UK government urges rail companies to address overcrowding

The UK government is urging rail companies to efficiently address the issue of overcrowding during peak hours.

Norman Baker, the UK rail minister, is writing to the major train operating companies asking them to be more transparent about overcrowded trains and to encourage passengers to travel at less busy times, The Guardian reports.

The move comes after the government faced criticism earlier this month when it announced that rail fares in England would increase by an average of 4.1 percent in January next year.

According to data from the Department for Transport, passengers on some morning and evening peak services were travelling on trains that are carrying 60 percent more people than they were designed for. Consumer groups have also voiced concerns that commuters were being pushed to the limit by an unacceptable combination of overcrowded trains and rising ticket prices.

Citing the case of London Midland, Baker is now urging train companies to highlight crowded trains on their timetables, enabling passengers to choose alternative services during peak hours. London Midland, which runs trains between London and Birmingham and the north-west, appropriately colour-codes trains using a red, amber and green ‘traffic light’ system.

‘Publication of train-by-train crowding information is, in the short term, an important tool for allowing passengers to make informed choices about which trains to travel on, and convincing those passengers who can change their travel patterns to do so,’ Baker said, adding: ‘The innovative approach taken by London Midland is helping to smooth the peaks in demand for their services and is making the most of the investment going into rail services in their area. I am keen to see the rail industry working together to follow London Midland’s example.’

Baker also said that the government has ruled out fare increases at peak times. ‘We have ruled out making further increases to fares at the very busiest times and we are investing record amounts in improvements to the network, but where it is simply not possible to increase services, encouraging passengers to change their travel patterns is the best way to tackle a crowded network,’ Baker remarked.


UK railways winning war against metal thieves

The UK’s rail network is winning its war against thieves that steal metal from its infrastructure, according to figures released today.

The problem of metal theft is not only one of expense in replacing the components and fittings that are stolen, but also one of delays and cancellations forced on the network’s customers while the items are replaced. This has amounted to as many as 6,000 hours of delays per annum that were directly attributable to thefts.

Network Rail, the UK authority that is responsible for maintaining the rail network, has prioritised the problem and will take satisfaction from new figures that show that its concerted efforts have resulted in theft-related delays being reduced by 2,700 hours in 2012/13. Cable theft in the North West and West Midland areas have fallen from 196 incidents in 2010/11, to 150 in 2011/12 and by an additional 36 percent to 96 during 2012/13.

Commenting on the improvement, Network Rail’s, head of operations and performance, Neil Henry, said, ‘These figures show the true success of partnership working and are great news for passengers and our freight customers. The improvements we have seen are down to a number of factors, including British Transport Police targeting thieves and the scrap dealers buying stolen metal. Our engineers are working with suppliers and other industries to make metal – particularly our cables – harder to steal and easier to identify, and our teams around the network introducing new ways of working to reduce delay and fix thefts more quickly. We believe the introduction of new laws following our work with other industries to explain the need for change to government will continue to help to stifle the market for stolen metal.’

Norman Baker, the UK’s rail minister, added, ‘The coalition Government is strongly committed to tackling metal theft and it is heartening to see that the decisive action that has been taken is now paying off with major reductions in this kind of crime. Government intervention in this area has included GBP5m of funding for a task force to crackdown on metal and cable thieves along with the introduction of a ban on cash payments by scrap metal dealers, significantly increasing the fines for all offences under the existing Scrap Metal Dealers Act and providing police officers with sufficient powers of entry to tackle illegal trading in metal yards.’


Crossrail Announces Plans for Underground Commercial Development

Crossrail, a new railway network, will also include a major development at Paddington, London, according to Crossrail Ltd, the company developing the railway project.

The 320,000 sq ft development is located at the intersection of Bishop’s Bridge Road and the Grand Union Canal, and will include 15 storeys of office space, as well as retail outlets.

The building at Paddington will include entry to Crossrail, National Rail and Hammersmith & City line services.

Ian Lindsay, a director at Crossrail Land and Property, said, ‘This major new commercial development will play an important role in the continued transformation of Paddington. Crossrail is the first UK rail project to deliver an integrated package of new and improved rail infrastructure alongside high-quality over-site development and public realm improvements, which will boost urban regeneration.

This development will signal the completion of a further phase in the renaissance of Paddington as a major commercial location.’

The Crossrail railway link is currently being constructed beneath central London, and is expected to open in 2018, when it will operate up to 24 trains per hour between Paddington and Whitechapel during its peak hours of service.

Kay Buxton, the chief executive officer at Paddington Waterside Partnership, said, ‘Paddington is one of the fastest growing business and residential areas in the capital. Crossrail will deliver improved and direct transport connections with areas to the west and east of the capital as well as with London’s other major employment centres. This development not only enhances Paddington’s position as an important business location, it also delivers new connectivity within the Paddington area by providing improved pedestrian access to the Grand Union Canal through a spectacular waterside scheme.’


First Great Western Provides New Trains for North Cotswolds

First Great Western, a UK based railway company, has launched new trains for the north Cotswolds area of England.

In November 2012 the company entered into a GBP29 million deal with the Department of Transport, to operate new trains and add excess capacity to its network. The company intends to provide 48 new vehicles for its customers on the completion of its expansion plans.

Currently, the company has launched five new trains, comprising of 25 carriages, to serve the North Cotswolds region. The new trains are adding around 4,500 seats on the routes that include those through Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley, and out of London.

The company managing director, Mark Hopwood, said, ‘I am delighted to be able to launch the return of these trains onto the Great Western Network.

Progress has remained on target for the vehicles to be in place before the end of the summer. This will mean virtually all the peak time services we run from Worcester and Great Malvern will now be offered by high speed Class 180s rather than turbos, with five carriages rather than three.

These trains are more comfortable on board, there are more tables for the seats and they can travel faster, offering a more pleasant travelling experience.’

The trains will be offering Wi-Fi connectivity by end of 2012, providing the company’s passengers with seamless Internet connectivity for their Wi-Fi-enabled devices throughout their entire journey.

The Cotswold Hills in south-central England are a popular tourist attraction, with rolling countryside and picture postcard towns and villages.


ScotRail Announces New Ticketing Machine at Aberdeen Station

ScotRail, the railway network in Scotland, has announced the installation of a touch-screen machine at Aberdeen station in Scotland, for faster dispensing of tickets to rail passengers.

The company has chosen Aberdeen Station as the first venue to receive its touch-screen ticket-dispensing machine, ToDler, due to it issuing around 11,000 departure tickets every month, and the fact that it is one of the busiest stations on the network. The machine is scheduled to be on trial at the station for the next six months, during which time the responses of passengers using the facility will be monitored.

Sean Duffy, the commercial director at ScotRail, said, ‘This touch-screen machine will make a real difference for our customers in Aberdeen by making it faster and easier to collect pre-booked tickets.

It highlights our ongoing commitment to further enhancing Scotland’s railways.’

Parkeon, a company that manufactures other automatic fare collection systems for the public transportation industry, manufactures the ToDler machine.

Paul Moirano, the Parkeon sales director for UK Rail, said, ‘We’re making it easier than ever before to get from online to on-train.

ToDler is dedicated purely to the collection of pre-paid tickets, thereby speeding up station throughput and enhancing the passenger experience.’

Aberdeen station has also recently benefited from image initiatives, with volunteer gardeners planting floral displays as part of a programme conducted by the company at 11 railway stations in Scotland, asking non-profit organisations to adopt a station. Aberdeen station has been adopted by the Aberdeen in Bloom programme, conducted by The City Council.