Legal & General, has given the Wales and Borders Rail Franchise £200 million in order to introduce new rolling stock to the south Wales Metro.
The current fleet in service is ageing and so, this funding will enable the Wales and Border Franchise to replace the fleet. This will enable them to improve the capacity of services in Cardiff as well as the many valley lines that make up the metro route, much of which has been electrified.
The new fleet will be made up of around 60 new trains consisting of 36 light rail overhead electric and battery powered trains as well as 24 tri-mode trains which will be manufactured by Stadler with the aim of them entering operations in 2024.
The current diesel fleet will be replaced by the new metro fleet, helping to reduce emissions on the router while the tri-mode trains will be able to use the overhead electric lines as well as battery and diesel engines. This will be the fifth investment made in the industry by Legal & General, proving that it continues to commit to the infrastructure of the UK.
The head of infrastructure, Tom Sumpster has said that they are pleased to provide this financing, making it possible for Wales & Borders franchise to lower carbon emissions and provide a new level of transport. This will help to improve links between England and Wales. This is a clear indication that Legal & General are happy to invest in the UK railway provision while complementing its previous commitment to regenerating key areas of Cardiff such as the area surrounding the train station. Their ongoing commitment is a clear sign that they want to help the infrastructure in the UK to make great strides forward with the aim of enhancing the way in which people lead their lives. This includes the work and personal lives while bringing businesses and communities together.
The electrification work on the Core Valley Lines is being undertaken by KeolisAmey who also operates the new Wales and Border franchise
CAF, the Spanish rail manufacturer has released the news that the highly anticipated Diesel Multiple Units are now going into the design and engineering phase in preparation for them to be rolled out to the Wales and Borders franchise.
The DMUs are being made in Newport, South Wales which is the facility for CAF. From here, 77 DMUs will be made and will then enter service for the first time in early 2022.
The announcement which was released this week has indicated that both the engineering and project teams from the Spanish company are working closely with Transport for Wales. This is to ensure that the new vehicles, which will consist of a total of 51 two-car and 26 three-car units will be delivered on time while also ensuring that they meet the needs of the customers as well as perform to the required level on the network.
All trains are DMUs have been based around Civity platform that was created for commuter and regional services. This will mean that they all contain the most recent safety technology as well as a better interior design to enhance the experience for the customer. They will also come with air-conditioning and WiFi, ensuring guests are not only comfortable but remain connected.
The CAF UK Director, Richard Garners has confirmed that the work has now began and that the Wales and Borders Franchise will receive all units on time.
The Spanish company is proud to playing a vital role in providing Transport for Wales with the DMUs in order to transform the experience for the passenger. Along with this, there will be more services that are faster and there will be an increased capacity. This will ensure that passengers experience a service that consists of comfort, reliability and quality.
Kevin Thomas, the Chief Executive of Transport for Wales Rail Services has said that the new trains will transform the experience for the passenger but they will also make rail travel more appealing to new passengers as it will become more accessible.
Transport for Wales Rail Services aims to deliver the vision of the Welsh Government which is to put a transport network in place that is accessible and makes the people of Wales proud.
Rail investment in the north west has received support from over 20 MPs from Liverpool and Manchester.
Alstom coordinated the commitment and made it clear that the cross-party MPs will also commit to supporting more skilled railway jobs being created in both areas of the north west as well as an investment in technology, people and skills while also helping to ensure that work is there for the local supply chain.
The MPs from both Liverpool and Manchester have said they will fully back rail investment in the Liverpool and Manchester corridor and this has also received the support of a number of businesses as well as trade bodies and unions. MPs believe that the region has a real potential that needs to be exploited and it is also the area of a key rail cluster.
They have said that with the right level of investment, the Liverpool and Manchester corridor can play a significant role in helping to support jobs and innovation in rail, especially with groups such as Widnes-based Alstom building relationships with small and medium businesses that form part of the supply chain as well as working closely with unions.
The customer director at Alstom UK, Mike Hulme who is also the vice-chair of Northern Rail Industry Leasers has said the pledge was supported by the need to create a level of support within parliament in order for investment to be made in the rail network in the region.
There is no doubt that the rail industry can really become a force in both Manchester and Liverpool and so, having the support of MPs will only enhance the possibility of investment and jobs.
Many well known MPs formed part of the pledge proving just what they thought about the significance of investment in the rail industry in the region.
The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Rail Industry Leaders, the TUC and Liverpool City Region LEP all supported the 22 MPs that made the pledge.
In 2017, the French rail firm made moves into the UK by opening a new technology headquarters that contains a centre for train modernisation as well as a training academy, all of which is located in Widnes.
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.
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.
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.
From 2021, hydrogen trains will be introduced by Alstom and Eversholt as the Class 321 Breeze units will be powered by Hydrogen. In an attempt to turn the rail industry to become as green as possible, these hydrogen trains will make a significant difference to the way in which the rail industry impacts the environment.
The trains that will be put into service will have the capability of carrying enough hydrogen that will allow the trains to travel for a maximum of 625 miles. However, along with this, they will also have the ability to reach a top speed of 87mph and will also have Lithium-ion batteries installed as well as regenerative brakes. The conversion of these trains is due to be carried out at the Widnes facility of the company.
A hydrogen tank will be located inside one of the vehicles due to the UK loading gauge which is slightly different to the German iLints that were introduced by Alstom in Germany last year, which sees them fitted on the roof. The electrical energy is then created by combining hydrogen and oxygen.
However, there could be a problem for passengers as it will mean that train formations will be reduced to three cars from four cars, using electric multiple units that are used by Greater Anglia at this moment in time. The study that relates to the hydrogen multiple units has been completed as the initial study has been confirmed as being undertaken and that means that the design of the train has also been finalised, giving the green light for the work to go ahead.
When it comes to the hydrogen multiple units, the manufacturer and rolling stock leasing company have been working towards developing a business case for them. Along with this, they have been actively evaluating detailed introduction plans for larger fleets of these trains while there is also confidence in there being a distinct possibility that the concept could also be exported.
Secret payments that have been made to Northern Rail from the Government have come to a total of £31 million and this has been met with stark criticism from the RMT Union.
It was found that the £31 million of taxpayers money was paid from April 2016, giving the company the chance to make a profit of £33.7 million during the same period. However, the claims have been denied by the DfT who have said that the claims are misleading and that the figures have been misunderstood. Therefore, the RMT Union has been told to stop sending out stories that are inaccurate but instead put more of a focus on ensuring that the needs of passengers are met by calling off strikes and starting discussions.
Northern hit back at the criticism form RMT saying that they disregarded inflation, stating that the payments were for alterations to services. The deputy managing director of Northern, Richard Allan has said that it is wrong to call the payments secret payment and again confirmed that the payments have been made in order to deal with the delivery of the changes to services as requested by Transport for the North and DfT. Therefore, the payments are based on the additional costs or lower revenue for Northern that have come from these changes. It was also made clear that passenger numbers had dropped below anticipated levels and that was because of the introduction of services and RMT’ strike action.
However, RMT has said that these figures show that MPs have misled the public about the way in which taxpayers money is being used. They have classed this as a scandal as parliament has not been informed and ministers have authorised these payments to the tune of £31 million. All of this has only now come to light and that is where the concerns lie.
This all follows and long and arduous dispute between both Northern and RMT over the role of the second person on Northern train services. It has now got to the point where Northern has now as for an ACAS inquiry in an attempt to deal with the issue. Following the news that the DfT and Transport for the North publicly confirmed that a second person would remain on the service, the RMT has said that strike action will go on as it heads towards the 43rdday of strike action.
Over 25,000 Network Rail workers completed significant infrastructure and service upgrades throughout the Christmas season, last year. The work consisted of over £148m worth of improvements as a part of ongoing Network Rail improvements throughout Britain.
Engineers, track workers, project managers and station staff completed 380,000 hours of round the clock work on upgrades including new bridges, track installations and signalling upgrades on all major lines.
330 projects were completed by 2nd January 2019. These projects consisted of:
A continuation of the £250m upgrade of the Great Eastern main line
Engineers upgraded the overhead wiring system at Forest Gate junction. Workers replaced eroded timbers on a bridge between Ely and Peterborough.
A continuation of the Midland main line upgrade
100 workers completed the first stage of a major project to upgrade the track north of Wellingborough station. Engineers installed five sets of switches and crossings.
Further development on the London North Western
Drainage improvements were made near Hampton-in-Arden. Track was renewed at Milton Keynes Central. New OLE was installed at Liverpool Lime Street. Signalling and track improvements were also carried out on major lines in Scotland, South East and on Western.
The projects were carried out as part of Network Rail’s Christmas programme of investment; an end of year bid to improve rail service during the low season, in preparation for the majority of commuters who returned to work last week.
The period between Christmas and New Year typically sees a 50% decrease in passengers (in comparison to the approximate 4.7 million passengers who use the service daily) making the end of the year a crucial time for all Network Rail workers.
Andrew Haines Network Rail chief executive said:
“Over Christmas and New Year, thousands of rail workers have been working round the clock to keep the railway running and to deliver crucial improvements to the network as part of the £50bn railway upgrade plan.” Upgrade work will continue over the next five years, after Network Rail’s £3.47bn spending plan was approved by ORR last year.
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