Good News Friday: Your weekly roundup of positive rail news!

Posted: 31 May 2024 | | No comments yet

In this week’s ‘Good News Friday’, we cover CrossCountry’s safety support, a possible name for Northern’s resident cat, and Alfie’s day at Thameslink!

Good News Friday: Your weekly round-up of positive rail news!

CrossCountry supports youngsters’ safety with £11,000 boost for education programme

cross country

Long distance train operator CrossCountry has partnered with the Rail Safe Friendly programme to help promote rail safety awareness to young people.

Rail Safe Friendly was launched in March 2023 by Stuart Heaton following the tragic death of 11-year-old Harrison Ballantyne who received a fatal electric shock after climbing over a fence to retrieve his football at a train depot.

Over 4,000 UK schools are already on board with the Rail Safe Friendly programme and more than 80 organisations from across the rail sector have become partners and sponsors of the programme.

Ben Simkin, CrossCountry’s Regional Director for North East & Scotland, said: “We are pleased to be working in collaboration with Learn Live to help roll out the Rail Safe Friendly programme in key areas along our network.

“We care passionately about keeping young people safe when using trains, stations, level crossings or being anywhere else near the tracks. Working together will help ensure that we can help more young people to understand how to use the railway safely.”

The Rail Safe Friendly broadcasts are delivered through live or on demand content digitally into classrooms and assembly halls via the Learn Live channel. The channel also has a moderated, GDPR-compliant live chat facility to promote interaction from schools and colleges taking part in Rail Safe Friendly.

Digital education provider Learn Live delivers Network Rail’s video safety content about the dangers of trespassing on railways directly to schools – since it was launched in 2019 it has reached over 21 million young people more than 12,500 schools across the UK.

Stuart Heaton, Managing Director of Rail Safe Friendly and Learn Live, said: “We are delighted to welcome CrossCountry to the Rail Safe Friendly programme. Their support will help us equip even more children with vital rail safety awareness – saving lives and preventing injuries on the country’s rail network and in yards, depots and sidings.

“It is crucial that children receive vital knowledge, at a young age, to keep them rail safe. The Rail Safe Friendly programme seeks to educate children and young people on the many dangers that are present on the railway.

He added: “For example, nearly half of the UK rail network is electrified and more than 30 per cent uses a third rail to power the train. The third rail has 750 volts running through it, which is enough to kill or seriously injure someone if they stepped on it.

“Overhead cables that power trains carry 25,000 volts, more than 100 times the power of electricity in the average home. Electricity from overhead lines can also jump or arc through the air, meaning someone does not have to be touching the line to be electrocuted and killed.”

Businesses and organisations that want to partner with Rail Safe Friendly, or schools that want to be certified, can register their interest at

Northern asks customers to help name ‘The Cat’ who has become part of the team

northern cat

Northern staff are asking customers to choose a name for a stray cat which has become part of their team in Barrow-in-Furness.

The skinny kitty wandered into the operator’s TrainCare Centre two years ago and decided to stay after being treated to a meal.

The team quickly became fond of the friendly feline and they have made sure she has everything she needs. They have bought two beds for her and routinely chip in for cat food and vet bills.

Affectionately referred to as “The Cat”, she spends her days chasing mice and sleeping at the TrainCare Centre, which is open 24 hours a day.

After producing a shortlist of four names – Mooch, Birdie, Sassy and Debbie – staff are asking customers to pick one during a vote on Northern’s Instagram today.

Neil Cornforth, a senior team leader for Northern, said: “Everyone looks after her, even the drivers come down and bring her food. She’s a cracking little cat and she’s really friendly.

“She catches mice around the place and there are a few other cats who try and infiltrate the depot, but she keeps them away because she knows she’s got a good thing here.

“We were thinking about giving her a name and we came up with a dozen before drawing four out of a hat. We’re looking forward to finding out which one people prefer.”

Northern is the second largest train operator in the UK, with 2,500 services a day to more than 500 stations across the North of England.   

Thameslink makes dream come true for train-mad Alfie

thameslink alfie

Thameslink made dreams come true for one train-mad eight-year-old when they gave him a ride in the cab of one of their services and helped him make passenger announcements.

Alfie Palmer, from Barton Hills, Luton, has Spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. He came to Thameslink’s attention when he appeared on Justin Dealey’s weekend BBC Three Counties Radio show. Justin had fixed it for Alfie and his dad to see Luton play, as Alfie is also mad about the Hatters.

During the show, Alfie told Justin he loved trains and wanted to be a train driver. Justin called Thameslink and the trip was set up.

Thameslink driver, Competency Manager Barry Minall said: “As soon as we heard about Alfie’s love of trains, we wanted to make that dream come true. He can’t take to the driver’s cab just yet but we arranged the next best thing – a trip in a cab. And – never-say-never – his wheelchair may be an issue in driving a train now but who knows how things might change in the future!”

Barry and station manager Joe Healy met Alfie, his dad, Kevin and mum, Lisa, at Luton Airport Parkway station. Gifted a high-visibility vest and whistle, Alfie joined station assistants on platform 2 and announced the arrival of trains.

The party then boarded the 11:23 to Bedford and on arrival, Dad lifted Alfie into the rear end driver’s seat of another service for the return trip.

Alfie’s excitement was palpable as he sat at the rear of the train, looking down the line from the driver’s perspective. Under the watchful eye of Barry, he made announcements to delighted passengers on board.

Alfie said: “It was great. It was text book! It really has made my dream come true.”

In the past, Alfie and his family have used Thameslink to travel to Great Ormond Street for Alfie to receive treatment. Dad Kevin said: “The Thameslink staff were brilliant, so helpful. They were on hand to help us throughout the journey.”

Mum Lisa added: “Alfie’s at the age now where he’s asking questions. He said, ‘Mummy, I can’t use my legs; will I always be like this? Why can’t they fix me?’ We focus on what he can do, not what he can’t. We hope he’ll eventually be able to use a walking frame. Also, when he’s a teenager, we want to make sure he’s independent. He needs to have the confidence to travel which is why this trip has been so important.”

Thameslink has a mission to improve journeys for disabled people like Alfie, by promoting the wide range of support and tools available that help everyone use the railway. For more information, visit the assisted travel page of Thameslink’s website