The TransPennine electrification scheme has been revived from its temporary slumber. The announcement in September was a welcome one, particularly for anyone who regularly commutes by Pacer between Manchester and Leeds.

By 2022, Network Rail plans to have electrified the entire route from Liverpool to Newcastle. Chunks of this have already been completed through the North West Electrification Programme (NWEP). Refreshed Class 319s began operating under wires between Manchester Airport and Liverpool Lime Street in March, made possible by the electrification of the line between Newton-le-Willows and Liverpool Lime Street, allowing electric trains to go as far as Manchester Victoria.

With the re-boring of Farnworth tunnel complete, the electrification of the line between Manchester and Bolton has also now reached a major milestone.

NWEP Phase 2

Phase one between Manchester and Newton-le-Willows was the first interoperable electrification project in the UK, throwing up new challenges around conformance. In a world of interoperability, common safety method, NoBos (notified bodies) and DeBos (designated bodies), getting any rail project authorised can be a costly and complicated business.

The Network Certification Body (NCB), an independent subsidiary of the Network Rail group, was created to support and enable the UK rail industry to get a better understanding of the legislation surrounding new infrastructure programmes.

NCB acted as the NoBo, DeBo and AB (assessment body) to achieve the UK’s first Energy Technical Specification for Interoperability (TSI) authorisation from the ORR for phase one.

In 2014, NCB was appointed to act as the NoBo, DeBo and AB for NWEP Phase 2 – Newton-le-Willows to Liverpool Lime Street and Huyton to Wigan. Its role was to compile the technical files and safety reports as required by the railway interoperability regulations and common safety method regulations, assessing both the design and construction of the project so it could achieve full safety certification.

The introduction of the Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011 in January 2012 requires all projects to comply to European standards on interoperability.

Alongside its role on NWEP Phase 2, NCB was also the provider of independent assessment services for the Borders Railway line which now links communities in the Scottish Borders and Midlothian to Edinburgh. NCB was involved from an early stage, developing assessment plans that eventually led to full authorisation for the project. In Issue 131 (September 2015), Network Rail’s project director for Borders talked about how the mixture of new and old infrastructure created numerous issues with TSIs on the project that had to be overcome.


Established in 2012 to provide conformity for certification of infrastructure projects, NCB has been steadily growing its rail vehicle and plant team, resulting in a number of substantial contract wins. Its rail vehicle conformance team is also currently working with LORAM, Hitachi and CAF on new train projects in the UK.

NCB has been extending its credentials as a conformance certification body. Its capabilities now include Assessment Body (under CSM-RA) and Entity in Charge of Maintenance certification.

With major electrification programmes on the horizon, managing director James Collinson believes there will be no shortage of demand for NCB’s services.

“The prospects for our business look healthy,” said James. “By the end of 2017, we expect to have tripled the size of our business.

“But our success will be driven by our people and our engineers, a UK resource that is already scarce. With new technologies being introduced through projects such as ERTMS and the Digital Railway, demand for skilled people is very high.

“We’re continuing to recruit great engineers and competing for resource is healthy, but doing it on the scale needed to satisfy demand for large projects such as Digital Railway and HS2 could hurt the UK rail industry as a whole. So we are also strengthening our relationships with selected partners – such as AEGIS Engineering, Ricardo Rail and MMRA – and recognising that, in some cases, collaboration will be an essential part of delivering these larger projects for the UK.

“We’ve come a long way in a short space of time and the future looks bright for us and the rail industry.”