Rail franchising poses 'emerging risks', with uncertainty, delays and cost increases affecting major infrastructure works, the risk of reduced competition and 'potentially stretched' resources, according to a report published by the National Audit Office today. However, it also concludes that the Department for Transport has improved the management of its rail franchising programme since the collapse of the Intercity West Coast competition just over three years ago.
Funding approval means green light for Croxley Link
Transport for London has confirmed that it has secured full funding for the Croxley Link extension of the Metropolitan Line, closing a funding gap of £2.73 million which had been revealed a few weeks ago, casting fresh doubt over the future of the long-discussed scheme. TfL said work on the new link is to start next year and will be completed by 2020, creating more than 6,500 jobs and boosting the local economy by £2 billion.
£30,000 reward for conviction of signal cable arsonists
A reward of £30,000 has been offered for the conviction of arsonists who disrupted train services in the West Midlands a week ago today. Two fires were started at Canley in the early hours of 16 November which damaged signal cables and delayed hundreds of trains as a result, including intercity and local passenger services as well as freight. It was the second incident of its kind in the area this year, because there was a similar fire in May. British Transport Police said the attack had caused 'misery' to many delayed passengers.
Network Rail looks like 'Greece on rails'
The Institute of Directors has launched a stinging attack on Network Rail in the wake of today's report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee which dubs the rise in cost of electrifying the Great Western Main Line as 'unacceptable'. Today's report warns that there could be more delays to Network Rail's enhancement programme, which includes several electrification schemes, and says the plans have proved to be 'unrealistic'. It also calls for a 'fundamental review' of the regulator’s role and effectiveness in planning rail infrastructure.
Interiors of London Crossrail trains are unveiled
The interiors of the new fleet of trains for Crossrail which are being built by Bombardier in Derby have been unveiled by Transport for London. TfL said each nine-car train will be more than 200m long, or roughly one and a half times the length of a typical Underground train, with capacity for 1,500 passengers. The first examples will enter service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield in May 2017 as seven-car sets, but they will be lengthened later.
Royal opening for Birmingham New Street
The Queen has officially reopened the enlarged station at Birmingham New Street today. Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Her Majesty alighted from the Royal Train to unveil a plaque marking her visit. The royal couple were greeted by a host of dignitaries, including Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy and chief executive Mark Carne. The station, including the new Grand Central shopping complex, was opened in September this year after a five-year, £750 million Network Rail project.
Major Midland Metro expansion plans unveiled
Extensions of Midland Metro to provide good connections with HS2 in Birmingham have been announced as part of an £8 billion investment in the West Midlands. Transport schemes worth almost £2 billion are included in the investment, which has accompanied a major devolution deal signed between the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Government. A new 'HS2 connectivity package' will include new tram lines from the HS2 station at Birmingham Curzon Street to Birmingham Airport via Bordesley Green and Chelmsley Wood, and between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill.