Legislation for HS2 passes its third reading in the Commons
MPs have approved the hybrid Bill for Phase 1 of HS2, between London and Birmingham.

The third reading was successfully passed by 399 votes in favour with just 42 against. The Bill will now pass to the House of Lords and, subject to completing its parliamentary passage, construction will begin next year.

Phase 1 is due for completion in 10 years, and the extension to Manchester and Leeds should be finished by 2032.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Once again Parliament has backed HS2 and brought this vital new railway one step closer to reality. As we enter this new phase I make three pledges: we will work closely with those communities affected by the HS2 route, we will keep a firm grip on costs and we will drive maximum value for money from this new railway.”

Arriva winsArriva wins £1.5bn contract to operate the London Overground
Arriva has been named the new operator for London Overground, and will be taking over from existing operator LOROL (London Overground Rail Operations Ltd) in November 2016. The £1.5bn contract from TfL will cover 7.5 years with an option to extend for up to two additional years.

Arriva is tasked with delivering further station modernisation and more frequent services, the first of which will be on the North London line. New trains are to be introduced in 2018 on routes out of Liverpool Street and on the Gospel Oak to Barking line.

Under the new concession, Arriva is expected to deliver sustained improvements in performance levels, which have improved hugely since TfL took responsibility for London Overground in 2007.

New incentives incorporated into the contract include financially penalising Arriva should incidents caused by Network Rail, or train and freight operators impact on London Overground services, along with the tightening of the measurement for punctuality on commuter services to within 3 minutes of scheduled arrival time. This is to encourage closer collaboration with Network Rail and Bombardier to improve reliability and quality of services.

Transformation of London Overground since 2007 has seen passenger numbers rise by 400% and the network is now one of the most reliable in the UK.

Current operator LOROL is a joint venture between MTR and Arriva.

ORR lifts prohibition notice on West Coast Railways
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has lifted the Prohibition Notice that it served on the West Coast Railway Company (WCRC) on 17 February. The notice prevented the company operating trains on the main line network until it had improved its governance, and its operations met industry standard practice.

ORR says it is now satisfied that steps have been taken to remedy the issues it had identified. These included: the introduction of clearer governance structures with proper accountability for safety; more robust risk assessments; and enhanced processes for managing staff, with a focus on safety culture.

ORR director of railway safety and HM chief inspector of railways, Ian Prosser said: “A decision to stop any train operator from running rail services is never taken lightly. I am satisfied that WCRC has now taken all the necessary steps to address the issues of concern on safety, such that I am now able to lift the prohibition.

“We shall continue to closely monitor WCRC over the coming period to ensure that their approach is embedded into the culture of the company and that they fully comply with all the commitments they have made.”

Significant support for rail in the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan 2016
The Government’s National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, published on 23 March, brings together wide ranging plans for investment in the nation’s economic infrastructure over the duration of this Parliament.

The plan sets out the largest rail modernisation since Victorian times. This includes a total spend of £53bn on HS2 line between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, and £38bn for 95 other rail projects including completing Crossrail, initiating Crossrail 2 and the Northern Hub, and Network Rail’s enhancement programme. This incorporates widespread electrification, signalling and capacity improvements including introduction of ERTMS on the Thameslink core, Great Western and East Coast Main Lines, as well as construction of the East West Rail line.

Nick Baveystock, Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) director general, said: “The National Infrastructure Plan has evolved steadily since 2010, and this new iteration of the plan and pipeline builds on the progress made, improving visibility for investors and the supply chain. The shift in focus to delivery over 5 years sets a fresh tone – one of ‘spades in the ground’ – and we welcome the recognition that this must be complemented by a vision for the longer term.”

Shaw review supports Network Rail’s approach
Threats to privatise and break up Network Rail have been rejected by Nicola Shaw’s review into the future shape and financing of Network Rail from the start of Control Period 6. She states: “The report team has dismissed privatisation of the whole company, and instead has focused on solutions that may be appropriate for certain parts of Network Rail as well as for specific enhancement projects.”

The recommendations from the review are to: Place the needs of passengers and freight shippers at the heart of rail infrastructure management. Focus on the customer through deeper route devolution, supported by independent regulation. Create a route for the North. Clarify the government’s role in the railway and Network Rail. Plan the railway based on customer, passenger and freight needs. Explore new ways of paying for the growth in passengers and freight on the railway. And develop industry-wide plans to develop skills and improve diversity.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: “I’m pleased that she has concluded that the reforms we are introducing in Network Rail are the right ones. Our devolved business model will put decisions in the routes closer to the passengers and train companies. I also endorse her desire to see more private finance coming into the railways. We have been successful with this in the past.”

New Northern franchise management team assembled

Arriva has appointed nine directors to lead the new Northern rail franchise from 1 April. Managing director Alex Hynes will be joined by Rob Phillips, Richard Allan, Rob Warnes, Alan Chaplin and Andrea Jacobs cross finance, operational, people and customer roles. Sharon Keith, Liam Sumpter, Paul Barnfield, and Mike Paterson become regional directors.

Earlybird Boarding introduced at Euston
Virgin has become the first UK company to offer a text-messaging service sending personalised and customised platform and boarding information to passengers before customer information screens are updated. The Earlybird Boarding system, launched at Euston in March, will enable Virgin to stagger boarding times on busier trains. Passengers requiring more time to board will be alerted first.

RAIB to investigate District line derailment
A District line train carrying 19 passengers was derailed in the early hours of 2 March outside Ealing Broadway station. The train had been held for an hour at a red signal caused by a track circuit failure. Staff had secured points 38 on route to the platform. However points 39A were not set correctly and the train derailed. The incident is to be investigated by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch. No one was hurt.

Compensation for delays still tardy
Responding to the super-complaint from consumer watchdog Which?, ORR is recommending a package of measures to compensate rail passengers affected by delays. At present, 80% of passengers do not claim. The measures include a national campaign to increase passenger awareness of compensation available, better information, clearer claims forms and processes, and stronger monitoring of standards.

Passenger satisfaction ↑ 7%
Passenger satisfaction has marginally increased over the last 10 years, according to new analysis from Which?. Satisfaction on how delays are dealt with has increased from 35% to 39% since 2006. Satisfaction with value for money, however, has risen by 7% across the decade – from 41% to 48%. This is against a backdrop of a 54% rise in ticket prices.

Advertising contract promises £1.1bn for TfL
TfL aims to generate £3.4bn in commercial revenue by 2023, and a new partnership with Exterion Media could contribute £1.1bn. The deal is to sell advertising spaces on trains and at over 400 stations across London Underground, London Overground, Tramlink, Docklands Light Railway, Victoria Coach Station and the Elizabeth line. It is believed to be the world’s largest outdoor advertising contract.

Rail injects £670m into Scottish economy
Scotland’s rail industry contributes up to £670m to the Scottish economy each year, according to research by Oxera Consulting for the RDG. Rail passengers and freight customers in Scotland benefit by up to £1bn from the railway which also prevents up to 89 fatal and serious accidents a year by reducing traffic on Scotland’s road network.

Slough to Heathrow in 7 minutes?
A proposed new rail link between Great Western Main Line and Heathrow Terminal 5 through a 5km tunnel, should enable passengers from the west to travel directly to Heathrow from Reading, Twyford, Maidenhead, Slough and the west without going into London first. Travel times could be just 7 minutes from Slough and around 26 minutes from Reading.