PD Ports chosen to handle rail car imports for Hitachi
PD Ports, which owns and operates Teesport, is to handle the majority of rail car imports for the new Hitachi manufacturing facility at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

The train body shells are shipped directly from the Port of Tokuyama-Kudamatsu in Japan to Teesport aboard the new “K” Line Ro-Ro service. The journey of some 12,000 nautical miles takes over 35 days. Some body shells are also being brought into the Port by road.

Once at Teesport, the 26m-long body shells are towed from the vessel in a specific order and manoeuvred onto vehicles using bespoke lifting equipment. They are then transported to a secure storage area at the Port prior to onward transportation by road to Newton Ayciffe.

Each vessel will carry five or nine car trains with a maximum of 18 body shells imported per shipment. The service began in September 2015.

Geoff Lippitt, PD Ports’ business development director, commented: “To be an integral part of the Hitachi supply chain is a role we are very proud to undertake. The importance of Hitachi Rail in the wider economic context of the North-East is of tremendous significance and will provide a much needed boost to the region.”

Historic archive of rail film footage now available online
Rail VideoA major new collection of rare railway films has been made available to the general public, free of charge by the British Film Institute (BFI).

The Railways on Film collection can be viewed on the BFI Player, and covers the British railways through the 20th century, and includes a fascinating range of rare and unseen footage. The films in the collection are all newly digitised, and while it would now be impossible to undertake many of these journeys, others cover historic rides on the lines we still operate today.

Robin Baker, head curator, BFI National Archive said: “Railways on Film brings together over 200 films – many seen in public for the first time – that explore and celebrate not just the romance of the railways, but their importance to the social, political and economic life of Britain.”

Today’s rail engineers might be interested in Building a British Locomotive, dating back to 1905, or Along the Line, a documentary from 1947 showing the growth of, and jobs on the railways.
To view the films go to: player.bfi.org.uk/collections/railways-on-film

Rebuilt Birmingham New Street scoops Station Excellence award
Birmingham New StreetNetwork Rail, in partnership with principle contractor Mace, has won the station excellence award at the Rail Business Awards for the rebuilt Birmingham New Street station which opened in September 2015.

The judges praised Network Rail and Mace for creating a new, innovative station with its stunning triple-height atrium, the size of a football pitch, which floods the new concourse with natural light.

They also paid tribute to the atrium ‘bubble’ roof made from ETFE, which forms the centrepiece of the project. The new roof has transformed the once dark station into a light-filled, modern space fit for the 21st century and acts as an inspirational gateway for passengers to the UK’s second city.

This has been reflected by satisfaction scores given by station users in the recent National Rail Passenger Survey where satisfaction soared from 66% to 81% reflecting the huge benefits delivered by the station’s redevelopment.

PAC: DfT must provide a clear strategic vision and stronger leadership for rail
The Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) has published a new report on the rail franchising programme, in which it says it is encouraged that Department for Transport (DfT) has strengthened its capability to let franchises, but states there are still gaps in its ability to manage the contracts effectively.

According to PAC, more must be done to develop partnerships with operators that facilitate innovation and improve services for passengers, and that while welcoming the increased focus on the passenger experience, it’s unclear when passengers will actually see the benefits. Those benefits should be set out in the rail franchise.

Successful rail franchising depends on strong interest from the market and effective competition but there are barriers to entry to the UK market and the possibility that current participants in the market may drop out. Any reduction to the current level of competition is a major risk to securing value for money for the taxpayer so alternative approaches need to be identified.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the DfT is to manage the complex interdependencies between passenger rail franchises, the infrastructure, and the introduction of new fleets of trains to the network. Uncertainty about infrastructure work has resulted in delays to franchise competitions and the Department will have to rely on potentially expensive changes to franchises during the life of contracts.

PAC concludes that the DfT’s role is to provide a strategic lead for the complex rail system but it has not yet shown that it has embraced this role. It needs to provide a coherent strategic vision and stronger leadership to ensure that the investment decisions it makes now do not result in increased costs in the long term.

WCRC gets Prohibition Notice
Heritage train operator, West Coast Railway Company, has been issued with Prohibition Notice banning it from running rail services on the mainline railway. The order follows a number of incidents over the past year, including one where a WCRC steam locomotive passed a signal at danger at Wootton Bassett junction, Wiltshire. The train came to a stop across the busy junction on the Great Western main line, avoiding collision with an express train by less than a minute.

Ordsall Chord work closes Victoria and Salford
Manchester Victoria and Salford Central stations are closing for 11 days over Easter for essential preparatory work for the Ordsall Chord. Engineers will move existing track on the approach to Manchester Victoria station so the new 300 metre-long link, when completed, will connect and fit with it. The Ordsall Chord is due to be completed in December 2017.

NTAR wins Innovation in Learning award
National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) and digital learning provider, PAULEY, have received the gold award for Innovation in Learning, from the Learning and Performance Institute. The award was for a solution that combined touch screen technology, CAD and Oculus Rift virtual reality, to deliver 25 powerful VR interactive online courses from over 4,000 documents.

Wi-Fi for the Netherland’s busiest trains
Nomad Digital has signed a contract extending its partnership with Nederlandse Spoorwegen for an additional five years. The new agreement includes upgrading the onboard technology platform on the Intercity trains already using Nomad Digital systems, delivering a common on-board technology platform across the NS fleet, and providing the Netherlands’ busiest trains with on-board Wi-Fi connectivity and Passenger Information Services.

Walrus sells over 1m tickets
Merseytravel’s smart ticketing scheme, the Walrus card, which was launched in November 2014, has sold over a million tickets in the first 3 months. The Walrus card is currently valid on Merseyside buses and on off-peak day tickets for trains, buses and ferries. Plans are in place to move Merseyrail to the scheme in the next 12 months.

Tube delay falls 38% in 4 years
TfL has cut delays on the London Underground by nearly 38% since 2011. On the Victoria, Jubilee and Northern lines, reliability has improved by 74%, 67% and 40% respectively. This follows a sustained investment in modernising signalling, track and trains, and improvements to maintenance and operational procedures.

Thales wins € 61.5m Spanish contract
ADIF, the Spanish railway infrastructure administrative has awarded Thales a €61.5m contract for the maintenance of the Madrid-Seville high-speed lines and the La Sagra-Toledo and Cordoba-Malaga branch lines. Thales’s ETCS signalling and telecommunications solutions are deployed on more than two-thirds of the country’s high-speed rail network.

£400k fine for Babcock
Babcock Rail has been fined £400k for a breach of health & safety laws which led to a rail worker suffering injuries while renewing track in Flintshire 2 years ago. The employee was struck by a Road-Rail Vehicle and trapped against the platform edge at Hope station. Babcock was found to be aware of the risk but failed to take appropriate preventive measures following inadequate planning, coordination and communication between managers.