Ep 8 Safely shaping a sustainable railway, Martin Frobisher

Martin Frobisher, Group director, Safety, Technical & Engineering and Network Rail, joins us in the RTM Podcast room to discuss the renewable railway of the future and safety on the track. As a Director of industry giant, Network Rail, Martin has a lot of advice regarding safety and security on railways, but it might not be what you think.

With hosts Emily Rodgers and Ailsa Cowen, the conversation kept flowing in the RTM podcast room in Manchester as we hear all Martin’s role in ensuring the 42,000 network rail staff are working safely, and how this can spread to the wider supply chain.

Find out Martin’s opinion on the Oakervee review, his work with RSSB and what aspect he thinks ‘Britain’s railway has got it right’.

Martin believes that technology is the key to a safer railway and that modern systems can take people away from the path of trains and a Safety Taskforce that has already seen a 30% reduction in the number of people working with lookout flags making a 70% reduction in near missed from people using that method of work.

Another area of passion for Martin is environmental, he talks in depth about a fully electric railway and says a zero-carbon railway is the really big picture for the next 20/30 years.


Wherry Lines see introduction of new signalling system

130 years of signalling history came to an end today (Feb 17th) on the Wherry lines alongside the reopening of the Norwich to Yarmouth line.

This follows completion of work to introduce a new computerised signalling system, improving dependability of train services.

A section of the East Suffolk line from Beccles to Lowestoft also reopened today.

Having been shut since February 1st engineers have switched the signalling system over from the old, Victorian mechanical signals which have been in place for over 130 years, to the modern computer-based system.

Work on the Norwich to Yarmouth line took place at level crossings including Brundall, Lingwood Chapel Road and Station Road to put in place full barriers and crossing lights along with upgrade work to numerous user worked crossing such as Acle Marshes to develop crossing safety.

New signals were also powered up along the lines and signalling engineers moved the last of the local signal box controls to Colchester as part of the modernisation programme.

Signalling work has also took place on the Norwich to Lowestoft line as well as track upgrade works at Lowestoft and renewal points outside of Oulton Broad North allowing railway trains to be directed from one track to another.

Brundall level crossing


The reopening of the Norwich to Yarmouth and Beccles to Lowestoft lines will allow engineers to now focus on delivering just over three kilometres of track renewals at Hassingham, improving the journey quality for passengers.

Conclusive work is taking place at Cantely, Strumpshaw and Oulton Broad North level crossings to bring them into use when the Norwich to Lowestoft line is expected to reopen on 24 February.

Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, Ellie Burrows, said: “The completion of the re-signalling work is a significant milestone for the history of the Wherry lines. and we are in a really good position to complete the track works at Hassingham and reintroduce train services on the Norwich to Lowestoft line on 24 February.”

Director at engineering consultancy Atkins, Scott Kelley, said: “Working closely with Network Rail and our supply chain partners, we look forward to completing the transformation of this important route which will serve communities right across Anglia.”



What Does HS2 Mean for the Job Market?

By Oliver Gooch

Earlier this week Boris Johnson confirmed that HS2 will go ahead. Despite controversies over the cost and management of the project, the Prime Minister has committed to finishing the scheme so future generations will benefit from infrastructure regeneration. Responsibility for delivery will lie with an appointed minister to oversee the project which also has the support of local government leaders in the regions that will benefit from a better rail connection.

Now the decision has been made, attention will turn to the skills that will be needed to ensure the HS2 is completed by 2040. In September 2019, an HS2 Phase 2a Information Paper states that at its peak, HS2 will support 30,000 jobs in rail and engineering activities and create 3,100 permanent jobs in services and maintenance. In addition to these roles, the construction and operation of Phase 1 and 2 stations and depots is expected to create 40,000 accessible jobs .

Undoubtedly, there will be a skills shortage in the short term whilst schemes are put into place to attract and train new entrants to the talent pool. In fact, the lack of suitable skills is probably the biggest challenge HS2 will face. As experienced infrastructure and rail recruiters, we are well aware of the skills gap that already exists in the sector, especially as we are in unchartered waters with Brexit likely resulting in the withdrawal of some existing workers.

On balance, however, the news for the rail and infrastructure recruitment market is positive. HS2 opportunities have the potential to shape the careers of a generation of soon to be school and college leavers that can be funnelled into the newly created roles. A number of apprenticeship schemes already exist, and we expect these to increase significantly. Up-skilling the current workforce will also be necessary. With the right support and training, HS2 will create some amazing opportunities for every level of worker throughout the HS2 supply chain.

For more information about HS2 and other rail jobs we are recruiting for, please contact Oliver Gooch, Lead Consultant.


[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/829002/H2_Skills_and_Employment_v1.2.pdf

£46m depot unveiled in Wigan

Officially opened on Friday (Feb 7th) the new £46m state-of-the-art train depot in Wigan has been built by Network Rail alongside Arriva Rail North.

The depot will provide a home for many of Northern’s new trains that will be cleaned and cared for, allowing the operator greater flexibility to uphold its fleet, therefore improving performance and punctuality for rail passengers.

Local politicians and rail industry representatives attend the opening of the deport which was built by Network Rail as part of the Great North Rail Project. It is located next to an existing freight train yard at Spring Branch in Ince-in-Makerfield and has created 18 new jobs in the area.

The depot will provide Northern extra space for maintaining 24 electric and eight diesel trains overnight in preparation for service across the north the day after.

The £46m funding by the Department for Transport has involved 3,400m of new track, 42 new pylons and 2,600m of new overhead line equipment. Five new service platforms have been constructed and 1,750m of walkways for staff who will operate the facility safely.

Springs Branch 4

Leader of Wigan Council, Councillor David Molyneux said: “This is a fantastic new facility for Wigan Borough and we hope the enhanced travel experience encourages passengers to visit Wigan. Supporting people into work and helping people to develop their skills is a key priority for the council so it’s great to hear that 18 new jobs have been created to facilitate this.”

Managing Director of Arriva UK Trains, Chris Burchell said: “I’m proud of the teams that have been involved in building this new £46m facility, which is part and parcel of a wider transformation of rail in the north. We’ve already rolled out 62 of the 101 promised new trains and set strong foundations for future improvement on the network, including the complete removal of pacers by May.”

Lauren Rodgers, Project Manager at Network Rail said: “The rail industry has come together to build this £46m new train depot at Springs Branch, and we’re really happy to have created 18 jobs.

“But, this much-needed infrastructure will really benefit passengers, as it not only helps keep trains clean and tidy, it also creates more operational space for Northern to move units more reliably and punctually across the north west.”

Images: Northern


Digital Displacement project on track to reduce rail emissions

With challenging targets to radically reduce railway CO2 emissions, Artemis Intelligent Power is looking at the potential of Digital Displacement® hydraulics as a novel route to lower emissions for freight locomotives, shunters and on-track plant.

The UK rail industry is committed to the UK Government’s goal of reaching net carbon zero by 2050 – however, the route to getting there is not easy.

Whist low carbon electricity offers an obvious solution, the electrification of GB’s entire rail network is challenging, whilst other fuel solutions such as green hydrogen are not yet market ready.

One Edinburgh company – Artemis Intelligent Power – has taken a different approach. Rather than looking at the energy source, they have developed a Digital Displacement® hydraulic technology which they claim can radically improve system efficiency wherever it is used – and thereby reduce energy use (and, with it, CO2).

They are now working closely with the University of Huddersfield and Direct Rail Services to undertake a project funded by the RSSB as part of the Intelligent Power Solutions research competition launched in October 2018.

The project – Digital Displacement for Non-Passenger Rail – is examining the possibilities provided by Digital Displacement technology as a more efficient alternative to conventional hydraulic pumps for providing traction and auxiliary power for freight locomotives, shunters and on-track plant.

The team is currently working on three work packages:

  • Specify the Digital Displacement pump hydrostatic cooling system for a large locomotive
  • Pursue pump swap opportunities for road-rail and track maintenance vehicles
  • Develop a modular drive system concept for small locomotives and track maintenance vehicles

According to Artemis’s project lead Gordon Voller, the project is going well.

“So far we have seen some very positive results for all three work packages. We found that the DDP096 pump, which is our first commercial product (available from Danfoss Power Solutions), is a good fit for many of these applications.

“Initial calculations show that the large locomotive hydrostatic cooling system can be made significantly more efficient, providing CO2 reduction and fuel savings with a simple pump swap. For on track plant, almost all of these already use hydraulic systems, making this an ideal application area for Digital Displacement,” Gordon says.

This project is not the first time Artemis has been involved in rail. In 2018 the Edinburgh specialists completed a project with ScotRail to demonstrate using a Digital Displacement pump to replace the conventional pump powering the hotel loads in a Class 170 DMU. The successful trial of 3500 hours on an operating train indicated a fuel saving of 6.7 percent.

Gordon believes the technology could have much wider applications in rail.

“If fully integrated, Digital Displacement pumps and motors can be combined to create a hydrostatic transmission suitable for on-track machines.  It would be particularly appropriate where vehicles have both transport and working modes – each at extreme ends of the speed range.  It can also be used in small shunting locomotives. Hydraulic accumulators can be added to provide energy storage for power smoothing or braking energy capture, with significant performance and efficiency benefits.” Gordon concludes.

Commenting on the project, Giulia Lorenzini, Senior Grants and Partnerships Manager, RSSB, said:

“The railway remains a very low carbon form of transport for both passengers and freight. Freight, in particular, has journey characteristics which demand very high energy and power requirements, high acceleration and long periods between refuelling. Our research has shown that there are no suitable alternatives to electric and diesel traction currently available for these journey types. Therefore, the Digital Displacement technology is a valuable transitional arrangement for rail freight, where it could be applicable to small locomotives, track maintenance vehicles and large locomotives to help reduce CO2 emissions.”

The consortium will issue their final results later in 2020.



Norwood Junction station upgrade receives significant support

The development of Norwood Junction station has been given the green light by residents, passengers and businesses in the area. With a 94% backing, the upgrade would allow trains to run more dependably and more frequently.

The proposals to upgrade the station were presented by Network Rail at public information sessions back in summer 2019 where themes such as impact on passengers, improving train services and suggestions for station design and platform layout were discussed.

Network Rail is proposing to remodel tracks and platforms to allow more trains to run through and stop at the station in the future. At the moment, stopping and fast trains share the same tracks, subsequently meaning delays to slow services have a knock-on effect on fast services and vice versa. Modern 12 car trains are also not able to travel through as the platforms are too narrow and too short.

The developments proposed would also make Norwood Junction station step-free for the first time, improving accessibility for those with reduced mobility and those travelling with luggage or a pushchair.

Managing Director of Network Rail’s Southern region, John Halsall said: “I’m pleased that our proposals for Norwood Junction station have been well received by passengers and local people. The proposals are a key part of our long terms plans to unblock the railway bottleneck in the Croydon area to reduce delays and overcrowding on the Brighton Main Line.

“Taking onboard feedback from local people and passengers, we are continuing to develop those plans in detail and look forward to speaking with the public again at our next round of consultation this summer.”

Councilor Stuart King, Cabinet Lead for Environment and Transport at Croydon Council, said: “We are supportive of Network Rail’s efforts to improve their service for our residents and I’m pleased to see so many people engaging with the survey.

“Improvements to the station layout and tracks are essential if we are to offer residents a more reliable and inclusive service, including more stopping services at Norwood Junction.”

Stephen Miles, Principal Planner, Transport for London said: “Network Rail’s proposal to upgrade Norwood Junction station complements TfL’s plans for transforming rail services in south London. We have been working closely with Network Rail in developing these plans and will continue to do so.”


Nexus unveils new £362m trains for Tyne and Wear Metro

Nexus have announced Swiss company Stadler as their preferred bidder for a £362m contract to build new trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro.

It is hoped the new fleet of trains will transform performance, passenger experience and deliver significant energy savings.

Nexus, the public body which owns and operates the Tyne and Wear Metro, had undertaken a year-long global search for a manufacturing partner to deliver 42 new trains up to 2024, settling finally on the Swiss-based company – who will manufacture the trains at their recently-opened factory in St Margrethen, Switzerland.

However, despite being manufactured overseas, Nexus said more than 30 UK firms would be involved in supplying parts for the new trains – half of which were located in the North East.

Managing Director of Nexus, Tobyn Hughes, said: “Our passengers expect the best in the world when they travel, and that is what they will get from our new trains.

“We asked for the best trains for the best price, based on what local people said they wanted to see, providing excellent reliability for years to come, transforming the passenger experience and delivering huge energy savings.

“Stadler has delivered on all fronts and the company will put in place new supply chains here in North East England and the UK securing local jobs. We look forward to working with our new partner and the extensive UK supply chain which will support them not just to build the new trains but maintain them over the next 35 years.”

The new trains, which are based on the ideas and suggestions of more than 3,000 passengers, will cut the Metro’s high voltage power consumption by 30% while providing its 36 million passengers with modern features including wi-fi, charging points, air conditioning and a step change in accessibility.

Information screens will also be implemented throughout the train, as well as external destination screens and digital CCTV cameras.

As part of the wider benefits of the contract, a new £70m train depot featuring sedum roofing, rainwater recycling, daylight capture and other environmental features will also be constructed.

Councillor Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council and Chair of the Joint Transport Committee for North East England, said: “We have a bold vision for transport in North East England, and a world-class Metro system is the key to unlocking this transformation.

“We have secured Government investment in our region for new Metro trains which will meet the needs of our people for decades to come, secure hundreds of jobs and help us tackle the climate emergency.

“These new trains will be rooted in our region – they are designed based what more than 3,000 passengers told us what they wanted from their daily journey.  They will be built and brought into service by exploiting manufacturing excellence in new supply chains here in North East England and across the UK.  They will be maintained and operated by the proud workers who make Metro happen.”

Stadler Director of Sales, Ansgar Brockmeyer, added: “The contract with Nexus represents an important milestone for Stadler in Great Britain. After Glasgow and Liverpool, this is the third metro operator to opt for a Stadler vehicle. We look forward to working with Nexus and our suppliers in North East England.”

The initial order of 42 trains may be increased to 46 if Nexus plans to increase the frequency of Metro through the Flow Project, win Government funding.

The total value of the partnership between Nexus and Stadler, which will include decommissioning of the existing Metro fleet, could rise to £700m over 35 years, through a contract to maintain the new trains for up to 35 years depending on performance.

The Department for Transport will also provide revenue support to help meet the maintenance costs of the new trains.


New tech-enabled trains are putting passengers in control

Source: RTM Dec 19/Jan 20

Robert Nisbet, director of Nations and Regions at the Rail Delivery Group, looks ahead at the future of Interconnectivity of the Rail Industry.

This year, nine operators are introducing new and upgraded trains with better technology on board, which are part of the industry’s commitment to replace half of Britain’s train fleet new for old. This means more accurate information in advance, giving passengers greater control over their journeys.

New GPS-enabled trains will provide people with exact information about a train’s location, reducing instances of trains, predicted to be on time, suddenly showing as delayed. The location of older trains is only measured when they pass signals, which can be up to five miles apart. Chiltern, Grand Central, LNER and parts of Northern and ScotRail started using GPS last year and this improved data will feed into TrainMapper – a new system to track trains, powered by Google Maps, soon to launch on the National Rail website.

New technology can also tell people which carriages are emptier using data on footfall and reservations, and even where to stand on the platform to board the train. GTR’s Class 700 Thameslink trains are an example of where weighing technology is already telling passengers on board where to find carriages with more space. As new trains follow suit, passengers will get more and better information through screens at stations and their phones.

Passengers can also sign up to receive personalised information, making it easier to plan at stressful points in their journey. This includes suggestions for alternative routes during disruption through Facebook Messenger and ‘Alert Me’ in the National Rail app.

As 1,000 extra train carriages come on track in 2020, the nation’s fleet will grow from nearly 15,000 train carriages today to almost 16,000 by the end of the year. With more, tech-upgraded carriages, passengers will feel the benefits with more space, more frequent services and more information available at their fingertips.

Recently Robert Nisbet was a guest on our podcast, keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming episode in the next couple of weeks. 



Freight’s role in zero carbon emissions – ERFA

Source: RTM Dec 19/Jan 20

Conor Feighan Secretary General European Rail Freight Association (ERFA)

The key challenge for policy makers and industry over the coming five years revolves around the decarbonisation of transport. The transport sector currently accounts for 27% of Europe’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from transport have increased 26% since 1990 and the transport industry is subsequently currently lagging behind other sectors of society in its attempts to get greenhouse gas emissions under control. As part of the Green deal, the European Union has set the objective of being climate neutral by 2050. This is not possible unless we radically rethink how European transport chains operate.

Freight transport is no exception in this regard. Despite numerous attempts by legislators to achieve modal shift, European freight transport remains predominately on our roads. Road freight accounts for 76.7% of all of Europe’s inland freight transportation. Decarbonisation of road transport will play a critical role in reducing transport emissions, but it cannot achieve substantial emissions savings alone. Modal shift to more energy efficient modes of transport such as rail freight is crucial.

Moving freight by rail is four times more energy and fuel efficient than moving freight by road. Without any further innovation, significant emission savings can be made by simply moving goods from road to freight.

Assuming that all modes can be moved away from fossil fuels, it is crucial that we also reduce the energy needs of the transport sector. Green energy will remain a finite resource in the short term and it is essential that the demands of the transport sector are minimised as much as possible. The challenge of transport is therefore twofold, to remove fossil fuels and to minimise energy needs.

It has to be accepted that goods will not just move to rail purely out of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rail freight needs to improve its service offer and reliability in order to attract freight. The industry simply pointing to rails good environmental performance is therefore not enough.

For modal shift to rail to happen, it is crucial that Europe’s railway systems move away from national silos and into a truly, integrated European network which takes into consideration the needs of rail freight. Freight transport is international by nature and it is crucial that Europe’s rail infrastructure reflects this reality.

Rail freight needs to have sufficient rights and capacity in order to offer a service that customers want and to be able to grow. The rail freight industry is aiming towards having 30% of inland freight transport carried by rail by 2030. This is not possible under existing capacity allocations.

National governments need to continue to promote competition and open access. Competition is an essential prerequisite to innovation. The need to grow the rail freight sector should not be used as an excuse to revert back to national governments supporting single operators. More than ever, more competition and open access is needed in the rail freight sector.

Once these points have been addressed, rail freight will be in a strong position to grow and to play an important role in Europe achieving climate neutrality by 2050.


Vivarail’s Class 230 achieves UK first with 40-mile battery-powered trip

Vivarail achieved a UK first yesterday (Jan 15) as their Class 230 train travelled 40 miles on battery power alone.

It comes during a time of desperate need for a cleaner, greener train network as the UK strives for net zero carbon by 2050.

During testing runs in the autumn of last year, the train made this distance many times, making it fully approved and ready for passenger service.

The Class 230 train is able to replace ageing diesel stock on a number of lines, not only reducing carbon emissions but also providing an enhanced service due to superior acceleration.

Adrian Shooter, CEO of Vivarail, said, “We began our work on battery power a couple of years ago and since then we have tested the train in passenger service at Bo’ness, built the fast charge system and proved the range the train can operate.”

“With a new type of battery which we will use in our upcoming production trains we are confidently predicting a range of 60 miles between charges with only a 10-minute charge time. We look forward to providing emission-free trains and playing a significant part in decarbonising the UK’s rail network.”

Work began on the fast-charging trains in November 2017, following a grant from Innovate UK to develop battery technology.

More to follow.

Photo: Vivarail