54bn year old London Bridge clay transformed into railway art
Inspired by the sight of a piling machine digging deep into the foundations of London Bridge, as it was being reconstructed for the Thameslink Programme, artist Alison Cooke asked Network Rail for a batch of the raw clay they were unearthing. Network Rail provided a tour of the station construction site and as well as a viewing of the many historical artefacts that have been found during the station’s £1bn redevelopment.

The Southwark-based artist shared the clay, thought to be 54 million years old, with seven fellow members of the Associated Clay Workers’ Union to create pieces of contemporary art that reference the railway and the history of London Bridge.

Artist Alison Cooke said, “I was inspired to undertake this project when I went on a residents’ tour of the London Bridge redevelopment site and saw the fresh clay unearthed for the first time in millions of years. I’m so pleased with the results of the project, the responses are varied and show incredible diversity in ideas and interest in the site and its history.”

The ceramic works will be displayed at Southwark Cathedral from 9 January until 5 February 2017, creating a window to the past for the railway users of today.

Simon Blanchflower, Network Rail’s Thameslink programme director, said: “I am delighted to see that not only will the Thameslink Programme bring huge long-term benefits to passengers across the south east through to London and beyond, but that we are also inspiring works of art.”

Driver Only Operation is a safe method of working says ORR
Amid continuing strike action and disruption on the railways, the ORR has published a report, GTR-Southern Railways – Driver Only Operation, which examines the method and implementation of driver only operation (DOO) on Southern services. It concludes that if suitable equipment is provided and proper procedures and competent staff are put in place, then DOO will be a safe method of working.

Ian Prosser, HM chief inspector of railways, said: “ORR has made some recommendations for further improvements, including ensuring that CCTV image quality is consistently high. GTR-Southern has accepted and is in the process of implementing these recommendations. As the safety regulator we will continue our inspections and are also working with the industry to ensure it reviews and updates its work in adopting best practice procedures, training and equipment in relation to the safe dispatch of trains.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has asked ORR to draft a national safety framework to further improve the way trains are dispatched across the country.

Business as usual will not be an option in 2017 warns KPMG
James Stamp, UK head of transport at KPMG, has outlined a number of emerging factors in the transport sector which, he believes, indicate that business-as-usual will not be an option in 2017. Business models, he says, will need to change.

Local power:
As politicians become more and more aware of the need to engage with their local electorate, the need to address local issues will be paramount. More transport policy will be directed at local level: from who owns and runs the local buses to the way in which national infrastructure providers such as Network rail work with their local customers.

Information is King:
With smart-phones and social media, most passengers know more about what is going on than the transport workforce. Employers will need to equip customer facing staff with the tools to deal with this information asymmetry, or lose the trust of their passengers. We expect further developments in how that transport communicates with customers, and better and more collaborative sharing of data.

Know your customer:
Operators need to understand more about their customers: not just where they are, but who they are and why they are travelling. With this knowledge, it will be much easier to foster loyalty, generate ancillary revenues, and deal with disruption. We think that 2017 will see further advances in the ways that companies engage with passengers to make them want to share useful data.

Disruption is the new normal:
Demand for transport will outstrip our ability to build new railways, and therefore dealing with disruption will be a fact of life. Operators and infrastructure providers will need to become more adept at minimising the impact on passengers. We think that predictive techniques to anticipate and ameliorate the impact of disruption will become more common in 2017.

Most customers don’t often travel by just one mode of transport but several, which can make booking or rearranging travel arrangements a nightmare. We expect asset light businesses to try and own the whole customer journey, and to push the traditional operators to being a Business-to-Business service provider. However, we also expect the traditional operators to fight back!

Brexit means Brexit:
Over the next 12 months we will learn a lot more about what this phrase means in practice. Companies will need to start to adapt their business models to preserve their business goals. Apart from market access, the most pressing issues will be supply chain, procurement, people, and financing. We expect companies to undertake detailed reviews of business critical operations, and develop back up plans.

In cost critical times economies of scale and operation remain key. Where regulation and foreign ownership restrictions allow companies will continue to acquire, jointventure and form alliances. Expect 2017 to bring more M&A activity. We also think transport companies will look to form alliances outside their traditional fields of expertise in order to bring complementary skill-sets or to own more of the whole customer journey.

Crisis? What crisis?
Companies that are sub-scale or have been bumping along the floor of their financing facilities may find higher prices or interest rates too much to bear. However, one company’s crisis means another’s opportunity with assets, customers, or operations picked up cheaply. We expect to see more robust competitors picking over the bones of their weaker rivals.

The weakest link:
Even companies with the most robust and efficient balance sheets have suppliers who are weak links in their supply chain. Supply chain failures will cause issues if not spotted soon enough. We expect much more focus on supply chain resilience, including acquisition or diversification to preserve security of supply.

Rise of the machine:
We think automation will advance more rapidly than many expect, and disruptors will become more aware of the opportunities this brings. We expect driverless vehicles and delivery to fundamentally change the old assumptions about how transport and logistics is done.

4th Railway Package Market Pillar OK’d
The European Parliament has approved the Market Pillar of the Fourth Railway Package after almost five years of negotiations. These legislative texts provide a regulatory framework that will enhance opportunities for railway companies and enable them to perform at their best. They will now be published in the EU Official Journal.

Network Rail fined £800,000
Network Rail has been fined £800,000 following an investigation into an incident in June 2014 when a track worker sustained multiple serious injuries. Track maintenance had been in progress in an area with a narrow, steep embankment and fast, frequent trains operating. The ability for track workers to retreat to safety was found to be materially compromised. Inadequate planning and management were blamed.

China – direct freight to London
China has launched its first freight train to London. Travelling from Yiwu West railway station in Zhejiang Province to Barking, London, the 7,400 mile journey will take 18 days and traverse Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France. The UK is the 8th country to be added to the China-Europe service, which is part of Jinping’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy.

Strikes inevitable says expert
Strikes are inevitable as public transport providers seek to modernise, warns Andy Cook – chief executive of industrial relations specialist consultancy Marshall-James and former Head of HR and Group ER at Transport for London. Old collective agreements, he says, tend to block change and the Unions are fighting to protect these agreements.

SYSTRA wins the Dubai Tram extension
The contract for phases 2 and 3 of the Dubai Light Rail Transit system, including transport planning, preliminary design and invitations to tender for 14 months, has been awarded to SYSTRA. Phase 2 will serve Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Burj Al-Arab and the Mall of Emirates. Phase 3 will serve the Jumeirah Beach Road to the north-west of Dubai.

Nomad Digital to be acquired by Alstom Alstom is to acquire Nomad Digital, leading provider of passenger and fleet connectivity solutions to the rail industry. Employing around 230 people across 13 offices worldwide, Newcastle-based Nomad will bring leading edge solutions and a strong global customer footprint to help accelerate Alstom’s development of the digital train.

TfL takes the lead for people with disabilities
TfL is to introduce a Blue Badge for people with hidden disabilities and conditions, or who are undergoing treatments and find it difficult to get a seat. The Please Offer Me a Seat badge and accompanying card was successfully trialled over a six-week period last year, and could become as well known as the Baby Onboard badge.

Music to the ears of preservationists
Record producer and songwriter, Pete Waterman, is to become a vice president of the Transport Trust, a charity dedicated to the preservation of the nation’s transport heritage. Pete began his working life as a fireman on a steam loco and over the years he has part-owned locomotive 60103, Flying Scotsman.