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Derby station remodelling

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Back in issue 155 of Rail Engineer (September 2017), David Bickell looked at the preparation for Derby remodelling in his article “79 days at Derby in 2018”, in which he explained the development of the plans and the integration of the proposed works with the railway in the East Midlands.

That work is now well underway, with a considerable portion of the construction complete, so the time is now ripe to view what has already been done and examine the next steps.

Yet another remodelling

The major strategic railway junction station at Derby is undergoing a wide-ranging and comprehensive remodelling process. This is not the first work undertaken on the station over the last half-century and the current structure is almost totally unrecognisable from the one built by the pre-grouping railways in the nineteenth century.

Derby station opened in 1840 and traffic grew steadily through the following years. That growth has continued – for example, in 1969, over London Road Junction at the south, there were eight train movements per hour; by 2017 this had risen to 18.

The current remodelling of the station is related to the Midland main line upgrade and allied to what has become known as the London to Corby electrification. The aim is to bring the station layout up to a robust condition with improved operational flexibility more suited to the traffic seen at Derby in the current century. Before the current scheme, the layout had a freight-related heritage, which allowed for heavy coal traffic and other minerals movement in the East Midlands and facilitated routeing of trains in a pattern no longer applicable. However, freight traffic does remain in a modern form with container trains and some aggregate traffic, so this needs to be accommodated.

The presence of the Railway Technical Centre (now the RTC Business Park), East Midlands Trains’ Etches Park depot and the adjoining Bombardier factory also contribute to stock movement around the station, as does Rolls Royce with deliveries of aviation fuel which are hauled on to the works at Sinfin, running round in the bay on the Birmingham side of Derby station.

An opportune time to redevelop was provided by the requirement to replace the existing signalling equipment that had originally been commissioned in 1969 together with the adjacent signalling at Trent Junction – the major intersection south of the Derby area. The condition of these installations was giving rise to reliability issues while the equipment in Derby signal box was approaching the end of its effective life and was scheduled to become the last portion of the East Midlands signalling to migrate onto the East Midlands Control Centre (EMCC). Similarly, the permanent way and switch and crossing units had reached end of life condition.

In summary then, the project is a £200 million investment to reconfigure both track and signalling in the Derby station area and to deliver a more efficient and reliable layout with a new 320-metre platform face on an island through-platform, effectively replacing the current short Platform 5.

In terms of the station itself, the original canopies were destroyed during an air raid in the Second World War and the 1950s replacements were themselves replaced in the early part of this century. The footbridge was extended from the 1950s build configuration and then the structure over the platforms was replaced due to its condition. The main station buildings and concourse were themselves replaced in the 1970s. This has resulted in very little heritage to concern designers during the current works; one challenge less than there could have been!

Work in progress

Rail Engineer was invited to site to see the works being undertaken by contractor Galliford Try. Project manager Matt Brown has wide experience of rail projects such as the Walsall-Rugeley upgrade and has come to Galliford Try from the infrastructure owner and a background in bridge reconstruction – very appropriate experience for the task in hand.

Galliford Try was already successfully engaged with Network Rail through the framework contract for Control Period 5 and advantage was taken of implementing ‘Early Contractor Involvement’ with the designer, Jacobs. Work on the project commenced in 2016 at GRIP stage 4 (single option development) and the contract for GRIP stages 5 to 8 (detailed design through to project close out) was let in February 2017 with the basic scope for Galliford Try being the new Platform 6/7 as phase one and alterations to the other platforms as phase two.

The works were required to be undertaken in line with the blockade proposals for the station remodelling, with phase one being pre-blockade and phase two concurrent with the blockade works. The timescale requirements were exacting, requiring the completion of phase one by the end of July 2018 to enable the partial closure of the station.

The project embraces the ‘Hub and Spoke’ philosophy promoted by Network Rail. Galliford Try forms a vital ‘spoke’, with Siemens undertaking signalling and operational telecommunications and Amey Sersa the track work. Operational telecommunications are under the wing of Galliford Try, being progressed by Optima, along with building services by Kemada, steelwork by Carver and structural work by MPB. The alliance, with Galliford Try firmly on board, was brought together in December 2017

Physical work on the new platform started in January 2018, giving six months to complete the work. The previous goods lines on the site had previously been removed by another project partner, in December 2017.

Galliford Try is undertaking a significant portion of the station work and its major extension to meet the new track layout and operational philosophy. The new extra platform is of an island format but, when complete, only one face will be used for commercial passenger work. Adjacent to the second face in the final scope will be the Etches Park maintenance depot approach.

This latter adds a further challenge to Galliford Try, as access to the depot must be maintained during the platform works, curtailing access for construction as rolling stock moves on and off the depot. Most of this access, however, is needed at night, whereas the temporary passenger train services using this platform face during construction will be during the day.

Platform work in detail

The scale of work on the new platform is impressive, being delivered to an exacting timescale of the end of July before the full blockade starts. The contractor will then move on to phase two, which will involve altering the balance of the station as the track layout is modified and brought up to appropriate operational standards.

The physical scope of the platform includes 340 metres of pre-cast concrete construction, with 70 per cent of that platform covered by a steel canopy structure designed to match those existing on the adjacent platforms. The new construction, however, is to be compliant with the applicable European Technical Standards for Interoperability.

Two new lifts are being provided on the new structure together with staircases and extra support for the footbridge carrying pedestrians from the Pride Park side of the station. Two lifts are necessary, as the new platform will not have the alternative subway access of the existing platforms.

Three new buildings are also being constructed including a first-class lounge, a new staff building and a retail unit.

Although the station has been heavily reconstructed since the war, there are still historical issues; though generally in the nature of obstacles rather than architectural preservation or conservation. Many of the services supplied to the site in the past were fed from the old locomotive works on the east side and there were very few records to assist, so dealing with these, mainly in the shape of old water pipes and electrical power cables, is a constant challenge. A culvert also crosses the site, and this has been incorporated into the quite considerable new drainage works.

The new island platform will have many services – mainly ducts and cable routes – installed within it, accomodating both operational and building services needs.

As described earlier, there are significant challenges with the need to allow access to the East Midlands Trains’ maintenance depot, but the project team also has to be aware of and allow for neighbours and local stakeholders. Derby College is adjacent to the site and Galliford Try has ensured it is in close contact with the college management. Some work has been undertaken on drainage within the college property, but Matt explained that the project has also worked cooperatively with the college, which is unsurprisingly very centred towards rail industry education. The project has provided speakers to the college to enable students to better understand the project engineering works.

There are few local residents but those nearby have been engaged with and informed as the work progresses. The new drainage has required some environmental work as a discharge takes place into the nearby river and suitable interceptor arrangements have been required.

Summarising, Matt felt that the key challenge was the timescale – and of course, quality – oh, and safety!

The station is a long site and Galliford Try has treated the platform works as a flow process, with the work moving along the platform from North to South, thus preventing one trade from interfering with another as each phase follows on from the previous one. The site is also very public, as the audience on the adjacent island platform gets a grandstand view.

The team has brought innovation to the project, specifically in the use of pre-cast concrete riser walls for the platforms and methods of dealing with extremely variable ground conditions. Although the general design of the new platform is as per the existing station design, the new works are being undertaken in compliance with the European Technical Standards for Interoperability, with all the extra challenges that brings.

In terms of staffing, the Galliford Try support team numbers around 25 with around 60 staff on site. Matt was pleased to recount that around 150,000 hours of work have been RIDDOR incident free, and long may that continue.

Wider works

Whist Galliford Try has dealt with these high profile works on the station building and platform installation itself, the general reconstruction and remodelling of the station as a whole has proceeded under the management of the Network Rail Investment Projects (Signalling) organisation. Rail Engineer met with project sponsor Kevin Newman, who has a long history of project management within the rail industry, and he was clear in his explanation of the values of and justification for the scheme. The baseline rests on the requirement to resignal, as mentioned, and the cost is shared between renewal funding and Department for Transport enhancement investment.

The benefits of the scheme are significant to what has perhaps been the lowest-profile North-South rail route, the Midland main line. In realigning the Derby station area, a modern and efficient track layout will enable services to be segregated and facilitate reduced journey times, partly through increased line speed (from 15mph to 30 and 40mph) for through trains. There will be improved platforms – including new canopies on platforms 4/5 – and modern electronic signalling with remote condition monitoring.

The signalling around the station will be controlled from the EMCC and of great significance will be reduced barrier downtime at an upgraded Spondon Level Crossing – a historical barrier to good line performance. To optimise expenditure, the interlockings at Belper and Ambergate will be recontrolled to the new control centre.

Some physical statistics give a scale to the works. 15km of new track will be replaced and re-laid in the new configuration, upgraded signalling will be installed, tested and commissioned with improvements to nearly all existing platforms. 240 engineering trains will bring in materials and remove waste, 150,000 tonnes of ballast will be laid.

Overall, the timing of main work and associated blockades takes place from 22 July to 7 October 2018. The programme will split into two distinct stages: stage 1 from 22 July to 2 September (six weeks) and stage 2 from 2 September to 7 October (five weeks). There will be only one day with no trains (2 September) to provide wheels-free access for testing and commissioning of the signalling.

It is important to note that as much work as possible will be done in advance of the blockades. This includes installing:

  • The new signalling principal power supply point;
  • Two kilometres of track (out of 17km in total);
  • 11 sets of points (79 in total);
  • Two new signal gantries (nine in total);
  • 10 new signals;
  • 50 piles (foundations for new signalling equipment);
  • 300 metres of drainage;
  • 18km of cable routing;
  • 225km of lineside cable;
  • The bulk of the work on the new 320-metre platform.

Once work is complete, it will have removed most of the historical movement conflicts, giving a firm foundation for reliable operation and allowing a relatively dedicated allocation of the station to different passenger services. The new Platforms 5 and 6 will be devoted to the London and the North services, while Platforms 1 and 2 will be the normal home of CrossCountry Trains (plus being the basic freight route through the station). Platforms 3 and 4 will be the base for the reversing services across to the East and West as well as CrossCountry reversals.

After short-term use during construction, the eastern face of the new platform will act as servicing access for East Midlands trains as that road is basically the “Pilot Road” – the route into Etches Park depot. That access will be facilitated by the retention of the line round to Chaddesden, which will, in fact, gain added capacity. Finally, the locomotive stabling, which has traditionally been within the bay at the north end of the station, will transfer to the south end bay by St. Andrews. On track plant will stable at Chaddesden.

Additional detail

Peter Luniw (senior project manager) added to the vision of the scheme and proceeded to expand on the scope and technical content, highlighting the application of the latest technology.

Care has been taken to ensure that standard components were specified and installed, allowing optimal repair and maintenance processes, particularly in the switch and crossing installations. The new goods lines on the Birmingham route were installed before any of the blockade work was undertaken and it was noted that torsional drives and in-bearer clamplocks had been specified and applied on the new switch and crossing units waiting installation in the blockade.

As mentioned earlier, drainage works had been a significant challenge requiring careful protection of the outfall to the nearby waterway.

Junction lighting will be incorporated in the new layout, matched with lockout devices, thus facilitating more flexible access for maintenance outside normal daylight hours.

As resignalling has progressed across the East Midlands, the scope controlled by the 1960s Derby Power Signal Box has diminished and the station remodelling phase will allow its final closure – programmed for day 37 of the blockade.

The level crossing at Spondon, while being remodelled, will also benefit from the latest obstacle detection technology.

Standby diesel generators, necessary as, for the moment, no electrification traction supplies will be available, will provide further operational robustness. In reply to the question over electrification, it was confirmed that, while it was not in the scope, all works would take the opportunity to allow passive provision for electrification of the area.

Minimising disruption

There is no doubt that the works will cause significant disruption to rail services through the site, but Kevin Newman emphasised that many lessons had been learned from the five-week Nottingham blockade and remodelling in 2013, and that these had been carefully applied at Derby. Enormous effort has been put into ensuring that customers are informed and that diversions will be clearly specified and brought to users’ attention.

Much use is to be made of the Erewash valley line to bypass Derby as necessary and the service alterations have been planned into blocks to simplify understanding. Where necessary, rail services will be replaced by coaches, and it was emphasised that these replacement services will be of a suitable quality.

The remodelling will also seriously impact on East Midlands Trains’ maintenance activities and arrangements so extra facilities are being made at outstations at Barrow Hill and Leicester, with some support from the Central Rivers depot on the Birmingham line. Temporary staff number increases have been authorised and allocation of maintenance has been bolstered at the Nottingham depot facility.

Communications with customers, neighbours and other stakeholders are important, and much use has been made of social media and the Internet in supporting communication, together with conventional methodology such as mail drops and other advertising.

Overall, Kevin cited the positive attitude of all involved, with the whole railway working together to ensure success, and he emphasised the enormous advantages to all to be gained from the works. “Collaboration” is the watchword!

Many thanks to those mentioned in the article and to Amy Brenndorfer and Nick Sandham from Network Rail communications, project manager Matt Brown and Steve Cordwell, head of business development at Galliford Try, for their help in preparing this article.

Read more: Return of the Rail Partnership Awards


Peter Stanton BSc CEng FIMechE FIET FPWI
Peter Stanton BSc CEng FIMechE FIET FPWIhttp://therailengineer.com

Electrification, traction power supplies and distribution networks

Peter Stanton undertook, between 1968 and 1972, a ‘thin sandwich’ degree course at City University, London, sponsored by British Railways Midlands Region and with practical training at Crewe and Willesden.

In 1980, following a spell as Area Maintenance Engineer at King’s Cross, Peter took on the interesting and challenging role of being the Personal Assistant to the British Railways Board Member for Engineering. As such, he was project manager for several major inter-regional inter-functional schemes.

Under Railtrack, Peter became Engineering Manager for Infrastructure Contracts, based in Birmingham, and then Electrification and Plant specialist for the West Coast Route Modernisation under Network Rail.

Since 2007, as an independent consultant, he has worked on the national electrification programme, Dubai Metro Red Line, Network Rail Crossrail, and Great Western Electrification. He sits on the Railway Technical Advisory panel of the IET and the Conference and Seminars Committee of the Railway Division of the IMechE.


  1. A very interesting article.

    Just one historical update; the Victorian station buildings were replaced in the mid 1980s, not the 1970s. The new travel centre (as they were called in those days) being officially opened on 15th January 1986.

  2. Introduction.

    This is a superb write up of the project. I am particularly interested in the new track layout for the station.

    Surprisingly, there are some weaknesses in the layout which may lead to conflicts of train movements and could cause delays and restrictions to the timetabling of trains. Naturally the track layout is constrained quite badly by the tight curves necessary for the London bound route. This is not obvious from the track layout plans in this article.


    Generally speaking, there are more tracks at railway stations than on the routes that serve them. This is necessarily so, and is because at stations trains have to decelerate and stop, allow passengers to disembark and other passengers to embark the train, and then accelerate back up to line speed. This all takes additional time. If plain track has a capacity of 1 train per 3 minutes, it would not be possible to serve that track by one platform at a station. This is simply because the process of handling the train at the station would be far in excess of 3 minutes. The solution to this is to increase the number of platforms. Usually this increase is combined with other routes so that the increase in number of platforms is not so great. In train diagram terms, this means that train arrivals for any one route can be 3 minutes apart and platforms are made available for this because another route may have a slack period which can be taken advantage of.

    Original Derby Station Track Layout.

    With the above in mind, clearly the limitation here is that there are only 5 through platforms and one bay to cope with the two busy routes from the South and the West. However this weakness is masked by the severe limitations caused by the two-track station throat itself to the South of the station. Many a time in the past, trains have travelled from London at 110 MPH, only to have this high performance compromised by a long wait next to the Derby Power Box before being able to enter the station itself.

    New Derby Station Track Layout.

    This is a fairly straight forward design to address the above weaknesses, This is achieved by the addition of two new through platforms and redesign of the South station throat. If anything, the station throat (narrowing of the number of running tracks) has been entirely eliminated. However, the new design has some residual weaknesses which you would not expect from the advantages having been brought about for such a comprehensive redesign of the track layout.

    New Layout weaknesses.

    It is hard and perhaps churlish to identify weaknesses in the design which has addressed so many problems and will create such good and welcome improvements for the movement of trains at Derby. However, the measured performance of the new track layout will no doubt demonstrate that the design is fit for the 21st century.

    However, it is well to identify possible weaknesses (and of course this is subject to opinion) which may be possible to address in the not-so-distant future. It would be unwise to dismiss out of hand or reject such weaknesses at this stage, but be better to work with them. This will have effects (recognised or not) of timetabling and automatic route selection.

    Identification of Track Constraints.

    There are elements hidden in the detail which seem simple at a first look but will take more time and effort to complete than expected. So, below is a commentary on two aspects of the design of the new track layout. Each aspect is stand alone.

    Aspect 1: The Up Tamworth Fast (UTF).

    This only runs into platform 1. This is a reduction in operating flexibility. If platform 1 is blocked or a train is delayed for any reason, then the UTS has to be used which only runs into platforms 3 and 4. These platforms are the base for the reversing services across to the East and West as well as CrossCountry reversals, and consequently may not be immediately available for through trains. Also if a train has proceeded on to the UTS beyond Peartree station, it will not be able to move until platform 1 is free. The conclusion here is that a crossover from the UTF to platform 2 is missing. This would make both platforms 1 and 2 reversible direction operation.

    Aspect 2: The Up Tamworth Slow (UTS).

    This conflicts with the Down Tamworth Fast (DTF) just North of Peartree station. If the UTS is used, then this could affect DTF trains. A UTS train will delay a DTF train. Worse is that a UTS train could be kept waiting stationary on the Up Tamworth (UT) main line waiting access to the UTS, and delay a following UT train.

    The consequence of this is that the use of this track will wittingly or otherwise will be reduced or avoided. This would simply be in order to increase the robustness of any timetabling planning. This then questions the efficacy of the UTS track. Unfortunately, this problem is not easy to remedy. Clearly reversing trains (those from the West – Uttoxeter proceeding to the South – Nottingham) have to cross West bound trains somewhere. To minimise impact this should be as close to the Derby platforms as possible.

    One solution identified is to simply re-designate the four track to the North of Peartree station as follows: UTF, UTS, DTS & DTF. The consequence of this is that trains from the West and reversing at Derby do not conflict with down trains (slow or fast). A hold up of that train does not affect up fast trains if it is routed on to the adjacent UTS track.

    The above solution would allow a reduction in the number of points North of Peartree station from 6 to 2, and an increase of 8 points South of the station in the throat area.

    From an operational point of view, platforms1 – 4 would be fully reversible direction operation, and all 4 platforms would have access to all 4 Tamworth lines. This would achieve increased operational flexibility for current train flow patterns and those in the future not as yet identified.

    Personal Details.

    I have written signalling simulation software as a personal project. From first principles I have produced simulations which cover all the track, signals and interlocking from London Paddington to Taunton, Taunton to North of Derby and from Wolverhampton to London Euston. I have also been commissioned by a London based consultancy for 4 locations on the railway network for testing the robustness of timetables and how this is increased if proposed track layouts are implemented.

    The above commentary is not linked in any way to my current employer, and is totally independent from it, as is the effort spent creating it in my own time.

    One is left wondering what is planned for Doncaster.

    Tina Horizon BEng CEng MIET
    [email protected]


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