National Rail News Roundup – June 2011

A roundup of of all Network Rail projects currently underway in June 2011.

Thameslink Project Update

The Thameslink upgrade project is well underway creating some major new landmarks on the route through London. These will allow 12 coach trains to operate on the route from Bedford to the South coast via London from December this year.

These trains will operate through a rebuilt Farringdon, Blackfriars and London Bridge stations which have been heavily worked on for a couple of years. The Blackfriars and Farringdon station rebuilds will be completed by the Olympics next year and London Bridge by 2018.

In what Network Rail described as the jewel in the crown, Blackfriars has seen most engineering activity in the last couple of years. The tracks were slewed over Christmas to what will be their final position when the platform and roof works are complete.

The terminating bay platforms are now to the west of the through lines and Blackfriars Bridge has been widened with three rib arches added to carry the terminating lines. The London Underground (LU) escalators have been installed allowing Transport For London to complete their station rebuild which has been shut for two years while the work has been carried out and will reopen in December 2011.

The LU track protection shield, a concrete box similar to that used in the St. Pancras project a decade ago, was removed at Easter to allow platforms to be built and other ancillary work to be carried out. Structural steelwork is also being erected in June and July for the new Blackfriars north entrance and booking office.

The roof contains photovoltaic cells on the roof which will supply an estimated 10% of the station’s power requirements. The station’s south entrance will also be opened by next year creating London’s first station to span the Thames.

New ticket hall steelwork is now being put in place at Farringdon providing when finished, a new integrated ticket hall serving Thameslink and Crossrail. This will be opened in time for the Olympics in addition to the new entrance already opened from Turnmill Street.

Passengers using the Thameslink platforms at Farringdon are now protected following the addition of a new three panel roof spanning the north end of the station up to the new footbridge, opened a couple of years ago. This will encourage passengers to spread out along the platform speeding up their joining and alighting from trains.

Olympic Preparation

Also to be made operational before the Olympics is the new Borough Market viaduct which was slid into position over the Mayday Bank Holiday. This will remove the requirement for Thameslink services to cross trains running between London Bridge and Charing Cross. Services will increase to 16 trains per hour before the Olympics Network Rail have said.

The next stage of the project will commence after the Olympics and will NR said, “Unlock the capacity built in before the games”. The hub of station work will move to London Bridge which will be heavily remodelled. There will be nine through platforms and six terminating platforms, a reversal of the current station layout. All platforms will be 12 cars long and have a full length canopy.

The roof of the LBSCR trainshed will be removed and the walls incorporated into the new station design. A new concourse will be created the size of Wembley football pitch alongside a new entrance from Tooley Street. The planning application was due to be lodged with Southwark Council by July and a decision is expected before the end of the year.

The Bermondsey dive-under will eventually separate Thameslink services from Sussex routes and combined with the Tanners Hill fly-down being doubled, remove many of the conflicting train movements. DC Power supplies have been upgraded and a new depot will be built at Three Bridges after the Olympics.

A lot of work has also been underway north of London. Many platforms on the line to Bedford have also been lengthened to accommodate 12 car trains. Elstree and Borehamwood platforms were lengthened by 80 meters in one weekend with a new modular platform built off-site and brought in on the back of lorries. Five new 12 car sidings will be constructed at Bedford, one has already been built, with a section of the line to Bletchley electrified for operational reasons.

The Midland Main Line has also been boosted with additional AC power supplies already commissioned, which were required to ensure the 12 car trains could run. Just north of St. Pancras station in the tunnels, a new set of crossovers has been installed which will be used in times of service disruption.

Eventually Thameslink services will operate onto the East Coast Main Line (ECML) to Peterborough and Cambridge via the new Canal Tunnel junction between Gasworks and Copenhagen tunnels just out of Kings Cross. The line will emerge from a tunnel, already built onto the ECML.

As with other Thameslink routes, power supplies will be upgraded, but in this case they will also provide for the new trains to be built under the Intercity Express Project when they are eventually introduced. More stabling will be provided at Peterborough and a new depot is to be constructed at Hornsey. European Train Control based signalling will control all services through London and Network Rail and the DfT will deliver an overall systems integration plan that will involve every part of the rail Industry.

Platforms at around 50 stations will be lengthened to take 12 car trains adding up to four kilometres of new platforms in total!

Thameslink Fleet Decision Made by the Government

It was announced without any fanfare on June 16 by the Department for Transport that the preferred bidders for the Thameslink fleet are German firm Siemens. They won the order after a two year bidding competition at the expense of Bombardier, the last train builder in the UK based at Derby.

The order comprises of around 1200 dual voltage (AC and DC) carriages which will start to be introduced in 2015 and be completed by 2018. These trains will replace the existing class 319 trains which will be cascaded to other areas of the network such as in the North West and the Thames Valley.

Siemens are thought to have spent over £45m refining their ‘Desiro City’ type trains which will be cheaper to use as they are lighter than existing trains. They will be built in Germany but will still generate around 650 jobs at the new Hornsey and Three Bridges Depots.

Second Freight Route from Southampton to be Upgraded

Network Rail has announced that following the Southampton to the West Midlands route freight upgrade was completed in April allowing 9‘6” containers to travel by rail, a diversionary route will be created by June 2013.

This will run from Southampton, Romsey and Andover to Basingstoke. Platform canopies at Andover, Romsey and Whitchurch will be trimmed along with 17 bridges being demolished and rebuilt with higher clearances and track alterations will be made in another 11 locations.

The project starts in August and should be completed by June 2013 and has been made necessary by the ever increasing deep sea container traffic being routed via Southampton.

Cotswold Line at the Double

The line between Oxford and Worcester is having £70m spent on it providing 21 miles of extra track which reinstates double track on previously single tracked sections. Disused platforms at Charlbury and Ascott Under Wychwood have been brought back into service.

The second and final stage will see the commissioning of the last 15 miles of double track between Evesham and Moreton in-Marsh this August.

Olympic Starting Orders

The rail Industry has come together and announced the proposed train service for the duration of the Olympics next year.

Train services will run earlier and later than the normal timetable and be supplemented by using all available carriages. Network Rail has said that there will be no disruptive engineering work for the three months around the Games.

Passengers should be able to book tickets on the extra services from now on and there will be standby services in London for late running events. 2000 extra trains have been planned for the Olympics and 1500 for the Paralympics.

Avon Valley Railway Gets Award

The Avon Valley Railway has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service due to the AVR’s part in rescuing an injured cyclist last year. A steam on the Bitton based preserved railway near Bristol saw the injured man and informed the authorities of the situation.

Clapham Junction New Facilities Open

New step-free access to platforms 15 and 16 have opened at Britain’s busiest station, Clapham Junction. This is part of the multi-million pound station upgrade project.

Leeds Station Upgrade

Leeds is one of the busiest stations in Britain and is about to undergo another upgrade. It was last enlarged by Railtrack just over 10 years ago and the next stage will see a new entrance and concourse on the south side with work starting now. This will be completed in 2014. A new Sainsbury supermarket is being built adjacent to the existing booking hall and will be opening this year.

Trains on Time

April punctuality figures released by Network Rail show that just under 93% of trains ran on time in April. East Coast trains were the worst performers despite a recovery plan being in place for some time. June has seen several major incidents such as on the South West Main Line and the West Coast Main Line both of which stopped all services for a time.

C2C were the best performing large train company with 96.33% of trains on time - heading the table for the third consecutive month. Island Line are the best performing operator with 99.9% punctuality!


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