Metrolink begins running to Manchester’s new Exchange Square

Trams have now begun running into Exchange Square in the heart of Manchester shopping and leisure district, marking the completion of the first stage of the £165m Metrolink Second City Crossing.

Construction work started on the 0.6k stretch of line between Victoria Station and Exchange Square in summer 2014, and has been fast-tracked with a European Regional Development Fund grant.

When fully opens in 2017, the Second City Crossing will call at transformed and newly built stops at Deansgate-Castlefield, St Peter’s Square, Exchange Square and Victoria Station.

Councillor Andrew Fender, chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “Getting the Exchange Square stop up and running weeks before Christmas is a significant achievement – and one that would not have happened without European funding to fast-track the work.”


Network Rail’s Orange Army clears the damage from Storm Desmond

Network Rail’s Orange Army worked flat out to re-establish rail links between England and Scotland after unprecedented amounts of rain buried the line underneath 8ft of flood water.

Storm Desmond hit the north of England, Northern Ireland, north Wales and southern Scotland, between the 4th and 5th December bringing record breaking levels of rainfall. Cumbria took the greatest hit clocking a record 341.4mm of rain at the Honister Pass.
Network Rail Orange Army
The usual monthly rainfall for Cumbria is 146.1mm.

By Sunday 6th, the railway north of Carlisle was under 8ft of floodwater. Once the water subsided on Monday the Orange Army set to work removing debris and mud from the railway, repairing track and infrastructure and putting temporary measures in place to enable trains to run through the area. Engineers then continued to repair damaged signalling and electrical equipment for full services to resume.

Trains began running again between Workington and Carnforth, Carnforth to Skipton, Appleby to Carlisle and on the West Coast main line from Preston and Carlisle on Monday.

The West Coast main line north of Carlisle was reopened on Tuesday afternoon, while the Workington to Carlisle section, which was severely damaged by flooding and two landslides, re-opened early Wednesday morning.

Commenting at the time, Debbie Francis of Network Rail said: “Before trains are able to run normally large amounts of signalling equipment, including safety-critical electrical cabinets, need to be replaced following extensive flood damage and work will continue to take place over the coming days.”


Work to begin on South Yorkshire’s Tinsley Chord

Plans to build the new Tinsley Chord, connecting the rail network with the South Yorkshire tram network, have been approved by the Department for Transport.

When completed, European-style tram-trains will be able to run between the rail and tram networks for the first time, providing a direct service between Sheffield city centre, Rotherham Central railway station and Parkgate retail park.

Network Rail can now begin work on the 160 metres of new track and overhead lines to carry the electricity to power the tram-trains, as well as constructing a small building to house lineside equipment.

Andrew Penny, area director for Network Rail, said: “Construction work on the ground can now get underway on this exciting project that will see the first tram-train service in Britain being piloted in Yorkshire.”


Largest investment in railways since Victorian times set to continue

Sir Peter Hendy has published his review into Network Rail’s five-year funding programme to 2019, and concluded that the majority of the programme can go ahead as planned with extra investment generated primarily from the sale of non-core railway assets.

Announcing the results of the review, Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of Network Rail, said: “The extra investment secures a Railway Upgrade Plan that delivers better stations, faster, more frequent and longer trains and a safer and more reliable railway for millions of passengers and businesses.

“Working closely with the Department for Transport we have ensured that no infrastructure project has been cancelled and the bulk of the investment programme will be delivered by March 2019. Some projects will cost more and take longer than originally expected but we will see the job through to deliver better journeys for passengers. My review has clearly found that the original plan was unrealistic and undeliverable.”

An eight-week consultation by the DfT on the report’s findings started in early December.