Home Blog

Talent and gender diversity in the rail sector

Guest writer Adam Razzell, head of transport and infrastructure at Advance Resource Managers, reflects on the diversity of talent in the rail industry and questions whether more needs to be done.


With an average staff turnover rate of just three percent (compared with the UK median rate of 13.6 percent), the UK’s rail sector has less experience than most of dealing with skills gaps – but its landscape is changing quickly.

An ideal time for reflection

Due to retirement alone, the industry is expected to lose as many as 50,000 workers by 2033 (from a total of around 240,000), most from operative roles. The futures of a further 15 percent – the workforce’s EU nationals – also remain uncertain because of Brexit.

Then there’s rising demand from passengers (in contrast with falling interest in bus and coach travel) and plans for a new era of high-speed rail infrastructure to create the need for even more staff.

As UK rail looks to steady itself for the future using a range of recruitment and training initiatives, we find ourselves at an ideal point to take stock of its current talent, and the diversity of that talent. Does its recruitment approach need to change drastically for a more secure future, or is it on the right track already?

A general snapshot of rail talent

According to Department for Transport data from December 2019, around 240,000 people work in the UK rail sector – 67.8 percent for rail infrastructure firms and 25.4 percent for train operators, the two biggest categories.

With salaries ranging from £16,000 up to £71,000, the average rail worker earns just over £35,500 per year, although this rises to £39,000 in London and falls just short of £32,000 in Scotland. Average salaries in all other areas of the UK sit between these two figures, meaning all are above the wider national median salary of £30,300.

Given rail’s low staff turnover rate, it’s unsurprising that almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of its workers have eight or more years of experience in their roles. Sixteen percent have between four and seven years of experience, and 20 percent have three years or less. And, while this implies that a retirement surge could cause serious issues, the amount of experience currently present in the sector does bode well for the Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce (STAT), a body set up in 2016 to address skills gaps and increase diversity across UK transport using apprenticeship programmes.

Gender representation in rail

The rail sector cannot avoid major skills shortage without diversifying its workforce – that’s something that Mike Brown, the recently departed Transport for London Commissioner and STAT chair, implied in STAT’s latest update report.

“A skilled workforce is vital to future economic success,” he said. “Quality training at all levels is fundamental and we need to broaden our talent pipeline if we are to drive productivity and innovation across the transport sector.”

Right now, the data shows a huge imbalance. Of its quarter-million employees (including those working in passenger services, freight operations and the wider supply chain), only 17 per cent are female. That falls to 13 per cent in the commercial rail workforce, and again to 12 per cent in signalling and design – both areas with significantly higher average salaries (£45,800 and £37,900 respectively).

%%tb-image-alt-text%%
Both photo credits: Southeastern.

Some companies and regions are more diverse than others. Network Rail – by far the sector’s biggest employer – TFL and Southern Railway hold the most female talent, while London and the South East lead the list of regions. But more needs to be done.

What’s positive is that we are seeing action from some of the sector’s biggest operators. Southeastern and East Midlands Trains, for example, recently introduced anonymous candidate screening and targeted advertising campaigns in attempts to encourage more women to become train drivers. Southeastern is aiming for 40 percent of applicants for driver roles to be women by 2021 (from 4.5 percent in 2019), and East Midlands has already seen the number of female applicants double.

But skills gaps and underrepresentation aren’t challenges that employers can address individually – there needs to be an industry-wide shift. And, as the seemingly inevitable skills gap inches closer, it must happen quickly.

FIRSTCLASS SAFETY & CONTROL CHOSEN TO SAFEGUARD ETIHAD RAIL’S AL-FAYA OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE FACILITY

Staff working for Etihad Rail will benefit from international best practice in health and safety, in part thanks to innovative depot protection technology from FirstClass Safety & Control.

The UK-based rail safety specialist has been commissioned to design, manufacture and install their flagship Depot Protection System (DPS) at the Operations and Maintenance facility in Al Faya, Abu Dhabi.

FirstClass Safety & Control are working with 2F1JV, a joint venture company consisting of Vinci Construction France and Archirodon Construction (Overseas Company Ltd). The Al Faya facility will be the largest and most significant facility on the UAE’s National Rail Network. It will be responsible for warehousing, installations, operations, and the maintenance of locomotives and wagons. The facility will also include an administrative building to control the operations of the whole network. The

contract programme sees design and manufacture taking place during 2021 with on- site installation due to commence in Spring 2022.

FirstClass Safety & Control director, Mark Meyrick, said:

“We are delighted to bring our extensive knowledge and experience in designing safety systems for rail depots to the Middle East market. Our technology gives depots complete confidence that people and equipment are always protected from danger, whilst improving efficiency. The DPS for Al Faya will be designed to meet the extreme climatic conditions experienced in Abu Dhabi without compromising the SIL2 level of safety that comes as standard with a FirstClass Safety & Control system.”

Continuing, Meyrick said “This contract award comes about following an intensive 12-month period providing design support to GESTE Engineering, based in Switzerland, who undertook the high-level depot design work on behalf of 2F1JV. This work also included face-to-face meetings in Dubai during the Middle East Rail Conference in 2020. This level of commitment demonstrates our ethos of working in partnership with our clients and working flexibly to design a system that the client wants, rather than looking to sell them a “standard” system with some tweaks.”

For more information about FirstClass Safety & Control’s involvement in the Etihad Rail project or its depot safety systems, telephone Mark or any member of the team on +44 (0) 1621 743743 or visit www.firstclass-safety-control.co.uk

Pete Waterman to attend Railtex/Infrarail 2021

The Railway Benefit Fund are the only charity attending this year’s Railtex/Infrarail Exhibition at the NEC Birmingham. They are delighted to announce that their President, Pete Waterman OBE, will be representing them on the Tuesday of Railtex/Infrarail.

Pete Waterman said:

“RBF are delighted to be the only charity featured at this year’s Railtex/Infrarail- the ultimate show for the rail industry. We will be occupying Stand P67- come and meet us and learn more about how we support the railway family.”

#railwaycharity #rbf #railwayfamily #railways #news #railuk #railevents #charities #charity #community

Vital Human Resources secure £150m Network Rail contract

Railway station at night

Vital Human Resources, part of the Morson Group, has been awarded a £150m contract to provide Network Rail labour covering a range of strategic and operational roles over the next five years.

Running until 2026, with a possible extension until 2029, Vital will supply 100 per cent of frontline labour for the East Coast Mainline, North East, East Midlands and Wales.

Regionally, those roles will include Core Labour, Track, Civils, Trackworker Protection and Semi Professional Grades. The company will also manage all recruitment for Signalling & Telecommunications and Electrification and Plant, nationwide. Mobilisation of the contract is already underway, with deployment starting on October 1st.

Vital has pledged to leave a social legacy that spans well beyond the lifespan of the contract. In a bid to uplift the wider rail industry, the company will channel 20% of the workforce through SME alliance partners, supporting SME businesses in the rail supply chain and communities and sponsorship interests within the region under which it will be operating.

Vital’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion was also key to its success in the tender process, with Network Rail placing trust in its proven expertise in building inclusive workforces.

Vital will redress the balance of labour by consciously creating a workforce that reflects the communities it serves. Over the course of the contract, Vital will tackle the skills shortage within the rail industry by attracting and appointing BAME candidates, females, ex-offenders, entry-level talent, and other under-represented groups.

Gary Hardaker, executive director at Vital Human Resources, said; “We are proud to be awarded such a significant contract with Network Rail. This is a great opportunity to develop a strong and mutually beneficial working relationship at an important time in the rail industry. With this contract in place, Vital will enhance its capacity to service the full spectrum of the UK rail infrastructure.

“We hire to make an impact, and the scope of this appointment means that we can work with Network Rail strategically, putting the right people in the right places for the benefit of the organisation and those who rely upon it. Ultimately, we hope to support Network Rail to achieve a personnel mix that represents the world we live in, a culture where people thrive, their ambitions are nurtured, and customers reap the benefits.”

As a leading brand in the provision of staff to the rail, mechanical and electrical, construction and power markets in the UK, Vital will deploy its suite of innovative, intelligent talent solutions to ensure confidence, consistency, and quality across the Network Rail workforce. Completing all relevant checks, ensuring the right person, with the right skills, qualifications, experience, and competencies are selected based on specific role requirements will be key to success for years to come.

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com

No need to reinvent the wheel

RSSB can get you up to speed, with our treasure trove of knowledge and resources.

RSSB was created in 2003 to help the GB rail industry create a better, safer railway. We’re an independent, not-for-profit body that makes the industry’s collective knowledge available to our members and affiliates.

Something for everyone (as long as it’s rail)

Whatever type of rail project you’re running, RSSB membership can get you up and running. You don’t even have to work directly for the GB rail industry – we offer affiliation for British organisations with an interest in rail, and for rail companies based overseas.

We have a huge range of tools, resources and services. Plus consultancy and training services, which include independent verification, socio-economic impact measurement, and bespoke team development courses. We also develop and maintain Rail Industry Standards, and help our members access and stay up to date with them.

We have analysis tools to help plan and measure CSR, low-carbon investment and sustainability, to contribute to business cases for future investment. Or tackle tricky issues like employee fatigue and mental wellbeing, or maintaining safety under pressure.

You don’t have to work in the dark

Whether you’re working on a new project or updating existing work, there’s bound to be someone who’s been there before you. Becoming an RSSB member gives you access to that wealth of knowledge and experience.

You can find the full list of our services resources and toolkits on our website, but the following should give you an idea of the breadth of our offering.

Reduce risk on the network

Our RED Programmes are safety briefing videos that will help you raise awareness among your workforce of operational safety issues like near misses, fatigue and rail adhesion. We have more than 50 engaging in-depth videos created by subject experts, and we’re producing more all the time. Each video discusses a particular safety consideration for railway operations, with an emphasis on the key learning points. They’re used in safety briefings and training sessions across the industry.

Shrink your carbon footprint

Our online Rail Carbon Tool helps UK rail industry organisations understand a project or activity’s carbon footprint. It will help you calculate, assess, analyse and report on carbon emissions, as well as identify suitable low-carbon options. The aim is to reduce carbon emissions through design and construction, for capital and operational cost and carbon savings. Multiple users can simultaneously:

  • Calculate carbon footprints
  • Analyse the resulting carbon models
  • Identify, assess, and select low carbon options

Optimise performance

Human factors is about optimising human performance in the workplace. For rail, this means looking at working environments from a human-centred point of view, studying how the whole system influences the way people behave and interact with the railway.

Our Human Factors Hub gathers guidance of all kinds to help you improve railway staff performance through systems thinking. It covers topics from safety-critical communications and taking safe decisions, to looking at the best way to design and implement technology.

We also have a Human Factors toolkit with guidance, products and services broken down into seven key areas:

  • Integrating non-technical skills in competence management systems
  • Fatigue, workload, and health and wellbeing management
  • Applying human factors in the design and use of technology
  • Identifying and managing passenger behaviour at stations, on trains and at level crossings
  • Maximising on the effectiveness of competence management
  • Taking a human factors approach to reliability and performance
  • Measuring, evaluating and improving safety culture

With such a huge array of resources potentially at your fingertips, RSSB can really help you get up to speed. So there’s no need to duplicate work that’s already been done.

Photo credit: RSSB

ARQ expands with new operations hire

ARQ has expanded its team with the appointment of Jamie Hutchinson as Operations Manager. Jamie joins ARQ from a tier one national electrification programme contractor and brings over 20 years of overhead line experience to the role.

ARQ comprises of three subsidiaries of Renew Holdings – AmcoGiffen, REL (Rail Electrification Limited) and QTS. The enterprise will provide a truly integrated self-delivery model for the UK rail network as it moves closer to electrification and decarbonisation.

Jamie will be primarily responsible for overseeing the delivery operations of ARQ, working alongside Vinny O’Holloran and the project teams from each business,

Vinny O’Holloran, Operations Director at ARQ said:

“We welcome Jamie at a very exciting time for the rail industry and for ARQ, as we take the opportunity to work with Network Rail to help shape the future of the railway and play a part in the solution to meet decarbonisation ambitions.”

Jamie Hutchinson.

Jamie Hutchinson added:

“It is very exciting to be a part of a partnership like ARQ from its inception, allowing me the opportunity to help mould and develop delivery strategy. With over 20 years’ experience in the rail industry, I look forward to incorporating best practice and lessons learnt and developing innovative technology led solutions.

“Electrification is high on the agenda for the UK rail industry, with certain challenges around delivery efficiencies and resource skills shortage. I look forward to working with the ARQ team to deliver first class works throughout the UK and developing people in our industry that will help to meet the national decarbonisation targets.”

New Head of Rail Operations (Scotland) appointed by Ganymede Solutions

Further to the recent award of a national Frontline Labour contract by Network Rail to recruitment and workforce management specialist Ganymede Solutions reveal the appointment of new Head of Rail Operations (Scotland), Paul Cook.

Paul brings a tremendous range of commercial and strategic experience to the company. He has held an Operations Director role in the Scottish rail industry for the past 16 years.

Paul initially joined the railway with Pirelli construction on OHL East Coast mainline and worked on various UK projects including the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. Paul joined Scotweld (now SWGR) in 2005 progressing to Rail Director looking after all UK rail activities across five depots nationally. During this time, he secured national rail contracts for the supply of track, OHL and welding services.

Confirming his new appointment, Paul states “I am looking forward to the new challenges ahead in Scotland. I have watched Ganymede over the last few years develop into a leading supplier in the UK rail market and have admired their professional approach. This made my decision to join the company easy and I am excited and keen to assist in making a success of the recently awarded framework contract with Network Rail and further strengthening Ganymede’s presence in Scotland.

Paul Crompton, Managing Director welcomes Paul to support the building of a new team in Scotland. “I am delighted Paul has decided to join Ganymede and look forward to working with him. Paul’s knowledge and experience will be instrumental in the development and growth of our rail division in Scotland, and I wish him every success”

Photo credit: Ganymede Solutions

Costain appoints integrated transport director

Costain, the smart infrastructure solutions company, has appointed Andy Clarke as integrated transport director.

The creation of this new role reflects the importance placed by the business on working collaboratively with a range of partners to transform the customer experience of transport – helping to catalyse the green transport revolution.

Andy said: “At Costain, we see integrated multi-modal transport solutions as critical to our efforts to enable healthier, happier and better-connected communities. By leveraging new technologies and even more collaborative ways of working, we can enable seamless, cleaner and more active journeys for customers. This is essential if we are to provide a compelling journey experience which encourages customers to opt for blended journeys, which help to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Andy will continue to lead Costain’s aviation offering, recognising the importance of high-quality connections from our transport network to our national and regional airports as well as supporting the industry to decarbonise.

Sue Kershaw, managing director of transportation at Costain, stated: “We’ve been delivering complex programmes across the UK for over 155 years. Combined with our in-house consultancy capability and digital know-how, we are well-placed to work with local authorities, operators, customer groups and industry partners to enhance and create transport systems which place the customer at their heart.”

Costain is currently delivering several integrated transport projects, one of which is the redevelopment of Gatwick airport station alongside Network Rail, Gatwick Airport and their partners. Costain previously led the scheme through the planning and design phases of the project and as delivery partner, is carrying out improvement works to create a safer and more convenient interchange for customers moving between the station platforms and the airport.

The smart infrastructure solutions company has deployed Irides, a video management system, across the Transport for London network, providing dynamic and responsive monitoring services which facilitate safe, cleaner and more active journeys across London. Costain’s digital solution shares information about the current network conditions with TfL’s operations centre, enabling TfL to monitor traffic, pedestrian activity, planned and unplanned events and effectively manage the flow of traffic and people throughout the city. Londoners can also access real-time information which will help them plan their journeys via the TfL JamCams website and through its journey planning tools.

Mark Lumley, Intelligent Transportation Systems Operations Manager at Transport for London, said: “We’re here to help keep London moving. We’re committed to working with innovative digital partners such as Costain to provide a high-quality experience for our customers and help them to make informed decisions about their journeys. The Costain team is willing to support us and our supply chain and is committed to excellence.”

Costain is also exploring the role of digital technologies in enabling safer, cleaner and better integrated journeys on the national and local road network, with projects such as connected digital roads and Midlands Future Mobility. Connected digital roads – a collaborative R&D project with Highways England innovation funding – successfully demonstrated that vehicle-to-everything communication can be used to enable near-real time responses to road conditions. These findings provide a blueprint for maximising the capacity of the existing road network and improving the customer experience by minimising congestion, idling time and carbon emissions. Costain’s contribution to the ongoing Midlands Future Mobility project takes this thinking a step further, exploring vehicle-to-infrastructure communications on the local road network– an important step towards last mile connectivity.

Andy concluded: “This is a very exciting time for the future of transport in the UK. However, we can only realise the true benefits of this approach if we work across the siloes and truly collaborate to ensure that our transport network as a whole works for customers and communities.”

Photo credit: Costain

Metro chaplain Michael Bushby retires after 30 years of service

A long-serving Metro driver who became a qualified chaplain and devoted himself to providing pastoral care to his colleagues has retired after more than three decades of service.

Michael Bushby, who has been driving Metro trains since 1990, became a chaplain in 2008 and has spent the years since combining the two roles.

And it was all achieved after beating cancer in 2013 and successfully returning to work.

Michael is a popular figure among his colleagues, and in the wider community he has served through the Newcastle city centre chaplaincy. He drove the first Metro train on the Sunderland extension of the network when it opened in 2002.

Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, said he would be a big miss, and that he had brought warmth, compassion, and empathy to his two roles.

His time as a Metro driver saw him become a train crew assessor, and through that he has helped countless new drivers to pass the training course.

Michael, of Felling in Gateshead, said: “I leave with a heavy heart because I’ve had a great career with Metro.

“I was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer in 2013 but I was determined to beat it and get back to work. I managed to do that in just two years. I know my condition has to be managed so I feel now is the right time for me to retire.

“I’ve always been there for people through my role as a chaplain and have provided support to many colleagues during challenging times.

“I have offered personal help to drivers who have struggled with bereavement or other private matters. It’s been a privilege to reach out and support people in the city centre. I have served in various retail and business sites throughout the city offering welfare support and pastoral care.”

Michael, who is married and has two daughters, added: “I’ve enjoyed the journey with Metro. I have made some great friends and worked with some very special people. I’ve worn the badge with pride and have been proud to work for Metro. I would do it all over again and would recommend Metro as a career to anyone seeking a great future.

Head of Metro Operations Delivery, Kevin Storey, said: “We are all going to miss Michael and we wish him well for the future. He has given outstanding service to the Tyne and Wear Metro over the last three decades.

“As a Metro driver he has mentored many trainees over the years, and he managed all of that after beating to cancer and returning to work.

“Michael’s role as a chaplain has also been of huge support to us. He’s provided colleagues with pastoral care when they needed it, showing great warmth, compassion, and empathy. He’ll be a big miss.”

Motion Rail founder named one of top young entrepreneurs in Wales

Emma Dymond, founder and CEO of specialist rail systems engineering company Motion Rail, has been named one of this year’s top high-achieving entrepreneurs under 40 in Wales.

Emma is one of 25 Rising Stars to feature in the list compiled by B2B magazine Insider (https://www.insidermedia.com/rising-stars/wales/2021) and shares her business purposes, key decisions, plans and the people and organisations that have supported her along the way.

“Being named one of Wales’ 25 Rising Stars is a real honour and I am very proud to be included among such an amazing group of entrepreneurs,” comments Emma.

“But the success of Motion Rail is not about one person, it is a team effort and the company would not be where it is today without the dedication and hard work of everyone involved.

“Despite the challenges of the past 12 months, the business continues to grow and thrive.

“We remain committed to delivering innovative, safe designs and building multi-functional resilient solutions, future-proofing infrastructure across the UK rail network.”

The accolade is the latest in an ever-growing list of awards achieved by both Emma and her Gwent-based business.

Motion Rail was named the 2020 Blaenau Gwent Business of the Year in addition to winning the Small Business of the Year title.

It was also named the seventh fastest growing company in Wales and won the Joint Growth Award in the 2020 RIA Rise Awards.

Motion Reality, the company’s not-for-profit arm which designed innovative virtual reality technology to educate school children about level crossing safety won the Safety Achievement of the Year title at the 2020 National Rail Awards, the Rail Business Awards Education and Training Excellence award and was highly commended in the RIA Rise Awards safety category.

While Emma won the prestigious title of Inspirational Woman of the Year 2020 in the Women in Rail Awards.

Founded in 2009, SME Motion Rail specialises in integrating and modifying legacy and digital rail equipment, with solutions considering whole-life costs from design through to implementation and maintenance, ensuring value for money and delivering effective engineering.

Telecommunications engineer Emma launched the business from home, aged just 28, and now employs 37 staff. The team has worked on several high-profile national projects including Crossrail, Thameslink and The Greater West Electrification.

Earlier this year, Motion Rail was awarded a Network Rail provisional Principal Contractor Licence permitting the company to tender for rail communication and electrical services projects.

In 2018, the company developed a pioneering virtual reality railway in partnership with the Centre of Excellence in Mobile and Emerging Technologies designed to educate about the dangers posed by railways.

Endorsed by Network Rail, not-for-profit Motion Reality was originally used to train railway workers how to manage hazardous environments while working on or near the tracks.

The VR and gamification technology was adapted to be taken into schools and, to date, has educated more than 300,000 youngsters about level crossing safety – using real-life scenarios in a safe environment.

Carrington West Awarded Share of £950m Frontline Labour Supply Deal by Network Rail

Carrington West are delighted to announce that after a rigorous tender process dating back to last year they have had confirmation that they are to be an approved supplier on the Network Rail Frontline Labour contract. This contract direct with Network Rail is part of a national £950m labour supply contract. The deal, commencing in October 2021 and extending to 2029, includes the provision of workers by Carrington West UK-wide.

Nick Rowe, Carrington West Rail Director and joint business owner says, “When we set up the rail team our vision was to become one of the leading UK providers of recruitment solutions in the sector. Our commitment to achieving this has resulted in us partnering with a stellar list of leading multi-disciplinary design consultancies, Tier 1 contractors and railway operators. I am immensely proud of the team and the high quality of service we provide. Working with organisations such as Network Rail on significant projects is something we are honoured to be part of. “

MD, James Fernandes says “We have a great track record of working in the transportation sector and it is an exciting time to be working in rail as we enter the next phases of UK rail infrastructure investment.”

The partnership forms an integral part of delivering Network Rail’s wider strategy to make improvements to the UK’s rail network to improve customer experience and meet environmental and sustainability goals during CP6 and CP7.

Technical recruiter Carrington West was founded in 2011, and the rail team was created in 2015 by Nick Rowe. The team quickly grew and today is a leading provider of contract and permanent design, engineering, project management, site management and trackside workers.

Photo credit: Carrington West

Preparations well underway for Railtex/Infrarail – the meeting place for the rail industry in 2021

From 7 – 9 September 2021, Railtex/Infrarail will gather the whole railway industry together in Birmingham. It will be the first time the exhibitions have taken place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the initial decision to postpone Infrarail 2020 to 2021, Mack-Brooks Exhibitions, Organisers of the events, made the strategic decision to co-locate Railtex and Infrarail to better serve the needs of the market. Now gathered under one roof, the exhibitions will serve the entire railway supply chain and present an impressive array of technologies and innovations ranging from total railway systems to the smallest specialised components.

A new format

For the first time, Railtex/Infrarail will become a hybrid event. The new setup will merge the onsite offering with interactive digital networking opportunities. A new matchmaking system will connect visitors to relevant suppliers, allowing them to arrange meetings based on complementary profiles. International visitors who won’t be able to attend due to travel restrictions will have the advantage of exploring the latest innovations and services online. Powered by this new matchmaking technology, a new scheme – ‘Meet the Buyer’ – will aim to promote fruitful exchanges and the establishment of new commercial partnerships.

An impressive array of sessions and a strong line-up of speakers

As the leading one-stop-shop event for the entire railway industry in the UK, Railtex/Infrarail reflects the dynamic developments in the sector and the vision of the rail network of the future. This year, conversations on the future of the industry will once again take centre stage with RIA’s ‘Future Focus Conference’, a three-day feature that will offer insights around four main themes:

  • Growth – rail can be a catalyst for economic growth, how to ensure it is supporting investment, jobs and GDP?
  • Geography: how to ensure rail reaches and benefits all corners of the UK?
  • Green: rail will be essential to meet decarbonisation goals. How can clients and the supply chain work together to decarbonise the network even further?
  • Global: across the world, nations are investing in rail infrastructure. It is a truly global market, which the UK – as the home of the railways – should be at the centre of. What opportunities are there for the UK and where do its strengths lie?

The programme will include keynotes, Q&A sessions and panel discussions held by a remarkable line-up of speakers, including prominent industry figure Graham Stuart (MP, Minister for Exports), Robert Ampomah (Chief Technology Officer, Network Rail) and Mike Muldoon (Head of Business Development UK & Ireland, Alstom).

Also returning to the programme will be the ‘Unlocking Innovation Zone’, organised by the events’ Main Partner RIA and supported by Network Rail and UKRRIN (UK Rail Research & Innovation Network of universities). The sessions will focus on new ideas and thinking to be explored in order to benefit the railway sector, as well as its passengers and economy. Sessions will run each day, covering:

  • High-Level Challenges – Opportunities from UK rail clients
  • Near Term Challenges – Opportunities from Tier 1s and Tier 2s
  • Funding and Partners conversations to take innovations to market
  • Elevator Pitches from a range of contributors, including SMEs and startups – curated in collaboration with UKRRIN and other associations.

Visitor information

Ticket registration is now available on the exhibition website. Online tickets for Railtex/Infrarail 2021 are free of charge and will give attendees fast-track admission to the event, allowing them to skip the queue onsite. Entrance tickets are valid on all three days of the exhibition and include free access to all conferences and associated events.

The Railtex/Infrarail 2021 visitor flyer has just been published, offering compact information about the show, such as opening hours and travel & accommodation information. Visitors can download a copy via the Visitor Hub on the official show website.

Hotel registration is also open and discounted room rates for attendees are available. The hotels are located close to the NEC and each of them offers StaySafe™ policies in response to COVID-19. Attendees can book their hotel room and view hotel policies directly from the official show website.

Railtex/Infrarail 2021 will take place from 7 – 9 September 2021 in halls 11 & 12 of the NEC Birmingham. The Midlands is home to 250+ globally renowned rail companies – 9 rail and engineering specialist colleges, 5 rail test facilities and 20 rail centres of excellence – making it the perfect location to host the events. The NEC has taken numerous measures to create a safe and controlled environment to ensure all attendees can safely meet in September.

Visitors can sign up to the newsletter for regular updates and notifications prior to the show. Further information is available at www.uk-railhub.co.uk

RISQS launches exciting rebrand and new website and announces its latest offering for members.

Over the last few months RISQS, under the stewardship of RSSB, has undergone various challenges. Despite all the recent changes – RISQS has remained resilient with over 4000 supplier and 90 buyer members in the scheme.

To reflect a new direction of travel, RISQS has recently undergone a brand update which also includes a new website that our members and wider industry can access at www.risqs.org.

RISQS has made significant investment in the last few months improving the scheme – one such investment is the new audit and scheduling tool which members will be able to use from today. This is the first of several new initiatives and offerings that RSSB will provide more detail about in due course.

Speaking about RISQS’ new look and latest offering, Antony Howard, Head of Assurance at RSSB said:

RISQS has been through a period of planned change. Looking ahead, the Assurance Team are working hard to further improve the current RISQS offering. This will ensure that our members continue to receive great value from the scheme. We will constantly drive to improve safety across the industry

RISQS over the last few years has grown from strength to strength – a clear sign that we are getting it right. We also know that there is always room for improvement so we will be launching new offerings and initiatives which we know our members will like as they ask for them. Keep an eye on our newsletter and website to make sure you keep up to speed with those changes and get the most benefit!

About RISQS 

RISQS is the Railway Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme, giving the industry’s circa 90 buyer members the assurance to do business with confidence with circa 4,000 supplier members. The scheme provides suppliers with an open, fair and transparent way for them to be formally recognised as capable providers of products and services to the GB rail market. Suppliers can be audited once via RISQS for their capabilities avoiding the need for them to be subjected to multiple, duplicate auditing from different buyers. 

QTS ON TRACK WITH NEW APPRENTICESHIP DRIVE

QTS 3.5.21

Local employer, The QTS Group, is opening its doors to aspiring apprentices with a special open day held at its Drumclog HQ.

Taking place between the 27th – 29th July 2021, young people are now being invited to register for a place to come and learn about the QTS workshop and the process involved in becoming a fully qualified plant fitter.

The young people will have the opportunity to see around the company HQ at Rench Farm and hear from some of the team, including previous and current apprentices.

This four-year apprenticeship with QTS, an Investor in Young People Gold Award employer, is the perfect pathway to learn how to maintain the bespoke plant machinery created and utilised by QTS on the railway.

Alan McLeish, Managing Director of QTS Group said:

“An apprenticeship is a terrific way to enter the rail industry and to learn skills that will help you progress through a rewarding career.

“At QTS, we are passionate about our plant machinery, and we are looking for young people who will share that enthusiasm and become part of the new generation of fitters within our business.”

Over the course of a four-year period, apprentices will combine practical work and study to become a fully qualified plant fitter. At the end of the apprenticeship, the fitter will sit their RPA Assessments which will allow them to carry out repairs and servicing to Rail Plant without supervision.

Andrew Pitt completed his plant fitter apprenticeship in 2020. He said:

“The railway industry has so many opportunities and it has been great for me to take advantage of this at QTS over the last five years. I enjoy working with the machinery and with the more senior fitters who have mentored me.

Andrew Pitt.

“I would definitely recommend QTS as an employer, especially for a young person looking to take up an apprenticeship. Working within the workshop team has been a great experience for me and the fact that the company is so innovative in plant and always looking to develop and move forward, means that there is always something new to learn and to challenge you.”

To be considered for the QTS Apprenticeship Scheme, applicants must hold the following Academic qualifications or their recognised equivalents –

  • National 4 (Minimum) in English
  • National 4 (Minimum) in Mathematics
  • National 4 (Minimum) in Science 

The Apprentice Open Days will be held on the 27th, 28th and 29th of July from 4pm – 630pm and in accordance with the appropriate COVID guidance from the Scottish Government. To register interest in attending one of the open days, please email [email protected] with a short paragraph about your career aspirations and what day you would be available to attend.

Rail still safer and greener than road

Britain’s railways remain the safest and greenest forms of land transport, but there is no room for complacency.

The independent rail safety body RSSB has published its latest Annual Health and Safety Report for Britain’s railways, covering the last financial year 2020-21.  

A year like no other saw rail grappling with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and a significant drop in passengers, all while ensuring the railways remained safe for people to work and use.

A train journey is still over 20 times safer than travelling the same distance by car, meaning any shift from public to private transport would have a detrimental effect on safety, health and the environment, according to RSSB.

Three people died in a train derailment at Carmont in August 2020, following 13 years with no passenger or workforce fatalities in accidents of that type in Britain. Conversely, there are at least 1,500 fatalities on Britain’s roads reported every year.

While the comparison is stark, this takes nothing away from the tragic effects that poor safety performance has on the workforce, passengers and public, as well as the wider economy.

RSSB are keen to state that safety cannot be taken for granted while the reforms prompted by the Williams-Shapps plan are brought in. Safety will be critical to maintaining the confidence needed by people and freight to return to rail, which in turn, will improve Britain’s economic and environmental prospects, meeting people’s needs and help people to rediscover quality of life.

The rail body has been keen to ensure that its members are Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railways, industry’s shared strategy that focuses on the key risks and challenges.

RSSB’s data analysis has boosted rail’s understanding of Covid transmission risk, making it easier to manage decisions and put in the right controls, for different levels of restrictions and passenger numbers..  

Experts are also helping Network Rail undertake analysis of earthworks examination and failure data, and develop a system risk model to help identify the appropriate operational response to forecasts of extreme weather.

RSSB has also provided data and risk analysis to support the move away from working with unassisted lookout protection, and reduce the risk to the workforce out on the track. This comes after two infrastructure workers were struck by trains and killed in separate incidents during the year; one at Roade in April 2020, and the other at Surbiton in February 2021.

In spite of their role as critical key workers during the pandemic, there was a big increase in the number of  assaults on staff in proportion to the number of passengers travelling. RSSB has produced tools to help rail companies manage the risk of assaults and trauma, and industry is continuing to work closely together to ensure the numbers come down, and staff are better protected.

RSSB’s Director of System Safety and Health, Ali Chegini said:

“Fundamentally, our Annual Health and Safety Report 2020-1 shows that Britain’s railways can continue to be proud of a formidable safety record that makes the train far safer than other transport modes.

“The industry’s response to the pandemic was heroic, keeping the nation’s critical workers and supplies moving to where they needed to be, all while handling safety and the impact of Covid simultaneously.

“The fatal train accident at Carmont as well as the workforce fatalities at Roade and Surbiton show that we are not infallible. These are indicators of big challenges where improvement is needed, and where RSSB is playing a part, through industry collaboration and its strategy: Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railways.

“As we move into an era of reform post the Williams-Shapps plan for rail publication, we will need to make sure the industry continues to work together closely to monitor risk and make the right interventions. Our members, funders and wider rail users can count on us for support, and we will continue to help rail become healthier and safer together.”

About the Annual Health and Safety Report 2020-1

There is a dedicated webpage on the Annual Health and Safety Report. From here you can download all the relevant reports and watch the video: CLICK HERE

The Annual Health and Safety Report 2020/21 is supported by 13 topic-specific reports. These combine the latest information on health and safety performance, operational learning and risk reduction initiatives.

Of the 13 reports:

• One provides an overview of rail safety in 2019/20.

• Eleven are structured around the priority risk areas in industry’s strategy Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railway

• One provides an update on industry activity to improve risk management capability

The key headlines for 2020-21 are:

  • There was a 78% reduction in passenger journeys
  • 3 passenger and workforce fatalities in train accidents
  • 1 passenger and public fatality in stations
  • 3 workforce fatalities (not in train accidents)
  • 16 public fatalities at other locations (11 were trespassers, 5 occurred at level crossings)
  • 253 suicides or suspected suicides

Leading Health and Safety on Britain’s Railways (LHSBR)

This strategy identifies 12 key risk areas where safety and health performance need to be improved. It suggests tangible ways to improve and innovate, making railways safer and healthier for all. The key to success is working together and making commitments to achieve future improvements.

More information can be found on our website.

Recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Four Network Rail employees have been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Rajinder Pryor, John Sidebotham, Danny Hawkins and Simon Lloyd have been recognised for various pieces of work, including to support colleagues’ mental health throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, vital charity work in local communities and promoting diversity across the rail industry.

Rajinder Pryor.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “I am incredibly proud to see the contributions of Rajinder, John, Danny and Simon recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

“They have all been making a real difference to their local communities and to their colleagues, and it’s great to see their dedication acknowledged at the highest level. Congratulations to all.”

Rajinder Pryor, MBE – for her work with Women in Rail to promote diversity across the rail industry, and for raising awareness around domestic abuse, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic in support of the Rail to Refuge scheme and Online Safe Spaces.

John Sidebotham, British Empire Medal (BEM) – for outstanding service to health and wellbeing at Network Rail during the Covid-19 pandemic, and starting a movement that embodies trust, collaboration, diversity and inclusion, and the celebration of uniqueness.

John Sidebotham.

Danny Hawkins, BEM – for his work with local schools and charities in Ebbsfleet, including devising a programme to educate school children on how to stay safe near the railway.

Simon Lloyd, BEM – for his charity work over the last 15 years, restoring over 300 discarded and unwanted bicycles and giving them to charities and schools, and most recently to people returning to work after being homeless.

Last year, 10 Network Rail employees were listed in the Queen’s Birthday and New Year’s Honours in recognition of a wide range of achievements, including outstanding work to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, volunteer and charity work in their local communities, and commitment to improving diversity in the rail industry.

Featured image – Simon Lloyd.

Dartmoor line closer to reopening

28/04/2021Network Rail works, Okehampton.Okehampton Station, New Track Construction Machine (NTC) and crews in action as the “Dartmoor Line” is reinstated.Photo by Tim Gander. © Tim Gander 2021. All rights reserved.

The reopening of the railway line between Okehampton and Exeter is one step closer after Network Rail finished relaying the new track and sleepers this week.

Following the confirmation of government funding in March, engineers started immediately and have worked tirelessly upgrading this 14 mile stretch of track between Okehampton and Coleford Junction, where the Dartmoor Line joins the existing railway line to Exeter.

As well as laying new track and sleepers, Network Rail engineers have been working day and night on drainage, fencing, preparing the ground for the new railway and much more.

Over 11 miles of new track has successfully been laid and 24,000 concrete sleepers installed using an innovative NTC (new track construction) machine, which is able to simultaneously evenly drop sleepers into position, lay the track on top and then clamp the track into place.

© Tim Gander 2021. All rights reserved.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “It’s brilliant that so much progress has been made already in this project. Network Rail engineers have done an incredible job installing 11 miles of new track and 24,000 sleepers, bringing us closer to seeing regular passenger services restored later this year.

“Restoring the connections between our communities, and building new ones, is key to levelling up across the UK.”

The concrete sleepers, which were stored at the work site adjacent to Okehampton station, have been transported along the Dartmoor Line using a Class 56 locomotive train that has pushed around a quarter-mile long set of wagons containing on average 2,430 sleepers per journey at a speed of 5mph.

The 29,000 tonnes of ballast have also nearly all been installed and this will be followed by the process of tamping. This involves a machine travelling along the newly laid railway and inserting vibrating metal rods into the ballast to compact it so that it effectively supports the track while lifting the track so that it is level.

Once complete, this process helps the train wheels to align with the track which results in a smoother ride for passengers and prevents the train wheels from causing damage to the track.

Becky Tipper, Network Rail scheme project manager, said: “We are delighted with the progress the team has made and this is credit to the hard work and dedication of our engineers involved in this project.

“To have already laid the 11 miles of track, 24,000 sleepers and nearly completing the installation of the 29,000 tonnes of ballast is no mean feat and we are looking forward to focussing our attention on the next stage of work.

“It has also been really comforting to see such interest and support from the local community. We are committed to reopening this important railway line as quickly and safely as possible and look forward to the resumption of regular passenger services in the not too distant future.”

To enable engineers to work throughout the night, over four miles of lights have also been erected. These lights have been powered by silent generators to ensure residents living near to the Dartmoor Line are disrupted as little as possible.

Photo by Tim Gander. © Tim Gander 2021. All rights reserved.

Now that the main elements of the track relay work have been completed, Network Rail will be turning its focus to other aspects of the project including upgrading several level crossings, installing new GSM-R masts (the railway’s mobile communications system), undertaking bridge repairs as well as running engineering test trains to check the quality of the newly laid track.

Richard Burningham MBE, manager of the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, added: “Hats off and many thanks to all involved in this tremendous feat. To have laid 11 miles of track already is fabulous and it’s been great to see video of the very innovative piece of kit which has helped on the Dartmoor Line. Thanks too to the Government for funding all this work.”

Avanti West Coast launches new travel class

Avanti West Coast has become the first UK train operating company to offer an additional class of travel as part of its services.

Sitting between Standard and First, customers will get roomier seats, greater space and a guaranteed table. Standard Premium is available on all the West Coast Main Line Pendolino services.

The Standard Premium class was developed following market research and then successful trials last year with respondents saying they are either “highly likely” or “likely” to upgrade to Standard Premium for future journeys, citing extra space as a key benefit.

The new class is initially available to buy as an upgrade on the day of travel, with Advance purchase tickets on sale from July for travel from September. Single journey upgrade prices range from £15 for Birmingham to London to £30 for Glasgow to London.

They will also have the option to purchase refreshments via the new ‘At-Seat Order’ feature where customers can have items delivered to them without moving from their seat.

As part of further improvements, Avanti West Coast will launch an enhanced First Class offering later this year. Work is also due to start next month to fully refurbish the entire Pendolino fleet of 56 trains as part of a £117m deal signed with Alstom.

New seats, with leather headrests, will be installed in Standard Premium and First. All 25,000 Standard seats will be also be replaced, with customers also benefiting from a new look onboard shop, as part of the biggest ever fleet upgrade.

In addition, one carriage on all 11 coach Pendolinos (the existing Coach G), will be converted from First to Standard, increasing each train’s seating capacity by 5%. The first refurbished set is due to enter service in November 2021.

Phil Whittingham, manager director at Avanti West Coast said: “This is the first major step in our transformation of services on the West Coast. Together with our upcoming First Class service which will lead the industry, and the complete refurbishment of the Pendolino fleet, Standard Premium will set a new benchmark for UK rail travel.

“Our new class of travel will offer greater choice and provide a unique offer which meets customers’ changing needs as they return to rail. This new feature is another step in raising the bar for excellence on the railway.”

New hospital connection helps NHS workers

Following feedback from customers, TransPennine Express are making changes to some of its Yorkshire services, including the creation of a new connection for hospital workers in Middlesbrough.

The popular morning service from Redcar Central will be re-timed to leave earlier, allowing it to arrive in Middlesbrough in time for key workers to catch the local train to The James Cook University Hospital.

As restrictions continue to ease and more people return to rail, TPE will be reinstating another North Yorkshire service, as well as starting to operate two of its York to Scarborough trains through to Leeds again.

Luke Gardner, Permanent Timetable manager for TransPennine Express said: “We’ve taken the opportunity to make some changes to our timetable and I’m happy to announce that we will be able to reinstate some further services.

“Following valuable input from local customers, we’ve been able to provide a new connection to The University James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough, allowing hospital workers to arrive at the hospital in time for their early morning shift.

Councillor Wayne Davies, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development for Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council commented: “I welcome the earlier departure of the first journey of the day to Middlesbrough that gives local people the opportunity to take the train to work at James Cook University Hospital.  Improving our passenger train services to make them more useable means that local people will be able to travel to work, education, leisure and other reasons whilst being able to help the environment.”

New national flexible season tickets

Motion blurred anonymous people walking inside large railway terminus platform

The launch of flexible season tickets is the first step in the reform of the railways, as part of the recently launched Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail.

The paperless tickets allow travel on any eight days in a 28-day period, with passengers able to tap smartcards or scan mobiles at the station, with no need to select the days of travel in advance.

Commuters can visit an updated online ‘season ticket calculator’ website, which will point people to the best tickets for them based on their journey, working pattern and individual needs, ensuring they get the deal that suits them.

To encourage more passengers to travel by rail, for the rest of this year train companies will also offer a “book with confidence” guarantee, allowing people to rebook journeys or receive rail vouchers without an admin fee if their plans change.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said, “Our railways work best when they are reliable, rapid and affordable. As we kickstart the biggest reforms to our railways in a generation flexible season tickets are the first step. They give us greater freedom and choice about how we travel, simpler ticketing and a fairer fare.”

This new national offer also reflects the long-term decline in the use of traditional season tickets, with a change in working practices having been accelerated by the outbreak of Covid-19.

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said, “CBI members have told us that hybrid working is likely to be the long-term norm for many firms, with employees splitting their week between home and onsite working. It is therefore essential that public transport networks reflect these new habits.”

The future of railway footbridges

A new design of bridge that could transform rail crossings across Britain has been unveiled.

The innovative circular bridge is set to revolutionise the way Network Rail builds footbridges over the tracks. Made from lightweight material, the environmentally friendly bridge can be installed in a matter of days, and its modern, modular design means it can be adapted to different locations. It also features built-in monitoring to assess usage and maintenance needs.

Andy Cross, Network Rail programme manager, said “We were able to take a different approach. This has allowed us to work with several small and medium-sized businesses, many of whom haven’t worked on railway projects before but have the skills and expertise to bring the concept of a lightweight, low-cost footbridge to life.

“In just 11 months we have developed a prototype bridge that is stunning in design, environmentally friendly and will take days and not weeks to install and thereby causing less disruption for the surrounding community.”

Network Rail currently has just one option when considering building a new footbridge or replacing an old one, the standard non-station footbridge design that is heavy, unattractive and expensive to deliver.

This new design is made from Fibre-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) – a lightweight material that is widely used in other industries, including the manufacture of aircraft and cars. The material is very strong but lightweight, leading to lower transport and installation costs.

It is hoped the ground-breaking design will be adopted across the country as part of a wider programme of work to transform how footbridges are built on the rail network in future, as well as providing an attractive alternative to repairing existing crossings. The next phase of the project involves developing sustainable procurement and construction options as well as a ramped version of the bridge.

Cumbrian Railways unite against ‘destructive’ bridge scheme

Supporters of two heritage railways in Cumbria have been lobbying council officials and their local MP over the infilling of a bridge that is needed for a planned link between their lines.

Contractors engaged by Highways England moved onto a site at Great Musgrave to start burying the 159-year-old structure which was designed by prolific Victorian engineer Thomas Bouch.

The Eden Valley and Stainmore railways have a long-standing ambition to reunite their operations by laying five miles of track from Kirkby Stephen to Warcop, creating a tourist attraction that would deliver a significant boost to the area. However loss of the bridge would place a substantial obstacle in their way, putting the connection in jeopardy after years of development work.

Highways England manages the Historical Railways Estate of 3,100 disused structures on the Department for Transport’s behalf. In a letter sent on 23 April 2020, they told Eden District Council that an “assessment undertaken in 1998 found the structure suitable only for 17 tonnes” and action was needed to “remove the associated risk of structural collapse and harm to the public”.

Normally, a project of this type would require planning permission as it constitutes an engineering activity and affects the external appearance of the bridge. However, just a day after receiving the letter, a Council officer told Highways England’s agent that “we don’t consider that we would need to see a planning application for these works”.

Before.
After.

Mike Thompson, Project Manager for the Stainmore Railway Company, said: “It’s inexplicable that such a destructive project is allowed to go ahead without proper public scrutiny. There are huge potential economic benefits from an 11-mile line through the wonderful landscape of the Eden Valley, linking Kirkby Stephen to Warcop and then on to Appleby.

“Anything that prejudices that opportunity needs to be properly examined through the established democratic process, particularly a bridge infilling scheme that can’t be justified on engineering or public safety grounds.

“We urge the Council to put right their mistake and take immediate action to stop the work.”

In a statement, an officer from the Eden Valley Railway Trust, said: “We oppose the actions of Highways England in filling in the bridge without contacting interested parties and would have expressed our opposition to the idea. The Eden Valley Railway Trust’s long-term aim is to reinstate the line from Warcop to Kirkby Stephen and this has not changed since it was ratified by the members of the Trust back in 1999.”

The work at Great Musgrave is expected to cost £124K and take up to five weeks. In a statement, Highways England said “Infill or demolition is only considered on structures that are unsafe”. However locals point out that the bridge is on a lightly-used road, remains in good condition and is showing no signs of being overloaded.

Councillor Phil Dew, who chairs the Upper Eden Railway Heritage Partnership, said: “Quite rightly, the railways’ volunteers feel deeply let down by the Council. Years of hard work is under threat because the nature and impact of this scheme was not reviewed with due diligence.

“Was the Council’s policy on the fragmentation of green infrastructure networks considered? Was the Council’s policy on development that would prevent the future opening of a railway considered? Was the long-term economic impact of this work considered? Absolutely not. It’s a reprehensible and damaging error.

“Highways England sent the same template letter about infilling schemes to a number of local authorities last year and we have more than a dozen replies in which they are told to apply for planning permission. But Eden District Council just allowed them to go ahead. I’ve been alerting officers to the issue since January, but they’ve been indifferent and dismissive from the outset.”

Following an appeal on Facebook, the Bank Holiday weekend saw the railways’ volunteers and supporters lobby Dr Neil Hudson, the MP for Penrith and The Border, and Jason Gooding, Eden District Council’s Acting Chief Executive, urging them to save the bridge.

Highways England claims to have “consulted widely – including with Eden Valley District Council, Sustrans and the Eden Valley Railway Company – on our plans to strengthen the bridge.” But both the Eden Valley and Stainmore railways flatly deny there has been any dialogue with the company over the Great Musgrave bridge.

“The first we knew about it was when a national list appeared in January”, says Mike Thompson. “I’ve spoken to our friends at the Eden Valley Railway and they’re as appalled as we are over Highways England’s claim – which is contradicted by its own reports – regarding the risks presented by the bridge and alleged discussions with us about its future. If the latter is indeed true, then please tell us with whom, where and when. We have heard nothing from them.

“We would have welcomed the opportunity to make clear our opposition to this destructive project. Years of effort by dozens of volunteers is now in jeopardy. There’s not even been a planning application so our voices have been totally silenced.”

In a statement to RailStaff sister magazine, the Rail Engineer, Highways England’s Head of Scheme Delivery, David Wheatley, said: “We can confirm that any work carried out by the Historical Railways Estate in the future will not thwart any potential active travel schemes, or any rail reopenings, including the extension of preserved railways. We have paused infilling and demolition works where local authorities have raised queries about the works.”

Despite this assurance, infilling at Great Musgrave continues. Eden District Council has asked Highways England to pause whilst a review is undertaken, but it refused citing Permitted Development rights.

The HRE Group – an alliance of engineers, sustainable transport advocates and greenway developers – is campaigning against the infilling programme nationally.

Group member Graeme Bickerdike said: “We’re surprised that a Government-owned company would act so dishonestly. Every statement it makes is contradicted by its actions. This work cannot be justified on engineering, public safety or costs grounds, so Highways England has contrived an alternative reality.

“According to its own figures, it would take about 50 years to spend the £124K infilling cost on routine inspection and maintenance, so the taxpayer won’t begin to see any benefit from this scheme until 2070. But before then – if the opportunity had not been denied them – these two railways would have created a tourist attraction, boosting the local economy and raising tax revenue.

“These distant officials are just managing spreadsheets, oblivious to the damaging impacts of their decisions on good people trying to do positive things for their communities.”

All photos credit – The HRE Group

Northern City goes digital

Passengers on the Northern City Line, one of the most important routes into the City of London, will enjoy more reliable journeys as work to upgrade track and signalling on the route will create the first intercity digital railway in the UK.

As part of the East Coast Digital Programme this includes fitting trains with the latest in-cab signalling technology and removing the old lineside signals.

This will mean that signallers will be able to communicate with trains continuously rather than only at fixed signal points, responding in real time, which will benefit passengers by reducing delays and significantly improving performance.

However, to carry out this vital work, there will be some temporary service changes for passengers. There will be six weekends of track closures between Finsbury Park and Moorgate this summer as Network Rail teams work to install new equipment.

Toufic Machnouk, Programme Director for East Coast Digital Programme, said: “The East Coast Digital Programme is fundamental to improving reliability on the Northern City Line and the work taking place this summer is vital to keep the programme on track.

The fight to end loneliness

Image Description:Client: TransPennine ExpressShoot Date: 30th November & 1st December 2020Picture credit: Stuart BaileyWeb: www.StuartBaileyPhoto.com Email: [email protected]

TransPennine Express (TPE) has partnered with the Campaign to End Loneliness and is taking steps to inform customers, colleagues and people who live in and around the places they serve about support services and tips to help tackle loneliness.

Partnership Marketing Manager for TransPennine Express, Lisa Hewitt said: “Loneliness affects so many people in the UK and we share the vision of the Campaign to End Loneliness that everyone can live a life free from chronic loneliness.”

There are more than 9 million people who suffer from loneliness in the UK and this figure has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as people have struggled to see family and friends. Now the train company is aiming to be part of the solution and to help bring people together.

Robin Hewings, Programme Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “Tackling loneliness by helping people to build social connections is important. Loneliness can be felt by people of all ages and backgrounds and can really impact on your quality of life.

“We are delighted to be working with TransPennine Express in raising awareness across their network of how people can support each other in building their social connections after Covid-19.”

TPE will be taking on the Campaign to End Loneliness employer’s pledge, setting up pathways and signage for colleagues to access support and training resources will be made available so colleagues can recognise if someone may be experiencing loneliness.

In addition, the train company will be conducting an employee survey to measure loneliness amongst colleagues as it recognises that some of the workforce may have experienced loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As well as looking out for their own colleagues, TPE will also be taking steps to raise awareness of the issue to its customers.

New bogie drop installation

A new bogie drop facility has been installed at Greater Anglia’s Crown Point rail depot to help maintain the operator’s fleet of Stadler bi-mode trains.

The work to install the £8.7M facility – which allows engineers to repair, remove and replace the underneath of train carriages, such as the wheelsets and underframe equipment – is now complete.

The work is part of Greater Anglia’s £40M redevelopment of Crown Point Depot, which began in 2018, to accommodate its fleet of new, longer trains.

Rather than lifting trains up on jacks to work underneath them, a bogie drop keeps the train carriage at track level, and instead, the bogie – the undercarriage of the train to which the wheels are attached – is lowered away.

The work to install the facility involved excavating around 960 cubic metres of soil weighing 1,440 tonnes, to create the hole for the bogie drop structure into which a Mechan lifting table was fitted before lowering in the 31-tonne bogie drop assembly.

In total, 511 cubic metres of concrete, weighing 1,226 tonnes, and 106 tonnes of reinforced steel were used in the construction.

Diesel exhaust extractor hoods have also been fitted, as well as steel work for two monorail cranes, a travelling jib crane and an engine lift crane.

Greater Anglia’s Head of Programme Safety & Assurance, Steve Clarke, said, “The successful completion of this complex project will create a step-change in the depot’s engineering capabilities.”

The large scale expansion of Norwich’s Crown Point Depot creates better facilities to house and maintain the 58 new trains built by Stadler, including a new train washing facility, improved servicing equipment and the ability to store and dispense more fuel.

Special high walkways have been installed to give engineers access for maintenance and repairs – as most of the new trains’ components are on the roof – due to their lowered floors which make them more accessible to passengers.

Stadler is responsible for maintaining Greater Anglia’s brand new regional bi-mode, Airport Express and InterCity trains at the depot, working closely with Greater Anglia to ensure that the new trains are in top condition to provide rail passengers in East Anglia with punctual and reliable services.

FIRSTCLASS SAFETY & CONTROL CHOSEN TO SAFEGUARD ETIHAD RAIL’S AL-FAYA OPERATIONS...

Staff working for Etihad Rail will benefit from international best practice in health and safety, in part thanks to innovative depot protection technology from...