UK Railway News (w/e 28/06/2020)

Selected railway news from around the UK this past week. Some links may require a free subscription.

The most exiting news came from the north of England this week, as a new rail charter company has been established. Dedicated to the Settle and Carlisle line, services will begin this summer, and help to boost the industry whilst we tentatively come out of the Covid-19 crisis. Support from Northern Trains, Network Rail and also local support, the new company, ‘Rail Charter Services LTD’ will work with the Settle Carlisle Railway Development Company. It will utilise top and tail class 47’s, and cater for the general market, although enthusiasts are of course welcome. The main difference between this and a enthusiast journey however is that it is to be planned as a daily service , rather than a one off. The rolling stock will be ex-Greater Anglia MK 3 coaches, and as such reflect the general nature of the journeys (enthusiast experiences tend to err on the 1st class or luxury coaching stock). Much more detail on this exciting news, including sample pricing can be read both here : Daily tourist trains to serve England’s ‘most scenic’ railway and here : Class 47 locomotives to operate timetabled Skipton to Appleby trains this summer

A new station serving the Cambridge Biomedical Campus came a step closer this week with Network Rail choosing a preferred location alongside the facility. More on this can be read here : Cambridge South station preferred location selected

Facial biometrics are to be trialled at Eurostar’s St Pancras International station. This hopefully will eliminate the need for contact with people or equipment during the check in process. Using a smartphone app, the passenger would take a selfie and then the app would verify against the booking documents. Sophisticated software checks the validity of the photo as a real person, as apposed to just photo of a photo or video. It is hoped the system will go live in early 2021. Read more here : Eurostar to test facial biometrics for ‘walk-through’ check-in

That’s it for this week, many thanks for reading and more news next Sunday.

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UK Railway News (w/e 21/06/2020)

A look at some news in the UK railway industry this past week. Some links may require a free subscription.

East coast trains have their class 803 trains now in production at Hitachi Rail in Newton Aycliffe. The trains will be eventually used on the open access route from London to Edinburgh. These are 5 car AT300 trainsets, and only contain standard class accommodation. Read more here : East Coast Trains class 803 production begins.

In other rolling stock news, South Western Trains have had their first delivery of their Class 701’s to Eastleigh for testing. The full order will be for 60 10 -car and 30 5-car EMU sets, and will run on commuter routes in and out of London Waterloo. More on this here : South Western Railway’s first Class 701 delivered.

A depot is to be rebuilt for the new Tyne and Wear metro trains. The swiss company ‘VolkerFitzpatrick’ will undertake the work to look after the rolling stock they are providing for the local metro system. These are due into service in 2023, but the depot is not schedules to be fully operational until 2025. Read more here : Tyne & Wear Metro depot rebuilding contract awarded.

Finally, Transport for London announced that a phased restart of its improvement and construction projects had started. These include the Bank capacity upgrade and the Northern line Extension. Work will initially be done using split shifts, with social distancing, dedicated walking routes and more staff welfare areas to name but a few. More about this can be read here: TfL’s construction projects to commence phased restart

Thats it for this week. Thanks for reading and more news next Sunday

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UK Railway News (w/e/ 14/06/20)

A round up of UK railway news this week. Some links may require a free subscription.

As a reminder, face coverings are required when travelling on all forms of public transport in England from Monday 15th June. Fines can be issued for anyone not wearing a covering, and also you will be prevented from boarding if you do not have one on. further clarification can be found here : Face coverings to become mandatory on public transport

The new Kidderminster station opened on 7th June, unfortunately with no ceremony due to Covid-19. The glass fronted structure is twice the size of the original, and contains many features which make it a more roomy and pleasant environment for passengers. Read more here : New-look Kidderminster Station opens to West Midlands Railway passengers

A major bottle neck in south London could be eased if plans get through another round of public consultation. The Selhurst triangle which is north Croydon is heavily used, and can cause substantial delays, much like the tangled web of lines that used to go into London Bridge. Proposals include dive-unders and flyovers to relieve this congestion. More of the proposals can be read here : Consultation underway on revised Croydon Area Remodelling Scheme plan

Not much else of note this week. Many thanks for reading this blog, more news next Sunday.

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UK Railway News (w/e 07/06/2020)

Some news from around the UK press this past week. Some links may require a free subscription to the page.

First up, if you haven’t seen it, is another ‘repaint’ of a UK class 66 in recognition of UK keyworkers. This time DB have got in on the act:

HS2 again was in the press this week, with a plan to create extensive links to the Toton HS2 hub. This would include not only road, but tram, bus and regional rail links. With over 20 villages and towns within access of the HS2 station, good links will be needed in order to facilitate demand for access. The full article can be read here : £2·7bn plan for transport links to Toton HS2 hub

The company ‘Zipabout’ has begun implementing its research technology with Network Rail to inform passengers if a train they are likely to catch will be busy. Historic usage data along with more recent data will be used to best inform customers about services likely to be busy. This will be done in form of either a red or yellow warning against that service, advising accordingly. More information about this can be read here : National Rail to offer ‘busy station’ alerts

Four brand new railway stations in Wales could become reality if plans submitted to the UK Government get approval. Carno, St Clears, Ely Mill and Deeside Parkway have all been proposed. This would be in addition to the two stations at Bow Street, Aberystwyth and Cardiff Parkway which are already at an advanced stage. Full story can be read here : Four new railway stations for Wales proposed to be built by 2024

Finally, as you may have read I have become a member of the East Kent Railway, and this weekend was a great milestone in recovery. They have opened their woodland walks and café to visitors from Saturday 6th June. I wish them well with this and a possible full re-opening in the near future (albeit with social distancing measures) and hope to get down there myself very soon. Full details on this exciting development can be read here :

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Railway News (w/e 31/05/2020)

Some news that has been noted from the UK railway industry this week (railway gazette articles will require a free subscription):

Govia Thameslink are using a 30-day ‘Coronavirus killer’ on trains and stations on their network. The viruscide sticks to surfaces and will be applied once every 21 days. An app had been introduced to track which areas and rolling stock have been sprayed, so that the visuside can be re-applied when necessary. Full story can be read here : Govia Thameslink Railway uses 30-day ‘coronavirus killer’

Business cases will be allowed on the following projects, reports ‘Rail Business UK’ . These are :

Reopening Meir station near Longton on the Stoke-on-Trent – Derby line;

Providing regular passenger services on the Barrow Hill line between Sheffield and Chesterfield via Beighton;

Reintroducing passenger services on the Leicester – Coalville – Burton upon Trent ‘Ivanhoe’ line;

Provision of a passing loop to enable a more frequent service to be provided on the St Albans Abbey – Watford Junction ‘Abbey’ line;

Reopening stations at Wellington in Somerset and Cullompton in Devon on the Taunton – Exeter main line;

Introducing passenger services on the Bury – Heywood – Rochdale line, most of which is operated as the heritage East Lancashire Railway. This route had also been identified by Transport for Greater Manchester in 2019 for a possible tram-train trial;

Extending the Blackburn – Clitheroe passenger service from Clitheroe to Hellifield to link with the Leeds – Carlisle route;

Building a new parkway station at Lydeway to serve Devizes;

Reinstating passenger services on the Totton – Fawley branch in Hampshire, branded the Waterside Line;

Extension of the Island Line south from Shanklin to Wroxall and Ventnor; and integration with the existing Isle of Wight Steam Railway to provide passenger services from Ryde to Newport.

Remember these are only Business cases. They are not a green light for the projects, and many will fall at the wayside.

The one which most interests me is the ‘possible’ extension of the Island line on the Isle of Wight. Would be great to see trains run back to Ventnor through the tunnel, an experience many have not seen. The information here was taken from this article in Rail Business UK : 10 rail schemes awarded business case development funding

Practices that have been implemented by West Midlands Trains due to the covid-19 epidemic, could be used by other operators. Factors such as social distancing in stations and loading indications on trains are being used, so that other stations down the line can monitor how full an oncoming train is. This colour coded system could be applied and enable dynamic station skips or closures. The full story can be read here : West Midlands Trains leads on social distancing approach as rail services ramp up

Another plan for a HS2 station was unveiled this week. The East Midlands could get a transport hub when (or if) the spur from Birmingham up to Leeds is built. The hub would be built at Toton, giving many communities the ability to use the new High Speed network. Full story on this exciting project can be read here : HS2: Plans for East Midlands transport hub link unveiled

That’s all for this week, thank you for reading and there will be another update next Sunday.

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Rail Press News (April/May 2020)

Some stories from the rail press in the past month:

(all links may require signing up to rail gazette – which is free and provides newsletters when appropriate direct to your inbox)

The Manchester Metrolink and Mersey rail are facing a financial situation due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester said that services could be cut unless the UK government supplied some means of support. The same was said by the Liverpool City counterpart Steve Rotherham. Full story can be read here : Manchester Metrolink faces financial crisis and Merseyrail struggling to survive, mayors warn

The UK’s Network Rail has converted some signalling testing workshops which were out of use for training signallers to keep trains moving in the Wales and West region during the Coronavirus pandemic. The entire refurb took only four weeks, a huge achievement. Full story can be read here : Signaller training centre to keep trains moving through the pandemic

Various trains have had new ‘skins’ to celebrate the hard work of the UK’s NHS during the current crisis. In this article, Thameslink operator Govia shows how it transformed three of its 700 series EMU’s to say thank you to Keyline health workers. Full story can be read here : Trains branded in tribute to the NHS

The Curzon Street HS2 station was approved by Birmingham City Council in April. The station aims to be carbon Neutral with an extensive solar panels on platform canopies and a rainwater recycling system. Full story can be read here : ‘Confident and contemporary’ Curzon Street HS2 station approved

LNER has put online drivers eye view of many of its routes. Other routes are due to be added in the next few weeks, including London to Leeds. The Videos can be viewed here : LNER cab rides

That’s all for now, but I hope to expand on this news service a little more by putting up a key bulletin every Sunday from now on.

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London Termini – Cannon Street

The essence of a true commuter station, very quiet during the day but in the morning and evening a hive of activity. Served only by the SouthEastern Railway and serving only Kent and Sussex, this central London hub has a varied but solid history.

A Brief History

The South Eastern Railway Company started construction in 1863, from a design by Sir John Hawkshaw. The railway entered via a 706ft bridge which at this stage only carried 5 lines. This was increased to 10 during the late 1800’s. The engine shed roof was an impressive 190ft wide and more than 680ft long, with a central lantern section which ran almost the entire length.

On the bridge side, two towers sit either side of the bridge, each adorned with a square domed roof and spire. It was found during restoration in 1986, that the east tower contained a water tank, either for replenishing the locomotives or for use in powering the stations hydraulic lift systems.

A hotel was built on the front entrance of the station. At only 5 stories it was one of the smallest station hotels, but had turrets mirroring those of the main towers. Like most railway hotels however, the popularity waned in the early 1900’s and it closed to customers in 1931.

The station officially opened in September 1866, and provided additional services to and from Charing Cross via a 7 minute shuttle, considerably quicker than the 35 minute walk. However, the advent of the district railway a few years later would render these shuttles almost useless.

The trainshed roof was extensively damaged during an air raid in 1941, and engineers deemed that replacing the glass would not be possible. The structure stood in skeleton form until 1958, when it was demolished in the first re-model of the station.

The new office complex which replaced the hotel was derided by critics, and certainly wasn’t as grand as the original Hotel. It was followed in the 1980’s by a ‘floating’ office block above the station platforms, held up by a 6000 ton metal frame. The block nearest the river has a roof garden, and slightly protrudes the two towers.

A quick view of the station today

Going in via the right hand steps on Cannon Street itself, you are greeted by a British Rail Sign hanging from the roof and a blue “Welcome to Cannon Street Station” sign. Immediately at the top of the two flights of stairs to your right is the entrance to the Underground station.

The low ceiling, clad in silver stripes with bright lighting makes you feel penned in. The floor, a cream tile with grey borders almost makes it feel like a department store. This aside, you remember that this is just a “people mover” station, so modern clean almost clinical lines wont be noticed by the thousands using it each day.

View to the station entrance from platform 7

To the right is a coffee shop, then the ticketing office and finally the toilets. Straight ahead are the gatelines to platforms 4-7. Look to your left here and a statue called “The Plumbers Apprentice”, which commemorates 400 years of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers. Their hall was once on the ground of the station.

The Plumbers Apprentice

Carry on past the statue and on your right will be ticketing machines and the gatelines to platforms 1-3. Directly ahead is a retail outlet and a pub/restaurant. Turning back towards the street and by the steps on your right is the lift down to the Underground Station.

Moving onto the platforms, ex Network South East overhead clocks continue to click away, and the pillars in the centre of the platform still contain the Network South East colour banding at the base.

As you move outside, to the left is a view over the River Thames to Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast and The Shard. To the Right you will see both Southwark and Blackfriars bridges, as well as the Tate Modern.

But look back towards the station and the full glory of the two original towers rise before you. A very impressive site, and totally at odds with the office block in the middle, yet somehow it does fit together. In my view it only goes to enhance the old structure.

The two towers of Cannon Street

Cannon Street with all its stark modern looks deceives you, and the small things like the Statue, Network South East reminders and of course the towers are reasons to just spend a little more time looking around you, rather than rushing to get that train home.


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London Termini – King’s Cross

Signage in the underground station

King’s Cross; for a lot of people the station symbolises two very different train services. One steeped in history – The Flying Scotsman – the other pure fantasy – The Hogwarts Express. Whilst one is real and the other fictitious, it is fair to say that if you mention Kings Cross to many of the public, they will utter either or both of them.

A brief history

A practical station for a practical railway. That is how the Great Northern Railway saw it when they opened it in 1852. A station with a modest frontage, made from yellow London bricks and a wooden roof, complimented with two 100ft roof spans over the platforms. These roofs being supported by brick pillars, today in the centre of island platform 4 and 5.

Trains enter and leave the station via the Gas Works tunnel, which passes under the Regent’s Canal. A major goods yard for coal was also contained within the station, although this does not remain.

It looked totally at odds with St Pancras next door; that station when opened 16 years later was oozing with grandeur. A clock adorned the front of the building, and quirkily was rumoured to never have the same time showing as that of its neighbour at St Pancras. King’s Cross as a railway station, however, would for the majority of the next 150 years be the more successful of the two.

For all the footfall though, the station remained unloved for a long time. Indeed in the 1960’s, the square out front was partially covered with a new travel centre for British Rail. This however obscured the lower half of the original frontage, and looked at odds with it.

A quick view of the current station

In 2007, work started on a new concourse, and what a unique structure it is. A single rising 150ft “Diagrid” roof, underpinned at its base down 50ft. It spreads out like a metal web, encapsulating the new concourse with its shops and bars. The feeling of space even during the busy periods is amazing, and differing colours are sometimes projected upon it.

The travel centre was removed, enabling the square to be reinstated and the full frontage to again be seen. To the left side of said frontage, an entrance to the new concourse can be seen. Going through this, the superb new roof opens up in all its splendour. Immediately to your right are entrance gates to the platforms, to your left are escalators up to a mezzanine level This contains a seating area and eating and drinking places.

Going back down to floor level via the escalators on the other side of the mezzanine, if you turn right, you will see arrivals and departure boards, and underneath the new travel centre. To the left of the travel centre is the Harry Potter shop, with a photo opportunity platform 9 3/4 area.

Going under the mezzanine, more shops on both sides as you are then greeted with a glazed front, from which you can see St Pancras International. Stairs down to the Underground are also here, one of many access points to the labyrinth of tunnels which form King’s Cross St Pancras underground Station.

Pictures below were taken on 22nd January 2019, and thanks goes to the station manager and Network Rail for enabling me to photograph extensively on that date:

A view to the train sheds from the end of platform 10
The view from island platform 4 and 5, showing the train shed, the centre brick column being obscured by the light fixture.
The gasworks tunnels.
A view down roads 1 and 2, notice platform 0 to the left.
Clock situated on platform 1
A view down to platform 6
The fantastic canopy over the new concourse
The canopy. Note original station building behind.
The Harry Potter shop – the photo opportunity “Platform 9 3/4” is immediately right of this, and is always busy
The fantastic exterior, with the square in the foreground

Here is a video, also taken on the day, from my YouTube site :


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