Home Blog

“Radical yet respectful” proposals for Birmingham Moor Street station revealed

Concept image of proposals for Birmingham Moor Street station. (Grimshaw)

Proposals for a “radical yet respectful” transformation to Birmingham Moor Street station have been released.

The existing station building, which dates back to 1914 and is Grade II listed, will be enlarged to more than double the size of the concourse, up from 910 to 2,000 square metres, and to introduce two new platforms to meet growing passenger demand at the station, which is within walking distance of both the existing Birmingham New Street station and HS2’s terminus at Curzon Street.

The remodelling of the station will double the size of the concourse . (Grimshaw)

The new platforms will be used for extra services to and from the East Midlands, Hereford, Worcester and the South West as part of Midlands Connect’s Midlands Rail Hub proposals to increase rail capacity.

Birmingham is adopting a “One Station” strategy, and the new proposals will create seamless links with both Curzon Street and New Street stations. There will be a new transfer deck, with access to every platform and links to a new footbridge taking passengers directly to HS2 services from Curzon Street via a new public square.

In the wider area, there are also several options that will improve pedestrian access between Moor Street and New Street. These include a safe, well-lit and direct route via St Martin’s Queensway; new steps and a ramp at Swan Passage, adjacent to the new Primark development; and a new ramped route from Rotunda Square to New Street Station.

Introducing a second entrance at the south of the station should improve passenger flow, avoid overcrowding and create better access to the revitalised Digbeth area and the proposed £1.5 billion Smithfield development.

A new entrance on the south side will improve passenger flow. (Grimshaw)

Designs for the new proposals were prepared by Grimshaw and Glenn Howells Architects, who also worked together on designs for HS2’s Curzon Street station, based on concepts developed by West Midlands Rail Executive working in collaboration with Transport for West Midlands, Midlands Connect, Network Rail, HS2 Ltd, Chiltern Railways, West Midlands Railway and Birmingham City Council.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “We have big plans for transport in the West Midlands and the expansion of Moor Street is a crucial part of that. Our game-changing plans for HS2 and new metro and rail lines are already driving investment, new jobs and apprenticeships as well as bringing communities closer to those work, training and education opportunities.

“This whole area of Birmingham will be revitalised over the next few years as the world’s largest Primark opens, Curzon Street HS2 station is built, and Moor Street is transformed. This vision for Moor Street will not only provide a better experience for commuters but with two extra platforms, it will set the foundation for the future expansion of rail services.”    

Concept image of proposals for Birmingham Moor Street station. (Grimshaw)

Greater Anglia train drivers taking leap into new technology

Transurb simulator at Greater Anglia's Norwich driver academy.

New state-of-the-art train simulators are being used to train 768 Greater Anglia drivers that will be driving the new trains due to replace all of the company’s existing fleet from later this year, when it starts to receive 38 bi-mode and 20 all-electric trains from Stadler followed by 111 more electric commuter trains from Bombardier.

Four new simulators, each worth £1.6 million, have been installed at its driver academies in Norwich and Stratford.

Already, 185 drivers from Norwich and Cambridge have completed the six-day course to learn to drive the new Stadler bi-mode trains that are replacing all diesel trains on rural routes.

The course includes three days of class room and simulator learning, followed by three days of driver training on the trains themselves.

The simulators, two supplied by Transurb and two by Sydac, are constructed to feel like an actual train cab, with the controls looking and functioning exactly the same as in the new trains themselves. Realistic CGI animation is shown through the windows of the view ahead and from the cab’s side windows as the train ‘drives’ along routes. Several of the Greater Anglia routes have been recreated on each simulator, the first time that drivers have been able to experience real routes on a simulator.

When the train ‘stops’ at a platform, two screens switch on and show video from internal and external CCTV, so the driver can check everyone has got safely on and off the train before opening or closing the train’s doors.

If a train is longer than the platform, the software onboard automatically selects to open only the doors next to the platform.

If it looks like anyone needs assistance, the driver can inform the conductor, who in real life will be on board the bi-mode trains assisting customers, giving them a helping hand to get on and off the train if they need it, answering enquiries and selling tickets.

Drivers on the simulator are given a number of different scenarios which they might face, including encountering animals on the line, varying weather conditions and customers on board needing emergency help.

For the first time, drivers will be able to control the temperature on the train, either switching on the air conditioning or turning up the heating.

Greater Anglia business readiness director Andrew Goodrum said: “We’re getting 169 brand new trains, with three different models. While the trains are still being made and tested, we’re preparing our drivers to be able to play their important role in the transformation of the railway.”

Edinburgh Tram extension to Newhaven gets Council approval.

The proposed extension of the Edinburgh Tram network, as previously reported in Rail Engineer, has now been approved by Edinburgh City Council. Councillors have voted to press ahead with taking trams to Newhaven.

A meeting of the full Council in Edinburgh City Chambers on 14 March 2019 considered the plans and, after a lengthy debate, granted approval.

From the end of March, the two contractors involved (Sacyr, Farrans, Neopul Joint Venture for the infrastructure and systems contract and Morrison Utility Services for the swept path contract) will start on a six-month early contractor involvement (ECI) period, working closely with the Council and other key stakeholders to finalise construction plans.

Map of the proposed extension of Edinburgh Tram to Newhaven.

Work will then get under way on the £200 million project and services to Newhaven should commence early in early 2023, with nearly 16 million people forecasted to use the completed line from Edinburgh Airport to Newhaven in its first year of operation.

Councillor Lesley Macinnes.

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener, said:  “Our city is growing faster than anywhere else in Scotland – a sign of our continued attractiveness as a place to work, live, visit and spend time – and boosting our public transport infrastructure in a sustainable way is fundamental to catering to our expanding population.

“This is a crucial decision for Edinburgh – for today’s residents and for generations to come. Taking trams to Newhaven will allow brownfield development sites to be transformed, opening up the whole of north Edinburgh to a wealth of opportunities in terms of jobs, housing and local facilities. And vitally, this will be achieved without putting pressure on existing Council budgets.”

New plans for rail freight in Scotland

Rail freight - wagons being loaded at a freight yard. (Network Rail)

The freight industry in Scotland has collectively launched a new strategy intended to increase the amount of freight moved by rail. This is in response to a target set by the Scottish Government last year for 7.5 per cent growth.

The freight operating companies and Network Rail came together with freight users, industry bodies and hauliers to create an ambitious plan that sets out what is needed to support rail freight growth. It also considers how to increase both the average speed of a freight train and reliability, so that punctuality can be improved.

The strategy includes for areas for improvement:

  • Encouraging customer confidence;
  • Developing growth;
  • Doing things differently;
  • Achieving simpler solutions.

With over 600 freight trains running on Great Britain’s network every day, 50 of which are in Scotland, over 4 million tonnes were transported by rail in the last year. This benefitted the Scottish economy alone by around £200 million.

Rail freight – wagons being loaded at a freight yard. (Network Rail)

The environmental benefits of transferring freight from the roads to rail are well documented. As part of this plan, the rail freight industry is committed to transfer at least 1,700 lorry movements a year from Scotland’s road network to rail over the next five years. Each tonne of freight transported by rail reduces carbon emissions by seven percent compared to road and each freight train removes between 25 and 62 HGVs from Scottish roads.

Paul McMahon, managing director for freight and national passenger operators. (Network Rail)

Network Rail’s managing director of freight and national passenger operators Paul McMahon said: “Our freight customers are a vital part of Scotland’s railways and the Scottish economy. Scottish growth also needs to be considered as part of our GB-wide network as this will make sure that the required capacity and capability exists both north and south of the border.

“Network Rail champions and supports freight. We, and the rail freight industry, welcome the growth target and we will continue to work together in delivering the uplift.”

Relearning Electrification

The project to reopen the Airdrie to Bathgate (A2B) line in 2010 included electrification to extend the Glasgow suburban electrification network to Edinburgh via this new line. This electrification work was part of a £60 million contract to electrify 106 single track kilometres (stk) and lay 44 kilometres of track on the new line. This project, which was delivered to time and budget, was Britain’s first significant electrification since the 1994 Heathrow and Leeds North West electrification schemes.

After this long gap, A2B was to be the first of many new electrification schemes as the UK government had accepted the benefits of electrification. Between 2009 and 2012, it announced electrification of Great Western main line, North Western lines, South Wales main line, Midland main line, Electric Spine, Crossrail, Gospel Oak to Barking line and West Midlands suburban lines. In addition, the Scottish government was funding various electrification schemes. These electrification programmes totalled over 2,000stk.

The Great Western electrification programme (GWEP) started in 2010 and was to cost £1 billion. By 2016, its cost had risen to £2.8 billion and its scope was reduced. By 2017, the government had lost faith and cancelled the Midland main line, Swansea and Windermere electrification schemes. This was justified by the claim that electrification was not necessary as new bi-mode trains offer the same passenger benefits despite their diesel mode having about two thirds the power of their electric mode (issue 157, November 2017).

RIA’s cost challenge

Although electrification offers significant passenger, cost, reliability and environmental benefits, these benefits will not be realised unless the UK Government is convinced that any future electrification will cost far less than GWEP has.

The Railway Industry Association (RIA) considers that electrification remains the optimum technical solution for intensively used railways – if it can be delivered at an acceptable cost. Its technical director, David Clarke, who considers that the industry can and must deliver electrification at a lower cost, is leading RIA’s Electrification Cost Challenge, which recently produced its report. This highlights lessons from schemes in the UK, notably Scotland, and elsewhere to show that electrification can be delivered at a lower cost than GWEP.

David acknowledges that much went wrong with GWEP, but he feels that it is not helpful to assign blame as “the whole industry got it wrong” and the important thing is to recognise the problems and learn lessons. In this respect his report identified the following reasons for GWEP’s cost escalation:

  • Unrealistic programme as completion date was set by delivery date for new trains determined by the Department for Transport;
  • Immature estimates with little survey information or cost data from recent schemes;
  • Unclear specification as Network Rail didn’t know whether the Department for Transport wanted trains to run at 125 or 140mph;
  • The development of high-output electrification construction trains that had not been used before;
  • Unnecessarily conservative pile design requiring piles up to 15 metres long which resulted in poor productivity with many repeat visits to individual sites;
  • Competition for delivery resources, for example with North Western, Scottish and Midland main line electrification schemes all taking place at the same time;
  • Introduction of new UK requirements for multiple pantograph operation at up to 140 mph (later reduced to 125mph) resulted in a new OLE design specification that was more onerous than the European Energy Technical Standard for Interoperability (ENE TSI) which was itself under revision when the project was being designed;
  • In addition, the UK introduced more onerous clearance requirements than ENE TSI and it was initially perceived that the ORR expected absolute compliance rather than allowing deviation following robust risk assessment and appropriate safety measures;
  • The unproven Series 1 overhead line system was developed during project delivery and was designed for 125mph multiple-pantograph operation, TSI compliance and ease of installation;
  • The volume of planning permissions and consents was under estimated;
  • The lack of a collaborative contracting strategy with clear objectives, shared incentives and fewer interfaces.

RIA’s electrification cost challenge report explains how lessons from the above have been learnt and implemented. Furthermore, it shows that the underlying cause of most of the above issues is the British ‘feast and famine’ approach to electrification, which meant that there was initially insufficient expertise to design, plan and deliver electrification projects on the scale of the GWEP.

This was not a problem for the much smaller Airdrie to Bathgate electrification as, in 2010, it did not have to compete for resources. In addition, it did not have the problems of unclear specification or standards changes. This perhaps explains why this electrification work was delivered to time and budget.

Team Scotland

Unlike Westminster, the Scottish Government is committed to a substantial rolling programme of electrification that, it believes, will bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits. Including A2B, it has funded a rolling programme of seven separate schemes over a ten-year period that will have electrified over 500stk once the Shotts scheme is completed in May.

The Scottish electrification experience provides useful information for RIA’s electrification study, which notes that two schemes completed in 2014, Cumbernauld and Rutherglen, delivered electrification for less than £0.75 million per stk. However, the RIA report notes that £/stk is actually quite a crude measure of performance in view of the varying amount of electrification clearance and power supply work between different schemes.

Although the Edinburgh to Glasgow main line electrification was over budget at £2 million per stk, the later Alloa and Shotts schemes, which both required significant clearance works, each cost £1.5 million per stk. The RIA report concluded: “Having a rolling programme of electrification in Scotland is benefiting from learning and experience being passed from one project to the next.” It included the following examples of good practice from the Stirling, Dunblane and Alloa electrification project:

  • The separation of independent activities, even though this extends the programme, into 1) bridgeworks and other route clearance; 2) site investigation; 3) grid supplies, master feed diagram, isolation and switching design; 4) foundations and 5) OLE installation;
  • Extensive ground investigation undertaken at 200-metre centres throughout the route;
  • Site-specific GRIP 4 OLE design to consider site information, including clearances, to ensure accurate development of GRIP 5 detailed OLE design;
  • Foundation options derived from ground investigation CAD model developed from all possible sources with 1.2-metre-cube trial holes dug at each planned location to confirm foundation setting out and design;
  • Staged approach to OLE design using finalised isolation and switching design and as-built foundation positions;
  • Foundations installed using MOVAX vibrating units mounted on road-rail vehicles;
  • A common data model that included steelwork foundation, masts and small parts schedules, material allocation and the wiring CAD model;
  • Masts installed using a road-rail vehicle-mounted manipulator, rather than a crane, with small parts steelwork pre-fixed to avoid working at height;
  • To maximise wiring train productivity, particular attention was paid to special foundations to ensure that all masts would be in place for each wire-run with cantilevers and registration arms pre-registered to +/- 50mm prior to wiring;
  • Extended midweek ‘rules of the route’ access negotiated so that night-time engineering access could start after the evening peak service;
  • A station electrical clearance risk assessment process was developed to assess acceptable clearances for use in OLE design.

Foundations and arrestors

Amongst the various cost-saving measures included in RIA’s report, two particularly noteworthy initiatives are Network Rail’s new standard for foundation design and the use of surge arrestors to reduce clearance costs.

A major factor in GWEP’s cost escalation were obviously over-engineered foundations, up to 15 metres deep, which were the result of an analytical risk-averse design approach. The RIA report considered this to be a major factor in the programme’s poor productivity and resultant cost escalation.

Previously foundations had been designed using empirical methods derived from field tests carried out by the UIC’s Office for Research and Experiments (ORE) in the 1950s. To validate a return to this previous approach, Network Rail engaged the University of Southampton to carry out full-scale field tests to extend the ORE design methodology to 610mm-diameter circular hollow section piles over in-service loading conditions that are at the upper end of current operational experience.

The results of this research are now incorporated in Network Rail standard NR/L2/CIV/074 ‘Design and installation of overhead line foundations’. RIA’s report notes that it is encouraging that the Bedford to Corby electrification project is now installing 95 per cent of its piles using ORE design methods to achieve productivity of six piles in the available working time of 4 hours 30 minutes.

As described in issue 158 (December 2017), surge arrestors have been successfully introduced on Danish Railways to reduce bridge electrification clearances. These work by limiting any over-voltages, for example from lightning strikes. When combined with contact wire covers and an electrical insulating coating (onto an earthing plate) electrical clearances required in both wet and dry conditions are significantly reduced.

The University of Southampton was also involved in this initiative as it carried out 193kV tests under controlled conditions under Network Rail’s supervision to determine that, with this mitigation, minimum electrical clearance requirements could be reduced from 270mm to 150mm.

Just outside Cardiff Central Station, there is a low and highly skewed bridge over the railway which itself crosses a substantial culvert. To obtain the required electrical clearance, the reconstruction of this bridge had been costed at £40-£50 million and the estimate of an alternative option of track lowering and a culvert diversion was £10-15 million. Both these options would have been highly disruptive.

Instead, for a cost below £1 million, Andromeda Engineering worked with Network Rail, Siemens (surge arrestors) and GLS Coatings (insulated coating on the underside of the bridge) to provide a solution that avoided the need for these expensive and disruptive options.

Affordable electrification

GWEP has been the subject of reports by both the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee that draw conclusions about programme management issues. Neither of these reports acknowledges the difficulty of ramping-up supply-chain capability for full route electrification after there having been no such scheme for twenty years.

In contrast, RIA’s electrification cost challenge report focuses on practical and technical lessons from GWEP and other projects. It shows how solutions have been implemented and gives examples of actual electrification costs throughout the UK and in mainland Europe. As a result, the report concludes that, in comparison with GWEP’s £2.8 million per stk, “all-in” electrification (excluding route enhancement and major grid connections) should normally cost between £1 and £1.5 million per stk.

The report recommends that there should be a rolling electrification programme that would maintain a core design and delivery capability and support a culture of continuous improvement. It notes that the German rolling programme of electrification, which retains learning and skills, delivers electrification at significantly lower cost than the best that is currently achieved in the UK.

Although the RIA report demonstrates that electrification can be delivered at an affordable cost, the case for electrification requires that its benefits must also be accepted. Amongst the many documents that show electrification’s benefits are Network Rail’s 2009 electrification route utilisation strategy and the Department for Transport’s 2009 Rail Electrification paper.

The DfT paper notes that electric trains are 35 per cent cheaper to operate than diesels. It also offers the small, but significant, benefit of more powerful electric trains giving a four-minute journey time saving between Cardiff and Swansea, where they must accelerate from station stop to line speed on four occasions. Yet, when this electrification scheme was cancelled, the government view was that electrification offered no time savings because this was not a high-speed route.

It is to be hoped that the UK Government accepts the strategic case for a rolling electrification programme in the same way that it has allocated £450 million to accelerate digital signalling technology deployment as a strategic policy not subject to a business case. If not, the danger is that hard won lessons will be forgotten as the historic cycle of electrification feast and famine repeats itself.

Issue 172 – Signalling the future

Moving through a Illuminated tunnel

Editor’s comments – issue 172, March 2019

Andrew Haines knew that Network Rail was letting its passengers and freight users down before he became its new chief executive. After a hundred days in the job, spent speaking to all concerned, he now knows what must be done. This includes the devolution of control to five new regions to make the company more responsive to its customers

This signals much more than an organisational change. Haines believes that decision-making must be closer to the end user and so is devolving many HQ roles to the new regions. These include Infrastructure Projects and elements of the engineering function.

Exactly how engineering will be devolved remains to be seen. One example is the management of standards which, as Network Rail’s own standards challenge process acknowledges, can currently be over-prescriptive.

Now, although standards management might be felt to be a headquarters function, perhaps it would be better to have standards commonly owned rather than centrally controlled. This will require highly competent regional engineers, who will be accountable for the system risk on their routes, having ownership of the standards process as a group and, as they are closer to the issues, it may well result in more appropriate standards.

There are also significant implications for the Group Digital Railway programme, which Haines does not refer to in the transformational terms used by his predecessor. Instead, the new organisation will give regions the authority to decide what is best for their customers.

However the digital railway develops, it owes a debt to David Waboso who, after joining the programme in 2016, prioritised it to deliver business benefits for passenger and freight customers. Before then, it offered digital solutions for everything everywhere. Some may be surprised to learn that David is a civil engineer, as Clive Kessell describes in a feature that marks his wide-ranging career

Minimising delays on a congested network requires the ultra-high reliability that comes from redundancy to avoid single point failures, such as those that can occur in the control, actuation, detection and locking of points. To address this problem, a new point system offering redundancy is now in trial operation. As Malcolm Dobell describes, the novel Repoint mechanism does this by having a drive mechanism that is not secured to the rails, which enables them to move with only one actuator operational.

This month, we have two general signalling features which should be of interest to non-signalling engineers. David Bickell explains how Network Rail’s 40,000 signals are part of a signalling system that has been developed to control train movements in the most efficient manner whilst optimising capacity. In another feature, which should be good reading for permanent way engineers, Paul Darlington explains train detection technology.

On Thameslink, signalling is now in the train cab. This required a significant GSM-R network upgrade to ensure resilience, provide sufficient data capacity for ETCS operation and eliminate interference in the congested London core. GSM-R interference is also an increasing problem elsewhere, as public operators are allocating frequencies close to the GSM-R bandwidth. The solution is a £55 million programme to replace 9,000 cab radios with ones that have improved filters.

Yet, in the not too-distant future, these radios will be obsolete. GSM-R will then be replaced by the Future Railways Mobile Communication System. In an in-depth feature, we consider the telecommunications technologies that might replace GSM-R. These will need to provide reliable, efficient and high-capacity connectivity for both passengers and operational services, as well as allowing for bandwidth expansion for new applications that are unknown today.

HS2 will also have trains with yet-to-be developed technologies. The company’s £2.75 billion procurement of its trains will see bidders submitting their tenders in April. This process allows for collaborative design after next year’s contract award to ensure trains are state-of-the-art when they enter service in 2026. HS2 will then provide a huge increase in capacity from London to the North and, from 2033, free up space on the West Coast, Midland and East Coast main lines, a fact which recent television documentaries have ignored.

HS2’s trains must of course be electric. No other form of traction can power high-speed trains or, indeed, those that require high acceleration to provide an acceptable service. In its report to government, the industry’s decarbonisation taskforce recognises that it is also “the most carbon efficient power source”.

Unfortunately, the UK Government has fallen out of favour with electrification due to high cost overruns of the Great Western and other electrification schemes. In its recently-released Electrification Cost Challenge report, the Railway Industry Association explains why these schemes were so costly and demonstrates how electrification can be delivered at an affordable cost, with reference to schemes in Scotland and in Europe. It remains to be seen whether the conclusions of RIA’s excellent report will be accepted so that, in future, passengers on busy non-electrified lines can experience the benefits provided by the electric trains that operate 72 per cent of the UK’s train services.

As many of our features show this month, UK rail has an encouraging future, but only if it can deliver for its customers at an affordable cost.


Network Rail awards Fugro contract to survey 850 route miles of track in Wales

Fugro begins major track survey in Wales using its RILA system under new Network Rail contract

Network Rail has announced plans to conduct a survey of more than 850 route miles of track across Wales and the border counties of England. This includes the proposed and current Transport for Wales (TfW) Rail Services operational and diversionary routes and will also include data acquisition on parts of London North Western (LNW) and Western routes.

The asset information and track position data that results will be used by Network Rail to support a new train introduction programme and to validate track position on route sections throughout the country.

The contract to carry out this survey has been awarded to Fugro, building on the successful outcome of a survey of the Core Valley lines that the company conducted for TfW Rail Services in late 2018. The geo-data specialist will deploy its RILA system to capture the data from a train, removing the need for “boots on ballast”.

Indeed, Fugro’s train-mounted rail infrastructure alignment acquisition system (RILA) will be deployed on TfW Rail Services’ in-service passenger trains throughout Wales, rather than dedicated locomotives, so no additional track access capacity will be required either.

Work on the survey began in February and is providing a holistic view of the network to high levels of accuracy. Once processed, the resulting information will give Network Rail baseline asset data that can be used for a range of route maintenance applications,  including topographical survey extraction, determination of heights and staggers on electrified routes, vegetation analysis, ballast profiling and ballast volume validation.

Fugro’s global director of rail Jeroen Huiskamp commented: “With RILA, we have revolutionised the way railway data and asset information are collected. We can deliver data faster, with less disruption to normal rail services and can increase the safety profile considerably for track survey works.”

Finnish EKE Group acquires Humaware

Humaware, the Southampton-based company that develops and markets a range of data-driven predictive analytics tools to enhance the predict and prevent capability of the railway network, has been acquired by EKE-Electronics of Espoo, Finland.

A division of the EKE Group, a privately held Finnish company with diversified international operations, EKE-Electronics is a leading global supplier of intelligent train automation and management systems. The company has been active in the rail industry for more than 30 years, developing applications and onboard electronics for train automation and condition monitoring.

[L-R, top] Karl Lönngren (director, digital services, EKE-Electronics), Marko Mäkinen (CEO, EKE-Electronics), Antti Tikkanen (CFO, EKE Group). [Below] Kenneth Pipe (Managing Director, Humaware) and Riitta Ekengren (CEO, EKE Group).

This acquisition means that EKE-Electronics will be able to provide a complete solution for rolling stock remote condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. The company’s range of services will now extend to the analysis of signals and sensor data collected from trains by means of the extremely accurate and reliable predictive analytics algorithms developed by Humaware.

Unforeseen failures in rail traffic result in additional maintenance costs, delays and reduced passenger satisfaction. Humaware’s advanced data-driven algorithms and anomaly detection techniques provide an improved approach to obtain remote condition monitoring benefits. Fixed thresholds are replaced with an adaptive threshold to detect changes in remote condition monitoring data earlier than fixed threshold methods.

This earlier detection provides the opportunity to switch from costly schedule-based maintenance to a dynamic maintenance programme based on the actual condition of the trains. The pooling of expertise from EKE-Electronics and Humaware will provide a predictive maintenance capability that will improve reliability, cost-efficiency and passenger comfort.

Intelligent maintenance solutions are currently in great demand in the railway industry because of the substantial benefits they offer.

Karl Lönngren, who is responsible for EKE-Electronics’ condition monitoring business, said: “With Humaware’s unique software, we’re able to offer a comprehensive solution for data collection and analytics, as well as for planning a dynamic maintenance programme that is of interest to rail operators all over the world.”

National Apprenticeship Week on the railway

National Apprenticeship Week 2019 took place 4 to 8 March 2019. Coordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service, an offshoot of the Department for Education, It is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

This year’s theme was ‘Blaze a Trail’, highlighting the benefits of apprenticeships to employers, individuals, local communities and the economy. A range of activities and events took place across the country, seeking to change the perceptions that people have on what an apprenticeship is and to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to take up an apprenticeship.

The rail industry was thoroughly involved. Network Rail, as the largest employer, promoted its apprenticeship scheme and the benefits that participants can enjoy.

Richard Turner, head of apprenticeship delivery for Network Rail, at the Westwood training facility.

Richard Turner, as head of apprenticeship delivery, is responsible for overseeing Network Rail’s entire range of apprenticeship and graduate programmes, including its award-winning rail engineering technician apprenticeship scheme.

“Network Rail has a long history of running great apprenticeship and graduate programmes, and our early careers offering is only going to increase over the next few years,” he said. “We need to be recruiting and training apprentices today so that they’re ready to maintain and operate tomorrow’s railway.

“Apprenticeships also offer an opportunity for existing railway employees to re-skill or up-skill as new technologies enter the workplace. Simply put, our apprenticeships programme safeguards the future of railway infrastructure, operations, and workforce.”

Good examples

Snowy Worrad, a Network Rail apprentice based at Port Talbot, South Wales.

Snowy Worrad is an apprentice for Network Rail Wales and Borders, based in Port Talbot. She explained why she had decided to take up an apprenticeship: “I applied for the scheme because I wanted to study engineering but I didn’t want to stop working to be able to do so.

“Joining the company as an apprentice has given me a boost that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, and there have been lots of opportunities for me to see more of the company, get involved in new ideas and to meet people from different roles. I’ve completed placements with a wide variety of teams and I know that once I completed the apprenticeship, I will have gained all the skills and knowledge I need to further my career in engineering.”

Elinor Harris – a third-year apprentice from Gorleston in Norfolk. (Network Rail)

Elinor Harris, 32 and from Gorleston in Norfolk, is almost at the end of her three-year apprenticeship. She joined Network Rail with an interest in engineering but no knowledge of how the railway worked. Three years on, she’s learned about switches and crossings, trackside maintenance and signals, and has also had the chance to analyse data that helps with the day-to-day running of the railway.

“At Network Rail, you get so many opportunities to develop, and the chance to study for qualifications,” she said. It gives you a great head start to further your career.

“The experience so far been really rewarding and I have learnt so much. I am almost coming to an end of my apprenticeship and it has been an incredible experience and I have no regrets. I would certainly recommend the apprenticeship scheme to anyone.”

Looking back while looking forward

One interesting approach to National Apprenticeship Week was that of Anna Delvecchio, commercial account director at Amey. A former apprentice herself, she now works closely with industry and government and was part of the team that formulated the new Rail Sector Deal.

Anna Delvecchio – apprentice and commercial account director.

Winner of a number of awards for her activities in promoting the rail industry, including Woman of the Year at the FTA Everywoman in Transport and Logistics Awards, she decided to go back to being an apprentice for the week, while giving a group of apprentices the opportunity to shadow her.

A group of Amey apprentices, working across both transport and rail, shadowed Anna in her job, and at the same time, talked of their experiences and what it means to be an apprentice in a major company today.

“It was brilliant, and I enjoyed every minute of reverse shadowing and the apprentices understanding my role,” Anna enthused. “It was incredible to see so much talent in so many apprentices in a short space of time.

“Let’s start with Jay Millard. He is an apprentice tree surgeon. He taught me so much about trees in just four hours.  He is brilliant. He doesn’t want a career in the office and loves working outdoors. It was freezing cold, pouring down with rain and there he was enjoying his job – looking after trees in the rain with a smile!”

Another former apprentice on Anna’s ‘team’ was Holly Welch, who completed her apprenticeship in engineering and now works on highways design. Anna described her as “an inspirational role model for STEM and engineering roles”, adding: “She is a great example of someone we should use to inspire young girls to think about a career in engineering.”

Lamar Gardiner also works on highways design, and he explained to Anna the details of his role – completing drawings, surveys and going on site.

Danny Mahmood is relatively new to the programme, only starting his apprenticeship six months ago, training in overhead line equipment (OLE). He is currently placed with the design team, and Anna spent the afternoon shadowing him, seeing what he does on a typical day.

Deivydas Andriuškevičius is a street lighting apprentice. “I’ve known him the longest,” Anna commented. “Deivydas is an absolute advocate for apprenticeship programmes, just like me.”

Reactions

(L-R) Lamar Gardiner, Holly Welch, Jay Millard, Danny Mahmood, Andy McDonald MP, Deivydas Andriuškevičius, Anna Delvecchio

The apprentices that Anna worked with were appreciative of the opportunity.

“I was very interested to meet shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald,” said Lamar. “He was clearly very busy but seemed very calm and it was interesting to hear about his work. We also met Robin from BEIS who had started off as a history teacher. He was keen to hear about our backgrounds as well. A really interesting day.”

Danny was fascinated by being able to see, in a small way, the connection between the operational work he is engaged with every day and the bigger policy decisions that can influence this. “We saw different government departments and got to see how their policies can affect our everyday work. We heard how they are hoping to recruit an additional 20,000 apprentices”.

Holly agreed that she had gained a sense of perspective on the work of the industrial strategy. “That was interesting – to hear first-hand about the sector deals and how these are linked to skills and productivity.”

“It was an exciting opportunity to meet the government departments and Andy McDonald,” Deivydas agreed. “I’m so inspired.”

So what comes next in this interesting initiative?

“I will be helping Amey champion our apprenticeship programme with our apprentices as well as continuing to support the good work of both Women in Transport and Women in Rail,” said Anna. “I will also be helping CILT (the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport) with their Big Logistics and Transport Diversity Challenge and I have a little project that I have been working on with a few which is progressing very nicely. Watch this space!”