Virgin train at Bletchley by Phil Marsh

West Coast Main Line gets busier as trains get a makeover

Published 12th August 2013

West Coast Main Line Bletchley project wins award

Virgin Trains has recorded a huge growth in business this year and passengers will be ‘rewarded’ with new look trains as they receive a makeover. This project starts with the 125mph diesel ‘Voyagers’, which will be given new seat covers in First Class, new carpet runners throughout and red valences on the trains’ front.

Nothing to loos?

The toilets on Virgin services have long been a source of complaints with their less than pleasant odours and controls. These are to get a new look with new interior graphics, improved lighting and litter bins along with new door controls. These will trigger additional indicator and voice recordings to confirm that the toilet doors are correctly locked.

Passengers will also notice new LED lighting, refurbished tables and seats on the fleet of Pendolinos. Virgin also uses a loco hauled set of Mark 3 carriages which carry the same livery as a Pendolino and these will be fitted with refurbished vestibules, toilets, First Class saloons and The Shop. New tables, curtains and wall coverings will be provided in First Class and toilets and vestibule areas will have a complete repaint and be fitted with new sinks and floor coverings. One ‘Voyager’ is being refurbished every week s followed by the Pendolino fleet later in the year and these will carry a ‘Fly Virgin’ campaign graphic.

Virgin boom

Virgin’s business travel has boomed in the last three months possibly reflecting a more upbeat outlook for the UK economy this year. Growth is faster than for leisure travel and in the twelve weeks ended 22 June 2013, corporate sales revenue increased by 12% over last year, with tour operators’ revenue increasing by 12.5%.

Across Virgins trains, passenger journeys increased by 4.3% in this 12 week period, greater than other long-distance train operators possibly driven by the ‘Fly Virgin Trains’ advertising campaign which concentrates on speed and efficiency of rail over competing travel modes.

They said:

Graham Leech, Executive Director, Commercial said: “We have seen substantial increases in leisure travel over the last five years, but it has been tough for UK businesses. The increases we are now seeing in business travel suggest that the UK economy is on the move again.

Virgin is expected to continue to run trains on the WCML until April 2017 as a result of last year’s franchising farce when First Group were due to operate the trains until flaws were found in the Department for Transports dealings with the franchise award.

West Coast Bletchley Works win award

The 2013 Network Rail Partnership Awards saw Signalling Solutions Ltd win the Community Engagement Award for the Bletchley Remodelling Project. This was an Alstom/Balfour Beatty Joint Venture company who was awarded the huge contract in 2010 and was to design and deliver the signalling system supplied by Alstom, the parent company.

The project took several months and was very disruptive for train services and people living by the railway as overnight and weekend works were required. Signalling Solutions recognised that there was a huge potential for the project and Network Rail (NR) to receive complaints.

So the company worked on minimising local disruption working with other teams involved to develop a package of environmental initiatives that would provide a long lasting legacy for the local community. This initiative was broken down into several individual environmental improvements, each sponsored by one of the six companies which delivered the Bletchley Remodelling Project.

Wildlife benefits from the railway upgrade

Signalling Solutions Ltd had sole responsibility for the establishment of a local wildlife site on a railway embankment and judges were impressed that solutions addressed real problems providing a range of options addressing environmental and social aspects.

The whole scheme saw the planting of 18,000 trees to form a new woodland area at the nearby Marston Vale forestry centre on the Bedford line and improvements to, and landscaping of a number of community sites including a drop-in centre in Bletchley.

A flood mitigation scheme to address the regular flooding problem suffered by the local community in a street adjacent to the Network Rail land was also undertaken and maybe more importantly, clearance of a severe fly tipping location from land within the community adjacent to Bletchley Station was undertaken by Network Rail.

Fishing and feathers

Fishing platforms for an angling club at Bletchley and the provision of bird and other animal nesting facilities in the common areas in Bletchley were organised. The overall impact from these initiatives gave visible improvements to the quality and fabric of the community and immediate improvements for some of the closest neighbours to the railway and far better overall community relations.

Signalling Solutions are now adopting this it as a model for all future schemes that it will deliver which can’t be a bad thing! The next projects are working for Network Rail responsible for providing signalling renewals and enhancements as primary supplier in the Central East, Great Western Inner and Great Western Outer regions and will be involved in four other areas across the UK.

Written by Phil Marsh

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