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July 2021 | Issue 2


The issues facing train operators The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail Devolution Funding Transport for London Open Access and more...

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Contents July 2021 | Issue 2



Transparent pricing and good customer service

Keith Williams looks back at his appointment and the ground that he and his panel covered in the course of their enquiries.

The issues facing train operators The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail Devolution Funding Transport for London Open Access and more...

Tel: 0800 046 7320 Sales: 020 7062 6599 Editor Nigel Wordsworth Writers Danny Longhorn Dave Windass Rachel Groves Graham Coombs Designer/Production Editor Chris Cassidy Print Manager Dan Clark


When the Williams Rail Review published its ‘root and branch’ review of the British railway, it did so as a government whit paper.


Published by RBD Publications Ltd, Suite 37, Philpot House, Station Road, Rayleigh, Essex, SS6 7HH. Printed by Stephens & George © 2021 All rights reserved. Reproduction of the contents of this magazine in any manner whatsoever is prohibited without prior consent from the publisher. For subscription enquiries and to make sure you get your copy of InsideTrack please ring 0800 046 7320 or email The views expressed in the articles reflect the author’s opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher and editor. The published material, adverts, editorials and all other content is published in good faith. Cover image: Alexandre Rotenberg /

Industry reaction to the Plan for Rail

When the government released its white paper ‘The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail’, reactions from the rail industry came thick and fast.


Building a better railway


It’s got to be rail freight


Devolved railways in Scotland

The Williams Rail Review was overtaken by events and didn’t report until May 2021, by which time the structure of railway franchises and contracts had changed completely.

Although the rail industry was hit hard by coronavirus, the growth of rail freight is one of the success stories to come out of the past couple of years.

Distribution Manager Nick Wright Advertising Team Christian Wiles – Freddie Neal – Elliot Gates – Jack Allen – Amy Hudson –

The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

Transport in Scotland became devolved from the UK Government in 2006. Since then, much has been achieved, but many challenges remain.


Creating a sustainable transport system

The Welsh Government runs trains in the borders region of England and is developing a metro network that will include Merseyside.


Passenger train leasing


Stations as destinations

Most passenger train fleets are not owned by their operators, but are leased from a small group of specialist companies – the ROSCOs.

A modern railway station, particularly a major terminus, is so much more than just the place where people go to catch a train.


Training the rail industry in suicide prevention

Samaritans’ partnership with the rail industry and their expertise in suicide prevention are proving more vital than ever.



Adapting to the new normal


The value of Work Pipeline Visibility

Early plans for intercity routes to be run by competing open-access operators changed under the franchise system. How did this happen?

Eli Rees King, head of product and marketing for the RBD Community, reflects on how work pipeline visibility can play a key role.


Competency development: Building back safer

Safety must never be taken for granted. Everyone working on the railway must have their competencies recorded and managed.


Keeping the capital running


Where two lines cross


The return of parcels by train

Andy Byford, Transport Commissioner for London, discusses Crossrail and his plans and aspirations for the capital’s transport network.

Construction has started at Calvert in Buckinghamshire, where the HS2 high-speed line will cross under another major new railway – East West Rail.

Over the last few years, two totally unconnected phenomena have given rise to a new type of specialist train, the high-speed parcel carrier.


Developing depots


When is my new train due?


The changing face of train operations

The number of new train fleets coming onto the railway network has resulted in a major building programme to provide depot facilities for them.

Introducing a new class of train to a route can be exciting, and passengers are usually impatient to try out their new ‘ride’. But why don’t they always enter service when planned?

Steve Montgomery, who heads up FirstGroup’s rail operations, considers the recent past and the future for private train operators.


A fond farewell to the Pacer?

When a class of train or locomotive is retired, they are usually sent for scrap. Is this what happened to Britain’s most unloved train?

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Operating Britain’s Railways W

elcome to issue 2 of Inside Track, the new magazine that is looking at all aspects of how the railway runs, operates and is governed. Operating Britain’s Railways has come along at an opportune time. The Williams Review, commissioned in 2018 by Chris Grayling when he was Secretary of State for Transport, has finally been published and adopted by current Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.


New trains There are currently so many new trains coming into service that it can rightly be called a flood. This brings with it the challenges of testing, commissioning and even housing and maintaining these new fleets. Inside Track looks at what these can mean to train operations, and how they are handled. Readers must not forget that there is another major railway network other than the national one. Transport for London runs London

The bulk of its income comes from tickets sales, and, during COVID-19, that dried up almost completely

Its publication was delayed by a General Election (when government isn’t allowed to make statements), Brexit (which took up parliamentary time) and then COVID-19. The review’s main recommendation – to end franchising – could have been contentious if it had been published in 2019 as planned, but, by 2021, it was basically a dead issue anyway. Still, there is a lot more meat on the WilliamsShapps bones, and this issue looks at the proposals and at the industry’s reaction to them. Operations, however, involves more than franchise arrangements. Open-access operators were never part of those deals – they survive by paying track access charges and selling tickets, hopefully making a profit in the process. With no government support during the coronavirus lockdowns, services were curtailed. How will they bounce back? And what is, or should be, their role in the nation’s railway? And we do have a national railway, apart from in Northern Ireland where a network using a different gauge to Great Britain is shared with the Irish Republic. Despite being part of the national network, Wales and Scotland have their own devolved railways under arrangements that are different from those in England, and from each other as well. Inside Track reports on the latest developments in both countries.

Overground, London Underground and the Docklands Light Railway. These face many of the same challenges – new trains (94 new Piccadilly line trains on order from Siemens and 43 five-car trains for the DLR from CAF), new signalling (Network Rail is installing digital in-cab signalling on the East Coast main line, TfL is doing it on the Circle line) and new stations (Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms stations on the Northern line extension). However, TfL is not government funded, but


is supported by the Mayor of London’s office. The bulk of its income comes from tickets sales, and, during COVID-19, that dried up almost completely. It was important to keep trains running, so government support was requested and, after difficult negotiations, granted – short term and with conditions. London’s Transport Commissioner Andy Byford gave Inside Track the details. Indeed, we spoke to a number of people in preparing this issue. In addition to Andy Byford, Keith Williams, author of the eponymous review; Steve Montgomery, head of rail for the First Group; James Price, head of Transport for Wales; Richard McClean, managing director of Grand Central; and Chris Heaton-Harris, Rail Minister, all spoke exclusively to Inside Track about the challenges they face and the solutions they propose. They all have something in common – in one way or another, they are Operating Britain’s Railways. Nigel Wordsworth, Managing editor, RBD Publications

Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021


Transparent pricing and good customer service Keith Williams, chairman of the Williams Review and co-author of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail white paper, looks back at his appointment and the ground that he and his panel covered in the course of their enquiries, and look forward to the railway that he has proposed for the future


No preconceptions As my background was in aviation, not railways, I brought no preconceptions to my review. I could pose off-the-wall questions, and then use my knowledge of the airline model to look at different options for the future railway. The first thing I realised, quite early on, was that a lot of the problem was down to the network. A major failure of network planning stood behind a lot of the issues with the May 2018 timetable. But it wasn’t confined to this, it was everybody’s failure, a failure to recognise that the network had limitations.

July 2021

It quickly became clear that franchising needed to end, but that was pretty obvious

hen, in September 2018, Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling asked me to chair a ‘root and branch’ review of Britain’s railways, two things attracted me. First was that, following the timetabling disaster of May 2018, there was a huge realisation in the industry that things needed to change. Secondly, I actually took comfort from the fact that this was going to be a government review, independently chaired, which is somewhat unusual. So, I always felt that that gave it the greatest opportunity to get to a white paper. This also made ‘my’ review fundamentally different to those which went before, including the McNulty review. Although that was also independently chaired, its scope didn’t cover the whole industry. Nor did those of the other 30 or so reviews of the railway that had been written over the previous 10 years. This time, the review was to cover everything, and it came at a time when everybody wanted change. As I am not a railwayman, choosing my panel of experts was key to the review’s success, as was selecting the right people to approach for submissions. I had access to everyone I needed. I met the Scottish Government and I met the Scottish minister. Similarly, in Wales, I went to the Welsh Parliament. I saw and spoke with hundreds of people, organisations, governments and businesses over that first year, and pulled together around me a fantastic panel of experts.

However, the second thing I realised was that, in all the public forums I spoke with, the network was identified as being crucial. Whereas I might have thought there would be some sort of localism, actually, even the general public wanted this to work as a network. And I think that that was probably something that was lost through franchising.


In fact, I don’t think the public ever actually understood franchising, in the sense that they weren’t concerned whether it was private or national. It wasn’t even one of their concerns – they were more worried that the railway wasn’t working as a network. This made me think of the nationalisation debate and structure as an output rather than an input. I saw that we needed to get something that works, and then look at the structure to make it work, rather than the other way around. I know that people were getting frustrated with me, because I didn’t propose a new structure, but that was deliberate on my part because I wanted to devise a network that would work and then wrap a structure around it.

Alexandre Rotenberg /


The end of the line for franchising Of course, by the time the white paper was published, franchising was effectively dead anyway, killed off by COVID-19 and the emergency agreements that government had entered into to keep the railways running during the pandemic. In fact, the review was pretty much ready by the autumn of 2019. The commitment was to complete the review in around 12 months, which was we did, did and I presented a draft to government in late 2019.

But then two things happened. The first was COVID-19, and the second was that Grant Shapps became Secretary of State for Transport. Although both Grant and Chris Grayling are firm supporters of the railway, they naturally have different ideas. Chris gave me an open book to look at rail end-to-end. He wanted a look at the whole thing. He chose me to conduct the review for couple of reasons. One is that I came from outside the industry, with a different background.

In the end, passenger satisfaction is going to be about service and about trust and value for money

It quickly became clear that franchising needed to end, but that was pretty obvious. At that stage, we all knew that franchising was going to come to an end, as most of them were starting to fail anyway. What was important was getting something that would work for the passenger. According to Transport Focus, which does a regular passenger satisfaction survey, this peaked at around 88 percent in 2014 and had then declined every year subsequently. One thing I learned in the airline industry is that passenger satisfaction stems, ultimately, from the value-for-money argument. So, when I look at people saying about how expensive rail is, that actually reflects two things – price and value. So, the review looks to provide a base passenger service contract, which is all about contracting for the quality of the service and rewarding on delivery of that.

The other was that I was used to dealing with employee issues and trade unionism. He was conscious of the fact that labour relations in rail were falling, so he wanted a view on that. What Grant brought was a way of thinking that he and I could meet in the middle on a lot of his questions, which were around technology. He said: “surely we can run a better railway?” He wanted to know why his journey couldn’t be contactless/ ticketless.


As a result, retail reform had to be part of the work that we that we did. That was a really significant moment for me, because I think that innovation is going to play a very significant part in the modernisation of rail, not only in customer satisfaction, but also in the efficiency of the railways. I think that the retail revolution will actually enable a better customer experience. It will grow revenue yet also bring greater efficiency.

Service, trust and value In the end, passenger satisfaction is going to be about service and about trust and value for money. That means the industry will need transparent pricing, but it will also need to provide good customer service, because that’s what the customer really wants from a journey, isn’t it? The review and the white paper look to provide a base passenger service contract, which is all about contracting for the quality of the service and rewarding on delivery of that. Over time, what we’ll see is, hopefully, a set of steps that will improve the customer experience. However, this shouldn’t be a onesize-fits-all solution. We need to acknowledge that we have different railways, depending on where you are. It needs to work as a network, but also to acknowledge that Cardiff is different from Carlisle and these may well be different to London. So why pick the same solution everywhere?

Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail When the Williams Rail Review published its report on its ‘root and branch’ review of the British railway, the world was a very different place, with different challenges, from the one back in September 2018 when the review was commissioned

change. “The railways lack a guiding focus on customers, coherent leadership and strategic direction. They are too fragmented, too complicated, and too expensive to run. Innovation is difficult. Incentives are often perverse. Some working practices have not changed in decades. There must be singleminded efforts to get passengers back. In short, we need somebody in charge.” Under the plan, a new public body, Great

There must be single-minded efforts to get passengers back. In short, we need somebody in charge

British Railways, will integrate the railways, owning the infrastructure, collecting fare revenue, running and planning the network, and setting most fares and timetables. Great British Railways will run a passenger-


focused railway, underpinned by new contracts that prioritise punctual and reliable services, the rapid delivery of a ticketing revolution with new flexible and convenient tickets, and long-term proposals to build a modern, greener and accessible network. It will simplify the current mass of confusing tickets with new flexible season tickets, and a significant rollout of more convenient Pay As You Go, contactless and digital ticketing on smartphones.

One ticketing system

July 2021

Keith Williams (left) and Grant Shapps have released their Plan for Rail


he long-awaited Williams Review, set up in 2018 to review the structure of the railways after a chaotic timetable change, the failure of some franchises and the clear absence of accountability, was finally completed in May 2021 after several delays. Its report became the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, which will form the basis of a government white paper. In their foreword, Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps MP and Keith Williams, chairman of the Williams Rail Review, wrote: “We want our trains to run on time. This is our plan to do that, and to deliver a wider change on our railways that has never been needed more. “The chaotic timetable changes three years ago showed all too clearly that the old ways were not working. Then, in March 2020, this Review conceived after those problems and the failure of the East Coast franchise, found itself dealing with something far bigger: the almost total collapse of passenger demand initially, and a profound challenge to the sector’s operating model as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Before the pandemic, commuters made up 47 percent of all rail passengers, a further 10 percent were travelling for business meetings and five percent were shopping. In other words, around two thirds of passengers were using the railways for purposes that now face potentially permanent change. “Much of the old demand will return. Millions of us, imprisoned in front of flickering screens, yearn for human contact. Employers and businesses know that creativity, collaboration, and dealmaking are best done in person. Rail freight was heavily impacted at first but has recovered rapidly, demonstrating its agility. “But commuting and business travel may never be quite the same again. “This government profoundly believes in the future of the railways. Without them, our cities could not function, critical freight connections would be cut off, carbon emissions and pollution would rise, and mobility would fall – not just for the millions of people without cars, but for drivers too, as the roads became clogged. “But the current sums being paid to operate and maintain the railways are not sustainable. To truly secure rail’s future, there must be radical

A new Great British Railways website will sell tickets and a single compensation system for operators in England will provide a simple system for passengers to access information and apply for refunds. Announcing these plans, the Department for Transport (DfT) was at pains to point out that this is not renationalisation, which it continues to believe failed the railways. Rather, it is simplification, with Great British Railways acting as the guiding mind to coordinate the whole network. There will remain a substantial, and often greater role, for the private sector. Great British Railways will contract private partners

I n sFue raat nu cr e Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

Advice for Railway Companies – monthly feature by Jobson James Rail – The Rail Broker

to operate most trains to the timetables and fares it specifies, with a model similar to that used by Transport for London in its successful Overground and Docklands Light Railway he Claims Allocation and Handling services.

What is CAHA and why is it relevant to my insurance?


Agreement (CAHA) was created back in the early days of rail privatisation. It is a contract between train operators, setting Improved services out arrangements for the allocation of New Passenger Service Contracts will include liabilities and the handling of claims arising strong incentives for operators to run high-quality from train accidents. services and increase passenger numbers. They To minimise the number of claims dragged will not be one-size-fits-all. Instead, as demand through the courts and to prevent any recovers, operators on some routes, particularly embarrassment from rail privatisation creating long-distance, will have more commercial lots of work for lawyers, CAHA dictates the way freedom. Affordable walk-on fares and season that these claims will be handled and stipulates ticket prices will be protected. that train companies have to handle their own Welcoming the plan, Prime Minister Boris claims. Johnson said: “I am a great believer in rail, but The result is that it is not necessary for a third for too long passengers have not had the level of party to establish which CAHA Party (train service they deserve. operator etc) caused their injury and is legally “By creating Great British Railways, and liable for the claim. investing in the future of the network, this Whilst its intention was mainly to agree how government will deliver a rail system the country claims from members of the public would be can be proud of.” handled if there were a train accident CAHA Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps actually applies to any person who is injured in added: “Our railways were born and built to a train accident, which includes professional serve this country, to forge stronger connections railway personnel as well.

between our communities and provide people with an affordable, reliable and rapid service. Years of fragmentation, confusion and over-complication has seen that vision fade, and failed. Tim Smith Certpassengers CII NEBOSH That complicated and broken system ends today. “The pandemic has seen the government take At Jobson James Rail, we look at lots of unprecedented steps to protect services and jobs. railway contracts and we regularly see that the “It’s now time to kickstart reforms that give arrangements relating to CAHA have been the railways solid and stable foundations for the extended to contractors and sub-contractors. The future, unleashing the competitive, innovative and consequence is that infrastructure subcontractors, expert abilities of the private sector, and ensuring which have elements of CAHA imposed on them passengers come first. Great British Railways under Network Rail contracts, often become marks a new era in the history of our railways. It liable for injury liability claims up to £7,500, even will become a single familiar brand with a bold

though they may not have caused them.

Strictly speaking, accepting CAHA terms puts railway infrastructure contractors in breach of their own insurance, which could therefore potentially leave them uninsured. This is because most Public/Product Liability policies contain new vision for passengers – of punctual services, a “rights of recourse” condition that invalidates simpler tickets and a modern and green railway the cover if the policyholder has agreed to waive that meets the needs of the nation.” its rights to compensation from the negligent Keith Williams, chairman of the Williams party that caused the claim – which is the whole Review, commented: “Our Plan is built around purpose of CAHA. the passenger, with new contracts which prioritise That is why we arrange for CAHA liability excellent performance and better services, better to be included within our clients’ insurance value fares, and creating clear leadership and real programmes, at no additional cost, so our clients accountability when things go wrong. do not have to worry about such contractual “Our railway history – rich with Victorian terms. pioneers and engineers, steam and coal, industry and ingenuity – demands a bright future. This Tim Smith Cert CII NEBOSH plan is the path forward, reforming our railways to Client Director at Jobson James Rail ensure they work for everyone in this country.” 07493 868 305

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July 2021 | 11 Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

The white paper based on the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail contains 10 key strands: 1. Modern passenger experience – Passengers must receive high-quality, consistent services. More accessible, reliable, well connected journeys and a new customer offering at stations and on trains. 2. Retail revolution – There will be simpler, modern ways of paying for travel and straightforward compensation. Clear prices, digital ticketing and flexibility will underpin this transformation. 3. New ways of working with the private sector – Passenger Service Contracts will replace franchising. New opportunities for innovators, suppliers (including small and local partners) and funders will be created through streamlined contracts and more contestability. 4. Economic recovery and financially sustainable railways – The railways are a public service, paid for by taxpayers and passengers. Bringing together responsibility for cost and revenue in Great British Railways will ensure the railways become more financially sustainable. 5. Greater control for local people and places – Railways will be more responsive to the needs of local communities. Empowered, locally led teams will support improvements and be accountable to the people and places they serve. 6. Cleaner, greener railways – Railways will spearhead the nation’s ambition to become a world leader in clean, green transport. Decarbonisation, greater biodiversity and improvements in air quality will ensure rail is a cleaner public transport network. 7. New opportunities for freight – National co-ordination offering greater flexibility and responsiveness will create new opportunities for rail freight. Modern contracts will ensure the sector

July 2021

continues to keep goods moving and delivering vital economic and environmental benefits.

This plan is the path forward, reforming our railways to ensure they work for everyone in this country

Key strands

8. Increased speed of delivery and efficient enhancements – Restoring lost rail links and accelerating the delivery of critical upgrades to the network will support new economic growth and connectivity across our nations and regions. 9. Skilled, innovative workforce – A culture of collaboration, strengthening leadership and enhancing the skills of people working across the sector are vital to delivering a better service for passengers. High-value and fulfilling opportunities for staff will ensure they can best serve the needs of customers. 10. Simpler industry structure – A ‘guiding mind’ for the system delivered by ‘Great British Railways’, which will be organised around regional railways. People, culture and incentives will focus on serving all customers, with clear accountability, better decision-making and a single financial system. A 30-year strategy will enable the sector to transform and modernise efficiently. New National Rail Contracts will be let on a staggered basis. These will last for two years and “act as a bridge to reform,” according to the DfT. Great British Railways will be tasked with driving significant efficiencies – reducing complexity and duplication, increasing flexibility, changing working practices and making it easier and cheaper to invest. The government believes that reform is the only


way to protect services and jobs in the long term. In the short and medium term, the DfT will work closely with the sector on measures to encourage passengers back to rail, after COVID-19 has caused deep, structural challenges to the railway, with use still far below pre-pandemic levels.

Flexi season ticket To reflect changes in the traditional commute and working life, the government announced that a new national flexi season ticket would go on sale, with potential savings of hundreds of pounds a year for two and three-day-a-week commuters. However, when the details of these tickets were revealed, passengers expressed disappointment that the actual savings were not as much as they had been led to believe and, in some cases, were more expensive than conventional season tickets. The DfT anticipates that the new Passenger Service Contracts will help to build a more financially stable industry. By removing barriers to new market entrants, including by no longer basing competitions on complex and uncertain revenue forecasts, private operators will be challenged to provide a competitive and customer-focused offer, delivering greater value for money for the taxpayer. Network Rail, the current infrastructure owner, will be absorbed into the public body to bring about single, unified and accountable leadership for the national network. Ending an opaque, blame-game system, GBR will provide a single, familiar brand – updating the famous National Rail double arrow – responsible for better services. Overall strategic direction for the railway, including infrastructure investment and fares strategy, will be set by government, with the first ever 30-year plan for the railways. This will set out key investment and strategic decisions to support economic growth, levelling up and the environment, and ensure money is targeted and used efficiently to deliver upgrades. This will help ensure transformative schemes, such as the reversal of some Beeching cuts, are prioritised.

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Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

Industry reaction to the Plan for Rail When the government released its white paper ‘The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail’, reactions from the rail industry came thick and fast


“New flexible fares will be key to getting people back onto trains, supporting the country’s economic and environmental recovery. “Flexi season tickets are a step in the right direction, but to really maximise the benefits and make it easier for people to get good value fares requires government to go further and get under the bonnet to fix the engine of the fares system.” John Larkinson, chief executive of the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the rail regulator, and also HM Inspectorate of Railways, was concerned about accountability: “We will continue to work closely with government and industry to facilitate reform and reshape rail for the future. “Our independent oversight and assurance will be important in bringing transparency to decisions and will help ensure the new public body, Great British Railways, is held accountable for working in the best interests of all users, funders and passengers.”

he government unveiled the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail in May 2021. Based on the long-awaited Williams Review, this included proposals to create a new body ‘Great British Railways’ to oversee track and train, alongside plans for new service contracts and flexible fares. The authors of the plan, Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps MP and Keith Williams, chairman of the Williams Rail Review, wrote in their foreword to the white paper: “We want our trains to run on time. This is our plan to do that, and to deliver a wider change on our railways that has never been needed more.” Such a wide-reaching change will affect almost every company currently involved in the rail industry to some extent. Their leaders were quick to comment on the proposals. Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, who is working on plans to implement the move to Great British Railways, said: “Passengers deserve a reliable, affordable and sustainable railway, focused on them. Today’s announcement will help us deliver that by simplifying the railway, paving the way to dismantle the legacy of complexity and fragmentation. Passengers and freight users will once more be put front and centre of a service designed and run for their needs. “These changes will take time, but I am determined to get to work quickly with the industry and government. The pandemic has created significant challenges for the industry, and that means the changes we have to make are even more urgent. We must attract passengers back, deliver efficiencies and improve the service we provide. Today marks the start of an exciting new chapter for our railway, a chapter that puts the passenger first.” Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, which speaks for both Network Rail and the train operating companies, commented: “The pandemic has recast how and where people work, which is why we’ve worked with government to introduce new season tickets that will give commuters the freedom and flexibility to divide their time between home and the office.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail

These changes will take time, but I am determined to get to work quickly with the industry and government

July 2021

The Railway Industry Association (RIA) represents the major suppliers to rail. Darren Caplan, chief executive, said: “As far as the Railway Industry Association and our members are concerned, we are heartened that the new Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail is a 30-year strategy, which supports modernisation and investment along the lines of the RIA Rail 2050 manifesto we published in November 2019.


Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

“As we argued then, it is right to take a long-term approach, in order to smooth boom and bust and provide more certainty for rail schemes, decarbonise and digitalise the network, deliver major projects, protect and create jobs, and foster innovation and collaboration between railway partners. We also welcome the ambition to attract passengers and freight back to the network and grow both markets. “Our major ask at this stage is that the restructure of UK rail does not cause any hiatus in work being done to renew and enhance railway infrastructure or rolling stock, to ensure everyone in the industry can help rail to build back better as we emerge from the pandemic.”

Eddie Aston, chief executive officer for G&W’s UK/Europe Region companies, which includes Freightliner, commented: “There are strong economic and environmental benefits of moving freight by rail and modal shift to rail will be crucial to support the decarbonisation of the UK economy.

Keeping the railways moving

Maria Machancoses, Midlands Connect

John Smith, managing director of GB Railfreight, said: “We welcome the publication of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail and appreciate the warm words used to describe rail freight – correctly identified as having played a crucial role in keeping food and medical supplies moving during the pandemic as well as being key to building back better. “As the Williams Review found, the rail sector lacks clear strategic direction. While we would have preferred a freight-specific guiding mind, we welcome the government’s intent that the new Great British Railway body will have a statutory duty to promote rail freight. Within this context, it is vital that our access to the network is given long-term security as soon as possible. “However, we remain of the belief that our sector needs a Freight Evangelist to champion it within GBR and across Whitehall. The benefits of rail freight are there for all to see, and we hope they will be recognised by GBR once it has been set up. Hopefully, such an individual will be placed in post within the GBR organisation.”

We must prevent decisions about local services being made centrally, impeded by a limited understanding of the local area, its economic needs or people that live there

“We have engaged extensively with the Williams Review team over the last few years and are pleased to see the proposed statutory duty for Great British Railways to promote rail freight and that a growth target will be set. “We look forward to working with the new public body to ensure that the right contractual and regulatory framework is in place that enables continued private-sector investment, in order to drive modal shift to rail, increase the economic benefits to the UK economy and support decarbonisation.” England’s regions, which have anyway been working to increase local influence on rail decisions and operations, broadly welcomed the changes. Tim Wood, interim chief executive of Transport for the North, commented: “The North saw first-hand the effects of a fragmented rail industry during the 2018 timetable crisis.

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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

“Community rail is a thriving grassroots movement spanning Great Britain, working with the rail industry to deliver positive local impact. Our members are dedicated to engaging communities with their railways and stations and enabling everyone to access and benefit from the sustainable mobility that rail offers. “Through this work, it’s plain to see how important our railways are to community life – but they have an even greater role to play going forward, as we look to rebuild from the pandemic, and shift onto greener forms of transport. “The community rail movement looks forward to working with local authorities, rail and transport partners, and the wider community sector, to ensure rail is firmly at the heart of a sustainable and inclusive transport future, which everyone can benefit from.”

“The fact that Great British Railways will bring track and train together as the guiding mind and put the needs of passengers first is a giant leap forward and something we’ve championed. “This is a major national moment and a shift in how the railway is run. But this national approach must not be a missed opportunity for further devolution, giving the North’s leaders greater oversight of services and infrastructure investment to deliver more integrated regional networks that work for all. “The commitment to growing and investing in the railway over the next 30 years only emphasises the real need for the government to publish the Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands without delay, to give us much-needed certainty on delivery of major schemes like Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 and the Transpennine Route Upgrade.”

Maria Machancoses, chief executive officer of Midlands Connect, said: “This raft of changes is what the rail industry and its passengers have been waiting for and, if implemented correctly, could have huge benefits for travellers. By specifying timetables, service levels and operating standards, this concession model will reward operators for delivering what passengers want most – trains that run on time, friendly service and clean stations. “The rail network has become very fragmented over the last 20 years, so coordinating the network via a centralised organisation, the Great British Railway, presents many opportunities, including providing the public with much needed clarity on decision making – who is ultimately responsible for what. “However, this centralisation also presents risks – namely that the new structure will be less agile or have a lesser understanding of local issues than the previous franchising model. We must prevent decisions about local services being made centrally, impeded by a limited understanding of the local area, its economic needs or people that live there. As we continue to identify and develop the key strategic rail priorities for the region, Midlands Connect, alongside our local councils is best placed to support government and the proposed GBR in achieving this.

Robert Nisbet, Rail Delivery Group

Shadow Rail Minister Tan Dhesi MP said: “Labour has consistently argued that full public ownership is better for the passenger and the taxpayer. But, far too often, this government’s rhetoric has outweighed their action. “The lack of detail on how this review will be implemented is concerning, given the scale of the challenge the rail industry currently faces. Passengers need an efficient, affordable and accessible rail network, which works for them, to rebuild an integrated post-pandemic transport system and economy.”

The lack of detail on how this review will be implemented is concerning, given the scale of the challenge the rail industry currently faces

More to do The trade unions, which have consistently called for the railways to be renationalised, didn’t think the proposal went far enough. Manuel Cortes, general secretary of TSSA, commented: “Our union always welcomes a repentant sinner and today the Conservatives have admitted that their Frankenstein privatisation experiment on our railways has failed – and the franchising of train services has hit the buffers. “Grant Shapps might like to pretend this is the biggest shake-up of the railways in a quarter of a century but that is misleading. Rather than take the bold action that our rail network desperately needs this is an attempt merely to paper over the cracks. “A concessions-based model will still see passengers and taxpayer money leak out of our industry in the form of dividend payments for the greedy shareholders of the private operators who will hold them. “This will do nothing to encourage people back to our railways – and Ministers should be straight about that. In some ways we are going back to the future with the creation of a strategic body for our railways. We used to have one called the Strategic Rail Authority and it was abolished because it failed to end fragmentation. “The fact of the matter is that only a fully integrated rail network in public ownership will do this. Shapps, Boris Johnson and rest must think again and stop tinkering around the edges. “Coming out of this pandemic our country needs a railway that works for people not profit. Nothing else will do.”

Tan Dhesi MP

“This simplified system will make it a great deal easier to develop and implement an ‘Oyster-style’ smart ticketing system for our region – including the simplification of fares. While it’s great that flexible season tickets are being deployed to support flexible working post-COVID, a multi-modal, capped and contactless payment system is what’s truly needed. Flexible ticketing should go beyond rail and we look forward to working with GBR in developing an affordable ‘tap and cap’ scheme that works across all public transport modes.” Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, said: “We warmly welcome the commitments set out by the government for reforming and reinvigorating our railways – aiming to make these vital sustainable transport arteries even more productive and valuable to the communities they serve. We’ll be working hard to help communities engage with and feed into this process of change, ensuring local voices are heard and needs understood.

July 2021

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Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

“Our research is already shaping and delivering key outputs from the Rail Sector Deal; we are supporting the rail industry as it works to develop and implement the next generation of technology.

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: “The railway is a key artery in the industrial body of Britain and the social fabric of this country. It is one of the prime means of moving people, and goods, around the UK. “That’s why it is deeply disappointing that we have had to wait 18 months for the publication of a report which was finished in November 2019. The people who work on the railway – and the passengers and businesses who depend on us – deserve better. “We welcome the – albeit belated – admission that the privatisation of our railways by John Major’s Tory government in 1994 has been an abject failure. Everyone is delighted to see the back of the franchise system. “The big question is why are private operators still involved in what is, and will always be, a service monopoly where there is, and can be, no real competition? The old arguments of “risk and reward” don’t apply. There are no risks, so why should there be rewards? “Under these plans the private companies will still pocket a profit, but all the risk – the revenue risk – is being dumped back on the public purse. The government is changing the model, but protecting the privateers, and privatising any profit. “Great British Railways? Well, we believe in a great British railway, in the public ownership of a public service – where the wheels and steel, the locomotives, carriages and the rails on which they run, are brought back together in a vertically integrated operation to benefit businesses and passengers. “We fear that, with capacity falling through the floor because of COVID19, and a £2.9 billion shortfall in revenue at the fare box, the government is going to use the Williams-Shapps plan to try and justify cuts in services. “We want to see proper investment in the railway, integration with buses in towns and cities and villages, to help people and to help businesses. “The railway is the green transport of the future – if it is electrified – and will help the UK meets its emissions targets. Sadly, this report comes up short in too many respects.”

“With our recent introduction of degree apprenticeships and our launch of the National College for Advanced Transportation and Infrastructure (NCATI), the University of Birmingham – and BCRRE in particular – recognises it has a key role to play in supporting the R&D, skills and innovation agendas that feature in the ‘Plan for Rail’ white paper. “We look forward to fulfilling that role in support of the industry and the government.”

Industry transformation James Dowle, global head of rail at PA Consulting, said: “The industry has been fragmented and sorely in need of transformation, in order to provide better value and customer experience, for many years now. “It’s imperative we seize this opportunity to disrupt the current approach to rail strategic planning, programme delivery, and innovation to unlock the ability of rail to provide a sustainable and equitable backbone for the country’s recovery. “However, we must recognise that the industry is in a state of flux, and these changes must be implemented respectfully and safely – as well as at pace – for the benefit of all. “Now is the time to embrace the uncertainties and the opportunities within the sector to truly shape a more positive, ingenious future, starting with the acceleration of our adoption of new technologies and systems that allow for a more adaptive use of the existing infrastructure.

The view from academia Professor Clive Roberts, head of the School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham and a director at BCRRE (Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education), said: “The UK is a world leader in railway research and education, and we at BCRRE are keen to ensure that our work supports the ambitions set out in the Plan for Rail white paper.

July 2021

Jools Townsend, Community Rail Network

We’ll be working hard to help communities engage with and feed into this process of change, ensuring local voices are heard and needs understood


Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

A bright future? Richard Robinson, chief executive officer of Atkins UK and Europe, commented: “The Williams-Shapps plan promises to herald the start of an exciting new era for UK rail and we welcome the decisive steps taken by government. “In particular, we hope that Great British Railways will provide a more solid foundation from which the public and private sector can innovate together to create a modern, low carbon, digital network that improves passenger experience and delivers better value for money for the taxpayer. “Now, we need to pull together as an industry, recognising that it’s going to take a lot of hard work – and new, digitally driven ways of working – to realise this bold vision for the future of our railways.”

Mick Whelan, ASLEF

David Whysall, managing director UK infrastructure at Turner & Townsend, commented: “Rail connectivity is a vital cornerstone of the UK’s economic recovery as we look to a more sustainable and better balanced future. It is welcome to see the government reinforcing this through the Williams-Shapps plan, particularly with its focus on planning for the long term and the backing for major rail programmes that will serve as a catalyst for green growth. “The plan represents a momentous change for UK rail and the industry will be collectively getting its head around the magnitude of this reform and the market opportunities this centralised model presents. “Further detail is now needed on both this and the Integrated Rail Plan to enable the industry to approach and build these programmes in a joined-up way. This will have the dual benefit of modernising the passenger experience, while creating a sustainable and world-class rail construction industry and ultimately delivering a fairer, better connected and greener UK.”

We need to pull together as an industry, recognising that it’s going to take a lot of hard work – and new, digitally driven ways of working – to realise this bold vision for the future of our railways

Richard Robinson, Atkins UK

The railway is the green transport of the future – if it is electrified – and will help the UK meets its emissions targets. Sadly, this report comes up short in too many respects

“This needs to be coupled with ensuring staff in the sector are equipped with the right skills to flourish in this new railway environment.”


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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

Building a better railway Set up in September 2018 to look at the structure of the whole rail industry and the way passenger rail services are delivered, the Williams Rail Review was largely overtaken by events and didn’t report until May 2021, by which time the whole structure of railway franchises and contracts had changed completely

July 2021

He was supported by an expert challenge panel to “ensure the review thought bravely and creatively, and that its recommendations can deliver the stability and improvements that rail passengers deserve”.

railway “toForbethesuccessful it needs to put passengers at its heart


ritain’s railways, or at least England’s railways, are about to undergo their most radical change since privatisation in the mid-1990s, following publication of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, a government white paper. The Williams Rail Review was set up in September 2018 following a disastrous revision to the rail timetable in May of that year. This resulted in widespread cancellations of services due to the unavailability of rolling stock, the lack of drivers trained on their new routes and other organisational deficiencies. These weren’t the only problems to beset the railway. Labour disputes, largely over plans for driver-only operation, and infrastructure unreliability compounded the sector’s difficulties. As a result, the government called for a “root and branch review of Britain’s railway, independently chaired by Keith Williams”. Keith was a non-executive chairman of Royal Mail, former deputy chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and former chief executive of British Airways.

Only a few months after being appointed, Keith Williams was already talking about measures he would suggest in his final report. At the annual George Bradshaw Address, held at the Institution of Civil Engineers on 26 February 2019, he said: “I have heard a great deal about the franchising model driving growth in passengers and benefits to services.


“But, with this growth, the needs of passengers have changed, whilst many of the basic elements of our rail system have not kept pace. “Put bluntly, franchising cannot continue the way it is today. It is no longer delivering clear benefits for either taxpayers or farepayers. “I believe that for the railway to be successful it needs to put passengers at its heart. We need to recognise that there is unlikely to be a ‘one size fits all’ solution which will work for every part of the country and all types of passenger.” Speaking of his review, he commented: “I see our role not just to tackle those recent problems that passengers have experienced, but also to tackle the more fundamental underlying causes of those problems. “We are spending on the railway, in offering new services, purchasing new rolling stock, and renewing and enhancing the network. The May timetable change, for instance, was designed to offer thousands of new services, hundreds of new trains, and much improved critical infrastructure – but as a system we were unable to deliver on this investment, and the customer suffered.”



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Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail

He continued: “There’s real hunger for change within the industry as well as outside. We will continue listening to what you have to say and learning from your insight and experience. “In the autumn, we will bring everything together and, alongside government, recommend change through a white paper. It will be the culmination of the biggest and widest review of the railway for generations.”

However, the white paper didn’t appear in the autumn. A general election was called for Thursday 12 December 2019, which delayed matters, and then COVID-19 came along in March 2020, putting an effective end to the franchise system anyway as the government stepped in to support train operators and keep services running. Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris remembers those early days of the Rail Review. “In May 2018, when that timetable change, coupled with the infrastructure problems and the industrial relations disputes, led to a huge number of people having unbelievably delayed, complicated or cancelled journeys over a long period of time, I was sitting in Parliament as a Whip, watching Westminster Hall debates and questions to the Prime Minister coming in on a regular basis about the issues both in the South and the North of the country, but especially in the North, where passengers had been pretty much let down by their railway in parts. “So, Chris Grayling (then Secretary of State for Transport) had commissioned the review, Keith had started work, and, when I became the minister in July 2019, it was very well progressed. One of the first things I saw was a rough draft of where it was going. “It then got delayed by all sorts of different things. It wasn’t just Brexit, there was a general election and there are a whole host of reasons, and then COVID came along. In fact, we nearly got to the point where we had a date for publication pre-COVID and, to be quite frank, it’s probably best that it didn’t come in at that point, because everything has changed. “Having done the initial response to COVID, Grant (Shapps – current Transport Secretary) and I spent a lot of time working out, with Keith and others, how we needed to edit, change, move things on to reflect what the new reality of the COVID world and what potentially the prospects and opportunities in the post COVID world would be. “It was actually in my party’s election manifesto that we were going to end franchising. But I think, when it was written in, it was a ‘maybe in 10 years’ type of thing. “Nobody could have conceived that, within

July 2021

Image: Alena Veasey /

Changing circumstances

months, we’d be on an emergency measures contract, then we’d be on emergency recovery agreements, and then we’d be transitioning to a third contract, and in that time, franchising would go. “And so, lots of things have moved on. I guess we’re quite fortunate that the white paper hadn’t been issued, that Keith work hadn’t gone out in public, because it would have been out of date really very quickly.”

Emergency measures When the coronavirus pandemic first broke out, and people were forced to stay at home, the demand for rail travel dwindled to almost nothing. However, the government wanted some services to continue, so that key workers could still get to where they had to be. With no fare revenue, the franchise operators had to be paid to run those services. Emergency Measures Agreements (EMAs) were agreed in March 2020 and took effect from 1 April 2020, with their financial provisions backdated to

1 March 2020. For the majority of train operators (TOCs – train operating companies), the EMAs applied until 20 September 2020 and operated as a temporary amendment to the underlying franchise agreements, which remained in place. From 21 September 2020 onwards, the EMAs were replaced by emergency recovery measures agreements (ERMAs) for the majority of TOCs. The ERMAs were a further temporary amendment to the underlying franchise agreements, and were of varying lengths, up to a maximum of around 18 months. During this period, while the Williams Review was underway and while the EMAs and ERMA were in place, some franchise agreements expired, to be replaced by direct awards for a fixed term. Finally, with COVID lockdowns easing and the world slowly getting back towards normal, the Williams Rail Review published its report on 20 May 2021 in the form of a white paper entitled ‘Great British Railways: the Williams-Shapps plan for rail’.

Expert challenge panel members Dick Fearn, independent chairman of Network Rail’s Western Route Supervisory Board and former chief executive officer of Irish Rail; Tom Harris, former Transport Minister and Member of Parliament for Glasgow South; Margaret Llewellyn OBE, chairman of Network Rail’s Wales Route Supervisory Board and a nonexecutive director of the Development Bank of Wales, with experience in the freight industry; Roger Marsh OBE, chairman of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and of the NP11 Board, and a leading advocate for the North of England; Dr Alice Maynard CBE, Transport for London board member and the former chaimanr of Scope, the disability equality charity, with experience of passenger issues in the rail industry; Tony Poulter, non-executive board member at the Department for Transport and chairman of the East Coast Partnership.


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It’s got to be rail freight The growth of rail freight is one of the success stories to come out of the past couple of years


Express rail terminals In May 2020, Transfesa Logistics, working with DB Cargo UK and Network Rail, launched new 72-hour express rail services from terminals in Valencia and Murcia, Spain, to the UK, using refrigerated containers. The new services operate into DB Cargo UK’s Barking Intermodal Terminal in London, which is strategically connected to the High Speed 1 (HS1) rail link. Thousands of tonnes of goods began to be transported by rail, supporting the economy and keeping supermarkets stocked up with vital supplies. Having said that the carriage of building materials and fuels was depressed, many companies took the opportunity to plan for the future, by either resigning contracts or planning new services.

July 2021

DB Cargo UK signed a new three-year contract with Puma Energy (UK) for rail haulage and the supply of rail tank wagons. This arrangement continues the existing partnership between DB Cargo and Puma Energy and involves the transportation of more than one million tonnes of fuel each year from Milford Haven and Immingham to fuel terminals at Theale in Reading and Westerleigh, Bristol, with each train of up to 30 wagons capable of transporting over three million litres of fuel.

Running container train services at 775 metres not only improves the productivity and efficiency of rail freight but has significant environmental gains

lthough the rail industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, one sector didn’t do too badly out of it – rail freight. Granted, there was an impact. In the early days of the first lockdown, when the country almost totally stopped, freight levels were reduced, like everything else. The construction industry was at a standstill, so aggregate trains didn’t run, and people stopped buying cars, so trains transporting cars and automotive components were cancelled. Trains hauling fuel and oil were also postponed, as no one was driving cars or catching planes. Overall, rail freight traffic was down around 40 percent – not as badly affected as passenger loadings, which were down 95 percent, but still a significant drop. However, British homes still had to be heated, so biomass trains to Drax power station kept running, and waste still had to be removed from major cities, so those trains ran as well. But then the great British public, stuck at home during lockdown, discovered online shopping. Intermodal traffic increased, boosted also by deliveries of protective equipment and medical supplies coming into the country in containers. Not only did freight recover, new routes opened up. The port of Felixstowe became congested, with so many containers coming in, so ships were re-routed to other ports, such as Liverpool. That meant freight trains had to carry containers from Liverpool to the rest of the country.

Direct Rail Services (DRS) opened up a new electrified freight route between Daventry International Railfreight Terminal (DIRFT) and Mossend Yard, Motherwell, near Glasgow. This allowed the use of one of the company’s Class 88 electric locomotives on freight trains from Daventry to Mossend and back via the East Coast main line (ECML). Normally, these trains would use the West Coast main line, but engineering work required that a diversionary route be used, and the traditional diversionary route was also undergoing work, so a third option was sought.


In the past, that would have meant a Class 66 or Class 68 diesel locomotive being used to haul the train across country on non-electrified lines. Although these locomotives are the workhorses of the rail freight network and do sterling work, they are not as ‘clean and green’ as electric locos. Using a lot of initiative, and some lateral thinking, DRS’ planning team decided to go south in order to go north and came up with a route that, although longer, was electrified the whole way.

New route GB Railfreight (GBRf) opened up a new service for building material supplier CEMEX from its Dove Holes quarry, near Buxton in Derbyshire, to Crawley in West Sussex. The train, which consisted of 22 used cut-and-shut aggregate hoppers that had been repurposed from coal hoppers, carried more than 1,675 tonnes, exceeding previous deliveries to Crawley by approximately 350 tonnes. Once the coronavirus outbreak is over, and normal service has been resumed, the new service between Dove Holes and Crawley is expected to run once a week. A new aggregate terminal at the site of the old Newhaven Marine station in East Sussex was opened to supply the construction industry, mainly in London, with aggregate, sand and gravel. Newhaven Marine station closed to passengers on safety grounds in August 2006. Although it continued to be used by some trains so as to fulfil legal obligations – the so-called Parliamentary Trains – it closed officially on 26 September 2020.


Net work Rail completed extensive modifications and refurbishment at the site, developing rail freight capacity for the transportation of marine-dredged sand and gravel, both important in the making of concrete and other materials for the construction sector, locally and in London. The work – carried out in partnership with Brett Aggregates and the Newhaven Port Authority – saw the area open again after years of inactivity, providing much-needed local jobs. The first DB cargo freight train, hauled by locomotive 66113, ran from the new terminal on Thursday 18 June 2020.

From Southampton to Derby A new, regular freight service began operating from the Port of Southampton to East Midlands Gateway, Derby, in July 2020. GBRf is operating the new intermodal service, five days a week, from the rail terminal operated by Solent Stevedores at the Port of Southampton. Its destination is the 50-acre intermodal terminal, managed by Maritime Transport, that operates 24/7 at East Midlands Gateway (EMG), next to East Midlands airport and junction 24 on the M1.

Maritime Transport also launched another new service, its tenth, operating five trains a week between DP World London Gateway (LGP) and its terminal at EMG. Each of the five weekday services can carry 34 containers and is hauled by DB Cargo. In addition to this new service, and the one hauled by GBRf to Southampton, two other services already run daily from EMG to the Port of Felixstowe, hauled by DB Cargo UK and Freightliner.


GBRf also signed a new five-year deal with Mediterranean Shipping Company (UK) (MSC). The new volume-based deal is expected to increase wagon utilisation that in turn will help further reduce carbon emissions. Services will operate from Felixstowe and London Gateway to both the Midlands and Yorkshire, with a minimum commitment of five days a week. Major changes to the railway transformed access for freight trains to the Port of Southampton.

Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021


A £17 million upgrade provided almost a mile of new track, 22 new signals and 14 new sets of switches and crossings. As a result, longer freight trains, each capable of carrying up to 14 containers more than before, are able to access the facility and there is no longer the need to move in and out of Freightliner’s Maritime Terminal to load and unload goods, boosting efficiency of freight operations by as much as 30 percent. Work commenced between Southampton Central and Redbridge at the end of January 2021 and the upgrade was completed during February. Following this work, Southampton joined London Gateway in becoming the first deep-water ports in the country capable of handling Freightliner’s new 775-metre intermodal container trains, the longest in use on the national rail network.

The new 775-metre trains are 250 metres longer than a typical freight train and so can carry between 12 and 14 additional containers on each service, generating significant cost and environmental benefits for customers transporting goods to and from the ports. The trains depart the freight rail terminals at DP World’s Southampton and London Gateway ports every working day of the week for Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds, carrying a range of goods. Freightliner chief executive Eddie Aston commented: “Running container train services at 775 metres not only improves the productivity and efficiency of rail freight but has significant environmental gains. The three daily, roundtrip, 775metre intermodal trains that Freightliner is currently running from the Port of Southampton are collectively saving over four million road miles and 9,500 tonnes of carbon emissions (CO2e) per year, further contributing to the government’s commitment to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.” The rail terminal at the Port of Sunderland was reopened in June 2021, the first time that rail freight has operated at the Tyne and Wear port in over 20 years. DB Cargo is operating a new freight service to Wolverhampton, transporting steel coil for new-torail company Marcegaglia, the largest independent global operator in the steel processing industry and the largest precision tube manufacturer in Great Britain, with facilities in Dudley in the West Midlands and Rotherham in South Yorkshire. With all this activity, rail freight is good news for a government committed to net-zero carbon and levelling up every region of the UK. It has a significant contribution to make in achieving both agendas. The Rail Delivery Group recently commissioned a report on rail freight from Deloitte. Data gathered as part of that exercise shows that rail freight delivers £2.5 billion in economic and social benefits to the UK annually.

July 2021

Enabling more trains to run and more goods to be shifted from road to rail will help to ease congestion on the road network

Longer trains

At the same time, rail freight removes traffic from Britain’s roads, with each freight train estimated to take an average of 76 lorries off the road network (and up to 110 lorries for some aggregates trains). Rail freight therefore plays a key role in decarbonisation. In fact, there are seven million fewer lorry journeys per year thanks to rail freight, with 1,000 lorries removed from London roads each working day alone, making the capital’s streets cleaner and safer.

John Thomas, RDG’s director of policy, commented: “While goods will still require road transport at certain points in their journeys, reducing those road miles wherever possible delivers benefits to the UK as a whole, and especially for those communities close to major hubs of activity, such as ports, logistics centres and construction sites. “Enabling more trains to run and more goods to be shifted from road to rail will help to ease congestion on the road network, lower carbon and particulate emissions in the air, and reduce social impacts from noise and safety incidents. “Rail freight has an important role to play in enabling the government’s plans to recover and build back from COVID-19 in a way that levels up the regions of the UK on several fronts: oiling the wheels of the economy by facilitating the movement of materials to build and power new infrastructure; relieving pressure on the strategic road network, allowing car drivers and


other freight on the roads to travel more freely; delivering key infrastructure projects like HS2 and new offices and housing; and, importantly, facilitating inward investment into the regions and industries of the UK. “Established freight hubs also lead to the clustering of activity, as businesses co-locate to boost productivity, creating jobs and services in their local areas. “Rail freight already supports a more balanced, green economy for Britain. It is a success story the government should build on in the recovery.” The government intends to do just that. Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, whose constituency includes DIRFT, the UK’s largest rail freight terminal, told Inside Track: “I know, through my constituent John Smith (managing director of GBRailfreight), that there is quite a lot of private investment waiting to happen out there, but the market was waiting to see what the future for It looked like. “I’d like to think that, in the Great British Railways document, we’ve demonstrated that we believe there’s a massively strong future for rail freight. I fully expect the market to respond by getting diesel out of the way at some point when it’s viable, which I think will be quite soon, and helping us with our decarbonisation effort in that way. “When you read the white paper (The Williams Shapps Plan for Rail), you see that freight is one of the things that’s threaded all the way through it. “We’re hoping to be able to publish our transport decarbonisation plan in the next few weeks, which is the department’s response to Network Rail’s Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy. It is going to be really ambitious, so we’re absolutely committing to further electrification of the network. “I believe there is a massive future for rail freight if we are going to decarbonise, level up, get our roads decongested and improve air quality. “It’s got to be rail freight.”

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Devolved railways in Scotland Transport in Scotland became devolved from the UK Government in 2006. Since then, much has been achieved, but many challenges remain

July 2021

When the current Abellio contract ends, in April 2022, the Scottish Government has announced that it will be taken into public ownership. Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson announced in March 2021: “Following a detailed

This approach will provide a stable platform for ScotRail services and certainty for passengers and staff.


cotland has a devolved government yet is still part of the United Kingdom. As a result, the situation regarding railways in Scotland is complicated. The name ScotRail was first coined by British Railways in the 1980s, as the brand for its Scottish region. When the railways across Great Britain were privatised in March 1997, the Scottish franchise was awarded to National Express, which opted to retain the ScotRail brand. First Group took over the franchise in 2004, operating as First ScotRail until 2015. During this time, overall control for transport policy was passed to the Scottish Government, with Transport Scotland being established on 1 January 2006. In 2015, the ScotRail franchise was relet and split. Sleeper services were rebranded Caledonian Sleeper and a franchise was awarded to Serco Group. All the other ScotRail services were franchised to Abellio.

assessment process and given the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, alongside the continuing delays to the UK Government white paper on rail reform, I have decided that it would not be appropriate to award a


franchise agreement to any party at this time, either through a competition or a direct award. “That is why I have confirmed that, from the expiry of the current franchise, ScotRail services will be provided in public hands through a company wholly owned and controlled by the Scottish Government. This is in line with our Operator of Last Resort duty. “ScotRail staff will transfer to the new Scottish Government-owned entity, with their terms and conditions protected. “This approach will provide a stable platform for ScotRail services and certainty for passengers and staff.” Meanwhile, all of the railway’s infrastructure, including its stations, remain in the ownership of Network Rail. Due to devolution, Network Rail Scotland has its own budget, publishes its own strategic plans and has to respond to the Scottish Government’s High Level Output Statement (HLOS). So, for example, Network Rail’s income during


Control Period 6 (CP6), which runs from 1 April 2019 until 31 March 2024, includes £24.3 billion of network grant from the Department for Transport and £2.2 billion from Transport Scotland. Currently, Network Rail and Abellio ScotRail work together in an alliance – Scotland’s Railway. An alliance of this type has been tried before, Network Rail and South West Trains tried it in England’s South West in 2012. This ‘deep alliance’, with one managing director and one management team, lasted three years before the two organisations re-established themselves, albeit still with joint projects and a close working relationship. The alliance seems to be stronger in Scotland – the term ‘Team Scotland’ is often heard during presentations about Scotland’s railway, but how this will work once ScotRail goes into public ownership in 2022 is not yet clear.

New lines Under Transport Scotland, two new railways (or almost new!) have been built and development work has started on a third. To improve connections between Edinburgh and Glasgow, a proposal was made in 2003 create an additional rail connection by reinstating the old Bathgate and Coatbridge Railway

Scotland – Full Route Map





line between Airdrie and Bathgate, which was first closed to passengers in 1956 and then completely shut in 1982. Restoring this line would join the North Clyde line at Airdrie, part of the existing Glasgow suburban network centred on Glasgow Queen Street station, with the Edinburgh to Bathgate line. The result was a line that connects Edinburgh Waverley with Glasgow Queen Street (Low Level),

adding an alternative, if slightly slower, route to the existing connection between Glasgow Queen Street (High Level) and Edinburgh via Falkirk High while serving the towns of Caldercruix, Armadale and Livingston. As well as building the 22km of new, doubletracked line, the project required significant work to the existing railway, including double-tracking

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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021


A snow plough is an essential part of Scotland’s winter fleet

methods of working to safeguard species, roosts and habitats of value. In June 2021, Scottish Transport Minister Graeme Dey confirmed that the line would be double tracked and electrified. Speaking during a visit to Leven, he also confirmed the exact locations of the new Leven and Cameron Bridge stations. Project costs will be confirmed, and the final business case is expected towards the end of this

The Prime Minister announced a review would be undertaken into union connectivity

the branches that led to it. The route between Aidrie and Edinburgh was also electrified over its full length, stations at Bathgate and Drumgelloch were rebuilt and relocated and new stations were built at Caldercruix, Blackridge and Armadale. Passenger services commenced on 12 December 2010. The other reopened line was the Borders Railway, the northern part of the old Waverley Route between Edinburgh and Carlisle that closed in 1969. A non-electrified line was reopened to Tweedbank in 2015. Two-thirds of the route’s 34km is single track, with two dynamic loops on the remainder of the route that allow trains to pass each other. The civil engineering required was significant. Although the line was largely rebuilt on the earlier formation, 42 of the 137 bridges had to be replaced and the others refurbished, as were the two tunnels. Some parts of the old route had since been used for other purposes, not least the A720 Edinburgh bypass, which was temporarily diverted to allow the construction of a new bridge. In August 2019, the Scottish Government announced that it would reopen the nine-kilometre line to Levenmouth in Fife, the largest catchment area in Scotland without a rail link. The line closed to passengers in 1969 and to freight traffic in 2001, when Methill power station closed. It was mothballed and, although disused and heavily overgrown, it still exists. As such, and unlike the other lines mentioned above, it will require no Parliamentary Act to reopen it. Network Rail, which owns the mothballed line, has been commissioned to design and construct the Levenmouth rail link. Ahead of work starting, the company undertook environmental and ecological surveys in 2020 to develop appropriate

Rob Royston station opened in December 2019 Imapge: WSP

July 2021


year. Project timescales will depend on Fife Council planning processes, subject to which the line should be open in 2024.

Electrification In addition to these new lines, the Scottish Government has instituted a rolling programme of electrification. This seeks to maintain a steady increase in the number of electrified lines in Scotland while, at the same time, provide steady work for the electrification contractors without the ‘boom or bust’ scenario seen in England. The Paisley Canal line, between Glasgow and Paisley, was electrified in 2012. The Cumbernauld line, which links Glasgow with Falkirk via Cumbernauld, was electrified over its full length in 2014. Electrification of the Rutherglen & Coatbridge (Whifflet) line was completed in September 2014. It links the West Coast main line, in the Rutherglen area, with the Scottish Central line near Coatbridge. The Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP) electrified the line between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Falkirk, being completed in 2017. Stirling/Alloa/Dunblane followed in 2018, and electrification of 75km of the Shotts line between Holytown and Midcalder junctions was completed one year later. With the completion of the Shotts electrification, there are now four electrified routes between Edinburgh and Glasgow, which must make them Britain’s best rail-connected city pair. Team Scotland is now developing an integrated electrification and rolling stock programme which, together with the deployment of alternative traction, is planned to ensure that Scotland’s railways are zero-carbon by 2035. Currently, contractor SPL is installing electrification masts along the East Kilbride to

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Transport in September last year. “What Scotland needs now is an infrastructure-led economic recovery to deliver new jobs and speed up the transition to net zero – which won’t be possible with the five percent cut to our capital budget in the UK Spending Review for 202122.”

Industrial unrest New track formation, view east from Caldercruix station site, Airdrie-Bathgate line

What Scotland needs now is an infrastructure-led economic recovery to deliver new jobs

Glasgow Central line. This is part of a multimillion-pound investment that will not only electrify the line but also include the upgrade of East Kilbride station, the relocation of Hairmyres station to a site 600 metres west of its current location, route-wide platform extensions, accessibility upgrades and enhanced timetables.

Cross-border politics The Scottish Government is, quite understandably, fiercely protective of its devolved status and the fact that it controls Scotland’s railways. However, those railways are connected to main lines on the English side of the border, and that can sometimes cause friction. On 5 October 2020, the Secretary of State for Transport in the UK Government, Grant Shapps MP, said: “On 30 June 2020, the Prime Minister announced a review would be undertaken into union connectivity, exploring ways to improve connectivity between our four nations and bring forward funding to accelerate infrastructure projects. “I have now published the terms of reference for this independent review. Chaired by Sir Peter Hendy CBE, the review will make recommendations on how the UK Government can level up transport infrastructure and improve connectivity between Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, boosting access to opportunities and improving people’s everyday connections. “Working closely with the devolved administrations, Sir Peter will look at road, rail, air and sea links, and how they could be improved to fuel the UK’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.” However, the Scottish Government didn’t like not being consulted about this idea. In a letter to Grant Shapps, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson urged the UK Government to use its role to improve transport connectivity to Scotland without encroaching on devolved powers. He wrote: “We will always seek to engage constructively with the UK Government – for

July 2021

example, collaborating on cross-border rail and our shared desire for HS2 to serve Scotland. “However, we already have a robust process for identifying future transport infrastructure investment in Scotland – STPR2 (Strategic Transport Projects Review), not the Union Connectivity Review. “Transport infrastructure is a devolved matter and the Union Connectivity Review was established without any discussion and consultation with Scotland, Wales and NI – something made clear when I wrote jointly with my counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland to the Secretary of State for


Scotland has also been at odds with the UK Government over labour relations. While the Department for Transport was urging English rail operators not to make agreements with unions that would guarantee the retention of guards on trains and so prevent them switching to driver-only operation (DOO) on routes that didn’t already use that system (30 percent of the network, including all of London Underground, already does), Scotland reached an agreement to retain guards on all new trains. This followed 12 days of strike action by RMT members. Under the headline “The guard stays on the train after the RMT defeats ScotRail bosses”, the Socialist Party newspaper wrote: “The RMT will now continue the campaign to ‘keep the guard on the train’. Next in their sights is to fight for a guard on those services that currently run as driver-only operation in Scotland.” This comment presumably refers to driveronly operation on Glasgow suburban services, which the RMT agreed in the mid-1980s. When these trains started to run through to Edinburgh after the Airdrie-Bathgate line opened, the union complained it was unsafe yet its members had been operating DOO for years. In June 2021, Abellio ScotRail and Serco


Caledonian Sleeper were embroiled in four separate disputes with RMT on various matters including pay and conditions and breaches of the dignity and respect policy.

Tragedy It would not be right to discuss the railway in Scotland without mentioning the tragedy at Carmont, near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, on 12 August 2020. A passenger train collided with debris washed onto the track following heavy rainfall, and the subsequent derailment resulted in the death of three people, injuries to the six others on the train and catastrophic damage. Much has been written about the accident, which wasn’t particularly ‘Scottish’ as it could have happened anywhere on the British network in similar circumstances. Police Scotland, as the local force, carried out enquiries alongside the British Transport Police, and investigations were conducted by rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road and by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, which are the responsible bodies for the whole nation. It was a tragedy, and lessons have been and must

be learned, but it doesn’t reflect on the operation of Scotland’s Railway as a whole.

Building back greener While the COVID-19 outbreak has created unprecedented pressures on transport priorities throughout the UK, Transport Scotland has stated that the vision it has proposed through its National Transport Strategy for a fairer and greener transport system remains as relevant in guiding its actions through and out of the crisis as it does for the protection of the climate and for Scotland’s future sustainable economic growth. Transport Scotland has stressed that its commitment to ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change is unwavering and is central to its green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic recovery must be a green recovery, which is inclusive of the needs of communities across Scotland. In line with this, all rail projects have been subject to robust review supported by evidencebased information focusing on the rationale for investment, how the project outcomes align with National Transport Strategy (NTS2) objectives, STPR2 outcomes and the key themes of the

New overhead electrification, EGIP

Infrastructure Investment Plan. The government’s plans also take into account the short and medium-term impacts of the pandemic on travel patterns, as well as the need to reassess future forecasts for growth in freight and passenger capacity.



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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Wa l e s

Creating a sustainable transport system The Welsh Government runs trains in the borders region of England, is developing a metro network that will include Merseyside as well as north Wales, and owns some of its railway infrastructure but not all of it


ransport policy in Wales is devolved to the Welsh Government. This followed the ‘Referendum on the law-making powers of the National Assembly for Wales’ that took place on 3 March 2011 and which asked the question: “Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?” 63.49 percent voted yes. As a result, the National Assembly for Wales, renamed the Senedd Cymru (Wales Parliament) in May 2020, is able to make its own laws on the 20 subject areas, one of which is highways and transport. For the first few years, the Welsh Government took control of transport and policy itself. Transport for Wales (TfW) was established on 1 April 2016 to “Keep Wales Moving by delivering expert advice, customer-focused services and targeted investment in modern transport infrastructure”.

Wales and Borders The rail network, which has developed since Victorian times, is complex in that many local and rural lines run through both Wales and England. For this reason, they have been combined into a Wales and Borders franchise since 2001, with the routes from Birmingham New Street, Crewe and Manchester Piccadilly to Llandudno and Holyhead, and the Borderlands line between Wrexham Central and Bidston, on the Wirral, Merseyside, being added in 2003. Arriva Trains Wales ran the franchise from 2003 until 2018. Arriva withdrew from the 2018 competition, as did Abellio, so a joint venture of Keolis and Amey was awarded a 15-year contract from 14 October 2018. When COVID-19 hit, the Welsh Government made a short-term support arrangement with TfW, valued at around £40 million, to keep rail services moving. An Emergency Measures Agreement followed in May, taking the total to around £105 million. At that stage, the use of public transport was around 95 percent less than the same period the year before, as people followed advice to stay home and to stay local. Season ticket refunds and social distancing requirements also had an effect on train

July 2021

companies’ revenue. As the pandemic continued, in October, TfW, Keolis and Amey announced that they had reached an agreement on a new financing and operational model, under which the operation of day-to-day rail services became the responsibility of a new publicly owned subsidiary of Transport for Wales. Although that put railway operations into public ownership, key projects continued to benefit from the support of KeolisAmey. In addition, AmeyKeolis Infrastructure continue to deliver the transformation of the Core Valley Lines and maintenance of the CVL infrastructure. Under the agreement, a new subsidiary of

Transport for Wales took over operational responsibility for the delivery of rail services for Wales and the Borders from February 2021 following a managed transition process. This subsidiary, while wholly owned and managed by TfW, operates under its own licence and approvals, regulated by UK rail regulator the Office for Rail and Road. In the Borders, on those stretches of the network that are actually in England, TfW operates under contract from the Department for Transport. South Wales is known for its valleys. When the coal industry was big business, most valleys had at least one railway line running down them – many


Llandovery Fishguard



Carmarthen Whitland

Milford Haven

Llanelli Neath

Pembroke Dock Swansea SWANSEA

Port Talbot Parkway


Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro


Wa l e s

had two, one on each side of the river. The decline of coal traffic, and Dr Beeching’s report, spelled the end for many of those lines. Road links were not good, as they twisted and turned up the valley hillsides with blind corners and errant sheep a constant hazard, so many communities were only connected with each other and with the costal big towns and cities by lengthy bus journeys. However, even in British Rail days, it was realised the cuts had gone too far. The freight line between Radyr and Cardiff Central, the Cardiff City line, was opened for passenger services in 1987. Services to Aberdare commenced in 1988 and to Maesteg in 1992. The Vale of Glamorgan line between Barry and Bridgend opened to passengers in 2005, with the line to Ebbw Vale following in 2008.

South Wales Metro (potential) Aberdare

Merthyr Tydful


Ebbw Vale Town Abergavenny

Ystrad Mynach


Caerphilly Coryton



Treforest Estate Maesteg

Rogerstone Crwys Road


Cardiff Queen St.

Pontyclun Cardiff Central


Metro DMU


Pontypool & New Inn


Radyr Cathays

Swansea Carmarthen West Wales

Hereford Shrewsbury North Wales



Cwmbran Pye Corner Gloucester

Cardiff Parkway



Loundoun Square

Barry Island

Cardiff Bay

Tri Mode

New stations

Ten years in the making Plans for a South Wales Metro, connecting Cardiff, Newport and the valleys, were first formulated in 2011 and were adopted as Welsh Government policy in 2015. A fleet of new tram-trains would be ordered to run on-street through parts of Cardiff, connecting the valley line from Rhymney, Caerphilly and Coryton through to Penarth, Barry and

Cardiff’s international airport at Rhoose. Other lines will be electrified and services will be run by a mixture of electric, diesel and bi-mode multiple units. The first stage is to have a good service level on the Core Valley Lines.

“At that stage, Network Rail planned to electrify the valley lines,” James Price, TfW chief executive, told Inside Track. “We planned for a minimum service pattern of four trains an hour, going up to 12 trains an hour in certain places. All the evidence says that, at that point, most people don’t use

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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Wa l e s

Cwm Rhymney Bargoed

Merthyr Tydfil

Tower-Goitre Anthracite Coal and Stone Loading

Ebbw Vale Parkway


Pontlottyn Aberdare




Mountain Ash

Maesteg Ewenny Road Garth

Abercynon South






Cross Keys Risca & Pontymister

Llandradach Trefforest Aber Rodgerstone Trefforest Estate Caerphilly Pye Corner Lisvane & Thornhill Coryton Radyr


Wildmill Pyle


Machen ARC



Pontypool & New Inn

Gilfach Fargoed

Dinas Rhondda Porth

Tondu Sarn

Brithdir Bargoed

Merthyr Vale

Abercynon North

Ystrad Rhondda







Fairwater Cardiff Queen St. Cardiff Central

St. Fagans

Cardiff Bay


Passenger line

Llantwit Major Barry

the timetable. It becomes ‘turn up and go’.” Then Network Rail and the UK Government cancelled their plans to electrify the lines, because they saw the cost as being too great. This was when Great Western electrification was running so far over budget and behind schedule. The only option was for the Welsh Government to pay for the work itself. “At the time, Great Western electrification was running anything from double to four times over budget,” James continued. “The Welsh Government was about to pay up to £1 billion to electrify the Valley lines, but they didn’t want to spend it with Network Rail, who they felt they had no accountability link with. “The Welsh Government was saying we cannot be spending a billion pounds of our own money on someone else’s infrastructure and then find it might turn into a much higher figure than that. “So, they wanted to own the asset, they wanted to take the risk themselves and they wanted to hold someone to account – they wanted to hold people publicly accountable for spending Welsh money.”

Upgrades The solution was a deal thrashed out between the UK and Welsh Governments that saw ownership of the valley lines transferred to Transport for Wales. Now, under the deal with Amey Infrastructure and other infrastructure contractors, they could do the electrification work themselves and retain control of the costs. Work has already started on the South Wales Metro, with the construction of a new £100 million depot and Metro Control Centre in Taff’s Well,

July 2021


Freight-only line

Barry Island

Rhondda Cynon Taff. This will be home to a fleet of new Metro trains as well as 400 train crew, 35 maintenance staff and 52 Metro Control Centre staff. Further plans include electrifying around 170km of track, upgrading all of the stations and

The North Wales Metro will make it easier and faster to travel between the North Wales Coast, Wrexham, Deeside and Merseyside

South Wales Valley Lines

Rhoose Cardiff International Airport


signalling and building at least five new stations. The trains themselves are on order from Stadler. A fleet of electric tram-trains, fitted with batteries so they can run for short distances away from overhead wires, will provide a turn-upand-go service on the Treherbert, Merthyr and Aberdare lines from 2023, reducing journey times to the Heads of the Valleys to a maximum of 50 minutes. Innovative electric, battery and diesel-powered tri-mode trains will be introduced on the Rhymney, Coryton and Vale of Glamorgan lines from 2023, increasing frequency to four services per hour and reducing journey to a maximum of 50 minutes. They will also allow an extra service every hour between Cardiff and Bridgend via the Vale of Glamorgan. Four-carriage electric and diesel trains, similar


to the tri-mode trains, will be introduced on the on the Maesteg, Ebbw Vale and Cardiff-Cheltenham lines from 2022, significantly increasing capacity on those lines. The Welsh Government and TfW are consulting on two other metro schemes, aiming to provide integrated public transport networks using a variety of modes such as heavy rail, tram-train, light rail and bus, all of which would be accessible by walking and cycling. The Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro will increase the frequency of long-distance services, with more local services from West Wales to Carmarthen and Swansea, development of Swansea Bay services and new stations and improvements to existing stations. There are also proposals to improve line speeds, and so reduce journey times, and to build a new station at St Clears, between Carmarthen and Whitland. The North Wales Metro will make it easier and faster to travel between the North Wales Coast, Wrexham, Deeside and Merseyside and improve bus and rail connections. It will also open up job and leisure opportunities across North Wales and England and form a vital part of the Welsh Government’s vision to develop the economy of the region and link in with the Northern Powerhouse. There are strong links between the economy of northeast Wales and that of northwest England. The 2011 census recorded significant cross-border commuter flows amounting to one million journeys per month. Significant daily flows to work are from North Wales to Chester and Cheshire (17,500), to Merseyside (3,500) and to Greater

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Wa l e s

Inter-city improvements In developing its three Metro schemes, TfW hasn’t neglected longer-distance travellers. It has recently improved its rail service between Cardiff and Holyhead, increasing capacity by introducing fully refurbished intercity carriages. The first of the new intercity trains left Holyhead at 05:34 on 7 June and arrived in Cardiff at 09:58, providing an essential link between north and south Wales. TfW also announced that it has successfully purchased a further 30 Mark 4 intercity carriages that are fully refurbished to a high standard. This will include four trains of five carriages which will enter service on the Swansea to Manchester route from December 2022. The new trains include first class carriages, free Wi-Fi throughout, an enhanced food and drink offer including a buffet car, accessible toilets and babychanging facilities. There will also be wheelchair and priority seating available. The Mark 4 carriages, which formerly operated on England’s East Coast route and are hauled by Class 67 diesel locomotives provided by DB Cargo, were purchased thanks to funding from the Welsh Government.

The trains were recently refurbished for the proposed Grand Central service between London Euston and Blackpool. However, after COVID hit, the open-access operator shelved its plans and the trains became available, to be snapped up by TfW. Transport for Wales has a plan behind its improvements of the rail network. It is not just about improving comfort, reliability and convenience for rail passengers. TfW has a wider agenda than that.

This is about a transport system that will serve the economy, serve people’s civic and private lives

Manchester (2,200). Similarly, about 20,000 workers crossed the border each day into Wales in pre-COVID times. There were also around 3,000 commuter trips from northeast Wales to Shropshire daily, highlighting the importance of cross-border links to the English Midlands.

“What we’re trying to do is to create a sustainable transport system that will encourage a significant modal shift away from car to more sustainable measures,” explained James Price, “and everything that we are doing is about that. “That means sustainable from an environmental perspective, but also from a societal and from an economic development perspective. “This is about a transport system that will serve the economy, serve people’s civic and private lives, but do so in an environmentally sustainable way. “In Wales, we have a piece of legislation about

future generations, which compels us, by law, to make sure that all of our decisions take into account the impact they will have on people who have yet to be born. “That’s the biggest context in terms of what transport for Wales is doing, so Metro is in that context, North Wales improvements are in that context.

Extended powers “With devolution, Wales has pretty wide-ranging powers, to the extent that it doesn’t conflict with UK legislation. In terms of rail, we’ve got full devolution in the context of a UK system, and you will understand what I mean by that in terms of specifying and operating the Wales element of the Wales and Borders franchise. On the borders lines we are working under contract for the Department for Transport, so our instructions come from the DfT on those England services in terms of timetables, system operator and so on. “Importantly, for the lines outside the valleys, we don’t own the infrastructure, and that does provide some interesting challenges. I suspect it provides interesting challenges for Network Rail and the UK Government as well as it does for us, because we are driving the traffic, we’re driving the modal shift, we’re driving the patterns we want to see, but of course we don’t own the infrastructure that requires upgrading and investment. “Over the past 10 to 15 years, the Welsh Government has invested quite a bit of its own

Mark 4 coaches at Holyhead

July 2021


Wa l e s

money in an asset that it does not own. The Ebbw Vale line upgrade, line speed improvements, passing loops, station improvements and so on. And I think that that will continue. “But the Welsh Government will continue to argue for some form of full devolution of the balance of the track, so it has control over what it spends its money on.”

Room for improvement One area that James thinks needs improvement is the resilience of several lines in mid and north Wales to significant weather events. The Cambrian Coast line and the Heart of Wales line have been particularly badly affected on several occasions in recent years. “Having railway lines that every year are closed for a significant period of time, in what seems like an ever-increasing fashion, doesn’t feel like a sustainable transport network, does it?” James asked. “We want to compete effectively with the private car. For some reason, the railway thinks 92 percent reliability is very good. “But, if eight times out of 100, when you started your car, it broke down and you needed to call the

Former Grand Central coaching stock destined for the Swansea to Manchester service

RAC, you’d think you need another car. Some of the lines which are getting washouts on a very regular basis are even more unreliable than that. “I do not think its fair to blame that on Network Rail – I do not believe that is Network Rail’s fault in terms of the way they’re maintaining the existing infrastructure. However, I think there’s got to be a big question about the fitness of purpose of the historic infrastructure in terms of climate change. “The answer to that is not to close it, but to

mitigate and adapt, and that’s when we start to get into questions about how TfW, the Welsh Government and the UK Government can work more effectively to make sure those lines are more sustainable in the true sense.” That’s surely true of everything that Wales is doing, independently, on its rail network. TfW, the Welsh and UK Governments, working together to make the railway better, more resilient and more in tune with its passengers’ needs.

Signet Solutions continue to follow government guidelines, keeping our staff and clients safe. We are offering courses online as well as operating from our training school. We’ll be altering class sizes to comply with social distancing measures, we can also use bigger classrooms if required. We’re adapting, maintaining safety and delivering learning in the ‘New Normal’. Please look out for courses coming up online and at our training school. From all of us thank you for your support and stay safe!

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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021


Passenger train leasing Most passenger train fleets are not owned by their operators, but are leased from a small group of specialist companies – the ROSCOs

Porterbrook Class 769 at Cardiff Image: TfW

July 2021

All three companies have changed hands since then. Eversholt Rail spent some time owned by the Midland Bank, when it was renamed Forward Trust, and then HSBC (HSBC Rail). It is now owned by Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison Holdings and Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings.

Following the financial crash of 2008, the ROSCOs were sold by the banks to private equity and infrastructure funds


hen Britain’s railway was privatised in the 1990s, one of the challenges that had to be overcome was what to do with the trains, locomotives and carriages that were owned by British Rail and operated its services. The fleet of freight locomotives was largely sold to the new freight operators. However, passenger trains, a mix of electric and diesel multiple units (EMUs and DMUs), locomotives and coaching stock, were more of a problem. Train operating companies (TOCs) did not necessarily want to own their own stock but would prefer to lease it. In addition, in a number of cases, the same class of train would be operated by several different TOCs, meaning that ownership and servicing would have to be split up. The solution was to pass the fleet onto three leasing companies. These Rolling Stock Companies (ROSCOs) – Eversholt Rail, Porterbrook and Angel Trains – were first formed as subsidiaries of British Rail in 1994 and then privatised in 1995, Eversholt and Porterbook as management buyouts while Angel Trains was sold to a consortium led by Japanese investment company Nomura Holdings.

Porterbrook was bought by Stagecoach, sold to Abbey National (now Santander) and now belongs to an international consortium made up of French private-equity firm Antin Infrastructure Partners, Deutsche Bank and Lloyds TSB. Angel Trains belonged to the Royal Bank of Scotland for a time. It is now owned by a consortium of Babcock & Brown (part of the original Nakamura-led consortium in 1995), AMP Capital and Deutsche Bank.


While they were owned by the various banks, ROSCOs grew successfully through their investments in rolling stock – by a combination of refurbishing existing trains and buying new. However, following the financial crash of 2008, the ROSCOs were sold by the banks to private equity and infrastructure funds, which became the new shareholders. The ROSCO model, with its growth and portfolio spread of fleets by type, age and customer, combined with asset know-how acquired during the previous years, had proved itself as an investment-grade business opportunity that could attract a wide range of investors. On privatisation, British Rail’s fleet was split between the three leasing companies. Eversholt Rail obtained 3,594 vehicles in 21 classes (including coaching stock), Porterbook 3,164 vehicles in 25 classes and Angel Trains 3,304 vehicles in 21 classes. Some new fleets were purchased in the early days after privatisation, such as Class 357 Electrostars for C2C (1997 – Porterbrook), Class 220 Voyagers for Cross Country (2000 – Voyager Rail Leasing, a consortium of Lloyds Bank and Angel Trains, since purchased by Beacon Rail) and Class 390 Pendolinos for the West Coast main line (2002 – Angel Trains), as part of the general upgrade of existing fleet and track during the early franchises.

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Difficult times This rush of train orders was followed by a leaner period for ROSCOs. Various enquiries were held into the way leasing costs were calculated and whether there was true competition. The Competition Commission, the McNulty Review on Value for Money, and the Brown Review, which followed the cancellation of the WCML franchise competition in 2012, all had a look at how ROSCOs went about their business. The government itself, during this period, launched two major train procurements outside of the ROSCO model: replacement of the IC 125 (HST) and IC 225 fleets on Great Western and ECML by the Intercity Express Programme (won by Hitachi with its Class 800/801/802 trains) and the procurement of Thameslink trains (Siemens Class 700 Desiro City). The market heated up again after 2014 until the current COVID outbreak, with several major refurbishments, replacements and augmentation of fleets in more recent franchise competitions and direct awards, including new trains for Greater Anglia, Northern, GTR’s Moorgate line, Scotland, South West Railway and others. After the publication of the Competition Commission Report on ROSCOs in 2009, it was

generally thought that the rolling stock market would benefit from more competition. However, it was difficult for new entrants at that time to access the market because of the lack of information. The McNulty recommendations and the post financial crisis sale of the ROSCOs changed that – the former led to the publication, annually to begin with, of the ‘long-term rolling stock strategy’ by ROSCOs and TOCs, and the latter created a lot of information for potential investors, some of whom bought into the ROSCOs directly, and others using it to create alternative investment models and structures to compete in the market. From 2015, many opportunities for replacing existing rolling stock and growth were built

ROSCOs have had to work to make their fleets attractive and relevant to both passengers and the market

The first big wave of fleet replacement came about in the South, with the replacement of Mark 1 vehicles. The safety of these in a collision had been questioned after the 1988 Clapham Junction accident, but they had continued in service, both as coaches and as integral parts of several classes of EMU. However, the Health and Safety Executive’s Railway Safety Regulations 1999 finally mandated their withdrawal by the end of 2002, later extended to 2004. As a result, Classes 171, 375, 376, 377, 444, 450 and 458 were introduced between 2001 and 2005.

into various franchise competitions. Franchise specifications were written to encourage investment in new rolling stock, and the rapid succession of several franchise competitions built up a requirement of several billions of pounds of investment in new trains. Such capacity would have been difficult for the three traditional ROSCOs to fulfil, and the supply side was able to adapt through the creation of new ownership structures to meet this extra demand, and to establish themselves in the market. As a result, companies such as Beacon Rail

Leasing (now the owner of Class 200 and 221 Voyagers, as mentioned above), Macquarie Rail (acquired recently by Akiem), SMBC, Equitix, Rock Rail and Corelink entered the rail leasing market.

Vehicle developments ROSCOs have always had a technical interest in their trains and have employed their own engineering teams to oversee maintenance, improvements and safety issues. With rolling-stock design lives typically being 35 years with planned economic lives of 30 to 40 years, and franchises typically being let for 10 years or less, ROSCOs have had to work to make their fleets attractive and relevant to both passengers and the market on an ongoing basis, to ensure their trains are re-leased over the lifecycle and to minimise the risk of trains becoming prematurely stranded as franchises change hands. The leasing companies use their asset knowledge to do this in different ways – through partnering and working closely with TOCs, maintainers, train manufacturers and other specialist firms to develop a strategy/plan for each fleet. This volatility also means they need to plan and invest in rolling stock, in anticipation of structural trends in the market, such as safety improvement, decarbonisation and digital technology. Decarbonisation, for example, will include the testing and introduction of new traction technologies such as hybridisation, batteries and fuel cells. ROSCOs are also exploring the repurposing of passenger EMUs to carry parcels from city centre to city centre, or from airports and transport hubs into cities, to take advantage of the opportunities arising from the otherwise debilitating consequences of COVID-19 on the rail network.

HydroFlex on the main line Image: Porterbrook

July 2021



Porterbrook is developing its Flex concept, working with Wabtec to add diesel power to Class 319 dual-voltage AC/DC EMUs and produce a train that can go almost anywhere on the network. Northern, Transport for Wales and GWR have all ordered these new Class 769 units, and Rail Operations Group will use them to operate high-speed parcels services under the Orion High Speed Logistics brand. Another version of the train, the HydroFlex, is being developed as a hydrogen-powered demonstrator in conjunction with the University of Birmingham. Eversholt is also looking at hydrogen as a fuel for trains in the future. It’s Class 600 Breeze, developed with Alstom, is a conversion of an existing Class 321. So too is the Swift Express Freight, a parcelcarrying EMU due for testing later in the year.

Cascades All of these projects are designed to give new lives to trains once they come off-lease for any reason, often due to them being replaced by new fleets. Ideally, train fleets that are handed back to their owners by one operator would be cascaded into another franchise or alternative operation, which can often be achieved with suitable planning and marketing. The success of this will depend upon the balance of available rolling stock cascaded out of one franchise, and the need for that stock elsewhere on the network. At one level, a dynamic cascading-out and cascading-in of rolling stock is an indication of a healthy market. A good recent example of this is the Siemens Class 707 fleet, owned by Angel Trains. Acquired in 2017 for lease to South West Trains, it was declared surplus when the franchise was taken over by South Western Railway, as its plan was to standardise on Bombardier (now Alstom) Class 701 trains across the route.

Class 707 in Southeastern livery Image: Southeastern

However, even before the new Class 701s have fully replaced them, an agreement has been made to transfer the Class 707 fleet to Southeastern, with the first examples due to run in their new colours by the end of the year. But if there is no availability elsewhere, and a retired fleet cannot be moved on to a new owner, the ROSCO will have to make some hard decisions. It is expensive to store vehicles for any length of time, particularly if stored ‘warm’, ready for nearimmediate deployment elsewhere. Recovering vehicles from ‘cold’ storage for use later on the network may come with various start problems, which render the project economically unviable. If there is absolutely no UK market or export requirement in the near-term, the best decision may simply be to scrap the trains, a decision that is made easier the nearer they are to the end of their economic lives. Traditional ROSCOs have always included some rail freight assets in their portfolios, albeit in a minor way. Although ROSCOs started with passenger trains at privatisation, the introduction of Class 66 locomotives for EWS, GB Railfreight and Freightliner expanded the wider market and brought opportunities for operating/leasing railfreight assets.

Beacon Rail Leasing actually began leasing with freight vehicles, but has since expanded into the passenger market. Freight wagons are also leased. Eversholt Rail, for example, had a fleet of 920 wagons, but these were sold to wagon-leasing specialist NACCO Industries in 2015. Another freight wagon specialist, VTG, which is active in the UK market, acquired NACCO in 2018.

What next? ROSCOs still play a dynamic role in the rail vehicle leasing market and are looking to invest substantially in both their existing and new assets, for the benefit of passengers, TOCs and other stakeholders. There will still be a continuing need for longterm private sector investment in rolling stock, perhaps even more so as the railway seeks to recover its financial health in a post-COVID world. The fundamental driving forces for that investment still exist, but it is yet to be seen how the detail will play out in the new world of Great British Railways, 30-year strategic plans and Passenger Service Contracts.

Class 800 “Isambard Kingdom Brunel” Image: GWR


Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021


Stations as destinations A modern railway station, particularly a major terminus, is so much more than just the place where people go to catch a train

Busy retail units at London St. Pancras Image: HS1

July 2021

When it reopened in 2007, the former undercroft became a shopping arcade with big-name stores and up-market cafés. Other stations followed suit. King’s Cross acquired a large new western concourse and Waterloo a mezzanine floor, both primarily for retail. Birmingham New Street was transformed when the Pallasades, a dated shopping centre

Public announcement systems improved, so passengers could actually hear the messages


f course, that is still their primary purpose. Passengers catch trains and alight from them in huge numbers. In the last full year before the COVID-19 pandemic, 2019-20, nearly 87 million people used London Waterloo alone. The top 10 stations in the country – all of them in London with the exception of Birmingham at number five – were used by a staggering 458 million people. And that’s why they are no longer just places to catch trains. Stations have always had retail facilities. There was the station cafeteria, where one could buy a cup of tea and a sandwich, and the newsagent, selling papers, sweets and the latest railway magazines. But now put tens of millions of passengers through that station, and things change. The cafeteria morphs into a variety of coffee shops, snackeries, restaurants and even oyster and champagne bars. As well as a sandwich, you can now buy a burger, pasta, sushi and steak. In addition to newspapers, customers can buy books, clothes, toys and groceries from a medley of retailers. St Pancras was probably the first station that became a retail destination in its own right.

that had been built on top of it, became Grand Central, complete with department stores and fancy shops. The railways underwent a retail boom. Of course, smaller stations had nowhere near the appeal of the big termini. But, even so, they looked better than they had for years. Cafés were


improved, with ‘real’ barista machines and better snacks. The Access for All scheme, a rolling programme to add lifts and footbridges and make stepfree access available at smaller stations, has now transformed around 250 of Britain’s 2,500 stations. Others didn’t need that level of intervention, and many more were improved in different ways. Station lighting improved, driven partly by the need to reduce energy costs and to do so by replacing filament and gas-discharge lamps with clean, bright and cheap-to-run LED ones. Technology advances brought better and clearer passenger information displays, that are both easier to read and a lot more accurate. Public announcement systems improved, so passengers could actually hear the messages rather than having to guess what they had just been told. Waiting shelters sprang up on windy platforms, and toilets were upgraded. Some of these improvements resulted from franchise agreements between operators and the Department for Transport. Others came about because train companies realised that a happy customer is one that may come back – and note the new terminology: customers rather than passengers. Not all customers catch trains…


COVID-19 Then the coronavirus pandemic struck in March 2020. Industry closed down, the government told everyone to stay at home, and stations were deserted. Retailers put their shutters up and life came to an end. Except it didn’t. Network Rail continued with its Access for All scheme, as funds were already committed and deadlines set. Operators, too, carried on with their improvement programmes. Keeping workers safe created problems, granted, but not having passengers getting in the way made things easier. In the past year, during the height of the COVID restrictions, Govia Thameslink Railway alone installed around 1,500 square metres of new or refurbished waiting rooms and shelters, almost 3,000 seats and over 100 new customer information screens. Tom Moran, managing director for Thameslink and Great Northern, explained why this was being done: “We are installing plenty of new screens where our passengers told us they were most needed, as well as replacing some older screens with new ones. “Putting additional screens towards the end of platforms – the north end of Platform 1 at

Sheffield deserted during the pandemic Image: BTP

Letchworth Garden City is a prime example – encourages passengers to spread out. This helps minimise crowding at busy times, which also speeds up boarding and improves punctuality. “We’ve also installed more screens near station entrances because providing information before passengers go through the gates can save them time and effort. “To make stations more comfortable, there are now 25 new or refurbished waiting rooms, over 100 shelters and canopies, nearly 3,000 new seats and 90 refurbished toilets. That’s more shelter than you’d get from 2,000 umbrellas, and enough new seats to fill the Royal Festival Hall!”

Just recently, Access for All schemes have been commenced at Barry in South Wales (£3.3 million), Finsbury Park in North London, Eridge in East Sussex (£1.9 million), Chatham in Kent (£5.5 million), Northallerton in North Yorkshire (£3 million), Theale in Berkshire (£4 million), St Mary Cray in Kent (£4.5 million) and Kidsgrove in Staffordshire. With the easing of travel restrictions, train operators are working hard to attract more people back onto the railway. Those efforts will, in turn, attract more customers back into stations and, hopefully, start the next retail boom…



Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021


Samaritans: Training the rail industry in suicide prevention

As restrictions are eased and the nation emerges from the pandemic, Samaritans’ partnership with the rail industry and their expertise in suicide prevention are proving more vital than ever


Industry training Since the start of the partnership, Samaritans has trained more than 22,000 rail and British Transport Police staff in suicide prevention under its ‘Managing Suicidal Contacts’ training programme. Samaritans’ Network Rail training officer Jason Alexandre explained what that entailed: “It’s my role to provide rail staff with the tools and confidence to be able to recognise someone who might need help and know how to approach them by starting up a simple conversation to get them to safety. It’s such a privilege to train and work with such a passionate and caring bunch within the industry. “The course teaches delegates how to recognise the signs that someone may be suicidal, as well as furnishing them with the essential listening skills they will need to be able to hold a conversation with the individual, to make them feel supported, and eventually to gain their trust so they can be moved to a place of safety.

July 2021

Samaritans/Chris O’Donovan

“The course shows staff that any intervention is better than none and it’s mostly about using skills they already have and simply having a conversation that could potentially help save a life. We’re currently running a virtual course online as well, which means that, wherever you are in the country, you can join in! “The pandemic has added to the pressures people face this year and it’s shown just how important it is for us to support each other

could “ helpYoubetoothere for someone and potentially save a life

amaritans has been in partnership with Network Rail since 2010, a relationship that has grown into an industry-wide suicide-prevention programme. The charity also works closely with the rail industry as a whole, aiming to reduce suicides on the railway and support those affected by them, including train drivers and other rail staff as well as passengers. The challenges that people face up and down the country have been felt even more acutely over the past year, as the pandemic has had a profound impact on the nation’s mental health. Samaritans’ volunteers have provided emotional support more than 2.3 million times since social distancing restrictions began. More than one in five of these calls for help have been about coronavirus, with people feeling concerned about mental health and illness, family relationships, finance and unemployment, and loneliness and isolation. After a challenging year for all, it’s more important than ever that, as restrictions ease and footfall is set to increase in stations, the rail industry is prepared and able to look out for people who appear vulnerable and take action if they think they may need help.

and provide a listening ear to those who may be struggling – we’re always welcoming new delegates from across the industry onto the course, so please do get in touch and book on.


“You too could help be there for someone and potentially save a life. “At Samaritans, we are concerned for the longterm implications of the pandemic, particularly as the links between recessions, unemployment and suicide risk are well known, so support in these times is essential. As restrictions ease, and people may be feeling anxious about travelling, it’s so important we look after our mental health and others by checking in and encouraging people to reach out for support, whether it’s with a friend, a colleague or a confidential helpline like Samaritans. “No matter what you’re going through, Samaritans volunteers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” Heather Waugh, who is a freight train driver for Freightliner, attended Samaritans’ ‘Managing Suicidal Contacts’ earlier this year. Speaking about the training, she said: “I found Samaritans’ rail training really useful and got some great insight about the importance of listening and encouraging people to work through their own thoughts, as well as getting them the support they need.


“I now often find myself in a position where people approach me and feel like they can open up, so I now feel confident to pass them on to professional help if needed too. “As an advocate for mental health in my industry, I think a great first step is encouraging as many staff to do the training as possible. For me, even though not all staff may be passengerfacing or based at the stations, I found the training can be adapted to help anyone – family, friends, colleagues – and it also raises your own selfawareness in how to recognise changes in your own mental health, look after yourself and know it’s OK to talk.”

Small Talk Saves Lives In partnership with Network Rail and British Transport Police, Samaritans has extended its award-winning campaign to the general public. Samaritans’ senior project manager for the Network Rail partnership Shona Gibbs explained: “Research showed that the public could have a big part to play in making interventions and saving lives too – with thousands of eyes out there on the rail network every day.

Samaritans/Chris O’Donovan

“So, we launched our Small Talk Saves Lives campaign, together with Network Rail and British Transport Police, to empower the public to trust their instincts if they think someone is vulnerable and to recognise that they already have all it takes to save a life – just a little bit of small talk and asking if someone is OK is enough to interrupt their suicidal thoughts and may be all the help they need.


“We’re now launching the next phase of the campaign to highlight the fact that, as restrictions ease, this message is more important than ever – we must all look out for one another and trust our instincts. Of course, if the member of the public feels they can’t approach someone, as they don’t have the confidence to do so, all they have to do is approach a railway staff member as they probably will have the skills to help out.”

Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Open Access

Adapting to the new normal Early plans for intercity routes to be run by competing open-access operators changed under the franchise system. How did this happen? And what can we learn from the European model?

July 2021

They also receive no subsidy, so they have to buy or lease their own trains, pay their staff and their access charges, all at their own risk.

It was always envisaged that the franchises for the former intercity businesses would eventually move into a fully commercial open-access world


n the world before – before COVID, before the Williams Review and before the Plan for Rail – there were two types of passenger train operator running services on the network. Franchise operators had a contract – a franchise agreement – with the Department for Transport to run services on certain routes. These agreements stipulated the services that would be run, their frequency, the classes and number of trains to be used, and a host of other details. They also laid down how stations on the routes would be managed and by whom, what charges the operator would pay for the use of the railway’s infrastructure, and what level of support the government would provide to subsidise some or all of the services. Every route in the country had at least one franchised train operator (TOC – Train Operating Company), some had two – one for suburban services and one for long-distance or intercity ones. In addition to these franchised operators, there are also a number of ‘open access’ operators. These are companies who have no contract with the government other than to pay a fee for the use of the railway’s infrastructure.

The rules for open-access operators have always been a bit ‘odd’, and they have very much been seen as less important than the franchise holders. For example, when Wrexham and Shropshire (otherwise known as the Wrexham, Shropshire & Marylebone Railway Company Limited) was running services from North Wales to London, the train from Wrexham used to call at Wolverhampton. There, passengers from Wrexham could alight, but no one could board as the franchise operator had an exclusive agreement to carry passengers from Wolverhampton to London.


This stopped the open-access operator from competing, and also showed up the fact that the government really had no intention of allowing competition onto the railway.

Open access Currently, there are four open-access operators in the UK. Grand Central, owned by Arriva, which is itself a subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Bahn (DB), operates West Riding services between Bradford Interchange, Low Moor, Halifax, Brighouse, Mirfield, Wakefield Kirkgate, Pontefract Monkhill, Doncaster and London King’s Cross. It also operates North East services between Sunderland, Hartlepool, Eaglescliffe, Northallerton, Thirsk, York and London King’s Cross. Hull Trains, owned by First Group, operates daily services from Hull to London King’s Cross with stops at Brough, Howden, Selby, Doncaster, Retford and Grantham. Some trains also originate at Beverley, with an additional stop at Cottingham. Heathrow Express, owned by Heathrow Airport, provides a non-stop express service between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport.

Open Access

Eurostar, the operator of high-speed services between London St Pancras and Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and other continental destinations, also operates under an open-access agreement. It is majority-owned by French state railway company SNCF, with the balance of the shares owned by various investment funds, although a large proportion if its staff is UK-based.

Furlough and cutbacks The COVID-19 pandemic hit the open-access operators hard. With no government subsidies, they had no alternative but to furlough staff and cut back on services. Grand Central and Hull Trains suspended all services during the three lockdowns. Heathrow Express ran a reduced service, supporting the equally downscaled number of flights to and from London Heathrow, and Eurostar went down to one train a day to Paris. Also due to the pandemic, Grand Central cancelled plans to run a service between London and Blackpool. It had already received approvals, bought and refurbished trains and trained staff including drivers. But, with no support and with the business badly affected by the lockdowns and the reduction in passenger numbers, the decision was taken to put an end to this expansion.

However, another planned new service, between Edinburgh and London, is still going ahead. First Group subsidiary East Coast Trains plans to start the new service by October 2021. The relationship between open-access operators and the government-subsided ones will change again as the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail is implemented. Franchises will be replaced by National Rail Contracts, and Ministers have said they want more open-access competition, rather than less.

This is nothing new. Richard McClean, managing director of Grand Central, explained to Inside Track that the original intention on privatisation was never to have long-term franchises on intercity routes. “Open Access was always in the model,” he said, “and it was always envisaged that the franchises for the former intercity businesses would eventually move into a fully commercial open-access world.

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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Open Access

July 2021

“For example, on the Stockholm to Gothenburg line in Sweden, there are now three operators, all of them operating under open-access arrangements, none of them with a public service contract. One of them happens to be the publicly owned SJ (the successor to the Statens Järnvägar – State Railways), but they don’t have a contract to run that service, they have open access rights and operate trains, just like the others.

Routes such as Edinburgh to London were expected to make a profit and not need any grant

“It is just that, initially, they required subsidies, but the expectation was that, as they became commercial in their own right and profitable to operate as a business, then the requirement to have a public-service contract to ensure their continued operation would fall away. “Oddly, and for reasons that still elude me, that never happened. So, we ended up in this rather peculiar world where fully commercial operations, where every train they ran was profitable in its own right, were still being operated on the basis of a public service obligation specification and contract. “It’s not enormously surprising that this created a lot of tension in the system, because it was not an arrangement that was ever envisaged by the people that designed it all. They thought they would put some government money in, to get the whole thing on its feet, and then let the commercial world take over. “That was the original philosophy and, indeed, if you go and look at the legislation, and the European regulations, which were broadly written by British civil servants, then they distinguish quite strongly between the concept of publicly supported operations, those that are socially or politically necessary and would be run by operators working under public service contract arrangements, and all other services that are intrinsically commercial and able to stand on their own two feet in the marketplace, that would be operated on an open-access footing. “If you go and look everywhere else in Europe, that’s exactly what’s happened.

“Deutsche Bahn in Germany, their intercity services do not have contracts – they run them commercially. “They have contracts for their regional services, and so do other operators because some of those contracts have been won by nonGerman companies, but their long-distance services, as in the rest of Europe, are run commercially on an open-access basis. “That’s the way it was intended to be, and the way it should be, and is in the rest of Europe.”


Another example quoted by Richard is in Italy, where state-operator Trenitalia and private company NTV (Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori or New Travellers Transport), founded by former Ferrari and Fiat chairman Luca di Montezemolo, compete on the high-speed lines. “What’s fascinating there is that, if you look at ridership and the number of trains on the Italian high-speed network, when there was only Trenitalia running, it mumbled along, growing only three or four per cent a year,” Richard continued. “But when Montezemolo started, he added a lot more capacity, gave passengers choice, and the market started to develop and soon was growing hand over fist.”

Market growth Richard added: “It’s interesting talking with the Trenitalia leaders, they have come out publicly and said: ‘We have grown more than we ever expected because we’ve had to sharpen our game. This has grown the market beyond our wildest expectations and we’ve now got a smaller-sized slice of a much bigger cake.’ And their slice of that cake is bigger than the cake they thought they were going to have when they were a monopoly.” Trenitalia has introduced its Italian-built Frecciarossa 1000 trains on those services, to compete against NTV’s AGV trains made by Alstom. Both companies, one state-owned and one private, are running commercially as openaccess operators, with no subsidy from the government.


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Open Access

Spain also has several open-access operators running alongside state-owned RENFE on its highspeed lines – one being French state operator SNCF. The approach to financial support during the pandemic from different governments has been different in different markets. In Austria, the government issued emergency public service contracts to a number of operators, including an open-access operator, to keep connectivity on the network on what were previously commercial services. It was very cost effective for the government because they were able to buy exactly the service that they felt was necessary to maintain essential connectivity during the pandemic, and they were able to buy it at commercial rates rather than just flooding their in-house state operator with money. That’s not a comparison with the UK, as most of the UK operators are not state owned, and the two that are, LNER and Northern, are operated at arms-length and have contracts similar to the other franchise holders. But the agreements that were put in place did ensure that the UK train operators remained profitable throughout the three lockdowns.

Back in the day This idea of subsidising suburban and commuter routes, which provide an essential public service, while long-distance routes are run commercially funded by fares and profits, is nothing new. British Rail was run in just that way. “British Rail was expected to make a profit on intercity and a profit on rail freight, and it did when we were just moving coal from the parrot from a coal mine to a power station and containers from the ports,” Richard remembered. “But the rest of the service – commuter and, particularly, regional services – were supported by the public service obligation grant, the PSO grant as was. And there was very careful separation of funding and costs between the PSO’s element to British Rail and the commercial element. “The government subsidised specific services – the public service obligation services – and they were paid for by the public service obligation grant. None of the PSO grant went into Intercity, and infrastructure costs and operating costs were all in that space. Routes such as Edinburgh to London were expected to make a profit and not need any grant.” However, the franchise system did give operators money for operating ‘profitable’ routes – the core routes that make up the majority of intercity services today. The agreements also gave the franchisees monopolies on these routes, leaving only less-popular ones available for openaccess operators.

July 2021

Richard McClean, Grand Central

“We’ve got ourselves, in this country, into a rather peculiar space where we’ve ended up with open-access operators serving secondary intercity markets, indeed serving markets that the mainstream, franchised operator has actively chosen not to serve,” Richard concluded. “If you have a monopoly of Newcastle to King’s Cross, and you find yourself with a spare train, you’re not going to run it round the Durham coast, you are going to run it to Newcastle. If you’ve got a monopoly, you will keep on ploughing that same furrow.


“Of course, what that does is it reinforces the haves and have-nots in terms of connectivity. It doesn’t challenge that fact that this country is so London-centric or do anything for joining up the cities of England with anywhere but London.” With the details of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail now being worked out, and the growing influence of areas such as the North and the Midlands, it will be interesting to see what the future will hold for open-access operators such as Richard McClean’s Grand Central.

RBD Community

The value of Work Pipeline Visibility Eli Rees King, head of product and marketing for the RBD Community, reflects on the recent Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail and how work pipeline visibility can play a key role in supporting its delivery


n light of the widely publicised white paper, the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, it is timely that the feature subject for this month’s Inside Track is ‘Operating Britain’s Railways’. Over the past few weeks, many articles and opinion pieces have been written around what the reforms might mean for the sector and how ultimately rail passengers are set to benefit from better quality, consistent services and improved connections. The white paper sets out to demonstrate how the government will make “railways the backbone of a cleaner, more environmentally friendly and modern public transport system across the country”. The idea that a new integrated public body will soon be operating the railway (Great British Railways) appears to be widely accepted as a very good thing, as it sets out to simplify a very complicated system in its current guise, and, with the passenger satisfaction at the heart of the reform, this surely has to be a positive step. It is encouraging to see that innovation, decarbonisation, skills and opportunities for freight are all key strategic focus areas of the plan, and it is great to see that, within the RBD Community, there are many companies aligned with innovative solutions that can help meet the targets. When Clive Berrington, Network Rail’s group commercial and procurement director, introduced Rail Forum Midlands’ Infratalk recently, he outlined five key areas of focus for organisations in the rail supply chain to consider:

1. Where there are cost efficiencies to be gained; 2. The best way to drive innovation together; 3. How to encourage more signatures on the Work Pipeline Visibility Charter; 4.Whether environmental sustainability is a core part of business planning; 5. What can be done to make the railway safer. The point was also made that, in the not-toodistant future, compliance to net-zero targets will become mandatory for companies to engage in contracts with Network Rail. It is also important to draw attention to the Rail Supply Group (RSG) Work Pipeline Visibility Charter, aimed at businesses across the UK that supply services or products to the rail sector. The aim is to provide a transparent work pipeline visibility across the supply chain, which will allow suppliers to plan and invest with confidence, drive improvements in productivity, collaboration, and delivery. The RSG is asking all those businesses supplying the rail industry – infrastructure contractors, technology suppliers, consultancies, OEMs, project management companies and SME specialist suppliers – to commit to the Rail Supply Group’s Charter. While it is encouraging to see that there are currently over 65 companies who have signed the charter, there is still room for more, so please


do consider signing the charter if your company has a role to play in supporting UK suppliers in the rail sector. So, what does sharing the work pipeline with suppliers mean? Customers sharing information on a 1-2-1 or, if appropriate, 1-2-many basis with their supply chains; Identifying in-flight projects, zero-value frameworks and near-term procurement opportunities – information that is often available at nil cost but not easily obtained; Making the work pipeline visible, identifying a wide range of benefits for both customers and suppliers. To find out more about the Work Pipeline Visibility Charter and how to sign, search for Work Pipeline Visibility Charter | Rail Supply Group. I am really looking forward to working with the RBD Community to help identify collaboration and engagement opportunities and support company growth plans, especially with Railtex/ Infrarail 2021 fast approaching. This is really exciting for companies that are part of the RBD Community, as well as organisations who want to have a presence at this leading industry event and take advantage of a low risk, low-cost presence as an exhibitor. See you at the NEC in September!

Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Industry Spotlight

Competency development: Building back safer

Safety must never be taken for granted. 3Squared’s Lucy Prior explains why everyone working on the railway should have the correct competencies, which must be recorded and managed


very year, the Railway Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) publishes its Annual Health and Safety Report (AHSR). In the 2019 report, RSSB director of system safety and health Ali Chegini wrote: “We can’t lose sight of the importance of essential health and safety management … especially in an era of major structural and organisational change.” He was, of course, referring to the devolution of Network Rail, which, at the time, was in its very early stages of implementation. The subsequent 2020 AHSR, published shortly before the country was put into lockdown, reasserted that Britain’s railways were still the safest in Europe. However, the recently released AHSR 2021 acknowledges that, perhaps, the industry has become somewhat distracted, has lost sight of the importance of the safety of working environments and, therefore, the wellbeing of frontline colleagues. In the past year (2020/21), the industry has lost three employees to workforce fatalities and another two, plus a member of the public, to train accidents. The industry needs to ensure it never experiences such tragic losses again. Speaking at Network Rail’s National Supplier Conference in May, Rob McIntosh, route managing director of the Eastern Region, referred to an accident that had taken place a few days

3Squared’s EDS competency management system in use.

earlier at Ramsden Bellhouse, in which one of the victims sustained life-changing injuries. Rob was clear in his message – that we should not be complacent, that Ramsden Bellhouse, like any accident, is unacceptable, and that, in his opinion, collective standards in relation to safe working seem to have fallen in recent times.



fatalities in a train accident

One passenger, two members of train crew

16 July 2021

public fatalities at other locations

Eleven trespassers, five on level crossings


workforce fatalities Not in train accidents


reduction in passenger journeys


passenger fatality in a station

253 52

suicides or suspected suicides

The importance of competencies Rail workers, as with anyone working in a safety-critical environment, need to possess and maintain the right competencies to perform effectively, efficiently, and safely. Competencies in the railway vary from role to role and can include many different skills, from ‘pass/fail’ taught and learned skills to more complicated ones such as social, cognitive, and personal skills. Non-technical skills (NTS) arguably add a layer of sophistication to an individual’s capability and to the ease in which they carry out their work. Rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) sets out its expectations in relation to health and safety on the railways in its Risk Management Maturity Model (RM3), which states that organisations “need an effective system for managing competence to help make sure that their staff have the appropriate skills. Making sure that workers, supervisors, managers and directors have and keep the appropriate skills helps ensure those members of staff make safe decisions and carry out their work safely, reducing the risks to themselves and to other people.”

Industry Spotlight

dtL ketziV yb derevileD / depoleveD / dengiseD Competency management systems (CMS) provide a framework and process through which an organisation manages health, safety and training by ensuring that the requisite number of staff possess, maintain, and review the necessary competencies at all levels. This is a crucial element of simultaneously embedding and nurturing a culture that proactively manages safety by making health and safety everybody’s business. In its Viewpoint article “Competence at the heart of a safe organization”, management consultancy Arthur D Little states that “effective competence management is a fundamental component of any safe organization” and that “failure to effectively manage competence increases the risk of incidents and accidents”. The authors go on to explain that each industry and all organisations within those industries face their own unique risks, therefore they each develop the need for their own unique CMS.

Non technical skills

Technical skills & underpinning knowledge

Functional skills

rof noitpO potS-enO ylnO ehT gnivaP elitcaT detnuoM ecafru S Competence Constant evolution

using a specialist CMS are putting their employees at the centre of their own safety management. As the RM3 model proves, employees need to be competent, both in their own right and in relation to their employer’s H&S policies. Develop CMS develop the employee The RSSB strategy group Leading Health and Across the industry, there are a variety of Safety on Britain’s Railway (LHSBR) highlights competency management systems in use, from the importance of creating and supporting an generic, off-the shelf tools to bespoke, built-inenvironment in which it is ‘safe’ to speak up house systems that consist of either complex should a safety risk be perceived or experienced. pieces of software or even more complex and Psychological safety is an essential element unwieldy spreadsheets. of a culture in which front-line staff “have the This latter approach, while seemingly more competence and confidence to take sound cost effective, can actually increase the risk, decisions that affect health and safety”. and therefore also the cost, associated with The most recent LHSBR states: “There is a lack competency cycles slipping. This is due to of clarity in roles and responsibilities, developing their inherent dependency on watertight data and maintaining competence and safety culture input and updating, which cannot always be among trackside workers and managers.” guaranteed. rellaCompetency tsnI & rersystems utcafumust naMsimultaneously 1 .oN s’KU …din tLsafety ketzcritical iV yBroles snodeserve itavonnI euqinU Rail workers provide a clear and unambiguous means of a CMS that protects them by ensuring their sesevents imerand P tsupport liuB m otsuC weN gnnon-technical ivaP elitcskills aT w registering a culture in which critical competencies and areolleY drazaH such reporting is actively encouraged to ensure appropriately recorded, maintained and made roceRcan kcmitigate arT neagainst vorP the organisation d concerned iva elitechnology, tcaT egdthe E derefmahC available for This is P where repetition. application of digitisation, is helping to drive stepTo respond to this in workforce srlack edaofeclarity, L noithe tavLHSBR onnI gchanges nivaP elitcaTsafety. eniL wolleY / ffuB denibmoC has placed heightened focus on supporting the One example of a specialist railway-focused developmenteof evidence-based etn arauG tniocompetency P elgniS gCMS nivais P3Squared’s elitcaT eEmployee gdE deDevelopment refmahC pirG ssorC System (EDS), a component of RailSmart. This EDS is constantly absorbing and supporting management systems. Furthermore, it aims to suite of digital tools enables users to harness an ever-increasing number of skills profiles and, make sure that there is an improved usage of thgiN reP +ml001 gnivaP elitcaT gnidniF-yaW the digitalisation of processes to become safer, therefore, inherently enables an employer to peoples’ NTSs and that these skills be enabled more efficient and more sustainable. Used by ascertain its organisational skills level, both and used more widely across and within company competence management systems. Network Rail, passenger and freight operators, technical and non-technical. bempowered devorppA Employees at all levels need toybe as well as vehicle and wagon manufacturers and This ensures that all individuals have sight of maintainers, EDS has been developed as an SaaS and ownership of their own skills progression, to collaborate and deliver results more effectively (software as a service) product for the railway which in turn allows the organisation to manage and efficiently. Empowering employees to industry. It is a system that offers carefully tailored its overall skills and succession planning and to develop their technical and non-technical skills content to ensure that it is intuitive to use while remain on the front foot should there be a safety- enables them to contribute to keeping themselves, their colleagues and the entire railway safe. The addressing the specific and complex needs of each related issue. client in relation to their unique risk profiles and Rigorous auditing capabilities and external, digital railway must be a competent DTrailway L KEand, TZIV environments. remote verification also prove that organisations above all, a safe railway. CIB tsaE htroN Competency management tools, such as EDS, should not be standard or generic systems. An appropriate CMS must be constantly evolving, whether supporting train drivers in maintaining and developing their route and traction knowledge or supporting signalling engineers in ensuring they are truly competent to carry out their work in such a safety-critical environment. Ian Prosser, HM chief inspector of railways, said: “All companies should periodically review their arrangements regarding the maintenance of the competence of their staff and implement improvements, to ensure that the risks to railways and other guided transport systems are properly controlled.”

Effective competence management is a fundamental component of any safe organisation

July 2021

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Tr a n s p o r t f o r L o n d o n

Keeping the capital running Andy Byford, Transport Commissioner for London and the man responsible both for running existing services as COVID-19 restrictions are eased and for completing the Crossrail project, discusses his plans and aspirations for the capital’s transport network


July 2021

“COVID viciously exposed the vulnerabilities of TfL to economic hits of this magnitude. It showed that we needed a new funding model. We couldn’t carry on with this overexposure to fares income, because you can’t keep gouging the customers. You can’t just cover that gap through relentless fare increases. We had to come up with a new model.

In the short term we have no option but to go to government to ask us for financial support, primarily for operating expenses

ransport for London (TfL) is governed by the Greater London Authority and is responsible for the capital’s public transport, including buses, taxis, river services, cycling, trams and, of course, trains. London Underground falls under TfL, as does the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), London Overground and TfL Rail, which is providing the start-up services that will become the Elizabeth line once the Crossrail project to build a railway line in tunnels beneath London is completed in 2022. TfL is headed up by the Transport Commissioner for London. Andy Byford was appointed to this position in June 2020, succeeding Mike Brown, who left TfL after five years as Commissioner to become chairman of the delivery authority that is restoring the Houses of Parliament. This is not the first time that Andy Byford has worked for London’s transport organisation. He joined London Underground in 1989 as a graduate trainee before working his way up to general manager of the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines. After a spell as operations and safety director of South Eastern Trains and operations director at Southern Railway, Andy moved to Sydney as chief operating officer of RailCorp, Australia’s largest railway network. Two years later, he was hired by the Toronto Transit Commission in Canada, where he became chief executive officer. While at TTC, Andy also served on New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s MTA Transportation Reinvention Commission to review the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) capital programme. After having served on several other New York panels, he finally left TTC in 2017 to become president of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), the busiest and largest transit system in North America. He returned to Transport for London on 29 June 2020, after the COVID-19 crisis had hit and ridership of London’s transport services had plummeted, presenting him with an immediate challenge. “TfL is very unusual in that it has an unusually high dependency on fares through the fare box,” Andy Byford told Inside Track. “We rely on fares to the tune of 72 percent. Contrast that with the MTA at 38 percent. MRT Singapore is something like 40 percent. The norm is around 40-45 percent.

“At the start of COVID, TfL was in a good place, and this is credit to my predecessor Mike Brown. We had taken something like a billion pounds of cost out of the organisation to the point where, remarkably, the Tube was pretty much at the point of breaking even. “So, we had healthy cash balances, a healthy cash reserve and, initially, we ran those down. “But, because we followed government’s request to drop our ridership radically to protect Londoners, to keep the system free for critical workers, Tube ridership dropped to something


like five percent of normal, to levels not seen since Victorian times. And, overall, TfL ridership plummeted to the point that our finances were completely decimated. The cash reserves disappeared. “There was only one source of temporary revenue, and that was Her Majesty’s Government. Mike secured a settlement for around £1.6 billion. Subsequently, we’ve negotiated a suite of further deals, with the most recent one being £1.08 billion that takes us through to 11 December. “Let me say, I’m obviously very grateful to government for providing that temporary support. It does come with conditions, quite onerous conditions, and I’ve gone on the record and said I didn’t expect a blank cheque. “I do expect there to be some conditions, but certainly in the short term we have no option but to go to government to ask us for financial support, primarily for operating expenses (OpEx).”

Driverless trains One of the conditions set by the UK Government as part of the short-term funding was for TfL to look at making part of the Underground driverless. Paris Metro has already started this programme, with Line 1 converted to fully automated in 2011 and Line 4 currently being converted. In London, the DLR was built as a

Tr a n s p o r t f o r L o n d o n

driverless system. Driverless does not mean unstaffed. Every DLR train has a member of staff on board, looking after passengers and capable of driving the train in an emergency. This is known as GoA3 (Grade of Automation 3) operation and is what the UK Government has asked TfL to investigate for other lines on the Underground. “We have looked at driverless before,” Andy commented, “and we will always be pointed at Paris, which has retrofitted Line 1 and is looking at various other lines, so it can be done. “As a stipulation of the most recent funding settlement, we have been asked to come up with a detailed business case for the Waterloo & City line and an outline business case for the Piccadilly line, because government knows we are building new trains and we need new signalling for the Piccadilly line. “Although I recognise the benefits of automatic train control, we have looked at the business case across the whole system for driverless trains before and it doesn’t really stack up. That is because, in order to make it work, it’s not as simple as just having a new train and new signalling. “I would argue we also would need platform edge doors and some sort of anti-trespass system

London Overground Class 710

in the open section. “If we are to have platform edge doors, we might also need to strengthen platforms and to look at the impact on tunnel ventilation systems. “We calculated that, for the whole network, we’re talking 10 years and £10 billion. “My argument would be that a far better use of scarce capital funds would be to push on and finish off the job of resignalling the whole of London Underground first. “We need new trains for the Bakerloo line, new trains for the Piccadilly and we will need new trains for the Central at some point, and we still

have conventional fixed-block signalling on the Piccadilly and the Bakerloo. Let’s finish that off first, would be my professional advice. We will get far more bang for our buck that way. “Having said that, this is a stipulation of the funding deal. So, we are doing what we’ve been asked to do and, at the end of the day, if government is serious and there’s £10 billion available to upgrade the whole network, and there’s the prospect of getting an all-new fleet and new signalling, and it’s additive – it can’t be £10 billion in lieu of other things we need to do, it’s got to be additive – then we can talk about it. But I


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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Tr a n s p o r t f o r L o n d o n

think we’ll struggle to make the business case. “We are looking at it in good faith. We’re complying with the recommendation of government, of the requirements of government, we’re participating fully and earnestly and properly in that review. Let’s see what it comes up with.”

Future proposals While the government’s agreement to several packages of short-term financial support keeps London’s transport running, Andy is obviously concerned about the longer-term future. “There are two main issues,” he said. “Number one – this is no way to run a £10 billion organisation. We cannot continue on this hand-to-mouth basis. We’ve already seen Moody’s downgrade us two notches because they recognise the adverse impact of short-term deals on our credibility with suppliers and our ability to leverage long-term contracts, which basically disappears. We can only make short-term provision with suppliers, and I argue that costs more because the suppliers are rightly worried about whether they are going to get a long-term deal or not. So, to me, its false economy, we’ve got to secure a long-term deal. “Secondly, on 11 January we submitted our Financial and Sustainability Plan (FSP), which sets out very positively how we can emerge from this if we work in partnership with government. We’re saying we can be self-sufficient within just two years, by the beginning of the 2023-24 financial year, covering our day-to-day operations, maintenance and ‘cost of funding’ costs. “It’s not going to be easy. Radical cost-cutting needs to happen, but we also need new revenue streams so we won’t cut our way out of this. Slashing services is absolutely not an option or a

sensible proposal. “With new revenue streams, we can be back to self-sustainability by that point, which would be a remarkable achievement. To do it, we make a compelling case within that FSP for continued CapEx (capital expenditure) support, to the tune of £1.6 billion per year for the next 10 years. “That’s not a begging bowl, that is a proposal to form a sensible partnership with government to meet government’s own objectives. They are: “Number 1 – government wants a jobs-led, project-led, infrastructure-fuelled recovery. We have plenty of projects ready to go. Let’s get on with them and re-fire the economy. “Number 2 – government has set out the laudable objective to have a carbon-free, decarbonised UK by 2050. That is not going to happen unless London is decarbonised so London

needs to have an electrified bus fleet by that point. “If they work with us, we can electrify our bus fleet, by far the biggest in Britain with 9,500 buses, by 2030. That means new buses and also the infrastructure paraphernalia that needs to go into the garages. “This links very nicely to government objective number 3, which is levelling up. They want to see a levelling up across the across the country. Again, we can help with that. We are not the problem, we are part of the solution, because where do we buy our buses? And where do we spend 55p out of every pound? In the regions. “We are building new trains in Goole in East Yorkshire for the Piccadilly line, we spend money on signalling systems in places like Chippenham and Ashby de la Zouch. The buses don’t get built in London, they get built in Ballymena, in Falkirk, in Leeds, in Guildford. It really is levelling up. “So, what we’re saying is, thanks very much for the short-term funding, but let’s now move to a sensible long-term funding settlement with new income streams so that we bring down that 72 percent dependency on fares to more like 40 percent, the industry norm. See us as a partner, and we can power London’s, and I would argue the UK’s, economy by a properly funded transport system. “That’s my pitch.”

Future demand Getting London moving again and restoring TfL’s finances is very dependent on getting fare income back to as close to the pre-COVID level as possible. However, as yet, no one knows how passengers will respond to the end of lockdown. Will they return to their offices? If so, will that be five days a week, or just two or three? And will

July 2021




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Tr a n s p o r t f o r L o n d o n

July 2021

some of the outer centres of London, in places such as Harrow on the Hill, Stratford or Croydon. So now we are looking at how we need to tweak our service, to provide the morestretched-out model through the traffic day, with slightly less intense movement of people to and from the main London termini and into the city.”

Shovel-ready programmes To get Britain working again, Andy claimed to have shovel-ready projects that could be implemented at short notice. Two notable railway projects that have been ‘paused’ recently are

London is done, it’s finished, the cultural attractions are never going to recover, no one’s going to go back to the office. I don’t believe that

they stagger their journeys to avoid peakservice crushes? “London generates £37 billion net to the national coffers every year,” Andy emphasised. “So, we have to get London firing again, and to do that we have to get its transport system firing again, to take people back into the cultural attractions and their offices. “To understand the problem, we’ve modelled five scenarios on what ridership might look like in the future. We have our own analysts, very good people, but we’ve also looked at what the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) is saying, at what the various retail bodies and business organisations are saying, about what they intend to do in terms of office repopulation. “So, we modelled five scenarios. Two are at the polar extremes, neither of which are credible but have to be included in our thinking. “One is a doomsday scenario. London is done, it’s finished, the cultural attractions are never going to recover, no one’s going to go back to the office. I don’t believe that. “At the other extreme is the utopian, idealistic, somewhat naive expectation that it will be as though COVID never happened. In six months, it will be a dim and distant nightmare, everyone will be back and the Tube will be as rammed as it ever was. I don’t believe that either. “More likely is one of the middle options, in which we will see a progressive return to some sort of office working, probably 3three to four days a week, so lower transport ridership that is more evenly spread through the day. This will be partially offset by increased satellite working in

Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo line extension (BLE). Does he see those coming back in the short term? “I’m not sure about the short term,” he responded, “but we absolutely have not shelved those projects. We see that they still have compelling business cases. I firmly and passionately believe there’s still a need for them in the medium term, but we’ve got to be realistic and, in the short term, we realise that our capital


aspirations might need to be reined in. So, for now, those two projects are on ice. “The work is not wasted – far from it. It has been archived, so we know exactly where we are with it. “And the routes are being safeguarded, so that is not wasted work. They could be dusted off and resurrected in very short order. When I talked earlier about that 10-year capital plan and compelling shovel-ready projects, those are two good examples. They will make a real difference. The BLE goes out into a bit of a desert – there’s no tube in Camberwell and places like that – that would make a massive difference, and Crossrail 2 would have a transformative effect throughout a very long route.”

Crossrail and the Elizabeth line Talk of Crossrail 2 naturally swings the conversation to Crossrail 1 and the recent National Audit Office (NAO) report that implied that costs have again increased and the timetable has slipped once more. Is that the case? For the first time in the conversation, Andy got a little agitated. “No. Let’s be crystal clear here. Crystal clear, and you’re the first person I’ve spoken to about this… “What the National Audit Office was talking about was comparing the current situation with their last report. “The impression that has been given is that there’s been a further slippage on schedule and

Tr a n s p o r t f o r L o n d o n

“An absolute mess” “Mark and Tony Meggs, the chairman of Crossrail, inherited an absolute mess in 2018. They stabilised the project, but they were trying to get it open in summer of 2020. Eventually, they had to conclude it was not going to open in 2020 and their final act working together was to say it needed an additional £1.1 billion to finish, and it wouldn’t open until the first half of 2022. “Those two statements remain true, which is why I’ve said there will be no further slippage beyond the first half of 2022 to phase three, that’s the section through the middle, and there will be no further recourse to public funds beyond that which they identified, which was an additional £1.1 billion. “So, when the NAO says that completion is now due in the first half of 2022 and it’s an additional £1.1 billion, that’s true, since their last report. But that hasn’t changed since I took over. “To be fair to them, the NAO is also saying that the most recent Project Representative Reports

show that there is now pressure on the additional funds that we secured. “That’s true, because in one of the other funding settlements, out of that £1.1 billion, we secured an additional £825 million from the GLA. That’s good. But it’s £825 million, not the £1.1

The impression that has been given is that there’s been a further slippage on schedule and a further slippage on cost, ultimately, on my watch. That is not true

a further slippage on cost, ultimately, on my watch. That is not true. “There has been a difference between what they concluded in the last NAO report and their current one. I was at pains to say to the NAO, don’t give that impression or I’ll be forced to correct that, so now I am correcting it as they have given that impression. “When I took this job on (in 2020 – one year after the last NAO report), I actually said at my interview that, to take on this job, as the next Transport Commissioner, I had one condition – I must have control of Crossrail. That was the key, and it was transferred from the Crossrail board to TfL 95 days after my arrival. I felt my predecessor was left somewhat vulnerable by not having direct control of that project, so I insisted it be transferred early to TfL. “Mark Wild (Crossrail chief executive) now reports to me. Having done my homework, I said publicly at the time, and I’ll repeat it today, there will be no further slippage on schedule or cost over and above that which was identified by the outgoing Crossrail board.

billion we said we needed. “We’re doing our damnedest to try to get as close to that as possible. We may, though, need the full £1.1 billion. I’ve never conceded on that. We may not need the whole lot, but those are the facts. “I have set my team three challenges – we call them the Triple Crown. This challenges us to see if we can improve upon the schedule that the outgoing Crossrail board left us. “They said phase three would open in the first half of 2022, and everyone knows that’s code for


probably June. Okay, so I’ve challenged my team to achieve the earliest possible safe and reliable opening of phase three, from Paddington through to Abbey Wood. Triple Crown challenge number 2 is to open it up end-to-end, from Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the East through to Heathrow and Reading in The West, as early as possible. The Crossrail board was going to do it in two parts, in December of 2022 and May of 2023. We’re trying to improve upon that. “Challenge number 3 is the cost one. Without conceding on the £1.1 billion, I’m looking with my team to see how close we can get to the £825 million. “If we can finish Crossrail for around the £825 million, and sooner than was predicted on phases three and four and five, against the backdrop of COVID, which is proving a nightmare in terms of getting the job finished, it will be a triumph for Mark Wild and the team. It has my personal attention. I literally have a phone call about Crossrail every day, I go through in minute detail how we’re tracking. It will need that close attention until the day we open.” Hosting a phone call on Crossrail at 8am every morning just shows how fully committed Andy Byford is to his role as Transport Commissioner for London. That can only be a good thing, for Londoners and for the nation.

Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

HS2 Calvert

Where two lines cross Construction of HS2 has started, with the most public demonstration being the launching of two giant tunnel boring machines that will spend three years digging under the Chilterns

Unloading an aggregate train at the north railhead. This particular DB Cargo locomotive is running on hydrotreated vegetable oil.


owever, that isn’t the only activity taking place. Work has been going on all along the route of HS2 phase 1, from London to Birmingham and the connection to the West Coast main line at Handsacre. First came the enabling works contractors. Working ahead of formal parliamentary approval of the HS2 scheme, they delivered projects that had to be completed before main construction could begin and which could, in theory, be reversed if, for some reason, HS2 didn’t receive approval or was cancelled. This early work included archaeology, site clearance and establishing site compounds. The enabling works contractors also delivered a range of other activities including utility diversions, ecology surveys, demolition, ground remediation, watercourse activities, highways realignments, monitoring and instrumentation, structural reinforcements and drainage improvements. Worth in total around £900 million, the contracts were split geographically between three concerns:

July 2021

Area South – CS JV (Costain Group, Skanska Construction UK) Area Central – Fusion JV (Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure, BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman UK) Area North – LM JV (Laing O’Rourke Construction, J. Murphy & Sons) Once these enabling work was completed, and the project gained parliamentary approval and Royal Assent, the Main Works contractors could get started. These are: SCS Railways (Skanska Construction UK, Costain and Strabag) - two contracts worth £3.3 billion for the Northolt Tunnels and the Euston Tunnels and Approaches. Align JV (Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine and Volker Fitzpatrick) – one contract worth £1.6 billion for the Chiltern Tunnels and the Colne Valley Viaduct.


EKFB (a joint venture of Eiffage Genie Civil, Kier Infrastructure and Overseas, Bam Nuttall and Ferrovial Agroman) – two adjacent contracts worth £2.3 billion for North Portal Chiltern Tunnels to Brackley and Brackley to South Portal of Long Itchington Wood Green Tunnel. BBV JV (Balfour Beatty Group, Vinci Construction Grands Projets, Vinci Construction UK and Vinci Construction Terrassement) – two contracts worth £4.8 billion for Long Itchington Wood Green Tunnel to Delta Junction and Birmingham Spur and the Delta Junction to the West Coast main line connection. EKFB therefore has the contract to build the central section. This is split into five segments, and the central one, which is around Calvert in Buckinghamshire, is where HS2 and another major new railway project, East West Rail, cross. As it doesn’t make much sense for both project

HS2 Calvert

central point for taking deliveries and storing all replacement parts before they are used and provide sidings where maintenance trains can be stored when not in use. It won’t be used for maintaining trains, that will take place at the rolling stock maintenance depot at Washwood Heath in Birmingham. Having the Infrastructure Maintenance Depot at Calvert will allow it to be connected with both HS2, for access for maintenance, and to the national rail network, either along the East West route to Oxford or Milton Keynes, or down the proposed Aylesbury line.

Safeguarding nature At the point where East West Rail will cross over HS2, excavations are almost complete down to track level and 12 large piles have been installed.

The civil engineering is being undertaken by EKFB on behalf of HS2

teams to be on site, digging up the countryside in this rural area, the civil engineering is being undertaken by EKFB on behalf of HS2. Once it has completed the ground works, East West Rail contractors will install the railway tracks, signalling and communications cables on its line while a separate HS2 railway systems contractor, yet to be awarded, will do the same on the highspeed line. The 80km of EFKB’s section includes 15 viaducts, 6.9km of green ‘cut-and-cover’ tunnels, 22km of road diversions, 81 bridges and around 30 million cubic metres of excavation. Calvert lies in an area of farmland and is fairly flat. The existing railway line from Bicester to Bletchley, currently mothballed, runs almost west-east. The path of HS2 runs southeast-northwest and, at this point, parallels the old line that branched off the Bicester-Bletchley line and ran down to Aylesbury. The plan is for HS2 to go through the area in a shallow cutting. The East West Rail line will ramp up and go over it on a flyover.

In addition, the HS2 formation will be wider than normal, wide enough so that, at a later date, a twintrack line to Aylesbury can be reinstated alongside HS2’s lines. This enhancement does not yet have confirmed funding but is in the long-term plan. There will be a chord off the HS2 line as well, crossing East West Rail just to the west of the Aylesbury junction, giving access to the HS2 Infrastructure Maintenance Depot, which is to be built adjacent to, and to the northeast of, the flyover. The Infrastructure Maintenance Depot will provide a base for planning and managing all infrastructure maintenance work, be a

In the Calvert section alone, EKFB has to build 42 structures. One of these is a batmitigation structure, 850 metres long, alongside Sheephouse Wood, an ancient woodland and a designated site of Special Scientific Interest. Sheephouse Wood, and the wider Bernwood Forest, provides a home for several species of bat, including the rare Bechstein’s bat. This colony is at the most northern extent of their range in Europe, which makes it particularly important. The Sheephouse Wood Bat Mitigation Structure will provide a physical barrier to prevent bats coming into contact with high-speed trains. The structure is part of a wider strategy designed to reduce the railway’s effect on bats along an 8km stretch of route through Calvert. The strategy will provide links between areas of existing woodland with new woodland planting and provides safe crossing points at existing flight lines with green overbridges. There will be five green overbridges, out of a total of 14. These are conventional bridges, carrying a road, footpath or cycleway over the railway, but they are around 30 metres wider than they would normally be. The extra space, which will be planted with vegetation typical of the area, is intended to give wildlife a safe path across the railway.

Mike SURVEY CONSULTANCY LTD Chartered Land and Engineering Surveyors


Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

HS2 Calvert

The redundant gas main that is being removed.

To bring that all in by road would have needed about 45,000 tipper-lorry movements

The works at Calvert involve not only digging out the cutting in which HS2 will run, but also building up the embankments for the flyover that will carry East West Rail, preparing the foundations for the depot, constructing screening bunds and landscaping the area. The net result is a need for fill material to be brought onto site, some 448,000 tonnes of it. To bring that all in by road would have needed about 45,000 tipper-lorry movements. Instead, two strategies have been adopted. The HS2 site to the north of Calvert, Twyford to Greatworth, is largely in cutting, so it is a net exporter of fill material. That is being brought to Calvert by trucks running off-road, along the line of the HS2 trace. Meanwhile, supplies of graded aggregate are being brought in by rail. This is largely a mix of class 1A1 general fill material, which is being used in the foundations of the earthworks, and 6F5 recycled hardcore that is being used for crane and piling platforms. Some type 1 material, for site access roads, and 6C material for drainage blankets, is also coming in by rail. Most of the 1A1 and 6C is being used on the East West railway. 300 freight trains have been hauled to site by DB Cargo, taking the route of the former Aylesbury branch, which still exists, to the temporary north railhead. The bulk of the aggregate originates from the Hanson quarry at Chipping Sodbury, Yate, Bristol, and the trains run from there to London and back out on the Aylesbury line.

This line once formed part of the Great Central Railway’s main line from London Marylebone to

Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield, with Calvert as an intermediate station. The former island platform is still in place, though it will be removed as, at this location, HS2 largely follows the route of the old GCR. In July, once deliveries were complete, the old railway was dismantled back to a new south railhead, where further supplies will be unloaded until September. The railway can then be removed for a further short distance, although most will be retained as it also serves the FCC Environment landfill and waste site, just south of Calvert village.









The line of East West Rail. The far bridge will be retained but the closest one will be removed so that the level of the track can be raised up to go over the top of HS2.

July 2021


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HS2 Calvert

The East West railway is in need of some TLC.

As a trial, and to protect the environment still further, DB Cargo has been experimenting with fuelling its locomotives with HVO – hydrotreated vegetable oil. Fully biodegradable, this is synthesised from waste fats and vegetable oils. Its use can result in a reduction of up to 90 percent in net CO₂ greenhouse emissions and additional cuts in notifiable particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Freight trains to Calvert are being hauled by locomotives fuelled with HVO and also by

conventional diesel locomotives, so the costs and benefits can be evaluated like-for-like.

Civil engineering Although much of the groundworks is at an early stage, the area where the two new railways will actually cross has been excavated down to the approximate level of the HS2 track. This has enabled a large piling machine to get on site and drive twelve 1,500 diameter piles, 38 to 44 metres

deep, to support the abutments for the bridge that will carry East West Rail over HS2. While the HS2 line is in a cutting at this point, it won’t be deep enough for East West Rail to cross at ground level. This will mean that the current formation will need to be raised up to go over the bridge. That, in turn, will mean the overbridge on Gawcott Road, adjacent to the new crossing, will have to be removed and the road diverted to the west. There, it will pass under the raised-up East West line.

West Street Compound

HS2 Trace

East West Rail

Aerial view of the site at Calvert showing the line of East West Rail, the trace that HS2 will follow, and the excavations and piling where the two will cross. Image: HS2

July 2021

East West Rail East West Rail overbridge


HS2 Calvert

It is in these embankments that the imported class 1A1 aggregate is used, to improve the base ground condition. This is then covered by the class 6C drainage blanket before the embankments are built-up on top. As these ramps and diversions are being built, the rest of the HS2 cutting needs to be dug out and the trackbed prepared. 1.7 million cubic metres of excavation will be needed, but that compares with four million cubic metres of fill needed on the site as a whole, hence the 300 freight trains that have been unloaded at the site railhead. The material is stockpiled on site, close to the railhead, from where it can be easily distributed around the site. A freight train leaves the site past the old island platform of the former Calvert station. The original East West Rail line had a major gas Image: HS2 main running alongside it. This has also had to be diverted, so the redundant main can be removed and At the peak of construction, over its five sections, This will leave the old trackbed clear for won’t need to form part of the East West Rail / HS2 construction of the HS2 formation, and the EFKB will have around 4,000 people on site, crossing. A concrete batching plant is being built on site, provision for a new Aylesbury line alongside it, contributing to HS2’s projected total of 30,000 people in total across the whole of Phase 1. just south of the old Calvert station on the former to begin. It will remain a major undertaking for the next four So, there is still plenty of work still to do for Great Central route past Aylesbury. From September, the track to the south railhead EKFB and its subcontractors, which include years. will also be dismantled, with the old track panels Buckingham Group, Flannery Plant Hire and Rail going off by train to Network Rail’s Whitemoor Freight Solutions, before the section is complete in For a full description of the HS2 project, see Inside Track Rail Business Daily half page ad.qxp_Layout 1 19/07/2021 17:58 Page 1 issue 1 – Building Britain’s Railways. 2025. recycling centre.

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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021


The return of parcels by train Over the past few years, two totally unconnected phenomena have given rise to a new type of specialist train, the high-speed parcel carrier


Online boom The second phenomenon, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, was the surge in online shopping. In the UK, online retail sales increased by over 30 per cent from 2019 to 2020, totalling a staggering £99.3 billion. Some experts believe that another similar increase is due in 2021. What connects these two is the need for all those online sales to be delivered – and to be delivered quickly. Roads are increasingly congested, particularly in major cities, so ‘letting the train take the strain’ seems like a logical conclusion. Trains can help the parcel delivery sector in three ways. They can get goods quickly from one end of the country to another. London city centre to Birmingham in around an hour and a half, Cardiff in under two hours, Manchester in just over two hours, Newcastle in three, Edinburgh in four and a half. Much quicker than a lorry can do it.

July 2021

The second advantage rail has over road is to take goods from the outskirts of major cities to the centre. Luton to London St Pancras takes 25 minutes, it can take hours by road at the wrong time of day, and then there is the congestion charge, and the lowemission zone.

What was needed were trains that could easily be loaded with parcels, travelling at passengertrain speeds

he first was the wave of orders for new trains that came out of the UK between 2016 and 2018. At one point, there were no less than 5,670 carriages on order. Part of this demand came from the need to replace the HST fleet, which was 40 years old and would not meet the accessibility regulations post 2020. In addition, new trains were required for Thameslink and for Crossrail, both of which were expected to be complete in the next couple of years. The rest came from the way the government was letting franchises. Passenger satisfaction and comfort was high up on its list of demands, so older trains such as the unloved Pacers would be retired and replaced. So too would trains that couldn’t satisfy capacity demands. The increasing use of the railway meant that more seats – and more standing room – were needed. Trains were to be longer – up to 12 carriages being not unusual – with wider doors and wider gangways making passenger flow easier. While the Pacers went off to retirement, the scrapheap or to be turned into school libraries, many other trains, such as the Class 319 and 321 electric multiple units, had years of life left in them but didn’t meet the current operating requirements. So, they were sent to storage in the hope that a new application would come along.

And it is emissions, or an electric train’s lack of them, that is the third advantage. As the UK strives to reduce emissions, and become as near zero-carbon as possible, moving any type of freight from road to rail can only help. The one snag is that modern trains don’t have goods vans. Passenger trains carry passengers, along with the occasional bicycle, while goods trains mostly carry either containers or bulk materials. Granted, parcels could be loaded into containers, but that would slow the process down again. What was needed were trains that could easily be loaded with parcels and packages, could travel at passenger-train speeds between and into cities and then could be quickly and easily unloaded again.


Converting the 321 Train leasing company Eversholt Rail had just such a train, or at least the basis of one. 117 four-car Class 321 electric multiple units were built in York by British Rail Engineering between 1988 and 1991. They are therefore now 30 years old, not really old enough to retire, run on the 25kV AC electrified network and have a top operating speed of 100mph. They can therefore run between London and Birmingham/ Manchester/Glasgow on the West Coast main line, London/Newcastle/Edinburgh on the East Coast main line, Edinburgh and Glasgow on one of four routes, and even London to Cardiff (though unfortunately not Bristol). Thinking this was a good idea, and having discussed possibilities with several potential customers, unit 331324 was sent to Wabtec in Doncaster for conversion, with engineering support being supplied by Ricardo Rail. Out came most of the seats – two were left at each end so that staff could be carried onboard to sort parcels on longer runs, or customer ‘overseers’ could be accommodated if required. Out came the carpets, interior partitions, toilets (sorry occasional passengers!) and interior heating (sorry again!). In went checkerplate floors and walls, tie-down points and sidewall fixings. The result is a four-car train, each carriage of which can carry up to nine tonnes of cargo, either parcels in wheeled cages, retained by a newly installed moveable crossbeam system, or pallets


securely strapped to the floor. Dubbed Swift Express, the new parcel carrier was shown off to potential customers, and to Inside Track, in July 2021. The demonstrator was an example of what can be done, other configurations are possible. An overhead-electric traction package could be thought of as being somewhat limiting, but it covers the main routes from London to the North and West. For a last mile capability, such as to run off the main line to a non-electrified freight distribution terminal, the train can be loco hauled.

Last mile operation However, as that is not ideal, a battery pack is under development. It is not intended to run the train for any distance, it is meant solely for ‘last mile’ operation – perhaps three or four miles maximum at 20mph. This will mean that the train is truly decarbonised and it removes the complication of coupling up to shunting locos. That last-mile capability may be important. Whereas, in former times, parcels were delivered to passenger stations or the adjacent parcel or ‘Red Star’ office, stations today are no longer geared up for parcels. Mail trains use Royal Mail’s own depots, and that company is confident in the growth in demand

Class 321 Swift Express Freight parcels

and has commissioned new depots to be built at Warrington and DIRFT (Daventry International Freight Terminal). So, Eversholt Rail’s new Swift Express trains will have to run to privately owned parcel terminals. And there are quite a few of them. For example, Marks & Spencer is rail connected at its Castle Donington warehouse, as is Amazon at nearby East Midlands Airport. Tesco has a rail depot in Barking, into which it already brings fruit and other items from Spain, and another at DIRFT. It also runs trains to Scotland. Eversholt Rail believes that its customers will be the traditional freight operating companies, who will then deal with, and supply services to, the parcel companies.


Proving that nobody has a monopoly on good ideas, other companies also see parcels and packages as a potential area for growth. Orion, part of the Rail Operations Group, recently showed off a converted Class 319 parcel carrier at London Euston station that had been converted at Eastleigh. But perhaps the last word should go to Paul Sutherland, Eversholt Rail’s client services director, who said: “Collaborating with both Ricardo and Wabtec on this project has delivered a train that will demonstrate the potential for a cost-effective, lowcarbon solution to meet the growing demand for home delivery of parcels around the UK and contribute towards the 2050 net-zero emissions targets. “We look forward to seeing the Swift Express freight train running in service later this summer.”

Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021


Developing depots The number of new train fleets coming onto the railway network has resulted in a major building programme to provide depot facilities


arger fleets of trains, which are often longer than their predecessors and filled with the latest technology, mean that depot workshop buildings need to be extended and stabling sidings need to be both longer and more numerous. Trains now have self-diagnostic systems on board, which identify faults and notify the depot in advance, so that everything is ready for a quick repair when they arrive back at base that evening. This includes everything from the change of a light fitting, which can be done in the sidings, to a complete bogie swap that needs the use of the particular road in the depot that has the bogiedrop built into it. Sometimes the fault needs urgent attention, so the train has to be scheduled into the depot as a matter of urgency, other times it is just another

item to add to the list for attention next time that train undergoes scheduled maintenance. Over the past few years, a number of depot enhancement projects have taken place. Stabling sidings, such as those at Bedford, Cricklewood, Gidea Park and elsewhere, have been extended. Depots at Exeter (GWR), Beckton (DLR), new

Cross Gate (London Overground) and Newton Heath (Northern) have been enlarged and refurbished. Hitachi Rail took over the former Eurostar depot at North Pole to service its Class 800/802 trains for GWR. Tyne and Wear Metro built a complete new ‘temporary’ depot at Howdon so

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it could transfer the fleet there while it knocked down and rebuilt its depot at Gosforth, although the Howdon site may actually be retained, even once Gosforth is back in operation.

Old Oak Common

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No longer are they cold and draughty sheds – they are now well heated and ventilated workshops

One of the largest new construction projects was at Old Oak Common, where Crossrail built a completely new depot to look after the fleet of Class 345 Elizabeth line trains being procured from Bombardier Transportation (now Alstom). Constructed on the site of previous sidings, and about a quarter of a mile to the east of the former steam/diesel-era depot that closed in 2018 and the Heathrow Express depot that was demolished in 2021, the new Old Oak Common depot has nine maintenance roads inside its workshop and a further 33 stabling sidings outside. The facility includes light and heavy maintenance roads, a wheel lathe, twin equipment drop-pits, synchronised train jacking facilities and inspection pits, an underframe cleaning facility, workshop and stores, driver/train crew accommodation and a driver training suite. As well as the latest in railway depot technology, Old Oak Common is also fitted with

utilises site-wide LED lighting, solar-thermal and

solar-photovoltaic panels, ground source heat pumps and combined heating and power units. These are linked with a thermal energy store in an integrated system, switching between energy sources as demand and availability dictate. This is a common feature of modern depot deign. No longer are they cold and draughty sheds – they are now well heated and ventilated workshops with well-fitting doors and computercontrolled systems to keep the workforce safe. Walkways and gantries have interlocks to make sure that the workforce, moving trains and live electrical supplies never come into contact with each other. Clean and well laid out, they are intentionally designed to be as appealing as possible to an increasingly diverse workforce.


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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

N e w Tr a i n s

When is my new train due? Introducing a new class of train to a route can be exciting, and passengers are usually impatient to try out their new ‘ride’. But why don’t they always enter service when planned?

Class 88 (2017)

ver the past few years, Britain’s railways have ordered a large number of new trains. A total of 2,659 new carriages have been introduced so far, and the Rail Delivery Group estimates that a total of 8,000 will be in service by the mid-2020s. However, the introduction of these new trains doesn’t always run smoothly. Delays occur, and this can cause problems if a new class is replacing an older fleet, which is then being cascaded down to another operator. If the new trains are late, one of the two operators could end up with no trains, and having to rent some less-than-ideal ones in a hurry. But why are trains delivered late? Surely, in this high-precision world, trains should be delivered on time?


Complex systems, bespoke designs There is no simple answer to those questions. A modern train is a complex piece of kit, computer controlled and stuffed full of electronics and mechanical systems.

July 2021

It is also usually a bespoke design. No two operators have exactly the same requirements, and even outwardly similar trains will be different under the skin. The UK has a particularly tight loading gauge, meaning British trains are smaller than those on the continent. Swedish trains are even larger, and Russian ones bigger again. Irish, Spanish and Russian trains also run on different gauge tracks to the UK, and different to each other too. And let’s not start on South African, Japanese or Australian railways. So designs in use in one country cannot easily be carried over to another. Trains designed for the UK are usually just that – designed specially for the UK. They are also made in relatively small numbers. An order for 100 carriages is seen as large – 1,000 is astronomical. Many are for just 50 or 60 carriages. When car manufacturers launch a new model, they will come up with a new design, build a few prototypes, or even a few hundred, test them in all sorts of conditions over all types of terrain, update the design based on the results of those tests, and then build production models for sale to customers. Train makers cannot do this. Every train they build


will be delivered to a customer – even the very first example of a new model, known as the first in class. The orders are simply not large enough for them to discard the prototypes.

Fault-free running So, the process is that the train is designed, often using elements of previous models. One or maybe two will be built, and then run around test tracks to see how they perform. The test track at Wegberg-Wildenrath, in northern Germany, although owned by Siemens Mobility, is used by several manufacturers. Its large oval means that trains can run continuously as their systems are assessed, and it is fitted with various electrification systems, AC and DC, overhead wires and third rail. The Velim test centre near Kolín in the Czech Republic is also popular. Its largest oval is just over 13km long and trains can run at up to 210km/h (130mph), or 230km/h if they tilt. These test tracks are used to undertake ‘fault-free running’. A customer will specify this as part of the contract, and will usually want the prototype to run for longer than production models – for example the

N e w Tr a i n s

first train may have to cover 2,000 miles fault free, whereas subsequent trains may only have to do 500 or 1,000. Fault-free running means just that. If a fault is discovered, no matter how far through the test, everything resets and the test must start again from zero. It’s not just the train running round an oval test track either. The test programme, agreed between the manufacturer and the customer, will test all of the train’s systems. These can include: Starting and stopping the train; Opening and closing the doors, both external and internal; Jamming the doors deliberately, as though a passenger or luggage is caught in them; Repeated use of the toilet, alarm system and public address;

Class 345 (2017) arrives at Liverpool Street station

Only once the train has passed the fault-free running requirements can it be considered for service. However, just testing on a track is not enough, the trains should also be tested on the actual line they will be running on. This makes SwitchPoint Heating sure they can copeLtd with any irregularities in the Industrihuset track and any little foibles it may have. S-430 64 HÄLLINGSJÖ, SWEDEN occur in testing. Phone:Failures + 46 (0)301-418 50 That’s what the testing is

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for – to see if the train will break and then rectify the design so it won’t. For example, a new train was on a test run a few years ago when an external hatch blew off. It hadn’t been fastened properly by an engineer after he had done some work. The design was changed to make the latch simpler and more secure.


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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

N e w Tr a i n s

The latest and well-publicised problem concerns yaw damper mountings on two different classes of trains. Although different designs from different manufacturers, the yaw damper mountings on both types started cracking. Yaw dampers control the lateral movement of a bogie relative to the train itself. One end of the damper is mounted on the bogie, and the other to the train body. Normally, relative movement is damped by the piston in the shock absorber moving in the damping medium (oil). If the system is badly adjusted, and the shock absorber is at the end of its travel, it can ‘bottom out’, passing the movement through into the mounting. This stress can then cause fatigue failures of either the mounting or the carriage bodyshell itself. Whether that was the cause in these cases or not, it is the sort of problem that can be thrown up in reallife use which didn’t show up on the test track.

Class 374 (2015) Eurostar

Although different designs from different manufacturers, the yaw damper mountings on both types started cracking

Another train had performed faultlessly during its test. It was then run down the West Coast main line but, to speed up the testing process, a second train was coupled to it so as to get some test miles on that one as well. Halfway through the run, the train was braked to a halt. When it was time to move off again, the brakes on the second unit remained firmly applied and nothing the driver did would get them to release. With the train blocking the main line, an engineer had to go out and manually wind the brakes of the second unit off, so the train could be moved into a siding. The fault was eventually diagnosed as a software error that only showed up when two trains were coupled together. More recently, on Greater Anglia, a new train was approaching a level crossing. The gates closed, preventing road traffic from crossing. Then, shortly before the train reached the crossing, the gates went up again and vehicles started to cross. Fortunately, the train missed all the cars, but it was a close call. The cause was the train not triggering the track circuits, as the train was lighter than the

old ones and therefore didn’t make such a good electrical connection with dirty track. When the Azuma Class 800 trains first started running on the East Coast main line, they couldn’t go north of York because the electrical emissions from the train interfered with the older signalling on the northern end of the line. Modifications were swiftly made.

Back to square one All of these difficulties cause delay. If they occur during fault-free testing, the fault first has to be corrected, and then the test programme has to be started again from the beginning. If the programme is for several thousand miles of faultfree running, then that can take some time. As well as the actual test running of the trains, there is quite a paperwork exercise to go through as well. Trains have to be tested for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) to ensure that they don’t interfere with signalling, telecommunications equipment or other trains. Engineers have to assess the design and decide whether it will meet the performance and safety criteria that were set. This when the Vehicle Acceptance Bodies (VABs) for independent conformance assessment and certification of rail vehicles get involved, along with the Notified Bodies (NoBos), Designated Bodies (DeBos) and Assessment Bodies (AsBos).




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N e w Tr a i n s

Depot improvements While all this is going on, arrangements have to be made to house the new fleet. If the trains are longer than the ones they are replacing, then depots may have to be extended or they won’t fit. Building may have to be lengthened. So too may the inspection pits, or the elevated track sections that engineers use to access the underside of the trains. If jacks are used, more may need to be added so the whole train can be raised up at the same time, or a complete new set of jacks acquired. Bogie drops, which allow one bogie to be removed from the train for service or so that it can be exchanged for a fresh one, may have to be moved, or adjusted, or replaced. The wheel lathe, which reprofiles the tyres on the wheels to ensure optimum running and remove wheel flats, may also need to be moved so it can be accessed by every wheelset on the new longer train. Then, of course, the maintenance teams need to be trained on looking after the new arrival. Spare parts have to be procured, though these are usually specified as part of the train purchase contract. Diagnostic software and computer systems may need to be updated, depot drivers shown how to drive the new train, and even the fittings for fuelling hoses and toilet and water tank replenishment may need changing.

Class 385 (2018)

Are the toilet emptying facilities even in the right place, if the toilets are positioned differently in the new train? Then there is the question of storage space and accommodation sidings. If the new fleet starts to arrive before the old one has been decommissioned, the train operator suddenly has twice as many trains to park than it did before.

Disused sidings may need to be pressed into service, or an arrangement made with a local heritage railway to park some trains there. All in all, there’s a lot to think about when introducing a new train. It can be a long and drawn-out process, which is why trains sometimes don’t arrive quite when they were expected.

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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Steve Montgomery

The changing face of train operations Steve Montgomery, who heads up FirstGroup’s rail operations, considers the recent past and the future for private train operators as the government takes more of the risk in a post-COVID world


he Williams Review into the rail sector was launched in late 2018 and, after delays caused by a general election, Brexit, COVID-19 and the subsequent collapse of the franchising system, it was finally published as the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail white paper in May 2021. As a major player, holding a number of franchises, FirstGroup was one of the key private-sector consultees. Steve Montgomery, managing director of First Rail, recalled that he was asked a wide range of questions: What do you think in the private sector? Why has it worked in the past? Why is it not working at the moment? How do we involve the private sector in the future? What type of government structure would you like to see? “We had good input. Although, for obvious reasons, he (Keith Williams) couldn’t put every piece of opinion in, what he was trying to do was get the mood music of the industry and understand what was actually happening,” commented Steve. “So, he took on a number of these thoughts and processes and tried to build up what this new world would look like”. A topic of discussion which became one of the main strands in what became the Williams-Shapps Plan is the need for a ‘guiding mind’ for the industry. Steve is fully supportive of this, feeling it is important that lessons are learned from the past: “We don’t, at

the moment, have a body that can make decisions and be left to make decisions sensibly, and make sure that we can enhance the railway that we have at this moment in time.” So where does Steve think things started to go awry? Despite the advances made by the Business Sectors in British Rail’s last years, privatisation is widely regarded as having been planned by government as a tool to manage a declining railway, but Steve believes that the opposite was achieved.

Pros and cons of privatisation “One thing about privatisation is it brought a lot of different thinking to the industry: marketing, how we looked at things, innovation, new trains, all these different things. And then we managed to double passenger revenue in the space of 20 years, and that was a great success. No other industry could point to that level of change.” As well as the introduction of experience from other sectors, Steve described how the private sector

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July 2021



Steve Montgomery

Emergency measures The impact of the coronavirus pandemic was, of course, substantial. Almost overnight, rail passenger traffic disappeared, which largely destroyed the franchise model. Steve was complimentary about the speed with which financial lifelines were put in place by government to keep the industry running, particularly to

The passage of risk and reward was probably the downfall of franchising

helped ensure investment took place. While the industry had been starved of cash at certain times, the private sector brought in a different model. So, funding was committed and that investment, both on new trains and on infrastructure, brought new stations, increased customer volumes and drove revenue up, making more funds available for reinvestment. “But the passage of risk and reward was probably the downfall of franchising,” Steve continued. “We started to take too much of the risk on for too little reward. And that’s where it started to go wrong in my opinion – it started to throw things into a downward spiral. Neither the operators nor the government could get out of that spiral, because they needed to pass risk to us.” Despite this, Steve feels that the last franchise awards, such as West Coast and East Midlands, were getting back to a better risk-and-reward balance than they had been for many years, and FirstGroup had begun running the Avanti West Coast operation, with healthy projections for passenger revenue and performance. Then COVID-19 hit…

ensure there was a service for key workers. “The government quite quickly put that in place, and I think that was that was good, it settled everybody down, and allowed us to concentrate in doing what we needed to do,” he commented.


The former franchisees now operated under Emergency Measures Agreements (EMAs), providing a basic service under the direction of the Department for Transport (DfT). As a slightly more normal situation started to emerge, a second round of Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs) brought in more requirements on what the operators were delivering, together with some measures and rewards. These are now being replaced by National Rail Contracts (NRCs). Steve recalled how, at the time, First Group had been in discussions with DfT about its South Western Railway franchise, held in partnership with MTR, which had run into some difficulties. “It was a franchise that was in distress, we didn’t hide that. It had run into challenges, particularly arising from deep-rooted, ongoing infrastructure problems, which we were working through with Network Rail, as well as a long-running industrial relations dispute, now resolved. We supported the franchise through quite a difficult period, so we started to talk to the DfT on what could a changed or a new franchise look like? Then COVID came along, and everything was parked again.” So, while negotiations were under way on the ERMAs, Steve related how they opened up a conversation on the NRCs, as part of the new government thinking. “We discussed with the department what this NRC would look like, what were the key measures that we would need to put in place. What was it we could deliver through the committed obligations that we had previously subscribed to in the last franchise? So, what parts did we want to keep and what parts did we think were no longer relevant? “Between us, we worked up something that we, the private sector, could live with, while the DfT could see that they had bought into something that was going to give them deliverables, particularly bringing in new trains – the Class 701s, completing the depot at Feltham, carrying out the Isle of Wight upgrades – three key projects that are ongoing.”

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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Steve Montgomery

Other areas covered included investment in stations, ticket gatelines and additional stabling points, which were built into the NRCs. Steve wanted to ensure that having the right kind of things included in the contract would then bring benefits to customers, as and when they returned. New timetables were agreed – not yet back to 100 percent, but able to be increased when the demand returns.

A two-way process

July 2021

We’ve got to deliver in these areas – we have to deliver the performance, we have to deliver the committed obligations

As one of the earliest National Rail Contract negotiations, the discussions with First Group probably helped shape the ground rules, something which the whole industry could hopefully benefit from. “The DfT was able to learn what could work, and what couldn’t work, for an owning group like FirstGroup,” Steve explained. “And if it wasn’t going to work for us, it was highly unlikely to work for the other owning groups.” Describing it as very much a two-way process, Steve recounted how they explained to DfT what was and wasn’t acceptable, while officials had their say on what they required in the contract and what really needed to be provided. “In the end, we were able to get something that was acceptable to both sides, although the DfT, of course, had the final say,” he commented. According to Steve, both sides felt they had achieved something they could live with and that would benefit customers in the longer term. As their name suggests, the original EMAs and ERMAs were brought in on an emergency basis, mainly designed to keep the trains running,


particularly for the benefit of key workers, and not so much about deliverables, such as performance, reliability and customer facilities. But as services are gradually restored, the newer management agreements build in these deliverables, and they will form a key part of the NRCs. Steve dismissed suggestions that the change to a management contract eliminates risk to the company entirely. He explained that the agreements may be based around a management fee that is fixed, but the remainder is made up in performance fees. “We’ve got to deliver in these areas – we have to deliver the performance, we have to deliver the committed obligations, and we have to be good

Steve Montgomery

whether that move then results in some further transfer of risk in the future. As the process evolves, longer contracts could be envisaged.

A matter of risk

partners working closely with Network Rail,” he explained. “All these are different things that we are measured on, and we’ve got to provide the evidence to the Department to be able to show that we’re doing the right things, ultimately for the customer.” He also pointed out that the NRCs are issued on a ‘2 + 2’ basis – a two-year contract with a twoyear renewal – a renewal that operators would be unlikely to get if they did not deliver. In the first

round of the EMAs, First Group scored well on all their contracts, which means that, while not entirely the same regime, they have a good track record so far. The NRCs can be viewed as another interim stage before the move to Passenger Service Contracts (PSCs), as detailed in the WilliamsShapps Plan. Steve feels it is important that everybody sees how the NRCs work, before considering how to start to move to PSCs and


Questioned on how provision of rolling stock relates to the management contract, Steve explained that the cost risk remains with government. FirstGroup at present is not looking to order more trains, so the big issue is currently the introduction of fleets already ordered, which will be reflected in the train operator’s performance fees. These will include the Class 701s on SWR and the rest of the Nova 3 fleet on TPE, while the introduction of new Hitachi units will be covered by the West Coast NRC. While it is unclear at present how new procurement will eventually be handled, Steve believes that there is still a role for train operators. “We don’t know if it is going to be as part of the NRC or where the procurement of trains will sit. “We think it should still remain within the TOC world, because the expertise lies within that area, and we would be able to procure it better than the DfT, so that’s an area that we think we could still add a lot of value to the process and help the government get the most cost-effective provision of trains.”

Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

Steve Montgomery

One of the greatest unknowns facing train operators is what level of demand will return in the future, especially for the important daily commuter traffic in the face of increased home working and possibly fewer working days in the office. Steve and his colleagues are still trying to gauge this, but he feels they may not have a firm idea until next year, when it becomes clearer how many people are going back to offices, and at what times they will want to be travelling. Just reducing the working week to, perhaps, three days will not help the rail sector, as the same infrastructure, trains and staffing would be needed for three days as for five. FirstGroup will be looking to work with government departments and bodies like the CBI to try to understand what businesses will be needing and considering how best to meet that demand. Steve feels it is important that the railways are flexible. “We were really agile over the pandemic, where I think we had something like five timetable changes. We fell back to about 50 percent of normal services, then we stepped it up to 60 percent and 70 percent, before falling back in December with a further lockdown. So, the industry has shown that flexibility, and we need to be able to show it in the future as and when customers return.” An early move in this direction has been the introduction of the flexi season ticket, something that has received a fair amount of negative comment to date, with reports of it being more expensive than buying daily tickets. Steve accepts that it is not going to be the solution for everyone and may need some adjustment, but it is a new product intended as a step towards helping the situation, which train operators including GWR were already developing before the pandemic struck.

July 2021

We were really agile over the pandemic, where I think we had something like five timetable changes

The return of passengers

Open access With FirstGroup owning one of few successful open access operators – Hull Trains – as well as


being about to start a second, it is no surprise that Steve is firmly committed to open access. So where does he see it going in a new world? Pointing out that FirstGroup stood firmly behind its open-access business during the pandemic, Steve firmly believes it has great potential because it offers a different type of service. Its East Coast open-access operation, planned to start in late Autumn, would not be happening if FirstGroup was not still firmly committed to open access. The need is to find the right market and show the added value offered. “You’ve got to get through this test of how you can generate new business and not just take it from the current operators,” he explained. “It’s really important that you show you’re going to attract people who would not have normally travelled by rail. “The East Coast open access, for example, is very much aimed at taking people off the airlines – that’s why it calls at Edinburgh, Newcastle and Morpeth for Newcastle Airport, Stevenage for Luton Airport, and obviously London itself. We studied where people were travelling and how they were travelling. We believe we can deliver a high-quality product, but at a good price.” One difference compared to FirstGroup’s own Hull Trains, as well as Arriva’s Grand Central operation, is that these concentrate on cities not well served by the LNER main line operator, but the new open-access service will compete more directly. Steve explains they will be differentiating on timings, for example by arriving in Edinburgh before 10:00, which is not currently possible, and by pricing, seeking to offer a superior service to attract travellers from the lengthy road-coach market at a lower price

Steve Montgomery

He does, however, have some concerns about how the businesses will be protected in the new industry structure, which he continues to push with government. If nearly all of the railway is to be put back into the national body, Great British Railways, how do the open access operators get protection and ensure they have the same rights as others?

FirstGroup itself will be evaluating where we are as a business and ensuring that we’re ready for the future

than the established rail operator can. However, the main competition on the LondonEdinburgh route remains other modes, particularly aviation. The right service could also get people off planes, coaches and out of their cars, with a clear environmental benefit which customers will appreciate, Steve says. He also considers that the new service may offer a better service than the existing trains in some cases. It will also be all one ‘standard’ class, so the catering and other facilities will be offered to passengers throughout the train. Despite his belief in open access, Steve does not see this replacing the main line operators, at least in the short term. With an undoubted need for cross-

Looking ahead

subsidy to help pay for some of the less profitable parts of the railway, he accepts that government would be unlikely to give over more train paths on the more profitable routes to open access anytime soon.

So, what of the future more generally? Steve believes that the industry needs its customers back, as one of the biggest challenges over the last year has been the reduced capacity of services through maintaining social distancing. “While both operators and passengers fully understand why we’ve had to do it, once that restriction is fully removed, it will open us up again,” he said. “Getting people coming back, and restoring their confidence in travelling by rail again, is really important.” “FirstGroup itself will be evaluating where we are as a business and ensuring that we’re ready for the future, once we start coming out of the pandemic. We need to make sure we’re strong and agile to be able to look at all the opportunities that are going to be there in the future.”

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Building Britain’s Railways - MajorJuly projects 2021

And Finally

A fond farewell to the Pacer?

When a class of train or locomotive is retired, they are usually sent for scrap. One or two may end up in a railway museum, a couple more could go to heritage railways to carry holidaymakers and enthusiasts who are keen to see the historic train


n that basis, a retired Pacer train has a very bleak outlook. Criticised by passengers as being uncomfortable and noisy, vilified in the popular press, even the government didn’t like them. “Goodbye (and good riddance?)” wrote Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps on Twitter on 27 November 2020. “Here’s the very LAST Pacer Train (on Northern) making its final journey. “These famously cold, slow and uncomfortable trains have finally reached the end of the line because we’re upgrading our trains!” Officially known as Class 140-144 diesel multiple units, the Pacers were built between 1980 and 1987 as a short-term solution to a shortage rolling stock. They were cheap to build, using bodywork based on a Leyland National bus fitted to a simple chassis derived from that of a freight wagon, with a single axle at each end rather than the more usual bogies. When built, they had an expected life of 20 years. However, as can be seen from Grant Shapps’ Twitter post, the last one wasn’t retired until 2020, 35 years after it entered service. However, people still had a perverse respect for the Pacer. Rather than send them for scrap, the Department for Transport launched a competition to find the best community use for a recycled train.

Competition Under the title ‘Transform a Pacer’, community groups across the North were invited to submit plans and ideas for how an old Pacer carriage could be converted into a vibrant public space. From a café to a yoga studio, the DfT opened the floor to ideas on how the Pacer carriages could be renovated to continue to serve communities.

Image: Northern

The winning proposals would see three Pacer carriages, donated by rolling stock company Porterbrook, installed ready for transformation. After consideration by the judging panel, proposals put forward by Airedale NHS Trust, Fagley Primary School, and men’s mental health charity Platform 1 were chosen as the best ideas to came out of the competition. Their plans, the judges felt, would help to improve NHS services, science and technology education and mental health care in towns and cities in the North. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Although some were indeed scrapped, a few did end up on heritage lines, including the Keithley and Worth Valley, Mid-Norfolk and Wensleydale railways. Others went for alternative uses. For example, the Dales School, Blyth, Northumberland, has

Retired Pacer arriving at The Dales School, Northumberland Image: RSS

July 2021


a new school train – a two-car Pacer that will be used as a library and learning centre with a special focus on railway safety and to inspire career aspirations, using a train driving simulator to make learning engaging and fun. The train has been placed on a short length of track donated and installed by Network Rail. Railway Support Services (RSS) delivered the two-car multiple-unit to its new home. The Dales is a specialist primary school based on two sites, the other is at Ashington. It provides education for children with a variety of additional needs that may not otherwise be met in a mainstream school setting. Andrew Goodman, managing director of RSS, said: “Transport of the two-car Pacer unit was straightforward for us, as we have delivered many railway vehicles and locomotives by road transport over recent years. However, because of site constraints, the coaches were unloaded onto a temporary length of track and then slewed into their present position. “We have taken a few of them for further use elsewhere. Much maligned in service, they lasted three times longer than designed and now seem to be finding several new uses from classrooms to service on heritage railways.” The delivery of the train was excitedly greeted by children, parents and staff and was covered by local television. So, the Pacer lives on…

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Inside Track July 2021  

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