started to pull back passengers from rival air services. In the twelve months to April 2019 the railways took 29% of the traffic compared with just 27% a year before. The last time rail’s share was as high as 29% was in 2014.

FARES FREEZE London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced on18 November 2019 that all Transport for London single fares on bus, Underground, and Docklands Light Railway will be frozen for all of 2020. However season tickets and travel cards are not included and will be increased by the RPI inflation measure of 2.8%.

WATERLOO A burst water-main between Wimbledon and Surbiton late on 12 November 2019 caused disruption to services to and from Waterloo and this continued through the morning rush hour of the 13 November 2019.

LUL Oxford Circus station was closed for several hours on 20 November 2019 after a passenger fell from the crowded southbound Victoria Line platform. Oxford Street was closed for a short time while emergency services vehicles arrived at the station. After a short break in the Victoria Line service, trains ran through Oxford Circus station without stopping.

GOVIA-THAMESLINK The company has launched a £15m station improvement programme. Defibrillators are to be installed at Knebworth, Potters Bar, Hadley Wood, and Welwyn Garden City stations and a rolling programme of improved lighting, landscaping, toilet renovation and repainting will continue. Sixty of the 274 stations will have been completed by early 2020.

MIDLAND METRO On 13 November 2019 Jasper Carrott, the Midlands born comedian, unveiled his name on tram No 28 which was positioned outside the Town Hall on the soon to be opened Centenary Square extension. Other named trams in the new fleet are No 31 Cyrille Regis MBE 1958-2018 (International footballer); 37 Ozzy Osbourne (Local entertainer). Most of the earlier T-69 fleet were named including 07 Billy Wright (footballer); 10 John Stanley Webb (local historian) 11 Theresa Stewart (Politician and Birmingham Lord Mayor) and 16 Gerwyn John (Engineer for Midland Metro). Tram 07 is preserved by UK Trams, 10 and 11 are in store at Long Marston with No 11 to be preserved in Birmingham Corporation tram livery by the City Council.

ROWLEY REGIS The Black Country station (on the Stourbridge Junction line) has a large well used car park, but in mid November 2019 work to repair a burst water main close to the car park entrance and contractors put a set of three-way traffic lights covering the area resulting in delays of as long as two hours for drivers trying to leave the car park in the evening rush hour.

MANCHESTER AREA Test running on the new Metrolink Trafford Park line began on 12 November 2019. After detailed checks driver training will take place during much of 2020 and eventually public services will start perhaps in early 2021. Cornbrook station is being upgraded with an extended canopy and improved platform facilities as part of its extended role as an interchange point with the Trafford Park Line. A pedestrian footbridge between Cheadle Hulme and Handforth stations is to be rebuilt. The bridge will be closed to the public from 6 December 2019 until mid February 2020 when the work will have been completed. A points failure at Eccles resulted in delays for much of the day on 12 November 2019. One million passengers used the contactless payment system in just four months since this payment method was introduced on 15 July 2019.

LIVERPOOL AREA A trespass incident between Lime Street and South Parkway stations on 12 November 2019 resulted in delays of fifty minutes until it was confirmed that the trespassers were no longer on the railway property. Smoking is to be banned at ALL stations served by Merseyrail.

BLACKPOOL The tramway branch to North Station is still far from ready. Most of the track is in position but no overhead wires have been erected and the Wilco store is still trading on the site of the planned tram terminus. Their lease for the store expires in April 2020 and progress may then be made in constructing a proper terminus.

LEEDS A collision between an Azuma train and a line of coaches in a train depot near Leeds station disrupted the morning rush hour on 13 November 2019.

BRITISH STEEL REDCAR This halt was opened within the grounds of the Redcar steel plant on 19.June 1978 and was used by workers at the plant. Following the closure of the steel works the use of the halt fell away until it became the quietest station on BR with only about 40-50 users per year. There was no longer any access to the halt from nearby roads and the halt was officially closed on 15 December 2019.

TYNE & WEAR METRO A new timetable was introduced on the Metro on 13 October 2019 giving a more frequent peak service, and filling occasional gaps to create a service every 12 minutes on every route. A temporary Depot is being built at Howdon to hold ten sets of Metro cars while the present depot at Gosforth is rebuilt.

GLASGOW The new Dundas Street (western) entrance to Queen Street station was opened on
11 November 2019. It is only 10m from the previous narrow Dundas Street entrance but the new facility is wider and much more attractive. The only other entrance to the station at present available is the North Hannover Street (eastern) entrance which is generally unattractive in appearance. The main entrance (on the south side) leading into Queen Street and George Square
is being rebuilt and cannot be used at the moment by passengers.

GLASGOW – NEILSTON A signal failure at Neilston station on 20 November 2019 meant that services on the branch were halted for several hours.

GLASGOW – EDINBURGH The time required for fast services on the Falkirk route is being eased from 42 to 44 minutes with only two services in the new timetable retaining the 42 minute time. Passengers are annoyed that despite the recent investment in faster class 485 emus the time required for each journey has to be extended.

9 November 2019

NEW STATIONS Three new stations are scheduled to open on 15 December 2019 as the new National Timetable is launched. The stations are at Robroyston in north east Glasgow (serving a large new housing area), Warrington West (serving the Chapelford housing area where the US Burtonwood Air Base once stood) and Worcestershire Parkway (located where the Paddington – Worcester and Birmingham – Bristol main lines cross each other. Also opened during 2019 is Meridian Water replacing nearby poorly situated Angel Road. The opening of Warrington West has resulted in nearby Sankey (for Penketh) having its service slashed to one peak service each way.

HIGH WINDS Winds of up to 100 mph swept up the Channel on 2 November 2019 and all ferry services from Dover were halted because of the gigantic waves sweeping across the Channel.

EAST COAST Because engineering work had closed parts of the ECML through Retford and Newark, and because insufficient drivers were available to drive over the relief route via Lincoln, many services due to operate on the last weekend of October 2019 were cancelled.

FLOODS Extremely heavy rain in early November has caused flooding across northern England. No trains could operate between Rochdale and Todmorden. Trains could still reach Glossop but not Hadfield. On the other side of Manchester trains operated through Eccles at a crawl again due to flooding. Flooding became severe on 8 November 2019 in a wide area of Yorkshire as the River Don burst its banks. Rail services between Derby – Sheffield – Doncaster and towards Leeds were halted.

WEST COAST Virgin Trains cancelled all services north of Stafford at 2100 on 26 October 2019 following extremely heavy rains that resulted in flooding at many locations – some at places where water levels are rarely a problem. In the dark it was not possible to see a flooded area from a train moving at speed. Damage to the overhead power wires on the fast lines just north of Queens Park resulted in delays and cancellations as inter-city and outer suburban trains squeezed on to the remaining two tracks. Leaving Euston, the xx00 Manchester, the xx03 Birmingham, and the xx07 outer suburban services were cancelled over several hours giving a useful gap in the northbound services allowing a group of up i.e. southbound trains to reach Euston with a relatively clear run.

MIDLAND MAIN LINE HST trains, now redundant from East Coast services are being transferred to the Midland Main Line as a stop-gap move for the next three years when completely new trains will have been delivered.

GATWICK AIRPORT A £150m improvement project will start in May 2020 and finish in 2023. It will widen platforms 5 and 6, and give a new exit with a ramp from platform 7. There will be five new lifts, eight new escalators, and several new stairways.

HS2 Taroni Metals, a scrap metal firm using a site in Saltley for 67 years, is threatened with eviction on 30 October 2019 but cannot afford to move. Taroni claim that it is owed several million pounds by HS2 for the site and until it is paid cannot afford the £2m cost of transferring its business to another location.

DOCKLANDS Thales has signed two contracts concerning control systems on the 43 new trains that are being built by CAF for the Docklands Light Railway. CAF is to supply and integrate an on-board control system on the new fleet. The second contract is with Transport for London to provide signalling system upgrades to the software on the new trains. Both contracts will run until 1 September 2024.

LUL A new timetable for the Victoria Line from 4 November 2019 will give a service frequency of a train every 100 seconds during the times 0715 – 1015, and 1615 – 1915. Anger has been expressed for changes on the Central Line from 26 January 2020 which axes two services per hour between Debden and Epping, and the service between Woodford and Hainault reduced to a shuttle by a four car train instead of as part of a through service to central London for much of the day. Services during the peaks on the Northern, Central and Jubilee Lines are running with loads above capacity of 130%, 116%, and 115% respectively.

CROSSRAIL (ELIZABETH LINE) Because of a lengthy time required to test the complex signalling system to be used through the tunnel and the links to very different systems existing at each end the cross-London line will not now open until early 2021 and the cost will have risen by a further £650m. The line had been expected to open in December 2018.

WATFORD LOCALS A trespass incident involving several people at Wembley Central Station on 25 October 2019 disrupted services to and from Euston and along the route as far as Watford Junction. Although the trespassers were eventually removed train services were likely to be disrupted until the following morning. The Euston – Watford Jct local service was disrupted again on 31 October 2019 due to a signalling system failure in the Willesden area. The local Overground trains between Euston and Watford Junction are increasingly being worked by Bombardier class 710 “Aventra” emus. The service frequency is now a train every 15 minutes for most of the day.

POLLUTION Travel on the London Underground has been declared a health risk since pollution on the London Underground is 885 micro-particles per cubic metre of air – 18 times the level found on suburban trains. On the Victoria Line the problem is even worse at 22 times the level set by the World Health Organisation to protect people’s health. In Bristol diesel cars are to be banned during daytime hours and several other cities are considering similar measures.

TORBAY High tides and massive waves combined to produce significant flooding along the Devon and Cornwall coasts. The Looe branch was closed on 29-30 October 2019 and a reduced service operating more slowly than normal operated along the main line.

EXETER A new station is planned at Marsh Barton between Exeter St Thomas and Starcross to serve the large Marsh Barton trading estate. It would be served by trains to the city centre and Exmouth, and also to Newton Abbott and Paignton. There will be a half hourly Exmouth – Exeter – Newton Abbot – Paignton local service.

WEST MIDLANDS Erdington station buildings were damaged by a fire which started late on 26 October 2019. The half hourly Sunday service was able to operate along the route but trains did not call at Erdington until late on the 27th. A broken down train at Coseley together with a signal failure on the south side of the Cross City Line resulted in major delays all day on 29 October 2019. A shortage of train crew meant many cancellations of local services around Birmingham on 30 and 31 October 2019 – for three consecutive days local services were reduced to near chaos. Perry Barr station is to be rebuilt to create a bus:rail interchange.

COVENTRY Three new stations have been proposed on the line to Nuneaton. Coundon and Foleshill stations would be reopened while a new station would be built at Binley & Willenhall.

STECHFORD A new footbridge with lifts is being built at this station on the main line to Coventry and Euston.

LIVERPOOL Two new stations are planned to serve regenerated areas of the city. St James station was closed in 1917 but much of it remains and the station will be the first to open. The other will serve the Baltic Triangle business area

MANCHCESTER METROLINK. A quick visit to Manchester on 24 October 2019 showed the tram network to be running well with trams packed even at “quiet times” such as early afternoon. As the evening rush hour drew near as many services as possible were formed of two trams. More trams are expected soon but they are going to do little more than touch the problem rather than cure it. Local heavy rail routes are being better used after many years of steady decline since those arriving at Victoria or Piccadilly stations can continue into the heart of the city on a tram. On this visit I did not see any ticket inspectors coming through a tram but on a mid afternoon arrival at Cornbrook a row of seven inspectors stood on the platform facing the tram demanding to see the tickets held by passengers leaving the tram.

HEATON PARK The tram line taking passengers from the Park entrance to a pool in the Park was opened as a regular tram line in 1903. became a heritage line in 1980 after the street tramways in the city had closed, but was forced to close recently after thieves stole the copper overhead power wire. Well-wishers contributed £5400 within a few days to buy new copper cable and the line reopened on 26 October 2019 with large crowds present to enjoy a ride.

KEIGHLEY The station is to be refurbished in a £4m scheme that will see general repairs, a
repaint, and the resurfacing of the platforms.

LEEDS Work begins shortly on the upgrading of platforms 1 – 6 and the construction of a new platform 0. Step free access is being provided at Cross Gates, Horsforth and Morley. Major work at Pudsey together with enlargement of the station car park is planned but there seems to be a hitch in the funding for this scheme. A new station is planned beside the White Rose Shopping Centre in the Beeston area south of the city centre.

HARROGATE The new timetable implemented from 15 December 2019 will feature five additional through trains to/from Kings Cross to give a service every two hours (six services each way) during the day. A similar expansion of the Kings Cross – Lincoln service has been widely welcomed.

BILLINGHAM The Tees Valley station is the only one in the area without proper disabled access. This is now to be rectified with the £2m cost being met by National Rail, HM Government, and local Government sources. 120,000 people use the station each year – a number that has risen by 14% over the past five years.

NEXUS The building of a new £500m Tyne and Wear Metro fleet at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe plant is an important step in maintaining the north east’s range of available engineering skills.

KINCARDINE Talgo have announced that they are to build a train manufacturing plant here to be ready to bid for new train orders for UK companies.

25 October 2019

£10bn INVESTMENT This is the massive sum that could be spent on 58 development schemes in 2019-24 to improve the capacity of the railway network. Each scheme must go through a five-step assessment process before it can advance to funding. Schemes that are still at the first stage “decision to examine case” include capacity improvements at Leeds, Stratford, and Liverpool Street stations. Proposals to lengthen trains to reduce overcrowding on Chiltern Railways and West Midlands Railways are at the second examination stage. Further along the examination process are improvements to Brighton Main Line, the Solihull corridor and London Victoria station.

ELECTRIFICATION WORK The installation of overhead power wires resulted in the closure of the main line from the Bristol direction during the weekend of 26/27 October 2019. The Ebbw Vale branch was also closed for the weekend because the work involved the southern end of the branch. To make matters worse several miles length of the Heads of the Valleys road was also closed throughout that weekend.

YORK MUSEUM The National Railway Museum in York has been awarded a grant of £18m by a Government fund to help build a new Central Hall that will connect the two existing halls.

SPEED RECORD On 9 October 2019 a special Great Western train celebrating the Company’s new timetable ran from Swindon to Paddington non-stop in 44 minutes 22 seconds – an average speed of 100 mph.

ISLAND LINE One of the two 81 year old trains of former London Underground stock had to be taken out of service on 18 September 2019 for urgent repairs and a reduced service of a once per hour shuttle connecting with the ferry at Ryde Pier was introduced. However the normal timetable was resumed on 21 October 2019 when these repairs had been completed.

WIMBLEDON DEPOT A slow speed derailment of an emu within Wimbledon Depot trapped several emus within the Depot and resulted in significant delays or cancellations during the morning rush hour on 14 October 2019.

TOTTENHAM HALE A free-to-use water fountain has been installed on platform 4 joining similar facilities already operating at Chelmsford, Ipswich, Cambridge, Colchester, Ely, Bishop’s Stortford, Witham, Shenfield, Billericay, Wickford and Norwich.

CANARY WHARF The ticket issuing machines are to go cashless from 27 October 2019. Fares will be able to be paid by using Debit, Credit or Oyster Cards.

NORTHAMPTON DEPOT The Transport Secretary has approved plans for a huge rail freight depot just south of Northampton. Campaigners against the depot are “hugely disappointed” since local roads will have to carry greatly increased numbers of lorries and life in local villages will become “nearly impossible”. The new Depot is close to Junction 15 on the M1 motorway and it is seen as a focal point for the transfer of traffic between the railways and highways.

X90 WITHDRAWN The X90 express bus route, between Oxford and London, operated by the Oxford Bus Company will be withdrawn from 4 January 2020 because of steadily falling traffic due to competition from rail services. The “Oxford Tube” express bus route, operated by Stagecoach, will continue to operate and will gain traffic due to the removal of the X90 services.

HS2 Government and Department of Transport officials have voiced the view that the £88bn (and rising) cost of HS2 might be better spent on improving the existing network country-wide. Mainly four-track main lines could have short two track sections increased to four. Closed routes of value now could be reopened. A proposal being examined is the construction of a direct link between Manchester and Leeds cutting the journey time between the two cities from 71 to 20 minutes and make the Birmingham – Leeds limb unnecessary and saving of £10bn.

FLINDERS Clearing the site for an expanded Euston terminus involves moving many thousands of bodies from a forgotten graveyard. One body is that of Captain Matthew Flinders (died 1814) who sailed round Australia, proving it to be a continent on its own, and popularised the name “Australia”. His own name remains in use as a city centre street and main line station in Melbourne, Australia. His body will be interred at St Mary and the Holy Rood, Donington, Lincs, where many of the Flinders family are already buried.

GRAND CENTRAL The train operator has been granted permission to operate an additional service between Sunderland and Kings Cross. They will now have six services each way on weekdays, and five on Sundays.

EAST LONDON LINE The Housing Infrastructure Fund has allocated £80.8m towards improvements to the East London Line. A new station at Surrey Canal Road, and step-free access at Surrey Quays will be improvements made possible by this grant. 14,000 new homes are to be built in Southwark and Lewisham and improved public transport will be necessary to move all the extra people.

QUEENS PARK A major signalling failure on the morning of 17 October 2019 halted main line and outer suburban services on the WCML with passengers advised to find alternative routes which inevitably became overcrowded.

BIRMINGHAM TRAMS CAF is to supply 21 additional battery equipped trams with an option for a further 29. The existing CAF Urbos trams are being retro-fitted with lithium-ion batteries. The Centenary Square extension may not now open until early 2020 due to delays in getting a sufficient number of trams ready for battery operation.

CROSS CITY LINE Police officers distributed leaflets to passengers at most stations on this line in Birmingham warning against carrying a knife. It requested that if someone was known to be carrying a knife that could be reported anonymously to a website or and the police could then act.

CHASE LINE In an attempt to reduce the number of cancellations, short workings to Hednesford, and delays to services working through to/from London Euston, the December timetable will see Rugeley services working to Wolverhampton rather than Euston.

MERSEYRAIL The car park at Spital Station (on the Chester line) is being enlarged at a cost of £400,000 to provide sixty additional spaces. Liverpool Lime Street and Edge Hill stations will be closed during the weekend on 2/3 November 2019 to allow resignalling of the area.

SIEMENS UK HQ The German firm’s headquarters in the UK is being moved from Frimley in Surrey to its striking building in Didsbury, Manchester. The Frimley site will not close but will handle work in the London area.

SINKHOLE A sinkhole opened up in New Mills, above Newtown Tunnel, on 18 October 2019 and all services between Stockport and Sheffield were halted to allow railway engineers to examine the tunnel and land close to the railway. They discovered that the cause was a burst water-main and that water had seeped below the tracks in the tunnel itself. The line remained closed until the following day – 19 October 2019.

MANCHESTER METROLINK The city centre section of Manchester’s tram network between Cornbrook and St Peter’s Square has been described as the busiest section of light rail line in the world. However crime and antisocial behaviour have become a problem on this busy section. The trams carried 45m passengers during the year ending August 2019 – 3m up on 2017-8. The stop at Cornbrook is being upgraded with a longer canopy and improved platform facilities in readiness for its increased role as an interchange point with the new Trafford Park line.

HEATON PARK TRAMWAY The short heritage line taking visitors into Heaton Park in north-east Manchester reopened on 26 October 2019 following the replacement of the section of overhead
power wire that had been stolen.

BLACKPOOL Flooding following heavy rain closed the railway at Kirkham and Wesham for several hours on 11 October 2019 and bus shuttles were provided instead. Blackpool South station has also been flooded with trains running only as far as St Annes-on-the-Sea.

LEEDS station will be closed on 26-7 October 2019 while a new platform 0 is opened, and new signalling and overhead wires are activated.

ECML A plan to streamline the operation of the East Coast Main Line between Newcastle and Edinburgh could slash the time taken by express services to just 45 minutes.

ROSEBERRY PARKWAY ? This proposed new station close to Nunthorpe will have a substantial car park and it is hoped that with a half-hourly service through to Newcastle, double the existing service to Whitby, and many through services to Darlington, many car drivers who have to suffer long peak hours “slow crawls” will instead take the train.

TYNE AND WEAR Changes to the timetable being introduced from 14 October 2019 will remove a few lightly loaded trains but increase the service along severely overcrowded sections. There will be an all-day 12 minute frequency to all terminal points with extra services running between Monkseaton and Pelaw in both morning and evening peaks. One evening peak Monkseaton to Longbenton train will be extended to Pelaw. A few Regent Centre – Pelaw workings will be removed to create space for what are certain to be much busier new services.

GLASGOW Work to extend platforms 4 and 5 at Queen Street High Level station was completed on 13 October 2019, as planned.

KIRKLISTON The local MP has called for a new station to be built to serve the rapidly growing community which has doubled in size during the past few years. The best location for a station could be on the Glasgow – Edinburgh main line near Winchburgh but the operation of a local service along a relatively high speed route would be difficult to achieve. A halt on the Forth Bridge to Edinburgh line would be some distance from some of the new housing. The track that passes right through the heart of Kirkliston is the Forth Bridge – Polmont line that is unsuitable for Edinburgh commuter traffic. The MP should perhaps look more carefully at the geography within his constituency.

8 October 2019

HS2 With delays introduced by the Department of Transport, the completion of HS2 may take until 2040. However in a move to save money some advocates are suggesting that the eastern limb to serve Sheffield and Leeds should be dropped.

GREAT WESTERN A non-stop Bristol Temple Meads to Paddington special train completed the journey on 24 September 2019 in just 72 minutes. In the new December 2019 timetable the regular journey time will be 79 minutes or 68 minutes from Bristol Parkway.

AZUMA SERVICES Azuma trains will introduced between Glasgow Central and Kings Cross on 23 September 2019 replacing services hauled by class 91 locomotives. The introduction of the new trains will mark a major upgrade in the quality provided. Azuma services will next be added between Kings Cross and Lincoln on 21 October 2019, Kings Cross to Aberdeen on 25 November 2019, and finally between Kings Cross and Inverness on 9 December 2019.

BRIGHTON When the tide is out the stone blocks that supported the rails of the Brighton and Rottingdean Railway are clearly visible.

LONDON TRANSPORT MUSEUM Three Q Stock cars that operated on the District Line from 1938 and have been in store since they were withdrawn in 1971, are to be restored to their original condition if a public appeal can raise the £200,000 required for the work. They would become a moving exhibit highlighting London’s history during their working life. Among stories depicted could be the evacuation of children during WW2 or the austerity that faced everyone during the 1940s. The Q stock fleet was a very mixed bag dating from the 1920s and 1930s, which had been somewhat upgraded, given new upholstery and fresh paintwork, but the coaches themselves remained varied in length.

SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY The main line between Raynes Park and Surbiton was closed at around 0945 on 3 October 2019 following an incident which was dealt with by local police. Services resumed at around noon.

TRANSPORT for LONDON will run some trains on Boxing day this year. Routes involved are Highbury and Islington – West Croydon; Clapham Junction – Hackney Wick. October got off to a bad start as significant delays disrupted services on five lines during the morning peak on the first day. The entire District Line was halted while someone was rescued from the tracks. Delays with less obvious causes delayed commuters on the Bakerloo, Circle, Northern, and Hammersmith & City Lines. Crowds of football fans heading for a European Cup match on 3 October 2019 let off smoke bombs within Kings Cross underground station which had to be closed until the smoke had cleared. TfL will take over the Paddington – Reading local service from 15 December 2019.

EAST ANGLIA Platform extension work is under way along the Fen Line (Cambridge – Kings Lynn) so that longer trains can operate. Work to rebuild the closed station at Soham commenced in late September 2019. The first stage of the planned Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM) is likely to serve the 6500 new homes planned for Alconbury Weald linking the area with Huntingdon, St Ives, and Cambridge. A plan for a new station on the East Coast Main Line was dropped. The stations at Romford and Ilford are to be upgraded in a £20m scheme as part of the Crossrail Programme.

WRIGHT BUS FAILS The builder of the “Boris Bus” – the new-style Routemaster London bus – has gone into administration with the loss of 1200 jobs. The company was one of the largest employers in Ulster but had failed to adapt to a growing preference for electric technology rather than diesel. Update: On 11 October it was announced that a rescue bid for the company had been arranged.

SOUTH WALES Information is available about the development of local services around Cardiff and along the Valleys. Along the Main Line there will be four trains per hour west to Bridgend and Maesteg. Going to the east the new Cardiff Parkway station will be served by one or two services hourly to Ebbw Vale and two per hour through Newport to Cwmbran and Abergavenny. Services heading towards Birmingham, Swindon or Bristol will also call there. Tri-mode services will run four times per hour on the Rhymney route, increased to every ten minutes at the rush hour from Caerphilly with a half hourly service on the short Coryton branch. There will therefore be eight trains per hour on the innermost section of the line all serving a new stop at Crwys Road. Beyond Queen Street and Canolog (Central) stations this route will run on towards Penarth (four per hour), Barry Island (three per hour),with two per hour along the line through Rhoose to Bridgend. This leaves important branches to be served by tram-trains. Starting at a rebuilt, enlarged, Cardiff Bay station, serving a new stop at Loudoun Square, then calling at Queen Street, a ten minute frequency off-peak service will run to Cathays (for the University), Radyr, to a relocated Treforest Estate stop (serving the Department of Work & Pensions new HQ with 1700 staff) to Pontypridd which will have six trains per hour off-peak and twelve at the rush hour. These will continue to Treherbert, Aberdare, and Merthyr Tydfil. (two per hour off peak and four at the rush hours). Canton Depot will be upgraded to handle the Stadler “Flirt” tri-mode trains.

WEST MIDLANDS Detailed plans for new stations at Kings Heath and Hazelwell have been submitted to Birmingham Council planners for comment and approval. Planning for a third new station on the Camp Hill Line – at Moseley – are not yet complete. A special leaf-fall timetable will be operate during a seven week period from 14 October until 29 November 2019. Platform 12 at New Street station has signs along its length asking passengers to “keep clear” allowing those getting out of the train space as they step from the carriages. It is important for the train to stop exactly at the correct position so that the new signs will line up with the carriage doors. The trams used on Midland Metro have been equipped with dispenser boxes near each door containing that morning’s issue of “Metro” newspaper.

SUTTON COLDFIELD The gold coloured name signs along the platform denoting the fact that a
local resident had won a gold medal at the last Olympic Games are now being replaced with a standard West Midlands Railway sign but with a new controversy. The sign instead of showing simply “Sutton Coldfield” shows on a top line “Royal Town of” with “Sutton Coldfield on a second line. It also indicates that this is the station for Sutton Park. Some Sutton Coldfield residents want the town “liberated” from the might of Birmingham and mention of “Royal Town” adds fuel to their argument.

ISLE OF MAN Extremely heavy rainfall during the last couple of days of September 2019 has resulted in major flooding in the Isle of Man, especially around Laxey where cars have been swept away.

EDGE HILL The station will be closed on 2-3 November 2019 to allow resignalling work and as a result no trains will run to/from Lime Street terminus. Passengers will be able to reach downtown Liverpool by using the Merseyrail route from Liverpool South Parkway. Edge Hill is the world’s oldest station still in use having opened in 1830. The signalling at Lime Street was upgraded as part of a £140m transformation during 2016-8.

MANCHESTER Platform extension work to accommodate longer trains is under way in the north Manchester suburbs. Work has been completed at Daisy Hill and is under way at Hall I’ th’ Wood. Next will be Darwen and Entwistle.

SOUTHPORT The railway between Southport and Parbold is to be closed for five days – 16-20 November 2019 while engineers replace an under bridge at Burcough.

ULSTER The main line between Belfast Great Victoria Street terminus and Lisburn was closed for most of 06 October 2019 following an incident at Hilden Station (near Lisburn) when a person on the tracks was killed by a train. Buses were laid on to replaced the rail service.

SOUTH YORKSHIRE Abellio has taken over local services in the area and will operate trains under the name “East Midlands Railway” or “EMR”. New trains with 80% increase in seats during the peak hours are promised under the terms of the new franchise. Leaders of the Doncaster and Rotherham Councils have spoken out about a need for the western limb of HS2 to run as originally planned to Meadowhall and not to stop short at Sheffield.

LEEDS The station departure information boards broke down due to a computer problem at 1730 on Sunday 6 October 2019 and information for passengers was unavailable until the following morning. There were no problems with the signalling and the trains ran in a normal manner but many passengers had to guess where their train might be.

CLASS 802/2 Trans Pennine Express’s new units entered service on the Liverpool – Newcastle route from 28 September 2019.

TYNE & WEAR METRO A new timetable will be introduced on 13 October 2019 giving more services from South Shields in the morning peak, and across North Tyneside in the pm peak. The recent heat wave resulted in some cancellations on the Sunderland service due to Network Rail imposing speed restrictions.

SCOTRAIL has produced a new digital information system on its trains allowing passengers increased information during times of disruption. This follows a six-month trial on the Queen Street Low Level lines. From 30 September 2019 certain morning peak services to Edinburgh will omit stops at Kinghorn, Aberdour, and Dalgetty Bay. Other trains will continue to provide services to Haymarket and Waverley but some passengers will need to travel forward to Haymarket and then get a local back to their destination at stations like Edinburgh Park. The need to change the timetable relates to leaves that have fallen on the rails.

GLASGOW SUBWAY Morning rush hour services on the Outer Circle on 3 October 2019 had to be cancelled for about half an hour because of a failure in the signalling system. Around noon there were two serious incidents at Bridge Street Station. A passenger suffered serious injuries to his face and one ear and was more or less covered with blood. He was screaming in agony and it was not clear how he had got these injuries. An ambulance came quickly to take him to hospital but in the confusion a 32 year old blind passenger fell off the narrow platform on to the track and received serious chest injuries. His dog also fell but was able to return to the platform in a very distressed state and is being cared for by the Guide Dogs organisation. The police ordered that the entire Subway be closed down until things had got back to some sort of normality.

GLASGOW AREA Most trains on the Milngavie branch are formed of six coaches but traffic continues to increase and platforms are to be lengthened to take nine coaches. A new Park-and-Ride station has been proposed beside the Allander Leisure Centre in Bearsden and the local Council has been asked to ensure that the necessary land is reserved for the new station. The new station at Robroyston will open with the new timetable in December 2019 and will have a car park with spaces for 258 cars. The Queen Street High Level frontage has been completed. It is in the form of a 21m high glazed wall made up of 310 glazed panels. The interior of the station is much brighter than before.

26 September 2019

ON TIME The often used expression “on time” has for long described how well a particular service is operating. In reality a service has been described as being on time if it is within ten minutes of the advertised timetabled time. Many services included a small number of minutes of “recovery time” which allowed a train operating a few minutes late to appear to be on time at the destination station. From 16 September 2019 things changed. A train is now officially “on time” if it is operating within just one minute of the advertised time. “Recovery time” is not built into the timetable. As a result the proportion of trains actually on time has fallen from 84% to 62%.

CLASS 93 LOCOS Ten tri-mode class 93 locomotives are to be built by Stadler in Valencia, Spain. These are an evolution from the earlier Class 88 bi-modes built by Stadler for Direct Rail Services. The first of the 93s will be delivered in August 2020 and will be able to operate on diesel engines, electric motors taking power from an overhead wire, or from batteries.

ISLAND LINE From 18 September 2019 the Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin service on the Isle of Wight was cut to just one service per hour connecting with the ferry service to Portsmouth. The revised service has a departure from Shanklin at xx18 past each hour, returning from Ryde Pier Head at xx49 past each hour and connecting with the Portsmouth ferry and then trains to Waterloo. The line has been worked by two 81 year old former London Underground trains – the only units that can fit through a tunnel under the town of Ryde. The official notice announcing the timetable reduction indicates that the change is necessary for “technical reasons”. Spares for the trains are almost impossible to locate so the future prospects for the trains, and line, had become bleak. However hard on the heels of this bad news came an announcement from the Department of Transport of £26m grants to replace the trains, upgrade the track, and build a passing loop at Brading. Vivarail is to supply five rebuilt 2-car Class 484 emus that will improve performance and capacity. Isle of Wight Council with Solent Local Enterprise Partnership will contribute £1m to fund the building of a passing loop at Brading. The first “new” train will arrive during the early summer of 2020. Track changes will take place during the coming winter.

LONDON UNDERGROUND Trade Unions bosses have ordered drivers to cut their speed by half on 28 sections of four lines (Jubilee, Northern, Central, and Victoria) where track noise is substantial because drivers might suffer hearing loss. Some of the sections already have a system installed to reduce vibration but noise remains a problem. The Union action would wreck the timetable and is due to start on 10 October 2019.

PADDINGTON LOCALS Transport for London will take over the Paddington – Reading stopping service from 15 December 2019 operating four trains per hour along the route using new rolling stock. GWR will continue to run trains along the line to other destinations.

BIRMINGHAM TRAMS The entire fleet (with one exception) has been given a striking bright blue livery. The exception is an apparently out of use tram lying in the sidings alongside Wednesbury Depot.

MANCHESTER Transport for Greater Manchester is to upgrade its electrical infrastructure to help maintain its green transport strategy for the city. A third platform is being built at Crumpsall on the Metrolink Bury line. This will be for terminating trams on the new Trafford Park line which is due to open during 2020. Hattersley station on the Hadfield line is being upgraded at a cost of £750,000. The ticket office is to be replaced and the car park will be increased in size.

HEATON PARK TRAMWAY The museum line running into Heaton Park in North Manchester has been disabled following the theft on Tuesday 24th September 2019 of the overhead power wires. The line is part of the original 1903 tramway. Donations have been sent from enthusiasts and well-wishers from as far away as Australia to help fund repairs.

TYNE AND WEAR METRO Increased traffic was carried over the weekend of 7-8 September 2019 as roads across the area were closed for the Great North Run. 90,000 passengers used the Metro on those days. A Rugby Union international match at St James Park on 6 September 2019 generated a further 90,000 passengers that day and The Tour of Britain cycling event on 9 September 2019 did even better with 91,000 passengers that day. A new fleet of rolling stock for the Tyne and Wear Metro costing £362m was ordered on 18 September 2019 but details of the firms that will undertake which parts of the work are still unclear. Negotiations are under way with potential builders etc. and full information about who will do what may not emerge until early 2020.

BEAL The level crossing on the road to Holy Island, Northumberland, with the ECML was blocked on 11 September 2019 when a freight service broke down halting all road traffic to or from the Island. A rescue locomotive managed to move the train after a couple of hours.

CARLISLE Plans have been announced to revamp Carlisle station at a cost of £15m. This is part of a £350m Borderlands Growth Project involving work by five Councils. Carlisle Citadel station was opened in 1847 and is a meeting point of the Settle & Carlisle, Cumbrian Coast, and the secondary cross-country line from Kilmarnock to Carlisle and on to Newcastle with the WCML.

GLASGOW QUEEN STREET HL Work to lengthen platforms 2 and 3 has been completed and a start on similar work on platforms 4 and 5 commenced on 16 September 2019. Platforms 4 and 5 are planned to be out of use for four weeks between 16 September and 8 October 2019. The platform extension work forms part of the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP) which will cost £120m and is a Scottish government investment in railway infrastructure across central Scotland.

GLENEAGLES The famous station serving the world-class hotel and three golf courses sees little traffic when no major golf tournament is under way. The station is a mile from the village of Auchterarder, and on 16 September 2019 four passengers used the stop by the down “Highland Chieftain” being picked up by cars. This was the first time that I have seen “ordinary” traffic using the station since the closure of the branch line to Crieff and Comrie. Close to the station there is a pass through the Ochil Hills but do not expect to see any eye-catching birds. The “Eagles” in the name comes from “ eaglais” a Gaelic word meaning a church.

DUNDEE Over 1 million additional passengers have taken the train to visit the striking V&A Museum which is shaped like a boat. Rail traffic to the city has risen overall by 14%.

PITLOCHRY (BAILE CHLOICHRIDH) – the 12th century Gaelic name for the town – a key place in these early days thanks to a ferry service operaing across the River Tummel, is displayed on all platform name boards at the station. I could not however find anyone able to pronounce it correctly. The resignalling of the mostly single track Highland Main Line has made possible a more flexible method of operation. Both platforms at Pitlochry (a name that came with the railway) are now long enough to hold a full length train – presumably an Azuma from December 2019. Two services often cross at the station and it is now easy to operate the busier service through platform 1, adjacent to the road leading into the town centre, with the quieter service using platform 2 with the passengers requiring to use the footbridge.

12 September 2019

HS2 More details about the planned high-speed line were made available during early September 2019. A journey time of just 33 minutes between Birmingham and Nottingham (Toton) compared with the present 72 minutes sounds attractive even if a Toton to Nottingham city centre trip has to be added. Many people travel to the Nottingham University area half way between Toton and the city centre and the HS2 time will be of real benefit to them. The House of Lords approved on 9 September 2019 the extension of HS2 beyond Birmingham to Crewe. The expected cost of HS2 is now £78bn and the project will finish 7 years later than originally planned.

FOLKESTONE A small preservation group is seeking new helpers to join them in the not inconsiderable task of restoring a 4DD coach. Photographs of the coach, one of two that remain, show the body work to be in bad condition with paint peeling off. However these two coaches are all that remains of the Southern’s attempt to increase capacity along routes with limited headroom.

LUL The entire Northern Line service was suspended on Friday 4 September 2019 after a major failure in the signalling system. Services got going again around 1300. There were numerous delays during the morning peak on 10 September 2019 affecting the Northern, Circle, Metropolitan, and Hammersmith & City Lines.

CLASS 710 The London Overground has introduced the first of the “Aventra” class 710/2 emus to the Euston – Watford Jct. local service from 9 September 2019.

GOOLE New trains for the London Underground are to be built by Siemens at a new technology park at “Goole 36”. East Riding of Yorkshire Council has approved plans for the £200m factory together with stabling sidings for completed trains, 800 new houses for the 700 long-term staff plus 250 further staff employed during the construction phase. The first trains to be built there will be 94 trains for LUL’s Piccadilly Line and further trains will be needed as part of the modernisation of the Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City lines. Contracts for these trains are still to be issued.

MERIDIAN WATER A half hourly service was introduced on 9 September 2019 between Stratford and the new station at Meridian Water in the Lea Valley. Meridian Water has replaced Angel Road, only 600m away but in a poor location with few users. The service from Stratford calls also at Northumberland Park and Tottenham Hale providing useful connections in many directions. As part of the improvements, 5.5 km of new running lines, new platforms at Tottenham Hale and Northumberland Park, repaired bridges, upgraded signalling and overhead power lines have been provided.

NEEDHAM MARKET On 9 September 2019 many morning peak services from the Norwich direction were halted after a lorry struck a rail bridge at this point. The line was reopened after engineers found the bridge to be safe for use.

MANCHESTER The Transport Secretary has confirmed that there is no timetable for major platform improvements at Piccadilly Station where there is a growing capacity problem. The double track link across the southern side of the city centre is especially congested but plans to add at least a third track seem impossible to achieve.

LIVERPOOL AREA The new Merseyrail fleet is taking shape at the Wildenrath factory in Germany. The first of the articulated four-car class 777 trains is substantially complete with the bogies attached to the body shell. Each of the fifty two trains will first undergo static testing in the factory before dynamic testing takes place at Siemens’ Wildenrath test track. The first train to enter public service may do so in 2020.

CLASS 331 Fifteen of the three car emus built by CAF are in service and twenty eight more trains are to come. Some are operating the Liverpool Lime Street to Blackpool North service replacing the Class 319s. Others of class 331 were introduced to the suburban services from Leeds and Bradford to Ilkley and Skipton on 09 September 2019.

NORTHUMBERLAND The County Council has approved funds to enlarge Morpeth station car park. Funds for more spaces were approved for the park at Ashington station which will become the “Northumberland Line” when it opens in late 2022. It was formerly known as the Ashington, Blythe and Tyne Line.

GLASGOW AREA A man was stabbed at Westerton Station, on the Queen Street LL lines, early on 8 September 2019 while another person was hit by a passing train close to Cardonald station on the evening of 8 September 2019. The main line between Glasgow Central and Paisley Gilmour Street was closed for several hours while para-medics attended the injured man and eventually removed him from the tracks. A signalling fault at Edinburgh Waverley resulted in delays along the main line to Glasgow Queen Street on 9 September 2019.

FOOTBALL On 9 September 2019 Scotland played an important European match in Hampden Park in Glasgow. To carry large crowds to nearby Mount Florida station (on the Cathcart Circle) all train scheduled from about 1700 were strengthened to six coaches. Special extra services operated from Aberdeen, Perth, and Stirling.

AYR The crumbling station hotel alongside the present station has been surveyed and nearly 1000 significant faults have been identified. The hotel is to be dismantled stone by stone and a new passenger station is to be built a little closer to the town centre.

6 September 2019

VIRGIN – REMINDER Noted lying in a siding outside the Wabtec Doncaster Works plant on 4 September 2019 was a very down Mark 3 coach in Virgin Trains’ early red stripey livery.

CLASS 313 These dual-voltage trains were of a revolutionary design when introduced in 1976. They are now the oldest emus still in service on the British mainland but those serving on Great Northern are now being replaced by Class 717 sets. All of the 313s will have gone by the end of September 2019 apart from two units that are to operate a special farewell railtour on 23 October 2019.

CLASS 314 These now elderly trains were introduced in 1979 and the arrival of brand new class 385 trains is allowing a start to plans to withdraw the 314s by the end of 2019.

CLASS 315 These emus are being replaced by Northern by new Aventra Class 710 trains. They are being scrapped by CF Booth of Rotherham and at times the number of 315s arriving will mean that a place to store them will have to be found. The solution is to use the presently unused car park at the abandoned football stadium used by Rotherham United FC until 2012.

HSTs The refurbishment of HST train sets will follow these lines. Fifty four power cars will be upgraded at Brush in Loughborough, and 121 Mark 3 coaches transformed by Wabtec at Doncaster. They will become nine 4-car sets and seventeen 5-car sets providing 32 first class seats (all sets) and 206 or 280 standard class seats in four or five car sets respectively. Capacity on Scotrail services linking the seven Scottish cities will have been increased by 30% solving the existing overcrowding problem. Driver training on the altered trains commenced on 1 September 2019.

ALDERSHOT All lines were blocked by a tree that fell across them at 1752 on 29 August 2019.

CRAWLEY Developers have secured outline permission to redevelop the site around Crawley Station. Overline House, which contains the station offices, was to be demolished and replaced by three new blocks containing 308 flats, new offices, and a new multi-storey car park for commuters. Further changes now have two floors added to Overline House which would now contain 81 flats. Three new buildings nearby would have 223 flats A remodelled station concourse would improve the station and there would continue to be substantial space for parked cars.

LUL Services on the Northern Line were suspended during the morning peak on 4 September 2019 due to a signalling failure. There were major delays on the Metropolitan Line between Harrow-on-the-Hill and Aldgate, and again on the morning of 05 September 2019.

WHITE HART LANE The station entrances/exits and ticket hall are being expanded to allow crowds using Overground services quick and easy access to the nearby Tottenham Hotspur football ground.

BRISTOL AREA Detailed plans for the reopening to passengers of the historic branch line to Portishead have been submitted to the Department of Transport. Similar proposals have existed for at least a decade, and the Transport Department will take eighteen months to assess the new plans.

HS2 The Department of Transport has indicated that delays of up to five years may affect the opening of the London – Birmingham initial section with a consequential major increase in the cost.

BIRMINGHAM NEW STREET There were detailed safety checks on tracks through the station on 28 and 29 August 2019 and a 30 mph speed restriction until the “all clear” was given. Seriously armed police were on duty at the station on 30 August 2019.

WEST MIDLANDS METRO Tram 34 has been given a mainly blue livery with only seven of the trams still retaining their original unmodified colour scheme. Battery powered trams have been used to test the new track from Grand Central, past the Town Hall, and on to the Concert Hall with tram 28 performing the testing on 29/30 August 2019. Public opening will take place before the end of 2019.

SMETHWICK ROLFE STREET The Stour Valley Line station was rebuilt by the London and North Western Railway in 1890 (having been opened originally in 1852) and many Victorian features still exist around the building. There is to be an Open Day on 14 September 2019 and replica LNWR platform tickets will be issued free of charge at the ticket office window.

LIVRPOOL A total of £172.5m is to be spent on transport projects including the building of two new stations and the purchase of two new Mersey Ferries.

EREWASH AND DERBY CANALS The Erewash Canal was opened in 1779 and remains in use today. The former Derby Canal branched off the Erewash at Sandiacre and was filled in during the 1960s but a Canal Trust is seeking to reopen it. They have voiced concerns that a light rail line has been proposed to run along the former canal as a feeder to a planned HS2 Hub at Toton.

LEEDS DATES All train services at Leeds will be cancelled on October 26 and 27 2019 to allow work to proceed on building the new platform 0. Many city centre roads will be closed on 27 October to clear the way for the 10km Abbey Dark Races.

LINCOLN Starting 21 October 2019 weekday through services to and from Kings Cross will be increased to four services each way using the new Azuma trains and taking around two hours for the journey. In the major December 2019 timetable change the through service will be increased to six services each way.

HULL TRAINS The five new Class 802 bi-mode trains being supplied by Hitachi for the Hull – London express service are to be named the Paragon Fleet. Paragon is a name long associated with Kingston-upon-Hull (to give it its proper full name), and is the name of the city centre terminus station in the heart of the city. “Paragon” means something or someone who is the very best.

YORK A study of the track and other infrastructure features along the ECML to the Border has shown that major upgrades will be required if journey times are to be cut. A particularly large amount of work will be needed in and through York station itself.

NEXUS There were significant delays to South Shields and South Hylton services on 3 September 2019 due to a passenger on a train becoming ill.

SCOTRAIL receives a subsidy from operator Abellio (in effect the Dutch Government) of about £1m per month.

GLASGOW QUEEN STREET Engineering work to lengthen platforms 2 and 3 in the High Level Station by 25m were completed recently and similar work on platforms 4 and 5 has started. They will be closed from 2 September until 14 October 2019 to allow their use by 8 coach trains on the service to Edinburgh Waverley. Meanwhile local services to Anniesland via Maryhill, and to Inverness and Aberdeen will continue to use the station, sometimes diverted to the Low Level platforms.

GLASGOW SUBWAY Kelvin Bridge Station was closed for part of 3 September 2019 after a body was spotted in the River Kelvin close to the station. Rescue teams that eventually recovered the body had to occupy space near the entrance to the station and passengers could not gain access.

LARGS Extra carriages are to be added to Glasgow Central to Largs and Gourock services on 31 August and 1, 7, and 8 September 2019 in connection with the Viking Festival marking the Battle of Largs in 1263 – the last battle to be fought on mainland Scotland between the Scots and the Norse. The end result of the battle was peace since the two sides realised that both were Christian people who had no desire to execute the defeated army. The Church of Scotland’s great 3-part “Amen” is in fact Scandinavian in origin but adopted in Scotland after the 1263 Battle.

DALREOCH The failure of the power supply halted all trains on the morning of 1 September 2019 between Dalmuir and both Balloch and Helensburgh (Central).

FORTH BRIDGE Services across the bridge were halted for four hours on 3 September 2019 after a man was spotted on the tracks on the bridge.

EDINBURGH The track through Calton South Tunnel taking the East Coast Main Line is being totally renewed from the ballast up through the sleepers to the rails on 14, 15, and 16 September 2019. Signalling and drainage works at various locations between Drem and Dunbar will also be renewed that weekend.

NORTH BERWICK The failure of an emu in the platform at North Berwick resulted in the cancellation of most of the local service along the relevant part of the ECML on 2 September 2019.

CAIRNGORM The funicular has been out of service for over a year due to major structural problems. Almost half of the supporting posts need repairs and the cost will be almost as much as building a new line.

POSSIBLE RESTORED SERVICES Studies are under way for a possible restoration of through trains between Dundee and St Andrews, and for a major revision to services along the Perth – Dundee – Montrose corridor. A proposal to restore services from Dyce to Ellon to provide what would be a very busy commuter route, has now been transformed by the local MSP into a proposal to reopen the line all the way to Peterhead.

28 August 2019

HS2 Transport Secretary Shapps shook the construction industry when on 21 August 2019 he ordered a complete review of the HS2 proposals in view of major uncertainty about the eventual cost. Sums like “an extra £30bn needed” were simply unacceptable and a new estimate is to be obtained by the end of 2019 – a sum that will be fixed for a reasonable period. Somewhere around £4bn has already been spent on HS2 and perhaps as much as a further £3bn firmly committed.

ALDERSHOT A 100 batch of solar panels, capable of generating 30kW, are to power directly signals and lights as a demonstration exercise of how a solar array can by-pass the Grid to power a rail system.

CRAWLEY Plans have been announced to redevelop the station building, new platforms and ticket hall and also 308 new housing units. The downside is the loss of 120 car park spaces. The local Council is considering the plans and will give its view shortly.

KINGSWAY TUNNEL, LONDON The tram tunnel between Holborn and Waterloo Bridge was opened in 1906 to link together the northern and southern sections of the London tramway system. It was closed in 1952 but during the following year was used to store 120 buses and coaches in case they were needed at short notice to move some of the crowds that had gathered to celebrate the Coronation. Part of the southern end was reopened as the Strand Underpass in 1964. Crossrail took over the tunnel in 2012 to allow engineers obtain access to the new Crossrail Tunnel where it passed below the Kingsway Tunnel. Cement grout has been injected into the Crossrail structure to correct slight earth movements as boring of the Crossrail Tunnels took place. Now apparently what remains of the Kingsway Tunnel is to be preserved – a monument to the good sense of early 20th century engineers.

SOUTHEND VICTORIA The overhead power wires are being upgraded as part of a transformation of the service.

CHELMSFORD The proposal to build a northern road by-pass around the town together with a new station with park-and-ride facility for a cost of £218m continues to be supported by Essex County Council and confirmation of Government funding remains awaited.

LUTON AIRPORT New franchise holder Abellio wishes to increase from December 2019 fast services between St Pancras and Luton Airport Parkway from one to two expresses each hour. The Airport Authorities wanted a 15 minute frequency service but there are six locals per hour provided by Thameslink. There is a bus shuttle between the Parkway Station and Airport terminals and a light rail link is being built to provide a much quicker link.

LEICESTER A seven storey block of student flats is to be built alongside Leicester station as a way to make intensive use of the empty land beside the station.

WEST COAST FRANCHISE From 8 December 2019 services on the West Coast Main Line will be taken over by FirstTrenitalia – a consortium of First Group (70%) with Trenitalia (30%). The new operator will also operate initial services on the first part of HS2 The present operator, Virgin Trains, had been disqualified for submitting a non-compliant bid principally in respect of pensions risk. The new operator will provide a simpler fares system, improvements to the stations served including Crewe, Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford, and Warrington Bank Quay, while the Pendolino trains will be refurbished, and Super Voyagers will be replaced by new trains. Virgin announced that the name plates from their trains were to be auctioned, proceeds going to charities.

WCML WIRES DAMAGED The overhead power wires on one southbound West Coast Main Line track were damaged early on 16 August 2019 and many services were delayed. Fortunately the Rugeley – Walsall electrification had been completed a few months earlier and London-bound Virgin expresses were diverted via Hednesford, Walsall, New Street and Rugby, or ran non-stop via Birmingham from Stafford. Local services along the Walsall, Stour Valley and International lines faced many cancellations and buses replaced the entire local service between Rugeley and Hednesford.

CROSS CITY LINE Services were disrupted on the afternoon and evening of 15 August 2019 following damage to the overhead power wires at Chester Road station. Local bus services accepted rail tickets and connections to/from Lichfield were made with semi-fast WCML trains at Rugeley and Nuneaton.

GOOSTREY The station building in the south Manchester suburbs has been beautifully restored at a cost of £170,000.

MANCHESTER 1000 new park-and-ride spaces are to be provided at the existing stations at Radcliffe, Whitefield, and Withington. These spaces are in addition to spaces being provided along the Trafford Park line.

GLASGOW SUBWAY A disturbance on the platform at Buchanan Street station during the early evening of Sunday 18 August 2019 resulted in a man and his daughter being attacked and the man falling on to the track. He was rescued almost immediately and a gang of ten people apparently left the station as soon as the incident occurred.

SCOTRAIL Winchburgh Tunnel on the Edinburgh – Glasgow main line was flooded on at least two substantial periods during the heavy rains earlier in August 2019. Scotrail has come into severe criticism for its failure to build a chord south of Dalmeny to allow closure of the Winchburgh Tunnel route, and its lack of handling late evening crowds returning from Edinburgh Festival events to Glasgow when the Winchburgh route is unavailable. The Bathgate line was open and new emus used by trains on the Falkirk line were standing at Haymarket station but were not used as extra services to carry the Festival crowds so said crowds were crowded on to the few Bathgate line services and given a most uncomfortable ride. Journeys on Scotrail fell from 98.4m in 2017 to 97.3m in 2018, largely due to lines being closed for engineering work. The Alloa – Dunfermline line may reopen if major new factories are built in the Dunfermline area. Clackmannan and Kincardine stations are among those that might be opened on a restored route.

12 August 2019

MAJOR NATION-WIDE POWER FAILURE The failure of two electricity generating centres at 1700 on 9 August 2019 resulted in power failures to most of England and much of South Wales. One million homes were without power for over an hour, traffic lights failed over much of the England, Newcastle Airport was closed because of a total power failure, and many rail services were halted due either to there being no power in the overhead wires, or because the signalling system had failed. Kings Cross terminus in London had complex issues and it was impossible to use the station until the morning of 10th August 2019.

SOUTH EASTERN Bidding for this franchise has been halted since the Department of Transport is unconvinced that bids would represent value for money. Govia, the present franchise holder, has had their tenure extended to 1 April 2020 while the Transport Department considers its options.

GOSPEL OAK – BARKING Class 710 four-car emus now operate the route with services every 15 minutes. The available capacity on the line has been doubled.

AMERSHAM Heritage trains hauled by Met electric loco “Sarah Siddons” hauling a rake of ex BR 1950s 4TC coaches will operate on 7 and 8 September 2019. On the 8th only a free heritage bus will take people from the station into Amersham Old Town where there will be a Heritage Day.

STEVENAGE Platform 1 at the Hertfordshire station is now dangerously overcrowded during the morning peak.

AZUMA TRAINS LNER is introducing its new Azuma trains on East Coast services starting with the Kings Cross – Leeds route, then extending north to Newcastle, Edinburgh, and finally the less frequently served extensions to Aberdeen, Inverness, etc. The trains come in five and nine coach versions, a pair of five coach trains forming a ten coach service. Leaflets describing the new trains and the on-board facilities are being made easily available.

WATFORD JUNCTION 7 August 2019 marked the last day of service before retirement of Vic Hall who had spent 50 years working at Watford Jct station. To mark this special event the last train given the “go ahead” by Vic – a LNR class 350 numbered 350375 carried “Vic Hall” nameplates and a presentation was made to Vic to mark the unusual event of 50 years service at a single station.

FREIGHT SUCCESS The container service that was introduced experimentally between Tilbury and Grangemouth has proved to be highly successful. It will now operate every weekend as part of the regular freight network. The trains carry 36 large containers and have been running each weekend mostly full.

CHASE LINE Services on the Walsall – Rugeley line, electrified recently in a £200m scheme, have been hit by problems nearly every day with services cancelled, or delayed significantly.

CAR PARK CHARGES Charges are to be introduced at several Midlands stations starting with Coleshill Parkway of 18 August 2019. It was decided to charge £4.50 per day but this has been reduced to £3. With an annual season the charge comes down to £1.12 per day. The charges are being introduced also at these stations -Droitwich Spa, Hagley, Henley-in-Arden, Ledbury, Shifnal, Albrighton, Shenstone, and Park Street (on the St Albans Abbey branch).

LONGBRIDGE Work has begun on the £7.6m project to build a 629 space multi-level car park beside the station.

NOTTINGHAM The required land for an tram extension from Clifton to planned new housing at Fairham Pastures has now been reserved. Planning permission for the new housing was held up until it was known that land for the tram extension was available. In the city centre track replacement will be taking place between Old Market Square and The Forest during the period
5 until 18 August 2019 with a bus shuttle replacing the trams.

DERBY Bombardier of Derby is a major part of a consortium that has won the contract to build hundreds of coaches for a planned monorail network that will be built around Cairo in Egypt.

SHEFFIELD – MANCHESTER Due to heavy rainfall at the beginning of August the main line between the cities was flooded and passengers were advised not to try to travel unless really essential.

HERITAGE SIGNS New signs have been erected at Mexborough and Conisbrough station (both on the Sheffield – Doncaster line) indicating where places of historic interest can be found.

TYNE & WEAR METRO Trams were delayed getting out of the Depot early on 5 August 2019 and heavy thunderstorms were a feature of the weather throughout the morning. Power supply problems halted services between Kingston Park and the Airport for several hours on 12 August 2019. Greggs are opening a sandwich outlet at the £21m bus and Metro interchange which was opened on 4 August 2019.

LOWLANDER PROBLEM The southbound sleeping car service from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Euston met with delays on the night of 7/8 August 2019 and was finally cancelled when it reached Preston 90 minutes late. The passengers would normally have continued their journey on a following train but for reasons apparently linked to the recent bad weather they had to purchase new travel tickets at around £140 each though they were assured that this would be refunded later.

WINCHBURGH TUNNEL The tunnel has been flooded following continuing heavy rains and services were halted on 8 August 2019 when 2 feet of water covered the rails. However the water level had receded sufficiently for services to restart on 9 August 2019. Further rains resulted in the tunnel being again flooded during the night of 11/12 August 2019.

HELENSBURGH CENTRAL The emu service between Dumbarton Central and Helensburgh Central has been disrupted in early August by heavy rainfall and flooding in the Craigendoran area. Many services have been cancelled and the few have run have been delayed substantially.

BISHOPTON An object blown around by high winds became caught in the overhead wires near Bishopton station on the Gourock/Wemyss Bay route early on 8 August 2019 causing disruption to the morning rush hour service to Glasgow.

WEST HIGHLAND LINE The very heavy rains in early August 2019 damaged several sections of the railway and it will take until 22 August 2019 to reopen the line fully. Repairs on the Oban line were completed to allow services to restart on 8 August 2019.

LEVENMOUTH LINE The branch line a little to the east of Kirkcaldy, from Thornton Junction to Cameron Bridge and Leven is to be reopened and the Scottish Government is providing £75m for the required work. Cameron bridge used to be the source of significant freight from an adjacent distillery but once the line is reopened (in about five years from now) it will carry many Edinburgh-bound commuters. Campaigners for the reopening of other lines in Scotland are now renewing their efforts with the Formartine and Buchan Railway (Dyce to Fraserburgh) top of their list.

GLASGOW STATIONS PROPOSAL Several inner suburban stations, closed many years ago, have been proposed for reopening by local pressure groups. This writer, who knows them well is uncertain about the value of any of them. Details are as follows. FINNIESTON is quite close to Exhibition Centre and would serve little more than a small local community. GLASGOW GREEN is located beside a large public park and the abandoned Templeton Carpet Factory, with little local population. On a sunny day the trains could carry folk to the park. GLASGOW CROSS The decision was taken to build Argyle Street Station a quarter of a mile to the west when the Argyle Line was reopened on 5 November 1979. The reopening of Glasgow Cross might help the faded immediate locality to grow. The station is remembered as having a signal box on the platform that required air conditioning since the signaller might not otherwise survive a shift. The entire station filled completely with smoke from steam locos. PARKHEAD STADIUM The area is depopulated but many of the 60,000 fans who attend Celtic FC home games might use the station to get to the match. At present they use Dalmarnock station and have a longer walk. BOTANIC GARDENS This was closed as long ago as 1939 and the locality is served by two Subway Stations. The Gardens in the name are a magnificent orchid centre but not a mass traffic generator. MARYHILL CENTRAL Maryhill already has two open stations but neither are busy. The route to this station, part of the Central LL network, is too circuitous to give a competitive travel time. CUMBERLAND STREET This was served by trains to/from St Enoch terminus, and I remember it producing significant traffic in the peaks taking residents from the now demolished Gorbals slums to/from now closed factories in the Renfrew and Paisley areas. Few took the train to St Enoch.

5 August 2019

PARLIAMENTARY APPROVAL A Bill to approve an extension of HS2 beyond Birmingham to Crewe was passed during late July 2019.

TRANSPORT SECRETARY On 25 July 2019, Mr Grant Shapps was appointed Secretary of State for Transport, replacing Chris Grayling as part of new Prime Minister Johnson’s major changes to the Cabinet. The new Secretary is known to favour using the roads and flying on his travels.

NEW STATIONS FUNDING The Department of Transport has announced funding for new/reopened stations in the West Midlands. £15m is being granted for stations closed due to war time damage on the Camp Hill Line in Birmingham, and £10m for reopened station at Willenhall and Darlaston which were closed in 1965. These are on the line from Wolverhampton and the stations would have regular services to Wolverhampton, Walsall, and Birmingham via Bescot Stadium.

AZUMA LAUNCH The launch of services on the East Coast Main Line was celebrated on
1 August 2019 but the start of the first service was a low-key affair since the “Flying Scotsman” service leaves Edinburgh Waverley at the very unfriendly hour of 0540. However actual celebrations occurred at Darlington where an Azuma train was posed beside the famous steam locomotive “Flying Scotsman”. Further south, at York another Azuma train stood on one side of an island platform with on the other side world famous locomotive “Mallard” the holder of the world speed record for a steam locomotive – 126 mph. “Mallard” had been hauled out of the adjacent National Railway Museum to stand adjacent to the new high-speed flyer.

HS3 A surprise announcement from the Department of Transport on Saturday 27 July 2019 was that a new high-speed railway was to be built from Manchester to Leeds with the cost mostly met by the Government. This is seen as a step towards the creation of HS3 linking Liverpool to Hull via Manchester and Leeds.

TRAFFIC RISES Passenger numbers on urban railway systems across Britain has soared by 29% during the past decade, while usage of local bus services has dropped significantly.

HIGHLANDER SLEEPER A bus connection for sleeping car passengers is to be provided to and from Oban during the summer season. If successful it might become a regular part of the service. However a landslide due to the heavy rains closed the West Highland Line on 5 August 2019 and the Fort William sleeping car service had to be cancelled.

RETAIL OPPORTUNITIES Twenty Scottish stations are to have new retail outlets in a bid to make stations more attractive. Major stations undergoing total rebuilding including Aberdeen, Glasgow Queen Street HL, Inverness, and Motherwell will have several new retail outlets. At Markinch the local firm Flahute Coffee has opened a highly successful outlet serving a wide range of drinks and snacks. Dundee station is undergoing a £38m rebuild after 20 years of talking and doing nothing. The first part will open on 15 September 2019. The project includes a 120 room hotel.

SEAFORD BRANCH This short branch is to be closed for four days between 25 November and
1 December 2019 to complete the commissioning of new signalling.

STANSTED AIRPORT Services from both London and the Cambridge direction were disrupted by overhead wire damage due to the heat on 24 July 2019.

LONDON UNDERGROUND The fire alarms at Bank Station were set off in the late afternoon of 2 August 2019 when there was a fight between some passengers. Other travellers fled from the station in terror fearing that the alarms were indicating some sort of terror attack.

KINGS CROSS A signalling fault on 2 August 2019 caused significant delays to arrivals until repairs were completed at 1400.

ECML Kings Cross to Edinburgh expresses were packed with standing passengers as crowds overfilled the trains to reach performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

WERRINGTON JUNCTION Work has begun on the construction of a dive-under below the ECML in Peterborough allowing services from the Sleaford direction to reach the tracks towards Ely without having to cross over any of the East Coast Main Line tracks.

MORE UPGRADES Investments worth £27m are being spent at Littleport and Waterbeach stations (on the Kings Lynn line) to lengthen the platforms allowing longer trains to operate on the route.

WATFORD HIGH STREET The station is to be closed for about one week during August 2019 while a staircase providing the only access to the platforms is replaced.

LUL The Northern Line Edgware station is to be substantially rebuilt at a cost of £22m. Built in the undeveloped green fields, the station is now surrounded by housing and the concourse becomes seriously overcrowded at times. Further new housing is in the pipeline not too far from the station and finance for the new greatly enlarged ticket hall is coming from the housing developer. So many passengers arrived at North Greenwich station during the a.m. peak on 1 August 2019 and trains became dangerously overcrowded that the station had to be closed to new arrivals for at least an hour. Kentish Town station was closed on 31 July 2019 and will not reopen until 4 August because most of the escalators have broken down.

HEAT WAVE With a heat wave breaking record temperatures operating companies across England and Wales together with Network Rail have urged users to travel only if necessary. There was a real danger that the track could buckle in the extreme heat making problems for commuters trying to get home. On some services speed restrictions have been applied and in consequence many services have been cancelled. Because of the heat the overhead power wires have sagged and become caught up by passing pantographs. In the West Midlands all Cross City Line North and Walsall local services were cancelled from mid afternoon on 25 July 2019 following damage to the overhead near Witton. Coincidentally it was announced that the Aston Expressway needed repairs costing £93m.

PROPOSED STATIONS IN WARWICKSHIRE Six new stations have been proposed in the County’s Draft Rail Strategy. Most will have large car parks to attract traffic off congested roads. They are Warwick University (between Coventry and Kenilworth); Nuneaton Parkway (east of Nuneaton on the Leicester line); Galley Common and Stockingford (west of Nuneaton on the Birmingham line); Rugby Parkway (between Rugby and Long Buckby); Polesworth Parkway (on West Coast Main Line between Polesworth and Atherstone where a large housing development is planned); Kingsbury (between Water Orton and Tamworth).

TILE HILL The 330 space car park at Tile Hill is regularly full with cars parked along neighbouring roads.. Discussions are under way on how best to build a substantial enlargement.

UNIVERSITY STATION The existing Birmingham station was built in 1978 and the aim was to cater for 400,000 passengers each year. Today it is used by 3.3m passengers each year and it is to be rebuilt to handle 7.2m as the university and Queen Elizabeth Hospital both expand. The platforms will be linked by a wide footbridge across the adjacent canal to the University Campus.

BESCOT SLEEPER FACTORY Because the existing sleeper manufacturing plant at Washwood Heath is closing to make way for the HS2 Hub, a replacement production unit is being created on railway land at Bescot, near Walsall. The plant will produce 600,000 sleepers each year, over half of the annual requirement. There is a second sleeper production unit near Doncaster.

MANCHESTER AREA The Glossop/Hadfield service was disrupted on 25 July 2019 due to power supply problems and a signal failure at Flowery Field. The railway bridge next to Deansgate Station carrying the tracks above Deansgate will be restored in a carefully planned project that will require the road under the bridge to be closed to road traffic during the period 5 August 2019 until 18 December 2019. The work is part of the Great North Rail Project. An Engineering Department train was derailed at Ordsall Lane Junction in the early hours of 29 July 2019 and caused major delays to services to Wigan, Preston, Blackpool, Carlisle and Central Scotland, Leeds, York, and Scarborough. A small number of trains had to be cancelled and it was likely that delays would continue into the middle of 30 July 2019. Flooding due to extremely heavy rains resulted in the closure of the Stockport – Buxton and Chester – Crewe lines for much of 31 July 2019.

MERSEYRAIL The RMT Union has reached stalemate with its long-running dispute about the duties that should be performed by the guard. Train Operating Companies want the decision to close the doors before setting off after a station stop to be with the driver. The RMT feels that as a matter of safety the decision to close the doors should lie with the guard who may be in a better position to see that it will be safe to close the doors. The RMT now plan to hold 24 hour strikes on 24 August, 3, 5, and 30 September, and 2 and 4 October 2019. Preparatory work for the arrival of the new Class 777 emus necessitated the closure of some stations and sections of route. Rice Lane – Kirkby 7 until 15 September 2019; Green Lane station from 8 September until 20 October 2019; Hamilton Square – Hooton Closed until 8 September 2019; At West Kirby platform1 will be closed and all services will use platform 2 on 16-20 September 2019; West Kirby – Hooton 23 – 29 September 2019; Southport – Formby morning of 21 September 2019; Birkenhead Central – Chester and Ellesmere Port 13 – 20 October 2019; Bache – Chester 14 – 19 October 2019.

PRESTON Vegetation clearance work along the former Longridge branch is to start in September 2019 marking the start of work to build a light railway along parts of the old railway route. If all goes well the first -passengers could be carried on a initial section of the new tramway in late 2020.
A signalling fault on 4 August 2019 caused delays on all routes from 1800 to 2200.

SHEFFIELD AREA More details have been released about the integrated rail plan for the railways radiating from Sheffield. The key inter-city stations at Sheffield and Chesterfield and the platforms at Barnsley are to be lengthened to accommodate inter-city trains. Service frequencies to Manchester and to Leeds are to be increased to at least half-hourly. A new 7km long branch line is proposed to serve the increasingly important Doncaster Sheffield Airport. New stations will be built at Goldthorpe (Dearne Valley line) and Waverley (Lincoln line). The Supertram network extension to Rotherham (at present an experimental service designed to operate for two years) will become part of the tramway network with track renewals and rolling stock replacement being “future proofed”. A possible light rail extension northwards from Rotherham along the Dearne Valley and east towards the Airport would be considered.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER The 75th anniversary of the making of this much loved film at Carnforth Station is to be marked by a steam hauled railtour on 4 April 2020. The station and its famous buffet are both “listed” despite the fact that the interior of the cafe in the film was a mock-up made in Denham film studios.

LOCO – MOTION Continuing the entertainment theme, singer Kylie Minogue made an unexpected return to Scarborough and the 20” gauge Peasholme Park – Scalby Mills railway (opened in 1931) on 4 August 2019. The entertainer had been diagnosed with cancer when she last appeared at the resort and underwent immediate surgery. Having recovered and had been free from any recurrence for many years she gave an impromptu rendering of “Loco-motion”, her 1988 hit song on the train accompanied by her dance team.

S & C LANDSLIP Recent very heavy rains have caused a landslip from the side of a cutting between Dent and Ribblehead on the Settle and Carlisle Line. A bus shuttle is taking passengers past the obstruction.

FLAXBY PARKWAY The former very rural station at Goldsborough on the Harrogate – York line was closed to passenger traffic on 15 Sept 1958, and to freight on 3 May 1965. Recently developers took over the closed Flaxby golf course beside the former station and announced plans to build 1500 houses there, but made no mention of restoring any rail service for the new houses. Harrogate Council has thought more deeply about the matter and has seen the opportunity to create not just a passenger service for the new housing but a park-and-ride facility for people wishing to travel to Harrogate, York or Leeds. In view of this the developers have altered their plans and now propose to build 2750 new houses. The new housing community is being called Flaxby and the station has been given the name Flaxby Parkway Station. Reopening is very likely to go ahead.

GOOLE Siemens plan to open a train construction factory on an empty site in the Yorkshire town of Goole.

TYNE AND WEAR METRO A temporary depot for the old stock is being built at Howdon while the existing Depot is being rebuilt to accommodate the new stock. The £21m transport interchange that incorporates South Shields Metro station will open to the public on 3 August 2019. It will be used by 7.5m passengers each year.

TIME KEEPING Services across the South Glasgow area now generate a better than 95.8% on time performance rating.

HEAT DELAYS Central Scotland endured a severe heat wave on 24 – 25 July 2019. Many services had to operate at a reduced speed meaning that service frequencies could not be maintained and therefore there were numerous cancellations some happening just minutes before the service was due to run.

NEW STATIONS The reopening of Beattock station on the West Coast Main Line has now received backing from the local authorities in the area. It would serve as a park and ride centre for a wide rural area as well as the little town of Moffat a couple of miles away. The restoration of a rail link to Cairnryan is to be pursued actively. Less easy is the need to improve rail links between Dumfries and the Stranraer and Cairnryan areas.

AYR The station is to be rebuilt adjacent to the present location. Part of the present station includes the large former station hotel which is literally falling apart with fragments falling on to a platform of the present station. The new station will be a safe distance away from the dangerous building which will be able to be taken down without disrupting activities at the new station.

WIRES DAMAGED The overhead power wires were damaged between Dalmuir and Dalreoch early on 31 July 2019. No electric services could operate west of Dalmuir until 12.00 noon.

CLASS 385. The first 8-coach train formed of Class 385 coaches entered service on the Glasgow Queen Street – Edinburgh Waverley main line on 29 July 2019. The enlargement of the concourse but allowing lengthening of the platforms at the George Square end has made the operation of 8 coach trains possible. During the Edinburgh Festival (2-25 August 2019) additional trains will be operated on the Glasgow – Edinburgh main line, including services later than in the normal timetable. Eight coach formations of Class 385 stock will be used.

FALKIRK FLOOD Following heavy thunderstorms on 4 August 2019 the Polmont Burn burst its banks and flooded the tracks and approach road at Falkirk Grahamston station.

PROBLEM FOR LOWLANDER The overnight sleeping car train from London Euston to Edinburgh got into difficulties when it reached Waverley Station early on 1 August 2019. The train failed to stop at Waverley and glided through the station finally being brought to a stand near the former Abbeyhill Station when the train manager applied the emergency brake. The train eventually drew back to Waverley Station arriving an hour late at 0845. It blocked morning rush hour services from Dunbar and North Berwick as well as those from the reopened Galashiels route and East Coast main line services from London.

24 July 2019

LIGHT RAIL USAGE Traffic on most light rail lines in the UK rose a little during the financial year 2018-2019. In London the Docklands lines were the busiest in England used by 212.8m people (up 1.9%) but Croydon Tramlink with 28.7m users was down 1.3%, probably due to after effects of a warehouse fire in February 2018 which had closed the system for six days. In English cities outside the London area, Sheffield was the only system to lose traffic (11.9m down 3.1%) owing to the closure of some sections for track replacement work. Nottingham’s NET did best of all with 18.8m mm users (up 5.7%), Midland Metro (5.9m – up 2.5%), Tyne and Wear Metro (36.4m up just 0.1%), and Blackpool (5.2m up 0.3%) giving a grand total for England of 272.4m – up 1.9% In Scotland the Glasgow Subway had 13.1m users (unchanged from the previous year) but Edinburgh trams carried 7.3m users (up 10% on the previous year).

COLOUR BLINDNESS The inability to distinguish between red and green is the commonest form of colour blindness and has made it impossible for sufferers to become train drivers. New technology has been introduced on some intensively served or high-speed railways. It has become virtually impossible to spot the setting of a signal on a train travelling at 125 mph or more, and new signalling systems use only in-cab displays. On London’s Jubilee Line there are no longer trackside signals and the in-cab technology is linked to automatic braking etc. Since April 2019 LUL has employed its first driver who has red:green colour blindness for whom his sight disability is of no consequence.

LUL A canister of CS gas was released during a fight between passengers on a northbound Victoria Line train at 0913 on 20 July 2019 at Oxford Circus station. Several passengers were affected by the gas and services were held up for several minutes. Some passengers received medical care at the station and several were taken to nearby hospitals.

GATWICK AIRPORT The Airport is used by more and more passengers, a significant proportion reaching it by rail. The station’s facilities are becoming over-stretched so a £150m upgrade has been proposed to meet present and future needs.

WATERLOO A major cable fire on the afternoon of 17 July 2019 put much of the signalling out of order and nine platforms had to be closed. Very many services were cancelled and the problem was expected to continue through the morning rush hour on the 18th.

THAMESLINK Govia Thameslink has been fined £1m following the death of a passenger on 7 August 2016 who leaned out of a Gatwick Express service and struck his head on a trackside steel gantry. The in-coach signs warning against leaning out of the window were unclear.

CARDIFF VALLEYS Traffic observed during a visit to the Welsh Capital on 10 July 2019 was surprisingly poor. A single Pacer unit was sufficient for the traffic on offer (off peak) on key routes such as the Rhonda Valley line. At the rush hour two Pacers or a Pacer with a Class 150 2-car unit was the norm on Rhonda, Merthyr, Aberdare, Ebbw Vale, or Penarth services. Only the Rhymney via Caerphilly line offered something more commodious with a single morning and evening train comprising four coaches hauled by a class 37 locomotive. This service was packed full at Cardiff Canalog (Central for non-welsh speakers) and Queen Street stations though traffic petered out after Bargoed with only nine left on board at the terminus of whom only two caught the connecting bus to Tredegar – the last bus of the day. The loco hauled service was unable to serve Gilfach Bargoed Halt due to its very short platform. The valleys lines will be electrified and worked by tram:trains during the next couple of years.

ST MELLONS Work on this planned £30m Cardiff Parkway station just east of the city will begin next year once full planning authorisation is granted. It will be served by trains for Bristol, London Paddington, Birmingham, Shrewsbury and North Wales, and Ebbw Valle.

SOUTH WALES Work on clearing the site for the new tram:train depot and Control Centre at Taffs Well has begun. These will serve the expanded Valleys services rather than an alternative site at Pontypridd. Transport for Wales is investing £738m in electrifying 106 miles of railway to Treherbert, Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhymney, and Coryton, new signalling and five new stations.

HS2 The future high-speed line from Euston to the West and East Midlands will provide onward links via the East Coast Main Line to York and Newcastle, and via the West Coast Main Line to Manchester and Liverpool, Lancaster, and over Shap and Beattock to the Central Scottish cities. An automated people mover is to be built between the HS2 Interchange Station in Solihull and Birmingham Airport. Services will leave every 3 minutes and take 6 minutes for the trip.

CURZON STREET Contractors selected as possible builders of to the planned HS2 terminus in Birmingham have failed to place bids and the bidding process has been halted to allow the work required to be better specified. The process will be restarted in late 2019 with details of what is required better laid out.

WEST MIDLANDS PROBLEMS Services were disrupted during the afternoon of 23 July 2019 following damage to overhead power cable between International and Coventry, and at the north end of the Cross City Line.

WEST COAST The Spanish train company RENFE has joined the bid to operate HS2 services from 2026 with Hong-Kong based MTR. RENFE has experience of operating 190 mph AVE services across Spain, high-speed services in Haramain (Saudi Arabia), and both the proposed Texas Central line in the USA, and high-speed services in France between Lyon and Marseilles.

MANCHESTER METROLINK Track laying will take place at New Islington on 14 July 2019. There will be no service on the Ashton-under-Lyne route until 24 July. The Airport Line will have essential engineering work during the early hours so there will be no service between 0300 and 0530 on 14 – 19 July 2019.

ISLE OF MAN During the winter “off” service period three of the Snaefell Mountain Railway cars have been fitted with electro-magnetic track brakes. The cars now have four separate brake systems – the new track brakes, the wheel brakes, Fell brakes, and rheostat brakes. The new brakes apply instant braking at the push of a button in the cab. Work on a fourth car, No 2 – the car involved in the runaway incident – awaits the delivery of components from Germany.

BLACKPOOL The extension to North Station is unlikely to open before well into 2020 since there are delays in moving a Wilko store that must be demolished before the new bus interchange can be built on the site.

LEEDS The University of Leeds Institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration is to be set up and will revolutionise how railway systems are created, developed, and brought into service. It will include three cutting edge facilities. First – a Vehicle Testing facility capable of examining performance at speeds of up to 400km/hour. Second – Infrastructure Testing – examining the forces on track, ballast, and support structures such as embankments at speeds up to 400km/hour. This facility will be constructed in an open site unrestricted by the confines of a building. Third – a System Integration and Innovation Centre. This will investigate the train, track, power system, signalling, and investigate how changes affecting any one part will interact with the other parts.

TYNE AND WEAR South Shields station was closed on 8 July 2019 to make way for the new £21m Bus and Metro Interchange (less than 100m away) which was opened on 4 August 2019.
In the interim period of four weeks Metro trains turned at Chichester.

GLASGOW SUBWAY The Strathclyde Partnership for Transport has introduced a 10-week Subway ticket giving unlimited travel at a cost of £120. This gives a saving of £40 compared to the cost of buying an ordinary return ticket daily for a ten week period. The ticket is available on-line for smart-card owners and is not available at station ticket offices.

EDINBURGH Physical work on the extension to Leith and Newhaven will start in December 2019.

CAIRNGORM The funicular railway, the UK’s highest railway and a boon for skiers or climbers heading for points beyond the top of the line, was closed in October 2018. The piers, beams, and the foundations of the structure supporting the track all need to be strengthened. Repairs cannot start before spring 2020 so the line will remain shut until summer 2020 at the earliest. Two winter seasons will have been lost. The 2km long 2m gauge funicular was opened on 24 December 2001 at a cost of £26m and replaced the White Lady Chair Lift. The single track line has a mid-point passing loop and rises 462m (1516 feet). Passengers board simultaneously at both terminals and pass each other at the mid-point loop. It is now owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise the earlier owner having failed financially when it became necessary to undertake costly repairs. Questions are now being asked about the original specifications for the track support structure.

6 July 2019

BRITISH STEEL Network Rail is considering bidding for the Railways Services Division of British Steel which produces around 100,000 tonnes of new steel rails for use on British Railways each year. Most of the rail products are produced in the endangered Scunthorpe plant.

TFL NOISE Tube drivers are being issued with ear defenders because of extremely loud screeching noises as their trains negotiate newly relaid track. The problem is worst on the Northern Line especially between Euston and Tufnell Park and around Finchley Central and Hendon Central.

DOCKLANDS CAF has been awarded the £350m contract to supply new stock comprising 43 five-car trains which will enter service from 2023. Ten of the new trains will represent an increase in the capacity of the system. The frequency of services will be able to be increased. The new trains will have spaces for wheelchairs, pushchairs, bicycles and bulky luggage.

TILBURY Tilbury Maritime Transport has opened a new rail connected terminal which will handle significant quantities of steel for export.

SEVERN TUNNEL Damp conditions within the Tunnel are putting the use of electric traction through the bore in doubt. The earthing straps connected to the overhead conductor rails are corroding after only a short time and the long-term solution may be to use diesel traction through the Tunnel and therefore employ bi-mode trains on the London – Cardiff route.

CARDIFF PLANS Cardiff City Council has revealed on 4 July 2019 plans for a £1bn transport network across the city which has doubled in size to 400,000 in recent years. The proposal is to create a Rapid Bus Transport Network across the city using only green or electric vehicles. The city is served by railways heading up the Valleys and towards Penarth and Barry but these play a limited role in moving large numbers of passengers around the city.

SOUTH WALES METRO The valleys running north from Cardiff were once centres of coal mining but as that industry has faded away the valleys have become the home for Cardiff commuters and the railways now carry the masses to offices in the Welsh capital instead of coal to the docks. The railways are being transformed with 178 km of track being electrified for turn-up and go services operated by tram-trains with level boarding at all stops. A new depot for the tram-trains will be built at Taffs Well and a headquarters for the new services will be at Pontypridd.

WEST MIDLANDS The 650m long extension of the line from Grand Central to Town Hall and Centenary Square should open in late 2019. The extension will be the first part of the system to use battery power so that the visually attractive buildings along this section will not have poles and power wires in front of them. The entire fleet has been upgraded by having batteries fitted with the first tram dealt with at the builder CAF’s plant in Zaragoza in Spain. All subsequent upgrades have been undertaken at Wednesbury Depot. Centenary Square is only the first step towards an extension through the Five Ways highway junction and on to Edgbaston, opening in 2021 in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2022. The separate extension in Wolverhampton to the bus then railway station cannot be completed until the reconstruction of the railway station is finished. An important extension on which civil engineering work has begun is from Wednesbury mostly over an abandoned railway right of way through Dudley to Brierley Hill. In Dudley the new line will not use the long railway tunnel under the town centre but will be diverted on to the main street through the town – a much better route to capture the traffic.

NOTTINGHAM With the extensions in 2015 to Clifton and Toton Lane operating successfully further potential extensions are being considered. These include an extension from Toton Lane to East Midlands Airport via the future HS2 station. This could be extended further to Derby. Short extensions to Clifton Pastures and to Gedling are also possibilities. The initial fleet of 15 LRVs that operated the first services in 2004 are to be refurbished with new floors and interior fittings undertaken by Alstom at the Wilkinson Street Depot. This will bring the appearance of the older stock up to the standard of the newer trams

SHEFFIELD A quick visit to the Steel City on 27 June 2019 showed traffic on the Supertram network to be remarkably quiet. Trams were virtually empty in the early afternoon. There was a little more traffic at the Rotherham Central and Cathedral stops. Track relaying has moved on to the Shalesmoor – Middlewood section with buses replacing trams to Middlewood and Malin Bridge.

ISLE OF MAN The operating dates for the historic railways during 2019 will be as follows.
Isle of Man Railway – 8 March until 3 November 2019. Manx Electric Railway 16 March until 3 November 2019. Snaefell Mountain Railway 26 March until 3 November 2019. Douglas Bay Horse Tramway 25 April until 3 November 2019. Reconstruction work on Douglas Promenade will limit the length available for the horse trams for at least the first part of the season. A roadside flashing warning system has been installed at Green’s level crossing at the north end of Laxey station warning traffic coming from the Ramsey direction that a tram is approaching.

WIRRAL TRANSPORT MUSEUM The Museum and heritage tramway have been open since 1995 and show a wide range of trams, buses, cars, bikes and a Green Goddess Fire Engine. There is a large size model railway. A heritage tram operates between Woodside and the Taylor Street Museum. The Museum is open every Saturday and Sunday from 1300 throughout the year and during school holidays is open also on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays plus Bank Holiday Mondays.

BLACKPOOL Traffic on Blackpool’s tramways has shown marked changes over the past 35 years. In 1983/4 6.2m passengers were carried and the trams were considered to be invaluable as a means of travelling along the sea-front since road congestion was becoming a problem. A steady decline began in 1987/8 with business falling to 5.4m. By 1995/6 the continuing fall brought the traffic down to 4.9m and in 2003/4 to just 3.7m. The trams remained vital during the period of the Illuminations but in 2011/2 traffic hit a new low of just 1.1m. Against this sad decline the decision to purchase a new fleet of sixteen Bombardier “Flexity 2” trams was surprising. How could work be found for such a large fleet? The 47 so-called “Heritage” trams are kept separate from the every-day workhorse trams and are used on special workings or during the illuminations when the trams are the only vehicles able to move freely along the sea front. The line voltage was raised from 550V to 600V and on 4 April 2012 the new Flexity 2 trams took over the regular daily service. Traffic statistics illustrates how people have poured back to the trams. Passenger totals for each year from 2012/3 have been 3.7m, 4.3m, 4.1m, 4.9m, 5.1m and in 2017/8 5.2m – or back to levels seen in the late 1980s. A branch from North Pier to North station is being built to restore a service lost in 1963. Two more Flexity 2 trams have been added to the fleet and nine trams from the old fleet were upgraded to allow them to operate the normal service. Four of them have had to be retired since their electrics had become unreliable The five “oldies” still capable of daily service will be pressed into regular use when the Flexity 2 trams begin to receive mid-life overhauls. The need for more Flexity 2 trams is becoming clear especially if the suggested extension over the South Fylde heavy rail line takes the trams to St Annes and Lytham.

TYNE & WEAR A mile of the track between Gateshead and Felling has been replaced during three weekend closures. Failures of the overhead power wire in two locations – near Chillingham Road and between Benton and Tynemouth resulted in bus replacements on 30 April 2019. Some units have experienced a variety of failures causing some peak services to be cancelled or run in short formation. Nexus has blamed these upsets on the age of the equipment and it is hoped that there will be an announcement soon about which firm will supply a replacement fleet.

TRAIN – CAR RACE Which can travel between Glasgow and Edinburgh city centres more quickly? A Class 385 emu or a Lamborghini sports car? On 11 June 2019 the emu took 42 minutes beating the high-power car by 21 minutes. Congestion in the suburbs of both cities held up the car but the train had a clear run on the route via Falkirk High.

7 June 2019

LUL During the late May 2019 Bank Holiday weekend, 25 – 27 May 2019, there was no service on the Piccadilly Line from Hammersmith to Heathrow Airport or Uxbridge, and no District Line service between Turnham Green and Ealing Broadway due to track renewal and drainage work.

CLASS 710 The new class 710 emus have been approved for use and are expected to commence public services on the Gospel Oak – Barking route on 23 May 2019..

MERIDIAN WATER The new station was opened by the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling M.P. On 3 June 2019.

SARAH SIDDONS Former Metropolitan Railway locomotive No 5, “Sarah Siddons” is nearing the conclusion of a major overhaul at Eastleigh Works that has lasted almost a year.

GATWICK EXPRESS A points failure on 31 May 2019 at Earlswood, between Gatwick Airport and East Croydon resulted in the suspension of the Gatwick Express service for most of the day. The ordinary London – Brighton service was also disrupted for a time.

EAST COAST Plans for a four-hour journey time for most trains between Kings Cross and Edinburgh Waverley have been put on hold until 2021.

ST ALBANS ABBEY The short branch from Watford Junction to St Albans (Abbey) is quite busy but being single track with no passing loop, services are restricted to a train every 45 minutes. This is not good enough for a busy corridor between two important towns and the easiest solution would be to build a loop at Bricket Wood, half way along the branch. The cost would be around £10m and if services were then improved to half-hourly there would be the cost of using a second emu with additional train crew costs and of operating more services – at least £1m per year. The improved service would of course then attract more passengers and fare revenue could rise sharply. Sadly it is probable that nothing will be done in the short term.

NOTTINGHAM The first of the fifteen Incentro trams, No 203, which were supplied by Bombardier of Derby in 2004 and operated the first services on the tram network have been refurbished at a cost of £3.5m. It has been given the same livery as the later Alstom trams. The tram has received a new floor covering, new seats, and repainted interior walls. A full mechanical overhaul formed part of the work.

BIRMINGHAM Plans have been announced for a 525 foot high tower containing 720 housing units beside the future HS2 terminus at Curzon Street. It would be the tallest building in the city.

ISLE OF MAN The horse tram service restarted at last on 24 May 2019, a month later than the planned 25 April 2019. Only 0..3 mile of route has been relaid and is available for use but the route will be extended as more new track is completed. The track was last relaid in 1937.

MANCHESTER TRAMS Buses replaced the trams on services from Piccadilly to MediaCityUK and Eccles during the late May bank Holiday weekend (27-28 May 2019) to allow engineering work in preparation for the new Trafford Park branch.

SHEFFIELD A new stop is proposed on the tramway at Magna between Meadowhall South and Rotherham Central to serve a Science Adventure Centre and a park and ride facility

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE The former travel shop at Monument Metro Station, now lying empty, is to become a micropub.

BALLOCH A proposed £30m tourist centre on part of the track bed of the abandoned railway between the Central and Pier stations has resulted in over 50,000 objections. The plans include a large hotel and a leisure centre but would occupy what has become an extremely popular walk for visitors arriving by train or in their own cars.

GLASGOW More details are emerging about proposals to improve transport around Scotland’s largest city. The earlier plan for a rail link between Paisley Gilmour Street station and Glasgow Airport was eventually dropped since a frequent rail service between Glasgow Central and the Airport might be difficult to fit in between the numerous rail services that already take up most of the available capacity between Glasgow and Paisley. Using cash from “City Deal” funding, the link between Paisley and the Airport has been reinstated as the first part of a planned Glasgow Metro. The Metro would incorporate parts of the existing railway network such as the Cathcart Circle, parts of the Central Low Level network including the direct line to Maryhill via Botanic Gardens, and the abandoned route through the group of sports grounds at Parkhead and the growth area of Tollcross. The ambitious plans include a link between Central and Queen Street Stations in the form of a tunnel between the two major stations with access points at both ends which would be within or extremely close to Central and Queen Street High Level stations. If HS2 is actually built there would be a need to provide extra facilities at Central HL reinstating the original bridge across the Clyde immediately east of the present bridge, and creating a southern entrance on the site of Bridge Street station whose building still stands to the east of the tracks.

KILMARNOCK A new design of bus by Plaxton and Volvo is enabling Stagecoach to challenge Scotrail for business between Kilmarnock and Glasgow. The new bus has three axles, is longer than older double deckers, and can carry a higher number of passengers. The buses have been given a special livery and are used on route X76 between Kilmarnock and Glasgow.

ROBROYSTON Strathclyde Passenger Transport confirms that the station will open with the new timetable in December 2019. 800 new houses have either been occupied or are near completion and a further 800 will be phase two of the new community. The cost of the station is being paid by a charge on each new house and eventually this will cover the full cost of the two platforms and shelters. An adjacent large car park is being paid for by the Local Authority.

EDINBURGH The tramway carried 7.3m passengers in 2018 taking the total carried since the tramway was opened in May 2014 to 27m.

LONGNIDDRY The station car park has been almost doubled in size. A new extension will accommodate 58 cars plus 10 bicycles. The original car park could take 73 cars.

ABERDEEN – INVERURIE This section of the main line between Aberdeen and Inverness is being double-tracked. Contracts have been issued for the construction of a new station at Kintore. The original station was opened in 1854, was closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching reshaping of the railway network, but it will be reopened in 2020 to serve a rapidly growing locality.

22 May 2019

BRISTOL The Department of Transport has announced £31m funding for MetroWest Phase 1 enabling upgrade work on local services from Bristol to Bath and Severn Beach. In addition work can now proceed on the reopening of the branch to Portishead with new stations at Pill and Portishead.

90028 Electric locomotive 90028 was officially named “Sir William McAlpine” on 11 January 2019 after the great engineer and for a time owner of “Flying Scotsman” – probably the best known steam locomotive in the world.

GATWICK AIRPORT The UK’s busiest Airport handling 46m passengers per year – up from 32m ten years ago – has a new owner. Global Infrastructure Partners, the former sole owner, has sold 50.1% of its holding to the French firm Vinci Airports for £2.9bn. The Airport employs 85,000 people and existing development plans are unaffected though the new owner will bring a fresh source of available capital to help fund developments. Future plans include making the existing stand-by runway a proper second runway, with land retained for a future third runway.

BRIGHTON TRAM 53. Restoration of the body of this 3’6” gauge open top double deck tram is sufficiently advanced that attention is now switching to work on the trucks and electrics. The tram is located at a working farm at Chanctonbury and visitors are to be welcomed on Open Days on 22 and 23 June 2019 between noon and 3 pm.

BOGNOR REGIS Staff at the south coast station were faced with an unusual problem on 14 May 2019. An apparently tame ferret was found sheltering at the station but it had no identity chip or other means to identify an owner. The RSPCA has taken the ferret into care.

SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY The expensively refurbished class 442 emus that were intended to boost capacity on some South Western Railway services, have been found to have a problem with the automatic door system. They cannot therefore be used until this is resolved and some services in the new timetable have been cancelled. A track fault at Wimbledon disrupted services through this key junction on 20 May 2019. Only less than half of the usual morning peak service could operate through the area but trains made extra calls to provide some sort of service at all stations. Longer distance SWR services were turned as far out as Basingstoke. Some upset to services was expected to continue during the morning peak on 21 May 2019.

THAMESLINK The new timetable, introduced on 19 May 2019, contains significant changes in only a few locations. There is an additional train every hour between Cambridge and Brighton via the Thameslink line across the city creating a half hourly service between the termini.

LONDON BUSES Twenty zero-emission buses are to be obtained and put on three routes next year. The zero-emission fleet will be the largest in service in any city at this time.

LUL Plans by management to reduce train inspection and preparation times have been dropped due to opposition by the RMT Union to measures that they believed could compromise train safety.

KINGS LYNN Because of a signalling failure at Littleport morning services between Ely and Kings Lynn were cancelled for much of 20 May 2019.

EAST COAST An Azuma train made its first trip carrying paying passengers on a special journey from Kings Cross to Peterborough and back on 14 May 2019. From 15 May 2019 Azuma trains commenced commercial operations between Kings Cross and Leeds. By the end of June 2019 it is expected that there will be six diagrams each weekday worked by Azuma trains on the Leeds run. Because of continuing electromagnetic interference north of Doncaster Azuma services will not operate to points further north until this problem is resolved late in 2019.

CROSS CITY LINE The new timetable from 19 May 2019 sees almost all services that turned at Lichfield City extended to the Trent Valley station. Evening services north of New Street now operate four times per hour instead of half-hourly and there is a new late evening departure for Four Oaks at 2340. A new earlier service leaves Four Oaks at 0548.

WEST MIDLANDS RAILWAY The company is to be congratulated on the way that it has tackled the requirement to re-brand everything with its own name and colour. The fleet of class 323 emus used specifically for the Cross City Line was given a makeover with a liberal use of orange within a couple of weeks of taking over the franchise. Stations across the Midlands, and south towards Euston, now show a forest of cheery orange lamp standards along most platforms. Similarly, orange has replaced green on the handrails beside stairways at a large proportion of the stations. The only thing lacking is the replacement of platform name boards and other notices which often still show the green strip along the lower edge as favoured by the previous operator. At Wolverhampton the name boards have been changed and show a new twist. The name “Wolverhampton” in large clear black letters has been moved to a lower position on the board allowing in smaller letters the words “City of” to appear above the name. The City crest appears to the right of the name and the West Midlands Railway logo is to the left.

NEW DEPOT A new carriage depot is to be built on vacant railway owned land to the west of Duddeston station. It will not be large enough for the Class 323 stock used on local services around the West Midlands so these sets will move to the Oxley Depot near Wolverhampton at present used by Virgin for Inter-City coaches. The i-c stock will be moving to another location that will depend on which operator wins the franchise for West Coast i-c services.

CHASE LINE Services to Walsall and Rugeley are reorganised in the new timetable from 19 May 2019. Services operate half-hourly throughout the day worked by Class 350 emus and calling at all stations between Rugeley Trent Valley and Walsall, virtually doubling the service at some stops. These trains then call at Tame Bridge Parkway with the service leaving Rugeley at around 19 minutes past each hour calling also at Bescot Stadium. This service then continues beyond New Street to Coventry and Euston via Northampton. The other service from Rugeley continues through New Street to Birmingham International. The half-hourly locals between Walsall and New Street (continuing often as locals to Wolverhampton), remain as before. DMUs freed following the electrification of the Chase Line will enable an extra service hourly between Birmingham New Street and Shrewsbury while some overcrowded peak services on non-electrified routes will be strengthened. There may be difficulty in providing siding space for all the new rolling stock.

STOUR VALLEY LINE A large new housing development is under way on the Wolverhampton side of Coseley Station.

WEST MIDLANDS TRAMS Track laying from New Street Station up steeply graded Pinfold Street towards the Town Hall is nearly complete. Because the last section of Pinfold Street is more steeply graded the new track bed is being excavated to produce a slightly gentler gradient from the upper quarter of Pinfold Street right up to the Town Hall stop. The road underpass at the very busy Five Ways intersection is to be closed from early June 2019 for at least two years and when reopened it may be that it will be used by only the West Side trams and no other traffic.

CRICH The National Tramway Museum has been in existence for sixty years and there will be special celebrations to mark the anniversary during September 2019.

MANCHESTER METROLINK How small the trams appear compared to the larger new stock operating in the West Midlands, Nottingham, and Sheffield! The long Airport line is a slow way to travel between the city centre and the Airport but is is relatively busy with many points along the way that generate local traffic. Chorlton and Wythenshawe Town Centre are of major importance in this way. Parts of the route are in the street as a conventional tramway and long sections are alongside the highway but the tracks are segregated for trams only with other vehicles banned. Manchester is on the “up”- literally – with several very high rise buildings rising in the city centre. The ramp from Pomona for Trafford Park branch has been completed and contractors are starting to lay track. The Airport Station is overcrowded with heavy rail trains stacked two to a platform making it difficult for would-be passengers, often from overseas and with limited English, to know where to go. There are plans to provide an additional heavy rail platform. Teams of Metrolink inspectors were out in force at Piccadilly during a visit on 09 May 2019, checking the tickets of all passengers. They were polite and extremely helpful guiding someone who was confused by the ticket machines and having difficulty obtaining the correct ticket. Three two section LRVs of the T68 design were noted standing in sidings at the southern of the depots. The bodies are basically a very light grey and there are stripes of turquoise at the top and bottom of the body. The two double doors on each car side are in the same turquoise colour. The only trams noted in service during the middle of the day were of the older M5000 type with bright yellow ends.

GLASGOW AREA A major signalling fault occurred at Bellgrove at 1459 on 14 May 2019 disrupting services between Queen Street LL and Bathgate. The problem was resolved by 1730.
The south gable of the arch roof over Queen Street HL station, facing towards George Square, is to receive repairs to the leading between the glass panes, and special cleaning to the individual panes.

9 May 2019

DB CARGO The international freight company entered a ten year agreement from 01 April 2019 to operate key freight depots across England and serve them by a dedicated fleet of freight services from the Ports of Southampton and Felixstowe. The depots are at Manchester (Trafford Park), Birmingham (Birch Coppice), and Wakefield (Europort), and each is served by a daily freight service from Southampton, plus one daily service from Felixstowe to Wakefield. A further major depot is being built at Castle Donnington and will be served by a daily service from Southampton with a possible Felixstowe train later.

HYTHE PIER RAILWAY The pier and its 2’0” gauge electrically powered railway are in a poor run-down condition with closure of the pier and the associated ferry service from Southampton a real possibility. The Hythe Pier Heritage Association has taken over the Pier and has launched a public appeal for £3m so that essential repairs can be undertaken.

SOUTH WESTERN RLY The new timetable that will commence on 19 May 2019 will include around 300 additional trains designed to reduce overcrowding on key outer and middle suburban routes including Waterloo to Reading, Windsor, Salisbury, and between Farnham and Guildford. Most of these improvements should have been introduced a year ago but civil engineering works meant that this was impossible to achieve until now.

HEATHROW AIRPORT PLANS The Airport is the busiest in the UK and improved rail links, especially from points south of the Airport are seen as essential for the future. The Elizabeth Line will operate from Paddington and Old oak Common to stops at Heathrow Terminals 2 &3, then a stop for Terminal 5 plus a branch into Terminal 4. This route will continue on to the GW main Line serving Slough and Reading. A separate service would run from Paddington to the same two stops for Terminals 2 and 3, then 5 before operating over a new line to Chertsey and Woking before running to Guildford and to Basingstoke. Services will run from Waterloo and Clapham Junction via both Hounslow and Twickenham to Staines and along the Windsor branch from where a new link will operate to Terminal 5.

HEATHROW EXPRESS Fares on this express service to/from Paddington have been reduced to keep passengers using the service. As a result income from the service has fallen by £1bn. The Heathrow Express service is thought to be the most expensive in pounds per mile in the world.

LUL One thousand drivers plan to strike from 17 to 20 May 2019 over changes to train preparation and inspection schedules.

TRAP AND DRAG The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has been involved in eleven such incidents during the past five years. Drivers may occasionally close the train doors a little too soon trapping a passenger or animal. The RMT Union believes that the closing of doors should be the responsibility of a second member of staff on board the train.

CROSSRAIL The two year delay to the opening of the cross-London route will cost the operator £1bn in lost fares. The company is spending £25m each year as it has employed 479 drivers only some of them driving Crossrail trains that operate from London terminals to serve suburban parts of future Crossrail routes. Some of the drivers are testing the new trains so that they can be ready to operate through the tunnel when it eventually opens two years late. Other drivers do absolutely nothing day after day. The main cause of the delay to opening is the year long delay to the construction of Bond Street station due to problems with the tunnel construction there.

GREATER ANGLIA High spot in the new timetable introduced on 19 May 2019 are two services each way between Liverpool Street and Norwich making just one stop – Ipswich – and taking just 90 minutes for the trip. Departures from London Liverpool Street are 1100 and 1900, and from Norwich 0900 and 1700.

BRISTOL The Clifton Rock Railway, a funicular carved in tunnel within the rock face, has been purchased by a local hotelier who plans to reopen it as a tourist attraction. The funicular was closed in 1934 but the tunnel was used during WW2 to house some telecommunications equipment.

WCML The four track WCML is being altered for 150m on either side of the Bletchley flyover with the work completed by 06 May 2019. Nine new masts to carry the overhead power wires have been erected during early 2019 and now 350m of the wires need to be slightly re-aligned.

WEST MIDLANDS Improvements to local services in the new timetable from 19 May 2019 include a new earlier service from Four Oaks to the city centre, four trains per hour each evening on Cross City Line North, and a later “last train” to Four Oaks. London to Stratford on Avon through trains are doubled from three to six on weekdays, Three trains per hour will operate all day on weekdays to Kidderminster and a number of routes will be joined together at Birmingham New Street giving for example an hourly through emu service between Walsall and Euston, and a Liverpool – Euston emu service provided by London North Western Railway.

WEST MIDLANDS TRAMS The construction of new houses close to the Bradley Lane stop has been completed and several hundred new residents will be moving in during the next couple of months – all potential new tram customers. Which trams have a full or part blue livery? Tram 31 has the full blue scheme while trams 21 and 23 have some blue at each end, the remainder of these trams remaining in the conventional scheme.

HALTON CURVE An hourly service between Liverpool Lime Street and Chester via the upgraded Halton Curve is a feature of the new timetable from 19 May 2019.

ISLE OF MAN The Douglas horse tram service was expected to restart for the 2019 summer season on 25 April 2019 but training of the horses was not completed and the reopening will be mid-May at the earliest. Redevelopment of the Promenade is on-going and the horse trams may be restricted to Derby Castle – Villa Marina. The new rails are heavier than the old ones and it may be possible for them to be used by modern LRVs or may permit Manx Electric Railway trains to be extended further into the town. The end of this year’s services on all of the Island’s heritage railways will remain 03 November 2019.

MANCHESTER TRAMS A collision early on 01 May 2019 between LRV 3109 and a road sweeper lorry in the Wythenshawe area resulted in the closure of the Airport line for most of the day. The tram suffered significant damage to one side of the body.

SCARBOROUGH The Central Cliff Railway linking the town centre with the harbour and beach area, is celebrating 100 years of service on 11 May 2019 when the staff will be wearing Edwardian dress, and passengers will ride free of charge.

BEAMISH MUSEUM With the beautiful restoration of Sheffield 264 now completed and with testing more or less completed, there are now seven working trams to provide services around the circular tramway linking all the Museum’s varied sites.

NEXUS Many sections of the Newcastle Metro network were brought to a stand late on the morning of 29 April 2019 when around 600m of overhead power wires were brought down near Chillingham Road. The repair work was difficult to achieve and it was not until Thursday 02 May 2019 that power could be restored to the Wallsend – St James section.

BETTER SERVICES The Shotts Line station at Breich had for several years just a single call each way on weekdays for the benefit of a single (now retired) commuter to Edinburgh. It will have an all-day hourly service from the timetable change on 19 May 2019. The station has a rather remote location but relatively speedy services to both Glasgow and Edinburgh may attract useful park and ride business. Another badly served station, Gainsborough Central, which had just three calls per week, will from 19 May 2019 have an hourly service to/from Sheffield.

GLASGOW SUBWAY The first of the new driverless fleet has been delivered from Stadler and an intensive testing programme began on 07 May 2019. It is intended that future Subway operations will feature trains that have no staff on board.

EDINBURGH WAVERLEY Bay platforms 5 and 6 have been reopened and will create space for additional services towards the Borders and along the ECML if and when traffic rises and makes additional trains necessary.

30 April 2019

MARK V COACHES. The new sleeping car fleet was introduced on overnight services from London Euston to Glasgow and Edinburgh, (“The Lowlander”) on 29 April 2019 with initial services arriving 3 hours late. Services from Euston to Aberdeen, Inverness, and Fort William will commence with the major timetable change in May 2019.

SIGNAL CABLE THEFT During the year ended 31 March 2019 delays due to the theft of signalling cable (stolen so that the copper within the cables can be resold) rose sharply to nearly 60,000 minutes, mostly around London. The minutes lost during the previous year were just below 40,000 minutes.

DOCKLANDS Climate Change activists halted services on the light rail network on 17 April 2019 by climbing on to the roof of trains or by gluing themselves on the exterior of coaches. A new station, Thames Wharf, is to be built between Canning Town and West Silvertown. Fourteen additional coaches are to be obtain to handle the ever growing traffic.

SIGNAL FAILURE On 29 April 2019 a major signalling failure at Clapton halted all services to Chingford, and disrupted those to Enfield Town and Cheshunt.

C2C A drunk driver drove his car on to the tracks at a level crossing between East Tilbury and Stanford-le-Hope on Bank Holiday Monday 22 April 2019. All train services were halted while the police located the driver, moved the car from the tracks, and engineers checked that the rails were not damaged, before services could move again. What does c2c mean? The company would like it to mean “commitment to customers” but most people think of it as “city to coast”.

CROSSRAIL (ELIZABETH LINE) The construction of the east – west railway in tunnel under the centre of London will not be fully completed until 2021 – over 2 years behind schedule and at least £3bn over budget. The stations at Paddington and Bond Street are at the moment far from completion. There is a major problem in an incompatibility between the three signalling systems used along the Tunnel, and on the surface railways at each end, with the on-train equipment.

TRANSPORT FOR LONDON will take over the operation of local services between Paddington and Reading in December 20019 and will use Class 345 emus.

CAMBRIDGE NORTH The new station was opened in May 2017 and has become a great success. Over half a million passengers used in during the first twelve months of operation.

WEST MIDLANDS METRO One of the trams is to be named after Councillor Roger Lawrence, leader of the Wolverhampton City Council for 15 years and leader of the W M Combined Authority portfolio for transport for four years. He has overseen major investment and expansion of the light rail network.

ISLE OF MAN The training of horses over the new track along the Douglas Sea Front began on 25 April 2019. Public services will not begin until the horse training has been completed. The horse tram service will end this year, along with services on the other rail-based attractions on the Island, on 03 November 2019.

MANCHESTER METROLINK Major civil engineering work took place north of Victoria over the Easter weekend. On 20 and 21 April 2019 there was no service on the Bury line and nothing between Exchange Square and Monsall on the Rochdale route. Manchester Airport services terminated at Deansgate-Castlefield while East Didsbury services terminated at Exchange Square. On Monday 22 April 2019 there was no service between Queens Road and Bury but the other routes had normal services for a Bank Holiday.

TRAFFORD PARK The construction of the new Metrolink branch to Trafford Park is now advanced. Nearly three quarters of the track has been laid and all six stops have been completed. A start will be made soon on the erection of the overhead power wires.

SHEFFIELD Two sections of tram:trains damaged in accidents with road vehicles in October and November 2018 are being returned to Stadler for repair. They will be numbered as 399 204 on their return. The two undamaged sections have been joined together as 399 202 and will remain that way.

TYNE & WEAR METRO Major bridge replacement works in Cullercoats and Tynemouth has taken the sum spent on civil engineering upgrades to £300m. Numerous smaller schemes will continue over the next couple of years.

SHOTTS LINE The new Class 385 emu fleet entered service between Edinburgh and Glasgow during April 2019. All five routes between Scotland’s two principal cities are now electrically worked.

GLASGOW Major civil engineering work to lengthen platforms 2 – 5 at Queen Street High Level station began on 15 April 2019. Because of the location of the station in a deep cutting leading to Cowlairs Tunnel the only way to extend these platforms to take eight car trains is to extend them back across the existing somewhat shallow concourse towards George Square. Extra circulating space for passengers is being created on the western side of the station.

DELAYS Signalling problems on 29 April 2019 between Rutherglen and Cambuslang caused long delays to local services.

GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL has proposed that £10bn be invested in local rail transport including the reopening of some closed lines to create a comprehensive network that would include a city-wide Metro. The first route to be tackled would operate from Central Station to the Airport partly over existing tracks and then new tracks through Renfrew, Braehead, and the QE Hospital.

16 April 2019

STAGECOACH The company has been disqualified from bids made for three franchises – East Midlands, South Eastern (with Alstom) and West Coast (with Virgin). The Government has made it clear that a franchise granted for any of these three franchises must include long-term provision for the pension funds of employees. This Stagecoach felt unable to do because the pension funds would require supervision long after the franchise term has ended. It could end Virgin’s place in the railway industry despite their great success in meeting targets for the West Coast franchise. (The company did fail with the East Coast franchise being unable to increase use of the Kings Cross to Leeds, Newcastle, and Edinburgh) At the start of the present franchise the West Coast services carried 15m passengers per year. The challenge was to double this number and Virgin (with Stagecoach) not only met the 30m goal but went on to carry over 40m people with the probability that this will rise to 50m. Abellio has been granted the East Midlands franchise despite its poor performance with the operation of Scotrail.

EAST CROYDON This station is the worst bottleneck on the entire BR network. 1700 trains pass through the station every weekday and any train running even slightly late results in delays to many following services. A Post Office sorting office, disused for five years, blocks the way for extra tracks and this is now to be removed, extra tracks and perhaps two additional platforms provided, allowing trains to pass through the station more easily.

CROSSRAIL A business case for extending Crossrail south east to Ebbsfleet is being prepared. This would allow direct links between Heathrow Airport, The City, Docklands, and commuter services operating along HS1. Crossrail intends to introduce a service between Paddington and Reading with the December 2019 timetable change.

HARWICH The line between Harwich International and Harwich Town was closed between 08 – 12 April 2019 for track improvement work.

BIRMINGHAM SNOW HILL A formal Planning Application has been submitted for the construction of an entrance from Snow Hill Metro Stop to the adjacent National Rail Station. This will entail opening out one of the arches of the viaduct on which the national Rail Station stands. The arch shows significant “wear and tear” problems and these will be repaired as part of the work.

NOTTINGHAM Possible extensions from the Toton Park and Ride stop have been announced. One would see the route extended a short distance to the future HS2 station and then through Long Eaton and eventually to the city of Derby itself. The other extension would also serve Long Eaton before passing below the Motorway and then continuing south west to the Airport.

SHEFFIELD The tram:train service was suspended for much of 10 April 2019 when a faulty bracket was found in a bogie of one of the tram;trains. All of the tram:trains were taken out of service so that the brackets on each of them could be inspected but no more problems were found.

ROTHERHAM The service cars to the Parkgate Shopping Centre north of Rotherham were quite quiet on 13 April 2019 and although the car park seemed full, the shopping centre was surprisingly quiet. I wonder if some drivers park free at Parkgate and then take the tram into Sheffield city centre? The M&S outlet at Parkgate is to close on 04 May 2019 rather confirming the less than complete success for the Parkgate Centre. The fine new ground for Rotherham FC is half a mile south of the town centre tram and railway station. If there was a stop beside the stadium there seemed to be little scope for non-football traffic at such a stop – There is little housing or industrial premises that could employ many workers.

MERSEYRAIL Buses will replace trains between Birkenhead North and West Kirby and also between Shotton and Birkenhead North on 27 April 2019 until 04 May 2019.

TYNESIDE Track relaying work on the Nexus light rail system means that there will be no services between Gateshead and Felling on 13-14 April, 19-22 April and 4-6 May all in 2019.

GLASGOW Electrification is being considered for the East Kilbride branch and local services to Barrhead. There is gross overcrowding at the rush hours on these routes with the success of large car parks at several stations (especially East Kilbride and Hairmyres).

EDINBURGH Traffic at Edinburgh’s principal station has more than doubled over the past decade and a public consultation is to be held to discover the view of passengers. The preferred plan is to build a new concourse above the present circulating areas with lifts and stairways leading down to the individual platforms. The listed station roof will then be fairly close to the heads of passengers using the new concourse and anything that affects the roof is likely to be rejected by local planning officials. The roof has a low profile so that it will not block the view of the Castle and Old Town from Princes Street. To raise the present roof by no more than a few feet might just be allowed but how easy will it be to achieve this?

31 March 2019

CHANNEL TUNNEL SERVICES French Customs staff strikes have resulted in long delays for passengers and several services to/from Paris have been cancelled – on Sunday 17 March 2019 four trains were cancelled; with three cancelled on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 18, 19, and 20th respectively. Long queues of intending passengers take double the usual time to go through checks at Paris Nord Station causing significant delays to services. Bombardier has won a contract to refurbish the passenger coaches on the Shuttle trains. Each shuttle train completes around 300 round trips through the Tunnel every month. The first refurbished train will enter service in 2020 and the work will take until 2026 to be completed.

CLASS 230 These battery powered units can be re-charged in seven minutes and have enough stored power for a 60 mile journey. Appropriate for a purely local service, the units show how stored electric power can be used in an effective way on a low-pollution local service.

CLASS 717 This new fleet of emus obtained by Govia Thameslink is nearing the end of test operations and the first two units have entered public service. They will replace the Class 313 units which are the oldest emus still in use in the UK.

ST PANCRAS The station was closed for several hours on 30 March 2019 because a man was seen in dangerous locations – beside the track, on the station roof, and immediately above the entrance to the tunnel. The power to the overhead wires had to be turned off. The man was arrested later and services began to return to normal.

CHELMSFORD The Department of Transport is looking “very carefully” at plans for a new station in the Beaulieu area of the growing northern suburbs of the town. It will cost £218m and will serve a new housing area. The new Northern Bypass will be adjacent to the site.

ASTON New platform signs have been erected with the station name in clear crisp black letters. To the right is the Aston Villa crest in full colour. To the left in the upper corner is the company name “West Midlands Railway”. In box below appear the words “for Villa Park”.

WEST MIDLANDS EMUS New illuminated signs are appearing within the carriages devoted to the Cross City Line. There are two signs per carriage displaying two lines of clear yellow letters on a blue background. The effect is much clearer than in the older signs.

WEST MIDLANDS TRAMS Two of the trams now carry special liveries. Tram 31 has the attractive all blue scheme and celebrates the footballer Cyrille Regis. Now on tram 21 a new livery has been applied. The tram body is in the normal white with black window frames and the broad pink strip above the windows has been extended up to the roof line as part of a KFC advertising scheme. On the car ends the section of the body immediately below the cab windows is in blue. The car doors have a thin blue line around each door.

WEST MIDLANDS EXTENSION The Wednesbury – Dudley – Brierley Hill extension was given final approval on 29 March 2019 and construction of this key route that slices across the Black Country will commence in late 2019. Vegetation clearance work has been going on for several months but actual construction work has now been given the go-ahead.

NEW TIMETABLE IMPROVEMENTS Services across the West Midlands will be improved in frequency, and speed in the May 2019 timetable. Electrification of the Chase Line (Walsall – Rugeley TV) will be introduced giving a better faster service, there will be more evening and weekend trains across many routes to encourage travellers attending concerts and other city centre events to use the trains. Additional carriages will be added to some severely overcrowded peak trains. Further improvements are promised in two years time when brand new coaches will be delivered from the manufacturer CAF. Elsewhere there are to be four London – Norwich services taking just 90 minutes, and 60 minutes to Ipswich. The morning peak service from Portsmouth to Waterloo will be strengthened by the addition of two additional services.

STATFOLD BARN RAILWAY This museum and operating railway near Tamworth, Staffordshire, is to receive the two electric locomotives that used to operate in slate quarries near Blaenau Ffestiniog. They were on display at Llechwedd Quarry for a time then were moved to the Welsh Highland Railway in July 2010 for planned restoration. This however did not happen and they were returned to Llechwedd. They will be kept under cover at Statfold and there are no immediate plans to restore them.

MANCHESTER Tram number 3006 has completed one million km working on the Metrolink system – the first of the fleet to reach this milestone.

CLASS 331 The new CAF built emus are to take over the operation of the Leeds – Doncaster local service from the timetable change in late May 2019.

HITACHI The Japanese locomotive and rolling stock builder has received an order from First Group for five 5-car trains to operate a rival fast standard class only service between Kings Cross and Edinburgh which will charge just £25 for a single ticket. Hitachi is running out of work for its large factory at Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham but hopes it may land the massive order for a new fleet for the Tyne and Wear Metro. Another large order in the near future is the rolling stock for HS2 services.

NEWCASTLE A new western entrance to the station will be part of the £5.2m upgrade that will be getting under way later this year. There is to be an adjacent multi-storey car park on the old goods yard.

SCOTRAIL WARNED The Scottish Government has issued two warnings to Scotrail over a persistent failure to meet standards with far too many services reaching their destination late or being cancelled. Scotrail are to recruit more drivers, train managers, and Control Room staff in an attempt to achieve an improvement but admit that it mat be two years before targets are achieved.

EDINBURGH The full City Council met on 14 March 2019 and gave its approval to extend the tramway through Leith to Newhaven. The extension will cost £207m.

14 March 2019

NEW SUMMER TIMETABLE The new timetable, to be introduced on 19 May 2019, will include several changes. Network Rail management has given assurances that there will be no collapse in service as happened when there were last major timetable changes. Plans include the introduction of faster services between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Middlesbrough, extra peak trains on the South Western Railway, and more services between Chester, Manchester, and Leeds. In all there will be 1000 extra trains added per week in May 2019.

LINE CLOSURES When civil engineering work is needed on a section of railway the usual action is to close the line during the weekend when fewer workers use the line. Recently part of the main London – Brighton line was closed for a week for £67m of track and signalling upgrades coinciding with the schools half-term break since there would be fewer users that week. 200 buses bridged the gap adding one hour to the normal journey time. Engineers plan to approach future closures in a similar way resulting in one week of difficulty for regular commuters. The traditional weekend closure approach would have resulted in closures extending for well over a whole year and costing much more than the cost of the one week closure. Major work is planned at Euston Station over the Easter period. The terminus will be completely closed on 20 and 21 April 2019 (Easter Day) while on 19 April 2019 (Good Friday) and 22 April (Easter Monday) there will be no direct services to the station. A similar situation will apply on the May Bank Holiday, 4-6 May 2019.

HIGH WINDS Very high winds swept over much of the UK on 12 and 13 March 2019 and as a result speed restrictions were applied over much of the East and West Coast main lines and a number of routes considered to be at risk. Some services were cancelled on these routes – Manchester – Sheffield, Durham – Newcastle, and Euston – Manchester. The Cross City line in Birmingham was also affected and some services ran non-stop between New Street and Sutton Coldfield to allow slower than usual services to catch up with the timetable.

EXPLOSIVES On 5 March 2019 three postal packages containing explosive substances were identified at Waterloo Station and two Airports – Heathrow and London City. A similar packet was found later in the post room of Glasgow University.

SEATON TRAMWAY The 3 mile long 2’9” gauge line occupies for most of its length the track bed of the abandoned British Railways branch to Seaton. The Seaton terminus has been rebuilt with a new building giving covered access to the trams.

BARKING The East London station is to be upgraded at a cost of £5m. The station was rebuilt in 1959 in a design that was considered to be inspiring and innovative reflecting the design of Rome’s new principal station. However the passage of time coupled with the usual neglect has left the station a sad shadow of its 1950s glory. Now it is to be restored and the 1959 design will be at the heart of the transformed station.

OVERGROUND The service on the Overground line from Barking to Gospel Oak (“GOBLIN LINE”) has had to be reduced to a half hourly frequency because of a lack of suitable rolling stock. Only three Class 378 units are available to operate the route which means that there is only a half-hourly service for the time being. The Class 172 Turbostar units formerly used had to be transferred to the West Midlands and the brand new Class 710 units from Bombardier are not yet fully tested and are therefore not yet available.

HS2 Several blocks of new student flats blocking the route standing of the future HS2 line into its Birmingham terminus were demolished during March 2019. Contractors Mace and Dragodas JV are to rebuild Euston Station. The Old Oak Common Transport Hub is to be built by a joint venture of Balfour Beatty, Vinci Construction UK, and Vinci Construction Grands Projets with Systra.

MIDLAND MAIN LINE Electrification is to be extended as far north as Market Harborough. Long Distance services will be worked by bi-mode trains using electric power between St Pancras and Market Harborough, and diesel power to points further north.

MIDLAND METRO Construction of the new Metro line between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill via the centre of Dudley is getting under way and the cost is expected to be around £318m – only about £60m higher than expected in detailed costings made in 2005.

CAMP HILL LINE The planned local service over the Camp Hill Line in Birmingham depends on the construction of chords at Bordesley to give a short route between Snow Hill Station, the reopened (for local trains) route, as well as towards Tamworth. However planning permission has been sought by a house builder whose 480 new houses would use the land needed for the chords.

WOLVERHAMPTON One thousand new homes are to be built on a derelict site close to the station. The new Metro line to the station will not open until the station rebuild is completed.

REOPENED STATIONS The stations at Willenhall and Darlaston, closed in the 1960s are to be reopened and illustrations of the stations have been publicised. The unstaffed stations will have shelters, ticket machines, and a footbridge with the steps arranged in three sections, plus a lift from each platform. The planned initial service is not very exciting – just one service per hour between Wolverhampton and Walsall (buses run between the towns every few minutes) and an hourly service between Wolverhampton and Birmingham New Street.

FLOODS Heavy rain on 12 March 2019 resulted in flooding of the London – Manchester main line at Kidsgrove, and also nearby between Alsager and Crewe.

MANCHESTER Major efforts are being made to improve public transport – by bus and by rail – so that 50% of journeys will be by public transport by the year 2040.

CLASS 331 The new trains will enter service between Leeds and Doncaster during May 2019.

SCOTTISH WEATHER High winds and torrential rain fell across south west Scotland on 12 March 2019 resulting in flooding in parts of Renfrewshire and Ayrshire. Rail services were halted between Kilwinning and Ardrossan Harbour, and onwards to Largs. The Irvine – Ayr main line was affected on 13 March 2019 when the overhead power wires were damaged by material blown by the wind becoming caught in the overhead wires.

3 March 2019

FINANCE How can new stations be paid for? Both in England and Scotland central government sources rarely contribute towards initial studies or construction costs. The policy in Scotland is to boost end-to-end journey times and the opening of an additional station adds several minutes to overall times. If a local Council or a private developer is willing to come up with the capital cost a new station may then be able to proceed. See below for examples in England and Scotland.

NEW STATIONS IN ENGLAND Although many new stations have been suggested a lack of finance has often prevented their development. Local Councils often undertake studies into such proposals. Horden Station on the Durham Coast Line has been suggested for many years to serve the new town of Peterlee. The County’s Local Growth Fund is being used to complete detailed studies into the proposal. In Lancashire there are proposals to reopen stations at Midge Hall, Fleetwood, and Coppull all of which would become new transport hubs. A detailed study is under way at Midge Hall and another starts soon at Fleetwood – both paid for by the County Council.

NO SERVICE On the weekend of 02/03 March 2019 there were no trains between Liverpool Street and Shenfield because of overhead wire renewal work. The Romford – Upminster shuttle was also cancelled to allow Crossrail construction work.

SHOEBURYNESS SERVICES. Numerous additional faster services are to be added to weekend schedules from June 2019 taking just 44 minutes from Southend and 55 from Shoeburyness to Fenchurch Street. The trains will run hourly calling at all stations Shoeburyness to Benfleet then fast to West Ham and Fenchurch Street only. The fast trains will be additional to the regular service an will represent a 50% increase in direct services on Sundays, and 25% on Saturdays.

CROYDON TRAMLINK ASLEF has called a ballot of staff regarding strike action since the management offer of a 3.2% pay increase in each of the next three years is not considered sufficient.

TRANSPORT for LONDON The first electrically powered services on the Gospel Oak – Barking (“GOBLIN”) line ran on 28 January 2019. They were worked by class 378 units since the Class 710 emus being built by Bombardier had not yet been delivered.

HEATHROW EXPRESS Porterbrook is to convert twelve class 387 emus which will then operate the Heathrow Express service. The work will be undertaken in the Derby Workshops.

KINGS LYNN LINE The platforms at Waterbeach and Littleport are being lengthened to accommodate eight car trains in moves that will relieve overcrowding on Kings Lynn services which have until now been restricted to four cars in length.

CROSS CITY LINE The Class 323 emus serving the West Midlands route are to be overhauled, and will have a fully accessible toilet fitted, have new seat covers, and be generally freshened up.

MANCHESTER AREA Electric services finally started operation between Manchester and Bolton on 11 February 2019. One service per hour operates between Victoria Station and Buckshaw Village, another between Piccadilly Station and Preston, and a further service hourly between Blackpool and Manchester Airport. Class 319 emus are used but these will be replaced by new class 331 emus once they have been delivered by CAF. The following stations on the former Woodhead Line are to be upgraded including repainting, have improved signs, and better lighting – Glossop, Dinting, Broadbottom, Hattersley, Godley, Newton for Hyde, Flowery Field, and Ashburys. The improvements will cost £1.5m.

LEEDS AREA A 170 space multi-storey car park is to be built at Steeton and Silsden station.

TYNE & WEAR METRO Services between Park Lane and South Hylton were suspended for a time on 27 February 2019 after signalling cable was stolen during the small hours. National Rail services were also affected.

NEW STATIONS IN SCOTLAND The building of new stations is subject to the provision of finance. Construction of the new Robroyston station near Stepps has begun and will be paid for by the developer of the adjacent large new housing estate who has added £1000 to the price of each new property so that eventually the new residents will have paid for their station. In contrast the construction of a new station between Patterton and Neilston on the Neilston branch serving new houses to the south of Barrhead, which started over a year ago has stopped because the planned new housing development has not yet happened. Similarly the building of a park and ride station at Halbeath in Fife has not progressed since a source of funds has not been identified. In general new stations are not supported by the Scottish Government which prefers to support measures that will shorten end-to-end running times.

GLASGOW AREA The area around the former massive Singer factory in Clydebank has been redeveloped. On the site of the former multi-platform private terminal station opposite the factory there is a large new retail park. The factory site lay mostly undeveloped for several years but now hosts several small new businesses. Considerable numbers of new houses including blocks of flats have been erected on empty plots close to suburban stations all around the city.

GLASGOW QUEEN STREET The escalators linking the High Level and Low Level platforms are being upgraded and in part replaced by new equipment for four weeks from 11 March 2019. The view of the beautiful arch roof revealed when buildings that obstructed the view were demolished is again being obscured by the new entrance being built in front of the arch.

NEW ROUTE Parts of three separate routes have been amalgamated to form a through route between Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh Waverley via Cumbernauld. Trains run every half hour from Queen Street High Level, up Cowlairs Bank and round the sharp curve to Springburn Station. The route heads east just before Barnhill Station joining what had once been the Buchanan Street – Perth main line. Trains rush past the growing community of Glenboig (no station reopening here due to lack of finance) before reaching Cumbernauld. Trains then follow the former Perth route before turning off to Falkirk Grahamston and. thereafter along the main line via Polmont and Linlithgow to Edinburgh.

SHOTTS LINE The former Caledonian Railway, later LMSR, line between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Shotts once had fast expresses competing with the rival NBR, later LNER, route via Polmont. Today the Polmont has route expresses every 15 minutes taking around 45 minutes while the Shotts line has just one local and one semi-fast service hourly, the faster trains taking around 70 minutes. Traffic is light with only modest traffic handled at even the more important stops. Shotts was once a centre for coal mining but this has ceased and commuters to both end cities make up the bulk of the traffic which rarely requires more than a three or four dmu coaches. Breich, for years used by a single commuter who worked in Edinburgh but who has now retired, was the subject of recent closure moves which were rejected by the Department of Transport. The platforms have been reconstructed and lengthened but most trains sail through non-stop, apart from one call each way suitable for someone working in Edinburgh. There are few buildings anywhere near the lonely station but a better service is planned at the June timetable change. Electrification of the Shotts route has been completed and a test run by a class 86 locomotive on a freight service took place on 24 February 2019. Platform improvement work is still to be completed at several stations.

EDINBURGH TRAMS Following the death of a pedestrian who had failed to hear a tramcar horn there are calls for the trams to have louder horns or perhaps a warning bell. On off-street sections trams can reach a significant speed. The City’s Transport and Environment Committee voted to support the 2.8 mile extension to Leith and Newhaven. The final decision for the extension will be taken by the full Council on 14 March 2019 and the line could open in early 2023.

NORTH BERWICK and DUNBAR The suburban service operated east along the ECML from Edinburgh Waverley to Dunbar and to North Berwick at the end of a short branch from Drem, is being marketed as a “Scenic Line”. An attractive information packed leaflet has been produced detailing significant features at each point. Musselburgh has a horse racecourse and several historic houses and gardens. Close to Wallyford station is Monktonhall golf course host to many important tournaments. Prestonpans is the site of the last battle (1745) to be fought on UK soil, and there is an industrial heritage museum plus the “3 Harbours Festival”. Longniddry is close to an important seabird watching facility and the trackbed of the closed Haddington branch is a fine walking route. At Drem a modest walk will take the tourist to Chesters Hill Fort, and the National Museum of Flight where you can see a Concorde. North Berwick has pleasant sands, a sports centre, the Scottish Seabird Centre, the Coastal Communities Museum and two castles (Dirleton and Tantallon). In Dunbar is John Muir’s birthplace – better known in USA as founder of their National Parks. He did much to make known the beauties of the Yosemite Valley. The town has attractive beaches and is growing in popularity with those who commute to work in Edinburgh.

14 February 2019

NEW STUDY The Department of Transport has called for evidence on the potential use of light rail systems in English towns and cities.

ALSTOM : SIEMENS The proposed merger of these major train builders has been strongly opposed by the European Commission on the grounds that there would be too little competition in the market if the merger went ahead.

CHART LEACON Part of the former railway engineering works near Ashford in Kent may be reopened as a maintenance, servicing, and stabling facility for emus used on the South Eastern franchise and displaced from the nearby Hitachi facility by the new Class 700 units.

FREIGHTLINER A new maintenance facility for both locomotives and the company’s wagons is to be built just north of Ipswich station on the eastern side of the main line. Freightliner operates up to twenty two trains each day from the nearby Port of Felixstowe

CROYDON The contract for an automatic braking system to prevent over-speeding was issued to ESG Rail on 14 December 2018. The Ampere Way – West Croydon section was closed from the evening of 31 December 2018 until 06 January 2019 following a major fire that destroyed the Shurgard Self-Storage warehouse adjacent to the tracks. A replacement bus shuttle operated between Church Street and Mitcham Junction.

PADDINGTON OUTER SUBURBAN SERVICES Emu stopping services from Paddington along the main line have been extended to Newbury with some workings reaching Bristol Parkway.

LUL The £1.1bn Northern Line extension to Battersea will not now open until September 2021 at the earliest – a year later than planned. The expected passenger traffic at Battersea is likely to be higher than thought originally and the station is being re-planned to take account of this. The new American Embassy will be close by. Leyton Underground station is to be upgraded in a project costing £18m funded by Waltham Forest Council and TfL. 4500 new houses are to be built nearby and the closure of one major entrance to make space for the M11 highway extension has resulted in very severe overcrowding at the other entrance. The upgrade will include a ticket hall three times the size of the existing hall.

ANGEL ROAD This North London station will be closed in May 2019 when the new and better located Meridian Water station, 1/3 mile to the south, is opened.

FIRST CLASS will be abolished on all Greater Anglia commuter trains from 02 January 2020 increasing seats for standard class commuters by 20%. First Class will remain on the London – Norwich expresses that will be worked by 12-car Class 745 FLIRT emus.

EAST MIDLANDS FRANCHISE Stagecoach have been awarded a 24 week extension to this franchise (from 03 March to 18 August 2019) while details of the next franchise are worked out.

WEST COAST FRANCHISE The franchise has been extended to March 2020 while details of the next franchise are finalised. Meanwhile Virgin has applied to operate five additional services daily each way between London and Liverpool to deal with overcrowding on the existing hourly service. Traffic has been rising at around 4.5% each year for the past eight years.

WEST MIDLANDS The electrification of the Walsall – Rugeley TV Chase route and full testing was completed overnight on 19/20 December 2018.

MIDLAND METRO On 07 February 2019 the first track was laid in Centenary Square on the city centre extension. The Metro carried 7.2m passengers in 2018. Following the extension to Grand Central/New Street Station an extra 3m passengers were carried during the first year of the extended route.

NOTTINGHAM To simplify the fare structure all return fares have been withdrawn and single tickets have risen by 10p. Passengers can buy multiple single tickets or a Day Ticket. Concessionary pass holders from outside Nottinghamshire can now travel all-day for just £2.50, and students all day for £3.10p.

SHEFFIELD The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive is building the case for modernisation of the tram system including the replacement of the 25 Siemens-Duewag trams. There is strong public support for the retention of the tramway and its modernisation.

MERSEYRAIL The Hall Road – Southport section was closed from 02 February until 24 February 2019 to allow major platform alterations prior to the introduction of a new fleet of Stadler trains. Similar work will then take place between Hooton and Rock Ferry (02 – 22 March 2019) then Hooton – Chester (25 March – 02 April 2019).

BLACKPOOL The Blackpool North Station extension tracks were connected to the Coastal tramway near North Pier in mid-December 2018. The track-work will be completed by mid-February and public services are expected to commence during April 2019.

ISLE OF MAN Traffic on the island’s historic railways rose overall by 5.5% during 2018. The endangered horse tram in Douglas carried 80,606 people – up 9% on 2017. The Manx Electric Railway carried 244,563 passengers – up 7%. The Snaefell line had 76,434 passengers – up 21% on 2017, an artificially high increase because the 2017 season was ended abruptly following the runaway accident on 04 August 2017 (for which the island’s Department of Infrastructure has just been fined £18,000). The steam railway to Port Erin had only 113,197 passengers – down 7% due to a lack of sufficient able-to-work locomotives to haul special or extra trains for part of the year. The horse tram depot building is being pulled down but a replacement structure will reuse the track within the new depot. The House of Keys has indicated a commitment to retain and develop the historic railways in a bid to boost tourism.

HIGH WINDS Gale force winds roared up the Clyde estuary on 07 February 2019 and rail services between Kilwinning and Ardrossan Harbour, and between Dumbarton and Helensburgh Central were cancelled for that day.

GLASGOW AIRPORT While recognising the need for a better link between Glasgow City Centre and the Airport – the only major airport in Europe to have access by road only – there line capacity problems between Paisley and Glasgow, and at Glasgow Central Station itself. The line from Paisley to Glasgow was once a 4-track speedway with platforms at intermediate stations on the outer tracks. Expresses could overtake locals. At Glasgow a large proportion of trains went to the St Enoch terminus (closed on 27.6.1966) with only Gourock and Wemyss Bay trains operating to Central Station. When the route was electrified the middle tracks were lifted and masts for the overhead wires planted along the central space and all services ran to Central Station. To create space for a frequent Airport service, existing busy services from Ayr, Largs and Gourock would have to be reduced. Despite the removal of Lanark and Hamilton Circle trains to the Low Level station, Central Station High Level has become more crowded as local traffic has soared. There is insufficient capacity for a dedicated Airport service. A shuttle service between Gilmour Street and the Airport terminals using small “pods” is now being examined.

GLASGOW SUBWAY The new fleet of Stadler trains that will use the new Ansaldo control signalling system will not enter traffic until 2021 with Unattended Train Operation (UTO) not introduced until at least two years later. The first of the seventeen four-car trains will arrive later this year and two further trains a little later in the year. These will be subject to intensive testing and commissioning before entering service. Meanwhile car 122 of the existing 40 year old fleet has stopped being a source for spares to keep the existing fleet in service. There are not many potential spare parts left on the unit. Many components in the present fleet are unique “one-offs” and it is now not possible to obtain fresh supplies. To cannibalise car 122 was the best way to keep the others in service. Each car has clocked up around 1.8 million miles.

EDINBURGH Over 7.3m passengers were carried on the tramway during 2018, a rise of 10% over 2017 aided by the introduction of a three minute frequency during the morning and evening peaks. There is strong public approval; for the service and this will be taken into consideration when the final decision on the Leith and Newhaven extension is made later this year. Because of the delays the 2.8 mile long Leith and Newhaven extension will now cost £207m compared with £165m when the plans were first announced, and £196m a year ago. The Edinburgh Trams Company operates the existing route and made a profit of £1.6m in 2017. It is now taking on maintenance, advertising, and insurance costs. It will pay £8.5m per year to the City for use of the assets and “Edinburgh Trams” will change from being a “profitable” to a “loss-making” concern. In the longer term it is expected that with continued traffic growth the company will again become profitable.

1 February 2019

BAD WEATHER After a very mild winter, heavy snow fell across Scotland, north west England and Cornwall on 30 January and 01 February 2019. Manchester and Liverpool Airports were closed until the snow could be cleared from the runways and there were heavy delays on roads and railways into both cities.

NEW CONTAINER SERVICE An up to five times per week container service has commenced operation between Tilbury and Daventry as part of measures to keep the flow of imports from Europe flowing smoothly after the UK leaves the European Union at the end of March.

SOUTHEND PIER Part of a planned £19m repair and upgrade project for Britain’s longest pier, is the replacement of the rolling stock with a new fleet costing £3.3m.

CLASS 717. These new emus are starting to replace the class 313 emus on suburban services from Kings Cross to London’s northern suburbs.

TRANSPORT FOR LONDON Because of heavy delays in software tests, the delivery of class 710 trains for the Gospel Oak – Barking line has been delayed. Some class 378 trains are being modified so that they can be temporary stand-ins.

LONDON UNDERGROUND DISTRICT LINE A series of events are planned to celebrate 150 years of service on the District Line. The first section – South Kensington to Westminster – was opened on 21 December 1868.

HS2 With costs rising all the time there has been a serious suggestion that the London end of the high-speed route be built at Old Oak Common where a connection would be made with the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail). Such a move would save about a quarter of the expected total cost by eliminating the need for a major expansion of Euston Station. Construction work has begun on the HS2 terminus in Birmingham. Massive quantities of soil are being moved on to the site to raise the ground level and the student accommodation blocks blocking the way for the new line are being dismantled.

RUGELEY Two thousand new houses are to be built on the site of the former power station beside the Trent Valley station.

SHEFFIELD Tram 204 was quite seriously damaged in a collision with a lorry on 25 October 2018 leaving only 201, 202, and 203 to operate the tram-train Parkgate service. Because of this 206 is being upgraded to operate as required to Parkgate leaving 205 and 207 to operate on the older Sheffield routes. 202 was also in the wars in a collision with a car at the same road crossing in Attercliffe on 30 November 2018 but the tram was not seriously damaged.

NOTTINGHAM There have been 43 accidents at level crossings during 2018, and a worrying 179 near misses. Nottingham Express Transit has produced a video showing some of the breath-taking near misses.

MIDLAND METRO On 18 January 2019 CAF tram 31, which has the unique blue livery, was named “Cyrille Regis MBE”, after the footballer who had a long career playing for West Bromwich Albion, and Coventry City, winning a place in the England team on several occasions. He died following a heart attack on 15 January 2018 aged 59. The ceremony took place at the Wednesbury Depot in the presence of Cyrille’s widow and children. Only two others of the CAF trams have so far been named – No 37 was named “Ozzy Osbourne” by the entertainer himself on 26 May 2016, and No 35 named “Angus Adams” to commemorates the work of the Councillor whose persistence ensured that the Midland Metro would be built. The naming ceremony for tram 35 was performed by HM The Queen when she opened the Birmingham city centre extension on 15 November 2016. The new trams are five segment Urbos 3 trams with four articulations built by CAF in Zaragoza, Spain. They are 108 feet long with a top speed of 45mph. The earlier T69 trams were built by Ansaldo in Firenze, Italy, and are 80 feet long comprising two major segments with a tiny central section and one articulation. Several were named after local personalities and two have been preserved. Tram 07 is in Network West Midlands livery and has been donated to UK Tram. No 11 was given the Birmingham Corporation Tramways livery in 2013 and has been donated to Birmingham Museum. Both 07 and 11 remain in store at the Long Marston Depot but will be moved in the coming months. The remaining thirteen of the original fleet have been sold for scrap for £12,000. Because they would be able to fit through the tunnel at Ryde in the Isle of Wight there were proposals that the T69s might find a new life there, but this idea came to nothing. This leaves No 16, which is similar to 1-15 but built later with a few modifications to sort problems with the initial batch. It is at Wednesbury Depot and is reported to have moved under its own power in late 2018 but it is not clear what future use it will have.

METRO FARES Some fares on the West Midlands Metro have been reduced slightly so that customers will be able to find the required sum more easily. New lower Day Tripper fares have been introduced,, available by downloading them from your own phone or obtaining them at Metro shops, but not on the tram. All day adult fare is £5.50, or £4 after the morning peak and all day at the weekend. The child equivalents are £4 and £3. Weekly seasons cost £21 and a monthly season just £70. The child equivalent fares are £10.50 and £35.

WEST MIDLANDS Teams of security officers targeted several suburban stations around Birmingham on Monday 21 January 2019 which they termed a “high risk day”.

MANCHESTER Three historic railway bridges (Grade 2 listed) over city centre streets west of Victoria Station are to be refurbished. Tram 3103 lost its pantograph while travelling between Media City UK and Broadway on 22 January 2019 causing disruption to the Eccles and Media City routes for several hours. Service frequencies on the Ashton line are to be doubled during the day to a six minutes frequency by extending services that at present terminate at Etihad Campus. Chris Grayling and Andy Burnham are discussing the possible extension of existing and planned new routes on to roads making new services more like conventional tramways.

BLACKPOOL Track laying along the branch to North Station is proceeding well. Open Boat tram 227 has been named “Charlie Cairoli” in honour of the circus clown who performed at the Tower Circus for 40 years. His son, who has the same name, carried out the ceremony.

GLASGOW Services on the Queen Street Low Level line were disrupted on 19 January 2019 when someone was struck by a train between Carntyne and High Street. There is growing urgency for a rail link between the city centre and Glasgow International Airport but there are concerns that the capacity along the line between Glasgow Central and Paisley (Gilmour Street) will not be sufficient to accommodate the Airport service. Services between Glasgow and Neilston were disrupted during the early morning of 23 January 2019 when a road vehicle struck a bridge between Cathcart and Muirend, and a trampoline blew on to the line near Patterton. A bus shuttle was laid on between Barrhead station and Neilston. Rail tickets were accepted on local bus services until rail services resumed around 0800.

CLASS 385 A few of the new emus have entered service between Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street and further units will be added to the pool until the entire service is worked by the new trains.

WINCHBURGH There are plans to build 3400 new homes in the village whose station on the Edinburgh – Glasgow Main Line was closed in 1930. The station may now be re-opened.

EDINBURGH Tram services were reduced on the main holiday days at the end of 2018. Trams did not run after 2100 on Christmas Eve and on all of Christmas Day. On 30 December 2018 after 1800 and all day on Hogmanay (31 December 2018) a 15 minute frequency service ran between Airport and West End only leaving Princes Street traffic free for special events. On New Year’s Day a special free service operated every 15 minutes between Airport and West End from 0500 until Princes Street reopened for normal traffic at 0930.

16 January 2019

POSTAL TRAINS Porterbrook are to supply two “Flex” electro-diesel trains to the Rail Operating Group (ROG) to carry mail and other urgent light freight such as parcels. The two units will be rebuilt from existing Class 319 emus formerly used on Thameslink services. Porterbrook sees a future in capturing a large quantity of urgent parcels traffic from road competitors. Over the Christmas period extra 12-car services of class 325 units were operated to carry the large surge in postings of cards and small packages. These included several extras between Shieldmuir and Warrington mail centres This locomotive was re-named “Sir William McAlpine” at a ceremony on 11 January 2019.

TULSE HILL A man wielding a machete ran through the station during the evening rush hour on 11 January 2019 causing terror to waiting passengers. The Police brought him down using a taser and he has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

CROYDON METROLINK The trams are to be fitted with automatic brakes. Should the vehicle be travelling too fast to negotiate a sharp curve, as happened in the Sandilands accident, the brake will come on automatically and hopefully prevent a potentially disastrous derailment.

CROSSRAIL Test operation of Class 345 emus right through the tunnel has begun.

WATFORD JUNCTION Platforms 10 and 11 are being lengthened by 90m so that they will take 12-car trains. From May 2019 there will be more twelve car services and West Midlands Trains will introduce new class 319 emus. Three additional services will run from Watford Jct to Euston in the morning peak, and one extra from Euston in the evening peak.

LONDON UNDERGROUND A new record was set on 07 December 2018 when the Underground carried over 5 million passengers on a single day. The exact number is reported as 5,031,000.

WEST MIDLANDS Platform display screens at several Cross City Line stations have shown “next train” information in a new way from the beginning of January 2019. The old format gave the time for the next train and its destination and gave basic information such as “On time” or “4 minutes late”. The new display does not give a time for the next service and simply indicates its destination and provides the information that it will arrive in for example “4 minutes.” The arrival time then counts down minute by minute to “one minute” until the train rolls into the platform. The immediate public reaction favours the new format. With a service as frequent as every ten minutes precise time details for each train seem not necessary.

NORTHERN RAIL DB, part owner of the franchise operator, is demanding compensation for the extensive and on-going delays in plans to electrify important sections of the franchise that are required if the operator is to meet its commitment to increase the speed and frequency of services and provide additional seating in order to meet promises in its franchise bid. The company is having to handle ever-growing traffic but is not able to operate appropriate trains since the electrification of the lines is delayed.

NEWTON-le-WILLOWS This station roughly midway between Liverpool and Manchester has been substantially upgraded and now has step-free access to all platforms.

MANCHESTER METROLINK The 2040 Transport Strategy report has indicated where future extensions to the network might be built. The Ashton line could reach out to Stalybridge; A branch from the Bury line could reach Middleton; The still to be completed Trafford Park branch could be extended to Salford Stadium and Port Salford; and a new link could be provided between Media City and Salford Crescent railway station. Following a few scary incidents it is suggested that the trams get automatic brakes similare to those now to be installed in Croydon..

EDINBURGH TRAMS Traffic grew by over 10% during 2018 and the annual total topped seven million for the first time.

7 January 2019

CROYDON TRAMLINK Following a fire in a building on Purley Way leaving the structure in a fragile state, all tram services between Church Street and Mitcham Jct were halted on 02 January 2019 and this section will remain closed until the building has been made safe – a matter that could take many days to achieve.

LONDON UNDERGROUND Q Stock Restoration Plans: Three of the oldest surviving items of Underground rolling stock are being restored by London Transport Museum to operational order provided the public donates £200,000 to meet the cost. The coaches date from 1935 and 1938 and have been out of use since 1971. When restored they will be available for use on special services. The planned extension of the Northern Line to Battersea will take at least an extra year build
with the opening pushed back to 2021.

LONDON OVERGROUND Services throughout the night have done well serving parts of East London that have a lively night life. Trains operated initially between New Cross Gate and Dalston Junction, and have recently been extended to Highbury & Islington. 250,000 passengers were carried during the first year of the night service. The extension of the Overground to Barking Riverside will be undertaken as a joint venture by Morgan Sindall Construction with Volker Fitzpatrick. The area is one of Europe’s largest brown field sites and 10,800 new houses are planned to be built there.

PASSENGER MURDERED ON TRAIN A passenger was attacked with a knife after boarding the 1258 Guildford to Waterloo service at Horley on 04 January 2019 and died soon afterwards. The train was held at Horley station while the police investigated the matter. There was major disruption to services and Horley station remained out of use until the next day. A man was subsequently arrested and charged with the murder.

BOLTON LINE The electrification of the Manchester – Boltion – Preston main line has been completed and the first electric service (by an emu) ran on 13 December 2018.

GLASGOW QUEEN STREET Construction of a new major entrance from Dundas Street on the western side of the station is proceeding steadily. The station was called Dundas Street initially. The new construction will wrap around the exterior of the building and will include a new concourse allowing the station platforms to be extended across parts of the old concourse.

CARFIN The very short platforms at this tiny halt have been lengthened as part of the Shotts line electrification. The halt is adjacent to a Catholic Healing Centre often described as Scotland’s “Lourdes”. Large parties arrive by train several times each year including some in wheelchairs or stretchers and the provision of longer platforms will ease the handling of this traffic.

26 December 2018

SCOTRAIL ORDERED TO IMPROVE. On 24 December 2018 the Scottish Government reacted to growing protests from the public about the poor performance of Scotrail with many cancellations and all too frequent short formations of trains resulting in massive overcrowding and with passengers being left behind at stops. Scotrail has just eight weeks to address the problems. An immediate improvement regarding cancellations and the publication of detailed plans of how the wider problems will be identified and solved are essentials within eight weeks if Abellio (renamed Ebola by some users) is to retain the franchise.

ILLEGAL CARTEL Two major contractors, Stanton Concrete, and the CPM Group, have been found guilty of operating a secret cartel for the past 7 years whereby they were able to dominate the market and obtain substantial contracts in connection with HS2 and Crossrail. They will have to pay a substantial fine and may find it much more difficult to obtain contracts in the future.

GATWICK AIRPORT The illegal flying of drones immediately beside the flight paths of planes using the Airport resulted in the closure of the Airport on the evening of 19 December 2018 and all day on the 20th. The holiday plans for around 100,000 people were disrupted. The authorities announced that they night shoot down any drone that endangered the flight of aircraft users – no drones appeared on the 21st .

LUL Drivers on the London Underground now earn mostly £60,000 – £70,000 but a handful with extra responsibilities such as staff training duties, earn up to £100,000. The task of actually driving a tube train has become easier since many of the tasks are now automated. The driver does still have to open and close the doors at each station.

LUL MAPS The route map of the London Underground is known across the world and the basic concept of routes shown straight across or up/down or in 45′ diagonals is copied by many cities. A new edition is designed to show connections between stations that are quite near each other or have connections in different directions. The fact that Blackfriars station is north of the river but has exits on the south bank as well (for Tate Modern and the Globe) is at last clear. The site will draw up the best route between A and B and will tell you the walking time between near stations.

SIEMENS and LUL As a result of recent contracts Siemens Mobility will have connections with the Underground until the 2060s. Siemens are to design and build 94 trains to replace the existing stock on the Piccadilly Line with delivery completed by 2026. Similar stock is wanted for the other Tube lines – Bakerloo, Central, and Waterloo & City and Siemens are expected to win this contract. Coupled with a Fleet Service Agreement lasting for 40 years means that Siemens Mobility will have active links with LUL well into the 2060s and even into the 2070s.

CROSSRAIL (ELIZABETH LINE) The December “opening” date passed without any sign of the line being completed soon. Indeed a December 2019 opening now seems unlikely and engineers think that outstanding work will take a further 18 months. LUL will have lost £600m fares income resulting in likely delays to a wide range of other projects such as resignalling the Piccadilly Line, and other work on the Docklands Light Railway and the Overground.

COVENTRY The station is to be greatly upgraded in a two phase exercise at a cost of £82m. Phase One is already under way and will see the construction of a new footbridge, an additional platform for local shuttle services, new platform canopies, and an access tunnel under Warwick Road. Phase Two will provide a new station concourse with access to all platforms and an entrance on Warwick Road, a multi-storey car park for 633 vehicles, and a pedestrian link to a new bus station. Traffic handled at Coventry is the fastest growing at any station outside London.

ISLE OF MAN Extensions are planned at both ends of the Manx Electric Railway. In Ramsey the present terminus will be closed and the track extended instead along the streets to a new Peel Street terminus. In Douglas a double track extension will run along the sea front from Derby Castle to near the Villa Marina and these tracks will be shared with the horse tramway. Long stretches of the track have been relaid using concrete sleepers instead of the traditional wood.

TRAFFORD PARK EXTENSION Very good progress is being made with the construction of the 3.4 mile long Metrolink extension to Trafford Park in Trafford, Manchester. The new branch will leave the elevated structure of the Eccles line at Pomona running down a quite steep ramp to reach ground level. The route then runs approximately east to west through the Trafford Park district calling at Wharfside, Imperial War Museum, Village, and then Parkway with a large car park since the stop is close to Junction 9 on the M60. The last two stops will be Event City, and the terminus at Trafford Centre, a very short distance from Junction 10 on the Motorway. A further extension could take the branch to a harbour area on the Manchester Ship Canal towards Liverpool.

SPRINGBURN WORKS The former Caledonian Rly/LM&SR St Rollox Workshops in Glasgow are to be closed down. In recent years the Works has been involved mainly in upgrade work on older emus and dmus. With so much of the fleet being now relatively new the upgrade market has shrunk. The little that remains will be handled at Wolverton Works in Milton Keynes.

AYR Work to make the former railway hotel building beside the station safe has now been sufficiently completed for there to be no longer a risk that parts of the hotel might fall on the tracks. A normal timetable will be restored from 20 December 2018.

NEILSTON In response to the growth in traffic thanks to extensive new housing along the outer half of the branch, trains to/from Glasgow are to be made up of four-car sets rather than three.

NORTH BERWICK Half of the trains operating between Edinburgh and the seaside resort are now composed of six carriages instead of three. Several intermediate stations along the East Coast Main Line serve rapidly growing communities resulting in serious peak hour overcrowding.

12 December 2018

GOVIA THAMESLINK The Transport Secretary has ordered this TOC to contribute £15m towards improvements to its services which suffered a total collapse in May 2018 when several hundred trains were added to its timetable. The changes had not been thought through properly; there was insufficient rolling stock and the timetable had not been checked to avoid clashes at junctions. Govia Thameslink will not make a profit in 2018, and there will be no dividend for shareholders. Planned service increases will be introduced with the December 2018 timetable.

KINGS CROSS UPGRADE The planned £237m replacement of life-expired track and lineside equipment extending for 1.5 miles from the buffer stops planned for Dec 2019 – March 2020 has been delayed for at least a year until the engineers are certain that the work can be achieved without causing chaos. Kings Cross is BR’s 9th busiest station with 38m passengers per year and the work will involve closing around half of the station. The approach tracks will increase from 4 to 6 using the easterrly bore of Gasworks Tunnel, disused since the link to the Widened Lines was closed in 1973. The operation of signals and points will move to York Rail Operating Centre and the Kings Cross Box will be closed.

LUL UPGRADES The installation of lifts was completed at Newbury Park Station in the autumn and the station became officially “step-free” on 01 November 2018. At Paddington the connection between the Bakerloo Line and Elizabeth Line has been completed. Meanwhile design work is progressing for a new entrance leading to a major new housing and office development. Work to make stations step-free continues at Finsbury Park where work is under way to install lifts. Design work progresses for new lifts at Harrow-on-the-Hill. Major work is being tackled at Bank Station with tunnelling work completed, waterproofing of the new works under way, while the new Wallbrook entrance opened on 30 November 2018. Preparations are being made for a further new entrance with new lift shafts.

MIDLAND ELECTRIFICATION Work along the Midland Main Line will include shortly the reconstruction of the two arch Broomham Road bridge just north of Bedford Station. The bridge carries important services above the railway so the job will be tricky and will require to be undertaken in phases.

WATERLOO The International services platforms, disused for ten years since these services were transferred to St Pancras International, were brought back into use for UK-bound trains on 10 December 2018. This eases the severe congestion that is hindering the smooth operation of services at the main part of the terminus – officially the busiest station in Britain..

GWR DELAY The introduction of class 800 and 802 bi-mode trains on services to Newbury have been delayed since trials showed that the driver on these trains could not always be certain when it was safe to close the doors. A clear view along the length of the train was not always possible. Additional CCTV cameras are needed to ensure safe operation. There is no guard on the 800 and 802 trains. Longer but otherwise similar trains do have a guard so the problem does not then exist.

PLANS REJECTED A proposal for a new railway linking Gatwick and Heathrow Airports and linked to HS1 and HS2 costing £10bn has been rejected by the Department of Transport.

TOILETS Charges of 30 or 40p for the use of the toilets at Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Piccadilly, and Leeds stations have been scrapped.

CROSSRAIL Public services on the east-west cross-London line have been delayed are now unlikely to commence before the introduction of the December 2019 timetable – and could be delayed for a further year. A large amount of work remains to be done – especially completing the stations along the route. An additional £2m was allocated by the Government on 03 December 2018 to pay for the outstanding work. Trains for the new route are stored at several sites with the largest number at Old Oak Common and Ilford yards.

PENDOLINO FLEET Over half of the Pendolino trains have received the new mainly white livery, train names have been removed, many of them including the name “Virgin”. The fleet is to be free of anything identifying the previous operator when the new franchise is allocated.

WATFORD JUNCTION Platforms 10 and 11 are to upgraded to tackle rising traffic. Platform 10 is used by main line locals and will be extended by 90m to accommodate 12 carriage trains. At present only 8 car trains can fit in. Platform 11is used by the St Albans Abbey branch trains and is a flimsy wooden structure. A concrete platform will be built since the future of the branch now appears to be secure.

MIDLAND METRO Tram 28 has now been fitted with batteries making a total of 5 of the 21 CAF Urbos3 trams being so far equipped. Trams 18, 28, 31 and 36 had already been fitted with batteries making them able to operate on extensions that may not have overhead wires.

WOLVERHAMPTON Work to demolish the existing station and build a fine new transport interchange on the site has made an impressive start. An extensive area in front of the existing building has been cleared and the minor entrance/exit to platform 6 is lost in the midst of the excavations. Within the station platform 6, the short curving platform sometimes used by local trains heading for Shrewsbury, has been taken out of use.

KIDSGROVE The Potteries station is to have new footbridges with lifts linking all four platforms (two on the Crewe line and two on the Manchester route) as part of the Access-for- All programme.

MANCHESTER METROLINK The light rail network carried 3,972,807 passengers during November 2018 – the highest ever monthly total for Metrolink. As a result of rising traffic the service frequency on the Ashton-under-Lyne route will be doubled in January 2019 to a tram every six minutes. With a further line due to open in early 2020 the record is likely to topple again.

SHEFFIELD There has been a second collision between a tram:train and a road vehicle at the road crossing near the Woodbourn Road stop. The local Council is now altering road markings and making other changes to alert motorists that Supertrams and Tram:Trains cross at that point.

QUIET HALTS The rather isolated IBM Halt platform on the single track Wemyss Bay branch was built for workers at the adjacent new IBM factory, but a very few residents from the surrounding area also made use of it. In 2010-11 136,000 passengers used IBM Halt but the factory closed during the following year and has since been demolished. In 2016-7 only 6,032 people used the halt, most of them commuters bound for Glasgow. The platform will not be demolished and might be brought back into use if a new firm comes to the site. IBM Halt was positively busy compared with Britain’s quietest still open station – Redcar British Steel. This two platform halt lies deep within the steelworks which closed three years ago. In 2017-8 there were just 40 passengers using the two trains that call there daily.

MILNGAVIE BRANCH It has been proposed that the section of the branch that was single tracked a few years ago, be re-doubled to improve timekeeping. When there was a half-hourly service timekeeping was excellent. Now with four trains per hour each way only 28% of the trains reach Milngavie on time.

CAIRN GORM The company operating the funicular up Cairn Gorm has gone into administration but the line will continue to operate while a new buyer is sought.

30 November 2018

FARES Fares on the National network will rise by an average of 3.1% from 2 January 2019. London Underground, Overground, buses, and trams will be frozen for the third year running.

BRIGHTON MAIN LINE Extensive upgrade work is under way along the southern half of the route. Various signal heads are being replaced in the Three Bridges to Haywards Heath section and replacement of the conductor rail has taken place through Haywards Heath Tunnel. At Balcombe Tunnel Junction new pointwork panels are being delivered to the site and their installation will take place during February. Between Balcombe and Copyhold Junctions 2.3 miles of new conductor rail has been installed and the ballast has been cleaned Considerable work has taken place in Clayton Tunnel in preparation for track renewal. 1400 yards of cable and 1000 yards of scrap rail will be moved.

SURBITON A very late finish to weekend engineering works closed all four tracks to Waterloo throughout the entire Monday morning rush hour on 19 November 2018. There no trains into Waterloo until 10 am and delays and cancellations continued throughout the day. The evening rush hour was disrupted affecting most routes using the station.

LONDON UNDERGROUND The contract with Siemens to build 94 new trains for the Piccadilly Line has been signed after a five month delay due to objections from alternative builders.

LONDON – BRENT CROSS This new station, to be known as Brent Cross West, on the Thameslink route is to become the centrepiece of a massive £4.5bn upgrade to the locality. Station buildings will include driver accommodation for staff operating Thameslink workings that will start/finish there. A new town centre and many quality homes will be built around the station. Construction work will begin in June 2019.

SWINDON Electrification of the Great Western Main Line from Didcot to Swindon went “live” on 28 October 2018 with the launch of public services on 1 November 2018. Cocklebury Sidings at Swindon Station have been relaid and electrified to provide storage for the new class 387 emus.

SOUTH WALES Plans to electrify the Valley Lines operating north from Cardiff include the purchase of thirty six 3-car Tram:trains similar to those now operating in Sheffield.

MILTON KEYNES Construction of a new multi-storey car park containing 720 spaces will begin in April 2019. The new facility will address the present short-fall in available spaces and make up for the demolition of an existing 300 space car park to allow for the expansion of Santander’s offices beside the station.

COVENTRY The City Council has approved plans for an upgrade to the station costing £11.8m. The first phase will be to construct a new footbridge canopies and an access road which will pass under Warwick Road. Phase two will include a new multi-storey car park with 633 spaces, a new concourse with access to all platforms, and a new bus interchange.

HS2 CURZON STREET Major civil engineering contractors are being assessed so that up to four can be invited to bid for a design-and-build contract for the Birmingham HS2 terminus which may open in 2026. HS2 will attract around 26,000 new jobs to the city and 4000 new houses..

SUTTON PARK LINE The long-held desire to reopen the Walsall – Aldridge – Castle Bromwich line which slices across Sutton Park has move a step closer. The use of bi-mode Class 769 “Flex” units would mean that the line would not require to be electrified slashing the cost of reopening the route for passengers. The line handles heavy long-distance freight traffic.

WEST MIDLAND CROSS-CITY LINE Operations were disrupted on Thursday 15 November 2018, first by leaves on the rails delaying morning rush hour services. As a precaution buses were standing at several points to start replacement road services should the railway become unworkable. By mid afternoon a signalling failure at Kings Norton halted services south of New Street while problems caused by the leaves meant that services ran more slowly than usual, and less frequently. However for most of the day trains did manage to carry the workers between home and employment, and back again.

DUDLEY Work has begun along the main road through Dudley to identify the location of services that will have to be moved when the Brierley Hill extension of the West Midlands Metro is built. Clearance of trees along the future track bed beyond Dudley has been making good progress. An opening in 2023 is planned.

SHEFFIELD A decision is hoped for by the Spring of 2019 on the city’s need for Government funds to renew the infrastructure and upgrade the Supertrams. Sheffield has no funds of its own and seeks £230m to keep the Supertram network running for a further thirty years.

MANCHESTER METROLINK A further 27 trams are being ordered from Bombardier with Kiepe Electric bringing the total in the fleet to 147. They will be delivered in 2020 – 2021. They will enable the operation of additional double-tram workings rather than increasing the frequency of services along the busier routes. The new 4-Zone fare structure will be introduced in mid-January 2019. Zone 1 Central area only; Zone 2 Eccles Line; and as far as Stretford, Newton Heath; Edge Lane. Zone 3 East Didsbury Line; Future Trafford Park line; Zone 4 Last two stops on Bury line; Beyond Derker to Rochdale; and to Manchester Airport. One Zone travel will cost £1.40. The Network Wide peak day ticket will be cut from £7.60 to just £7.00. The off-peak system wide Day ticket will cost £4.80.

MANCHESTER RAIL The problem of how to handle the ever-growing traffic from Piccadilly Station towards Oxford Road and the Ordsall Chord (the Castlefield Corridor) is the subject of a report that is due to appear in summer 2019. A solution is to build an additional pair of tracks with an extra platform at Piccadilly but this will take time and be extremely costly. The Transport Secretary has expressed the hope that a decision on what action to take can be found before April when financial Control Period 6 starts.

NEXUS A new temporary maintenance depot is to be built at Howden while the South Gosforth Depot is rebuilt to handle the new fleet.

GLASGOW A pavilion is being erected in the middle of the concourse at Central Station to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the city’s most famous architect , painter, and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His most famous building, the Glasgow School of Art, was destroyed by two fires in 2014 but there are active plans to restore it to its former glory at a cost of around £45m.

LONGANNET The site of an abandoned power station reached by rail via Alloa has been chosen by Talgo for their new train manufacturing factory. Work to build the factory will commence in Spring 2020 and the first trains will be completed about 18 months later. The rail link is likely to be electrified. The decision to build the factory at Longannet rather that the second choice near Chesterfield is because a jetty at the site can be expanded to handle exports while the nearby ports at Rosyth and Grangemouth will also be able to handle exports to Europe.

14 November 2018

CLASSES 314 and 315. Both classes are considered life expired and are being withdrawn.

BRIGHTON AREA Services on the West Coastway from Brighton towards Littlehampton were disrupted on the afternoon of 30 October 2018 when a swan took up residence between the rails of the eastbound line close to Hove. It resisted efforts by railway staff to move it from the tracks and for 40 minutes nothing could move on the eastbound track while a few trains ran at an extremely low speed along the westbound track past the bird and staff. Eventually the bird shuffled to a place of safety and services began to operate in a more normal manner on both tracks. However for the rest of the day some services were up to half an hour late.

BRIGHTON MAIN LINE UPGRADE Work is under way on a £67m project to improve reliability of operations along the Brighton Main Line. Particular attention will be given to reduce flooding in Balcombe and Clayton Tunnels. Some track will be relaid, and new signalling will be installed. The easing of the East Croydon bottleneck is another major and separate project.

SOUTH WESTERN RAIL The franchise, won from the previous holder Stagecoach in 2017 by First Group with MTR of Hong Kong, has begun negotiations with the Transport Ministry because it cannot operate at a profit and cannot make the payments to the Department that are part of the franchise agreement. The arrangement is linked to the number of workers employed in central London and because of the increase in on-line activity the number travelling to Waterloo is falling. First Group now wants the reduction in workers to be reflected in the sum it has to pay.

COURT DECISION The action by Bombardier with Hitachi against LUL’s decision to award to Siemens a £1.56bn contract to build then maintain 94 trains for the Piccadilly Line, has been rejected by the High Court. Siemens are therefore free to start work on the massive order.

TRANSPORT FOR LONDON Because of the delay to the opening of Crossrail TfL will not receive a sum of up to £200m in 2019 from fares and advertising revenue.

DOCKLANDS Funding of £291m was granted in the 29 October 2018 Budget speech towards a major upgrade of the Docklands Light Railway. The work is essential if the planned 18,000 new homes are to be built along the routes. A new station at Thames Wharf midway between Canning Town and West Silvertown will serve 4500 new houses. Fourteen additional trains will be obtained and these are additional to the forty three new trains already planned. Overall the capacity of the system will be increased by 30%.

TOWER HILL The underground station is unique in that in its westbound platform wall there is a section of Roman Wall nearly 2000 years old. When the line was built in 1882 a 73 foot section of Roman wall obstructed to route and was removed. The reaction today would have been different!

NORTHERN LINE EXTENSION Tunnelling for the Battersea Extension is making excellent progress and 1500m of low vibration track has been lain between Nine Elms and Battersea in both directions. Work is now concentrated on construction of the new platforms..

FLIRT TRAINS The new 12-car Class 745 FLIRT emus will be the longest FLIRT trains in the world. The first has recently completed tests in Germany. Twenty trains are being leased by Abellio Greater Anglia – ten for Inter-City routes and ten for the Stansted Airport Express service.

LONGBRIDGE The station entrance building is being totally rebuilt at a cost of £1.7m and will have a new façade, larger concourse, improved ticket counter and new toilets.

TRAM – TRAIN SERVICE The class 399 tram:train stock has entered service between Sheffield Cathedral and the new branch to the Kirkgate Shopping Centre a mile north of Rotherham. The service is experimental for two years to see how well the tram-trains operate on the street and on heavy rail tracks and how suitable the concept might be for other major cities in the UK. After the experimental period it will become a part of the Supertram network. In practice it is already part of the Supertram system and a three times per hour service operates from the city centre Cathedral stop through the city centre streets making two further calls before entering the reserved right-of-way past Arena to Tinsley Metrocentre South where the new 4 mile route heads north towards Rotherham on British Railways track. Electrification is at 750V dc but the trams will be able to operate at 25KV ac when the BR section is electrified. The new route is single track initially (alongside a single track BR freight line) before becoming double track. It is joined by the BR single track link from Meadowhall just before the massive Booth’s scrap yard. Soon after, a call is made at Rotherham Central Station which is shared with BR services. The heavy rail trains call at the main platforms but lower level extensions for the trams have been built at the south end of both platforms to provide level boarding. The route continues for a mile before the Kirkgate terminus where the short platform lies on the west side of a short spur that runs alongside the BR tracks. This is a short walk from the Kirkgate Shopping Centre which has been described as a “mini-Meadowhall.” Trams run about every 20 minutes from early in the morning until 2200 on Mon – Sat, but between 0830 and 1800 only on Sundays. A helpful point – the National Bus Pass valid for pensioners in England is accepted on both Supertrams and the tram:trains and this writer did not need to pay a fare.

BARLASTON The closed station at Barlaston, on the London – Manchester main line south of Stoke-on-Trent and close to the Wedgwood factory is to be reopened in December 2020 and will be served by LNWR local trains. The local community is growing rapidly but a major source of traffic is expected to be from motorists using a large park-and-ride facility.

31 October 2018

BURIAL GROUND MOVED. In preparation for the expansion of Euston station to handle future HS2 services, an old burial site is being cleared of an estimated 45,000 skeletons. The cemetery was open between 1780 and 1853 and among those buried there was Captain Matthew Flinders, the first person to circumnavigate Australia, who is commemorated in the name of a street and the city centre station in Melbourne.

LATE SERVICES The worst stations for services departing late have been identified.. Worst performer is Manchester Oxford Road where 77% of trains leave late during the morning and evening peaks. When off-peak services are added, 68% leave late. Second worst station is the key junction York where 65% of trains are late. Other stations where over half of the trains leave late are Gatwick Airport, Birmingham New Street, Bristol Temple Meads, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria.

DEMOLITIONS Work is now quite advanced on the removal of redundant buildings at Glasgow Queen Street High Level. With the demolition of the Millennium Hotel (the old railway owned North British Hotel) the glorious arch roof has become visible from adjacent George Square. Demolition of the first section of Wolverhampton station has been completed and a replacement facility will be ready by the autumn of 2019. Demolition of the rest of the old station will then proceed with the building of the new station to follow during 2019-20.

FUNDS FROM BUDGET The Chancellor made available £37m additional funding for the Northern Power Rail project, and £20m for the central section of East-West Rail (Wilmslow – Milton Keynes – Bedford.

CROSSRAIL MPs have called for the cancelled south-eastern link beyond Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet International to be reinstated and for an additional station to be built at London City Airport. The reinstated Ebbsfleet line would cost about £25m. The extension would stimulate the area significantly with the building of many thousands of new homes and large numbers of new jobs throughout the area. Meanwhile the Government has made available a loan of £350m to keep the project going since earlier delays have left the development short of money.

SOUTH EASTERN Network Rail is awarding a £30m contract to Hitachi Rail Europe to supply a traffic management system for its South East Main Line and the East London Line. The operational benefits are expected to be attained much more quickly and cheaply than a comprehensive resignalling scheme.

CROYDON BOTTLNECK 30% more passengers pass through East Croydon Station on the Brighton Main Line than are handled at Euston and Kings Cross termini combined. However significant delays to services are an almost daily occurrence. Network Rail are holding a public consultation on how to tackle this problem. Additional tracks and platforms will be extremely costly but are felt to be the only way ahead.

PADDINGTON Services at the London terminal were disrupted for most of 17 October 2018 and for parts of the next day. A Hitachi Class 802 inter-city train operating on test during the small hours caused major damage to the overhead wires over a half-mile stretch of the approach tracks leading to the station. Only a few trains were able to enter or leave the station during this period while engineers worked through the night to complete repairs.

LUL Following the completion of works at Victoria underground station to build seven new lifts there is now step-free access between the Victoria, Circle, and District Lines, and also with the main line station.

AZUMA TRAINS The introduction of Azuma trains has been delayed until early 2019 when they will appear of Kings Cross – Leeds services. They may reach Edinburgh by March or April 2019 provided work to protect the signalling has been completed.

WERRINGTON JCT A start has been made on the project near Peterborough to construct a dive-under from the Stamford lines towards Spalding.

LNWR All platform entry/departure gates along the Euston – Northampton route were to be staffed at all times from 31 October 2018 in a major effort to stop ticketless travel.

WEST MIDLANDS Vandalism to signalling equipment at Bromsgrove on 23 October 2018 meant that Cross City Line services to/from Bromsgrove had to turn at Longbridge. A bus shuttle took passengers to/from Bromsgrove. Redditch services were able to operate normally.

SHEFFIELD TRAM-TRAIN The Tram-Train between Sheffield Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate (beside the Parkgate Retail Centre) via Rotherham Central using the 160m Tinsley Chord, has completed daily test operations since 17 September 2018 and public services commenced on 25 October 2018. The service is viewed as a two year experiment to observe how well a light rail passenger service can operate on tracks that carry heavy rail passenger and freight trains. After the experiment is finished line will operate as a part of the Supertram network. Day one did not run smoothly since at 1530 a tram-train was in violent collision with a lorry in the Attercliffe area and the tram was knocked off the tracks. The Rotherham and Meadowhall services were abandoned for the rest of the day but restarted on the 26th October 2018.

LIVERPOOL The upgrade work at Lime Street Station was finally completed on 15 October 2018 with the reopening of the lengthened platform 1 and refurbishment of the Grade II listed façade. In preparation for the introduction of a new emu fleet in 2020 station platforms are being upgraded across the network. Work begins at Ormskirk and Walton on October 20-28, then Ormskirk to Old Roan on October 29 – 09 November 2018.

BLACKPOOL A 140 bed Holiday Inn is to built beside North Station and the terminus of the new tramway branch from the Coastal line.

ISLE OF MAN During September 2018 there were celebrations for the 125th anniversary of the Manx Electric Railway including the operation of horse tram No 1 at Laxey and a short parade of three trams all numbered 1. Ratchet Car 14, which has been undergoing restoration to 1898 condition over the past three years was also returned to public service. A modest transport hub is being established at Ramsey involving the MER terminus and the local bus station.

SOUTH SHIELDS The Metro station will be closed for a total of five weeks for the planned work to create a transport hub in the town.

SLIPPERY RAILS Falling leaves on the tracks have caused significant delays to services, especially around Glasgow. On 26 October 2018 services between Springburn and Bellgrove, and between Hamilton and Larkhall were especially affected.

OVERHEAD LIVE The power was switched on to the newly erected overhead wires on the Stirling to Dunblane and Alloa lines as from 04 November 2018. Similarly the power was activated on the Shotts line (Holytown Jct – Midcalder Jct).

GLASGOW AREA Cleland station on the Shotts line is to receive a new footbridge and better access for disabled passengers. Local groups are demanding similar improvements at Hartwood, Holytown, Bellshill, and Uddingston stations.

AYR Disruption to services at Ayr continued throughout October 2018 with the line to Girvan and Stranraer remaining closed and with buses replacing the trains. The pink sandstone four storey Station Hotel at Ayr is in a dangerous state following the discovery on 30 August 2018 that parts of the roof and walls could fall on to the platforms. Work to make the building safe is sluggish!

10 October 2018

HS2 The Chancellor unveiled new funding for transport in the East Midlands during the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham in October 2018. This will enable further development of the East Midlands Airport in the late 2020s, and land acquisition and general planning for the HS2 station at Toton which will now open in 2020, three years earlier than previously planned.

BRIGHTON BELLE   A five-car 5BEL set will have been restored in time to operate special services between Kent and Sussex during the summer of 2019. Nine years of hard work at a cost of at least £6m has enabled five appropriate coaches to be found then completely restored to form a 5BEL unit which was used to operate the “Brighton Belle” service between London Victoria and Brighton. The Belle service attracted a regular clientèle including famous figures from the stage including Sir Laurence Olivier and Dora Bryan. Now a restored five-car set will enable the Pullman standard of service to be enjoyed once more on “Southern Electric” metals.

FELTHAM The south west London station is being rebuilt with longer platforms, entrances on both sides of the station, and a bridge for bikes and pedestrians. When the work is completed Feltham West level Crossing will be closed.

LEA VALLEY LINE A new station will be opened at Meridian Water, a little south of Angel Road station which will be closed when the new station is opened in May 2019.

CROSS CITY LINE A “Leaf Fall” timetable will operate between 15 October and 07 December 2018 and normal service frequencies will be provided during the peak hours. During the off-peak two services each hour will operate non-stop between New Street and Sutton Coldfield, and also between Selly Oak and Longbridge.
LIVERPOOL Travel around the city centre has been made difficult by the sudden closure of two flyovers that have been found to be in a dangerous condition. To add to the problems the Merseyrail network is facing three days of closure to prepare the lines for the introduction of the new faster, higher capacity trains.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Work on the £21m interchange for the Metro and local bus routes in South Shields will result in the closure of the existing South Shields station from early November 2018. Metro services will terminate at Chichester until the new facility is completed. A new Control System was introduced in early August 2018. It is based in the existing South Gosforth building overlooking the platforms of the adjacent station.

NORTH BERWICK Class 385 emus took over most of the service plus a few trips to Dunbar during September 2018.

SCOTRAIL IMPROVEMENTS Several improvements will begin on local routes across Central Scotland with the new National Timetable on 07 December 2018. The Edinburgh Waverley – Falkirk High – Glasgow Queen Street expresses will be worked by class 385 emus and the trip time will be cut by 4 minutes to 47 minutes. The Edinburgh Waverley – Falkirk Grahamston – Stirling trains will take five minutes less. A new half-hourly class 385 worked service will link Edinburgh Waverley with Glasgow Queen Street via Falkirk Grahamston and Cumbernauld. Class 385 trains will take over the Glasgow Queen Street – Alloa or Dunblane locals while the Edinburgh – Dunblane trains will be worked by Class 365 emus. The well populated but extremely poorly served centres of Broughty Ferry, Monifieth, and Carnoustie will now have a mostly hourly all-day service. Similarly a new mostly hourly local service between Aberdeen and Montrose will give the relatively recently opened stations at Portlethan and Laurencekirk a good service. Extra Inverness – Elgin locals will give this section a near hourly service.

ROBROYSTON Work started on the construction of this station situated between Springburn and Stepps to serve a new development of 1400 homes plus hoped-for park and ride traffic coming off the M80. A 285 space car park is being built with land available to create more spaces, if required.

CLASS 385 WOES The introduction of the new Class 385 fleet across Central Scotland has been marred by various problems. First there were difficulties concerning the windscreen on the vehicles. Objects near the train were distorted and the screens had to be re-designed and replaced. On 27 September 2018 a service train operating from Edinburgh to Glasgow very nearly overshot the platform at Falkirk High and this incident pointed to a problem with the brake system. The thought of a brake failure on a train descending Cowlairs Bank on its way to Glasgow Queen Street (High Level) resulted in the entire class being taken out of service and many passengers had to stand on peak services on 28 September. A modification is required to the brake system and it is hoped that this will be completed within a few days.

NEILSTON The branch line from Glasgow Central to Neilston via Williamwood and Patterton has seen significant new housing built around formerly rural halts. In response to a major growth in traffic trains will be formed by 4-car emus instead of the existing three-car class 314 emus which will be withdrawn over the next several months.

QUEEN STREET LOW – LEVEL LINES Following a steady rise in traffic the trains forming the half-hourly Airdrie – Balloch locals will be formed of two three-car units, doubling the capacity of the service.

10 September 2018

POLEGATE The level crossing adjacent to the station is to be closed to road and pedestrian traffic on the weekend 14-17 September 2018 while work is undertaken on the drainage system below the tracks.

ELIZABETH LINE (CROSSRAIL) The start of public services between Abbey Wood and Paddington, expected in December 2018, has been put back by at least nine months to the autumn of 2019 because of the need for further testing of emergency evacuation procedures.

LONDON UNDERGROUND The Victoria Line celebrated 50 years of service on 01 September 2018. The line now carries 200 million passengers each year. On 01 September 2018 at least ten doors of a service train on the Jubilee Line travelling between Finchley Road and West Hampstead were noted to be open.

WEST MIDLANDS METRO This is the new designation for the light rail line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton. The cost of Day Tickets was being publicised at all stops in early September 2018 and they are: Valid all day on weekdays £5.50; All day after 0930 on weekdays £4.00; All day at weekends. £4.00. The tickets are valid until the last service car reaches the Wednesbury Depot at 0140 early next day. A substantial new building is under construction immediately outside Wolverhampton Station and will act as the terminus of the extended Midlands Metro. The main line station itself is to be rebuilt and the new structure will join up with the Metro building. Virtually all of the track for the extension from near St George’s has been laid. There are no poles for an overhead power supply since trams will operate along the extension by battery power. Travel along the Metro on a Saturday in early September 2018 showed that most of the traffic originated at the three city centre stops in Birmingham and at West Bromwich and Coseley. The other stops were mostly surprisingly quiet.

WEST MIDLANDS FREIGHT DEPOT PLANNED A major new freight station has been proposed on green belt land at Four Ashes, north of Wolverhampton. Capable of handling ten freight services every day, the location is close to the Motorway network and is one of several sites that had been considered on the edge of the West Midlands conurbation.

WEST MIDLANDS HEAVY RAIL The new operator has made a brisk start with repainting lamp standards a bright orange instead of black giving the stations a lively appearance. Along the Stour Valley main line all stations beyond New Street and including Wolverhampton have been tackled except Sandwell and Dudley.

NOTTINGHAM The NET tramway goes from strength to strength with trams carrying substantial loads all day long. During track upgrade works between The Forest and Wilkinson Road stops 23 August and 02 September 2018 tram services were replaced by a bus shuttle following a long and rather circuitous route. Loads on all routes were strong during a visit on 03 September 2018 and Toton Lane route carried standing passengers due to heavy early lunchtime and early afternoon traffic for the city’s main hospital and the nearby University.

LIVERPOOL Agreement has been reached between the Liverpool City Regional Combined Authority, Merseyrail, and the RMT Union, for the staffing of the new emu fleet to be introduced from 2021. The driver will close the train doors but a second staff member will be on board undertaking duties such as detection of fare evasion.

MANCHESTER Several of the trams operating on the Metrolink system are receiving all-over advertising wraps.

GLASGOW AREA Major progress was made during the late August Holiday Weekend on the upgrade to the signalling system formerly controlled by the Motherwell North Signalling Centre. New signalling has been installed around Newton, Hamilton, Motherwell, and along the main line through Wishaw to Carstairs and along the branch to Lanark. This project will cost £114m.

AYR Large parts of Ayr station were closed to the public from 30 August 2018 because the adjacent Station Hotel (formerly owned by the Glasgow & South Western Railway and sold in 2017 to a Malaysian firm) had become unsafe. There was a danger that stone blocks and roof tiles could fall on to the tracks and platforms. South Ayrshire Council imposed an exclusion zone round the hotel which included much of the station. The Stranraer line had to be closed between Ayr and Girvan and replacement buses were laid on between Ayr, Girvan, and Stranraer. Services north towards Glasgow or Kilmarnock had to be restricted to a maximum length of four carriages since longer trains would have extended into the danger zone. These emergency arrangements were expected to last until 01 October 2018 (or possibly later) while the dangerous building is made safe.

27 August 2018

HS2 LEGAL ACTION Train builders Bombardier-Hitachi are taking action against the promoters of HS2 claiming that the late inclusion of rival train builder CAF broke the rules set for the competition to build the trains for HS2 services worth £2.8bn. Other firms competing for the contract include Siemens and Alstom.

HS4AIR PROPOSED This is a new high-speed line skirting round the west and south sides of London from junctions with HS2 and the Great Western Main Line in the Uxbridge area, and then serving both Heathrow and Gatwick Airports before joining HS1 at Ashford. Connections to Paris and Brussels will then be possible via the Channel Tunnel.

ELIZABETH LINE (CROSSRAIL) Work on the east – west cross-London heavy rail line was 95% complete in early summer 2018 and the first passenger services between Abbey Wood and Paddington were due to commence in December 2018. At a cost of £15bn London’s rail capacity will have been increased by 10%. The station platforms are twice as long compared to those at tube stations and there will be a spacious feel to the stations and on the air-conditioned trains.

HEATHROW LIGHT RAIL? A light rail link between Staines and Heathrow Airport would run alongside the M25 for much of the way and require much less land than an alternative heavy rail branch. The £375m cost would be funded by private backers.

NEW SLEEPING CARS. The new Mark 5a sleeping cars will enter public service on West Coast routes on 28 October 2018.

ANGEL ROAD This station on the West Anglia Main line between Northumberland Park and Ponders End has been proposed for closure upon the opening of the totally new station, Meridian Water, 600 yards to the south west. The new station is expected to open on 19 May 2019 and Angel Road would close on the same day.

SOUTH WALES Stadler has been identified as the preferred builder of 71 new trains for the Valley Lines services from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare, and Treherbert. These routes are to be electrified at 25kV AC. .

WOLVERTON Most of the buildings that formed the LNWR Works have been demolished and Modwen Developments are to build new houses over most of the site. Only the former lifting shop and a section of wall will remain from the old works. Historic England had tried to save much of the works but their efforts were rejected by the High Court.

WEST MIDLANDS The extension of services from Longbridge to Bromsgrove took place on 30 July 2018. Following extremely dry weather an embankment near University Station became unstable and at about 1230 pm on Tuesday 14 August 2018 crumbled allowing an avalanche to pour over the tracks. Several trees were uprooted and fell across the tracks damaging the overhead wires. Cross City Line services were halted south of New Street station but longer distance Cross Country diesel powered trains ran via the Kings Heath line. The Hereford and Cardiff trains were similarly diverted and could not call at University. Normal services restarted on Thursday 16 August 2018.

WEST MIDLANDS TRAMWAY Route diagrams inside the trams and on notice boards at the stops now show the Wolverhampton Station and Centenary Square extensions in light script with the indication “under construction”. Transport for West Midlands has released tender documents for 18 battery powered trams with an option for a further 32.

NEW STATIONS PLANNED Transport for West Midlands has proposed that stations be opened at Darlaston and Willenhall serving an area where 8000 new homes will be built during the next few years. Hourly services from Wolverhampton to Walsall and to Birmingham New Street are proposed to call at the new stops. These frequencies appear to be rather poor.

LIVERPOOL A high-speed link between Liverpool and Manchester Piccadilly and Airport has been proposed and would link the two city centres in 20 minutes. The line would be linked to HS2 when it arrives from London trimming the Euston – Liverpool travel time from a little over 2 hours to 1 hour 33 minutes.

MANCHESTER METROLINK Track laying along the new Trafford Park line is proceeding rapidly. The branch is expected to open in 2020.

CLASS 800 and 802. Test operations of these new trains continue along the East Coast route but electrical interference with the signalling north of York means that the trains can run only on diesel power north of York. Class 802 trains have entered public service on the Great Western main line between Paddington, Plymouth, and Penzance.

LEEDS The rather bleak station is to receive a £500m upgrade linked to the arrival there of HS2 services. There will be a magnificent new south side entrance linked to a major upgrade to the entire adjacent area. It is expected that there will be new employment opportunities – 35,000 new jobs – and 8000 new homes. Passenger traffic at the station which is already the third busiest outside London is expected to rise by 143%.

HS3 PLANS There are calls to build HS3 at the same time as HS2 so that when opened travel across much of Northern England would be transformed.

YORK Massive development plans for “York Central” were submitted on 12 August 2018. This is a large brownfield site between the A19 and A59 Corridors and would include expansion for the National Railway Museum, many opportunities for new industrial operations producing 6500 new jobs, and large amounts of new housing. A new large entrance to York station would be built on the west side of the station.

TYNE and WEAR METRO The new Control System at South Gosforth was initiated during the weekend of 4/5 August 2018. Services on the Airport branch were halted on the evening of 14 October after a confused road driver drove on to the tracks at Kingston Park level crossing.

13 August 2018

CHANNEL TUNNEL The major heat wave that affected most of the UK during late July 2018 proved too much for the air conditioning on the car shuttle trains. As a result many of the trains were out of service on 26 and 27 July 2018. Cars waiting to join a shuttle train had waits of up to 6½ hours at the Folkestone terminal until Eurotunnel managed to get a few of its faulty trains back into service.

ERTMS TO EUROPE A co-ordinated roll out of the ERTMS train control system will apply to services from London to Paris and Brussels in an agreement signed on 19 July 2018. The three national operators will develop a common strategy, share expertise, and select common technical systems. The aim is to improve interoperability, capacity, and punctuality.

COMMUTERS The major reason for ordinary travellers to use a train is to enable them to travel to work. The numbers involved in major English cities is as follows.
London morning peak arrivals – 1,054,500. Arrivals during rest of day 577,000
Manchester 97,400 in a.m. Peak. 33,000 in rest of day.
Reading 89,100 24,000
Leeds 72,600 25,700
Liverpool 63,200 20,000
Detailed figures for Scottish and Welsh cities were not available but arrivals at the two busiest termini in Glasgow came to about 95,000 in the a.m. peak and 60,000 during the rest of the day.

GRAND SOUTHERN This is the name for Alliance Rail’s proposed nine trains each way daily service between London and Southampton. Class 442 stock was suggested for these trains but they are now to operate on the Portsmouth line. Alternative rolling stock has been identified and the proposal will be submitted again later in 2018. Meanwhile Alliance Rail is concentrating on its Blackpool plans.

BRIGHTON PRIDE 100,000 passengers travelled from London to Brighton on 4 August 2018 to attend the Brighton Pride festivities. Many tried to return late that evening and a massive crowd filled the road outside the station. Although many thousand crammed into scheduled and extra trains large numbers had to spend the night in the town.

GATWICK EXPRESS Because at least 20% of the trains experience delays en route, Gatwick Express services can no longer use the advertising slogans “runs non-stop” “in half an hour”.

EAST CROYDON The bottleneck through the station is to be eased by the construction of two new platforms (7 and 8) and two additional tracks north of the station, leading to a remodelled Windmill Bridge Junction where the tracks towards Victoria and London Bridge termini separate.

SOUTHEND VICTORIA The overhead wire system is being renewed at a cost of £46m in order to improve reliability of the service.

GREAT WESTERN MAIN LINE The electrification of the London – Bristol main line has been delayed by the decision of the White Horse District Council to refuse permission to remove a Grade II listed bridge over the tracks at Steventon. The brick arch structure does not provide sufficient space for the overhead wires and discussions are taking place with the Council.

AZUMA TRAINS Hitachi’s factory at Newton Aycliffe has commenced construction of the Azuma fleet that will operate LNER’s fast services along the East Coast Main Line.

HS2 Balfour Beatty is to proceed with the £2.5bn contract to build the first phase of HS2 and will include managers from the failed Carillion firm which had initially won this contract. Amey is to build two substations serving the southern most sections of HS2.

SERVICES RESTORED AND CANCELLED On 30 July 2018 Northern Rail restored around 100 of the services it cancelled in June 2018 when the addition of many new services resulted in a meltdown of operations. The remainder of the cancelled trains were to be re-introduced in September 2018. Northern cancelled around 800 services on the first two Sundays in August 2018 largely due to the unwillingness of many drivers to work on these days. The drivers have the right to refuse to work on any Sunday by giving at least seven days notice of their unavailability.

GOBLIN LINE Electric loco hauled freight services on the Gospel Oak – Barking line commenced on 02 July 2018. The first service was a Dagenham – Mossend train loaded with new motor cars that had been manufactured in Dagenham.

WEST MIDLANDS The Metro trams are being given a striking bright blue livery. Several of the Class 323 emus used on local services have been given the new livery of orange ends and doors, with grey bodies and black around the windows.

BROMSGROVE Cross City Line services that had terminated at Longbridge were extended down Lickey Bank to terminate at the rebuilt Bromsgrove station. There are now three trains per hour to Bromsgrove, and three per hour to Redditch.

NOTTINGHAM The City Council has approved a study into two possible extensions to the tramway network – from Clifton to a new 3000 home development at Fairham Pastures next to the A453 road, and to the HS2 station at Toton. Further lines might run to Gedling Colliery, Netherfield, Gamston, and Kimberley.

SHEFFIELD TRAM-TRAIN Active testing of the new tram-trains has been under way since early May 2018 and many of the required drivers have completed driver-training.

YORK – HARROGATE The station at Goldsborough, closed in May 1965, may be reopened to serve a planned 2750 house development. The line is likely to be electrified as part of an upgrade to services around Leeds.

BLACKPOOL Alliance Rail is proceeding with its plans to operate several services each way between London Euston and Blackpool North, having been granted track rights for the service in June 2018. The service will probably start in December 2019. A proposal has been made to extend the tramway to Lytham and St Anne’s.

GLASGOW AREA Roads around the city ground to a halt on 1 August 2018 when some routes were closed in preparation for the opening on 2 August of the European Championships which were being held in the city. Local railways around the city however performed excellently in the lead-up to the games. Barclays Bank is to build a major office centre as part of the Buchanan Wharf complex in the Tradeston area south of the River Clyde. The development will extend from the River immediately to the west of the tracks leading from Central Station as far back as West Street Subway station. An important interchange will be established between the Subway and the Greenock heavy rail lines. New platforms will be built on the Paisley/Greenock line immediately above the Subway station. Barclays will employ 2500 staff there supervising the company’s world-wide activities along with similar offices in Pune (Poona) in India, and Whippany NJ in USA. A major signalling equipment fault at the Yoker Signalling Centre caused long delays for most of 7 August 2018 between Dalmuir and the Central Low Level route.

BREICH The controversial station on the Shotts Line was closed on 23 June 2018 and immediately demolished in preparation for total rebuilding with platforms the correct height and length for three car Class 385 emus that will in future provide all services on the line. The footbridge will not be replaced and instead a ramp will give access to the up platform from the adjacent road over-bridge. The down platform will have direct access from an adjacent road.

ELECTRIFICATION WORK Electric services worked by the new Class 385 emus now operate all the way between Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh Waverley. North of Larbert masts, some with fittings for the overhead wire, are in place between Larbert and Bannockburn. Major over-bridge work is under way ½ mile south of Stirling. Masts are in place from Stirling to the tunnel just before Dunblane and the work along the Alloa branch appears more or less complete.

EDINBURGH TRAMS Many attending the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston on 20-23 June 2018 used the tram to attend the event. During the Edinburgh Festival held on 3-28 August 2018 trams operated half-hourly throughout the night. Late night performances are a feature of the Festival, especially the Fringe events. Ticket sold at any time during the day will be valid until 0530 next day. The service will assist those attending small hours events to get back to their lodgings.

25 July 2018

CHANGES DELAYED Planned timetable changes in December 2018 have been put on hold until at least the summer of 2019 or perhaps December 2019. The introduction of many major alterations in May 2018 resulted in near chaos in northern England and in routes that are funnelled through the Cross-London Thameslink route. There had been little time to check all the details and some TOCs simply did not have sufficient rolling stock to operate their new timetable, and more important sufficient drivers who knew all the new routes involved.. As a result of the delay to the timetable change the new South West Railway franchise deal has had to be renegotiated. The Transport Secretary’s promises of faster more commodious services – 35% and 41% more seats during the morning and evening rush hours – have had to be forgotten. Even if there was space on the tracks and trains to carry extra people, the power supply system simply could not cope.

INVESTMENT The Department of Transport will invest £1.8m towards the cost of the HS2 station at Toton on the eastern edge of Nottingham that will serve the East Midlands. The station will be tantalisingly close to the Toton terminus of the light railway system and a means of funding an extension remains unclear.

AIRPORT LINK A railway following the course of the M25 could cut the Heathrow – Gatwick Airports travel time to just 15 minutes.

COURT ACTION Bombardier and Hitachi have launched court action to prevent the contract for 94 new Piccadilly Line trains being awarded to Siemens. The two companies have formed a team to build the tube trains, a possible later contract for 150 new Central and Bakerloo Lines trains. A contract for the trains to operate on HS2 is also on the wish list of all three companies. Bombardier is building the new Crossrail stock at its Derby factory.

EMU CLASS 710 The first Bombardier “Aventra” emu was presented to the media on 20 June 2018. The first trains will commence service on the Gospel Oak – Barking line in November 2018 displacing class 172 dmus that will come to the West Midlands Railway. Transport for London is building maintenance facilities for the fleet at Willesden and Chingford. There are fifty four class 710 trains on order. Thirty one of class 710/1 will have 25 kV AC power supply and will operate from Liverpool Street to Chingford, Enfield Town, and Cheshunt. Fourteen class 710/2 will be dual voltage for use on Gospel Oak – Barking and Watford Junction dc routes. There will be a mixture of four and five car sets running usually in pairs replacing Class 315 and 317 sets although one 315 may be retained for the Romford – Upminster shuttle. Extra cars may be obtained later to lengthen the four car sets. Internally the trains will have longitudinal seats with lots of grab poles.

CLASS 777 Stadler are commencing the construction of the fifty two 4-car sets for Merseyrail. The work is being undertaken at the Szolnok plant in Hungary.

CLASS 365 Full squadron service on the Glasgow – Edinburgh main line started on 25 June 2018 as a stopgap measure until the new class 385 trains are able to take over the service. A single Class 385 unit was in fact available and operated the 0555 service from Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen Street.

ELECTRIC RAILWAY MUSEUM All items in the Museum’s collection have found new homes following the closure of the Museum since its land is to be redeveloped. The Battlefield Line at Shackerstone is home to five wagons/vans, two locomotives “Mazda” and “Spondon No 1”, a signal box and a waiting shelter, and the Tyneside 2-car EPB set. The Colne Valley Railway at Castle Hedingham has taken the battery loco “Doug Tottman”, and four individual vehicles from emu sets. Other items have been given a home in widely scattered locations.

SEATON The stylish new terminus in the town centre for the tramway was opened on 28 June 2018. Most of the route follows the trackbed of the former BR branch which closed on 07 March 1966.

ISLE OF WIGHT Operator of the Ryde – Shanklin line, South Western Trains, has proposed to replace the current stock (ex-1938 Tube Stock) with somewhat newer former London Underground trains, and to operate a regular half-hourly service.

VOLK’S RAILWAY Electric Railway No 10 has returned to Brighton after a major overhaul by Alan Keef Ltd in Herefordshire. Cars 4, 6, and 10 have now all received new underframes and control equipment. The entire £1.65m project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

TRANSPORT for LONDON A major upgrade to Holborn station will have a second entrance on Procter Street, while the disused Aldwych platform will be a new concourse for the Piccadilly Line section of the station. The Oyster Card, a handy way to pay for bus, and tube, fares, has been used by 100m travellers in the 15 years since its introduction. Southgate station (Piccadilly Line) was renamed Gareth Southgate on 16 and17 July 2018 to honour of the England football team manager. On the Northern Line new track has now been laid along the northbound tunnel between Battersea and Nine Elms and a start has been made within the southbound tunnel. The closure of the link between lines at Kennington has resulted in a 41% increase in Bakerloo Line traffic and a 26% increase in bus journeys in this area. Accidents happen regularly on Underground station escalators despite there being warning signs. As an experiment, warning signs along the escalators were increased in number at ten stations and the number of accidents fell immediately by 29%. Signs at escalators at all Underground station escalators are now being increased in number.

CROSSRAIL (ELIZABETH LINE) Work was 93% complete by early July 2018.

THAMESLINK The third new timetable since June 2018 was introduced on 16 July 2018. The Operating Company is trying to match available rolling stock and drivers able to drive over the wide range of routes north of the Thameslink Core with an aim of operating extra trains to relieve severe overcrowding. However the new timetable did not run entirely smoothly and there were delays and some cancellations. Passengers spilling into a first class coach from sardine-packed standard class cars were reprimanded by a senior manager travelling first class and occupying a second seat with his brief case. This story achieved widespread negative press coverage.

WALES – MAIN LINE A date for the introduction of electric service from London into Cardiff Central remains uncertain. The expected date of 31 March 2019 will not be achieved since the work is behind schedule owing to cost overruns. Electric services operate as far as Didcot Parkway though an extension as far as Swindon may be achieved during the summer.

CARDIFF VALLEYS For use on the Cardiff Metro (Rhonda, Aberdare, Merthyr and Cardiff Bay lines) thirty five 3-car Stadler Citylink trains have been ordered. These will operate at 25kV AC or battery power. Trains will operate 4 or 6 times per hour – double the present frequency. The Rhymney, Coryton, Penarth, Barry Island and Bridgend lines will receive seven 3-car and seventeen 4-car Stadler Flirt trains operating on diesel, 25kV AC, or battery power depending on the section of the route. Services will operate 3- 4 times each hour on most sections. The Cardiff to Maesteg, Ebbw Vale, and Abergavenny routes will require eleven 4-car Stadler Flirt DEMU trains generally operating twice each hour on most sections.

ISLE OF MAN The Manx Government, seeking major expenditure cuts, is considering the closure of the Manx Electric Railway between Laxey and Ramsey. This would save £708,000 each year but there are fears that the damage to the tourist injury might result in larger losses to the hotel and restaurant industries. The Laxey – Ramsey section includes the best scenic stretches.

WEST MIDLANDS HUB A twenty year plan to create around Birmingham a railway hub was unveiled on 09 July 2018. Services to Nottingham, Leicester, Cardiff, and Lincoln will be doubled in frequency (yes, there will be four trains per hour to Nottingham), with an extra train per hour added to the Bristol run. There will be restored through services between Leicester and Coventry and for local services on the reopened Camp Hill Line (three reopened stations). 10-20 minutes will be cut from running times on the longer routes. Clearer signage has been put in place at New Street Station directing passengers to the lifts between platforms and the concourse. The lifts are rather hidden away within the platform buildings but there are now very large signs indicating “LIFT” alongside the way to each elevator.

WEST MIDLANDS RAILWAY The company uses orange as part of its image and has started to modernise its suburban stations. Most obvious are new platform lights which have a bright orange coloured pole. Platform seats and modified platform shelters also show orange fitments.

KIDSGROVE A £5m upgrade is underway. A new footbridge with lifts forms part of the work.

MANCHESTER The start of electric operations along the key route through Bolton to Preston remains unclear but a date during 2019 is probable.

BLACKPOOL The tracks used by the old tramway network along the road to North Station have been removed and the laying of new track is to start during summer 2018.

TYNE & WEAR METRO The control room at South Gosforth is to undergo a major upgrade costing £12m. A new digital system will be installed over a weekend during the summer.

EDINBURGH A bus and tram 258 collided on the traffic light controlled Eastfield Avenue level crossing on the section between Ingliston and the Airport. The tram was derailed and the bus was overturned, the driver sustaining serious injuries. The incident happened at the busiest of times – 1710 on 13 June 2018 and the damaged tram could not be removed from the site until the next day. Normal services did not resume until 15 June 2018. The tramway had an operating profit of £1.6m during 2017 with passenger journeys up 19% to 6.6m.

GLASGOW A further study is being undertaken to evaluate the demand for a light rail link between Central Station and the Airport, and to assess what effect such a service would have on existing services along the key line between Central and Gilmour Street stations..

29 June 2018

RISING TRAFFIC There has been a dramatic increase in traffic carried during the past several years. The greatest increase is at St Helens Central, near Liverpool, where the traffic increase is no less than 194%. The biggest traffic increase at a major station is 149% at Birmingham New Street. In London, Waterloo terminal is expected to reach “choke point” by 2020 according to studies undertaken by Transport for London. The position at Clapham Junction where many travellers change trains in order to reach their preferred terminus is considered to be nearly as bad.

HITACHI CLASS 800 UNITS. Units are operating platform gauging runs along parts of the WCML, and calling at Carlisle & Glasgow Central, and at Doncaster and Lincoln.

SEATON The new terminus of the tramway at Seaton opened on 28 June 2018. There are four platforms, Claude’s Cafe (named after the founder of the line Claude Lane), a shop, plus space for exhibitions or events. The terminus has been built two feet higher than previous tracks to diminish the risk from flooding.

GOVIA THAMESLINK TOC Following the disastrous introduction of the new timetable on 20 May 2018 and the cancellation of many services, the chairman, Charles Horton, resigned on 15 June 2018. He had hoped to remain in charge to guide operations back to normal but could not ignore the very numerous protests from the public. Despite removing a proportion of the new services to ease congestion through the Thameslink core problems remained and passengers continued to experience difficulties getting to and from work. On 27 June 2018 there were more cancellations than usual because there had been problems getting drivers to their first trains of the day by taxi. Many taxi drivers had taken a few days holiday. Among measures taken to provide extra space for commuters all trains have been de-classified with First Class areas now open to all.

TRANSPORT for LONDON Siemens Mobility has won the £1.5bn contract to design and build a new fleet of trains for the Piccadilly Line. They will be built in a new factory in Goole, East Yorkshire. By 2023, ninety four new trains will be in service giving a train every 135 seconds (27/hour compared with 24/hour now) giving space for an additional 21,000 passengers each peak hour. Signalling upgrades will also be completed as part of the upgrade plan. TfL’s overall plan is for 40 new trains on the Bakerloo Line (25% increase in capacity); 100 new trains for the Central Line (25% increase in capacity) and 10 new trains for the Waterloo and City Line (50% increase in capacity).

OVERGROUND A new state-of-the-art train has been unveiled by the builder, Bombardier in Derby. Each of the 54 trains on order will hold 700 passengers

LUL A four year contract covering track renewal work from 2019 and worth £250m is to go out to tender to ensure the best possible deal. Balfour Beatty Rail has undertaken this work since 2010.
Walthamstow Central station on the Victoria Line is to receive a £15m upgrade which will link it to an adjacent expanding shopping mall. On June 19th there was an explosion just after 1900 at Southgate station, on the Piccadilly line. This was thought to be due to a faulty drill battery and a 23 year old man had been detained by the police. There were no injuries to passengers, except for several people hurt in the ensuing panic to leave the station.

C2C Tilbury Line services were disrupted on the evening of 13 June 2018 following damage to the overhead wires between West Ham and Barking. Passengers were advised to take the Underground to Upminster where they could catch Tilbury services but a District Line signal failure led to additional delays and crowds soon built up around the Fenchurch Street terminus.

SOUTH LONDON Three young men, trespassing on the tracks near Loughborough Junction station, were found dead on a viaduct early on the morning of 18 June 2018. Cans of paint were found beside them and it is possible that the three were graffiti “artists” killed by a freight train in the small hours.

SOUTH WALES Keolis Amey has been awarded the Wales and Borders and South Wales Metro franchise. There will be four new stations in the suburbs of Cardiff – Loudoun Square, Crwys Road, Gabalfa and Flourish. The following lines will be electrified – Rhymney, Coryton, Penarth, Barry Island, and Vale of Glamorgan. Services will be worked by a new fleet of CAF/Stadler tri-mode three-car trains. These will operate also over the Treherbert, Merthyr and Aberdare branches and service levels will generally be doubled to give four trains per hour over each route.

WEST MIDLANDS TRAM EXTENSIONS The Midlands Metro Alliance has been formed to transform transport across the West Midlands by means of light rail extensions totalling 32km. First is the Centenary Square extension (840m long) that will use battery power to avoid having wires attached to significant buildings. The route will rise steeply from Grand Central terminus, past Town Hall to Victoria Square. This is due to open in 2019 to be followed by the Edgbaston Extension (1.35km), along Broad Street and Hagley Road to just beyond the Five Ways roundabout. The planned Eastside Extension from Bull Street in the city centre will run to High Street Deritend (1.7km) and is planned to open in 2022 serving the HS2 terminus when it opens in 2026. A later extension could take this line to Solihull and the joint station with HS2 near International Station. The Brierley Hill extension from Wednesbury Great Western Street will run mostly along a former railway right of way but will go up and over the hill through the heart of Dudley (rather than in the railway tunnel under Dudley) on its way to Brierley Hill (11km – opening 2023). Vegetation clearance along the route south of Dudley has been under way for several weeks. A short extension in Wolverhampton will take the tramway to the bus station and the rebuilt heavy rail station (1km).

COVENTRY Transport Design International of Stratford on Avon is to develop a very light rail battery powered vehicle carrying 20 people seated and 50 standing. It will be tested at the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre in Dudley before a permanent track is laid across Coventry and a fleet of vehicles is built.

NOTTINGHAM Local politicians and campaigners are organising meetings to press for the building of two extension to the NET system. The longer proposed extension would run north west to Eastwood and Kimberley. A short extension to the Toton line, south west of the city, will run to the future HS2 station although the city authorities are unwilling to meet the cost.

MANCHESTER METROLINK The Eccles line is to be closed for 13 days from the end of July allowing the new Trafford Park line to be joined up to the rest of the network. The opportunity is being taken to undertake maintenance and other work on the Eccles line while tram services are suspended. Services on the Rochdale Line were discontinued during the evening of 14 June 2018 after youths threw rocks at trams smashing a window and injuring a passenger.

LIVERPOOL Facilities are being expanded at Prescot station which will now serve the new Shakespeare North Playhouse.

MANCHESTER – PRESTON The electrification of this route via Bolton has been delayed by several factors, most recently by the financial failure of Bombardier who held the contract for the work. Amey has now won the contract and is aiming to catch up on the schedule as much as it can.. The line will be closed between 25 August and 02 September 2018 while work is undertaken around Bolton.

WINDERMERE West Coast Railway put on a free hourly service on the branch from Oxenholme comprising three coaches topped and tailed by locomotives 37669 and 57316. Northern had abandoned services on the branch and provided instead a slower bus shuttle while the timetable fiasco was sorted out. The normal service including through trains to Manchester Airport are due to resume on 01 July 2018.

GLASGOW – FALKIRK – EDINBURGH Trains comprising two of the four-car class 365 units will be too long to fit into the platforms at Bishopbriggs and Lenzie stations. Work to extend these platforms will begin soon.

WISHAW The single track on the link between Shieldmuir and Wishaw Central stations became distorted as the heat rose to nearly 30’C on 25 June 2018. The Lanark local service was abandoned for the rest of the day.

GLASGOW – NEW HOUSES Tall blocks of flats have been built beside Uddingston station on the WCML. Pollockshaws West station, served by East Kilbride and Kilmarnock line trains, is busier following the construction of new flats replacing older lower density housing. On the Neilston line extensive housing developments have filled the space between Newton Mearns and Patterton station and have transformed the formerly sleepy station into a non-stop hive of activity with the large new car park full every weekday. There is still no sign of platforms at the recently announced Auchenback station, but work is well under way for the new car park. The station will be higher up the hillside from the housing in nearby Barrhead. Some new housing has been erected near Neilston station making this a busier spot. There is now no need to turn some trains at Whitecraigs since significant population now extends along the full length of the branch.

10 June 2018

GRAYLING INQUIRY On 05 June 2018 the Transport Secretary ordered a detailed inquiry into the major disruption to services on the Thameslink route and in north west England following the introduction of the new timetables on 20 May 2018. Information about some of the chaos is given below and in in earlier paragraphs. Network Rail (delay to completion of engineering work) and the TOCs involved (insufficient number of drivers trained to operate over new routes) have blamed each other.

HEAVY RAINFALL On Sunday 27 May 2018 five weeks worth of rain fell in just one hour over the West Midlands resulting in extensive flooding in southern parts of Birmingham. The drains simply could not accommodate such a sudden volume of water. Rail services to/from New Street station were halted for a time during the afternoon since signalling equipment was flooded. On Tuesday 29 May nearly as much rain fell across Kent and there was flooding affecting the live third rail halting trains in the Gillingham area.

NEED FOR HIGH-SPEED ROUTES Transport advisers have stressed that high-speed routes in the UK should be more that a few routes radiating out from London. There should many lines linking city centre hubs across the country.

VIVARAIL Adrian Shooter’s company is to supply a small fleet of Class 230 D trains to the Wales and Borders TOC for service on three routes: Wrexham – Bidston; Conwy Valley; and Chester – Crewe. KeolisAmey, operators of this franchise, will get attractive three car sets with comfortable seats and ample space for wheelchairs and bikes, and all by mid 2019. The Class 230 stock re-utilises London Underground D stock and the units will have new battery and diesel power units.

CLASS 385 Tests between Glasgow Central and Paisley Gilmour Street with class 385 units fitted with newly designed windscreens have been successful and all ten units now at Springburn are likely to be fitted there with the new windscreens. Other units, completed but still at Newton Aycliffe, are likely to be moved to Springburn to have the new windscreens installed. So far none has entered service, but modified units will do so in central Scotland in late summer.

ISLAND LINE Services between Ryde Pier and Shanklin are to be increased to half-hourly. Before this becomes possible the passing loop at Brading will need to be restored. Services are operated by former London Underground stock dating from 1938 and these now need to be retired. A tight fit through the Ryde Tunnel means that London tube stock is the only equipment that can operate on the Island Line. The recently retired trains in London are Bakerloo Line 1972 and Piccadilly 1973 stock.

THAMESLINK The revised services through the Thameslink Corridor introduced on 20 May 2018 linking towns north and south of London has not got off to a smooth start. There have been many delays and cancellations reaching a peak during the morning on 28 May. Between 1000 and 1100 that morning no fewer than sixteen trains were cancelled altogether while one ran but significantly late. Only six services ran at the correct time during that hour. There are insufficient drivers passed out for the Thameslink route to guarantee the operation of the full timetable.

ELIZABETH LINE Test operation of trains is reaching a climax prior to the opening of the route. Trains are now operating through the tunnels at 60 mph.

WEST MIDLANDS It has been possible to lengthen some peak hour trains from the introduction of the new timetable on 20 May 2018.

MIDLAND METRO Work is under way on extensions beyond both terminals. From Grand Central the route will climb steeply up to the Town Hall and then onwards to the Concert Hall. Services below the roadway of the extended route are being moved. In Wolverhampton the St George’s terminal has been tidied and the area once occupied by the second tram platform has been converted for bus routes 530 and 545. The future route along Pipers Row to the bus and railway stations is being excavated to locate services. This work will last for at least six months.

BIRMINGHAM CITY CENTRE The traditional city centre received bomb damage during World War 2 and department stores were destroyed or damaged. Most of the repair work was completed by the 1960s and there were four major stores along Corporation Street and Bull Street. Shopping habits have changed dramatically and the major stores have closed or will do early in 2019. First to go in 1970 was Grey’s in Bull Street – never fully restored after war damage and closed soon after it was taken over by Debenhams. The C & A chain abandoned Britain in 2000 closing every UK store including its large outlet in Corporation Street. The company continues to operate across mainland Europe. Beatties attempted to operate in the C&A building but failed dismally and closed within months. The massive Lewis’s store in Bull Street shut down in 2006 soon after being taken over by the House of Fraser. This takes us to the last of the “Big Four”. Rackhams was built in 1960, was the largest store in the city, and was taken over by House of Fraser in 2006. The Rackhams name was dropped at this time. With the centre for shopping moving south towards the Bull Ring area this store has been more and more on the edge of things rather than at the centre. This is now one of 31 House of Fraser stores to be closed after the 2018 Christmas season. Midland Metro runs past the sites of all of these shops and the Corporation Street stop will lose much of its traffic once “Rackhams” shop shuts its doors for good.

WALSALL – RUGELEY Off peak services on the Chase Line were doubled to half-hourly from 20 May 2018. From the December timetable change these trains will operate through to Birmingham International and one train per hour will continue to London Euston. A major shopping centre is being built next to Cannock Station and will open in 2020. Station platforms along the line are being lengthened to take four-car class 350 units which will been introduced to the route later this year.

NORTHERN This operating company found that it did not have sufficient drivers to operate reliably its new timetable from 20 May 2018 and to avoid having random cancellations introduced an interim timetable from 04 June 2018 (until at least the end of July 2018) removing 165 services each day, or 6% of the total. The TOC operates 2000 trains daily and had cancelled 200 on 01 June 2018. Northern operates local trains around Manchester and Liverpool, and north west to Blackpool and Windermere. All services to Windermere have been replaced temporarily by buses.

TRANS PENNINE EXPRESS (TPE) This company is to operate Mark 3 coaches on some of its services and they will have no space for wheelchair-bound passengers. They will not be allowed to board a Mark 3 coach and will be required to wait for the next train. If two consecutive trains are formed of Mark 3 stock the passenger will be sent by taxi to their destination station.

BLACKPOOL Construction of the tramway extension to North railway station is under way. The new rails have arrived by rail at North Station and are lying close to the route to be taken by the extension. The tram terminus will be on the site of the original North Station just north of the former main platforms. The present railway platforms are on the site of the former excursion platforms.

DARLINGTON The local Council has pledged £3m towards the renovation of the ECML station..

SCOTTISH REOPENINGS The planned reopening of two stations on the East Coast route has been boosted by promises of finance towards the cost. The Scottish Borders Council will provide £2.84m towards the reopening of Reston station and the creation of an Edinburgh – Berwick local service. Closer to Edinburgh, East Lothian Council will provide £3.44m towards the reopening of East Linton station beside which there is to be significant new housing..

22 May 2018

NEW TIMETABLE The new schedules introduced from 20 May 2018 include many changes to improve frequencies so that rising traffic can be handled effectively. However some increases in frequency have had to be postponed since there is not enough rolling stock available. This affects many lines around Manchester and Leeds – Harrogate. York – Liverpool services now operate via Manchester Victoria instead of taking a twisting route through Piccadilly giving a 15 minute frequency between York and Manchester Victoria. The line to Blackpool North has been reopened following completion of electrification work and Virgin West Coast has added several through trains to/from London Euston. There are four trains hourly from Blackpool North – three by emus (to Liverpool, Preston, and Manchester Airport, and one a dmu to Manchester Piccadilly which eventually will become an emu through to Macclesfield. There are a number of extra services on the Cumbrian Coast line and on the Carlisle – Newcastle line. A sprinkling of additional trains has been added to many routes in Yorkshire. The extension of Cross City Line trains every 20 minutes to Bromsgrove has been deferred until the December timetable change although some services may start in the summer. The reorganisation of Thameslink services commences on 20 May with the start of phase one. With several minute dwell times by some trains at intermediate points it was hoped that the new timetable would work smoothly. (See below!). Associated with the Thameslink changes many services run by Southern, are recast and in a few cases increased. South Eastern has also reorganised off-peak services from Victoria and Charing Cross.

NETWORK RAIL The new Chief Executive is to be Andrew Haines OBE, at present Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority. He started work as a left luggage clerk at London Victoria station. It is still possible to rise from the bottom to the very top!!

ELIZABETH LINE Transport for London took over the Paddington – Heathrow Connect service from 20 May 2018, and the half hourly Paddington – Hayes locals on the following day. Work is 90% complete on a route from Reading to Shenfield and Abbey Wood (118 km in total).. There will be 57km of new track, ten new stations with thirty upgraded. Paddington – Abbey Wood opens in December 2018 and to Shenfield in May 2019. The route will carry 200m people each year.

THAMESLINK The new timetable introduced on Sunday 20 May 2018 involving many new routes funnelling north – south across the city did not start well. There were too few drivers (effect of very sunny weather?) and the service on the first day collapsed in chaos. Next day, Monday 21 May 2018, was only a little better with commuters struggling to find a train to take them home later in the day.

CLASS 321. Alstom and Eversholt are to fit hydrogen tanks and fuel cells to existing class 321 emus that have been made redundant by the Greater Anglia TOC as they take delivery of a complete new fleet. This will transform the 321s making them more attractive to potential users.

LONDON BRIDGE The Duke of Cambridge officially opened the upgraded London terminus on 09 May 2018. The work took five years to complete and cost around £1bn. Thameslink services will operate every 2 – 3 minutes once works along that route are completed in 12 – 18 months time.

LONDON UNDERGROUND Major works at Kennington (Northern Line) will result in Bank Line trains not calling at Kennington between 26 May 2018 and a date in mid September 2018. There will be no step-free interchange between the two branches at Kennington while a new passageway is built as part of preparations for the Northern Line extension. There will be more frequent direct rains between Morden and the Charing Cross branch while Bank services will operate less frequently. Buckhurst Hill station (Central Line) has become the 74th on the network with Step-Free access. By 2020 over 100 stations will have become step-free as a result of a £200m programme.

READING Work to revamp the track layout through the station, and to rebuild the station buildings almost totally has drawn to a close after several years of work. The 50 mph speed restriction throughout the entire area has already been raised to 100 mph through the new main line platforms, and 125 mph along open track. Reading West Junction has been remodelled with tracks separated and on separate levels so that they no longer cross each-other on the level. A train maintenance facility has been created to the west of the station and the former facility demolished to make space for the amended track layout. Platforms used by Waterloo services have been lengthened to accommodate 12 coach trains.

EAST COAST On 24 June 2018 the Transport Secretary is to scrap the ECML franchise which has hit financial problems three times during the past ten years. The present operators, Stagecoach and Virgin East Coast, have incurred heavy losses and are considered to have bid too high to win the present franchise. The route will be nationalised as the London North Eastern Railway (LNER). Several other TOCs are thought to be in trouble after promising too much to win their franchise, and are now delivering too little or are in a loss-making position. They may have attracted some additional traffic but not enough to pay for their promised improvements.

BIRMINGHAM INTERNATIONAL The West Midlands Combined Authority has awarded £9m contracts for a major redesign of the station to bring together HS2, conventional rail, air services, bus services, a new tram extension, taxis, cars and bikes. Solihull Council plans to upgrade its town centre and establish a major industrial area “The Hub” just north of International Station. Solihull College will provide training courses for workers at The Hub. Birmingham International station and the Airport are not in Birmingham but in the adjacent independent borough of Solihull.

WEST MIDLANDS TRAMS Thirteen of the original T69 trams are being moved to C F Booth’s scrap yard in Rotherham from their storage point at Long Marston, the first to go being No 9. No 7 will be donated to UK Tram at Long Marston and No 11 will be preserved at Birmingham Museum.

BROMSGROVE The first emu to run down Lickey Bank to the rebuilt station to test the new overhead line equipment was operated on 20 May 2018.

WOLVERHAMPTON The pedestrian tunnel under the north end of the station giving access to the main entrance from areas around the former GWR station was closed from 20 May 2018 for at least a year while a new station building is constructed.

TRAM:TRAIN Active testing of the route between the centre of Sheffield and Rotherham Parkgate is at last actually happening.

STOCKPORT CAF has opened a stock overhaul and storage facility with space for expansion if the company wins further contracts to supply new rolling stock.

LIVERPOOL The major upgrade of Lime Street station will result in Virgin West Coast and London North Western services from the south starting or terminating at South Parkway station during the period 02 June – 29 July 2018. Passengers wishing to travel to/from the city centre will be able to use the Merseyrail local service to Central or Moorfields stations via St Michaels.

LEEDS A visit to the city on 17 May 2018 showed local traffic to be booming with four car Class 333 emus operating at the rush hour with crush loads on services to Ilkley, Skipton, and Bradford.
Harrogate line services were operated by three-car “Nodding Donkeys” and a few Class 150 dmus. Despite the inferior nature of the stock heavy traffic was handled at Burley Park, Headingly, Horsforth, Pannal, Hornbeam Park and Harrogate

SCOTRAIL Abellio Scotrail the TOC at present operating the Scotrail franchise, has been fined £1.6m. It failed to achieve the required standard in 22 of the 34 categories that are monitored. The company operates long distance services such as Glasgow to Aberdeen with rather basic dmus that are often overcrowded, have toilets locked out of use, and seen by many to be quite inadequate for key services between the major cities. There is the promise of upgraded coaches from old HST sets but they are taking a long time to appear.

EGIP The electrification of the route has cost £858m – £100m more than budgeted.

GLASGOW QUEEN STREET The short platform 1 in the High Level part of the station has been lengthened using space created by the removal of the ticket office. This marks the completion of Stage 1 of the station upgrade.

STIRLING AREA The electrification of the lines from Greenhill Lower Junction to Polmont, Larbert, Stirling, and on to Dunblane and Alloa is making good progress. The newly erected overhead wires between Greenhill Lower Jct and Polmont Junction went live from 01 May 2018.

7 May 2018

STRIKES Continuing 24 hour strikes by the RMT Union over the future roles of the guard/train manager and the driver and who should open/close the train doors will affect South West Trains and the Isle of Wight line on May 9, 11. 14, 16 and 18 2018. The Northern and Anglia TOCs will also be affected by a separate strike on 9 May 2018.

CLASS 73 LOCOS Un-refurbished class 73/1 and 73/2 locomotives are being put out of use by GB Railfreight pending a decision on their possible future use.

BRIGHTON LINE Because of engineering work over the May Bank Holiday weekend the Victoria – Brighton line was closed south of Gatwick Airport and replacement buses laid on. Other engineering work meant that possible alternative routes to Brighton were also closed. The bus replacements proved inadequate for the heavier than usual traffic on a hot and extremely sunny weekend. The result was chaos at Gatwick Airport station with some passengers waiting for two hours before they managed to get on a bus. Eventually the ticket offices at Victoria were ordered to stop selling tickets for Brighton.

HYTHE The Hythe Pier Heritage Centre has been approved as a body suitable to acquire and restore the 1881 Pier and railway.

GREATER ANGLIA Hot drinks and snacks at your seat service has been re-introduced on 24 expresses daily between London and Norwich after a ten year gap.

NEWARK Virgin East Coast has invested £1.2m upgrading the Northgate Station to improve access and relieve congestion at pinch-points following a steady rise in traffic during recent years.

BIRMINGHAM INTERNATIONAL The station is to receive a £286m upgrade to transform it by 2021 into a multi-modal interchange between the existing main line and local rail services, HS2, air services at the adjacent airport, bus and tram services, cars, taxis and bikes. Part of the complex, a “mover system”, gives a direct link between HS2 trains and the airport terminals 1.2 miles away.

MIDLANDS METRO The Metro will be re-titled West Midlands Metro from 24 June 2018 when the West Midlands Combined Authority will take over the Metro from present owner Altram, a subsidiary of National Express. It is expected that with new advertising that will be quite separate from those for local bus routes, traffic on the metro will rise as much as four-fold. The West Midlands Combined Authority has sanctioned a new stop at Willenhall on the site of the original railway station at a cost of £4m. It will be served by a restored tram route linking Wolverhampton and Walsall. Trams will use battery power on the extensions past Birmingham Town Hall and from Wolverhampton St Georges to the railway station where there will be no overhead wires. A very major water main in Wednesbury was ruptured on 26 April 2018 and surrounding roads were flooded to a depth of up to 10 feet. Access to Wednesbury Parkway car park was flooded and emergency “keep away from the area” notices were broadcast on local TV and radio stations.

LIVERPOOL A new inter modal service between Liverpool Docks and Central Scotland started on 6 May 2018. The new station at Maghull North (Ormskirk route) is to open on 18 June 2018.

MANCHESTER The population of Greater Manchester is expected to rise to over three million by 2040 and planning to expand public transport facilities to meet this increase are under way. The Metrolink Trafford Centre extension will be open in 2020 and many new trams will be added to the fleet. Interchanges at Bolton, Wythenshawe, and Altrincham have been completed and work on others at Wigan, Stockport, and Ashton-under-Lyne will begin soon. 6.5 million passengers use Manchester’s transport every weekday.
BLACKPOOL NORTH Virgin Trains are to operate 35 additional through Pendolino trains per week between Euston and Blackpool North commencing 21 May 2018. There will be four trains each way on weekdays and three on Saturdays. The existing early morning train to London and 1633 return will continue to operate.

BLACKPOOL TRAMS A failed attempt to steal part of the overhead power wires near Bispham in the early hours of 21 April 2018 meant that no trams could operate north of North Pier for several hours while repairs were undertaken. The tram service came equal top (with the Glasgow Subway) in the of national passenger survey with 97% of users expressing satisfaction at the service – 6% higher than any other operator.

NEXUS The Tyne and Wear Metro station at South Shields is to be totally rebuilt as part of a new £21m interchange. Nexus is contacting 200,000 households to establish residents’ regular travel patterns enabling better planning on behalf of the North East Combined Authority.

CARLISLE A completely new roof with a 50m span across the main tracks has replaced the 19th century structure that was beyond repair. Instead of glass panels, the new roof has panels of ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) similar to those at Birmingham New Street and Manchester Victoria.

SCOTLAND Delivery from Hitachi of the new Class 385 emus for the Glasgow – Polmont – Edinburgh service continues but the factory at Newton Aycliffe is too busy to undertake the necessary fitting of new windscreens which will be done at Springburn Works in Glasgow. A computer software problem has also been resolved. Class 365 emus, moved from store at Ely, will operate the service initially, be based at Millerhill and Eastfield Depots, and serviced at Shields Depot. They will run mostly as 8 car trains, carry Scotrail logos, and have both cycle and wheelchair spaces. Driver training will need to be completed before the 365s enter public service.

GLASGOW Queen Street Station has come bottom in a Transport Focus survey of major stations with only 58% of passengers expressing satisfaction with the facilities. The station is eight months into a major rebuild and the ticket office has been found a temporary home in a shop on the opposite side of Dundas Street on the west side of the station. Not very convenient but a reminder of the origin of the station’s earlier name. The next three low scoring stations are Gatwick Airport 66%, Oxford 67% and Clapham Junction 69%.

ISLE OF MAN The Douglas horse tram stables that were built in 1877 and could hold up to twenty horses have been purchased by the Isle of Man Government for £600,000. This is to ensure that the island’s heritage infrastructure is retained. A planned move of the stables to a site near the Summerland complex will not now proceed.

20 April 2018

YAPTON LEVEL CROSSING There are plans to upgrade the crossing near Bognor Regis from automatic half-barrier operation to CCTV full barrier. 8000 road vehicles and 300 trains use the crossing every weekday and there are many offences each day with drivers driving around the half barriers. With full barriers the gates would be closed across the road for longer than now but the risk of a collision on the crossing would be much reduced.

THAMESLINK The new timetable for the north – south route across London will commence on 20 May 2018. It will interchange with the east – west Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) at Farringdon. New through routes will feature in the timetable – such as Cambridge – Brighton. The services will be provided by Govia Thameslink Railway, the UK’s largest train operating company. The will use 115 new Siemens trains serving a total of 140 stations compared with just 60 in the previous timetable. The new Class 700 trains need to be modified to provide a continuous corridor along the train. They will be able to accelerate or decelerate automatically without the presence of a driver.

GATWICK AIRPORT The station serving the Airport is becoming overcrowded and now handles 19m passenger yearly compared with 7.5m twenty years ago. The concourse is to be doubled in area, and a total of eight new escalators, five new lifts, and four new stairways will improve passenger access to the platforms. Platforms 4/5 are now seriously overcrowded and will be widened.

STATIONS TAKEOVER Both Clapham Junction and Guildford stations are being taken over by Network Rail as the first stage of enlarging facilities there in moves to reduce growing congestion at both stations. At Guildford there will be an additional platform and track alterations.

CROSSRAIL – ELIZABETH LINE. A proposal to extend the new route to Ebbsfleet is being pursued actively. The new services along the route will involve 42km of new tunnels and has been/will be introduced in stages – as follows.
1. Liverpool Street – Shenfield locals: June 2017.
2. Heathrow – Paddington main line platforms: May 2018.
3. Paddington Elizabeth Line platforms – Abbey Wood: December 2018.
4. Paddington Elizabeth Line platforms – Shenfield: May 2019.
5. Full services including to Reading: December 2019.

HEATHROW EXPRESS The Great Western TOC will operate the Heathrow Express service to/from Paddington using twelve of its class 387 Electrostar emus modified to include First Class accommodation, high speed wi-fi, and extra luggage space. New ticket readers at Heathrow and Paddington will enable the use of Oyster Cards and contactless ticketing.

CLASS 319/769 EMUS Class 319 emus built in 1987-8 and being converted by Brush Traction into Class 769 FLEX units through the fitting of a pair of MAN D2876 523hp diesel engines to drive the ABB alternators for the existing electric traction systems. Five of the 769s will go to Arriva Trains Wales, eleven will go to Northern, and nineteen to the Great Western Railway.

TRANSPORT for LONDON So that the new signalling could be tested no services were operated on the Circle Line or the Hammersmith Line between Edgware Road and Hammersmith, or on the District Line between Edgware Road and High Street Kensington on 31 March and 01 April 2018. District Line drivers are proposing a 24 hour strike in support of a new driver who operated his train through red signals on three occasions and lost his job as a result.

LONDON BRIDGE The new footbridges at the London Bridge and East Croydon stations have had to be closed during the recent winter weather because ice had formed on the steps making them dangerous to use. A similar new bridge at Haywards Heath station has not had any problems because of ice – that bridge has an all-over roof.

WANDSWORTH The 138 year old Fairfield Bridge was successfully replaced over Easter weekend at a cost of £5.5m. Signalling between Vauxhall and Clapham Junction was also replaced together with strengthening work on Rocks Lane bridge which spans all four platforms at Barnes Station.

GREATER ANGLIA The TOC has paid a customer whose rush hour service was very frequently late the sum of £462. The commuter was awarded damages by the Courts but the Company declined to pay. When the Court then threatened to send in bailiffs to seize property in order to pay the commuter the awarded sum, Greater Anglia TOC then promptly paid up.

LUTON AIRPORT Construction began during April 2018 on the DART (Direct Air Rail Transit) link between Luton Airport Parkway Station and the Airport terminals. When completed it will be possible to complete a St Pancras – Airport terminals trip in just 30 minutes.

CLACTON The branch was closed on 14 March 2018 after a landslip at Thorrington washed away the track bed. After emergency repairs services were restored on 19 March 2018.

MANCHESTER Twenty seven additional trams are to be obtained at a cost of £83m. Most will be used to bolster services on the Bury line where most services comprise only a single tram. Three new trams will strengthen services to the Airport with the line extended through to Terminal 2. The system will eventually have 147 trams with a weekday requirement of 135 in service.

GUISLEY A landslip on 03 April 2018 made it impossible to operate a through Leeds – Ilkley service for several days.

BLACKPOOL A booklet has been published showing the new tramway timetable that will apply from 25 March 2018 throughout the summer and the illuminations period. On weekdays trams will operate between Starr Gate and Fleetwood every ten minutes throughout the day dropping in the evenings to half hourly all the way to Fleetwood plus a half-hourly Starr Gate – Little Bispham shuttle. On Friday and Saturday evenings during the Illuminations, trams will operate every 7.5 minutes between Starr Gate and Little Bispham, to Cleveleys four times per hour, and half hourly to Fleetwood. On Sundays trams will run every ten minutes between Starr Gate and Little Bispham with four per hour to Cleveleys and two per hour to Fleetwood. During the winter of 2018-9 trams will operate four times per hour over the full route dropping to half-hourly in the evenings. Blackpool North Station reopened with limited services on 16 April 2018.

TYNE & WEAR METRO Nexus is undertaking trials of a card-only fare payment system. The present payment process involves inserting money into machines which are being broken into quite frequently. Three of the eight ticket machines at Newcastle Central now accept payment by credit or debit card only to determine how acceptable payment by card is to the public.

CLASS 385 STOCK There is a problem getting a sufficient number of these new trains into service. Because Transport Scotland wishes to have a corridor right through an entire train Hitachi has experienced difficulty in finding time to redesign the ends of each unit and then having the time and space in which to undertake the work.

DUNBAR The East Coast Main Line station has a single platform on a loop line so that non-stop services can speed along the main Line without passing the platform. Because of rising traffic a second platform is to be built reached by a footbridge equipped with lifts.

EDINBURGH TRAMS Four bidders have been shortlisted to build the extension to Leith and Newhaven. The building of the Newhaven section appears to be “on” again!

ALLOA Buses have replaced trains on the 6 mile branch from Stirling from 17 March 2018 until 16 April 2018 while 261 masts and cantilevers are installed for the planned electrification of the route.

ISLE OF MAN The first Snaefell Mountain Railway service of the 2018 season started on Good Friday 30 March 2018 – one day later than planned wile Health and Safety experts made final checks that the braking system modifications met requirements. The Horse Tram service along the Promenade did restart as planned on 29 March 2018.

21 March 2018

HOW TO FUND A NEW RAILWAY Planning for two new railways is in an active phase. One is for a short line that will provide a service from Waterloo to Heathrow Airport coming to the Airport from the south. The other is the lengthy route between Oxford and Cambridge via Milton Keynes much of the eastern end being a totally new line. House builders have been buying up farm land in anticipation of the railway transforming the value of this land. A plot large enough for a house with garden is valued at £1,000. The same plot with a nearby station can be worth £100,000. The East West Railway Coy has been set up at the suggestion of the Transport Secretary to build the new Oxford – Cambridge route but will receive no Government funding.
With the railway in place the developers/house builders will make a fortune. If there is no railway the developers will get nothing so the East West Company is in discussion with the developers who are happy to make large financial contributions to ensure that the railway will be built. The first trains from Oxford to a new hub at Cambridge South are expected to operate in 2027 – 30.

LEWISHAM – PUBLIC ON TRACK During the evening peak on 02 March 2018 delays to services of led to disgruntled passengers taking action of a potentially dangerous nature. A train only a short distance from the platforms at Lewisham station had been stuck for around two hours and passengers pushed the emergency buttons to enable the doors to be opened. Some then climbed down to the ground and walked to the station along the track fortunately avoiding the power carrying third rail. Horrified railway staff had to turn the power off meaning that other trains that were still moving became stationary. The power was turned on again at 2140 when it was certain that all passengers were clear of the tracks.

SOUTH WEST TRAINS The combination of a signalling failure and a points failure at different locations ensured that hardly any trains were able to run during the a.m. Peak on 21 March 2018.

CROYDON AREA IMPROVEMENTS Engineering firm Atkins has won the contract to undertake a series of upgrades to help speed traffic through the Croydon area. There will be two additional platforms at East Croydon station and major work to create grade separation at the junctions in the Selhurst area.

ELIZABETH LINE Major upgrades on existing BR lines that will be connected to the new Line were completed during the first half of March 2018. Existing tracks were connected to the new Line through the tunnel openings at Pudding Mill Lane, Plumstead, and Westbourne Park. The long sidings for the new trains at Gidea Park were completed. Signalling for the new service was updated as far as Shenfield. The power was switched on for the new Old Oak Common Depot sidings and the Depot became live with the first of the new staff taking up their posts. The London Mayor has confirmed that fares charged on Elizabeth Line services within zones 1-6 will be similar to those charged on existing services. The Heathrow Connect service will be transferred to LUL on 20 May 2018 and fares charged thereafter will be lower than the present fares.

LONDON CABLE CAR TO BE SOLD The cable car link across the Thames in the Docklands area is to be sold off as one of a series of moves designed to trim loss-making services. The “Boris Bike” scheme that makes available bicycles for use around the city centre may also face the chop.

THAMESLINK New across-London through services are being increased gradually. The first pair of Brighton – Cambridge services started on 08 March 2018 with a second on 12 March 2018. It is planned to increase through services to six pairs before the full service starts in May 2018. These are eight car trains worked by class 700 emus but they are proving to be unpopular. The seats feel uncomfortable since they have less padding and feel hard. The reduction in the padding means that over the length of a carriage a few extra seats can be squeezed in.

LUL – KENNINGTON The Bank route platforms will be closed from 26 May 2018 until mid September 2018 while four passageways are constructed for the Northern Line Battersea branch that will open in 2020.

D-TRAINS Vivarail’s D-Trains are to be tested in several North American cities to demonstrate how former London Underground trains can be the basis for low-cost rolling stock for use on new commuter services in cities that had felt that new rolling stock was so expensive that new routes could not be tried out.

MANNINGTREE Greater Anglia’s plans for a new Depot here may have to be re-thought. The purchase of the required land has not been completed and the present owner is proving difficult to satisfy. It is proving difficult to achieve satisfactory road access and a nearby level crossing has significant road traffic and the increased volume of rail traffic might cause unacceptable delays. to road traffic.

DERBY WORKS The last class 387 emu left the works on 05 March 2018.

CREWE A new Crewe Hub station is proposed as part of the HS2 project. The junctions would be redesigned and a high-speed link to Stoke included.

MANCHESTER PICCADILLY The plans for the HS2 station in Manchester show it to be alongside the existing Piccadilly Station immediately on its north side. There will be a substantial opportunity for retail outlets in the expanded station.

BLACKPOOL TRAMS Blackpool Council will be investing £600,000 from its traffic management budget into the branch from the Coastal Tramway to Blackpool North Station. The extension will cost £6.4m.

GLASGOW Work continues at the Queen Street terminus with the demolition of the buildings that hide most of the station from view. The entrance to the station from George Square will become attractive and the beautiful arch roof will be seen to advantage. The booking office and staff block have been demolished and this will allow platform 1 to be extended to a similar length as the other platforms in the High Level part of the station.

AUCHENBACK Scotrail has announced that it will build new stations in locations which may have reasonable traffic prospects but will close them after a year or so if sufficient traffic has not emerged. The first will be Auchenback serving a large housing area in the southern part of Barrhead and the adjacent Darnley Country Park. The station will be on the Neilston branch midway between Patterton and Neilston, and will be a little distance from the houses, but will include a car park and a bus interchange. The Neilston branch is rather quiet after the first two stations, Muirend and Williamwood, which are busy all day long. Next, Whitecraigs serves Rouken Glen public park but still has a few regular users who arrive in a chauffeur driven car. Patterton lies isolated in the fields but has some park and ride traffic from new housing areas a mile away. Next will be Auchenback and finally is Neilston – well placed in a large village. If successful Auchenback will bring a source of significant traffic to a thinly used line. The route once went on to the Clyde Coast at Ardrossan and Irvine to compete with the G & SW Railway routes from St Enoch terminus.

EDINBURGH TRAMS A further consultation started in March 2018 into aspects of the traffic management plans and road layout changes in connection with the tram extension to Leith and Newhaven. Some roads could be closed for as long as 18 months during the construction of the new tramway.

NORTH BERWICK The service to North Berwick was cancelled during the recent heavy snow falls and continued to be cancelled on 5 – 8 March 2018 due to a lack of rolling stock many units having been knocked out by the earlier heavy snow

2 March 2018

STRIKE THREAT The RMT Union has issued the threat of a further 24 hour strike against the Northern and Merseyrail TOCs on 03 March 2018. The dispute concerns the role of the on-board conductor who would lose the door opening function to the train driver – a change which the RMT sees as a passenger safety issue. The Union is to organise a vote of conductors employed by Scotrail on the same issue.

WEATHER – RED WARNING Dreadful weather with heavy snowfalls in Scotland blocking roads occurred on Feb 27 – March 1 2018. In Scotland all forms of transport (road, rail, air and many ferry links) were cancelled for much of 28 February and 1 March 2018, while there was considerable disruption across England and Wales, especially in the south west of England. Red warnings, signifying a danger to life, were issued for the first time in Scotland and in Devon and Somerset.

LONDON The number of people using the buses and the Underground has slipped a little during the past year resulting in a decrease in fares income by around £56m. Since an earlier Mayor instituted a fares freeze cutting expected income by around £150m, the overall financial position of London’s public transport has become precarious. The situation is much more complex than a fare freeze reducing income. In fact during the fares freeze of several years ago passenger numbers rose very encouragingly but the recent position has very different reasons. Suburban heavy rail services, especially those of the Southern TOC, have been subject to strike actions making travel by rail from the suburbs unattractive. This has led to some former commuters doing more business from home and avoiding the perils of strike-affected suburban services to the city, followed by an inhumanly overcrowded trip on a tube train These former travellers have found a more comfortable way to conduct their business lives. Angel Road station in north east London is being rebuilt on a location 300 yards south of the existing station. A huge housing complex is being built nearby and is the reason for the rebuilding. The station is likely to be renamed Meridian Water after the housing development.

REDHILL Engineering work on the Brighton Main Line on Sunday 25 February 2018 resulted in chaos at Redhill where substitute bus to Gatwick Airport either did not turn up at the correct time or simply proved to be inadequate to shift the crowd of up to 1000 passengers. The responsibility for organising the buses lay with Govia as the franchise holder. The engineering work was to extend over the following four Sundays.

SOUTHERN At around 0847 on 17 February 2018 a Horsham to Bognor local service struck a car which had driven round the half-barriers of Barns Green level crossing. The car was fragmented and the two passengers on board were killed instantly. A bus shuttle was laid on between Horsham and Pulborough for the rest of the day while the wreckage was removed and a damaged crossing control box was replaced.

CROYDON TRAMLIN K The service pattern was altered from 25 February 2018 to provide more regular services creating more capacity on crowded sections. Trams will depart Wimbledon every five minutes (formerly every 7 – 8 minutes) with alternate trains proceeding to Beckenham Junction or Elmers End. Both terminals will be served every ten minutes. New Addington trams will continue to operate every 7 – 8 minutes but will no longer run on the Wimbledon and instead will operate round the West Croydon Loop before returning to New Addington.

EAST CROYDON The Department of Transport has released funds to enable planning to reduce the Croydon Bottleneck caused by trains from several London termini coming together at East Croydon station before heading off to different routes. There will be two additional platforms and converging routes from London termini will be redesigned to use split level junctions. Physical work will commence in 2019.

THAMESLINK For the first time in three years calls at London Bridge resumed on 26 February 2018. Passenger complaints about the seats on the Class 700 emus being introduced on services are growing rapidly in number. They are considered to be too hard because they have little depth of cushion. Tall passengers find insufficient room for their knees. If there was a deep cushion on the seat the space between seats would need to be increased and the capacity of each coach would be reduced significantly.

ELIZABETH LINE The first emu to traverse the new Cross-London tunnels did so in an east to west direction on 25 February 2018.

DOCKLANDS LIGHT RAILWAY Custom House station was reopened on 08 January 2018 after an eleven month closure to allow construction of a complex interchange with the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail). An electrical fault under the floor of a train while stopped at Pontoon Dock station at 1100 on 19 February 2018 caused a loud bang then a small fire producing a lot of smoke. Passengers were evacuated and two were injured in the rush to get out. Services returned to normal after a couple of hours.

CROSS CITY LINE University station, on Birmingham’s Cross-City Line, has become so busy at peak hours that the platforms are now too narrow to handle the crowds safely. The “to city” platform was widened a couple of years ago by the removal of a popular shop but to widen most of the platform land would have to be purchased. The “from city” platform is adjacent to one of the city’s busier canals making widening difficult.

MIDLAND METRO The failure of the engineering firm Carillion has delayed work on the extension towards Five Ways. The recent e-auction of most of the original stock produced a disappointing result. Thirteen of the T69 trams were sold for scrap for just £12,000. Tram 7 was donated to UK Tram – an official body representing the tram construction industry. Tram 11, which is in historic Birmingham Transport colours and is named after Cllr Theresa Stewart, Lord Mayor of Birmingham in 2000 -1 has been donated to Birmingham Museum. Slightly newer tram 16 was not included in the sale and remains at Wednesbury Depot.

WOLVERHAMPTON Delays to the reconstruction of the heavy rail station will delay work to extend the tramway to a new tram and train station and cost at least an extra £800,000.

SIEMENS The train assembly company has indicated that if it wins the contract to build the HS2 trains or for a new fleet on the London Underground, it will build a new assembly plant in Goole.

CARLISLE The broad footbridge that takes passengers to/from the western side of the station has now been supplemented by lifts leading down from the concourse to link with a passageway under the four tracks of the WCML.

GLASGOW AREA Services into Glasgow Central were disrupted on the morning of 20 February 2018 by a signal failure at Newton and a burst water main near Kirkhill. Trains from Central towards Kirkhill ran as far as Burnside but the route through Kirkhill towards Newton remained closed during 21 February while a considerable amount of debris was cleared from the tracks. The signal failure at Newton caused delays and cancellations to services from Larkhall, Lanark, and Shotts but this was put right in time for the evening peak. The main line from Edinburgh via Falkirk was disrupted during the morning of 20 February 2018 by a signal failure at Greenhill. A new footbridge has been erected at Westerton It cost £2.8m and includes stairs and elevators.

EDINBURGH TRAMWAY The 8.7 mile long tramway carried heavy traffic during the afternoon of 22 February 2018. Although many stops along nearly half of the route serve industrial and commercial sites rather than residential properties many passengers were homeward-bound from the city centre. At Edinburgh Park stop there is a large hotel adjacent to the stop, while at Gyle Central there are offices to the west and a major shopping centre to the east. The fares charged are to alter slightly on 25 February 2018. The single fare on most of the system is to rise from £1.60 to £1.70 with a return ticket staying at £3.20. The single to the Airport will remain £6. The trams run every 7 – 8 minutes through weekdays and every ten minutes in the evening. However as the evening rush hour drew near trams were operating as frequently as every three minutes. A final decision on the plan to extend the route to Leith and Newhaven will be taken during this autumn.

EDINBURGH GATEWAY tram stop and Scotrail station are situated beside the city end of the Depot. The heavy rail station is at a much higher elevation compared to the tramway stop. The tram stop has an all-over roof and there are three ticket machines in a small concourse at the tramway level. There are escalators and an elevator plus conventional stairs taking passengers up to the heavy rail station from where trains operate across the Forth Railway Bridge to a variety of destinations in Fife then a wide range of more distant destinations including Dundee, Aberdeen, and Inverness. There is a staffed ticket office at the station. Despite the elaborate facilities provided, use of the interchange has been modest so far.

13 February 2018

FRANCHISE CHANGES There is a likelihood that the operators of the EAST COAST franchise will run out of funds within a few months and the franchise will have to be run by the Department of Transport until a new franchise arrangement can be organised. The franchise is run by Stagecoach (90%) and Virgin (10%) and required a steady growth in passengers carried if their optimistic view of the profitability of the services was to be attained. In fact passenger numbers, though high, have shown little growth. The franchise was to be cut by three years because of the ailing finances but the situation seems to have become much worse and an early termination is probable. However the WEST COAST franchise run by Virgin is doing well and registered a profit of over £50m after paying the required sums to the Department and Virgin have been rewarded by a year extension of the franchise.

HITACHI CLASS 802 STOCK The first of the 802s was displayed at the Pistoia plant in Italy on 9 February 2018. A fleet of 36 bi-mode (diesel and 25 kV ac) inter-city units will be used on the Paddington to Exeter, Plymouth, and Penzance services taking over from the diesel high-speed trains dating from the 1970s. The new trains are being financed by the Eversholt Rail Group. Meanwhile three 802s built by the Kasado factory in Japan have been shipped to the UK for main line testing. The full fleet will have been delivered by January 2019 with a new train arriving in the UK about every two weeks. Trains will start to enter service on 16 July 2019 and the entire fleet will have started public operation by March 2020.

DOCKLANDS The light railway is facing periodic 48 hour strikes by cleaners, security staff, and travel safe officers. The most recent strikes happened early in February 2018 and will happen on 22-24 February 2018.

SOUTH LONDON The introduction of a crowd management system at BROCKLEY station on 05 February 2018 has resulted in chaos. Entry for the large number of commuters has been restricted to one entrance and crowds have gathered in the street at peak times. The way out passes through the ticket hall. How a passenger is supposed to obtain a ticket before travelling is unclear.
An electrical fire in a shoe beam resulted in a South Western Railway emu coming to a halt in BERRYLANDS station on the afternoon of 06 February 2018.

GOSPEL OAK – BARKING Electrification work was completed on 15 January 2018 with testing of the new overhead line equipment undertaken by a class 378 emu on 7-9 February 2018. Public services are planned to re-start in May 2018.

EAST COAST MAIN LINE A reason given for the financial failure of the Stagecoach/Virgin franchise is the failure of National Rail to undertake an upgrade of the infrastructure to allow operation at 140 mph.

METRO – CAMMELL WORKS The famous railway works situated at Washwood Heath in east Birmingham, owned recently by Colas Rail, is being demolished to make way for HSS2. Colas Rail is relocating to Nottingham.

NOTTINGHAM On 07 February 2018 an empty pushchair was caught in the doors of a tram and carried for 430m between Radford Road and Hyson Green Market. The mother, who was holding her child, tried to attract the attention of the driver but was unsuccessful. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch issued an immediate warning stressing the need for tram drivers to make visual checks of the doors before starting.

SUTTON COLDFIELD The 320 space car park is to be resurfaced during the period 19 February to 04 March 2018. An area with 120 spaces will be dealt with first then the remaining 200 space area will be resurfaced from 26 February. On 04 March the entrance area to the car park will be tackled and the entire car park will be closed throughout that day.

MANCHESTER METROLINK On the Rochdale via Oldham route a little over half of the services run only as far as Shaw and Crompton. Both lifts taking passengers up to the platforms at Failsworth are out of use with no sign of repairs being undertaken soon. The multi-storey car park at Hollinwood seems to be well used as is the open-air car park at Derker. The single track section through the Newton Heath and Moston stop exists to allow a heavy rail siding to operate into a refuse handling centre. However judging by the rust level on the rails there has been no BR freight activity for some time. At Victoria intending passengers, of whom there are many, must cross the tracks to reach or leave the platforms and there have been many “near misses”. Two members of staff are now employed during the day to prevent passengers crossing as a tram approaches.

CLASS 331. The first class 331 “Civity” emu for Arriva Trains Northern was displayed at the CAF Zaragoza factory on 31 January 2018. These trains will be based at Allerton Depot in Liverpool, and will be used on the Manchester – Preston – Blackpool North route. Thirty one 3-car and twelve 4-car units are on order with Eversholt supplying the finance.

ISLE OF MAN It is hoped to reopen the Snaefell line on 29 March 2018 following the overhaul of the brake system on all cars. It has been decided that a new brake system would not be fitted. However a Manx Government prohibition order exists and it will not be lifted to allow operation of the railway until the trains have been fully examined and the braking system is declared safe.

GLASGOW AREA Evening peak services between Glasgow and Ayrshire were disrupted when a train struck a trespasser on the track near Elderslie at 1622 on 07 February 2018. Four new sidings have been laid at Eastfield Depot, in Cowlairs, on which the new Class 385 trains will be stored overnight. A target running time between Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh Waverley is just 39 minutes.

EDINBURGH Traffic on the tramway rose by 19% during 2017. The ticket machines have been upgraded to receive payment by use of contactless cards. There has been no word about the extension to Leith and Newhaven.

16 January 2018

SOUTHAMPTON An £8m update project at Central Station will see the replacement of some of the track and 6000m of cabling will be replaced.

DIDCOT The first electric public service train to operate west of Reading was the 1507 from Paddington to Didcot Parkway on 28 December 2017.

CAF The construction company is to build a new factory at the Celtic Business Park in Newport (Mon). It will be capable of building tramcars, suburban or inter-city trains and high-speed trains.

BRIGHTON LINE Major improvements to the drainage are to be made in four tunnels along the southern half of the Brighton main line in an effort to provide a more reliable service for the 300,000 daily users. There will be no trains during two short periods – 20 – 28 October 2018 and 16 – 24 February 2019.

LONDON BRIDGE Reconstruction of the London terminus was more or less completed by the end of 2017. The massive new concourse was completed during a ten day closure of the station over the Christmas and New Year period and is as large as the Wembley football pitch. All fifteen platforms are linked together for the first time by the new concourse.

KINGS CROSS The track layout along the approaches to Kings Cross terminus are to be modified with six tracks instead of four through Gasworks Tunnel. The revised layout extends to just before Copenhagen Tunnel through which there are still only four tracks. The whole area will be resignalled and it will be possible to handle the significant increase in long distance services planned for 2021.

DOCKLANDS Custom House station was reopened on 8 January 2018 after a closure lasting nearly eleven months to allow engineering work for the new Elizabeth Line.

TRANSPORT FOR LONDON TfL is considering the sale and lease back of some of its Underground rolling stock in order to raise capital for the purchase of new stock for the Piccadilly Line by 2023.

GOSPEL OAK – BARKING Overground services are to resume along this route from 15 January 2018 with trains every fifteen minutes (twenty minutes during late evening). The route had been closed for several months for electrification work and a number of civil engineering improvements. Freight services hauled by electric locomotives will also use the line.

MIDLAND METRO The increased penalty fare for fare dodgers is increased to £70 compared with the present £10 and is intended to encourage all travellers to pay their fare.

HS2 – MIDLANDS Aston Villa football club have expressed concern that the planned route for HS2 will run across their training ground at Bodymoor Heath and an alternative proposal would take the line immediately alongside the training ground. The noise of the trains would disturb the First Team’s training procedures.

NOTTINGHAM A severe fire at Nottingham Station on 12 January 2018 halted all trains and trams and resulted in the closure of roads near the station. A £50m upgrade to the station had been completed recently and the fire was thought to be the result of arson. Trams to/from the northern suburbs were able to operate but the Clifton and Toton Lane lines remained closed until 1600 when more or less full tram services resumed except that the Nottingham Station stop remained closed.

ROTHERHAM Low level platforms at the Central Station for use by the tram service have now been completed and a start to the tram service is likely to be in September 2018.

LIVERPOOL Lime Street station was closed on 7 and 8 January 2017 following the discovery of severe corrosion in a structure carrying the overhead wires over all four tracks leading into the station. During the repair work trains turned at South Parkway station.

GLASGOW AREA The station cat at Hyndland station went missing on 18 December 2017 and a large number of regular passengers searched the surrounding streets. The cat, Hermes, was found on 2 January 2018 having apparently wandered into the adjacent suburban area and become disorientated. Hermes actually belongs to a couple in a nearby flat but spends most of his time at the station being fed by commuters.. The new trains ordered for the Glasgow Subway will be the first trains in the UK to run with no staff on board.

28 December 2017

SNOW A heavy snowfall over much of the UK during the early hours of 27 December 2017 caused widespread disruption to transport. Stansted Airport was closed for several hours while there were long delays at Bristol, Birmingham, and Luton Airports while snow was removed from the runways.

ISLAND LINE The discussion about what can be done to keep the Ryde Pier to Shanklin line open continues. The floor of Ryde Tunnel (twin single track bores) was raised in 1967 to reduce the risk of flooding but the resultant reduced headroom means that modern efficient rolling stock need more than the available headroom. The floor could be lowered again and modern powerful pumps could prevent flooding. An extension from Shanklin to Ventnor through a 1200 yard long tunnel could be cost effective if modern stock was used. Reopening the branch to Newport would bring the rail service back to the island’s largest town and an arrangement could be made with the steam heritage railway which uses much of the Newport route for steam trains to run during the day with modern trains operating at peak times and off-season.

WEST COASTWAY Services were disrupted when a large lorry became wedged under the bridge taking the line over Fonthill Road, near Hove station, at 1030 am on 15 December 2017.

SALFORDS A footbridge is being built across the four-track Brighton main line near Salfords to replace a footpath crossing giving access to Salfords Primary School. The railway has around 700 services per day, most moving at 90 mph, and the foot crossing has been deemed to be a major potential danger spot since the children may not be able to judge the speed of approaching trains.

EAST CROYDON The experimental installation of a double row of small blue lights along the edge of platforms 1 and 2 has been deemed a success and the lights are to be fitted along all platforms at the station.

TILBURY LINES Bombardier is to supply ten 6-car Aventra emus to the c2c TOC so that capacity on the overcrowded services can be increased.

MIDLAND MAIN LINE The installation of masts for the Bedford – Corby electrification has started near Kettering.

LONDON EUSTON The massive concourse at Euston station was transformed on Christmas Day, when no trains operated, and the whole area was set out with tables and chairs. Around 200 homeless people were given a free quality turkey Christmas lunch.

SHEFFIELD A new tram timetable is to be introduced on 28 January 2018. Increasing traffic on the roads has made it difficult to keep to the present timetable so running times will be eased slightly and turn round time at termini will be increased slightly.

WEST MIDLANDS Improvements were completed to the signalling system around New Street station during the week between Christmas and New Year The Stour Valley stopping service was replaced by buses and the Cross City Line operated every 20 minutes. A reduced service applied between New Street and Birmingham International with buses replacing trains between Rugby and Northampton.

MANCHESTER A Strategic Transport Board is to be set up to ensure that new transport projects are in line with the plan to create joined-up transport services across the city. On Metrolink a third track is being built at Crumpsall which will be used by the new service from the Trafford Park line that will operate across the city centre to/from Crumpsall. It was considered that to turn the Trafford Park cars at Victoria could cause operational difficulties.

LIVERPOOL Services from the south turned at Liverpool South Parkway on 27 December 2017 with passengers changing to Merseyrail services to reach the city centre. An hourly service ran to/from Birmingham New Street serving local stops north of Crewe.

ISLE OF MAN The total number of passengers carried on the Steam, Snaefell and Electric Railways plus the horse tramway during March – November 2017 was 512,847 – breaking the half million level for the first time in recent years. Despite the shortened season due to operational problems, the Snaefell line carried 27% more traffic due to a sharp increase in the number of group travel bookings. A week of celebrations with special services will mark the 125th Anniversary of the opening of the first section of the Manx Electric Railway during 01-08 September 2018.

BLACKPOOL A major redevelopment project for Fleetwood Quays includes building a tram:train link to Poulton along the disused Fleetwood branch line. One option is to operate this service with heritage trams and for a link to the existing tramway to Blackpool be made at the Fleetwood terminus.

AYR A derailment of an emu at Ayr Depot late on 21 December 2017 meant that some units were trapped in the sidings and the morning service to Glasgow was reduced until the derailed train could be brought back on to the rails and moved away at around 10.00 am.

EDINBURGH A free tram service will be provided between midnight and 0500 on New Year’s Day, 01 January 2018, with trams running every 20 minutes. In an effort to make the payment of the fare easy for as many passengers as possible, contactless technology is to be introduced on the trams.

13 December 2017

SNOW A heavy snow fall covered most of the UK on 10 December 2017 and as usual few were prepared for it and much of the country ground to a halt. Public transport services were hit with most cities taking their buses off the road. Travel on main roads by car was at best difficult while snow on runways resulted in the closure of Heathrow, Stansted, Luton and Birmingham Airports for at least part of the day. Even a Channel Ferry ran aground in Calais Harbour. Many rail services did continue to operate although some services ran at reduced speed and frequency.

ELECTROSTAR EMUS The last class 387 Electrostar emu was rolled out of Bombardier’s Derby factory on 24 November 2017 and after testing will see service along the Great Western main line out from Paddington. In all 2805 Electrostar vehicles were built starting in 1999 with class 357 and 375 units. They have been used by twelve Operating Companies while 24 units went to South Africa to operate the Gautrain service in Johannesburg. The production line at Derby will now produce the new Aventra trains.

ANGEL TRAINS have secured funding of £835m to build 665 Bombardier Aventra trains that will be leased to Abeilio Greater Anglia from 2019.

ISLE OF WIGHT The South Western Railway has proposed to use battery powered trains on the Island Line route between Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin. The existing electrical infrastructure is life expired and will be costly to replace.

CROYDON TRAMLINK The report issued on 07 December 2017 into the derailment of a tram on 9 November 2016 killing seven passengers and injuring fifty one has concluded that the driver had become unaware of his surroundings while the tram travelled on to a sharp curve at 73 km/hour. The driver had in effect fallen asleep. The curve had a speed limit of 20 km/hour, but there were no safety measures to protect the tram should the limit be exceeded. Various measures are now in place including monitoring the driver’s face to check that he is active and not asleep.

EAST COAST FRANCHISE The franchise to operate express train services along the ECML is to end in 2020, three years early. Stagecoach with Virgin operate the franchise which included the requirement for the operators to pay the Government £3bn in order to run the services until 2023 and the TOC considers that it cannot increase the traffic significantly and does not want to face significant losses as a result. Terminating the agreement in 2020 will save the operators payments of £2bn. A new franchise from 2020 will probably be a public-private “East Coast Partnership”.

EAST COAST SERVICES The new timetable introduced from 10 December 2017 sees the addition of a Saturday semi-fast hourly service between Kings Cross and Newark or York similar to the semi-fast service that operates on weekdays. As a result some calls at intermediate stations have been removed from longer distance expresses which are accordingly speeded up.

ROUTES TO REOPEN. Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, announced in late November 2017 that part of his plan to cut private car use because of growing road congestion would be the reopening railways closed during the Beeching era. In Bristol the Portishead and Henbury lines, and in Newcastle-upon-Tyne the Ashington route will be the first to have their service restored. An enthusiast preservation society has restarted summer-only services on the Swanage branch but this line may be taken over by Network Rail and daily services resumed.

FALSE ALARM An altercation between two men on the platform of Oxford Circus Central Line station at 1637 on 24 November 2017 triggered widespread alarm and resulted in the closure of both Oxford Circus and Bond Street stations while rumours spread that gunfire had been heard. Several people were injured in the panic that followed as people rushed to leave the stations and Oxford Street above. The Police cleared the area and closed both stations but found no evidence of gunfire allowing the stations and Street to reopen at around 2100.

WATFORD Around 1530 on 1st December 2017 damage was done to 500metres of the overhead power wire and also to pointwork in the same area. Because of this damage the fast lines were closed and services to/from Euston were disrupted because there was a shortage of engineering staff to handle the repairs. Eventually Euston was closed completely while repairs were undertaken and did not resume until about 1300 on Sunday 3rd December 2017.

MIDLAND METRO Services from Priestfield to Wolverhampton St George’s were restored from 10 December 2017 following the successful relaying of 2.8km of track along Bilston Road. The first low-speed test run along the new track took place during the night of 28 November 2017. Traffic at the reopened Wolverhampton St Georges and Royal stops was initially rather low but is expected to pick up quite rapidly once people realise that the service has restarted. The ride quality on the relaid track along Bilston Road is superbly smooth The original fleet of 16 Ansaldo T69 trams is to be sold through an e-auction during January 2018. It is proposed that the Penalty Fare for ticket-less travel will rise from £10 to £75 (£35 if paid within 21 days) if approved by the Department of Transport. The new charges would apply from January 2018 or whenever the Transport Department agrees.

WOLVERHAMPTON A signalling fault that put some points out of action meant that trains from the Birmingham direction could not enter Wolverhampton station for much of 6 December 2017. Stour Valley local trains to New Street were cancelled while longer distance trains for points north of the West Midlands were routed via the freight by-pass line and omitted the Wolverhampton call.

SOUTH SHIELDS A start to the demolition of existing structures on 01 December 2017 marked the beginning of the construction of the new £100m Transport Hub comprising the railway station and adjoining Bus Station.

GLASGOW AREA Evening rush hour services on the Queen Street Low Level routes were disrupted on 05 December 2017 following a major signalling failure in the Bellgrove area. Between 1630 and 1900 no trains were able to operate east of Queen Street and inevitably services on the rest of the system had to be reorganised in a rather chaotic manner. Public electric services between Glasgow Queen St HL and Edinburgh Waverley via Falkirk started on 9 December 2017 using Hitachi class 380 units. Delivery of the intended class 385 stock has been delayed and will not take over the service until March 2018. Services on the Bathgate route no longer have to handle the bulk of the Edinburgh – Glasgow fast services and evening services were trimmed from the10 December 2017 timetable change. The Airdrie – Balloch locals no longer run and instead the Waverley – Helensburgh trains call at all stations from Airdrie via Singer. The Cumbernauld – Dumbarton locals are extended to Balloch.

EDINBURGH No fares will be charged on a special tram service that will run during the night on Hogmanay (31 December 2017) until 0500 on New Year’s Day (01 January 2018).

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.