A look at some of the biggest, strangest and most extraordinary rail stories of 2012.

HS2 approved

High Speed Two (HS2), the proposed high-speed rail line linking London and Birmingham, was approved by ministers in January.

The then Transport Secretary Justine Greening said the first phase of the project could be complete by 2026.

The controversial project, which is set to cost £32.7 billion, was the subject of a judicial review at the end of the year, with campaign groups criticising the validity of the business case behind the high-speed link.

Super Storm Sandy 

MTA Sandy5

For only the second time in its history, New York’s public transport network had to be shutdown in preparation for Super Storm Sandy.

The storm claimed 253 lives and devastated America’s East Coast rail network.

$7 billion alone is now needed to repair New York’s public transport network.

Services are gradually returning to normal on the city’s subway system. Many underground tunnels were completely flooded with sea water, forcing the city’s transit authority to completely replace signalling systems in some areas.

London transport network praised for Olympic service

London’s public transport network was applauded by even its toughest critics following a wildly successful Olympic Games.

The London Underground had been written off before the event, even described by one German magazine as “ancient” and incapable of coping with the predicted demand.

A few early glitches aside, London’s rail network became one of the many success stories of the Games achieving punctuality figures in excess of 90 per cent and creating 12.4 million extra seats – the most substantial increase in the railway’s 187-year history.

Following the Games, the chief operating officer of London Rail, Howard Smith, said: “Britain has a great capacity for realism bordering on cynicism and the British press are up there with the best of them.

“We knew we were going to be scrutinised very, very carefully and in the days leading up to the Games that almost collective nervousness came across even more strongly.

“But once the Games got underway there was this sense of focussing on something extraordinarily positive.”

Completion date set for world’s highest rail bridgechenab_bridge

The world’s highest rail bridge, which will be 35 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower, is due to be completed by 2015.

Indian Railways announced earlier this year that it will become the first railway network in the world to operate train services on the bridge, which is part of the ambitious Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project.

The bridge is being constructed over Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district by Konkan Railways and will have a height of 359 metres (1,180 feet).

West Coast Main Line ‘fiasco’

2012 has been dominated by the cancellation of the West Coast Main Line franchise competition and the domino-toppling effect it has had on all other impending franchise decisions.

For passengers unaware of the saga nothing appears to have changed. Virgin pendolinos continue to make their way from London up to Birmingham and onto Manchester. But in just a few months the franchise has been awarded to FirstGroup, challenged by Virgin, cancelled by the Department for Transport and returned to Richard Branson – albeit on a temporary basis.

Intercity Express Programme given the go-ahead

Back in July, the government approved a £4.5 billion order for 596 new IEP carriages.

The contract, which was handed to a consortium made up of Hitachi and John Laing, will replace Britain’s ageing Intercity 125 fleet.

HLOS programme: Biggest rail investment since Victorian era

In the summer, the British government announced a landmark £9 billion investment programme in the country’s rail network – the biggest rail spend since the Victorian era.

Projects will include the full electrification of the Midland Main Line between Bedford and Sheffield, and a new £500 million rail link between the Great Western Main Line and Heathrow.

Brazil steps up rail revolution

The Brazilian government pledged billions of dollars to improving the country’s rail infrastructure in 2012.Aeromovel Trensurb

Train operator SuperVia announced an order with Alstom for 80 metro cars as part of plans to add 480 new passenger cars to Rio’s fleet by 2020.

Work continued on the Aeromovel project in Porto Alegre. The atmospheric railway project, which is due to open in 2013, will be the first commercial use of the system in Brazil.

At the very end of 2012, bidding opened for the Rio-Sao Paulo high-speed rail line – a project that has struggled to get off the ground after previous unsuccessful attempts at tendering for the new link.

InnoTrans 2012

The world’s largest rail industry trade fair returned to Berlin in September.InnoTrans 2012

126,000 trade visitors explored the 26 halls of the Messe Berlin to see the latest in rail innovation.

As always, a huge range of new rolling stock was unveiled by manufacturers, including the LEO Express Stadler Flirt and ZNLE’s Griffin locomotive.

European consortium picked to build Saudi Arabia high-speed line

A Spanish consortium, led by Talgo and Renfe, signed a contract to deliver a high-speed rail line connecting Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The deal, which is valued at €6.9 billion, involves the construction, operation and 12-year maintenance of the Haramain High Speed Rail line.

On the 450 km line, trains will operate at speeds of over 300 km/h, transporting passengers between the two holy cities in just two hours.

Dumb Ways to Die

A safety campaign with a difference, Dumb Ways to Die became the first rail campaign to use maimed cartoon characters to warn passengers about the dangers of level crossings.

The video is part of a campaign led by Australian rail operator Melbourne Metro and in just six weeks, it has amassed 35 million views on YouTube.

Lost letters at Birmingham New Street

Undelivered letters dating back almost 25 years were discovered in a post box at Birmingham New Street station during redevelopment work.

The post box, which has long sat on the station’s main concourse, was sealed up a year ago after complaints that people were getting their fingers caught in the slot while dropping letters off.

Royal Mail has now pledged to deliver the lost letters – some of which were destined for Australia and America – to their rightful recipients.

TBMs start Crossrail tunnelling

Crossrail’s tunnel boring machines (TBMs) Phyllis, Ada and Elizabeth started work on Crossrail’s underground network.

The first of eight Crossrail tunnelling machines, Phyllis, is currently tunnelling under Hyde Park and has now constructed 1,800 metres of tunnel – over one mile – from Royal Oak via the Paddington station box.

Crossrail’s second tunnel boring machine, Ada, has travelled 800 metres and has entered the station box at Paddington.

Crossrail TBM Elizabeth has started work on the five-mile section of eastern tunnels between Docklands and Farringdon in central London.

King’s Cross concourse


The brand new £550 million King’s Cross concourse was unveiled in March.

The structure represents the most significant transformation in the station 160- year history and on Christmas Day the new King’s Cross marked another major milestone when a ‘temporary’ canopy was removed to reveal the station’s historic frontage for the first time in 40 years.


  1. What has the Virgin West Coast item to do with commuters? The reporter doesn’t appear to know the difference between commuters and travellers.


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