London Midland and the new Transport for West Midlands sign partnership deal
A new partnership deal has been signed between the London Midland train operator and the newly formed Transport for West Midlands. The contract contains a 45 point improvement plan that covers delivering enhanced services on the Chase Line following electrification, fully integrating Midland Metro at Birmingham’s New Street station, and maximising the opportunities brought by HS2.

Other projects include the proposed redevelopment of Wolverhampton station interchange and identifying suitable sites to expand the park and ride scheme at stations.

The agreement also pledges increasing the availability of Wi-Fi on passenger services, improving ticket machines at stations and enhancing CCTV on board trains.

London Midland managing director Patrick Verwer said: “We have a strong history of working in partnership in the West Midlands. The improvements we are planning to introduce over the next 15 months are based on what local people have said are important to them.”

London Midland holds the franchise to operate local rail services in the West Midlands until October 2017, when it may be extended for up to 12 months.

Rail leaders call summit to plan improvements to fares and tickets
Preparations are being made to bring rail industry and government leaders together to tackle some of the complexity around rail fares and ticketing, and simplify the system for customers.

Subjects to be covered in the summit include: reform of the fares system; new rules for rail journey planners to include slower and cheaper options; a review of rules around routeing and pricing; and simplification of fares restrictions to improve choice and information for customers.

Under current regulations, train companies are obliged to offer a wide variety of different routes between any two stations, even when the vast majority of customers take just one or two routes.

RDG, which is organising the summit, has been discussing a range of proposals with the DfT that would reduce the number of different fares available and give customers simpler options.

The date for the summit will be announced soon, so watch this space.

Punctuality toolNew punctuality tool is now in the hands of the customer
A new online tool which lets customers check how often any train was on time for up to a year has been launched by the rail industry. It was created under the scheme which provides software developers with access to data from the national rail database, to encourage the development of innovative new customer focused apps and smart technology.

Commissioned by the rail industry’s National Task Force (NTF), and developed by the Rail Delivery Group and Glow New Media, MyTrainJourney can display the punctuality and reliability record of any train service in Britain, revealing how it has performed over any period up to one year. This will enable users to compare the performance of different trains and routes and make informed travel decisions.

Chris Burchell, NTF chair and RDG lead on performance and punctuality, said: “We know that every minute counts for our passengers and we want people to have the best information to help them plan their journeys. MyTrainJourney now means that customers can check the punctuality of their specific, chosen journey from what happened yesterday up to a year ago and make informed choices about which train to catch or route to take.

Siemens is awarded the Victoria 2, Sutton to Wimbledon signalling contract
Siemens Rail Automation has won the contract to resignal the rail track between Sutton and Wimbledon. The project, Victoria 2, includes decommissioning life-expired relay interlocking systems at Sutton, Mitcham Junction and Wimbledon, and replacing them with just two Siemens Trackguard Westlock computer-based interlockings, which will be located at Sutton and Wimbledon.

All signalling equipment between Sutton and Mitcham Junction will be completely renewed, and signalling control moved from the Victoria Area Signalling Centre to the Three Bridges Rail Operating Centre (ROC). The project also includes the complete renewal of the CCTV level crossing at Mitcham Eastfields, and replacing all conventional train detection track circuits with axle counters.

Preliminary work on the programme is already underway, the project is scheduled for commissioning in Easter 2018.

Proposed new guidance from ORR requires industry input
ORR has launched a consultation on proposed new guidance that will replace the Appeals to ORR under the Railways Infrastructure (Access and Management) Regulations 2005 guidance published in 2006.

As a result of the recast of the first railway package, law concerning access to rail infrastructure and service facilities, allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the levying of charges has been consolidated and partly changed.

ORR is inviting views on the new guidance which is aimed at clarifying the meaning and implications of the 2016 Regulation, the obligations of infrastructure managers and service providers, ORR’s role, and where to find further guidance on specific issues.

Visit the ORR Consultation page for further information, and how to respond.

Closing date: 13 October 2016

New Nigerian rail line opens
The first phase of Nigeria’s new high speed rail network, the 187 km section linking Kaduna and Abuja, went into operation on July 26. Nigerian Railway Corp had been trialling the line since June 15, carrying passengers free of charge. Full fares now apply. The line has 10 intermediate stations. Trains run up to 100 km/h.

Railways – safest they’ve ever been
ORR has warned against complacency after publishing its annual health and safety report. The past year has seen further improvements in the leadership of safety across the railway industry and for the first time ever there were no railway worker fatalities. However, inspectors found that safety rules and procedures were not always implemented consistently.

Campaign group adds its views
Rail campaign group Railfuture is lobbying the new transport secretary Chris Grayling to continue investing in rail. The group, which includes former senior rail executives, frequent travellers and rail staff on its management team, has produced a ten point plan including proposals for freight, better links for airports and a more integrated railway.

TfL’s contactless ticketing system to go travelling
TfL has signed a deal worth up to £15m granting Cubic Transportation Systems a licence to tailor London’s contactless ticketing system for other world cities’ transport systems. It is the first agreement selling TfL’s expertise abroad. The revenue will be used to help freeze fares across TfL services over the next four years.

GTR asks Acas to help end strike
Govia Thameslink Railway has asked the advisory, conciliation and arbitration service, Acas, to facilitate talks with the RMT ahead of the five-day conductors strike timed to start on 8 August. Meanwhile, both sides in the Southern rail dispute are taking part in Acas talks on Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 August.

Green energy for the Underground
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, came closer to procuring clean electricity to power TfL’s underground stations and other facilities when Ofgem confirmed that he could formally advertise his application for the ‘licence lite’. If granted, City Hall will be able to buy energy from small, low and zero carbon energy generators, and sell it to the public sector.

LORAM completes acquisition of RVEL
Derby-based specialist rolling stock engineering and operating company, RVEL, has been acquired by LORAM, Maintenance of the Way Inc of Hamel, Minnesota USA. LORAM specialises in rail-head treatment and rolling-stock engineering services and seeks to consolidate its presence in the UK and grow its customer base across Europe.

Network Rail and Northern alliance
Network Rail and train operator Northern have formed an alliance which will see them work more closely together to resolve operational issues and improve rail services in the north of England. The alliance will promote innovation and cost-effective ways of working, to deliver more efficient, safe and reliable services.