All posts by Simon Russell

Thameslink improvements coming in stages

Project derisked: 24tph not till December 2019

A phased introduction is planned for the Thameslink Programme improvements to ensure operational robustness when the extra services are introduced. ‘A “Big Bang” is a bad idea’ Chris Gibb, independent chair of the Thameslink Industry Readiness Board, told Modern Railways. The former Virgin boss added: ‘I still bear the scars of “Operation Princess” and I am determined to avoid the same mistakes again’, referring to the upsets when Virgin reshaped the CrossCountry timetable in 2002.

Network Rail is on target to complete the remodelling of London Bridge in January 2018 and now the focus is on operating the new timetable. The idea behind the Industry Readiness Board’s plan is that operating staff should be made familiar with the new arrangements in stages, to allow new services to be bedded in gradually before additional changes are introduced. This will include running a small number of trains from the Great Northern route into the Thameslink core from April 2018 to build up driver and station familiarisation.

Around 70% of the capacity benefits will still be delivered in May 2018 when 18 trains per hour (tph) will operate through the core section between Blackfriars and St Pancras at peak times. In addition to the Thameslink changes, the full introduction of the new Southern timetable at the same time promises greater reliability, in particular on the metro routes.

Thameslink frequency will then be progressively ramped up, with 20tph introduced in December 2018, 22tph in May 2019 and finally the full 24tph service in December 2019. Traffic Management (TM), European Train Control System (ETCS) and Automatic Train Operation (ATO) for passenger trains will come in during 2018 as planned, but Mr Gibb says these are not essential until May 2019.

Mr Gibb praised industry partners who have co-operated on the Thameslink Industry Readiness Board, saying the Thameslink Programme was in a better place thanks to the constructive attitude displayed by all the operators concerned, along with Network Rail.

For full details of how the Thameslink service will be phased, plus a FREE 16-page supplement on the Thameslink Programme, see the December issue of Modern Railways, on sale on 23 November

Outstanding innovations rewarded

The best innovations in the rail industry were in the spotlight at the annual Railway Industry Innovation Awards, held in London on 23 June.

The awards, the longest-standing within the industry, invite entries from firms in all areas of the industry across seven categories. Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, was guest of honour and keynote speaker at the 2017 ceremony, and used his speech to highlight the importance of innovations in improving the passenger experience.

The winners of the 2017 awards were as follows:

Winner – Freyssinet, ElevArch bridge raising system
Highly commended – Vivarail, battery D train; Turbo Power Systems, static converter for Mk 3 carriages

Cross-industry partnership
Winner – Atkins, Carillion Buckingham joint venture, Chiltern Railways, Network Rail, RSK and Siemens, East West Rail project
Highly commended – Unipart Rail and VolkerRail, Overhead line equipment facilities; Bombardier, CrossCountry, Virgin Trains and Voyager Leasing, 58th Voyager trainset

Passenger experience
Winner – SilverRail, account-based travel
Highly commended – London Midland, Icomera, Whoosh, VCCP, Motion infotainment system; Parkeon, IRIS video ticket vending machines

Judges’ special award for Wi-Fi innovation – Nomad Digital, live broadcast TV

Operations and performance
Winner – Tracsis, TRACS enterprise resource management and planning system
Highly commended – Multipulse, GSM-R driver simulator; Incremental Solutions, Sentinel live fleet management system

Small scale project
Winner – Virgin Trains East Coast, Explorer app
Highly commended – SNC-Lavalin, Signal Sighting Form Tool; Amco, Liverpool Central tunnel high level neck

Engineering and safety
Winner – Porterbrook, Greater Anglia and partners, Class 156 wheel slide protection fitment
Highly commended – Keltbray Rail, Zeck wiring machine; Atkins, digitally enabling electrification

Major project
Winner – Northern Hub Alliance, Ordsall Chord

A full write-up of the awards will appear in the August 2017 issue of Modern Railways.

GWR ‘387s’ reach Maidenhead

EMU operations to ramp up by September

Great Western Railway has introduced its first Class 387 Electrostar EMUs on services between London Paddington and Maidenhead.

A phased transfer of diagrams to EMU operation is planned ahead of full service as far as Maidenhead in September, and GWR says this will deliver a 40% increase in seating capacity in the Thames Valley. Extension of EMU operation west to Reading and Didcot Parkway is due to take place in January 2018.
GWR has ordered a total of 45 four-car Class 387s from Bombardier, financed by Porterbrook. It first introduced the ‘387s’ on shuttle services between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington in January. Eventually they will operate in 12-car formations.