Sunday, 23 October 2016

Alstom to Build New Factory in Cheshire

Alstom has started construction at the new site in Widnes, Cheshire, which will create about 600 jobs. The firm aims to win contract to manufacture trains for HS2.
The French train company Alstom is building the new multimillion-pound plant in the north-west of England, delivering a major boost to the region during a time of uncertainty about Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Alstom will spend an initial £20m on a new site at Widnes, Cheshire, creating about 600 jobs. The facility will modernise the Pendolino trains on the west coast mainline and contain a training academy, but it could eventually manufacture new rolling stock if Alstom wins a contract to produce trains for London Underground or HS2.

 The company have a contract to modernise the
 West Coast Pendolino trains
Alstom has also been chosen to provide maintenance support for the Class 180 trains operated by Grand Central Railway Company Limited for the next ten years, from January 2017 until December 2026
The Paris-based company is making the investment in Britain despite concerns about the cost of importing and exporting products after the country leaves the EU and doubts about the future of the HS2 rail project. Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of Nissan, warned last week that Brexit threatens Britain’s vehicle manufacturing industry and he would look for compensation from the government before committing to new investments.
However, Nick Crossfield, the managing director of Alstom for UK and Ireland, said the French company is “fundamentally committed” to the UK market. He also described HS2 as an “incredibly important and transformational investment” for the UK. Crossfield said the investment in Widnes represented a “step change” for Alstom’s approach to the UK.
It also highlights the revival in Britain’s train manufacturing industry. A decade ago Britain was left with only one train manufacturer – Bombardier in Derby – after a string of closures. However, Hitachi, the Japanese conglomerate, opened a plant in County Durham last year and Alstom’s announcement is another boost.

“It is a step change in terms of the type and nature of investment that we have made in the UK,” Crossfield said. “ It is a fundamental step in a direction that sees us delivering a much broader capability in the UK market. The UK market is one of the most high profile and important for Alstom worldwide.”
The 30-acre site is due to open next year. The facility will grow “according to the opportunities that we win”, Crossfield added, and is a “foothold that provides us with a base to expand even further”.
The Alstom boss said the company had not reconsidered the project despite Britain’s vote to leave the European Union:“One of the major issues with UK rail right now is capacity, and that is underpinning all of the investment that is going in.
 “While the EU question is important for the country as a whole, people still need to get on trains to get from A to B and we see no reason why that investment will change.
“We are fundamentally committed to the UK market. Its strategic importance, its size and its dynamics were not impacted by [Brexit],” he added.
“Other than some of the very limited foreign exchange volatility, we have not seen any major  impact to our business. For us, it is business as usual. We are in a business that is based on long-term fundamentals like population growth and industrial development and that continues as before.”
Alstom has confirmed it will bid to build the trains for HS2 and unveiled plans for double-decker carriages. It is also bidding for the New Tube for London contract, which is worth up to £2.5bn and involves designing and building 250 next-generation trains for the Piccadilly, Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City lines in London.
Crossfield said that even if the government scrapped HS2, which is estimated to cost more than £40bn, it “would not change the investment perspective for us here in the UK because there is a very significant and healthy domestic rolling stock market”.
Nonetheless, Crossfield said HS2 is a “very significant opportunity” for Alstom, with the company eyeing up the contracts to build rolling stock and infrastructure for the network. He said it was “too early to say” whether the trains would be built in the UK if Alstom won the contract, but some work is  but some work is likely to be conducted in Widnes. The company employs 32,000 people around the world, including 3,200 at 12 UK sites.

 Alstom produce the double deck Euroduplex which
 can reach 320kph (198mph)
Theresa May confirmed at the Conservative party conference that the government will “press ahead” with HS2, and Alstom has welcomed the government’s comments.
“It is a very crucial and important infrastructure project that should go ahead,” Crossfield said. “I was at the Conservative party conference over the last couple of days speaking at a couple of fringe events and the government remains committed to HS2 in a very vital way. I think it is an incredibly important and transformational investment for the country.
“There were very specific comments made in the last 48 hours of the conference in regard to continued support for HS2 and when you look and talk to the people involved in that project within government it is clear there is significant momentum. There is no dilution in commitment to that project at all.”
Alstom remains under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over corruption allegations regarding overseas contracts. Seven individuals have been charged as part of the investigation, which relate to consultancy agreements signed in 2001, 2002 and 2004. One of the individuals who has been charged is Terence Watson, who stepped down as president of Alstom UK earlier this year and was replaced by Crossfield – who was promoted from his role as managing director of train control. Watson is contesting the charges.
Crossfield said the investigation “does not effect or impact what we are doing”, adding: “It’s not on my day-to-day agenda in terms of how I run the business.

Click here here to see the range of Alstom trains.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Contactless Payment coming to a Stagecoach bus near you

Stagecoach has announced plans to bring in contactless payment technology on all of its UK regional bus services by the end of 2018.
The £12m initiative will allow passengers to pay for travel with a contactless credit or debit card, as well as Apple Pay and Android Pay.
Perth-based Stagecoach said it would be the first major use of contactless technology on buses outside London.
The first buses in Scotland will begin accepting contactless payments in 2017.
The initial phase of the project was marked at an event in Oxford attended by UK Transport Minister Andrew Jones.

By the end of 2018, the technology will be live on all of the operator's 7,200 buses in England, Scotland and Wales.
Stagecoach has already ordered 4,000 special ticket machines, covering more than 50% of its bus fleet, with the remaining 3,200 machines scheduled for 2017-18.
The transport group said passengers would not face additional charges for using the contactless technology.
Robert Montgomery, managing director of Stagecoach UK Bus, said: "Bus travel is experiencing a complete transformation. Major investment by Stagecoach in new digital technology is making it easier than ever to catch the bus.

"From contactless technology and new apps to greener vehicles with the latest environmental performance, buses are the simpler, smarter and greener mobility solution.
"But to maximise the benefit of this investment, we also need bold and urgent action by transport authorities to tackle the scourge of road congestion that is holding back bus reliability."
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: "The roll-out of contactless payment technology on Stagecoach bus services outside London will help hundreds of thousands of passengers.
"People will be able to buy tickets online and on smartphones, making bus travel more convenient, cutting queues and speeding up journeys."
Stagecoach is also working with other major bus operators - First Bus, Go-Ahead, Arriva and National Express - to have contactless technology installed on all buses outside London.

The project would cover more than 1,200 bus operators in England, Scotland and Wales, and make contactless travel available for 5.2 billion bus passenger journeys a year across Britain.

Contactless Payment - Reading Buses

Contactless payments coming in 2016

2016 is the year that we will be launching contactless payment across our buses! You’ll no longer have to worry about having the correct change! And it doesn't stop there as there will be lots more choice to pay. We will be firming up dates soon, but we were so excited that we had to share with you now! We already have our simplyBus smartcards which are simply faster, smarter and cheaper than cash, but there’s a lot more on the horizon.

Pay with your contactless bank card on the bus!

Say goodbye to fumbling round for change in your pocket for good. All you need is your contactless bank card to pay and get where you need to be. Currently this is only available on London buses, but we hope to get our accreditation soon to be able to give you this quick and easy way to pay.

Pay with your mobile

We are excited to announce that a Reading Buses app will be coming later this year which will include mobile ticketing. Suitable for both regular users and visitors alike, just a few taps on your phone and you’ll be hopping around on our buses in no time at all!

Do you forget to top up your smartcard?

With the launch of our flashy brand new website in summer, you will be able to set up a direct debit to top up your cards automatically and never fear that your smartcard will run out of trips again!
These developments are designed to give you the easiest methods of payment in this modern time and to speed up boarding times on our buses. Be rest assured though, that we will not be getting rid of cash payments on our buses when these innovations come in.
We will keep you up to date on our website and social media when we have the confirmed dates of implementation.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Rail freight firm DB Cargo planning almost 900 job losses

Rail freight firm DB Cargo is planning almost 900 job losses in the UK after a "dramatic decline" in markets such as coal.
The planned cuts represent almost 30% of the company's workforce. The German-owned firm said the rail freight industry was facing "unprecedented challenges" because of the fall in its core markets.
Hans-Georg Werner, chief executive of DB Cargo UK, said: "Responsible and successful businesses must evolve and reshape as their markets change, and sometimes this means making tough decisions.
"Whilst this is a difficult time for all of us at DB Cargo UK, reshaping the company will enable us to build a business for the future and protect the majority of jobs.
"We are fully committed to supporting colleagues who may be at risk of redundancy.
"We firmly believe in the future of rail freight in the UK. Our motorways and roads are becoming more congested and rail offers fast and clean supply chain solutions.
"Our new business strategy will ensure we are a perfect logistics partner of choice for customers across all sectors - including construction, automotive and intermodal - long into the future."
The company said no final decisions have been taken yet, and its proposals are subject to formal collective and individual consultations.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said: "This is devastating news brought on through a combination of cut-throat practices in the UK rail freight industry and a shocking lack of Government support for this key section of our transport infrastructure.
"RMT's executive will be meeting this afternoon to consider our response but it is imperative right now that the Government intervene to save skilled jobs in the rail freight industry which are being butchered before their eyes due to a lack of action to protect steel, coal and the rest of our manufacturing base."
Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: "This news will be a devastating blow to all the fine people working in UK rail freight industry, and unless we come up with an immediate rescue could plan, it is also very bad news for Britain.
"Our ability to shift cargo by rail should be central to any UK future joined-up environmental as well as economic and transport planning. This announcement is a hammer blow to our strategic capability to be able to do so.
"Few people will have realised until today that Britain's freight industry is actually owned by Germany and operates as a subsidiary company of their state-owned rail company Deutsche Bahn.
"So whilst this news is bleak, the Tories do have the opportunity to turn this negative into a positive if Theresa May will take back control of rail freight so it can be built in the interests of the British economy."

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Go North East wins dishonest personal injury claim case

Go North East, represented by law firm Ward Hadaway, has won an important case against an improper personal injury claim.

The case was heard at Sunderland County Court where a Judge ruled that, not only was a personal injury claim improper and should be dismissed, but that the claimant and his solicitors should pay Go North East’s costs. This is the second time this year that dishonest claimants have been caught out by Go North East, highlighting what the company sees as a growing problem with some personal injury solicitors who pursue claims they know to be improper. 
In September 2014, a Go North East bus had a minor collision with the partly open door of a parked van, causing superficial damage to the bus which the bus firm accepted liability for. A passenger on the bus claimed that he had been jolted backwards and forwards by the accident, and suffered a significant neck injury which resulted in him not being able to work for several months. However, CCTV footage showed that the passenger was standing, not seated as he had said, waiting to get off the bus, and was completely unaffected by the minor accident. The CCTV was disclosed to the passenger's lawyers with a request that they ask the medical expert to comment upon whether he could have suffered injury in light of what was shown, but they decided to issue proceedings despite the inconsistent evidence.

The court documents said that the claimant was standing at the time of the accident. When a formal witness statement was disclosed, the passenger said that he could not remember if he was standing or seated. Eventually, the medical expert was shown the CCTV and agreed that there was no medical basis to support the allegation that the passenger was injured in the accident.

The claim was then withdrawn.

The Court ruled that the claimant was fundamentally dishonest and ordered the passenger to pay Go North East's costs. The Court found that the claimant's lawyers acted improperly or rather failed to act by not earlier sending the CCTV to the expert. The claimant's lawyers were therefore also ordered to pay the bus firm’s costs. Go North East’s managing director, Kevin Carr, said: “We take a firm stance against anyone who attempts to obtain money from our company improperly.

“There are no winners when it comes to dishonest compensation claims – ultimately we all pay for these through subsequent rises in transport fares, or in the case of private motorists, the cost of insurance."

Paul Hughes, Consultant at Ward Hadaway, who advised Go North East on the case, said: “This is a welcome and refreshing decision. It is very unusual for solicitors to be ordered to pay costs in this way. This decision demonstrates that courts are becoming more robust in the challenge to improper claims not supported by evidence."

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Greater Anglia rail franchise

Greater Anglia drops “Abellio” from its title as new era starts on the region’s railways

In August, Dutch company Abellio – part of the state-owned Dutch Railways – won the franchise it had been running on a temporary basis for four years, with a promise to completely renew the region’s trains by 2020.
It will invest £1.4bn in buying 1,043 new carriages to transform rail services in the region and will pay the Treasury £3.7bn for the right to run services.
The first new trains should appear early in 2019 with the complete fleet in place by the end of 2020.
Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said that while much hard work had been undertaken to reach this stage, the hard work of delivering improvements to the service was only just starting.

Timeline: From British Rail to the new railway

The start of the new franchise is crucial turning point for the region’s railways which are about to be modernised with a new fleet.
1997: The region’s passenger rail services were privatised shortly before the General Election. Anglia Railways took on the InterCity route from London to Norwich and the rural branch lines while First Great Eastern ran the suburban trains from London to Ipswich, Clacton, Harwich, Sudbury and Braintree.
2004: All the lines out of Liverpool Street were brought together under a single franchise run by National Express, initially called ‘one’.
2012: Abellio took over the Greater Anglia Franchise, initially for a two-year period. This was extended in 2014 after the Department for Transport’s franchise programme ran into problems.
2016: New long-term franchise awarded to Abellio, with the promise of a new fleet of trains.
2018: Crossrail starts, allowing new connections from Stratford station to Central London, Heathrow Airport, and Reading.
Early 2019: First new trains due to be delivered – the InterCity and hybrid train fleets built by Swiss company Stadler are expected to be the first to enter service.
Late 2019: New accelerated timetables introduced. These will feature through trains from Lowestoft to London along the East Suffolk Line, an hourly service between Ipswich and Peterborough, and new services between Sudbury and Colchester Town station. New “Aventra” trains from Bombardier enter service on suburban services.
Late 2020: Last Aventra trains delivered for the suburban services – meaning the region has a totally modern fleet.
October 2025: Abellio’s franchise is due to run out (but many companies have seen their franchises extended).
Upgrading existing trains would continue to improve things in the short term – and the contract for the new trains to be introduced in the longer term had now been agreed.

The franchise announcement came after three years of campaigning by the Great Eastern Taskforce headed by MPs Chloe Smith and Ben Gummer alongside New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Mark Pendlington.
The name on the trains is being shortened to Greater Anglia and there should be free wi-fi on all InterCity trains.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

New Tourliner Launched with EfficientCruise & EfficientRoll

MAN Bus subsidiary Neoplan has launched the Tourliner as a new entry model in the premium coach sector. The new exterior design gives increased aerodynamics by more than 20% in comparison to the previous model. The drag coefficient is only Cd = 0.36, which is equivalent to that of a modern mid-size van. This is achieved in part by the new exterior mirrors, which feature improved wind resistance and provide a better view.
In addition, the D26 engine now comes with increased performance and torque, featuring an optimised driveline that allows for fuel savings of up to 10%. This is due to the long final drive ratio of i = 2.73 and the optimised shifting strategy among other things.
The new generation of MAN EfficientCruise has also been added to the line-up now, meaning that the MAN EfficientRoll free-wheel feature is available for coaches for the very first time. This ‘sailing’ mode provides a gain in efficiency even on slight downward gradients by automatically shifting the gearbox to the neutral ‘N’ position and allowing the bus to move with as little engine friction loss as possible.

Another innovation in this area is the latest generation of pre-emptive cruise control systems, MAN EfficientCruise® GPS-assisted cruise control system detects up and downward gradients along the route up to three kilometres in advance. This means that it can adjust the selected gear and speed to achieve optimum economy whilst driving. Downshifts are suppressed where appropriate.
The driver simply selects the desired speed and one of the four possible speed tolerance levels (ECO Level I - IIII). Level I denotes the smallest deviation from the set speed, Level IIII the greatest. The latter allows maximum fuel savings and is ideal for light traffic on motorways and country roads. By means of a rocker switch, the ECO level may be adjusted to the current traffic situation at any time during the journey.

EfficientRoll ‒ Intelligent coasting

Thanks to innovative technology, coasting is now introduced which is intelligently controlled by means of GPS preview. MAN has significantly expanded the potential for fuel savings. Even when on a slight downward gradient, the transmission automatically shifts to the neutral position "N" - but only where fuel consumption can actually be reduced. Thus the momentum is maintained and the vehicle loses speed less quickly than with an engaged gear.

EfficientRoll combined with MAN EfficientCruise® saves more fuel and allows the vehicle to travel in a more environmentally friendly manner than previously. The smooth intervention of the cruise control enormously increases comfort and optimally reduces the strain on the driver. This means that the driver can now concentrate fully on the driving tasks whilst letting the new systems take control of smooth driving.

More details here

Monday, 17 October 2016

London's Night Tube - next lines

Night Tube services on the Northern Line will launch on November 18th, it has been announced.
Northern Line services will run from High Barnet and Edgware, via the Charing Cross branch, to Morden.

Jubilee Line trains began to operate on Friday 7th October around every 10-minutes throughout Friday and Saturday nights, helping people travel to and from attractions such as The O2, Wembley Stadium and London Stadium in Stratford.

The service was launched on the Victoria and Central Lines on the 19th August.
The Piccadilly Line will join the Night Tube service later this year once drivers have completed training.
Around 200,000 passengers are expected to use the Night Tube when all five lines are operational.
Transport for London predicts the service will cut journey times by an average of 20 minutes, benefiting people who previously used buses to travel in the early hours of the morning.
When the opening date of Jubilee line Night Tube service was announced, Mr Khan said: "The launch of the Jubilee line will support thousands more workers like nurses, cleaners, and people who work in our bars and restaurants - many of whom currently take two night buses to get home.
"It will also serve some of our city's key venues."
Rebecca Kane Burton, vice-president of The O2, said: "The Night Tube is a game changer for venues like The O2 and thousands more across the capital.
"Over 60 per cent of our fans already use the Jubilee line to reach us.
"That will grow, the experience will improve and it will enhance options for the teams who work here too."

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Thousands Sign Petition Against Abellio

NEARLY 14,000 people have called for the controversial Dutch firm in charge of ­Scotland’s train ­service to be stripped of their contract unless ScotRail improves.
The online petition urges the Scottish ­Government to take action against ­Abellio over the delays and cancellations suffered by commuters using ScotRail.
The firm have already been hit with £1.5million in fines for poor service.

The petition and the ­experiences of 7000 ­passengers on the failing ­service will be delivered to Transport Minister Humza Yousaf at Holyrood.
They want Yousaf to make ScotRail bosses improve ­Scotland’s trains or strip the Dutch firm – who are making £1million a month – of their contract.
The £7billion, 10-year ­contract has a clause allowing it to be cancelled at the 
halfway point in 2020.
Lorna Greenwood, ­campaigns manager at online petitions site 38 Degrees, said: “The huge number of people who have signed the petition and shared their experiences is an indication of the strength of public anger at how ScotRail is being run.
“The stories of 38 Degrees members show how poor ­service means people are struggling to get on with 
their lives, from taking 
their kids to school, getting to 
job ­interviews or making crucial ­hospital appointments.
“Transport Minister Humza Yousaf now has to listen to the public and demand that Abellio get their act together or face being stripped of their contract.”

The demand was backed by the Rail Maritime and Transport Union, who last week ended a long-running row with ScotRail over driver-only trains. here

Scottish Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: “The number of signatures on this petition shows just how disgruntled passengers are with ScotRail services.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

New West Croydon Bus Station opens

London's Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, officially opened a new bus station in West Croydon on the 12th October.

The station, which cost £4.5m, has been completely rebuilt with an open, pedestrian-friendly layout, and 21% increased capacity.
The station will serve 25 bus routes and 150 buses per hour at peak times, with 23,000 passengers able to use it every day.
Situated on the site of the previous station, it will provide close links to the London Overground station and Tram station.
Val Shawcross, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: 'I'm delighted that West Croydon has a new bus station to be proud of.
'This new safe and accessible station will be a real boost to the town centre, improving journeys for tens of thousands of passengers every single day continuing the regeneration of the area.'

Gareth Powell, TfL's Director of Strategy and Contracted Services, Surface Transport, said: 'The new bus station will provide customers with a safer, more accessible and congenial environment and play a key part in the redevelopment of Croydon town centre.
'With its greater capacity to meet increasing numbers of bus passengers both now and in the future and sited so conveniently alongside the London Overground station, and tram, it will provide a transport hub which will help regenerate this part of Croydon.'
Councillor Stuart King, cabinet member for transport and environment, said: 'It's fantastic to see West Croydon bus station re-built, modernised and given the makeover it deserves.
'West Croydon is hugely significant to us as a major transport hub and gateway to our town centre, so this is a really important regeneration milestone for Croydon.

'We are revitalising and transforming the streets and public realm around the West Croydon transport interchange with a £6m package of improvements and the new bus station is right at the heart of this.'
The new bus station was designed by TfL's in-house team. They ensured the new low-rise building will make a significant and positive contribution to both the immediate environment and the wider Croydon town centre.

The new facilities include:
  • A large sheltered waiting area
  • Real time travel information
  • A modern public address system
  • State-of-the-art CCTV and improved lighting
  • Accessibility improvements
  • 18% more seating
  • A retail outlet
  • A fully accessible public toilet
  • Fifteen solar panels on the roof of the building

And finally. In order to provide a comparison of what the new structure has replaced. Herewith an image of the opening day of the then new bus station back on 17th May 1985, 31-years ago. A  special appearance was made by Leyland Fleetline DM 2629, which had been previously decorated in a livery to celebrate the centenary of the Croydon Corporation Tramways.

All the images published here have been kindly provided by John Parkin

Friday, 14 October 2016

DATE FOR THE DIARY - Saturday 22nd October - Warwickshire

Vintage Running Day

On Saturday 22nd October 2016, Stagecoach Midlands will be running a special vintage bus service on selected routes and journeys around picturesque Warwickshire towns to celebrate 50 years of FLF 19953 & RML 12565 - and you are invited to come and experience a ride!

FLF 19953 will be running the following journeys:

09:10 Stratford to Chipping Norton - route 50
10:05 Chipping Norton to Stratford - route 50
11:20 Stratford to Redditch - route 26
12:20 Redditch to Stratford - route 26
14:10 Stratford to Chipping Norton - route 50
15:02 Chipping Norton to Stratford - route 50
16:18 Stratford to Warwick - route X17
17:15 Warwick to Stratford - route X18

And RML 12565 will be running the following journeys:

08:43 Rugby to Leamington - route 63
09:41 Leamington to Stratford - route X18
11:05 Stratford to Shipston - route 50
11:35 Shipston to Stratford - route 50
13:05 Stratford to Shipston - route 50
13:35 Shipston to Stratford - route 50
14:18 Stratford to Leamington - route X17
15:40 Leamington to Rugby - route 63

Normal fares will apply and valid passes may be used on all trips.
Alternatively a standard Stagecoach bus will also run if you do not wish to travel on the running day buses.


Warwickshire was also host to an earlier event during August when the now annual BUSES Festival was held at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon. A variety of buses and coaches old and new were present, as were members of the Focus Transport team and two further albums have been created. A set of single-decks can now be viewed here whilst another just of coaches can be viewed here
An earlier set of double-decks can still be viewed here

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Midlands Metro news - Part 2

Midland Metro extension work across the Black Country 'will begin next year'

Multi-million pound plans for a Midland Metro extension link from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill ‘will start’ next year, according to a council chief.

Midland Metro
The scheme, which has been in the pipeline for nearly two decades, finally looks set to get off the ground after gaining Government backing.
West Midlands Combined Authority bosses have said the Metro extension is set to be the first project completed as part of the region’s devolution deal.
The extension runs for around seven miles from the existing line at Wednesbury to Great Bridge.
Under plans it would continue to Horseley Heath, Dudley Port, Dudley town centre, the Waterfront and Merry Hill, before terminating at Brierley Hill town centre.
Business leaders have hailed its potential impact on the region’s economy.
Dudley Council chief executive Sarah Norman tweeted: “Good progress on Brierley Hill Metro reported at @WestMids_CA Board Meeting.
“Will start in 2017 & be first Devo deal scheme completed.”
Black Country LEP board member Ninder Johal said: “For too long this region - and other parts of the UK – have been blighted by poor infrastructure.
“If we’re going to continue to attract inward investment then infrastructure is the number one priority.
“The formation of the West Midlands Combined Authority and the devolved funding it will bring will hopefully bring much improved infrastructure.
“The extension from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill is an example of that and also ties in with the extra investment into the Merry Hill shopping centre by intu.”
Dudley Council’s Conservative group leader Patrick Harley said the move was a statement of intent by the Combined Authority.
“This is something people have been talking about as a pipe dream for about 20 years,” he said.
“If we can get this done and people can see the construction, preparation and clearing of sites for tracks as quickly as 12 months’ time it will give them confidence in the merits of the combined authority.
“If one of the benefits is the Metro link and that’s one of the first achievements it will give people the belief [the combined authority] isn’t just a Birmingham initiative.”

A report is due to be brought before the Combined Authority in March
According to board papers, chiefs will seek ‘approval to progress the early delivery works in 2017-18 and submit an outline business case to Government’.


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Norfolk Coasthopper update

It was back in 1996 that the then Norfolk Green bus company based in King's Lynn, renamed the coastal route from King's Lynn to Cromer as the 'Coasthopper'. A fleet of small Mercedes-Benz midibuses were introduced and ran the service via Hunstanton, Burnham Market, Wells-next-the-Sea, Blakeney, Weybourne and Sheringham.

With route number 36 displayed, one the midibuses prepared to depart from King's Lynn bus station in the early days of the service.

The route was later given a makeover in the late 2000s with the addition some new 09-registered Optare Solos were introduced. At the same time a bright new blue, green and yellow livery that reflected the areas through which the route ran was applied to the buses.

One of the 2009 Optare Solos 47906 passed the RSPB reserve between Cley-next-the-Sea and Salthouse in early May 2016 on the eastern section of the route bound for Cromer. The type of electronic blind display used made it awkward to read clearly the destination when on the move. Note the message below the windscreen, it read "Tony, Tom & Bob too.....", a nod to three of the regular drivers who began on the route back in 1996. Most of the Norfolk Green fleet bore similar messages in recognition of local heroes and villains throughout the North Norfolk area. Stagecoach appear to have discontinued this nice little bit of local history.

Positive marketing of the route saw passenger numbers grow especially during the summer seasonal months, whereby many buses carried standing loads at times and required larger single-decks be employed to ease these loadings.

One or two larger buses received the Coasthopper livery one being fleet number 131 an Irisbus Agoralines illustrated here at King's Lynn bus station in July 2012, as a healthy loading of shoppers and holidaymakers boarded bound for Hunstanton.

In recent years Norfolk Green was taken over by Stagecoach who retained this popular route and have indeed raised the profile by the introduction of a fleet of sixteen brand new single-deck buses during 2016. These came in two batches, the first of nine ADL E20D Enviro200 MMCs took up service in May, followed by six Optare Solo SRs in late September early October. The former are fleet numbers 37431-37439 (SN16 OPV/W/X/Z, ORC/F/G/H/J), the latter 48031-48036 (YJ66 ARZ, ASO/U/V/X/Z), most based in King's Lynn, but a small number work from an outstation at Egmore between Fakenham and Wells-next-the-Sea.
At the same time the buses were treated to a bright stunning Stenning livery, that is Ray Stenning of Best Impressions, and they certainly do just that, by portraying a good impression through the countryside. Clear blinds are used that show the route number as 'CH'.

The nine new ADL E20D Enviro200 MMCs were introduced onto the route during early May and fleet number 37435 sprakled in the spring sunshine as it headed east towards Wells near to the Overy Marshes on a morning journey.

Later the same day and during the afternoon, number 37436 was bound for Hunstanton at the same location.

The rear offside aspect on number 37436 as it headed towards Burnham Overy Staithe.

However, between the arrival of the ADLs and the Optare Solos there were frequent appearances of larger single-decks over the whole route including the more trickey and narrower eastern section between Wells-next-the-Sea and Cromer. Instances such as Optare Tempo 25122 (upper) as it departed from Cromer and Optare Versa 25248 (lower) as it passed by the RSPB reserves to the east of Cley-next-the-Sea, both in the nationwide corporate Stagecoach livery.

But in late September the six new Optare Solo SRs were taken into the fleet and by early October all were placed into service.

Fleet number 48033 passed by one of the many windmills scattered throughout East Anglia, this one at the east end of the delightful village of Weybourne.

Solo SR 48034 illustrated the nearside as it departed to Wells-next-the-Sea from the western edge of Cromer at the eastern end of the route.

The offside rear aspect is illustrated as 48032 glided through the meandering bends of the coastal A149 road at Cley-next-the-Sea and although in bright sunshine, threatening skies ahead was a portent to inclement weather.

And finally. All the buses sport the new livery to complement the sea, the sands and the land, plus each featured the main elements of the route on the rear panel.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Southern Strike Takes Place Despite Acceptance of New Contracts

The first of a series of planned strikes on Southern trains are going ahead despite the RMT union advising its members to sign the rail company's new contracts.
The RMT has held a series of walk-outs since April in the dispute over the role of guards on Southern services.

On Monday, the company had made a last-minute legal bid to stop the strikes.
A spokesman for Southern Railway said: "On Friday they told their conductor members to accept a deal, and then tomorrow they plan to strike against it.
"It is a situation which will leave our passengers baffled, and in that context we are presently considering all possible options to stop the strike."
He added: "We have written to the RMT about the validity of the dispute in light of recent developments. We await their response and will consider all possible options to stop the strike and that includes a legal challenge."
Southern said it would run about 61% of its normal timetable.

But, it warned, many routes would have fewer trains, while some routes would have no service at all.
Southern strike: Live updates
Members of the RMT will mount picket lines at the start of the strike, with disruption set to continue until Friday morning.
Another 11 days of strikes are planned before Christmas.

The industrial dispute arose after Govia Thameslink announced plans to change the role of conductors to “on board supervisors”, which the RMT said would put passenger safety at risk.
The franchise has been hit by months of disruption, cancellations and strikes, as well as the emergence of commuter activism, while the company battled with the union.
Govia’s chief executive, Charles Horton, wrote to Cash, calling the dispute pointless and putting a deadline on an eight-point offer tabled in August.

Horton had offered all conductors on the franchise a £2,000 bonus if the changes to their role were agreed, but said the company could claw back the sum if the union continued to strike.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Midland Metro news - Part 1

New milestone for £137m Birmingham HS2 tram extension plan

Plans to extend the Midland Metro through Birmingham city centre in a £137 million project have reached a new milestone.

midland metro HS2 extension
An artist’s impression of the Midland Metro in Curzon Street by Millennium Point on the Birmingham Eastside extension
A formal application has been submitted by the Midland Metro Alliance to build and operate the Birmingham Eastside extension from Bull Street to Digbeth.
If granted, the order will allow work to start on the 1.05 mile – 1.7km – extension which will serve the proposed HS2 station at Curzon Street offering connections to New Street, Moor Street and Snow Hill train stations. Work is due to begin in 2019 and the line to open in 2023.
The scheme will cost £137.2m. As well as linking all of the city centre railway stations, it will mean easy access to Birmingham coach station and to bus routes to the south east of the city centre.
Councillor Roger Lawrence, lead member for transport on the West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “The Birmingham Eastside extension will provide a direct high-quality link between the significant areas of commercial and leisure activity to the east of the city centre and the Jewellery Quarter and the Black Country.”
The route will start at the junction of Bull Street and Corporation Street and run along Lower Bull Street past the southern edge of the proposed Martineau Galleries re-development to Albert Street.
It will then cross Moor Street Queensway towards Curzon Street and continue to Meriden Street and turning left onto Digbeth High Street.
There will be four stops on the route.
The Midland Metro runs between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton city centre, serving stops including the Jewellery Quarter, West Bromwich, Wednesbury and Bilston. Work is now underway extending the route from New Street to Centenary Square, with services expected to start running in 2019.
Funding has also been earmarked for the line to go further along Broad Street, past Five Ways and on to Edgbaston by 2021.
In Wolverhampton work has begun on the city centre extension, with completion scheduled for 2019. A route linking Wednesbury to Brierley Hill is also being developed and work on this could start as early as next year.