Major landslip closes the Settle to Carlisle line between Carlisle and Appleby
A section of the Settle to Carlisle railway between Carlisle and Appleby is likely to remain closed for several months as engineering works take place to repair a major landslip involving an estimated 500,000 tonnes of earth.

The line was closed on 9 February after aerial surveys and ground monitoring at Eden Brows, an area two miles north of Armathwaite that overlooks the River Eden, detected significant earth movement.

Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s route managing director, said: “The River Eden had severely eroded the base of the embankment. This, combined with the recent repeated storms and saturated ground, caused the landslip.”

The area of land affected by the landslip is more than 130m long and 70m wide.

Frobisher continued: “An estimated 500,000 tonnes of earth have moved already and the slip is accelerating. It is not safe to run trains in this situation. “

Network Rail’s team of geotechnical specialists have been carrying out detailed ground investigations using borehole equipment. The results of these measurements will be used to design a long term engineering solution to the problem. Meanwhile, access roads, pathways and a site compound have been installed and vegetation removed, so that work can begin as soon as a solution is agreed.

The challenge has been made doubly complex by the size of the landslip, its inaccessible location and the fact it’s still moving.

At this stage Network Rail says it is not possible to provide an accurate timescale for the final repairs but it will take several months at least.

Birmingham city centre tram extension looks set to open in the spring
The go-ahead for a series of crucial safety checks has been secured, paving the way for a spring opening of the next leg of the Birmingham city centre tram extension.

Centro has been given the green light by Network Rail to run essential overnight testing of the electrical systems along the new Midland Metro route on April 23.

The granting of the ‘possession’ will ensure that the Metro’s electronic systems do not interfere with those controlling trains using New Street station. The work will also check that Network Rail’s systems do not interfere with the Metro.

Centro’s Metro programme director, Phil Hewitt, said: “The only way we can carry out this work is by getting a possession, when no trains are running, from Network Rail and we are grateful to them for speeding up the process and cutting the length of time you usually have to wait.

“This is a crucial piece of work because once done it clears the way for us to carry out the final testing, commissioning of, and staff training for the new extension. Once that process is completed we can start running trams down to New Street station.”

Work to complete the route along Corporation Street and Stephenson Street to New Street Station had been suspended for eight weeks in the run up to Christmas, but restarted in the New Year.

The industry standard timescale for possession is a minimum of 13 weeks but Network Rail was able to confirm the Metro date sooner, speeding up the potential opening of the new extension.

The £128m project, which includes a fleet of 21 new trams and a new maintenance depot at Wednesbury.

The Conwy Valley line reopens a week ahead of schedule
The Conwy Valley lineThe Conwy Valley line, which was severely damaged in the floods of late December last year, has opened ahead of schedule. Engineers from Network Rail and Alun Griffiths, have worked to repair damage at over 100 separate locations along the line from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Over 1200 tonnes of stone washed out by the flooding have been restored, bridges repaired, embankments secured, signalling cable replaced and debris cleared away.

Francis McGarry, delivery director for Network Rail added: “The scene that greeted us just after Christmas was incredible. Parts of the line were still underwater and where the water had receded it had taken much of the track-bed with it. We started working immediately and put in place a programme to re-open by the end of February.”

The line was reopened a week ahead of schedule, initially operating a special timetable.


Cheshire’s historic viaduct refurbishment completed
A £17m project to refurbish and protect Grade-II listed viaducts at Holmes Chapel and Peover in Cheshire has been completed. The work included brickwork repairs and waterproofing, installation of drainage and the removal of water stains on the walls. The Crewe to Manchester and Sandbach to Northwich lines returned to normal service on 24 February.

Plans for the transformation of Stockport station are revealed
transformation of Stockport stationStockport Council has launched a masterplan to regenerate the area around Stockport rail station and strengthen its connections as a transport hub for the town centre.

The vision, designed by professional services consultancy WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff alongside design architects BDP and economic consultants Ekosgen, will transform the station into a modern facility that provides a welcoming environment for passengers and breathes new life into the surrounding areas.

Proposed work includes redeveloping the concourses, creating better access to platforms via a new footbridge, direct links with car Infrastructureparks, and improvements made to the existing subway.

The masterplan also sets out improvements to the links between the rail station, transport interchange and the town centre, providing better access to the surroundings.

Estimates predict that the redevelopment of the station and the surrounding area could result in 1,800 to 2,000 new jobs in Stockport, due to the town’s connectivity and workforce.

Sitting at a key position on the regional and national rail network Stockport station has always been important both locally and for Greater Manchester, and handles over 3.5m passengers a year.

Work on securing the funding to turn this into a reality will now begin.

Project director Adrian Kemp from WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, said: “The team has drawn on extensive expertise across a range of services, from rail infrastructure to economic assessment and transport planning, to design an ambitious but deliverable masterplan. We look forward to seeing these designs brought to life to transform Stockport station, improving both connectivity and the visitor experience for more than 3m passengers who travel through the station every year.”

Crossrail publishes key milestones for 2016
With just over one year to go before the first Crossrail services begin running, the project is entering a complex and crucial stage.

2016 will see the major fit-out of the new tunnels and stations across the network. Meanwhile the first Crossrail test train, being constructed in Derby by Bombardier, will roll off the production and go through a rigorous testing programme before being allowed to enter service in May 2017.

Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail chief executive said: “Following the completion of tunnelling last year, Crossrail’s focus is now on the complex task of fitting out the new tunnels and stations with the necessary infrastructure and railway systems to enable TfL-run services to commence through central London in 2018.”

Crossrail’s milestones for 2016 include:

  • Installation of over 40km of permanent track in Crossrail’s tunnels will be completed and work will commence on the installation of over 4km of platform screen doors.
  • Some 1.5m metres of cabling will be used in mechanical and electrical systems such as overhead line equipment. The complex task of furnishing the tunnels and stations with ventilation, signalling systems, communications etc will continue.
  • A major new Crossrail depot will be constructed at Old Oak Common.
  • The first Crossrail trains will leave the Bombardier facility in Derby and go for track testing ready for delivery to London.
  • The first package of station improvements on above ground sections between Liverpool Street and Shenfield will take place throughout the year.
  • Step-free access works at stations along the rail route will begin this summer.
  • A new interchange at Paddington linking the existing Underground station and the new Crossrail station will be built between April and August.
  • Network Rail will continue major surface works on the existing rail network. The construction of new ticket halls will begin at stations including Ealing Broadway, Hayes & Harlington and Southall.
  • A new diveunder at Acton will be complete by the end of the year.
  • Other major trackwork across the route and electrification in west London and Berkshire will continue.

Howard Smith, TfL’s operations director of Crossrail, said: “This will be a crucial year for the project as we progress towards the start of Crossrail services with new trains running on tracks from May 2017.”

Metrolink begins running to Manchester’s new Exchange Square
Metrolink Exchange squareTrams 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
Storm DesmondNetwork 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.

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.