UK railway news round-up
An independent organisation should be established to enhance accountability and enable a more joined-up, long-term approach to decisions about the railway in England and Wales, Rail Delivery Group Chief Executive Paul Plummer told the Accelerate Rail conference on March 19. ‘We are calling for a new arms-length organising body to implement national rail policy, and prevent the railway being used as a political football’, he said. ‘It would allow politicians to step back and concentrate on the big questions of what they want the railway to achieve for communities and the country. Train companies and Network Rail could focus on what they do best – innovating and creating to deliver better for their customers.’Network Rail has authorised the Railway Heritage Trust’s budget for CP6. ‘We look forward to another five years helping to find new uses for Britain’s built railway heritage’, said the trust.Civil service insiders have expressed concern that train operators are not preparing for the data protection implications of Brexit, which could restrict the ability of UK business to access customer data held in EU member states.The Office of Rail & Road has announced it is to fine Govia Thameslink Railway £5m for failing to provide appropriate, accurate and timely passenger information to following the introduction of the May 2018 timetable. ORR found that GTR took reasonable steps in making passengers aware of the planned changes, but then failed to balance the steps it was taking to improve services with the need for passenger information ‘to an unacceptable extent and duration’. A separate investigation into Northern found that although passengers did experience inadequate information in the two weeks that immediately followed the timetable introduction, it had considered and subsequently took reasonable steps to give passengers appropriate and timely information.On March 18 Welsh Minister for Economy & Transport Ken Skates warned that the diversion of Department for Transport resources to handle the potential implications of a no-deal Brexit was putting at risk the planned September 20 date for the transfer of the Core Valleys Lines infrastructure from Network Rail to the Welsh Government. He warned that a delay in the asset transfer and subsequently a requirement to reschedule South Wales Metro infrastructure works would put at risk to the availability of the associated £159m European Regional Development Funding.The Rail Accident Investigation Branch makes three recommendations in its report into the runaway of a road-rail vehicle at Bradford Interchange in June 2018. The first seeks to improve competence management systems for machine operators on Network Rail infrastructure. The second, addressed to Readypower, is intended to improve the management of competence of its staff. The last recommendation aims to improve the quality of the maintenance instructions and training provided to Readypower’s fitters. ‘This incident provides an opportunity for the industry to learn major lessons from a relatively minor event’, said Simon French, Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents.Following the arrival of more Hitachi Class 385 EMUs, ScotRail has withdrawn the 10 Class 365 EMUs it was using as a temporary measure.West Midlands Rail Executive has published proposals by architecture firms Grimshaw and Glenn Howells Architects for a ‘radical yet respectful transformation’ of Birmingham Moor Street station. The concepts include options to more than double the size of the concourse, add two new platforms and provide a ‘transfer deck’ with access to every platform. A footbridge would take passengers directly to HS2 services from Curzon Street via a new public square.LNER formally accepted its first Hitachi Class 800 electro-diesel IEP Azuma trainsets on March 8, and expects to have nine sets in its fleet when they are introduced on services from London King‘s Cross to Leeds and Hull on May 15. The operator confirms that there are still ‘compatibility problems north of York‘, but it expects to introduce Azumas to London – York services during the summer, and to Scottish services once issues connected with interference to signalling equipment are resolved.Greater Anglia has completed a £4·8m project to install free wi-fi on its inter-city, Stansted Express and Class 317, 321 and 360 EMU fleets.The Department for Transport is seeking stakeholder views on the draft Telematic Application for Passenger Services and Telematic Application for Freight National Technical Specification Notices which would replace TSIs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.Axminster Carpets is supplying carpets for the refurbishment of Northern’s Class 170 and 158 DMUs.Network Rail has awarded Fugro a contract to survey routes in Wales using its RILA equipment, which is mounted on in-service passenger trains to minimise disruption and the need for people to go out on the track.