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A fresh approach to depot safety

Depot Control System commissioning – Siemens Ardwick Depot.

FirstClass Safety & Control, the Essex-based safety control system specialist, which was created following a management buyout of the safety control division of Beck & Pollitzer back in 2017, has been supplying safety control systems for over 20 years.

The company offers a number of products to the rail sector, including depot protection systems, depot control systems and locally operated points systems (LOPS), allowing FirstClass to provide a rail depot operator with a fully integrated safety system.

Developed as an industry-first in 2017, FirstClass’ RFID-based operator control panel allows users to log on and off using an RFID card, the same card that links to the depot security system and any other RFID-based system. The operator control panels can also now use pictorial menu screens, eliminating the need for ‘wordy’ on screen instructions and allowing translation into multiple languages at a fraction of the cost of other systems on the market.

RFID Operator Panel – GWR Exeter Depot.

Additional features of the FirstClass depot protection system that can be provided include points interlocking, Wi-Fi interlocks, OLE interlocks and high-level-gantry access controls, all to SIL 2 (safety integrity level 2) as standard.

FirstClass does not subcontract design or Installation. All of its depot protection and depot control systems are designed to the client’s specification, so they are 100% tailored solutions, not a standard product that has been tweaked.

Installations are backed up with unrivalled service support, available 24 hours a day with full on-site support, as well as back-office support for software and online diagnostics.

Looking to the future, FirstClass is excited to be developing rail safety systems that incorporate its knowledge of the petrochemical, marine and other safety-critical industries for applications such as hydrogen-fuelled trains, where TUV-approved functional safety engineers are qualified to assess the highest safety integrity levels for the required systems.

With a track record of installations over the past 20 years across the rail sector, from metro depots such as Blackpool Tram to mainline depots, including the Ilford Crossrail depot and the recently completed GWR Exeter Depot, FirstClass can support customers with any and all of their depot safety control system requirements.

Fully functional jacks for tiny spaces

To help a short on space freight operator keep tanker wagons in service, design engineers at rail depot equipment specialist Mechan have gone back to the drawing board.

Challenged to develop a lifting jack for Davis Wagon Services in Kent that would fit in its extremely narrow maintenance facility, the Sheffield-based manufacturer has created a bespoke version of its ‘Lightweight’ range.

There is very little space between the track and the wall of Davis’ maintenance facility, so Mechan had to slim down its jack design to make the footprint as small as possible without compromising stability. The motor and anvil position also had to be changed.

The result was a set of four eight-tonne jacks that stand 3.5 metres tall, but weigh just 1,000kg each – 25% less than the firm’s standard lightweight units.

The jacks are now in operation at Davis’ Medway facility on the Isle of Grain and are being used to remove bogies from tanker wagons that carry aviation fuel to Heathrow.

Mechan sales manager Lindsey Mills said: “The Davis Wagon jacks are the smallest we have ever produced and certainly provided our engineers with a new challenge!

“Fortunately, the client had used our equipment before and was aware we could design around the logistical challenges they face. The high quality of our products and UK-based support services were also appreciated by the team, for whom reliability is key.”

Mechan provides a range of jacks specifically for the tram and light rail markets that offers a cost-effective alternative to its standard design. The lightweight product has a different base arrangement, and built-in assembly for ease of movement, yet retains all of the features that make the firm’s products so revered by the rail industry.

Egypt’s new monorail trains to be built in Derby

The trains for two new monorail systems in Egypt will be built in Derby, with the help of £1.7 billion of backing from UK Export Finance.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced the government guarantee, which will support highly skilled jobs in Derbyshire as the UK builds back better in the aftermath of coronavirus.

Bombardier’s consortium was named preferred bidder for the project at the 2020 UK-Africa Investment Summit and, with UKEF’s guarantee, has secured the financing needed to fulfil the contract and start production. Bombardier can now invest in its manufacturing centre in Derby where the trains for the Egyptian monorails will be designed and built.

This will be the UK’s only monorail car production line and will directly support 100 UK jobs at the company and many more in its UK supply chain.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “Trade is an incredibly powerful way to propel growth and create jobs as we recover from the pandemic. This deal shows why we are so determined to get businesses to grasp these opportunities and take advantage of the support available from Government.

“One third of our economy is exports. That’s why support from our export credit agency is vital. It can help the UK get a bigger slice of the global economic pie, secure jobs across the country and make the most of our newfound independence as a trading nation.”

Matt Byrne, president of Bombardier Transportation (UK and Ireland), said: “The Cairo Monorail export win, against international competition, shows that that the UK rail sector can fight and win in key growth markets such as sustainable transport.

“This is the first UK export since our Derby-built trains were exported to South Africa for the Gautrain project in 2008.

“Thanks to UKEF’s support and those working in Embassies across North Africa, this new deal will bring sustainable benefits to Egypt and create job opportunities in the UK.”

Tyne and Wear Metro to close busiest lines for two weeks

Tyne and Wear Metro’s busiest lines through the centres of Newcastle and Gateshead will be closed for two consecutive weeks next month due to a major programme of modernisation work.

Overhead power lines will be replaced as part of a £30 million programme of wire renewals across the network as Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, prepares for the introduction of a new train fleet in 2025.

The major line closure will mean that there are no Metro services between Heworth and Regent Centre / Four Lane Ends for 14 days – Monday 15 February to Sunday 28 February. Services will resume as normal on Monday 1 March.

Major projects director at Nexus, Cathy Massarella, said: “This is a once in a generation piece of modernisation work. It will mean we can deliver a high-quality Metro service for many years to come and it gets our network ready for the introduction of the new trains.

“There is no good time to shut such a big chunk of the network, and this modernisation work can only be undertaken effectively during an extended closure period. I apologise to our customers in advance for the inconvenience this will cause.

“The power lines in our central area are ageing. They face the most wear and tear on a daily basis and they need to be replaced as soon as practically possible, which is why this work is booked in for February.

“We will ensure there is a fast and reliable replacement bus service running when the Metro line is shut. We advise passengers to plan their journeys in advance before travelling.”

A total of 18,000 metres of contact and catenary wire will be replaced over a 5.5km section of line. The work is being packed into a two-week period to avoid months of weekend closures, and because the power lines in Metro’s busy central area are in urgent need of modernisation.

Sections of overhead line in Metro’s central area tunnels deep beneath Newcastle city centre will be replaced during this project.

 Ten Metro stations will be closed during the works: South Gosforth, Ilford Road , West Jesmond, Jesmond, Haymarket, Monument north/south platforms only, Central Station , Gateshead, Gateshead Stadium and Felling. Metro trains will still be running in other areas, including: Airport-Regent Centre; St James-Four Lane Ends (Monument east/west remains open); Heworth-South Shields; Heworth-South Hylton.

Welsh Government endorses recommendations on tackling congestion

The Welsh Government has endorsed the recommendations of the South East Wales Transport Commission on tackling congestion in South East Wales.

In a line-by-line response, the Welsh Government has accepted in principle all of the recommendations to tackle congestion. It has also outlined the progress that has been made and the next steps for delivery.

Transport for Wales has established a dedicated “Development Unit” to provide ongoing advice on the recommendations and develop a delivery programme.

Responding to the Commission’s recommendation to increase the number of train stations and services in the region, the Welsh Government has confirmed it will work with partners to increase capacity, reduce journey times and improve network resilience. These partners include Transport for Wales, Network Rail and the UK Government, which remains responsible for rail infrastructure under the current devolution settlement.

Ken Skates, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, said: “Tackling congestion on the M4 around Newport remains a priority of this Government, whilst also being mindful of the need for decarbonisation, improved air quality, transport equity and a robust response to Covid-19.

“The spirit of the recommendations is closely aligned to our recently published new transport strategy – Llwybr Newydd. Integrated, low carbon and multi modal Metro transport networks will be the future of Welsh transport.

“Progress is underway on taking forward many of the suggestions raised by the Commission. It is an ambitious set of recommendations that will lead to significant improvements for the region, and we take them forward with a sense of urgency and the knowledge that action is needed.”

Another bridge demolished as West Midlands Metro extension advances

Demolition of the Tame Valley canal bridge is the latest step in the work to extend the West Midlands Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill.

The fourth in a series of redundant structures to have been removed along the 11km line in recent months, removal of the Tame Valley canal bridge follows the demolition of a similar installation on the Walsall Canal late last year, which was completed ahead of schedule. The Old Main Line Canal bridge in Tipton will be the last of the canal structures to be cleared as part of the scheme with work expected to get underway in February.

A crane arrived on site on Monday 18 January heralding the start of the demolition which will take several days to complete. The canal, which has been closed to boat and towpath traffic to allow the works to take place, is expected to reopen in the coming weeks.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “It is brilliant to see that, despite the pandemic, we are able to press ahead with the construction of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension. Not only is the extension the biggest light rail project in the UK, but it is also a creator of local jobs and driver of our regional economy at such a challenging time.

“The Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension will be a huge connectivity boost for the people of Dudley and Sandwell, and it also forms a key part of my wider plans for public transport across the West Midlands after decades of under investment. I am delighted we have reached another milestone on the extension and want to say a huge thank you to all the staff who have helped make this happen despite the pandemic.”

Successful conclusion to Greek autonomous transport trial

A trial of autonomous public transport has been successfully concluded after two months of running on the streets of the municipality of Lamia, Greece.

Led by an Estonian consortium, the ‘Iseauto’ vehicles covered 1930km and carried nearly 400 people. The bus, developed by AuveTech in Estonia, is the first 4th category autonomous vehicle that has officially been declared street-legal in Greece.

The bus was tested under various circumstances in Lamia. It had to cope with traditional traffic, take into consideration drivers and pedestrians, keep constant contact with the operating room and smart bus-stops.

The safety of pedestrians and light travellers was top priority. During the test period, an expert who was fully aware of the characteristics of the bus accompanied each ride. The maximum speed was limited by the road authorities to 25km/h.

A survey conducted during the pilot showed that passengers welcomed the experience. Passengers were particularly pleased with the safety of the self-driving bus service and expressed their readiness to use autonomous transport for their daily commute.

Mari-Ly Klaats, board member of AuveTech, said: “Deployment in Lamia marks a great milestone for us, being the last step of the FABULOS project which has been a significant part of AuveTech during the past few years.

“Together with our consortium, we have proven that the future of mobility holds great opportunities. Nevertheless, this has demonstrated to be only the beginning of our journey and it is great to see it has embarked in Greece with such great success and positive feedback. Our shuttles have found a new home in the world and we are eager to come back even smarter and better in the future.”

The Vice Mayor of Development Planning and E-government of Lamia, Dimitris Kyritsis, stated that the Lamia pilot has been an excellent opportunity for the city, the citizens, the visitors, the local businesses, and the officials to evaluate the suitability, feasibility and sustainability of the technology. Also, the pilot has highlighted the tangible benefits of autonomous bus services in public streets. “We truly believe that in the near future robot buses will be considered a natural extension of public transport in the city,” he said.

Gautrain completes forty million kilometres in service

Bombardier Transportation’s Gautrain commuter fleet in South Africa has now completed forty million kilometres in service since operations began in 2010.

Bombardier delivered this intercity rapid rail link as a complete turnkey system with a fleet of 24 four-car Electrostar trains (96 vehicles). While the first few were bult at the Litchurch Lane plant in Derby, the majority were assembled in South Africa from CKD (completely knocked down) kitr sent from the UK.

Gautrain also used Bombardier’s Cityflo 250 train control system, for which the company has a contract for maintenance until 2026.

Makgola Makololo, managing director South Africa at Bombardier Transportation, said: “This is one of the most visionary projects that we have ever been involved in Africa and Gautrain set a new global benchmark for an innovative rail system that benefits local communities and people.

“As Africa’s first world-class, modern rapid rail service, as well as being the first semi-high-speed train on the continent, the Gautrain has made a positive impact in the lives of millions of Gauteng residents. We are proud of our highly reliable commuter fleet having completed around 900,000 trips on the Gautrain network, the equivalent of close to one million trips around the equator.”

She added, “This achievement is thanks to the close collaboration between Bombardier, Gautrain Management Agency, Bombela Concession Company and Bombela Operating Company in successfully delivering and maintaining this project and creating thousands of direct and indirect local jobs during this exciting journey. Rail transport in Gauteng entered a new era with the Gautrain Rapid Rail Link and we are proud to provide a safe, efficient and reliable service to more than 125 million commuters and airport travellers since 2010.”

The Gautrain Rapid Rail Link is an 80 km (50-mile) commuter rail system in Gauteng, South Africa, which links Johannesburg, Pretoria, Ekurhuleni and the OR Tambo International Airport. Today Bombardier employs around 125 local staff on the Gautrain project operating out of the purpose-built maintenance facility located at Midrand in Johannesburg.

Buckinghamshire footbridge to be replaced

A picturesque footbridge over the Chiltern main line in Buckinghamshire is to undergo a major overhaul to make it safer and more reliable for passengers and the public.

The £1.2million investment by Network Rail will see the high-maintenance old footbridge at Beaconsfield Golf Club entirely replaced with a more reliable, modern structure.

This means fewer railway closures in the future for repairs to take place, and a better way to cross the tracks for pedestrians.

Lawrence James, scheme project manager for Network Rail, said: “Upgrading the public footbridge at Beaconsfield Golf Club will not only ensure that this public right of way is safely maintained for years to come, but will also provide continued reliable journeys for passengers using the Chiltern main line.”

The essential work means the railway between Bicester and Denham will need to be closed on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 January 2021. During this time there will be replacement bus services in operation on the line between High Wycombe and Hillingdon (London Underground) via Denham, Gerrards Cross and Beaconsfield.

Work resumes on Access for All footbridges at Kidsgrove station

The old footbridges at Kidsgrove station, which has an unusual triangular shape, are to be replaced with new bridges and lifts as part of the Access for All scheme, providing step-free access to all four platforms for the first time.

Network Rail began the multi-million-pound station upgrade in 2018 but had to pause the project in 2019 as poor ground conditions caused by unmapped mine shafts underground meant the footbridge could not be built to its original plans.

However, from Monday 18 January 2021, work will start to secure the ground so the footbridge work can resume. Work will take place between January and May 2021, every weekday between the hours of 8am and 6pm, and overnight on Saturday nights from 1am until 5am when trains are not running.

Kidsgrove artist impression.

The work will not disrupt trains, but the station will look and feel different for passengers while construction continues.

Deborah Fairweather, sponsor for Network Rail on the project, said: “We understand how frustrating this delay has been for passengers, but after many months of hard work I’m please to say we are now ready to provide a firm footing for the new footbridge at Kidsgrove station.

“I’d like to thank people for their continued patience while we work to transform accessibility at Kidsgrove. We’ll be making progress throughout this period of national lockdown as part of Network Rail’s commitment to build back better and get the railway ready for when Britain emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The vital upgrade will see lifts built at either side of platforms 1,2, 3 and 4 with the new footbridge linking the platforms.

A fresh approach to depot safety

FirstClass Safety & Control, the Essex-based safety control system specialist, which was created following a management buyout of the safety control division of Beck...