Plenty of meat on the bone for rail in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced a series of investments specifically targeted at rail infrastructure. A new National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) is to deliver an extra £23bn of funding between 2017 and 2022 across transport, digital communications, R&D and housing, aimed at improving national productivity.

The Chancellor outlined two specific rail initiatives that would receive funding from the NPIF. An additional £450m is to be spent trialling digital signalling technology, to expand capacity, and improve reliability. Around £80m will be allocated to accelerate the roll out of smart ticketing including season tickets for commuters in the UK’s major cities.

The government is to invest £5m in development funding for the Midlands Rail Hub, a programme of rail upgrades in and around central Birmingham that will significantly enhance the capability of the region’s rail network and facilitate an extra 10 trains per hour.

The chancellor also plans to bring forward £100m to accelerate construction of the East- West Rail line western section and allocate £10m in development funding for the central rail section.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Government support for trials of hi-tech digital signalling will be welcomed by passengers and freight customers who want a more reliable railway. Journeys will also be improved thanks to investment in smart ticketing. Continued investment in our network is crucial as we build the bigger and better railway that Britain needs.”

RDG outlines the improvements that would make the railway fit for the 21st century

Rail Delivery Group has launched a new report setting out how the railway has to embrace new technology and smarter ways of working if it is to address the twin challenges of a capacity crunch and the rising expectations of rail customers. Our Customers, Our People: A railway for the Digital Age proposes that:

  • New trains where drivers control the doors already operate safely on 30% of services and are used in Germany, Denmark, Ireland and various other countries. Such trains are estimated to reduce dwell times at stations by 23%.
  • New signalling systems will reduce delays by enabling smarter management of trains during disruption, allowing more trains to run by reducing the space that has to be left between each service, and improving safety by removing lineside signals and replacing them with a computerised signalling system in the drivers’ cab.
  • Ticket buying will become easier as more rail companies look to introduce barcode tickets on mobile phones, smartcards and contactless payment. This will further reduce the proportion of tickets sold at traditional ticket offices, which has fallen from 82% to 34% since 1997. Changes in technology will free up colleagues to spend more time assisting customers where and when they need it most.

If the railway is unable to harness new technology to benefit its customers, the report says, this puts at risk the benefits of the £50bn+ Railway Upgrade Plan to deliver more reliable, more accessible, more affordable and more comfortable journeys.

Speed believed responsible for fatal tram derailment in Croydon

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), the British Transport Police and RSSB are investigating what is thought to be the worst accident on London Transport since the Moorgate Tube crash in 1975.

The tram accident took place in Croydon on 9 November on the London Tramlink system. Emergency services were on the scene within minutes but 7 people died as a result of the accident and a further 51 were taken to hospital.

At about 06:07 a tram running between New Addington and Wimbledon derailed and overturned on a curve as it approached Sandilands Junction in Croydon. The tram travelled for a short distance on its side before stopping in the vicinity of the junction.

RAIB has published an interim report stating that initial inspection of the on-tram data recorder (OTDR) suggests the tram was travelling at approximately 70 km/h (43.5 mph) as it entered the curve, which had a maximum permitted speed of 20 km/h (12.5 mph).

The report says that trams approaching the junction from Lloyd Park where the speed restriction was 80 km/h (50 mph) would need to brake at the full service rate for 180 metres before entering the lower speed restriction. Analysis of the OTDR indicates that some braking was applied in the 180 metres before the curve, but this was only sufficient to reduce the tram’s speed to approximately 70 km/h (43.5 mph).

The tram’s CCTV cameras appear not to have been working at the time of the accident.

The investigation is continuing.

First test tram runs on Metrolink’s new Second City Crossing
metrolink-tram
The first test tram has run the length of the new Metrolink Second City Crossing which runs through the heart of Manchester city centre.

Tram testing on the last phase of the route, from St Peter’s Square to Exchange Square, began in the early hours of Thursday 1 December.

The first phase of the Second City Crossing, from Victoria to Exchange Square, opened in December 2015, and this last section is due to open to passengers early next year.

The transformational Second City Crossing connects St Peter’s Square via Princess Street and Cross Street with Exchange Square and Victoria Station, and will allow Metrolink to run more frequent tram services across its 93-stop, seven line network.

Transport for Greater Manchester’s Metrolink director, Peter Cushing, said: “After the busy festive period we’ll continue the testing and commissioning process to check all the infrastructure, and ensure drivers undertake training to familiarise themselves with the new route.”

A major marketing and information campaign is planned early next year to prepare customers for the tram service changes when the new city centre line opens.

IN BRIEF

Midland Metro info now on Google Maps
A new app developed by Transport for West Midlands and Ito World of Ipswich, has made up-to-the-minute Midland Metro timetable information available on Google Maps. Users can tap on the Metro stop icon anywhere in the Midlands to see the timetable for that stop and how far away the vehicle is from arrival.

New record at Birmingham New Street
Birmingham New Street was used by 258,555 people on Saturday 26 November, breaking the previous record of 230,000. A combination of Black Friday sales, the last pay day for many before Christmas, the German Market and Aston Villa playing at home contributed to this.

The figure is the equivalent to the population of Wolverhampton.

Rail projects recognised for sustainability
Rail engineering projects have scooped 3 of the 9 awards at this year’s CEEQUAL Outstanding Achievement Awards celebrating the top sustainability accomplishments of civil engineering project teams. Thameslink Borough Viaduct project won the Effects on Neighbours, and Historic Environment awards. Crossrail Thames Tunnel won the Water Resources award.

ORR verdict on Network Rail
The ORR half-year assessment of Network Rail, has identified steady performance in its overall management of safety and assets and an improving picture of delivery against its updated enhancements programme. Significant challenges remain including the time taken to recover from disruption, deferral of some track renewal to the next control period, delivery of the Edinburgh to Glasgow electrification, and underperformance against budget.

200 Fare dodgers caught on Chase Line
During a week-long exercise by London Midland and the British Transport Police, 200 people were caught avoiding paying for tickets on the Chase Line between Rugeley and Walsall. 192 penalty fares were issued and a further 8 offences were recommended for prosecution. Interestingly an additional 1,004 tickets were sold during the week.

Strong retail sales growth at NR stations
New figures from Network Railshow that like-for-like retail sales at its managed stations during the period July – September grew by 3.5%. This growth is more than 17 times greater than the British Retail Consortium results for the same period. Nationally, coffee shops and ‘food on the go’ purchases showed the strongest growth while 31% of station visitors shopped there.

Railhead sell off threatens freight growth
According to Rail Minister Paul Maynard, the best way to deliver the construction materials needed to fulfil the Government’s house building and infrastructure ambitions is by rail freight. Each train could take 75 trucks off the road. He has however admitted that more railheads are needed for materials such as gravel, sand, aggregates and cement. Many existing ones are currently being sold off.

Repoint wins IET Innovation Award
Repoint, the radical new track switch developed by Loughborough University’s Control Systems Group, has won the Transport Category award at the IET Innovation Awards. Repoint uses several actuators to operate a single set of points. In the event of an actuator failure the points continue to function enabling rail traffic to flow while remedial maintenance done.