I’m currently enjoying the hospitality of Grand Central trains as I’m on my way to London for a couple of days. I’ve a job photographing some new trains  on a franchise that was announced to be changing hands today! Stagecoach have run the SouthWest Trains franchise since February 1996, making it the longest running UK rail franchise. It’ll come to an end in August when a joint venture between First Group and MTR take over. The SWT franchise is a good indicator of how rail traffic has grown. When it started, their trains were carrying 108 million passengers a year. Today, that figure is over 230 million! As is common in new franchise deals nowadays lots of new trains are in the pipeline. This time it’s going to be 750 new vehicles (90 ten or five car trains.) as well as 18 refurbished and re-tractioned 5-car Class 442s for Portsmouth services.  I can’t help cracking a wry smile at the news. After all, those opposing Hs2 always insisted that the project was sucking up all the money from the existing network!

I saw further signs of that investment on the Journey from Halifax. There are grand plans to completely rebuild the station with an extra platform, demolish the existing station buildings and entrance and transform it into a major transport interchange. Meanwhile, Network Rail and its contractors have been busy trackside. Track’s been renewed at the West end of the station and there’s more evidence of progress on the resignalling scheme. New concrete cable troughing is appearing all over the place – along with a new trackside depot at Greetland Junction, complete with hardstands for RRV’s to access the track. Lineside trees have been cleared in many places, opening up a railway which was getting quite overgrown in some places.

I’ll look forward to reporting on progress over the next few months.