2017 got off to a rip-roaring start for the rail industry, with a plethora of new projects completed, new trains on test and new rail links opened.

Over Christmas and the New Year, while Britain partied, the Orange Army pushed ahead with 200 projects designed to increase capacity and improve rail services.

Almost all were completed on budget and on time. New trains will provide more seats and space for hard-pressed commuters this year as new railways like the Elizabeth line and the Oxford -Marylebone link add to the rail success phenomenon in 2017.

200 projects

Teams in almost every region were aiming to complete milestone upgrades over Christmas and New Year. On the West Coast Main Line, engineers delivered an upgrade to the power supply around Milton Keynes, points upgrades at Birmingham New Street and track renewals in Carlisle. In the North West, existing track was realigned and a significant programme of structures works was carried out on the Ordsall Chord project.

On the Anglia route, 12.5 km of overhead catenary was replaced, allowing a disruptive speed restriction to finally be lifted, and the final phase of the Cardiff Area Signalling Renewals programme was completed in South Wales.

Network Rail CEO, Mark Carne, snapped a photo of Billy on a worksite in Bramley, Hampshire.

Important preparatory work for HS2 was also carried out at Euston. While the power was off, Network Rail began the process of relocating OLE equipment from the west-side carriage shed before it is demolished.

Carne on camera

One of the 24,000-strong team at work over the festive period was scaffolder Billy Russell, who was snapped by Network Rail’s chief executive, Mark Carne, while working on a bridge replacement project in Bramley, Hampshire.

Says Billy, who is 25 and from Maidstone, ‘This was the first Christmas Day that I’ve worked since I had my two youngest children. I missed their whole day as I left home at 4am and didn’t get back until after they’d gone to bed. It’s hard knowing that I missed out on all their excitement; however, I figure that it was a small sacrifice to make.

‘The kids aren’t interested in me on Christmas Day, it’s all about their presents whereas on site, I’ve been a part of something that will improve rail journeys in this area, and I’ve helped to ensure that it’s all been done safely.’

In publicity material announcing the successful delivery of the Christmas programme, Mark Carne said, ‘Our people can now go home and enjoy their delayed Christmas and be proud of having delivered a huge programme of railway improvement work. And we don’t just do it at Christmas. We are working week in, week out as we invest to transform our railway.’