Victorian rail history comes to light during demolition work for the Belfast Hub
Translink has uncovered historic remnants of Belfast’s first ever railway station complex during demolition work for the Belfast Hub Regeneration Project.

Original cast iron columns and arches like the ones used in the Great Victoria Street terminus, were discovered in warehouse sheds on the main project construction site in Belfast city centre. The sheds were originally used by freight trains from all over Ireland carrying produce such as cattle and stout.

Translink is donating the salvage to Downpatrick and Co Down Railway for a project to recreate a Victorian-style train shed at the heritage railway.

Translink Infrastructure Executive, Clive Bradberry, said: “These cast iron columns are one of the last remaining links to the old Great Northern Railway station that was demolished back in 1976 so we are surprised something so tangible from our railway’s past still remains in good condition today.”

ORR reveals priorities for road and rail for the coming year
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has published its Business Strategy for 2016-17, setting out priorities for the coming 12 months in what it says will be a changing year for the railway. It will focus on:

A safer railway: Holding industry to account to deliver safety improvements, focusing on level crossings, the train-to-platform gap, and through overseeing better design at the outset. Better customer service: closely monitoring operators’ progress with compensation for delays, complaints handling, on provision for disabled passengers, and on information provided during disruptions.

Value for money from the railway: Ensuring the infrastructure owner, train operator and freight company working together to improve efficiency, and monitoring Network Rail’s performance.

Promoting a dynamic and commercially sustainable rail sector: Setting out a vision for the future in a document outlining the next Periodic Review, PR18. Consultations will begin later in the Spring. Building on the recommendations of the Shaw review, PR18 will consider options for route-based regulation, underpinned by a strong system operator and for an effective charging and incentives regime for Network Rail as the network monopoly.

High performing regulation: Structural and funding changes for both the rail and road networks mean that a high performing regulator is more vital than ever. ORR will continue developing its professional expertise and work across road and rail to develop and apply proportionate, risk-based regulation.

See: orr.gov.uk/publications/corporate-publications

RSSB seeks entries for £4m innovation funding competition for TOCs
£4m is up for grabs in the latest innovation competition from the RSSB, which is aimed at TOCs.

The new competition, TOC’16, is designed to help operators and suppliers work closely together to find new and innovative ways to overcome specific challenges on the railways. These could include door-to-door journey of the customer, punctuality and reliability at stations, disruption management, as well as the industry-wide challenges of increasing capacity, safety and security.

Proposals must be submitted by consortia containing at least one train operator and at least one supplier. Four to six consortia projects will be chosen and each will be provided with up to £1m funding to progress the proposal.

The competition opens at a briefing event on 19 May 2016 and close on 16 September 2016. See TOC16 at: www.rssb.co.uk/future-railway-programme/

EU funded research points out ways to proof rail against terror attack
New research from Huddersfield University has come up with a series of proposals to make European transport hubs safer from terrorist attack.

The aim of the EU-funded research project, Pre-EMPT, was to develop principles that could become uniform at complex transport hubs throughout the EU. “Procedures for security at airports is fairly universal, but there isn’t a consistent approach for land transport,” said Professor Hirschfield who led the research team from the Applied Criminology Centre at the University of Huddersfield.

The research focused on mixed-use interchanges that bring together different forms of transport such as surface rail, metro systems, bus stations and tram terminals, plus retail and leisure outlets.

While practical recommendations such as blastproof bins, shatterproof glass and improved sightlines for surveillance emerged from the research, a number of procedural improvements were also proposed. These included common standards for vetting staff to lessen the possibility of insider threats, staff training in how to identify and report suspicious behaviour, and regular consultation between the different bodies in charge of these sites.

Virgin Trains unveils tactile station maps for the visually impaired
Visually impaired signsTen railway stations on the East Coast route from Berwick to Peterborough have been fitted with newly developed tactile maps that can be read by both the sighted and visually impaired.

Operator, Virgin Trains, has worked closely with the charity RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) to create these maps which combine raised large print with Braille and tactile symbols.

Located close to the station entrances, the maps provide key information such as the location of platforms, toilets, shops and cafes to help travellers with sight loss prepare for their journey more easily.

Kawal Gucukoglu, RNIB transcription executive, said: “I like the fact it’s a map for everyone – there’s not a separate one for people with and without sight loss.”

 

 

IN BRIEF
IET seeks excellence

Entries are now open for the Institution of Engineering Technology’s Apprentice and Technician Awards 2016. The 2014 winner was Atkins’ James Winson for his work at South Kensington tube station. The awards are in 3 categories: an apprentice, a technician and an Armed Forces technician. See: conferences.theiet.org/achievement/awards/apprentice/

GTR wins court injunction Govia Thameslink Railway has been granted a court injunction against the drivers’ union ASLEF, stating it must not induce its drivers to refuse to operate the new 12 car trains. The injunction was sought after drivers were instructed to refuse to drive the first two services that had been due to operate in 12 car formation on the Gatwick Express.

Birmingham New Street falls foul of vandalism
Vandalism was the likely cause of serious disruption at Birmingham New Street station on 11 April, according to Network Rail. Investigations reveal that there had been attempts to burn and cut cables powering signals at the Proof House junction south of the station, causing widespread signal failure. The cost to the industry will run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Greater autonomy for Network Rail Property
Network Rail has set up a property company with its own board of directors, to maximise value from its estates. Named Network Rail Property, it will manage revenue generation from network assets, and oversee the disposal of others to help generate the £1.8bn required to fund the Railway Upgrade Plan. This will free Network Rail to focus on its core business.

IN FACT
Crime down by 70%
Crime on the West Midlands transport systems has fallen on by 70% in the last eight years. New figures from the Safer Travel Partnership show that last year alone, offences on bus and rail services fell 6% over a 12 month period from 1 April 2015, while rail network crime fell by 6.2%. A 17% rise in crime on the Midland Metro has been blamed on an increase in trespass incidents and pedal cycle theft.

Stansted Express up 3.6%
Rail has overtaken bus and coach as the preferred method of travel to and from London Stansted during the last quarter of 2015. Data from the Civil Aviation Authority shows 28.59% of passengers arrived on Abellio Greater Anglia’s Stansted Express, up 3.6% on the previous quarter while 26.26% came by bus or coach.

1,474 early bird passengers
In the 4 weeks since Metrolink began operating a new ‘early bird’ morning service for workers at Manchester Airport, it has carried 1,474 passengers. The service began operating from Cornbrook on 21 March 2016, and plans are in hand to extend it to Deansgate-Castlefield later in the year once improvements have been completed.

£50,000 prize for SMEs
A new competition, the Rail Grand Challenge, has been launched to generate and develop new innovations for the rail industry. Open to SMEs in the rail sector, it offers up to £50,000 in development capital. It is run by Alstom and Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), and entries close on the 30th of May. See: ts.catapult.org.uk/open-calls-space