HS2

23.01.15

‘Why not do some re-engineering?’ Adrian Shooter on the Vivarail D-Train

The ex-London Underground stock being bought up for potential use on Northern routes and on under-served branch lines is being re-engineered so extensively that it will be “effectively a new train”, according to Adrian Shooter.

“It’s not surprising that people should be sceptical, that’s absolutely fine,” he told us, acknowledging that their low speed makes them unsuitable for TransPennine Express, and he is “not talking to any bidders” for that new franchise.

The ex-chair of Chiltern Railways now leads Vivarail, which bought much or all of the D78 stock from TfL – about 150 driving motor cars and enough vehicles altogether to form 75 units of two or three car trains.

With electrification timescales looking shaky, there could be a growing need for diesel alternatives in the short to medium term, which Vivarail think they can provide. Their vision is for a new, cheap 60mph DEMU that could plug the gap – using Ford automotive engines on re-engineered District Line stock that originally came into service in 1980.

1280px-D stock at West Ham - tompagenet c. Tom Page

Although the RMT union and others have criticised the trains as “London’s cast-offs” and branded them 'Crawlers' because of their speed, Shooter insisted in an interview with RTM that the D-Train has so many elements being replaced or upgraded that “this is effectively a new train – but we’re making it very affordable by reusing the body shell, which is aluminium and has no corrosion, and the bogies, which are only about 10 years old”.

This is where Vivarail has gotten lucky. The original bogies from the D78 stock “fell to pieces”, as Shooter put it (they were too rigid and suffered cracking on the inconsistent District Line track), and from 2000-03 were replaced with Bombardier bogies (Adtranz, then) that are still in good condition, the same as used on the 1995 Stock on the Northern Line.

“The result is a train that is very affordable but it will have a lot of absolutely up-to-date facilities, in terms of the engines and the alternators, the IGBT electronic power control and a number of other features and communications systems,” Shooter said.

Conversion

Vivarail received the first of the D78 stock on 19 January and the conversion began immediately. All of the existing DC control gear, including cam shaft control and all of the underfloor equipment used on Underground trains, was removed from the driving cars. This will be replaced by two 3L Ford Diesel engines combining to create 400hp for each driving car, plus a modern alternator and inverter with an output of 750v DC, plus a compressor.

The trains will also have IGBTs (insulated gate bipolar transistors) made by Strukton Rail in Holland, and while early versions of the D-Train will come with rheostatic braking, Vivarail is looking to fit later models with a braking system that recovers and reuses the energy.

“We’ve got some recycled parts clearly, but people really aren’t that bothered about bogies provided they’re unobtrusive and work and the same with the body shells,” Shooter said.

“Our principal objective is that when passengers travel in this train they say ‘Isn’t this a fantastic new train?’ That’s our desired end.”

Vivarail plans to have its prototype up and running on the test track at Long Marston by June, and approved by the autumn to run out on Network Rail track.

D Stock View004 Hi Res (2)

Lightweight and low maintenance

The D-Train will come with several notable benefits: at 25 tonnes per vehicle in the three-car formation, they will be a lot lighter than other trains (a Class 150 comes in at 35 tonnes). That helps keep fuel consumption low, as do the modern automotive engines, which shut off when the train idles.

Shooter has focused on finding ways to “substantially reduce maintenance costs”, such as designing the engine units and bogies to be easily removable and replaceable. He claims the engine units can be swapped out in 10 minutes and Vivarail has also designed a notional depot that would allow the bogies to be swapped very quickly too.

After Vivarail has finished overhauling the train, replacing the lights with modern LED lighting, and all the old components, there will be very little other than the bogies and engines that will require maintenance. Shooter says this gives the D-Train a big bonus: maintenance can be kept local to the line it is operating on.

“There are quite a few branch lines around the country that are a long way from a maintenance depot. It might make sense to put a ‘mini-depot’ somewhere along the line, because this train does not need to go back to a proper, conventional maintenance depot,” he said.

“Now if you think about the fact that you can start to keep these trains local to the line where they operate, it means that you haven’t got to waste a lot of time and money in sending them miles to a maintenance depot. That incurs fuel cost, driver cost, track access cost, and also possibly means Network Rail has to keep a line open at times when it would be more efficient for them to get on and be maintaining it at night. So there are a number of angles there and these trains would be very suitable for that.”

D Stock View008 Hi Res (2)

Commuter routes, not fast routes

Shooter has a particular vision where he can see the D-Train being used. Although he couldn’t go into details, he has been in talks with all of the bidders for the next Northern franchise, but he has not contacted anyone bidding for TransPennine Express.

“This would not be the right train for somewhere where there’s going to be a lot of faster running. For example, I am not talking to any bidders for the TPE franchise, because the nature of their runs is quite fast running and this is not the right train for that. What this might do of course, is free up some other faster, older DMUs that can then be redeployed on some of those routes.”

The D-Train will have a maximum speed of only 60mph, although it does have relatively good acceleration. Shooter believes this will make it ideal for a route with a lot of station stops. With the different configurations that Vivarail offer for the carriages, it will also be suitable for both long and short routes.

Shooter also sees the D-Train as an ideal way to deal with rush-hour commuters.

“Take commuting in and out of cities where there’s very heavy crowding on trains that are not going tremendously fast. Because this train is very affordable, one option would be to acquire some just to do a morning trip into the city, park up all day and then bring a load of people out in the evening,” he said.

“If it’s not too long a distance what you’d probably do is keep the configuration similar to what they are now, as used on the District Line, and then it’s an efficient way of shifting a lot of people quickly in reasonable circumstances. So that’s one option.”

What makes the D-Train ideal for commuter journeys is it is what the old D78 stock was originally designed for. In their original configuration they would come with four doors, making it very efficient in loading and off-loading, reducing station dwell time.

However for longer routes, Shooter said that Vivarail will offer alternative configurations with some of the doors taken out to make way for more seating.

D Stock View006 Hi Res

Getting the Department for Transport on board

As promising as the D-Train sounds, it’s hard to imagine it becoming a success without the support of the Department for Transport (DfT), which has been lukewarm on the subject of old District Line stock to say the least – publicly mindful of the potentially bad PR of being seen to replace decrepit Pacers with “London’s cast-offs”.

In December a DfT spokesperson told RTM: “There is no government proposal to replace Pacer trains with old London Underground trains.

“We are committed to improving services for passengers across the north. We recognise that Pacers fall short of passengers’ expectations, which is why we will be specifically requiring bidders for the next Northern franchise to phase these outdated trains out. These bids must include improved rolling stock.

“The industry is best placed to tell us how more modern, better quality trains can be introduced, and it is only right that we look to them as we push ahead with our ambitious plans to transform the north’s rail network.”

But Shooter says that things have moved on a lot since then.

“We hadn’t been very forthcoming on what we’re doing until relatively recently, so in the absence of knowing what we’re doing, it’s not surprising that people should be sceptical, that’s absolutely fine,” he explained.

“What I can say is that we’re now being much more public about what we’re doing and explaining just how much time and money we’ve put into this, which is quite considerable. And of course I’ve been briefing officials at the DfT so that they’re now aware in a great deal of detail what it is that we’re offering to operators.”

adrian-shooter-1024 142608k
(Library image of Adrian Shooter)

With the rolling stock problems facing the rail network the D-Train could just be the right solution and the right time. But what inspired Shooter in coming up with the scheme in the first place?

“I bought some of the last DMUs that were bought in this country, the 172s, which we bought for Chiltern and London Overground. They’re a good train but they’re very expensive,” he said.

“So I looked around at what the alternative might be, and the fact that there is going to be, at least for a few years, a shortage of DMUs until electrification catches up. Leasing companies are not going to want to lease something that’s probably got a 40-year life if they can only really see 10 years’ worth of use. So I said to myself, if we could produce something that was affordable, maybe we can fill that gap – so why not do some re-engineering?”

Interview by Sam McCaffrey

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Mick   23/01/2015 at 12:05

What a refreshing attitude from Mr Shooter; cheap and cheerful, an understanding of what the passengers need. Easy to get on and off is just the job for commuters. Probably be ideal on local lines around Bristol, Exeter and Cornwall branches at peak times..

Lee   23/01/2015 at 13:16

In my view there is already a cost effective solution to bridge the gap of electrification, it's call the Pacer, we just need to be sensible and give them a derrogation on PRM compliance until the electrification programme is complete. Max speed 75mph, Aluminium bodied, 25T per vehicle, oh and they exist and are fully certified...

Steve   23/01/2015 at 14:09

These units are an interesting idea. But the southern cast off issue is not just one of image. If the Ford units prove to be unreliable, they don't currently operate at anything close to the weight of these D units, Every civil servent and rail exec that signed off on them would, post crucifixion (Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee) be drawing their cards and finding alternative employment.

Cdb   23/01/2015 at 17:03

It seems a nice and clever idea, however rolling these out accross the north will be seen as a cheap way out of replacing Pacers with something modern / electric. It would be politically toxic so wouldn't happen beyond a few small branch lines or maybe if it could be shown to be trying out a new service to see if there really is a market for it.

Mikeyb   23/01/2015 at 17:19

As a director of Vivarail, Adrian Shooter is naturally doing a great job in promoting this project and I wish the company well for the future. However the D-Train should only be seen as a "stop-gap" solution pending further electrification of lines in the North, after which Vivarail may have to look at further novel projects. How about converting Class 158s to EMU configuration?

Grahamh   23/01/2015 at 18:50

Anything that gets rid of the awful Pacers is welcome. But I would hope that they aren't going to be around for another 40 years ,like the Pacers were!

George   23/01/2015 at 19:52

I like the way this man thinks. He's not being stupidly ambitious with rose tinted spectacles, he's managed to come with a pretty clever way of solving the Pacer problem without spending a fortune. I like the idea of being resourceful if this new train will be as good as he's promising. I'm looking forward to seeing the first finished unit.

GW   24/01/2015 at 10:54

The D78s are not known for their ride quality and with so many doors they are bound to have some draughts. It begs the question what has the north (and west) done to deserve this?

Curious   24/01/2015 at 13:11

Adrian Shooter's views are much more nuanced that some commentators who have lauded these trains as a wholesale replacement for Pacers - a job for which they're not suitable, and wouldn't be acceptable. But to be of practical use at peak times to supplement services, you'd need interoperability with class 150s and their ilk - can that be engineered? And could the trains be made suitable for 75 mph running to fully take advantage of line speeds on many routes?

PM   24/01/2015 at 20:30

Surely the ideal would be to run them on the 650v third rail, then they wouldn't need diesel engines. Extra capacity on the over-crowded SE lines perhaps. But perhaps suggesting that really would be too politically toxic?

MDK   25/01/2015 at 09:07

Nice to see that the spirit of Colonel Stevens lives on He tried motor vehicle technology on some of his light railways and according to all accounts they were not reliable or popular. The rail environment is very hard on equipment and what will work reliably and well on roads does not always transfer to rail satisfactorily. Having said that I wish Mr Shooter and his partners well.

Wimg   25/01/2015 at 10:16

Don't compare a modern 400 hp automotive diesel with one of 30 or more years ago (time goes fast .. ) , you won't blow them up ... We are all keen on seeing Mr. Shooters D-78 superexpress asap, and it's not a taxpayers money investment ..

Hetty Vaynance   28/01/2015 at 12:51

Seats look a bit hard.

Mike Woods   06/02/2015 at 16:51

This is an interesting idea and I hope it proves to be successful. I have a question for the experts - could the units easily be adapted as 3rd rail compatible electrodiesels ? If so, they may be suitable for providing a direct Wrexham - Liverpool service via Bidston giving towns like Heswall, Neston and Shotton a direct service to Liverpool for the first time which would surely boost usage of the line.

Neonison   07/02/2015 at 13:34

"...In my view there is already a cost effective solution to bridge the gap of electrification, it's call the Pacer." There speaks someone who does not suffer the daily cross-Pennine schlep in one. I welcome the initiative, let's hope we at least get the chance to try a prototype. The 140's adequately demonstrated the shortcomings of the Pacer; it is pity no-one acted on it.

James Doyle   09/02/2015 at 19:45

Good luck to the project! If the diesel generator and new electronics hold up, the units would be an excellent stop-gap until electrification and / or cascading arrive. Two points: 1 - For a line like the proposed re-opening of Leven-Thornton-Edinbugh (Waverley), would 60 mph be enough for the faster section Thornton-Kirkaldy-Inverkeiting? 2 - For Liverpool-Bilston-Wrexham, If a non-driving D78 ndmu were rebuilt and included as a 3rd-rail centre vehicle, this would probably do for the Merseyrail section. But would 60 mph be adequate for the section Bilston-Wrexham? If this were feasale, it would solve the problem of the long-awaited through service Merseyside-Wrexham..

Ian Gibson   28/02/2015 at 14:50

Will these meet modern crash-worthiness requirements? Those have changed considerably since these units were manufactured...

Brian   03/03/2015 at 16:19

Good luck to this project! Great use of resources and I am confident it will be streets ahead of the crap it will replace. 60mph fine.Frequency and comfort is what's required in this congested island we live in.

Seares   23/03/2015 at 23:09

I hope there will be space for more than two bicycles on these trains.

Lionel   24/03/2015 at 13:42

Seems like a good idea. There is an admitted shortage of rolling stock and if this is a cheap way of plugging gaps and improving services at an economical price I'm all for it.

Sam Sparkes   13/04/2015 at 22:06

Interesting project, But as a daily commuter on the West Cumbrian line, I dont fancy doing 40 miles twice a day on those seats, they look rock hard, no head rests and very uncomfortable. At least with 465's I can have a snooze twice a day. Even some of the refurbed Pacers have got more comfortable seats, but then again it seems the ones we get up here have the 1970's style leyland bus bar stuck in yer back. Take a tip Mr Shooter, make them comfortable and people will like them. Most of the regular commuters up here have to travel a bit further than a few miles down the line.

Paul Hampson   25/04/2015 at 15:07

A very innovative way of recycling old underground stock. But I'm struggling to understand how these would be any better than a refurbished Pacer in service. Pacers rightly have no place on a 21st Century Railway in one of the most developed countries in the world. However, the rush to replace them shouldn't result in a product that's different, but just as unsuitable.

Andrew S. Mooney   11/05/2015 at 19:46

Paul Hampson - The reason why the Pacers are to be gotten rid of is odd and yet simple: Disability access laws. By the year 2019, wheelchair access laws stipulate that these trains will become illegal because they have a step in their doorways. Other issues of whether people like them or loathe them aside, it is as simple as that because there is no cost-effective way to modify them.

Tarkaman   27/06/2015 at 20:10

Well, I've just read up on the reengineered Porterbrook 144e conversion, it looks OK and compliant with PRM TSI. However, they are still 4 wheel bouncers even with the lower Centre of Gravity which has been achieved and the seats are the rock hard short commuter (10 minutes max was my record) type which will not go down too well with those that pay to ride them! My money is still on Adrian's D Train and I am looking forward to trying them out on the test track shortly.

Martin Young   06/07/2015 at 15:57

I find the VivaRail D-Train project very exciting. It is certainly ‘thinking outside the box’ to find a novel, but workable solution to a foreseen possible problem. With the recent news of delay to the CP5 Electrification projects, and the possible miss-guided tearing up of the Watford to St Albans line to convert it into a guided busway; I think the time has come for the D-Train to prove its potential. The news coverage of the Watford – St Albans service also highlights the conflict that is persistent within the rail industry. NR invests in remodelling the Watford south junction to allow better access to the St Albans line, but then turns around and says that the operating costs are not covered by the revenue generated due to the poor services provided. So, why not decommission the OLE and use the D-Trains? This strategy would reduce the operating and maintenance costs significantly by eliminating electric traction, 25kV power supply and equipment, and reducing track wear. In fact, if control of the line was handed to the local council, it could be run as a light rapid transit system, with certain services being extended to and from Euston at peak periods.

Mike Roebuck   25/08/2015 at 13:09

60 mph trains on 75 mph routes (which many of the northern routes are) is going to cause pathing problems, especially where the line is shared wirth intercity type trains - 2 out of 3 transpennine routes, for a start. It's nice to see some innovative thinking, but it won't solve the immediate problem, which is that investment is needed now - not in 10 years time or beyond!

Catherine Barber   11/10/2015 at 08:56

Will these 'new' D-Trains have proper space for pannier-loaded touring bikes.....!!?? And I'm not talking about the hang-your-poor-bike-up on one of those horrible 'meat hooks'. I'm meaning a walk-on level floor space, as in the tragically-now-discarded 'Guards Van'. Dream on, maybe.....

John Mutley   16/10/2015 at 10:29

I remember young Adrian (as he then was) arriving at Upperby Traction Depot, Carlisle, (circa 1978?)as a BR Management Trainee, he was full of innovative ideas then, you knew he would progress in the railway industry, and having recently read his article in October Railnews I believe his D train will be a success!

Tim   16/10/2015 at 14:22

Adrian was one of the speakers at Dinner at the Roundhouse last night. Some cracking anecdotes!

Cyclists Should Cycle.   27/10/2015 at 13:43

'Will the new D trains have proper space for pannier loaded touring bikes' - I hope not - there is all too much space and time and and and etc etc given up to cyclists all over the place. they are a damn nuisance wherever they go. Cyclists should hire a bike at their journeys end - or better still walk. Keep bikes OFF TRAINS - and Roads and FOOTpaths where there is a £500 fine for riding them but never so far as I am aware enforced.

Tim   27/10/2015 at 13:50

Keep bikes off both roads AND footpaths? Virtually every person on a bike on the road is a person not in a car. I find cars far more of a "damn nuisance" (pollution; crash deaths; road space; congestion; unfriendly city design) than cyclists. Do you drive, by any chance?

David Cook   30/10/2015 at 13:42

Knowing how uncomfortable the ride is on Pacers (we have some 143's on the line from Exeter to Exmouth) and it would be interesting to see one put on as a trial to see what passengers think, as opposed to what politicians, newspapers, and vested interests feed passengers with what they are supposed to think. Actually, I can see other uses for these. Look at the freight only line between Southampton and Hythe/Fawley. These look like a nice cheap was of re-introducing trains to disused lines, and unlike trams, they can run alongside trains on proper railway lines and into main line station platforms for easy access to longer distance trains. Actually, if we had something as cheap to run as these in the 1960's, I can imagine a whole load of railway lines never closing in the first place........

Pedr   24/11/2015 at 13:21

Any news of how the project is progressing?

RTM   24/11/2015 at 14:03

Hi Pedr, Absolutely, this is our latest report on it: http://www.railtechnologymagazine.com/Rail-Industry-Focus-/comfort-cost-and-fuel-saving-the-case-for-the-d-train You can also find other news stories/feature if you search for 'Vivarail' in our website.

Jim Ford   02/12/2015 at 17:35

The comparison with Pacers is entirely wrong. Not only are Pacer units entirely inappropriate for the commuter lines on which they are now deployed, due to their lack of gangways, thereby increasing fare evasion, and uncomfortable due to their early nineteenth century four wheel configuration, they are also unsafe in their current deployment. Pacers have light, deformable bus bodies, which offer passengers little protection in a collision and were built under a safety derogation that allowed their use on lightly used rural lines such as the Cambrian Coast. The D train is structurally robust as Vivarail's tests have shown. The challenge to the privatised industry will be in recovering faster units such as 158s from rural lines where their speed is wasted, returning these to the longer routes into northern cities where D trains are less suitable and replacing them with D trains on the rural routes.

Spargazer   22/12/2015 at 19:57

Some comments made here look like they written by Mr Shooter himself, it is so obvious.

Dudley Horscroft   05/01/2016 at 13:07

They sound ideal for at least one branch line in New South Wales, Casino via Lismore to Byron Bay. This was discontinued (not "closed") in 2004 and has been allowed to gradually deteriorate. Some small bridges have been removed, and others need replacing, but they would be ideal with the low axle loads for the remaining bridges which will not take stock with 17 tonne axle loads. 60 mph (96 km/h) is pretty good on this line, where curves restricted express trains capable of 160 km/h to a smart crawl! Tell Mr Shooter to have a look at this line - daily trains to connect with the expresses to Sydney and Brisbane, and a regular interval train in between - every hour or hour and a half or two hours. If he is interested he could always come out here for a holiday and look at the line! I was looking at ex-San Diego trams for this line, so ex-London D78 stock would appear good. A coach doing 100 km/h on a windy country lane, with air springs so it rolls like a tram in an ocean swell, is not a comfortable alternative!

Martin Hollands   12/01/2016 at 18:11

The thing with Adrian Suter is that he is a Railwayman underneath his entrepreneurial hat, and understands what can and can't work. If this scheme had been dreamed up by anyone else I would think it nonsense! I still have concerns and misgivings but am willing to reserve judgement in the mean time.

Oliversbest   14/01/2016 at 19:07

With the wheelsets of the Swanage 117 going for scrap and replacements being sourced overseas the Railway's plan to\operate from Wareham to Swanage using DMUS has been put back a year I would have though that this would have been an ideal opportunity to trial the D train in real working environment and a good advertisement for UK rail innovation

Rob English   16/02/2016 at 20:19

To David Cook (30/10/15): Sadly something like this wouldn't have saved some lines in the 1960s, because something rather like this WAS tried and failed to stem the losses on rural lines. Railbuses were even cheaper than the D-train but they did nothing to reduce the cost of the infrastructure (and despite intruduction of DMUs, a lot of working practices didn't change so their was little reduction in manpower). Quite frankly if a 40-seater rail vehicle is sufficient to carry the traffic, rail isn't the answer. It is too easy to believe that the train is always the best solution to meet transport demand.

Jack Carter   12/03/2016 at 00:58

"One option would be to acquire some just to do a morning trip into the city, park up all day and then bring a load of people out in the evening,” That sounds like a really stupid idea to me. What's the point in bringing a new train into service just for that? What they should do is tinker with the engines a bit, maybe fit bigger turbos, anything that will bring the speed of these trains up. That will open more options. Bring the speed up to about 100mph and maybe they could actually be used for the TransPennine Express.

Jack Carter   12/03/2016 at 01:42

In fact, scratch the part in my previous comment about tinkering with the engines. I don't think these engines are suitable for rail use. Maybe they should look at using Scania R730 truck engines. 730HP and max torque at low RPM's meaning less wear and higher reliability and they are obviously designed to pull heavy loads, which makes them ideal for rail application.

Taxpayer   14/03/2016 at 19:00

Hang on - a little detail - not content with wrecking the first set of bogies (thorough apparently lack of maintenance) bought at the tax payers' expenses LT/TfL are now about to scrap their just 10 year old replacements also bought at tax payers' expense. Just who is responsible for this gross waste of my money?? Strategy - nope Forward planning - nope Whole life cost - nope Responsibiltiy for decision making - err, nope Knighthood, promotion, OBE - Yes!!

Andrew C   19/08/2016 at 21:52

Just get rid, typically giving us up north the rubbish the south don't want. And while you are at it, scrap those dreadful teeth shattering Pacers

Chris M   07/09/2016 at 17:50

I believe this project is now running at least 15 months late and the price tag for a 3-car train with a minimal interior makeover is rather larger than first promised (50% seat cost compared to a class 150). I would still like to see Vivarail succeed, but the signs are not looking good now for significant orders. New trains are very attractive at the moment due to rock-bottom interest rates and recent DMU orders going to CAF and Stadler show that modern designs with a 30+ year life can be purchased and delivered into UK service in less than 3 years..

Xenophon Philosopher   20/09/2016 at 19:12

Has there been any recent news on how the trials are progressing which all have to be successful before the 3-car unit involved is allowed to commence its one year trial on the Coventry to Nuneaton line.

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