Rail roundup

China is planning to build a tunnel twice as long as the Channel Tunnel, running 121km from Dalian to Yantai on the east coast, knocking 1280km off the route between the two cities. Estimated cost is £22bn and the scheme involves three tunnels, one for cars, one for trains and one for maintenance.

Half the £12bn cost of Crossrail 2 can be met from private sources according to London First this week. In a new report “Funding Crossrail 2” the organisation says it has identified £23bn of potential private funding sources and suggests that those who would benefit most from the line’s construction should do most to fund it.

Network Rail opted not to appeal the Office of Rail Regulation final determination which gave it £38.293bn to invest in Britain’s railways for the CP5 control period from 2014 to 2019. See Infrastructure Intelligence interview with ORR director of planning and performance Alan Price. Click here

Chancellor George Osborne kicked off the £600M Northern Hub rail project which involves electrifying lines and providing major upgrades to the network around Manchester.

Network Rail has appointed four suppliers to deliver its £2bn programme to electrify more than 2000 miles of Britain’s railway over the next seven years. The successful bidders are Balfour Beatty, AmeyInabensa, CarillionPowerlines and ABC Electrification. Meanwhile Network Rail infrastructure’s finance boss David McLoughlin is quitting to run Spencer Rail.

Government has signed a deal with First Capital Connect to extend its operation of services on the Thameslink route by six months until the new franchise winner – Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern - takes up the reins.

Herrenknecht has delivered the first of 15 tunnel boring machines for the Doha Metro in Qatar.

Japanese industrial giant Hitachi says it will move its global rail business from Japan to the United Kingdom. The manufacturer of the first bullet trains says it hopes the move will help it to expand the rail business to 4,000 workers from the current 2,500.

Government has kicked off the tender process for the East Coast main line rail franchise to return the operation to the private sector. The tender includes requirements for faster and more frequent services, improved services to destinations such as Lincoln, and the potential to serve five new routes to Huddersfield, Scarborough, Harrogate (via York), Middlesbrough and Sunderland (via Newcastle). A successful bidder is due to be announced in November and the franchise will start in March 2015 and run for eight years.

HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins along with Treasury commercial secretary and chair of the HS2 growth taskforce Lord Deighton will be appearing at special session of the Commons Transport Committee on 25 March. The meeting will discuss the Higgins HS2 report published on Monday and Lord Deighton’s review of the economic benefits of the project which is expected Friday.

Commuter services on HS1 in Kent are to be extended due to passenger demand. Train company Southeastern is to add a “coastal loop” service following significant growth in passenger numbers on the high speed service from Dover, Canterbury, Ashford and Ebbsfleet. If approved by Department for Transport the services will start in December.

The search has begun for a site for the High Speed Rail College which will work with a network of employers and other educational institutions and providers to boost railway and engineering skills development across the UK.

Network Rail has confirmed it is to open the rail route at Dawlish on 4 April, two weeks earlier than originally estimated and in time for the busy tourist season around the school Easter holidays The main 100m section, breach during  recent storms, has been repaired with nearly 5000t of concrete and 150t of steel and a new 200m track is ready built for installation.

Meanwhile the rail operator’s plans to reopen the full length of the Hastings to Tonbridge line on the South Eastern network on Monday were delayed for several more days after a landslip under repair started moving again. At Stonegate and Battle full repairs were completed on landslips last week following a month of round-the-clock working. The slip at Whatlington was due for completion over the weekend but it was found to have started moving again on Friday night, before the repairs were complete, putting back reopening by several days.