Crossrail (Elizabeth Line) – Delayed – my view

On 31st August 2018, the announcement was made by TFL (Transport For London) that the long awaited “Elizabeth Line” (aka Crossrail) would now not be opening through London in December.  The new date has been pencilled in as “summer/autumn” 2019.  This has been rumoured for the last few months, as stations really didn’t look that ready during the summer “open” days.

Most business’ in London affected by the building work were hoping for the December 2018 opening, in order for them to reap the benefits of the new line to their Christmas trade.  Many are understandably upset, this news coming only 3 months away.  Moreover, TFL themselves were hoping for the cash injection which the new line would bring, and the loss of revenue here may affect their profit projection, although actual figures are very hard to track down.  The widely reported £600 million overspend on the project is unfortunate, but Crossrail is certainly not the first major construction project to be over budget.

It is regrettable that there is to be a delay in opening the core part of the line.  As well as the obvious cosmetic delays at the stations, signalling is also being highlighted as a problem area.  It is also quite possible that the problems encountered by Thameslink and Northern in May of this year have ‘spooked’ the rail industry so much, that another potential embarrassing moment was to be keenly avoided.

I do have a lot of sympathy with the businesses, particularly the small ones, along the route which will be affected by this decision.  Hopefully they will be able to continue trading until the line fully opens next year, when they should begin to see the benefits of a world class transit system.

Crossrail (Elizabeth line) is a necessary line for London and the surrounding areas.  The current underground system, although significantly upgraded, will not be able to expand to the levels required by an ever expanding London.  Speedy, direct trains from Heathrow to the Canary Wharf district via major inner London destinations will be crucial to allow London to continue to be a draw for major investors.

So in conclusion, as annoying and disruptive as this is, the Crossrail project is going to be late.  It is coming with an overspend, and possible financial hardship along its route.  But when it does eventually open, London will have a transit system fit for the 21st century, and hopefully London residents and business’ (big and small) will reap the benefits from it.


Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on YouTube.
Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on Instagram.
Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on Facebook.


That’s all for now, thanks for reading and I’ll blog again soon.

The Digital Railway

Last week (10th May 2018) , the British Government in association with Network Rail announced that it would be investing in a digital railway, but what is that?

Basically, for well over a hundred years, railway signalling in the UK is a “block” based system. That is, a pre defined area of railway ‘blocks’ divide up the network, and no two trains can occupy the same block at the same time. In recent years, if a train moves past a red signal in to an occupied block, the onboard safety system (TPWS) will apply the emergency brake. This system albeit very safe, is very inefficient. A better way would be to allow the trains to report their position, speed etc. This would allow trains to run safely at closer distances, and would increase the capacity on the network.

The cost would be high, but as many of the signalling systems in the UK are nearing an upgrade, the spend would not necessarily be in addition to works which have been already identified by Network Rail.

To better explain this, the following video from Network Rail shows the current system of signalling, and how the new digital systems would improve the UK rail network.


Please also visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on YouTube
Please also visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast On Instagram
Please also visit Mistydale Model Railway On Facebook


That’s all for now, thanks for reading, I’ll blog again soon.

UK Railway future overview

On Wednesday 29th November 2017, the government of the UK announced its vision for the future of the UK rail network.  After reading the publication myself, I will outline some of the proposals below.  Note these are only proposals, even though much press speculation in the UK before this publication hinted at an actual announcement of line re-openings and the such, none were set in stone in the report.

The all important funding question had pretty much been answered in October 2017, when the government announced that £34.7bn had been set aside for funding between 2019-2024 (in England and Wales, Scotland provides any investment separately).  This didn’t mean however that recently deferred projects, such as electrification would now go ahead.  Instead the report says there is a need to “prioritise and invest in essential work on the existing infrastructure”.  This may give some hope back to these projects, such as electrification to the south west line, but doesn’t specifically say so.

The issue of Network Rail, the organisation which looks after the infrastructure of the railway such as tracks and signalling was addressed.  The overall impression given by the report is to try to make Network Rails’ operation more regional, instead of centralised.  It is noted that this is where most problems have occurred because of the lack of local knowledge when planning engineering works.  By working closer with the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) in their specific region, and giving more control to the local teams, it is hoped a more streamlined and efficient timetable of works can be achieved on time.

The report also touches on developments in track signalling.  In what seems to be a hint at a major overhaul in the future, digital systems could be implemented.  These include:

  • c-DAS (connected-Driver Advisory System). A way to inform the driver en-route about potential route changes or speed restrictions in real time.
  • ETCS (European Train Control System).  Eliminates the need for trackside signalling, instead moving everything to the drivers cab.

Of the two listed above,, ETCS would only be implemented when current signalling comes to the end of their life.  This would mean a long wait for such a system here in Kent, as we have only just seen the end of the East Kent Signalling project.  However in 2015 funding was approved for ECTS signalling in Ashford, Kent, although an exact timetable is still to be approved.

With regard to “new” routes, the only concrete route planned is the previously announced restoration of service between Oxford and Cambridge, which will be undertaken by the East West Rail Company.  Other routes are discussed very briefly and are still deemed to be in proposal stage.  These include

  • Bristol to Portishead
  • Bristol to Henbury
  • Exeter to Oakhampton
  • Bere Alston to Tavistock

From a local point of view, many were hoping that the Uckfield to Lewes line would be mentioned in the report.  It isn’t, however after a question by Lewes MP Maria Caulfield Chris Grayling replied that “I would be delighted to see the route reopened, and I hope that the consortium pursuing the project will prove successful.”.  This presumably means that other national line reopening’s can be revisited, providing funding and feasibility can be achieved.

Ticketing was addressed in the report, with a definite lean towards “Smart Ticketing”, such as tickets on mobile.  Smartcard technology for short distance journeys, such as TFL’s Oyster Card, could be implemented on some routes.  Personally I still like a paper ticket, as the smart ticket relies on mobile connection and more importantly battery life!

It was good to see accessibility to the railway get a (albeit brief) mention in the report.  Access for all to the rail network is essential for everyone, regardless of any disability.  Not just step free access, but proper training for staff to deal with customers with accessibility needs.

Investment in Wi-Fi technology was also mentioned, with at least £35 million set aside for trials.  Many networks do have Wi-Fi enabled trains, and it is good to see that investment here was forthcoming.

As far as the franchises go, the company which controls the much maligned Southern Rail, Govia Thameslink, could be broken up.  Much has been said in the Media about this franchise, so my suggestion here is to access a search engine, read for yourself and make your own mind up!  As far as my region, SouthEastern, is concerned, a new joint team of Network Rail staff and TOC will take responsibility.  This is in conjunction to the paragraph earlier about Network Rail integration.  The new franchise here is due to be announced in 2018.  Other prospective franchises are detailed on page 36-38 of the report.

As a rail enthusiast, I have always felt that freight carried by rail is an integral part of the UK economy.  I was therefore glad to see a continuation of 2016’s rail freight strategy in the report.  This includes provision to provide funding for improvements to rail freight up to 2024.

In conclusion, the report does include many great ideas which, if implemented, will improve the UK Rail network.  Integration between the TOCs and Network Rail is a sensible move, as is the proposed improvement to track signalling.  It unfortunately stopped short of headline line re-openings, but did hint at willingness to do so.

The full report can be read HERE

Videos of mine can be found on my YouTube channel, Rainham Rail Enthusiast .  Thanks for reading, I’ll blog again soon.