Rail roundup

Network Rail is to start the hunt for design and engineering consultants for its Crossrail 2 activity in September. Work on offer will be worth up to £110M.

Balfour Beatty has pulled out of a £75M contract to electrify the rail line between Preston and Blackpool. The move came after a review said the work was unlikely to be on time and budget. Network Rail said the electrification was still due to finish by spring 2017 and that it would be retaining Balfour Beatty's design services, with a new contractor to be appointed shortly.

Plans to launch an all-night Tube service in London on September 12 have been deferred. London Underground said it wanted to allow more time for talks with unions to reach a deal on pay and conditions for the new service. No new date for the night Tube introduction has been announced. Rail unions have staged two 24-hour strikes in a dispute over the new service and had threatened longer walkouts before suspending the action.

The Prime Minister, Chancellor and Transport Secretary have opened Hitachi’s new £82M train manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. Hitachi’s decision to move train manufacturing back to the North East comes just a few years after the government awarded it the £5.7 billion Intercity Express contract. The new train factory, the firm’s first in Europe, will build the next generation of trains for the East Coast and Great Western main lines, as well as the Scottish commuter trains. It will create over 700 direct jobs and support thousands more in the supply chain, with the intention of boosting the Chancellor’s plans to build the Northern Powerhouse.

The biggest tunnelling machine in Britain has started work near Bolton as part of a Network Rail project to electrify one of north-west England’s busiest rail routes. At 9m in diameter at its cutter head, Fillie the Farnworth tunnel boring machine is bigger than the machines used to build London’s Crossrail (7.1m), the Thames Tideway ‘super sewer’ (8m) and even the Channel Tunnel (8.8m).
The reconstruction of Farnworth tunnel is an important stepping stone towards creating an electrified railway between Manchester and Preston and is part of over £1bn of investment by Network Rail to improve rail services across the north. Upgrading the railway through Farnworth is a particular engineering challenge, as the twin tunnels which carry the railway under the main A666 Manchester to Bolton road aren’t big enough to accommodate the overhead lines which will power a new fleet of electric trains in future. 

The solution is to keep one of the 270m-long tunnels open to trains, while the other – just 1.5m away – is pumped full of 7,500m3 of foam concrete before a completely new tunnel, big enough for two tracks and their overhead power lines, is re-bored through the new concrete. 

The government is consulting on plans to designate the 29-mile route between Peterborough and Ely - known as the Hereward line - as a community rail service. This would allow the community to design train services according to local needs, which in turn is claimed would help increase passenger numbers, improve connectivity to key destinations and ultimately boost the local economy. If the plans go ahead, the train companies will continue to operate the service – which also calls at Whittlesea, March and Manea – with the support of the Hereward Community Rail Partnership. Infrastructure such as track and signalling would remain under the authority of Network Rail.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has set up a new Crossrail 2 Growth Commission to promote and progress the £20bn scheme between Chelsea and Hackney. It will be headed by former local leader of London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Sir Merrick Cockell. The move came as business leaders also pushed to get the scheme moving, signing an open letter to national newspapers with signatories being the chief executives of Mace, Turner & Townsend and Morgan Sindall. 

Transport for London  is to look at extending the Bakerloo Line to Croydon instead of Bromley in Kent, the Croydon Guardian reported. TfL launched a public consultation last year on plans to extend to line, which currently terminates at Elephant and Castle, to Lewisham and Bromley.  Matt Yates, TfL’s Head of Planning Projects, said: "We are currently reviewing the results of the public consultation and the many route options suggested in the responses.  The suggestion to extend the line to Croydon will be considered as part of this review."