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Canary Wharf becomes the penultimate Elizabeth line station transferred to TfL

Canary Wharf Elizabeth line station has been transferred to Transport for London (TfL), which means the station can be fully integrated with the operational network ahead of the Elizabeth line opening in the first half of 2022. Nine out of the 10 central stations have now been transferred from Crossrail to TfL.

Staff from MTR Elizabeth line, who will operate Canary Wharf, will continue familiarisation with the station, its procedures, facilities and systems.  They will also undertake Trial Operations exercises to replicate scenarios that may occur when the station is open to customers.

With Trial Operations having stated on the central section in November, the railway will enter its next stage with larger exercises involving staff and partner organisations imminently. Trial Operations is the final phase of the programme before the Elizabeth line opens for passenger services between Paddington and Abbey Wood in the first half of this year.

The Elizabeth line will help transform life and travel in London and the South East by dramatically improving transport links and accessibility, cutting journey times and providing additional capacity with spacious new stations and walk-through trains. The new railway will provide new journey options and support wider regeneration, creating jobs, business opportunities and providing a huge economic boost. It will also connect London’s major employment centres and increase central London rail capacity by 10 per cent.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “This is the ninth station to be handed over to TfL and marks another big milestone for the Elizabeth line before it opens for passengers in the first half of this year. Canary Wharf is a great place to live, work and spend time, and the new Elizabeth line will make it quicker and easier for people to travel around London as the city recovers from the pandemic.” 

Andy Byford, Transport for London’s Commissioner, said: “This station handover is another step forward before the railway opens in the first half of the year. Canary Wharf is a thriving area of the capital, not just for business, but for those who live in the area and enjoy the retail and leisure activities. This iconic station, sitting below the shopping centre, will be part of the Crossrail place development – a destination in its own right. The Elizabeth line will provide new, much needed, direct transport links across London and beyond.” 

Mark Wild, Crossrail Chief Executive, said: “I am delighted that Canary Wharf Elizabeth line station has been transferred to Transport for London and thank all those that have worked so hard to achieve this. This beautiful and iconic station will help connect this key business district to the City of London, the West End and Heathrow. These more seamless journeys will improve access to employment and create further job opportunities.

“We are progressing well with Trial Operations, which is the final phase before passenger services. With a series of more complex exercises, which will include evacuations of trains and stations using thousands of staff due to begin soon.”

Shobi Khan, CEO, Canary Wharf Group, said: “It’s fantastic to see the completed Canary Wharf station handed over to TfL, as the Elizabeth line gets ready to start operations. The Elizabeth line will be a game changer for London and for Canary Wharf. Residents, workers and visitors to Canary Wharf will benefit from fast, comfortable new trains, transforming connectivity and journey times across the capital.

“Canary Wharf Group is proud to have delivered an exceptional station building, which is already a popular destination with shops, restaurants like Big Easy and Pergola on The Wharf, an Everyman Cinema and entertainment spaces, a beautiful garden, and waterside boardwalks.”

Canary Wharf Elizabeth line station was constructed by Canary Wharf Group and sits below a five-storey mixed-use development known as Crossrail Place. The new station will connect this key business district to the City of London, the West End and later directly to Heathrow without customers needing to change trains.

Like the nearby Canary Wharf London Underground station, the Elizabeth line station is constructed in a dock, in this case the North Dock of West India Quay. The station box is 256 metres long, which is greater than the height of the nearby One Canada Square,  one of the UK’s tallest buildings. 

During construction nearly 100 million litres of water were pumped out of the station box (enough to fill 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools) and several hundred fish were safely relocated. While 300,000 tonnes of material were being excavated from the station box, a piece of woolly mammoth jawbone was found, as well as a fragment of amber which is estimated to be 55 million years old. Both were passed on to the Natural History Museum.

The station ticket hall is accessed via escalators and lifts with entrances at either end of the building on promenade level. There are more than one hundred thousand square feet of retail and leisure space sitting above the station, including a roof garden. The fully accessible ticket hall will provide step-free access to the Elizabeth line and the station features a total of eight lifts and 21 escalators.

The Elizabeth line will dramatically increase the capacity and resilience of transport services to and from Canary Wharf and the surrounding area, helping support further development and investment in this key business and retail district. 

Photo credit: TfL

TfW celebrate completion of £40m Class 175 refurbishment work

Transport for Wales (TfW) is celebrating the completion of work to refurbish its fleet of Class 175 long-distance trains.

Train manufacturer Alstom has been working to refurbish the 27 Coradia trains at their Technology Centre in Widnes, Cheshire, as part of TfW’s £40 million investment in its current fleet of trains.

Since the first train re-entered service in the summer of 2019, customers have been benefiting from improved facilities, including USB and electric charging points, brand new toilet seats, re-covered seats, new carpets and new interior fittings. The trains have also been rebranded on the outside with TfW’s grey and red livery.

The Class 175s form the backbone of TfW’s express services, operating services across the Wales and Borders network through South, North and West Wales and the Borders. The refresh of these trains is one part of TfW’s £40 million refurbishment programme – work to refurbish the Class 153 and 158 fleets is nearing completion, and work is also ongoing to refurbish the Class 150 Sprinter trains.

TfW are also investing over £800 million on a fleet of brand new trains, which will begin to enter service across the Wales and Borders network later in 2022.

Stuart Mills, TfW’s Fleet Engineering Manager, said:

“It’s fantastic to be able to deliver these improvements for customers, which they rightly expect to see on a modern railway network. We know being able to travel in comfort and charge devices on the go are incredibly important to our customers, whether they are travelling for 20 minutes or four hours, for business or pleasure.

“While we are building brand new trains, they take time to build and we want our customers to have a comfortable experience right now. So the completion of this extensive work is another major step to building a better railway for current and future generations.”

Peter Broadley, Alstom’s Managing Director, Services said:

“It’s great news for TfW and its customers that we have completed the refurbishment of the entire Coradia fleet as planned, and its a tribute to the hard work and professionalism of our team at Widnes, and Chester where the trains are maintained.”

David Jordan, Chief Operating Officer of Angel Trains, said:

“After almost three years, it is brilliant to see our final Class 175 unit fully refurbished and ready to get back on tracks. It has been a pleasure to work alongside our industry partners to refurbish this fleet, working together to deliver modern trains that are fit for all TfW passengers.”

Photo credit: Alstom

New report shows that HS2 is key to transport decarbonisation

A new report published today (20 January) makes it clear that a national high speed rail network, with HS2 at its centre, has an essential role to play in the UK achieving its net zero ambitions by 2050.

Published by the High Speed Rail Group (HSRG), the report – Modal shift matters – and HS2 delivers it – sets out how HS2 is uniquely positioned to provide a more attractive alternative to both motorways and domestic flights and provide the capacity needed to accommodate modal shift on a significant scale.

Rail’s share of the London-Scotland travel market could leap from 29% to 75% if, alongside HS2, services are speeded up north of Crewe, just as Government’s recent ‘Union Connectivity Review’ called for.

The report makes clear that the tipping point for the move from air to rail is journey times between 2.5 and 4.5 hours – which HS2 can play an important role in facilitating. This would apply to a lot of cross-country journeys as well trips to/from the capital.

There is international precedent for such a transformation. On Britain’s only existing high-speed infrastructure, HS1, Eurostar services have reduced air passenger volumes by 50-60% on London- Paris/Brussels routes. In France the TGV Atlantique route has achieved a 65% shift from air to rail, where models had predicted only a 29% increase.

With road transport accounting for some 67% of the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and rail just 1.4%, encouraging people to shift modes is important. Longer distance journeys account for fully 30% of both vehicle miles and carbon emissions; and this is where battery-powered cars and lorries reach their limits. Large-scale transfer from car to rail is possible in this important longer journey category, and HS2 brings the increase in rail network capacity needed to accommodate it.

HS2 modelling results to date suggest only a small modal shift from car to rail travel, but this looks to be due to data limitations. The evidence from completed projects elsewhere reveals people do switch from car to high-speed rail, with pressure being taken off parallel motorway networks.

HS2 also has a role to play in decarbonising freight, taking pressure off the country’s busiest freight corridor, the West Coast Main Line, and so allowing more freight trains to be run. It is estimated that 40% of today’s HGV road mileage could switch to a better rail alternative.

“The undeniable contribution that HS2 services can make in reducing carbon emissions is substantial and has been under-reported across the years,” said Jim Steer, HSRG Board Director and author of the report.

“Modal shift will happen with HS2, much like it has across the world where high speed rail services have already been provided and integrated with other forms of transport. In this report, we have shown that high speed rail has the unique capability to achieve the modal shift that will be required to reach net zero.”

Mark Southwell, Managing Director – Civil Infrastructure, Europe, at AECOM commented: “We need to shift to low carbon forms of mobility to limit global warming. As this report demonstrates, the evidence to support a sustainable, low carbon, high speed rail network is compelling.

“The shift will be boosted by making it as convenient as possible for people to use this transport, so complementary investment in ‘last mile’ connectivity enabling door to door journeys with ease is also essential.” The full report can be found here.

Image credit: High Speed Rail Group

Elizabeth line on track to open in the first half of 2022

Transport for London (TfL) has announced that the Elizabeth line is on track to open in the first half of this year. TFL is coming to the end of the first phase of its Trial Operations ahead of starting the next phase including large-scale exercises across the new railway – a crucial step ahead of the Elizabeth line opening.

Major progress was made towards completing new line over Christmas with planned upgrades taking place and work continuing at the two state-of-the-art new stations still to be handed over to TfL.

The latest Siemens signalling software for the railway was commissioned along with the updated Alstom train software installed on trains. There were also upgrades to both the control communications system and the tunnel ventilation system.

The Trial Operations phase will involve a range of organisations, including TfL and London Underground, MTR Elizabeth line (as the operator), and Network Rail collaborating on the response to trial scenarios along with thousands of volunteers.

Emergency services including the British Transport Police, London Fire Brigade and London Ambulance Service will also be involved, demonstrating how they would respond to incidents on the network and in stations. As a result, there will be times where police, fire and ambulance service vehicles may be seen near stations, testing and simulating what would happen in the event their staff were required to attend.

Trial Operations Exercises

In the run up to opening the Elizabeth line, activity will be taking place on most days including weekends. Other exercises will include responding to train, signalling, platform screen door and track simulations.

Andy Byford, Transport for London’s Commissioner, said: “This is an extremely exciting year for us and for London as we get ever closer to opening the Elizabeth line and welcoming customers from Abbey Wood to Paddington.

“The launch of this much needed and transformational addition to the transport network will be central to the recovery for London and the UK. Customers will experience a new way of travelling – with brand new, spacious step-free stations and new connections across the capital and beyond. There will be no better symbol of London’s renaissance from the pandemic.”

Since May 2021, trains have been running through the tunnels to continue building up mileage and reliability ahead of the railway opening to passengers. When the Elizabeth line opens it will operate 12 trains per hour through the central section of the railway.

The Elizabeth line is extremely complex, and the Trial Operations phase will continue until it is clear that the highest levels of safety and reliability are in place before the railway can open to customers.

Mark Wild, Crossrail Chief Executive, said: “The Elizabeth line is on track to open in the first half of 2022 as we continue to make progress on completing the works necessary to start passenger services in the central section of the railway, from Paddington to Abbey Wood. I’d like to thank everyone for their continued hard work and we look forward to beginning the next phase of Trial Operations exercises.”

Elizabeth line customers will benefit from spacious stations and platforms, longer trains with walk-through air-conditioned carriages, live travel information and free Wi-Fi. Progress continues to be made to also ensure that customers can enjoy 4G mobile connectivity as soon as possible. All 41 stations will provide step-free access from street to platform.

Image credit: TfL

Future rail engineers encouraged to apply for Arkwright Engineering Scholarship

Future rail engineers are being encouraged to apply for a place on the Arkwright Engineering Scholarship, the application deadline for which has been extended to 21 January.

Now in its 30th year, the Arkwright Engineering Scholarship is one of the most respected schemes of its type in the UK with over 6,000 Scholarships awarded to date. The Scholarships are awarded to hard-working 16-year-old students through a rigorous selection process, supporting them through their A levels, Scottish Highers or equivalent qualifications.

Every Scholarship is sponsored by a commercial company, trade association, university, professional institution, armed service, government organisation, worshipful company, charitable trust or personal donor.

This means that support is offered in various different ways, for example, valuable hands-on work experience, support for your curriculum project and a personal mentor who can help you with aspects of your studies and career planning.

Era Shah is a chartered Civil Engineer at Costain, the UK smart infrastructure solutions company. She was named as one of the Women in Engineering Society’s ‘Top 50 Women in Engineering 2021’ and has worked on some of the biggest rail infrastructure projects in recent years, primarily with Network Rail, HS2 and Crossrail. Era completed an Arkwright Scholarship and is an advocate for the organisation.

“The Arkwright Scholarship is part of the Smallpeice Trust, a children’s education charity, and the idea behind it is to widen the access around engineering and give young people of all backgrounds, and who have an interest in STEM subjects, the ability to understand what engineering is and what it means to be an engineer.

“It’s nationally recognised and really prestigious, but the key is that you are afforded a sponsor who can give you connections. Through your sponsor you can set up further work experience, get funding, and access to engineering courses.

“The scholarship helps you to understand and learn more about the different disciplines. You’re able to get practical experience with real life experts and if you have an interest in any particular discipline you can tell your sponsor and they’ll help to set that up.”

Arkwright Engineering Scholarships are for the ‘brightest and best’ students that have the passion and determination to succeed in their future studies and career. Applicants must have a strong desire to have a future career as a leader within the Engineering Profession.

Applicant must be in the school year in which they will sit their GCSEs, Scottish National 5s, International Baccalaureate Standards, BTEC level 2s or equivalent exams. They must intend to stay at school or sixth form college for two years to study A levels, BTEC level 3 Diploma/Extended Diploma, Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers or the International Baccalaureate higher level.

Unless studying for a BTEC Level 3 in engineering, applicants must make a commitment to study one of the following subjects to A level (England, Wales & Northern Ireland), or Advanced Higher (Scotland): Engineering Science; Maths; Physics; or Computer Science.

If you know a school student who would make an ideal candidate, direct them to the Arkwright website for further information. Candidates have until 4pm on Friday 21 January 2022 to submit their completed applications.

Hitachi Rail and IMT partner to improve rail freight efficiency and safety

Hitachi Rail and Intermodal Telematics (IMT) have agreed an exclusive long-term partnership that will add IMT’s monitoring sensors to Hitachi’s existing digital freight service. The agreement will allow Hitachi to offer rail freight companies a solution that provides real time monitoring to improve efficiency and safety.

With global supply chains having faced major disruption throughout 2021 and challenges predicted to continue, the partnership offers enhanced resilience for companies transporting goods via rail freight.

Netherlands-based IMT has pioneered the development of digital monitoring sensors and telematics solutions for freight wagons and containers. The sensors verify the exact location of the cars, the loading status, the open/close condition of doors and hatches, the temperature and pressure of the cargo and the health condition of bogies and wheelsets.

The data is sent to the Cloud via a solar powered GPS device and allows the condition of the train and its cargo to be monitored in real time, as well as alerting operators about potential issues. The partnership allows the use of AI analytics to optimise the efficiency and safety of its customers’ freight services worldwide.

Powered by IMT, Hitachi can now provide fully-fledged telematics solutions that improve reliability and performance for the freight market. The technology can give companies the information they need to control their supply chains more efficiently and respond with appropriate interventions more quickly.

Example of Hitachi Rail & IMT’s full digital freight monitoring service

The partnership with Intermodal Telematics will complement Hitachi Rail’s purchase of Perpetuum last year. The British rail technology firm, Perpetuum, provides Hitachi with digital solutions that improve train reliability and performance. Its remote condition monitoring detects emerging damage in train bogies long before it can be identified by other means, thus preventing failures, facilitating more efficient maintenance cycles, and increasing the life of the wheels. Coupled with the IMT solution, Hitachi will now be able to completely monitor freight vehicles in real time.

Edoardo La Ficara, Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer for Operation, Service & Maintenance, Hitachi Rail, said: “Hitachi Rail is focused on growing its digital offer to develop data-driven solutions to meet our customer’s complex challenges. Our exclusive partnership with IMT delivers this and enables Hitachi to provide an enhanced digital freight offer across the globe, with a strong initial focus on European and North American markets.

“This solution will enable operators and maintainers to be aware of vehicles’ position and status at all times. This will provide a radical evolution for the freight industry, whose railcars are overwhelmingly without any telematics or monitoring whatsoever.”

Dethmer Drenth, Managing Director and Founder of IMT, commented: “This partnership adds a significant value to our railcar market offering as we expand our renowned assets and cargo related monitoring to specific predictive asset maintenance monitoring with the Hitachi/Perpetuum sensor. In that way we create a holistic view of the railcar above and below the axle, alerting the asset and cargo owner on a need-to-know and managing-by-exception basis.”

The partnership’s initial focus for the new digital service will be in European and North American markets. Hitachi Rail is already an established provider to freight operators in North America, where over 34.5 million carloads and intermodal units were transported in 2021.

Image credit: Hitachi Rail

Setting the standard for efficiency and sustainability throughout 2022

Neil Cross, National Sales Manager at Anderton Concrete, discusses the upcoming trends and key market drivers facing the rail industry throughout 2022

Over the last 12 months, Anderton Concrete has seen a significant increase in demand for precast concrete solutions, including its Network Rail approved troughing and bespoke precast. While increasing on-site safety and efficiencies has been a key driver for bespoke specification throughout 2021, this uptake has also been fuelled by the continued ambition to decarbonise the UK’s rail network, a factor that will continue to be a main influence throughout 2022.

Neil Cross.

Developing lower carbon products lies at the centre of achieving the government’s Net Zero targets, with the demand and need for environmentally efficient rail technologies involving every aspect of the industry, from stations and platforms, right through to lineside equipment and the phasing out of diesel-powered trains.

Moving towards a Net Zero rail industry will continue to be a high priority for the sector throughout this year, with efforts to reduce carbon emissions being rapidly accelerated through continued product innovation and processes.

However, while manufacturing products with lower embodied carbon, without compromising on quality, cost and efficiency is a priority, there are additional factors pushing the continued requirement for product evolution. By partnering with manufacturers to collaborate on the design, installation, and maintenance of a new generation of rail products that place quality and performance at their core, rail professionals can meet the most demanding site specifications, while simultaneously setting a new standard throughout the industry.

For example, whilst precast concrete rail solutions may be perceived as being potentially carbon heavy due to their production processes, Anderton Concrete is proactively working with industry partners to develop products that feature significantly reduced carbon and have a lower overall weight than similarly competing technologies.

When this is combined with the low lifetime cost, non-combustible properties and impressive resilience that precast concrete is known for, whilst also omitting the need for casting on site, the material provides the rail industry with one of the most successful and sustainable methods of construction currently available.

By utilising sustainability-led innovations, Anderton Concrete has recently reduced the embodied carbon in its Platform Copings by a substantial 40%, after being approached by an industry leading partner to investigate methods of improving the environmental efficiency of its products. Following the success of this project, the company is working to apply similar design and construction principles across its rail product portfolio throughout 2022, to support the creation of a greater proportion of low carbon products entering the marketplace.

With sustainability and product innovation being key considerations for the forthcoming year, attention is also turned towards supply chain efficiencies. As a UK manufacturer, Anderton Concrete is able to develop high quality, low carbon standard and bespoke products to the industry in the shortest possible lead times.

Following continued investment at its Thornley manufacturing facility, the installation of a new crane system has facilitated the creation of bespoke units up to 10 tonnes, double that of its previous capabilities. In addition, the entire manufacturing process has been reconsidered, including a new factory layout that further increases efficiency of production, especially on repeat products.

This has helped increase the company’s ability to develop bespoke manufacturing orders for high profile rail developments including re-signalling projects. By adopting an individual approach to each project, Anderton’s manufacturing process can be streamlined to suit specific orders and demand, therefore creating less waste, whilst utilising fewer materials.

With sustainability set to be high on the industry agenda throughout 2022, and alongside a backdrop of recovery from material, supply chain and product availability issues experienced throughout 2021, now is the time for rail providers to achieve the highest standards of efficiency and sustainability.

Photo credit: Anderton Concrete

Network Rail completes major rail upgrade in Manchester as part of Transpennine Route Upgrade

A major rail upgrade in Manchester is now complete after Network Rail improved track and signalling equipment to boost reliability.

Across seven days, between Saturday 25 December 2021 and Monday 3 January 2022, more than 100 railway workers installed four new track components – used to direct trains – completed two sections of new electric wiring – which powers some trains – and upgraded signalling equipment near Manchester Victoria station.

The improvements help to bring a more modern, reliable railway as well as creating the capacity for more trains to run in the future, improving connectivity across the North.

This work is part of the wider Transpennine Route Upgrade which will bring faster, more reliable services for passengers travelling between York, Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester.

Neil Holm, Transpennine Route Upgrade Director for Network Rail, said: “We’re making real progress in delivering better, more enjoyable rail journeys for those travelling in Manchester. The work we’ve completed over Christmas will allow us to run more and faster trains in the future as part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade.

“We’ll need to continue upgrading the railway in and around Manchester throughout 2022 to complete a package of benefits aimed at improving passenger’s experience. I’d like to thank people for their patience as we continue to deliver a better railway for the north of England.”

Further work to renew track in Manchester is planned every Sunday between 9 January and 6 February, which will mean some changes to services. Passengers are advised to plan ahead and check their journey via National Rail Enquiries.

Photo credit: Network Rail

Network Rail completes £22m festive upgrades

Network Rail thanks passengers and local residents for their patience and understanding over the festive period while it has completed important rail upgrades.

Over the Christmas and New Year break, Network Rail’s team of engineers has been hard at work completing £22m worth of essential upgrades across its Western region – which runs from Paddington to Penzance – for the benefit of passengers.

While most of the network ran as usual over the festive period, there have been a number of significant projects successfully completed.

In London, the stretch of track between London Paddington station and Slough has been upgraded with engineers removing ageing and unreliable signalling equipment and swapping it with modern and reliable replacements. The completion of this upgrade work will play an important part in the delivery of a safe and reliable train service for the tens of thousands of passengers who use services at Paddington every day.

In Stroud, the railway bridge over the canal at the Ocean in Stonehouse has been replaced on behalf of the Cotswold Canals Connected Project. Engineers worked 24/7 between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day including replacing the current culvert with a new open structure, which will allow boats to pass through for the first time since 1968.

In South Gloucestershire, over 1km of new track has been laid either side of Bristol Parkway station. Rail-mounted diggers, cranes and bulldozers were used to remove and replace the old rail, sleepers and ballast with new rails, more than 1,400 sleepers and nearly 2,200 tonnes of ballast. The completion of this crucial maintenance will help ensure the safe and smooth running of the railway on this key route for customers travelling by train between London and South Wales for years to come.

Ocean Bridge foundations laid

At Bristol Temple Meads, work as part of the Bristol Rail Regeneration programme continued with the installation of tactile paving along the edge of the station platforms. This work began on Christmas Day and will be completed today (4 Jan) with further work planned in the first few months of 2022. The installation of tactile paving will help improve the platforms to make the more station more accessible, particularly for passengers with visual impairments.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail Western route and strategic operations director, said: “I’m really pleased with the upgrades our engineers have completed over the festive period. These upgrades will help ensure we continue to run a safe and reliable railway for years to come, not forgetting also enabling boats to pass through the canal at the Ocean in Stonehouse for the first time since 1968.”

“Undertaking this work over the festive period when there are fewest people travelling – particularly with no trains on Christmas Day and very few on Boxing Day – ensured the number of passengers disrupted were kept to a minimum. However, we are grateful to passengers and local residents living near to our work sites for their patience and understanding while we have undertaken these upgrades.

“The festive period is a really critical time for us to make vital upgrades to the railway and completing £22m of engineering work is no mean feat so I’d also like to thank the many men and women from Network Rail who gave up their festive periods so we can complete these upgrades for the benefit of our passengers.”

Mark Hopwood, GWR Managing Director, said: “We always work closely with Network Rail to make sure essential track and signalling improvements can take place when fewer people are travelling, and this Christmas and New Year was no exception.

“These upgrades are important to ensure we can continue to provide safe and reliable services and I’m grateful to our customers for the patience they have shown during this time.

“I’d like to thank the project teams for their hard work and dedication over the festive period and I’d also remind customers to continue to check their journeys into the new year due to the impact of Covid and associated staff availability.”

Photo credit: Network Rail

The North’s lost opportunity

In 1964, Japan pioneered its Shinkansen service which showed how a dedicated high-speed rail network provides a large increase in capacity with all trains running at the same speed. The first such European line was France’s LGV (Ligne à Grande Vitesse) between Paris and Lille, which opened in 1981. Sixteen countries now have 28,000 kilometres of high-speed lines operating at over 250 km/hr.

Historically, new railways have always driven economic development and worldwide experience shows high-speed rail offers transformational benefits. It also attracts passengers from planes and cars, and relieves capacity on existing lines to drive the modal shift needed for decarbonisation.

Britain’s first domestic high-speed railway was first proposed in 2009. HS2 was to be a 530-kilometre Y network between London, Manchester, and Leeds. Until recently it enjoyed cross party support, including commitments from the Prime Minister that HS2 was to be delivered in full. However, it was badly sold and, until recently, nothing was done to counter the view that it is a vanity project costing billons just to save a few minutes between London and Birmingham.

This falsehood took root and was one of the factors underlying the recently published Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) which the Government hailed as transforming rail links in the north. However, as we describe, in reality it cuts back Transport for the North’s proposals for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and curtails HS2’s Eastern Leg to Leeds which was to be the most transformational part of HS2. It replaces these with proposals that will require years of passenger disruption to upgrade existing lines and will still not deliver HS2’s capacity or journey time savings.

Furthermore, the Government’s transport decarbonisation plan notes that it is essential to avoid a car-led recovery and supports modal shift of freight from road to rail. Yet its IRP cuts back proposals to deliver the required rail capacity to do so on the East Coast Main Line and across the Pennines.

Years of planning by HS2, Network Rail, and regional authorities has been reversed by the patently flawed IRP report which has been subject to universal criticism by the rail industry and local authorities affected by it. France, Germany, Italy, and Spain have seen the benefits from the 9,000 kilometres of high-speed rail lines that they have built since the 1980s. Unfortunately, such long-term strategic planning does not seem to be evident in the UK.

It is ironic that a plan curtailing the railway’s ability to accept modal shift was published a week after COP26. This aimed to strengthen the Paris agreement so that global temperatures will not rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius. This requires global emissions to be reduced to 27Gt CO2e by 2030 from the present 52Gt CO2e. However, the agreements made are estimated to only limit emissions to 42Gt CO2e.

The numerous events at COP26 on the UN Climate Change website provide an international perspective on the climate emergency. We report on one such event, a hydrogen transition summit. This showed how and why a global hydrogen economy must be developed if the world is to be weaned off fossil fuels.

The rail industry rightly proclaimed its green credentials during COP26. Stations had posters proclaiming Scotland’s Railway’s plan to achieve net zero by 2035. Hydroflex and Vivarail trains were running from Glasgow Central station where the RDG’s ‘We Mean Green’ stand on the concourse explained rail’s carbon savings. Outside Glasgow, the Scottish Hydrogen train was on display at Bo’ness and the Mossend Rail Freight Terminal hosted a low carbon logistics conference. These were all informative and thought-provoking events as our COP26 reports show.

The novel green trains displayed in Glasgow attracted much media coverage, typical of which was that they are the ‘trains of tomorrow.’ Yet at Central station they were surrounded by electric trains with far greener credentials. The more important railway decarbonisation story, that Scotland is delivering a plan to decarbonise its railway by 2035, went unreported.

Yet large-scale electrification is only possible if it, and other associated infrastructure work, can be delivered in a cost-effective manner. Our feature from Siemens explains why this requires integrated infrastructure systems. With the power and acceleration it provides, electrification also supports high performing railways. Clive Kessell’s report from a wide-ranging two-day seminar on this topic is essential reading for those who wish to know how rail can deliver the performance needed to attract custom and carry high levels of traffic. Having competent engineers is clearly one requirement. In these respects, budding engineers should read Paul Darlington’s explanation of how UK-SPEC standard for becoming a professional engineer has changed.

Trams are a green solution for public transport and get people out of their cars. This was clear from the recent Light Rail Summit in Edinburgh at which Malcolm Dobell learnt how this sector is being drawn together to improve both its safety and efficiency. In another feature he describes a low-cost Very Light Rail vehicle intended to support restored railways. Another light rail system is the Glasgow Subway. We describe how this is to introduce the UK’s first unattended train operation as part of its modernisation programme.

With the festive season fast approaching, all at Rail Media would like to wish our readers a happy and safe Christmas, especially for those working on the railway over the holiday period.


Lead Photo – Vivarail battery train passes newly erected OLE masts outside Glasgow.

Canary Wharf becomes the penultimate Elizabeth line station transferred to TfL

Canary Wharf Elizabeth line station has been transferred to Transport for London (TfL), which means the station can be fully integrated with the operational network...