First phase of Littleborough to Manchester Victoria upgrade is completed
Work to upgrade the railway between Littleborough and Manchester Victoria has been completed following five weekends of round-the-clock work to install 1,200m of new track between the two stations. At the same time, the existing track between Manchester Victoria and Rochdale has also been remodelled to link a new platform at Rochdale to the rail network, as part of the £1bn+ Northern Programme.

Work to build the new 135m-long bay platform at Rochdale began in January, and will continue over the coming months as engineers complete surfacing work on the platform and install lighting, passenger information screens and fencing.

The new platform will enable more services to run between Rochdale and Manchester Victoria. Fewer trains will be stationed in Manchester Victoria, releasing vital capacity.

A new phase of work will begin in the summer to strengthen the main bridge into Rochdale station, to support the three train movements needed to bring the new platform into use.

Asset management key for long-term planning
A global survey of senior rail managers, conducted by ABB in collaboration with Microsoft has revealed that asset management facilitated by increased integration of IT and operational technologies is key for long term planning, and a contributor to meeting the financial and operational goals of their organisation.

Some 88% indicated asset management is a priority, and two-thirds believe it has become more important over the last 12 months.

The majority of respondents believe that integrating IT and OT applications will help improve the connection of disciplines across the enterprise.

Gospel Oak to Barking line closures start on 4 June
Phased closure of the Gospel Oak to Barking line begins on 4 June for a major programme of work to electrify the line and upgrade the stations to accommodate longer trains. Once completed a fleet of new four-car electric trains will replace the existing two-car diesel trains. The new service is due to commence in January 2018.

Funded by the DfT and TfL, the programme will require phased closure of the line over an eight month period while Network Rail carries out major work including lowering four sections of track on the route, installing structures to carry the overhead wires and rebuilding four bridges, which will take place in two phases.

Network Rail’s route managing director, Richard Schofield, said: “Electrifying a Victorian railway like this one is major engineering work to create the extra space needed for overhead power lines.”

From February 2017 onwards further works to make the line ready for electric trains will take place during evenings and weekends only and will be completed by the end of June 2017.

Extensive testing begins on elastic track components on the world’s longest railway tunnel
Gotthard BaseElastic railway track components are being put to the test in the new Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest railway tunnel.

Over the last few years, Getzner Werkstoffe has been working to develop a special vibration protection measure to reduce vibration and therefore wear of the tunnel’s superstructure components. The aim was to guarantee high availability and a long service life while minimising the maintenance required on the track and making journeys more comfortable for passengers.

The challenge was significant. Once fully operational approximately 10 trains per hour travelling at speeds of up to 250 km/h will use the tunnel, exerting strong pressure and suction forces, putting the material under above-average stress. In addition ambient temperatures can reach up to 40°C and humidity can be as high as 70%.

The solution was to install Elastic Sylodyn® bearings for the single block sleepers and high-speed turnouts in both tunnel tubes for the slab track and on sections of the approach routes.

Full testing is now under way in the run up to the tunnel’s opening in June 2016. All components will be subjected to real test loads in up to 5,000 planned trials.

Network Rail rolls out new code of conduct for everyone working on the railways
Network Rail has issued a new code of conduct setting out the minimum standards it requires of all organisations that work with it or represent it on the railway. The aim is to ensure that all suppliers, contractors and subcontractors working on the Railway Upgrade Plan meet safety standards, treat customers and communities with politeness and respect, and can expect the same in return.

Network Rail hopes to improve the reputation of the rail industry as a whole.

Safe behaviours are encapsulated in the ten lifesaving rules code, which also include standards of training and promote health and wellbeing in the workforce.

“The railway depends on the people who work on it,” explained Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail. “Ensuring that these people behave in a professional and appropriate way is therefore of critical importance to us and to the customers and communities we serve. We want to work together with those who share our determination to continuously improve this area. We want to provide clarity on what we expect from our people and the support they can expect from us. This code of conduct will help us do that.”

Network Rail is now rolling out the new code to existing suppliers and their supply chain. See:

Manchester’s St Peter’s Square – final phase
Manchester’s Metrolink services through St Peter’s Square are to be suspended from Sunday 26 June to the end of August for the final phase of transformation work at the St Peter’s Square stop, which is due to open this summer. The new larger stop in St Peter’s Square is part of the new Metrolink Second City Crossing, currently under construction.

Crewe bridge completed 3 weeks early
A £1.7m refurbishment of a major road and railway bridge in Crewe has been completed three weeks ahead of schedule. The upgrade included strengthening work, which involved rebuilding part of the southern side of the bridge, installing a new parapet wall, new barriers and kerbs. The work was part of the Railway Upgrade Plan.

ORR regulatory changes
At the launch of the first major consultation on the 2018 periodic review, PR18, ORR chief executive Joanna Whittington, commented on Network Rail’s increasing devolution of responsibilities to local managers. “We propose to support this by regulating the company in a different way, looking separately at its national and local responsibilities,” she said.

Services delayed on Midland Metro extension
The launch of Midland Metro services to Birmingham’s New Street station has been delayed. Extensive safety checks by Centro have revealed minor anomalies in some of the track alignment which need to be addressed. Once the alignment works have been completed, on-street driver training can begin. Remedial work is relatively straightforward, Centro says.

Signalling upgrade on theBrighton line
A new modern computer based interlocking signalling system has been installed on a section of the Brighton main line between Balham and Norbury, to improve the performance of the route. The project, an asset condition based renewal led by Atkins, included a key junction area with part of the Thameslink route from Tulse Hill towards Mitcham and Wimbledon. The work involved re-controlling the signalling system from the Victoria signalling centre to the new route operating centre at Three Bridges and renewing the expired infrastructure.

Custom House DLR entrance opens
The new entrance to Custom House DLR station has opened to the public. Built as part of the Crossrail project, it will provide an interchange between the DLR and Elizabeth line services. Other station improvements include a new footbridge, a 24 hour public route from Custom House to ExCeL London and the Royal Docks.

Queen’s speech is important milestone
Commenting on the inclusion of the National Infrastructure Commission in the Queen’s speech, Sir John Armitt, President of ICE and member of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “Setting the Commission on a statutory footing formalises and upholds its role and purpose, this is an important milestone.” The Commission is developing proposals for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor and working to identify the UK’s longer term infrastructure needs.