Ellie Burrows, route director, Anglia.
Hello and welcome to my first post on our new Train of Thought blog. My name is Ellie Burrows and I’m Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, meaning that I oversee all the infrastructure work we do to run the railway in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and parts of Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Greater London.
Outlining our vision
I wanted to start a blog so that I can keep you updated on our journey over the next few years. Between 2019 and 2024 we’re investing around £2.2bn in maintaining, renewing and upgrading the railway, all with the aim of helping you and the millions of tonnes of freight we carry get to the right place at the right time.
It’s a big and complicated undertaking, involving over 2,600 colleagues (plus many more from our supply chain) and in excess of 1,700 miles of track, as well as signalling systems, control rooms, sets of points, level crossings, bridges, viaducts, overhead electrical lines, new stations and everything in between. We also work extremely closely in partnership with the train operating companies that run the services you travel on.
That’s why I want to use this blog to tie our projects together and outline our vision. I want to tell you what work we’re doing, how we’re doing it and why it will make your journey more reliable. I won’t be able to cover everything (I’d never stop writing) but I do want to show you how the plan is coming together. Sometimes I’ll invite my amazing colleagues to blog too, because they’ll explain certain aspects of our work better than I can.
Transforming Liverpool Street
I thought I would start at Liverpool Street station. Network Rail is directly responsible for 20 of Britain’s biggest and busiest stations, with the rest managed by our train operating partners all around the country.
Liverpool Street is really special to us, not just because it’s our only Network Rail managed station on the Anglia route, but also because it’s where we get to be face-to-face with the people we work for every day: our passengers.
It’s vitally important to us that you have everything you need at Liverpool Street to be comfortable and relaxed as you start your journey or continue your day. We also know that the quality of your experience depends on us driving down delays, avoiding disruption and keeping services moving. That’s why we’re investing in Liverpool Street right across the board: transforming the passenger facilities whilst also upgrading the railway infrastructure.
A great example of our work to boost the reliability of Liverpool Street’s railway infrastructure is the innovative 12 month engineering programme that we completed at the end of August.
The improvement programme focused on the track between Liverpool Street and Bethnal Green, which is the busiest stretch of railway on the entire Anglia route. It is used by every train entering or leaving the station, so any problems can cause significant delays and cancellations.
On this stretch of track, we replaced 300 insulated block joints (IBJs), which are pieces of equipment that enable our signalling safety systems to work.
If an IBJ fails, which happens more often as they get older and wear out, all the trains are stopped to keep everyone safe. The new IBJs are far less likely to fail than the equipment they have replaced, minimising the possibility of disruption, and we have also developed ways to extend the lifespan of the equipment.
This programme has already reduced delays on our network and there’s lots more work to come on the track outside Liverpool Street, including the refurbishment of nine sets of points at Christmas.
Doubling our seating capacity
Our work on passenger facilities is already happening at pace. In October, we installed 411 sustainably sourced new seats, almost doubling our seating capacity at the station.
Not only is the new seating a significant upgrade in comfort, style and convenience, with tables and USB charging points built in, but it also has outstanding green credentials.
The wooden seats themselves are oak and beech from 100% FSC certified sources, the legs are 85% recycled steel and the feet are made from recycled ocean plastic.
Greener and cleaner
Beyond our new seating, being greener and cleaner in everything we do is a key priority as we transform Liverpool Street station.
In September we began coffee cup recycling along with our Network Rail sister stations (look out for our three bright orange bins) and we have also worked with our waste supplier so that we are sending more rubbish to be recycled and less to landfill.
Brand new toilets
We knew that we needed to take action on our seating from the feedback you gave us in the National Rail Passenger Survey, which asks station users for their opinions twice a year. The survey has also regularly highlighted the toilets at Liverpool Street as requiring improvement, and I’m glad to say we opened brand new facilities at the start of September following an extensive refurbishment programme.
I think it’s fair to say that there is no comparison with the old toilets. We now have cutting-edge interior design from flooring to lighting. The sinks have an anti-viral coating and the flushes, taps, soap dispensers and hand dryers are all completely touchless. There’s even a sound system that helps to keep people calm and relaxed by playing birdsong and forest noises.
But maybe you’ll think the cherry on the cake is this: the new toilets continue to be free to use for everyone. No more digging around in your purse or wallet to find the right combination of silver coins.
Our most recent innovation at Liverpool Street is arguably the most obvious of all: 15 electronic “totem poles” dotted around the concourse.
They are basically giant touch screens with all the information you might need during your time with us.
You can plan a journey, see live departures, bring up the tube map, see where you are in the station and send us feedback. Much easier than trawling through your phone for the right app.
As safe as possible
The second lockdown will unfortunately mean that we’ll be seeing less of you again, and that most of you won’t be able to experience the improvements at Liverpool Street for yourselves just yet.
For everyone who has to make essential journeys through the station over the next few weeks, please rest assured that we’re doing everything we can to be as safe as possible. We have put more intensive cleaning regimes in place, especially at touch points such as lifts and escalators, and our partners at Greater Anglia have installed full height screens in between all our ticket machines. Extra face masks can be bought from our vending machines, and there are hand sanitising stations around the concourse. We have a one-way system in place to help everyone social distance, and there are covers on our new seats to remind people to leave gaps.
Looking to the future
This is very much the start of our transformation programme at Liverpool Street. There’s so much more to come soon, including free unlimited WiFi next year, smart new entrance matting to help reduce slips and trips on the concourse and upgraded cycle storage with increased capacity.
We’ll also be supporting TfL with the start of their project to extend platforms 16 and 17. This will allow the new, longer nine-car Elizabeth Line trains to come into the station, giving you extra space for a more comfortable journey.
Putting passengers first
In a normal year, 69.5 million people use Liverpool Street station. Even though that number is going to be considerably smaller in 2020, and even under the challenges of a renewed lockdown, I still want anyone who passes through our doors to have the best possible experience. At Network Rail our guiding mission is to put passengers first. That means every single passenger, every single time.
We can’t wait to welcome you back at the right time to see and experience our Liverpool Street transformation programme. And I hope you’ll come back to Train of Thought soon for more updates and insights from around the network.
Stay safe and we’ll see you soon.