Singapore engineers and Birmingham experts work together to raise rail reliability
Singapore’s largest railway operator SMRT Corporation and the University of Birmingham have embarked on four research projects aimed at enhancing the reliability of railway networks.

About 20 engineers from SMRT will take part in research which is to be carried out at the University’s laboratories. When necessary, SMRT equipment and engineering staff will be sent to the UK or vice versa.

SMRT Trains’ chief technology officer Ng Bor Kiat said: “At the heart of this effort is the increased use of condition monitoring devices, simulation tools and data analytics. The pairing of academic know-how with the experience gained by heavy rail engineers is a valuable combination that will lead to better reliability, availability and safety.”

Three of the projects focus on railway asset condition monitoring, and will progress research already developed at the laboratory. The fourth project will provide a detailed understanding of the dynamic loads on the railway power system.

In October 2016, SMRT and the Universityof Birmingham jointly announced the launch a post graduate course in railway engineering. The three-year course will be the first of its kind for engineers in Singapore.

Passenger journey growth slumps to the lowest levels since the 2009-10 economic downturn
According to the latest statistics released by the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) the volume of passenger journeys across Britain’s railways has reached a record high of 1.7bn, the highest since records began in 1950. However these figures mask a significant slowdown in the growth of passenger journeys, (0.8%), which has not been seen since the economic downturn of 2009-10.

The slowdown, it reported, was driven by a decrease in passenger journeys in London and the troubled South East, where 6m fewer journeys were recorded – a decrease of 0.5%. By contrast, passenger journeys on long distance and regional services increased by 3.8% and 3.9% respectively.

Season ticket journeys have also fallen for the first time since the series began in the mid 80s, dipping by 2.9% to under 40%. Advance ticket journeys, however, have risen by 9.7% to 3.9% of the market.

As a result of these changes, revenue growth has slowed to its lowest since 2000-01 (2.5%) and the slowdown has happened across all sectors. Season ticket revenue has also taken a hit, slowing for the first time since 1994-05 to 1.5%.

The ORR also released its public performance measure figures for the quarter, showing that the proportion of trains arriving at their final destination on time had fallen to 89.1%, its lowest since 2006-07. While overall performance is still better than that recorded in the early 2000s, it says, the national performance has declined steadily since the start of 2013-14.

The lowest performing train operating company was Govia Thameslink Railway which scored 78.8%. The highest scoring was Merseyrail (96.4%), which has increased by 1% since the same time last year. The biggest improvement over the year has been achieved by the Caledonian Sleeper which improved by 6.8% to 92%.

Providing more choice and better incentives are key to making multimodal transport desirable
ConduentA new report by Conduent, surveying residents in 23 cities across 15 countries to understand motivation behind daily transportation decisions, indicates that transportation choice isn’t really rational, but heavily influenced by habit, convenience and personal preferences. The biggest factor in improving urban travel, it says, will therefore be changing human behaviour.

Respondents around the globe say they choose driving their own car over other modes of transport for reasons that include comfort (54%), ease of access (47%) and reliability (39%). However, they cited that driving involves frequent delays, and nearly 40% report that it leaves them stressed (23%) and frustrated (16%). Those who experience delays at least once a week say the delays cause them to miss out on time with family and friends (61%) or arrive late to work (51%).

Respondents rated reliability of public transport services (83%) and information (81%) as fairly or very important for future travel. In addition, nearly three-quarters (70%) say they’d ride public transit more frequently if the journey was faster.

“Transportation is an inherently personal decision. People primarily focus on their individual situation, factoring in speed, comfort and cost when determining how they’d like to travel,” said Don Hubicki, executive vice president, Conduent, Public Sector, Transportation. “Providing more choices in line with our personal situations is key to changing behaviour. For example, cities should introduce more options for getting around, incentivise people to choose alternatives, and provide innovative apps that enable people to think mode-agnostically, making better decisions for themselves and everyone else.”

Conduent Report: Technology, Shifts in Behaviour Can Improve Urban Transportation

RAIB: Recommendations and learning points from Balham train death
Following an investigation into a fatal accident on a passenger train near Balham, 7 August 2016, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch says the process for assessing the compatibility of this train on this route had not identified the risk of the combination of reduced structure clearances and an opening window.

A passenger, travelling on the Gatwick Express to London, suffered fatal injuries as a result of putting his head out of a window and striking it on a signal gantry near Balham in south London. The train was travelling at about 61 mph at the time.

Investigations showed the window was on a door opposite a guard’s compartment and, although accessible to passengers it was not intended for passenger use. There was nothing to prevent passengers leaning out of the window, and the clearance between train and signal gantry was less than the normal standard for new structures – although it was compliant with standards for existing structures.

The RAIB makes two recommendations. Network Rail should improve the industry’s management of the interacting risks between infrastructure and rolling stock. Train operators should reduce the risk of people leaning out of open train windows. It identifies one learning point: the need to regularly monitor and manage structure clearances when those clearances are lower than normal.
Hanover continues light rail update
Hanover mass transit operator üstra Hannoversche Verkehrsbetriebe has ordered a further 46 Type TW3000 light rail vehicles to be delivered by the end of 2019. The high-floor LRVs are already in use on lines 3, 4 and 7 and are gradually replacing the Type TW6000s.

The initial order of 50 LRVs was received in April 2011 and an option for 50 more has already been fulfilled.

Calls for better governance for transport
At the International Transport Forum, Transport Ministers from the 57 member countries have agreed a political will to improve the governance frameworks for transport, to support the Paris Climate Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This includes creating a framework for open mobility data, and supporting data sharing between the private and public sectors. They also call for better coordination of transport, land use, and fiscal policies.

Virgin seeks innovators
A new business accelerator programme – Platform-X – from Virgin Trains and Virgin StartUp, is looking for disruptive innovators to help transform the future of the railway. They are seeking startups with ideas to solve four real innovation challenges. Successful bidders will receive funding for market trials through the £25M Virgin Trains East Coast Innovation Fund and mentoring from the senior management team at Virgin Trains.

Still time to register at NSAR
The National College for High Speed Rail still has place remaining on the Higher Apprenticeships starting in September 2017. This first intake of apprentices will be pioneers of highspeed rail in the UK and ambassadors for the rail industry in Britain. NSAR is also keen to hear about apprenticeship vacancies, and potentially match them with the talent pool that has applied directly to the college.

Samsung Pay for travel in London
Travellers on London’s transport network can now use Samsung Pay on their mobile phone in much the same way they’d use an oyster card. The pay-as-you-go app can be downloaded from the Samsung Galaxy Apps store, and supports MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards from major UK financial institutions. Users can set a specific payment card for their transport requirements.

Rail engineer becomes IMechE president
Carolyn Griffiths CEng FIMechE FREng has become the 132nd president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Most recently, she founded and led the Rail Accident Investigation Branch reporting directly to the Secretary of State for Transport. She is a non-executive director of Irish Rail and works voluntarily for engineering professional bodies such as the Engineering Council and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Trainline expands in Austria
Trainline has expanded its European coverage by partnering with Austria’s private rail operator WESTbahn. Users can now book and combine tickets for 86 different rail operators in 24 European countries. WESTbahn is Austria’s leading private long distance rail operator, running hourly trains between Wien, Linz and Salzburg.