World’s first formation flying engineering trains look set to extend high speed hand back to crossings
Network Rail is trialling an new concept, formation flying engineering trains, in a bid to extend the high speed hand back of track to switches and crossings. The new approach could potentially save £250,000 per week by enabling trains to run at higher speeds once engineering is complete.

In the first week after a major track upgrade, trains are forced to travel at restricted speed over freshly laid track until the ballast has settled and formed a solid foundation. Network Rail then incurs compensation costs for the financial impact of this disruption.

Network Rail achieved its first successful 125mph high speed hand back on plain track in January 2016.

The pioneering formation flying technique was successfully tested on a set of railway switches and crossings at Sandy, Bedfordshire, in February 2017.

A pair of engineering trains were joined together by an umbilical and ran in parallel to simultaneously deliver tamping and dynamic track stabilisation (DTS) which simulated the equivalent of 200 trains passing over the tracks consecutively. Trains were then able to resume running at speeds as high as 125mph as soon as the engineering team had finished.

Network Rail’s programme director for track, Steve Featherstone said: “We monitored the work at Sandy during the weekend and had progressive assurance throughout to make sure we built everything to the highest possible quality levels. This allowed trains to run at 125mph right away – the first time we’ve achieved this on a crossing.”

Ordsall Chord bridge is lifted into place by two enormous crawler cranes working in tandem
Ordsall ChordThe impressive centre-piece of the Ordsall Chord project, the elegant 600 tonne arches that span the River Irwell, have been lifted into play by two enormous crawler-cranes working in tandem.

The River Irwell crossing is the first arch bridge of its kind in the UK. The design uses inclined hangers which cross each other at least twice instead of vertical hangers. This allows for a more elegant design that is thinner and uses less material – a significant consideration due to the proximity of Stephenson’s bridge, built in 1830.

Peter Jenkins, the Ordsall Chord’s lead architect, said: “The BDP team has designed, with the engineers from WSP, Aecom and Mott Macdonald, an 89-metre single-span network arch bridge, the second-longest in the world to carry twin heavy-rail tracks. Unlike any other in Britain its design is asymmetrical.”

Once complete in December 2017 the 300-metre Ordsall Chord will link all three of Manchester’s main stations – Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria – for the first time, enabling new direct links to Manchester Airport from locations including Rochdale and Bradford.

TBMs are delivered for London’s next big rail dig – the Northern Line extension
A major milestone in the construction of the Northern Line extension was reached in February with the lowering of two giant tunnel boring machines (TBMs) 20 metres below ground in Battersea, TBMs Deliveredahead of tunnelling starting in March.

The precision operation required a huge 750-tonne crane to lift the two TBMs, Helen and Amy, in the shadow of London’s Battersea Power Station.

The two TBMs will create two 3.2km underground tunnels to extend the Charing Cross branch of the Northern line from Kennington to Battersea Power Station, via Nine Elms Station. Tunnelling will take six months to complete. The extension, targeted for completion in 2020, is the first major Tube line extension since the Jubilee line in the late 1990s.

Both tunnelling machines will now be fully assembled within two 77m long launch tunnels, before starting their journeys towards Kennington next month. When fully assembled, Helen and Amy will each be 100 metres in length.

After both TBMs and their gantries are constructed, a conveyor system will be built to take the spoil from the tunnels up to barges on the River Thames. More than 300,000 tonnes of earth will be excavated by Helen and Amy in this way before the spoil is taken to Goshems Farm in East Tilbury, Essex, by boat where it will be used to create arable farmland.

Plans unveiled for the new Greater Anglia depot at Brantham
Design work and construction planning has begun for a new Greater Anglia train maintenance depot, to be built on the site of a derelict chemical works factory on the Essex/ Suffolk border.

The new depot, at Brantham, near Manningtree rail station, is scheduled for completion by December 2018 and will be used for stabling and light maintenance of about 20 of the new trains due to arrive in East Anglia from 2019. The new trains will be commissioned into service from the new depot.

Covering an area of 22 acres, the fully electrified depot will include 13 tracks where trains can be parked overnight for cleaning and toilet maintenance. Two further tracks will be undercover in a 300-metre shed, with full under-train inspection pits and cranes for general train maintenance.

The site is due to be cleared in March and building should begin in the summer.

Manchester’s Metrolink expansion complete
Metrolink’s Second City Crossing has been opened through the heart of Manchester city, linking Deansgate-Castlefield via St Peter’s Square with Exchange Square and Victoria. This latest 1.3km stretch of track completes a network now some 93 stops strong, with over 60 miles of track and a recordbreaking 37m passengers a year.

Devolution steams ahead In the first progress report since publication of its Transformation Plan, Network Rail has confirmed that significant power and decision making has been devolved from the centre to its routes. 99% of work in Network Rail is now approved at local level and each route is working with its train and freight operating companies using the new route scorecards.

Go ahead for London freight interchange
Planning approval has been granted for a rail freight interchange at Howbury Park in South East London. The interchange is part of a network of strategic rail freight interchanges being developed across the country to ensure that consumer freight can be transported long distance by rail to the edge of conurbations.

Channel Tunnel to carry new interconnector
ElecLink is to use the existing Channel Tunnel infrastructure for a 1 Gigawatt direct current interconnector linking the electricity markets of Britain and France. The new €580m cable system will have a very low environmental impact by avoiding any interference with marine life. The HVDC cables of the interconnector will be located in the Channel Tunnel’s north rail tunnel.

Tube poems go international
TfL has introduced 6 new poems on the Underground, each with an international flavour. Three are from major international 20th Century poets – Italian poet Salvatore Quasimodo, Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, and Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. They are joined by poems from William Shakespeare and W. H. Auden who celebrated internationalism in very different ways, along with traveller Elizabeth Jennings.

3 trains cross washed out track
On 7 June 2016 a section of track was washed out at Baildon, West Yorkshire, leaving one of the rails unsupported for 3-4 metres. Three passenger trains passed over the section before a driver noticed the problem. A member of the public had noticed the wash out and reported it. RAIB concluded this report had not been dealt with appropriately by railway controllers.

Siemens opens new rail depot in Glasgow
Siemens has opened a new purposebuilt rail depot in Cambuslang, Glasgow. The decision to relocate the regional site was made in response to the rail infrastructure works planned over the next decade. The teams are currently working on the Highlands and Edinburgh to Glasgow enhancement projects and the Motherwell North and Polmadie and Rutherglen renewals programmes.

London Bridge Easter work
Over Easter, the tracks through platforms 1 and 2 at London Bridge station are to be brought into use. Ahead of this, foundations are being formed for the station façade, the pre-cast bridge decks for platforms 1, 2 and 3 are being assembled and the steelwork sections for the canopies above are being built.