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Roundup latest at 00:00, 01 April 2008:

Network Rail Launch Broad Gauge Trial - posted by Rich Mackin at 00:00, 01 April 2008:

In a surprise announcement, Network Rail have announced plans to trial 7ft track and rolling stock, 116 years after the Great Western Railway converted to standard gauge.

In an attempt to keep up with Europe's UIC loading gauge, the infrastructure operator intends to go one better using the wider track gauge for higher running speeds and larger freight loads. The new infrastructure will be tested on the mothballed Old Dalby test track in Lincolnshire.

Work on converting the line is set to commence on 31 June 2008, while the first 7ft rolling stock is already on order. Four trial locomotives, Alstom Prima designs with broad gauge bogies, have been designated Class 67/1 while a number of wagons will be loaned from Didcot Railway Centre. Network Rail are also keen to borrow the replica broad gauge Firefly-class locomotive until 67101 arrives. This may or may not be because NR want to try a Victorian locomotive design as well as infrastructure.

While some would wonder why Network Rail would choose to resurrect an unsuccessful idea from the 19th century, it could be viewed as a quiet admission on NR's part that their predecessors managed to get at least something right.

More on this breaking story as it develops.

Wrexham & Shropshire get the green light - posted by Rich Mackin at 23:44, 03 September 2007:

The Office of the Rail Regulator has granted an open access operators licence to Wrexham & Shropshire.

After numerous delays caused by the complicated application and approval process, whereby interested parties can voice their objection or support to the ORR, Wrexham & Shropshire aim to run their first services in March 2008. Stock will be Class 67s hired from EWS with Mk3 coaches and DVTs in push-pull mode. Five services each way on weekdays, three on Saturdays and two on Sundays, will ply their trade between Wrexham and London, calling at Ruabon, Chirk, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Wellington, Telford Central, Cosford, Wolverhampton, Tame Bridge Parkway, Birmingham International and Banbury.

Following objections by Virgin over stops in the West Midlands, northbound trains will pick up only at Birmingham International and Wolverhampton, and will set-down only in the opposite direction. Virgin West Coast have an agreement with Network Rail that bars open-access operators from the West Coast Mainline until 2012. They argued that services between key West Midlands stations and London, regardless of route, affected their competition. Additionally, the same conditions have been placed on trains calling at Banbury.

ORR Chief Executive Bill Emery said: "We have considered WSMR�s application for new services carefully against the background of our duties and published policies. We balanced the interests of all rail users affected by WSMR�s proposed services assessing the effect of the new services on franchised services; and the more general benefits that will arise from the promotion of competition on the network.

"We are satisfied that approving the rights offers the best outcome for rail users. The new route will bring significant benefits to passengers, particularly to Wrexham and other areas of Wales and Shropshire that will receive a new direct service connecting them to London."

First 'Javelin' EMU arrives - posted by Rich Mackin at 19:09, 23 August 2007:

Today saw Southeastern's first Class 395 EMU arrive in the UK.

This morning, all six vehicles of set 395001 was unloaded at Southampton Docks. Three more will follow soon to undergo extensive testing, before all 29 'Javelin' EMUs enter service in 2009.

Finished in a distinctive dark blue livery with light blue doors, the new trains will ply their trade between St Pancras and destinations in Kent for Southeastern. With a maximum speed of 140mph they are the fastest domestic trains in this country and will slash journey times for commuters travelling between Kent and the capital.

395001 will move, behind a diesel locomotive, from Southampton to Ashford next week ready to commence testing on High Speed 1..

Discuss: First 'Javelin' EMU arrives

Grand Central adamant on launch - posted by Rich Mackin at 18:22, 23 August 2007:

Open-access operator Grand Central today claimed they are still on target for a September launch - even though no trains have been delivered yet.

Six HST power cars are undergoing overhauls at DML Devonport, while Stoke-on-Trent-based Marcroft Engineering are refurbishing 18 Mk3 coaches. To date, it is not known when any of these vehicles will be complete.

Drivers are currently learning the route between London Kings Cross and Sunderland using Class 47s and Mk3 coaches hired from Direct Rail Services, though these have been dogged by frequent delays and alterations.

Grand Central are expected to announce a firm launch date in the near future.

Discuss: Grand Central adamant on launch

Intercity Express shortlist announced - posted by Rich Mackin at 20:07, 20 August 2007:

The DfT last week announced that three groups have made the shortlist for the Intercity Express (IEP) programme:

Alstom-Barclays Rail Group

Express Rail Alliance (Bombardier Transportation, Siemens Transporation Systems, Angel Trains, Babcock & Brown)

Hitachi Europe Ltd

The successful bidder, to be announced in 2008, will go on to produce ten 'pilot' IEP sets for use on the East Coast Main Line in 2012, before full fleet production starts in 2015. It is anticipated that, by 2020, both the Great Western and East Coast franchises will use IEPs as the backbone of their fleets. Orders for East Midlands, Cross Country and East Anglia are also anticipated. The sets will have a top speed of at least 125mph and the option of either diesel or electric traction.

London Midland Class 350s ordered. - posted by Rich Mackin at 23:56, 17 August 2007:

Siemens press picture

Siemens Transporation Systems today announced that a fleet of new Class 350 EMUs have been ordered for London Midland.

The order, worth �240 million (�163.3 million), will see 37 additional Class 350 Desiro EMUs on the West Coast Main Line from October 2008. London Midland will inherit the existing fleet of 30 Class 350s, currently shared between Silverlink and Central Trains, when the new franchise commences in November.

Built at the Siemens plant in Krefeld, the new fleet will see Class 321s move to 'one', giving London Midland a uniform fleet of EMUs for services out of London Euston to the West Midlands and North West. The new EMUs will be leased from Porterbrook.

The Class 350s, a primarily AC-powered derivative of South West Trains' Class 450, entered service in 2005 in a bid to tackle overcrowding on key commuter routes on the WCML.

National Express win East Coast - posted by Rich Mackin at 07:28, 14 August 2007:

The Department for Transport announced this morning that National Express Group will take over the Intercity East Coast franchise from GNER later this year.

Commencing operations on 9 December, later than expected, NXEC Trains Ltd are committed to a �1.4bn premium repayment over ten years, 40% more than the �1bn government GNER were unable to repay.

The current timetable will remain in operation until December 2010, when 25 extra services each weekday will be able to operate, using 40 additional coaches. At this time, a new two-hourly Lincoln-London Kings Cross service will commence, along with a new York-London service calling at intermediate stations.

Journey times will be drastically cut, though how this will be achieved is yet to be seen:

London-Leeds - 2 hours
London-York - 1 hour, 45 minutes
London-Edinburgh - 4 hours, 20 minutes

The existing Wi-Fi service introduced by GNER across their entire fleet will become free for all passengers and dining services will be retained on all present services.

While trading as NXEC Trains Ltd, there is presently no word on what name services will operate under.

Arriva win Cross Country - posted by Rich Mackin at 08:52, 10 July 2007:

(c) 2007 Arriva

The DfT announced this morning that Arriva have won the new Cross Country franchise. Due to commence on 11 November, the new franchise covers the existing Cross Country network, along with Nottingham-Cardiff and Birmingham-Stansted Airport services, currently operated by Central Trains.

The new franchise will see a permanent return to HSTs, with 40 trailers and an unspecified number of power cars to be refurbished to Voyager-standard, to help ease overcrowding. Web-based ticketing, where users can print tickets for their journeys at home, will be introduced in December 2009, and increased on-train staffing levels.

Class 101 comeback - posted by Rich Mackin at 02:22, 01 April 2007:

Northern Rail have announced that they have purchased and intend to reinstate a number of Class 101 DMUs to relieve overcrowding in the north-east.

The DMUs are being drawn from the many units that were preserved after First North Western withdrew the last examples in 2003. Northern acquired the 'Met-Camms' after offering both stored Class 142s and generous remuneration to the various owning groups.

It is belived that up to eight two-car units will be returned to mainline use, allocated to Heaton depot, and numbered 101901-101908. They will all be fitted with TPWS, OTMR, central door locking and disabled toilets in the former brake area, along with air conditioning and high-backed seats. As a result, all windows will be sealed up. Most units will receive Northern livery with advertising images similar to those carried by various other units in the fleet. Images of popular tourist attractions in Hartlepool, Acklington, Allens West, Redcar, Bishop Auckland, Bardon Mill, Danby and Seaton Carew will adorn each unit.

To protect against the risk of failure, a long-preserved Class 25 locomotive has been purchased to act as a thunderbird. With vacuum brakes reinstated, this unit will be overhauled and brought up to current Group Standards, and will be maintained at Heaton (but based at Darlington) to rescue any 101s that might fail. To match the 'new' units, the future 25991 will receive a varation on Northern livery, decorated with images of the scenic Durham coast route.

The Class 101s and Class 25 will be launched in a lavish ceremony at Newcastle's Central Station on 31st June, and from date that forward will ply their trade on the north east's rural routes for the remainder of the franchise.

More investment from Northern - posted by ftr at 10:09, 03 March 2007:

Northern have taken an additional six Class 158s from store at Eastleigh to allow the company to strengthen additional services in the North West.

Although the units will be temporarily based at Heaton, 158842/843/849/858/859/861 will be permanently allocated to Neville Hill as per the company's policy of allocating certain types of coaching stock to each depots.

Early indications show that these units will work into the North West of England, which sees a welcome return to the 'Express' units to this area. They will work in a common pool with Northern's other Class 158s and eventually receive Northern livery, similar to that applied to sister 158787.

They will be used on routes which are currently served by Class 156s, which move to City Line services on the Merseyrail network. Rumours that this will see four Class 142s come off lease are so far incorrect, as these spare units will now be used to strengthen services into Manchester in the morning and evening peaks, adding a much needed 100 seats per service.

The changes will come into force at the May timetable change.