Government warned not to dither over top priority rail projects
Three key railway projects are among the top four infrastructure priorities that the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) is urging ministers to make rapid progress on in the next year. Of the 12 immediate infrastructure priorities published by the commission, the expansion of Heathrow airport tops the list followed by HS2, HS3 and Crossrail 2.

Speaking at the Institution of Civil Engineers, Lord Adonis, chairman of the NIC, said: “Brexit and the hung parliament must not lead to dither and delay on the key infrastructure challenges facing the country. Rapid progress in the next year on these top 12 major projects and priorities is an acid test of the Government’s commitment to the ‘jobs first Brexit’ which the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, argued for last week.”

All of these projects have been agreed in principle, he said, but would require decisive action to get them moving in the new Parliament.

The commission has called for swift action to introduce the hybrid bill for phase 2a of HS2 and finalise the route for phase 2b. Government, it says, should publish a single integrated plan for the first phase of HS3 (known as Crossrail for the North) by the end of 2017, including proposals for electrifying and upgrading the trans-Pennine rail route, the northern sections of HS2, and the redevelopment of Manchester Piccadilly station.

Finally, by the end of the year it wants Government to agree a plan with the Mayor of London, for the funding and phased construction of Crossrail 2, and to secure the necessary parliamentary consent.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I welcome the strong backing that the National Infrastructure Commission has given Crossrail 2. The Commission is right to highlight its significance to the whole country and the need for us to progress this project quickly. “

The Port of Tilbury to expand its rail freight capability
Plans to expand the rail offering at the Port of Tilbury, London’s major port, have been unveiled its at the Rail Freight Group conference on 28 June.

Forth Ports Group’s asset manager, for the London Container Terminal, Ross McKissock, revealed a three pillar strategy to increase freight traffic in bulk and intermodal movements at Tilbury. This will be achieved by: introducing regular intermodal services to the Midlands and Scotland, creating a dedicated bulk materials rail terminal, and establishing a rail connection into a new 152-acre deepwater port terminal, Tilbury2.

Peter Ward, commercial director of the Port of Tilbury, said: “This year, the port took possession of the Freightliner operated rail terminal and we have reconfigured the site to create a dedicated bulk materials rail terminal. Initially, the port will be establishing regular movements of recycling glass to Cheshire and other UK locations. In time, we hope to grow the port’s rail freight offering across a range of bulk materials, with associated growth in rail movements.”

An application for a development consent order for a new rail connected port terminal, Tilbury2 has been lodged with the Planning Inspectorate.

New partner steps in to strengthen the digital railway programme
Network Rail has appointed design & consultancy firm, Arcadis, as a programme partner to help shape the digital railway programme ready for implementation. The contract is for 12 months with the option to extend to two years.

Working with the existing digital railway team and supported by Ramboll, Arcadis is to deliver services including technical leadership, engineering management, project management, stakeholder engagement, risk management, business change and industry training, data and asset management.

The company will lead the development of the digital railway toolkit, a set of requirements, specifications, processes, and competency and training requirements necessary for digital railway roll-out on strategic routes across the network. Working with key stakeholders it will develop candidate schemes for digital rail and support the preparation of an outline business case for CP6.

Digital modernisation of the network involves removing fixed lineside signals and replacing them with in-cab signalling. Arcadis will be drawing on experience from across Europe, including partnering with ProRail in the Netherlands where European Train Control Systems (ETCS) technology is widely implemented, and working with the Ramboll team who have been delivery partner for Banedanmark over the past decade on the Danish re-signalling programme.

Arcadis will also be overseeing the creation of the Digital Railway Academy, identifying training requirements and ensuring the supply chain is equipped to respond to the long-term digital vision.

Tameside track straightening commences this month
Ashton-under-Lyne station on Tameside is to close for 3 weeks from Saturday 8 to Sunday 31 July to enable engineers rebuild the railway bridge over Turner Lane and replace and realign over two miles of track. When completed, the work should improve journey times between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge.

Nick Brown, Network Rail’s project manager, said: “The railway corridor on which Ashton station sits is currently narrow with many curves which restrict the speed that trains can travel. Replacing the bridge deck and realigning the track will result in smoother and straighter track meaning trains will be able to travel faster which, in the long run, means more frequent services on the route.”

The work is part of the Great North Rail Project which will see over £1bn invested in the railway across the north as part of the national Railway Upgrade Plan.

Delhi Metro is the first in India to introduce mobile ticketing technology
Delhi MetroHaving successfully installed Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) systems on phases I and II of the new Delhi Metro, Thales has now introduced it on the first section of the phase III, which recently became operational.

Two of the new stations have been equipped with Dream Gates, making the Delhi Metro the first transport organisation in India to introduce several new ticketing and passenger control innovations. The gates enable passengers to travel using a QR code on their mobile phones, and also use 3D camera technology for passenger control. The cameras detect non-payment or tailgating even in busy and congested situations.

The construction of Phase III of the Delhi Metro is currently in progress and will eventually extend to 79 stations.

Tackling air quality on the tube
TfL has commissioned a review of air pollution levels on the Tube, and launched an air quality action plan to deliver improvements quickly. This includes enhanced air quality monitoring, testing at over 12 stations, expanding the cleaning regime, learning from the best dust management in metros worldwide, and requiring all new trains to use high tech regenerative/rheostatic braking.

Next step in electrification
Sixteen days of engineering work will take place in August between Rugeley Trent Valley and Walsall on the Chase line as part of a £100m+ upgrade ahead of electrification. Sections of track are to be replaced and realigned, pilings will be completed for the remaining stanchion foundations, and the stanchions and gantries installed ready to take the overhead lines in 2018.

Last chance to see Crossrail archaeology
The most complete range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, is currently on display at the Museum of London Docklands alongside the story of this great feat of engineering. Exhibits encompass 8,000 years of human history, from Mesolithic tool makers and inhabitants of Roman Londinium to those affected by the Great Plague of 1665. The exhibition closes 3 September.

Borders Railway benefits accrue
A new report commissioned by the Borders Railway has shown that it is attracting new workers and homeowners to communities along the line. The independent study reveals that the service has been a major factor in decisions to relocate to the area. 50% of users who had moved house and over 80% of those who changed jobs stated that the railway had been a factor in their decision.

June heat disrupts services
Train services around the UK were affected over several days in June when soaring temperatures threatened to damage the infrastructure. In many areas train speed restrictions were introduced to protect the track from buckling and overhead lines from sagging. As a result many services were cancelled. Track temperatures in parts of London threatened to exceed 50C.

Bolton station to close for upgrades
For 16 days in August, Bolton station will be closed while the infrastructure is upgraded in preparation for electrification. Improvements include remodelling track, upgrading signalling, installing overhead line equipment and building a new footbridge as well as restoring an unused platform, and modifying existing platforms and canopies.

Footpath to nature reserve made safer
Pebble Lane level crossing on the London to Chatham railway, which is frequently used pedestrians and cyclists accessing the Ranscombe Farm nature reserve, has been upgraded with a new warning system. Red and green lights and an audible warning now indicate when a train is approaching, providing a safer environment for pedestrians.

Wiltshire engineering work progresses
In June the rail track was lowered beneath Hunts Mill Bridge in Royal Wootton Bassett and Roman Road Bridge in Swindon to make space for the overhead line, ahead of electrification of the Great Western mainline. Both bridge parapets were also raised to provide a safe distance between the bridge and the highvoltage electricity cables. Further upgrades between Royal Wootton Bassett and to Bristol Parkway are planned for August and September.