New figures published by the Office of Rail and Road reveal that more people are now travelling by train than at any time since the early 1920s. The measurement, of individual journeys, shows that passenger figures are now challenging totals not seen since dancing the Charleston was the latest craze. Until this year, the highest total for individual journeys since the 1920s had been achieved in 1945, when ‘demob’ traffic of forces personnel returning home from wartime service briefly swelled the total to 1,372 million. Before that, the last comparable figure occurred as far back as 1923, when 1,319 million journeys were recorded jointly by the ‘Big Four’ companies. But the railway network then was far larger – roughly twice the size – which means that the system is now by far the busiest it has ever been.
West Coast prosecution moves to Crown Court
The prosecution of charter operator West Coast Railways and one of its drivers in connection with a signal passed at danger near Swindon last March will now be heard by a Crown Court next month. An investigation was launched by the Office of Rail and Road after a WCR steam-hauled charter train overran a stop signal.
Railway braces as Atlantic storm approaches
Network Rail has deployed frontline teams in north west England, western Scotland and Wales as Storm Jonas approaches across the Atlantic. The weather system has dumped almost record levels of snow in a number of American states, but it is expected to bring winds and rain, rather than snow, when it makes landfall here. Even so, flooding is likely in areas which are still saturated after the heavy rain of the past few weeks.
Underground strike called off
A strike which would have affected London Underground services for 24 hours from Tuesday evening has been called off by the RMT, so that the latest offer from Transport for London can be considered. The unions are in dispute over plans for 'Night Tube' services which should have started last September, and would have provided all-night services on Friday and Saturday nights on most of the deep tube lines, with the exceptions of the Bakerloo and Waterloo & City.
Government sells King's Cross stake for £371m
The government is selling its interest in the King's Cross railway lands to an Australian pension fund for £371 million. The site will contain almost 2,000 homes as well as offices, schools, restaurants and shops, with 50 new or refurbished buildings. Its occupiers include Google, the Aga Khan Development Network and University of the Arts London.
Spanish-built trains ordered for Northern in £490m deal
Arriva has revealed that it has chosen Spanish train builder CAF to provide almost 300 new vehicles for the next Northern franchise. Arriva takes over Northern from the current partnership of Serco and Abellio at the start of April, and its franchise commitments include the replacement of the unpopular diesel Pacers which still run on a number of routes in the north. Arriva said the contract, worth £490 million, was being financed by Eversholt Rail. The new electric and diesel trains will be based on CAF's existing Civity series.
Eurostar sale evidence of 'undervalued' assets–MPs
A report by MPs has warned that last year's sale of the British stake in Eurostar for £585 million is further evidence that state-owned assets are undervalued. A consortium paid £585.1 million, but another £172 million was also raised because Eurostar agreed to redeem the Government's preference share. The National Audit Office has already concluded that the sale price left taxpayers more than £2 billion out of pocket, after contributions to Eurostar from the public purse were taken into account.