UK Railway News (w/e 12/07/2020)

Some news from the UK railway industry this week, some articles may frequire a free subscription.

An agreement has finally Been signed to allow direct trains from London to Amsterdam. In the past, coming back from Amsterdam meant catching a local Thalys service to Brussels, dis-embarking through border checks and then joining the Eurostar. These checks will now be done at Amsterdam, enabling passengers to bard the Eurostar directly. However the new services will not come into effect until later in 2020. Read more here : Agreements signed to allow direct Amsterdam – London trains

Blackpool’s trams will begin operating again on July 19th 2020. Due to Covid-19, the services had been suspended since 29th March 2020. The services will be every 20 minutes with social distancing measures in place. More can be read here : Blackpool trams to resume as UK light rail operators reflect government guidance

Snowdon mountain railway has taken delivery of two hybrid locomotives. The engines are highly efficient, with regenerated braking being used to charge the batteries on the downhill run. The railway is also expected to open on July 10th 2020, with the relevant social distancing measures in place. More here : Two hybrid locomotives unveiled as Snowdon Mountain Railway reopens

Not much else of note this week. As always, many thanks for reading and i’ll blog again next week.

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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/ 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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Rail Press News (March/April)….

What has been in the press about UK Railways in the last month (16 March 2020 to 16 April 2020) :

Railway Business UK reported on the 7th April that improved performance figures have occurred since the Lockdown in the UK; not much of a surprise really!! But the real point of the article is that this is due to the reduced services and amounts to an experiment which would not ordinarily been able to happen. You can read the full article here : Railway Business UK performance article

Meanwhile, a ‘Metro Report’ article highlighted the fact the Manchester Metrolink to Old Trafford Park opened on the 22nd march 2020. This is an important extension to the Metrolink and attaches the Metro to the rest of the network at Poroma. More information can be had within the full article: Metro Report Trafford Park Article.

Rail Business UK reports on the testing of the new class 720 fleet for Greater Anglia. It reports the first train completed its first test into London Liverpool Street in early April. The full report can be viewed here : Rail Business UK report on Class 720

Also in Rail Business UK, on 15th April the UK Government asked the promoter of HS2 to give its main contractors a ‘Notice to proceed’. This allows contractors to plan to get the right workers in the right place ready for the construction of the new line, and is a welcome step in this current uncertain economic climate. You can read the full article here : Rail Business UK report on HS2.

In other UK news from ‘Rail Business UK’, mini reports on HS2 growth stratagies, Scotrails decision to withdraw on board catering facilities, and an RAIB report on a near miss at Kirtlebridge, Dumfries and Galloway, can all be viewed via this link : Rail Business UK roundup

Many thanks, I hope these are of interest.

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London Waterloo Station Walkthrough

On my other YouTube channel, John Explores, I take a small walk through Waterloo Station.


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London Bridge re-signalling scheme 1970’s

Before the re-imagining of London Bridge station in the 2010’s, it was the subject of a huge re-signaling scheme in the mid 1970’s. The idea was to completely redesign the approach, especially across Borough Market Junction. This was a notorious bottleneck where trains from Charing Cross and Cannon Street, as well as approaching traffic from Kent and Sussex would almost always grind to a halt at peak times.

The solution was to create more throughput by using crossovers from Charing Cross and Cannon Street and using a new flyover at St Johns. Some terminal platforms were also connected to the Charing Cross lines in order to facilitate more throughput.

The entire area would be controlled via a massive new signal control room at London Bridge, which would mean the demise of at least 16 smaller signal boxes nearby.

Amazingly for such a large project, it was finished on time, at a cost of £21.5 million pounds in 1978. Below are some scans from a mini booklet produced by British Rail to commemorate the achievement.

I must thank Mr David Bonnett, who very kindly donated this leaflet and other materials to myself.


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London Termini – Marylebone

The last terminus to be built in London, Marylebone has never really been finished. It was designed with future expansion in mind, but still only has 6 platforms today, and for much of its life only had 4. Very quiet during the day it springs into live during the rush hours, or when a major event is going on at the nearby Wembley complex. However this is its charm. With an expansive concourse, it’s just a nice place to sit and reflect during those quiet times.

A Brief History

The station was built for the Grand Central Railway, a company formed out of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. The terminus for that railway was only 2 miles north of Marylebone, but building an extension down to Marylebone would come with massive planning problems.

One of these was from the MCC at the Lords Cricket Ground, who massively objected to the original proposals which would see the railway go straight through the nursery end of the ground. After many years of argument, it was agreed that the railway company would purchase and relocate the orphanage next to the ground. This would enable the railway to be put in place using the ‘cut and cover’ technique. The ground was then put back as it was, with the railway running under the Nursey end.

The work on this completed in 1898, and it was then that the Grand Central Railway title was introduced. The new terminus however suffered from the money spent to do all the extra work, including a high speed railway link for the railway to Nottingham. It was therefore proposed to be a simple but elegant terminus.

A four platform trainshed was put in place, which only covered 495ft of the total 950ft platform length. It was envisioned that more platforms would be added during the early 20th century, but low passenger numbers would mean that this didn’t happen at this time. However the station would boast an extensive concourse, and the glass roof provided natural light which flooded in.

A station hotel was built opposite the station on Melcombe place, and is arguably the most opulent of all the London station hotels. A massive central atrium is inside and it still has that feel of early 20th Century rail travel. It was only converted once, into railway offices between 1945 and 1986. It was then purchased in 1986 and re-opened as a hotel in 1993.

Marylebone was never going to be a busy station however. The nearby Euston and Kings cross had been taking passengers north for over 40 years. Many attempts to close the station occurred between 1960 and 1986 (the Beeching review and cuts of 1966 meant that Marylebone would only provide trains as far north as Birmingham), but eventually was given a full reprieve as British Rail decided to creative a new working group for the station.

This allowed it to be more adventurous with its route planning, including heritage excursions and special event trains. The privatisation of the UK rail network in 1996 saw Chiltern Railways take over, and they have successfully managed it ever since.

A quick view of the current station

Moving toward the main entrance at Melcombe Place, you will see the ornate canopy over the road and taxi rank. Behind you is the impressive Landmark London Hotel. The pillars here are great, black with a red motif around a third of the way up.

As we enter via the main entrance on Melcombe Place you will see above the writing of Marylebone Station in stonework. Next to this you can still see the uncoloured logo of Network South East (the last British Rail operator for the line before privatisation).

Entering the station, note the GCR logos on the gates. In fact this logo can be found all around the station, especially over exits in the brickwork. The station here opens out in front of you, with the platforms directly ahead under the impressive canopy and trainshed.

Move slightly further in and you will se an electronic information board to your left. Underneath this are electronic ticketing machines. Turn left now, and go towards and past these information boards so that they are on your right as you go past. You will see the station information booth in front of you. This is also the station reception as well.

Moving past the information centre you will see yet more electronic ticket machines below some distinctive Network South East branding. If you now turn directly to your right you will see the ticket office. Moving forward a little further and the entrance to the Underground station is on your left.

Ticket machines with the old Network Southeast branding still visible

Turn 180 degrees back towards the information centre and go past it. The ladies toilets are directly in front of you. Now turn right and walk down this part of the concourse. Various retail outlets are on your left, the current M&S store is housed in what used to be the ticketing hall. Some Cash machines are on your right.

Around half way down this hall on the left are three plaques. The top one is the coat of arms of the Great Central Railway, the next is dedicated to the centenary of the birth of Sir John Betjeman, and the last one is dedicated to the centenary of the station in 1999.

Moving back down the concourse to the end wall, where a further three plaques sit. These are dedicated to those railway employees who died during World War One. Two are on bronze sheets and the third is on a marble stone.

The marble plaque dedication to railway workers who were killed in the First World War

Carry on down past the plaques, and as it narrows, the Gents toilets are on your right. Now carry on through the arch and past a public house. You will see an exit here, but of more interest is the framed information on the walls, detailing the history of the station. They are very interesting and worth spending time reading.

Information boards at the entrance to the station at Harewood Avenue

Instead of exiting into Harewood avenue, lets re-trace our steps back into the station and go towards the Information centre once more. Take time to look up an appreciate the roof here, with the light flooding in over the whole concourse.

Go past the information boards and turn left to see the platforms ahead of you. If you are able, go through the gate lines onto these platforms. You really get the sense of the wider than usual platforms, and there is an extensive bike rack on platform 3 which is nearly two thirds the length of the trainshed.

The huge bike rack at platform 3

Move out further past the edge of the roof and look back. This shows off the trainshed really well, with the ornate pillars of red which hold it up. The station really does have a great feel, and although not as grand as say St Pancras, is nonetheless extremely appealing.

A view back to the trainshed

A view of trains departing and arriving at Marylebone can be seen below


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