Network Rail Reorganisation to Improve Performance

A recent announcement has revealed that a significant structural reorganisation will take place as part of a plan by Network Rail to increase responsibilities on a regional basis in order to enhance performance levels.

There will be a total of 13 new routes created by the operator and this will be spread across five new regions and that will lead to a more streamlined alignment with franchises. From its headquarters, Network Rail will pass the work onto the new regions in order to help enhance efficiency. The new regions will cover Scotland, Wales &Western, London North Western, Southern (which will be made up Wessex and South East) and Eastern ( consisting of LNE & EM and Anglia).

As part of the changes, within each region, a route director will be put in place to oversee the changes and the implementation of the new routes.

However, the operator has announced that the plans come after a review by the Chief Executive Andre Haines and they will have to put through a consultation before they are given the go ahead.

On a regional level and as part of the plans there are areas that will be devolved including infrastructure along with elements of system operations, safety technical & engineering as well as group digital railway.

Andrew Haines, Chief Executive has made it explicitly clear that there is a need for significant change because performance is not where it should be. Following in-depth discussions with partners, passengers and politicians located around the country, it has highlighted those areas where things are done well and those areas where improvements have to be made.

In order for National Rail to deliver a service that is appreciated by passengers but also works for the business, the devolution is going to have to go deeper than just the surface as this will enable them to form closer relationships with partners and customers. The announcement clearly indicates that National Rail is doing all it can to make moves in the right direction.




Changes to HS2s Northern Phase 2 to be Decided by Select Committee

Changes to the construction of the second phase of HS2, Phase 2a will be voted on by MPs. They will make a decision on whether significant changes to designs and the layouts should be taken forward.

The changes that are proposed to take place between the West Midlands and Crewe will be decided by a select committee of MPs and this comes following a consultation, petitions and environment concerns have been considered.

A provisions document highlighted the changes and this includes amendments to be made to viaducts, junction layouts as well as tunnel lengths along with dealing with complaints relating to levels of noise including environmental disruption.

As part of the amendments, changes will be made to Crewe Station, where platform five will be extended in order accommodate the HS2 train which is longer in length. This comes after guidance from Cheshire East Council which was set out in the Crewe Hub Vision.

Concerns raised by Staffordshire County Council have lead to two changes being put forward and these concerns relate to noise levels of the proposed Kings Bromley viaduct located near the Trent and Mersey Canal.

In May of last year, the HS2 guaranteed the authority that the height of the viaduct would be reduced while the amendments suggest that they could decrease the cost of construction and the visual impact. The council also requested a simpler layout of Handsacre Junction where it has been revised although this is the area where Phase 1 of HS2 will link up with the West Coast Main Line.

There are other amendments that will be considered such as the tunnel at Whitmore in Stoke-on-Trent being extended as well as a new tractions power connection at Newlands Lane which would offer a level of resilience that is needed for the traction power on the high speed railway.

So, the select committee will make a decision on what amendments ca be taken forward before putting through a consultation that will run until the end of March where the public and petitioners will be heard.



Pay-as-you-Go Rail Travel Could Be Rolled Out Nationwide

The Department for Transport has launched a consultation where they are looking into rolling out the pay-as-you-go ticketing model that can be found in London today.

The aim is to introduce smart ticketing on a nationwide basis and so, the DFT is seeking views from both passengers and rail stakeholders. The system which could be rolled out by 2020 enables passengers to swipe their smartcard or bank card to pay for their tickets.

There was an investment of £80m from the government in the hope of introducing smart and paperless ticketing throughout all of England and Wales. Transport for the North launched the first phase of its Smart on Rail project and now the government wants the system to reach further and wider making it the normal way to pay for tickets.

The aim is to provide a simpler and more effective way of travelling for passengers and it is believed that smart ticketing is the way forward as it is simpler and offers easier fairs and less confusion.The consultation is about finding out what people want and how their lives can be enhanced by smart ticketing. The system has the potential to offer more speed and convenience in paying for travel without the need to queue while providing those who travel less and at quieter times the chance to benefit financially.

A report has highlighted that smart ticketing is a popular choice in London with half of London Tube and train journeys being paid for using contactless payments. It also proves that passengers are looking for a new way in which to pay.

However, the system in London offers convenience and provides passengers with the confidence to know that they are purchasing the right ticket because the system has been set up to work that way. It is this reason why they want to consult and gain the views of passengers to see how the system can be taken forward and rolled out on a wider scale. The system has the potential to go nationwide but things have to be done correctly, listening to customer needs and then developing the correct plan of action. Essentially, the goal is to ensure that fairer and simpler fares are offered and consultations are the beginning of that process.

Rolling Stock to be Decided by Owners

In the main, rolling stock is commonly privately owned and so, the owners have a say in what happens to their assets in the future, especially when they are no longer in service. However, following two Commons Written Questions from Paul Girvan of the Democratic Unionist Party, South Antrim, the Transport Minister Andrew Jones has responded.

The questions that were submitted by Paul Girvan related to rolling stock and what proportion of trains are wholly or partially re-purposed or removed from completely and scrapped. He also posed the question as to whether the Government would step in and publish clear and concise guidelines that determine what should happen when it comes to re-purposing any displaced rolling stock.

The Transport Minister responded even though the Department for Transport had already made it clear that bi-mode trains would be put into production in preparation for them being added to the East Midlands franchise from 2022.

As it currently stands, there has been no specific contract awarded for the manufacture of these trains and no resolution has been found that relates to the future of the High Speed Trains that new fleet will be used in place of. At the moment, the High Speed Trains have to be removed from service by December 31 as they are not adequately fitted with the correct facilities in order for them to meet disability guidelines. The owner Porterbrook, made an offer to have the work completed on the sets but the Department for Transport offered no assurances and this resulted in the work not being completed on time.

South West Trains had Class 455s and 458s that had been significantly modified as part of a Government-sponsored High Level Output Specification plan. Along with this, 30 five-car 707s were ordered but the Department for Transport then decided that a new franchise would be awarded to First Group/MTR which ultimately mean that the withdrawal of the EMUs is imminent.

Data Published for UK Rail Funding and Expenditure

The annual report from the Office of Rail & Roads shows that the funding and spending within UK Rail from 1 April 2017 to March 31 2018 was released on January 30th.

The report detailed the costs associated with running the railways in 2017-2018 an increase of 1.4% year-on-year to £20.6bn. However, income experienced a drop of 1.3% to £19.4bn, much of which was put down to a drop in passenger numbers of 1.4% while there was a drop of 2.4% in income from fares equating to £9.8bn.

The Office of Rail & Road has put the drop in passenger journeys down to the fact that engineering works at London Waterloo as well as strike action saw a decrease in journeys of 8%. Along with this, train operators experienced an income of £0.9bn from on-board catering as well as car parking and other sources, all of which increased by 2.3%.

The drop in income from fares was put down to lower returns to the UK and devolved government from train operators, leading to an increase of 8% in the form of government funding.

Train operators gave the government a net total of £0.4bn which is a drop of £0.3bn. This decrease was put down to a mixture of schedule changes within franchise agreements, plant cost increase on certain franchises, payments to some operators for delays on upgrades being made to infrastructure as well as a lower than expected revenue growth.

The government gave a total funding amount of £2.4bn to Network Rail with its costs increased to £8.6bn, a rise of 9.3%, much of which was put down to the rise in financing costs. There was also and amount of £0.4bn in performance based schedule 4 and 8 payments to train operators, which is an increase of 4.6%.

The overall costs for franchised operators decreased to £12.9bn, a drop of 1.6% and that was because they paid 12.1% less to government. However, staff costs increased for operators by 0.9% while the costs of rolling stock increased by 5.5% and other operating costs also increased by a total of 1.4%.

Dividends were declared by train operators that totalled £0.2bn which is a drop of 27% when compared to the previous year but there was an increase of 6.5% when compared to five years previously.





Final Cost of HS2 is a Mystery

Following on from the concerns that the HS2 project could be changed, the former chairman has said that something is going to have to give in terms of the time, scope and the cost. Sir Terry Morgan said yesterday that the HS2 Project team might have to alter their number of trains that use the route or even the speed.

When it comes to the final cost, it seems as though nobody actually knows what that might be and that has lead to further concerns regarding the budget. Therefore, it is looking likely that the HS2 team will be faced with the challenge of dealing with a number of aspects of the project such as the time, cost and scope.

These comments are not going to allay concerns that the cost of the project could result in fewer trains running at lower speeds in order to remain in budget. It has become clear that the current management team is still following the original scope of the project where 18 trains will run each hour at a top speed of 250mph although this could change.

The blend of frequency and speed forms part of the government specification but there is no doubt that both will become a consideration over time when the project begins looking at the numbers in finer detail. Out of the scope, cost and time, something has to give and it could mean that people have to be more flexible about the reality of the project. Is there a need for speed, value for money or the number of trains per hour?

It has also become apparent that most people regret calling the project High- Speed, despite the project being commission to create capacity but there is no denying that connectivity is a huge factor in the entire project. When you consider that the journey from the Midlands to the north is a dire one and so, the implementation of the HS2 project will change that from more than two hours to 40 minutes. Therefore, it could be an indication that connectivity is more important for HS2.

£13m Upgrade About to Begin on Derbyshire Rail

As part of the improvement plans for the railway in Derbyshire, Network Rail is close to beginning renew works. The work focuses on junctions, signalling systems and passenger access on the Matlock branch line, forming part of a £200m project.

At the point where the Matlock branch line leaves the Midland Main Line, known as Ambergate Junction, complete replacement works are being carried out and relocated to the south. Included in this renewal work being carried out by Network Rail are changes to the signalling system and the installation of a new walkway as a way of improving the safety of all engineers working on the track.

This upgrade, which is costing £13m, will enable trains to travel at higher speeds through the area but it will mean that no trains will be on the line for a large of February which does mean that there is an average increase of around 30 minutes for each journey. While there is going to be disruption, Network Rail, East Midlands Trains and Cross-Country are working together in order to reduce the amount of disruption that passengers will experience.

It has been made clear by the router managing director for Network Rail that this work does form a large part of the Midland Main Line upgrade.  However, this is the second phase of the project with the first phase involving a lot of work being undertaken as part of the Derby Resignalling upgrade. However, as the project is of significant size, it has had to be completed in two phases.

It has been acknowledged that the changes to train services will be a pain for passengers, they are being informed that these upgrades will improve the service in future and so, patience is welcomed. While the project will take a short space of time, once completed, the works will definitely bring with it a better experience for passengers.

Arriva Could Be Sold To Fulfil Funding Requirements

Deutsche Bahn, the German state rail operator could be close to selling Arriva, with a last-minute meeting taking place between the management of the company and the German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer. It is also believed the government-sponsored member on the board of Deutsche Bahn have had a disagreement with Directors over the proposals to get rid of Arriva as well as DB Schenker and with this comes a warning from state officials.

Domestic passenger rail performance has been dropping and Deutsche Bahn has been grappling with the problem for some time however, they are still yet to release a comment on these reports. There is a funding gap of around four billion Euros that needs to be filled and with the current levels of uncertainty surrounding Brexit, it is finding it difficult to come up with a valuation for Arriva.

Arriva has been operated by Deutsche Bahn as its international subsidiary for almost ten years and it also has rail and bus operations not just in the UK but also other countries although its headquarters is based in Sunderland.

Arriva originated from a vehicle leasing company based in Sunderland known as Cowie and was founded in 1938 and years later it moved into the bus market in the 1980s before taking on the image of the Arriva brand in the mid-90s. Deutsche Bahn purchased Arriva in 2010 and with this came three National Rail Franchises known as Arriva Trains Wales, Chiltern Railways and CrossCountry along with Tyne & Wear Metro, open access operator Wrexham and Shropshire. With this also came an array of bus companies in the UK and bus and rail operations in other countries located in Europe. In 2011, Arriva also took on the open access operator Grand Central but shut down Wrexham and Shropshire. However, in recent times, Arriva took the decision to withdraw themselves in October 2017 from the competition to become the next Welsh franchise.


HS2 Investment Warnings for the North East

The HS2 Chairman has been contacted by business leaders and local councils where they have expressed concerns over the need for investment in the East Coast Main Line.

The joint letter makes it clear that investment is needed throughout the area in preparation for high-speed trains to access the northeast and beyond. They are calling for a single plan to be developed where the mainline between York and Newcastle is upgraded in preparation for HS2 in 2033.

The North East Joint Transport Committee has sent the letter as it is responsible for Tyne and Wear, Durham and Northumberland but it also comes from the local enterprise as well as local council leaders. The make it clear that the government has to put money into a high-speed link or the risk putting barriers up that will leave the region behind.

Whether further investment from the government is likely is still unknown but HS2 has already pushed costs up and there are risks of it not sticking to its schedule. This has resulted in the chief executive Sir Terry Morgan resigning.

Yesterday it became apparent that Mark Thurston, the new chief executive for HS2 has indicated that train speeds and service could be reduced to keep the budget and schedule on track.

Martin Gammon, the leader of Gateshead Council said the HS2 has the ability to help the economy grow in the northeast but it just as easily can prevent it from benefiting from a high-speed link, which will put up barriers.

It is clear that the government is already committed to phases 1 and 2a of HS2, which aims to create economic ties between London, the West Midlands and the north-west and investment into these areas is being encouraged but the equivalent investment needs to be committed to HS2 Phase 2b, in order to help boost confidence in the area. This can be achieved through significant investment and so, the government, Network Rail and Transport for the north are being called upon to work together in order to create a plan that is credible, timely and funded in the correct way, so that the East Coast Main Lin can be upgraded appropriately.

Cumbrian Rail Routes to Receive New Fleet of Trains

Northern bosses have promised a wide range of new initiatives to come into effect in 2019 and the first signs of this can be seen with the introduction of a new fleet of trains. The new fleet will be added to routes in Cumbria for the first time and the total of 98 trains, that are made up of both diesel and electric will be slowly integrated on the Furness Line between Barrow and Lancaster.  They will also be added to the Lakes Line which links Oxenholme and Windermere.

At the meeting of South Lakeland District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee, the news of the new fleet was announced and this means that South Cumbria will be the first location to receive new diesel trains. As it stands, driver testing, as well as train testing, are already being carried out.

At the meeting, councillors found out that the introduction of this new stock of trains comes as part of a number of initiative from Northern. The aim is to offer an enhanced service that will entice passengers to begin using the service again. This is welcome news following the admission by Chris Jackson, the Regional Director, that more needed to be done in order to the confidence that the public has in the service.

At the hearing, Mr Jackson explained that the company had pulled together its operation in order to prove that they are now serious about improving the service, starting with the introduction of new trains in Cumbria. For some time, discussions about trains have been made but nothing has come to fruition but now it is happening. With 98 trains on order, the first routes are going to benefit from a more regular and reliable service.

As this is big news and as a way of getting it noticed by passengers, a number of marketing campaigns will be launched prior to Easter, while officials have made a promise that there will be 11 trains that go directly to Manchester Airport from Barrow and Windermere every day. To add to this news, Northern officials have also stated that day-return tickets for commuters and residents will come at a reduced price while cheaper advanced purchase fares that are designed to capture the attention of the leisure market.


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