News Roundup - May 31st

Current news from the rail world.

Eurostar holiday boost

Eurostar, operators of the St. Pancras to Paris and Brussels trains carried 5% more passengers over the May bank holiday weekend, compared to the same weekend last year.

Over 180,000 people from across the UK and Europe travelled on Eurostar over the weekend and it is thought that the extra passengers was due to a combination of increased demand from the early ash cloud disruption and a high volume of holiday bookings created a bumper weekend for Eurostar.

Nick Mercer, Commercial Director for Eurostar said: “This has been our busiest May bank holiday weekend for several years. Bank holiday weekends are typically exceptionally busy, but with added concern about the ash cloud disruption we needed to schedule extra services on Friday and Saturday to meet the demand.

“Over recent months we’ve seen more people booking short breaks in Europe and with passenger numbers looking strong for the June bank holidays in France and Belgium, we’re expecting an influx of passengers into the UK as well.”

Steam Engine rescues Lamb!

Driver lance Hale brought his train to a stand outside Buckfastleigh on the South Devon Railway to avoid running over a dehydrated lamb laying on the track. Fireman Charlie Dennis rescued the lamb and it was put in the corner of the engine cab and taken to the Rare Breeds Farm after arrival at Buckfastleigh. The lamb, now called ‘Lucky’ has now recovered and remains unclaimed in the farm!

Midlands boost for Freight

The Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT) will see a huge expansion in the coming months when Tesco charter up to eight more trains a day using the enlarged freight centre. It has built some new lines to be able to accommodate the traffic including a new road over rail bridge.

One National Railway Museum icon retires and another returns! Flying Scotsman returns

The World famous Flying Scotsman was presented to the public on May 27 at The NRM in front of generous members of the public who made donations to the appeal to restore the iconic locomotive.

The LNER record breaker was unveiled on the Museum’s turntable in wartime LNER black livery ahead of the final phase of its restoration, and remained on the turntable over the bank holiday weekend of 28-30 May.

Steve Davies, Director of the National Railway Museum said: “This event represents the final stretch of the restoration of Flying Scotsman. The public will be able to enjoy Flying Scotsman on our turntable this bank holiday weekend before it is returned to the care of our expert engineers to prepare it for its steam tests and commissioning runs. It’s not long until we will see Flying Scotsman steaming in glorious Apple Green livery and I’m so grateful for the support of the generous people and organisations who have helped us get here.”

The restoration of Flying Scotsman has been kindly supported by the general public, Tata Steel, formerly Corus, a £275,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and support from many other generous organisations.

Bob Bewley, Director of Operations for HLF, said:

“Today marks a crucial milestone in this fascinating project that has brought Flying Scotsman, a wonderful feat of British engineering, back to life. It also demonstrates how partnership working between funders, organisations and public donations can work so well. The Heritage Lottery Fund is proud to have played an important role in restoring this historic piece of the UK’s railway heritage and it’s great that it is now available for the public to learn about and enjoy for the foreseeable future.”

Flying Scotsman was bought by the National Railway Museum in 2004 with a £1.8 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the generous support of the general public. Now after a meticulous 5 year restoration, the public can enjoy Flying Scotsman on display during this special weekend and can look forward to seeing the engine steaming later this summer.

To celebrate this weekend’s preview event, the Museum will be hosting until 5 June a Flying Scotsman themed event this half term including daily bagpipe performances, craft activities, a discovery trail to uncover facts about Flying Scotsman and a chance to find out more about the restoration with daily talks and video footage.

A temporary exhibition displaying entries to the Museum’s Flying Scotsman model competition will also add to the themed week with visitors being invited to vote for the model they feel is the most deserving of the highly sought after prize – a ride behind the newly restored Flying Scotsman. Back in January, modellers were encouraged to get crafty and make a model of the locomotive out of any material they liked. Similar to Flying Scotsman itself, the thirty four models have been lovingly crafted using a wide variety of old and new materials with interesting results.

Following this event, the engine will be prepared for its steam tests and commissioning runs due to take place in the next few weeks. Once these are completed it will be painted Apple Green, go on display at the National Railway Museum in August and will be seen on trains later this summer.

Admission to the National Railway Museum is free. The Museum will be open for extended opening hours throughout May half term from 09:30 – 18:00. More information about Flying Scotsman and its return can be found at

Ray Towell has finally retired from being in charge of operations at the York National Railway Museum. Ray (sometimes referred to as an Icon) accompanied most operations using NRM owned locomotives around the country for as long as anyone can remember! His grand finale was a special train from York via Filey and around the Wolds coast.

Wires crossed and down on the East Coast Main Line on May 28

About 200 yards of the overhead wires on the East Coast Main Line came down on May 28 between Peterborough and Grantham. The BBC website reported that the wires were down between Peterborough and Stamford, which is not electrified and is a completely different route…….

Chiltern Railways to be fined £500,000 for late delivery of upgrades?

Chiltern Railways may be fined £500,000 by The Department for Transport for late provision of a new station at Aylesbury Parkway and a few waiting shelters at minor stations which have been deemed to be in breach of their franchise agreement. Unbelievably, The DfT are consulting with the rail Industry seeking views from others to see if they should levy the fine.

Chiltern’s ‘Evergreen 3’ upgrade, which was due to be completed in time for the May 22 timetable change, is running late and has been taken over by Network Rail for completion, hopefully by September, but more probably, December.

This will provide trains between Marylebone and Birmingham in 90 minutes providing real competition to Virgin West Coast services. The faster trains will be running over a new through line at Princes Risborough with a higher linespeed than at the moment.

Chiltern Railways are about to take delivery of two Bombardier built 4-car class 172 diesel units costing £1.2m per carriage.

Calling all photographers - Win a £10,000 prize for a rail view picture

Think you can take a great photograph which includes a railway? If so you need to enter “Take a view” which is a competition trying to attract the best photography of the British landscape and that of the rail network. It is free to enter and called Take a view - Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards 2011 is now open.

Network Rail is supporting this national competition where amateurs and professional photographers can showcase the very best imagery of Britain’s rural and urban scenery to compete for the top prize of £10,000. The competition is the idea of landscape photographer, Charlie Waite, and the best images will be displayed at an exhibition at the National Theatre in London.

An additional prize will be given for the best photography of Britain’s rail network – The Network Rail ‘Lines in the Landscape’ Special Award. The winner will receive a weekend break and a guided tour of the Severn Rail Tunnel’s Sudbrook Pumping Station, including travelling down the 180ft lift shaft to the complex of underground culverts, sub-tunnels where you can safely observe the trains as they pass.

Last year the competition attracted over 500 entries from all over the country and was won by Chris Howe from Hitchin with a photograph of a speeding train going through Grindleford station in the Peak District. His prize was a guided tour across the Forth Rail Bridge.

New Bridge created in Central London on the Thameslink across Borough Market

A massive and vital new railway bridge was put into place over Borough High Street during the Mayday bank holiday weekend and forms is a key part of the Thameslink Central London route capacity upgrade. It provides two more lines for the busy section over Borough market linking London Bridge which will increase capacity, reduce delays and provide better connections for the 50million passengers who travel through London Bridge every year.

The bridge is 72m long, six metres high and weighs 1,200 tonnes and was put into position in 75 hours with the bridge travelling an average of 7mm per second using specialist machinery before being lowered into place. The new Borough Viaduct doubles the number of tracks coming out of the western end of London Bridge station and provides two dedicated tracks for Thameslink services. This is a key milestone in the Thameslink upgrade project and was the object of bitter opposition by locals 12 years ago at the transport & Works Act Inquiry.

The new bridge was built on top of the new viaduct, which offered best value for money and minimal disruption for passengers, road users and the community and is part of the 507metre long Borough Viaduct which runs above the highly-built up Borough Market area.

Finding space for the new tracks was not easy in the densely built up urban area and in some places it’s not more than 16cm away from existing buildings. The viaduct runs between listed buildings and its foundations strategically located to avoid London Underground tunnels and the popular Borough Market that has been partly relocated during the works.

Network Rail to be split up?

May 3 marked what could be the start of the break-up of Network Rail (NR) into nine divisions, each one with an autonomous managing director. In what NR calls a ‘devolved route structure’ the Scotland and Wessex divisions went live in early May after the completion of the assessment process and safety validation.

The next three NR routes to be devolved, will be Wales, Kent/HS1 and London North Western which are being targeted for going live in October this year. Network Rail has also announced further organisational changes linked to changing its route structures.

In June 2011, Network Operations (NO) will go live led by Robin Gisby who is currently director of operations and customer services. This will replace operations and customer services and all staff now in that section will transfer to network operations.

A new position of freight director will be created within NO who will be joined in October 2011 when the next three routes go live, by the director, infrastructure maintenance and most of his team.

All other routes will be activated no later than March 2012 and Robin Gisby said: “We have to make sure that we support the changes and opportunities that will emerge in our devolved routes with a centre that is able to match the pace of delivery they will demand. With maintenance and operations working so closely in our new route structure to meet our customer needs, it makes a lot of sense to do the same centrally.”

Commented Phil Marsh for, “While people will be able to read many things into the foregoing, one wonders what will become of the Network Rail HQ being built in Milton Keynes because it appears that with a devolved operational structure, the massive new complex may not be required and become a white elephant!

The McNulty report will also have an impact on the shape of Network Rail and this will undoubtedly take some time to emerge once the headlines concerning ticket fares have died down.

Station improvement fund announced

One hundred million pounds has been pledged to upgrade the worst stations on the network but comes with a strong caveat. This is that the investment must generate a rate of return of at least 6% a year and this money also replaces the £50m fund announced in 2009 following Chris Green and Sir Peter Hall’s report on the worst stations in the UK.

Manchester Victoria was adjudged to be one of the ten worst stations, our review here , in this report and will be benefiting from a £20m investment to become a huge transport hub. Proposals must be made by mid June for the first tranche of funds.

Hitchin Flyover to be built

The construction of a flyover costing an estimated £62m at Hitchin has been announced. This will replace the ‘flat’ Cambridge Junction just to the north of Hitchin station where the Royston and Cambridge line joins the East Coast Main Line.

This is a major bottleneck 31 miles north of London where all services to Royston and beyond have to cross the ‘up lines’ to London, and local services also have to cross the down fast line.

This leads to delays which are estimated at 30,000 minutes a year to trains and is also a serious capacity constraint.

Network Rail fined Potters Bar Crash

Network Rail has been fined £3m for their predecessor’s (Railtrack) part in the Potters Bar crash nine years ago, the cause of which has never been proved beyond doubt.

The other company involved were Jarvis engineering who have ceased trading since the accident and not been subject to legal proceedings. Network Rail was sentenced for failings that contributed to this accident and they said “We accept the fine as we accept the liabilities inherited from Railtrack.”

Following the fine NR issued a statement saying that “Private contractors are no longer in control of the day-to-day maintenance of the nation’s rail infrastructure since Network Rail took this entire operation in-house in 2004. Today the railways are safer than they have ever been, yet our task remains to build on that record and always to learn any lessons we can to make it ever safer for passengers and those who work on the railway.”

Following the accident, various investigations were launched, by the rail industry, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the police. Out of these investigations came a series of recommendations aimed at making the railway even safer. These were taken forward by Network Rail who took over responsibilities from Railtrack some five months after the accident.

From the [rail] industry inquiry, all 25 recommendations have been acted upon and closed out as have the 24 that resulted from the HSE investigation. In 2004 Network Rail made the move to in-source rail maintenance, removing this responsibility from private contractors and moving 15,000 people into Network Rail's employ. What NR have studiously ignored, is that despite bringing maintenance work in-house, it is still far more expensive than elsewhere in Europe.

NR also claimed that “the railway today is almost unrecognisable since the days of Railtrack and this tragedy. We now have a safety record that matches the best in Europe and makes rail the safest form of transport in the UK. The company can never be complacent when it comes to matters of safety and the very thorough coroner’s inquest into the accident has given us the opportunity to look at making further safety improvements.”

Sack Race in Olympic Effort to run extra trains in 2012

The Rail industry and Olympic authorities have reached agreement to operate extra trains during the Olympics next year. Engineering work will be suspended during the Games to minimize disruption.

Trains will also run later than usual to many regional destinations from London and London Underground services will also run for longer hours.

This arrangement has been reached with Network Rail agreeing not to sack staff during the Olympic Games and the Unions agreeing not to strike in this period! This is on top of a pay rise for staff involved which of course flies in the face of reducing costs in running an already expensive railway as pronounced by the McNulty report!

Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge under repair

Around 50,000 new bolts will be used in Network Rail’s major scheme just started to restore Royal Albert bridge just west of Plymouth station on the Devon/Cornwall border. These bolts, as precious and mighty as Brunel’s legendary golden rivet bolt - will be vital to keep the landmark structure strong for the next century and beyond said Network Rail.

The £10m scheme will take two years and an estimated 2million hours of work by engineers to strengthen and repaint Royal Albert bridge built in 1859. Work includes using around 35,000 litres of special paint to spruce up and protect the bridge’s steel façade from corrosion.

The Grade 1 listed bridge has carried more than 1 billion tonnes of rail traffic in it’s lifetime.

The works involve repairing :

132 load bearing cross girders

205 original Brunel cross girders

1,800 individual items of steelwork


12 coats of old paint, dating to 1859, will be removed with 4new coats of paint will be applied.

The bridge’s original colour of pale stone (off-white) that it was painted in when built in 1859 will be preserved with two 1m square patches of the existing paint layers on the bridge being retained for posterity.

The discovery was made from an unprecedented paint analysis commissioned by Network Rail. It is to help Network Rail’s engineers understand the bridge’s existing complex paint system and define an effective approach to repaint the structure’s two main spans.

The Royal Albert Bridge has been painted over on 20 occasions since it was completed in 1859. However, its parapets and main spans were repainted in red-brown for £1,700 in less than a decade.

In 1868, the ‘I K Brunel Engineer 1859’ lettering on the portals of the two main spans were painted at a mere cost of £2.31.

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