Support package announced
A support package to help businesses directly affected by the construction of new routes for the West Midlands Metro tram network has been announced. The new initiative, which will include financial assistance, has been approved by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), which owns and operates the network. With the network set to triple in size over the next few years, the scheme is designed to support businesses during periods of unavoidable disruption.
The support package has been drawn up by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the WMCA, and the Midlands Metro Alliance (MMA) which is building five extensions on behalf of the authority.
Laura Shoaf, managing director of TfWM, said: “It is inevitable that intensive construction works of this nature will have an impact for some businesses alongside the route. That’s why we want to work with them to minimise that impact. While there is no obligation on the WMCA to implement a business support scheme we believe it is only right to offer a level of financial assistance to those smaller businesses who may experience a drop in trade as a result of the works.”
Full details of the scheme are available at www.metroalliance.co.uk/businesssupport
Work at Euston steps up
HS2 Ltd and a Mace/Dragados team have signed contracts to deliver the high-speed rail project’s landmark terminus at London Euston. The Mace/Dragados joint venture will act as a Construction Partner, working with HS2 Ltd and the station designers, to co-ordinate the building of the new station, including platforms, concourse and links to London Underground and other rail services. The appointment completes the roster of major contractors at Euston and marks the end of an exhaustive 19-month procurement process.
Mace/Dragados will join HS2’s existing early works contractor, a Costain/Skanska joint venture (CSjv), who already have more than 1000 people at work across the capital carrying out work to prepare for the start of construction.
At Euston, demolitions are already well underway, with the former carriage sheds north of the station and site of the tunnel portals, cleared last year. The first tower cranes arrived in January to assist with the demolition of the two 1970s towers at the front of the station, while the demolition of the disused former National Temperance Hospital and IBIS hotel is now almost complete.
Once complete, HS2 will more than double capacity at Euston to deal with increasing passenger demand while freeing up space on the west coast mainline for more freight and commuter services to places like Watford and Milton Keynes.
Robotic solutions for rail
Scientists at Heriot-Watt University, in partnership with rail industry body RSSB, are developing robotic solutions to improve rail carriage cleanliness in hard to reach places and to facilitate closer inspection of railway bridge arches.
The first project will develop robotised mobile inspection platforms able to operate between and under the seats of a train carriage. Able to navigate and manipulate themselves in confined workspaces, the robot platforms will clean and detect hazards using an innovative algorithm.
The second project will develop autonomous drone technology to inspect railway bridge archways, particularly the inner curve where access is limited. Dr Mustafa Suphi Erden of Heriot-Watt University is leading the research. He explained: “A human will bring the drone to a starting edge of the arch where it will then start automatically flying along the arch surface by scanning through the arch surface and collecting images.
“The collected images will then be processed to detect defects and alert the maintenance experts so remedial action can be taken quickly. Our work will initially focus on developing the drone technology that can navigate itself using proximity sensors and webcams.”
New footpath at iconic viaduct
A new footpath with several viewing areas overlooking the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct has been completed. Passenger numbers to the west Highland station have doubled in the last ten years, with over 11,000 visitors in 2017-18 flocking to the area to catch a glimpse of a train crossing the A-listed structure made famous by the success of the Harry Potter films.
The increase in tourists has seen severe congestion on the roads in the small village, and the growing popularity of the area has meant some people stray too far from the hillside and onto the railway to snap the perfect shot.
To improve views, the severely eroded 1.4km walkway that crosses the hillside between the railway station and the viaduct is being upgraded to provide easier access to several new viewing areas, with a number of informative panels and special signage introduced to raise awareness of railway safety issues.
Tree clearance work has also been undertaken by the Glenfinnan Station Museum, working with Friends of the West Highland Lines, Glenfinnan Estate and Network Rail.
The project – a working partnership of ScotRail, the West Highland Community Rail Partnership (WHCRP), Glenfinnan Station Museum, Glenfinnan Estate, Network Rail and Transport Scotland – is intended to increase the proportion of visitors arriving by public transport by improving the facilities available to them.
Restored bridge opens
Mabey and the Dean Forest Railway (DFR) have announced the official opening of the newly restored St. Mary’s footbridge in Lydney. The delicate restoration involved installing 11 new cast iron stair risers, deck plates and lantern finials, while the deck section’s lower chords were completely replaced. Over 470 rivets were used as part of the rebuild.
Mabey was responsible for the restoration in its nearby factory in Lydney Harbour, after the bridge’s unsafe deterioration led to it being closed in 2007. The process, managed by the DFR, involved carefully dismantling and transporting the individual bridge elements to Mabey’s secure workshop, while ensuring the listed Victorian bridge elements were safely restored throughout.
Midland Mainline electrification to continue
The Government has announced that electrification of the Midlands Mainline will extend to Leicestershire. David Clarke, Technical Director at the Railway Industry Association (RIA) welcomed the announcement: “As this decision shows, electrification is clearly the optimal solution for intensively used rail lines, and the Railway Industry Association’s (RIA) Electrification Cost Challenge report will show how we can deliver schemes even more cost effectively in future. We look forward to working further with Government to deliver a rolling programme of electrification.”
Call to reopen lines
In February, Campaign for Better Transport called on the Government to invest £4.8 billion in expanding the railway network to reach the most disconnected and disadvantaged communities. In its new report, The case for expanding the rail network, it outlines how a national reopening programme would initially create 33 new rail lines with 72 new stations, allowing an additional 20 million rail passenger journeys a year by bringing over 500,000 people within walking distance of a train station.
Transport for London (TfL) has awarded a contract for London Underground track renewals to Balfour Beatty. The contract, worth around £220m, encompasses all aspects of track renewal – including track, points and crossings, and trackside drainage – and will help to ensure value for money and a strong focus on safety.
The contract will start in April 2019 and last for four years, with an option included to extend the contract for up to a further six years. London Underground track assets include track drainage, depots and long timber bridges as well as elements like rails, points and sleepers.
BakerHicks, the multi-disciplinary design and engineering company, has been appointed to a new framework to deliver a range of upgrade works to the depot infrastructure that support the rail franchises of the Go-Ahead Group, a leading UK based transport provider. The framework specifically relates to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the largest rail franchise in the UK in terms of passenger numbers, trains, revenue and staff, and the Southeastern Franchise, which the company has held since 2009. The scope of works will primarily comprise modification, maintenance and upgrade projects to support the Go-Ahead Group in delivering a first-class passenger experience.
Travelodge has officially opened its 574th hotel close to Ashford International railway station. With this opening, Travelodge now operates hotels at key railway stations servicing HS1 and proposed HS2 routes – connecting the south and north of Britain. The new 58-room Travelodge with an onsite restaurant called the Bar Café represents an investment of £5 million for the landlord, Ashford Borough Council. It is the closest hotel to Ashford International railway station, home to HS1 and offers rooms from £29.