Sunday, 9 December 2018

Stagecoach Now Offers Contactless Payments on Every UK Vehicle

  • Stagecoach is now offering contactless payments on every single one of its vehicles across the UK, following a multi-million pound investment for customers.

  • (L-R) Douglas Robertson, Commercial Director for Stagecoach East Scotland - David Frenz, Operations Director for Stagecoach East Scotland - Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity - Jon Oakey, Acting Managing Director for Stagecoach East Scotland
  • Millions of Stagecoach passengers now have access to contactless bus travel after the company completed the roll-out of the technology which now covers 7,400 vehicles operating within Stagecoach’s regional bus businesses in Scotland, England and Wales.

    The Stagecoach scheme is the single largest contactless merchant in Europe, after Transport for London.

  • During Stagecoach’s company-wide rollout of the technology, more than 100 depots were completed during the past 100 weeks, following an initial pilot. It includes all Stagecoach regional companies across the UK as well as coach operator Scottish Citylink.

(L-R) Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity and Jon Oakey, Acting Managing Director for Stagecoach East Scotland
Friday 6 December marked the completion of the scheme as contactless was launched across Stagecoach East Scotland by Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson.

Welcoming the technology, he said: “Additional smart contactless payment means that more people can choose bus as their sustainable form of transport, knowing that this modern and easy option for buying tickets is now available.

“Contactless payment has quickly become a standard method of payment for many people and this investment by Stagecoach provides a simple and more convenient payment method for customers.

By completing this national roll out to transition to contactless payment, I’m pleased to see Stagecoach making it even easier for people to travel, whether purchasing on the bus, through an application or via tickets on their smartcard.”

The £12million Stagecoach programme allows all passengers to pay for their travel with a contactless credit or debit card, as well as Apple Pay and Google Pay devices.

Contactless technology – which involves customers using their debit or credit card, or any other contactless device, to make a tap and go payment rather than a pin number – was introduced in the UK in 2007. Figures show that almost two-thirds (63%) of people in the UK now use contactless payments.

Already around a fifth of all on-bus Stagecoach transactions are being made using contactless payments, with some companies reporting up to 40% of on-bus transactions being made with the technology.

Stagecoach UK Bus Managing Director for England and Wales, Mark Threapleton said: “We have the largest transit contactless payments scheme outside London, with hundreds of thousands of payments being made using contactless technology on our buses every week and the number of transactions continuing to grow.

“Along with traditional cash payments, our StagecoachSmart card and mobile ticketing through our Stagecoach Bus smartphone app, we are giving customers choice about how they want to buy their travel and making it even easier and more convenient to travel by bus. We now look forward to exploring the other ticketing options that this technology will allow us to deliver in the future for our passengers.”

Stagecoach also offers the Stagecoach Bus’ smartphone app which provides customers with journey planning, next-stop information and live bus tracking, and enables people to buy and download bus tickets straight to their mobile phone.

In addition, smart ticketing at all Stagecoach regional companies with more than two million StagecoachSmart cards in circulation and more than 330million smart transactions every year.


  • 7,400 vehicles outside London now equipped with tap and go payment technology
  • Stagecoach is single largest contactless transit merchant in Europe, outside London
  • Company-wide scheme roll-out included more than 100 depots completed in 100 weeks
  • East Scotland contactless scheme launched on 6 December by Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson


A recent visit to Derby city centre on a rather murky misty day, produced a selection of buses from the local operators in not ideal conditions. However, they illustrate that photographic results can be mixed, as shown in the two albums, which can now be viewed by clicking  here  and  here

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Alexander Dennis & Hydrogen fuel

ADL adds hydrogen fuel cell technology to the market’s widest range of low and zero emission buses

The image here taken by Andrew Macintosh, shows the prototype hydrogen fuel cell powered ADL Enviro400 during trials.

Alexander Dennis is adding hydrogen fuel cell buses to the market’s widest range of low and zero emission buses. The technology, which requires separate fuelling infrastructures but could offer range benefits, has been developed on an Enviro400 double deck bus which has delivered best-in-class performance during route shadowing trials.

Already offering the market’s widest range of low and zero emission buses, Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) firmly believes no one size fits all when it comes to making bus travel more sustainable. The company continually invests in research and development of new technologies to ensure it continues to support bus operators with technologies that will enable them to improve air quality and lower their carbon footprint.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology can offer long range zero emission capability if suitable infrastructure can be put in place with sustainably sourced hydrogen. This could offer particular benefits for high capacity double deck buses.

To explore the potential for this technology, ADL has been working on a hydrogen double deck bus for over two years. It is based on the market-leading Enviro400 and has been developed through extensive collaboration between ADL’s in-house Advanced Engineering teams and expert hydrogen and fuel cell system integrators Arcola Energy.

The hydrogen-powered Enviro400 has an electric driveline with axle-mounted motors. The on-board battery is charged by feeding hydrogen from secure tanks to a fuel cell system where it is converted to electricity. No external battery charging is required and the vehicle’s only emission is water vapour.

A prototype bus has been through several design iterations to optimise performance and ensure highest standards of regulatory and safety compliance. The prototype has successfully completed route shadowing trials in several UK cities, delivering what is believed to be the highest efficiency and therefore lowest fuel cost in its class. Operators supporting the route shadowing trials have commented positively on the performance achieved.

ADL is now taking orders for this product and will be working with cities, bus operators and other stakeholders around the UK to further explore the potential for hydrogen fuel cell buses through fleet trials. It will seek to demonstrate the same reliability and high degree of vehicle availability for which its products are renowned. As with any ADL products, it will be sold with class-leading aftermarket support as well as benefitting from local hydrogen and fuel cell expertise from the company’s partners.

The hydrogen fuel cell powered Enviro400 will be an addition to ADL’s range of low and zero emission buses and will not replace any existing products.

The hydrogen vehicles will benefit from ADL’s class-leading aftermarket support. Fuelling infrastructure and hydrogen supply can be provided from the company’s partners.

ADL Chief Executive Colin Robertson said: “ADL continues to support bus operators across the UK by collaborating to develop new technologies that help achieve environmental and operational targets. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is part of the mix of solutions and we are delighted to now offer this option to the industry".

Friday, 7 December 2018

Routemaster removal revealed

Anger at ‘secret’ plans to axe last daily service on Routemaster

The historic Routemaster bus is approaching the end of the road after “secret” plans emerged to withdraw the last vehicles from daily service. Transport for London wants to axe the daytime “heritage” service on route 15, which uses the 60-year-old buses between Trafalgar Square and Tower Gateway. Under the plans, the buses would appear only at weekends during the summer and on bank holidays. “Stakeholders” were asked to comment, but there has been no public consultation. No details were published on TfL’s website.

Enthusiasts are dismayed that transport bosses and Mayor Sadiq Khan is prepared to kill off a “London icon”. Andrew Morgan, chairman of the Routemaster Association, accused TfL of acting in a “secretive” way. He said: “We should be keeping them to attract tourists, but tourists don’t know about them. They are London’s biggest secret.” Mr Morgan said leaving the Routemasters unused in a garage was the “worst thing you can do with an old vehicle”. He added: “They will get them out at the last minute and they will break down. From an operator’s point of view, it’s going to cost more. They have not repainted them in the last few years and they are looking very unloved and shabby. It’s obvious they are driving them into the ground. They don’t advertise them — there is no publicity anywhere.”

TfL recently spent £200,000 refurbishing four of the buses. Last year the Mayor said: “They promote London as a key tourist destination.” Two heritage routes, shortened versions of routes 9 and 15, were launched in 2005 when Routemasters were phased out by Ken Livingstone after 50 years of service. The 9 heritage route was axed in 2014. TfL says the proposal to cut the 15 heritage service comes alongside the Mayor’s proposed cuts to 33 bus routes in central London, and will save £800,000 a year.

Passengers today spoke of their sadness. City worker Gareth Mason, 29, said: “It’s part of the heritage of London and should be kept going. It makes visiting London special.”
Joaquim Pelassa, 18, a business student at King’s College, said the buses were a factor in choosing to study here. “Every time I see the buses they turn my head. It’s what you think of when you think of London. People love it.”

TfL said: “The heritage buses provide an attraction for tourists that celebrates London’s transport heritage, but use of the service is low.” A spokesman said restricting the service to times of peak demand would “improve emissions while helping to reduce congestion”.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Stagecoach Interim Results

Stagecoach have issued their Interim Results for six months ending 27th October 2018

Chief Executive, Martin Griffiths, said:

“I am pleased to report positive half-year financial results, ahead of expectations.

“Our strategy is designed to grow our core business, to support innovation, and to position the Group to benefit from future opportunities.

"We have delivered encouraging results at our UK regional bus business, where we continue to deliver high customer satisfaction. Targeted fleet and technology investment is helping to enhance operational delivery and improve cost efficiency. We continue to innovate across a range of areas including autonomous buses, contactless payment, data analytics and demand responsive transport.

"We are well positioned in UK rail, with three live contract bids and more than 20 years' experience of delivering innovation and investment for customers. We welcome the UK Government's rail review as an opportunity to deliver better value and day-to-day performance for passengers, a partnership structure and contracting system which is sustainable for the long-term, and reform of outdated regulations which are holding back customer-focused improvements.

"While we recognise the competitive challenges in some of our markets in the UK and North America, we are confident that public transport will be central to delivering Government priorities to grow the economy, connect people and communities, reduce road congestion and improve air quality. We are reviewing strategic options for the North America Division and that includes ongoing discussions regarding a possible sale of all or part of the business.

“The Group is focused on making further progress in the second half of the year and we have increased our expectation of full-year adjusted earnings per share to reflect the above-forecast rail earnings in the first half of the year.”


Wednesday, 5 December 2018

GTR Reaches Contractual Agreement With DfT

The Go-Ahead Group plc has announced that an agreement has been reached with the Department for Transport (“DfT”) regarding contractual matters in relation to the GTR franchise. This agreement resolves matters relating to the industry-wide failures concerning the introduction of the May timetable, as well as bringing to a close discussions around other outstanding contractual variations.

As part of the agreement, a plan for the remainder of the franchise term to 2021 has been agreed, aimed at building on recent performance improvement and improving customer journeys. GTR will provide £15m of funding this year for passenger enhancements.

The agreement reduces uncertainty around the future of the GTR franchise and its financial performance. A profit-sharing mechanism with the DfT will also be introduced for the remainder of the franchise. As a result, the margin over the franchise term is now expected to be between 0.75 to 1 per cent (previously 0.75 to 1.5 per cent), with no profit expected in the current financial year. The Group’s full year expectations for the current financial year remain unchanged, in line with the trading update published on 29 November 2018.

Go-Ahead Chief Executive, David Brown, said:

“We recognise that the industry-wide failures in delivering the May timetable created huge difficulties for our customers, and we are sorry for the poor service they received. Since the introduction of the interim timetable in July, performance has greatly improved, and now includes over 200 new services for customers, with further additional services to be introduced this month. This agreement will deliver additional benefits to passengers to be agreed in consultation with our customers.”

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Alexander Dennis & First Glasgow

First Glasgow announce another 75 Ultra-low emission buses arriving in 2019

First Glasgow has recently announced (29th November) that it plans to invest millions in more ultra-low emission vehicles, with additional funding being granted from the Scottish Green Bus Fund.

The business plans to invest in another 75 new ultra-low emission vehicles for Glasgow in 2019, which includes £400k of investment from the Green Bus Fund and an additional £16.35million investment from First Bus. This follows on from more than £14million of investment in 2018, which highlights the city’s largest bus operator’s commitment to improving the quality of offering to its customers while at the same time playing its role in improving air quality in the city.

At an event hosted at Alexander Dennis Ltd’s bus factory in Falkirk earlier this month, Andrew Jarvis, Managing Director for First Scotland met with Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson MSP to mark the latest award from the Scottish Green Bus Fund and to get a sneak peek at some of the new buses on the production line.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson said: “It is good news that First Bus continue to invest in a modern fleet, manufactured here in Scotland, in partnership with Alexander Dennis. It is encouraging that First Bus have been able to take advantage of funds provided through the Scottish Government Green Bus Fund and move to new buses which offer significant carbon savings over the existing fleet. These new vehicles will help improve air quality and support the low emission zone which will shortly commence in Glasgow. The buses offer significant improvements in amenities and facilities, which I’m confident will help attract new customers, as well as being enjoyed by regular passengers. This is a positive step in our ambition to develop a low carbon economy. Buses have an important role in being part of the solution to improving air quality in our towns and cities. I welcome this investment by First Bus, which supports this government’s sustainable transport ambitions, as well as being great news for the people of Glasgow and beyond.”

Andrew Jarvis, Managing Director for First Glasgow, adds: “We are committed to working with Glasgow City Council, Transport Scotland and the Cabinet Minister to improve the city’s bus services. The bus is very much part of the solution when it comes to reducing emissions on our already congested roads as one full low emission bus can take up to 75 cars off the road. “By deploying our new Euro VI technology vehicles that offer more comfort and are eco-friendlier we are headed in the right direction, but I know that a lot more can be achieved with strong working partnerships as we look to make public transport a more attractive alternative to the car for more people. In addition to the 75 Glasgow vehicles, First Bus in Scotland will also be working with Scottish Power Energy Networks to introduce two electric vehicles to the city of Glasgow, as well as continuing to work with Aberdeen City Council on the next phase of Hydrogen bus deployment in Aberdeen.”

Keith Watson, Customer Development Director at ADL, stated “We’re delighted to be partnering with First Glasgow to bring ultra-low emission Euro 6 and electric vehicles to the streets of Scotland’s biggest city. These Enviro double and single deck vehicles not only respond to stringent environmental demands but also to passengers’ increasing expectations thanks to premium onboard specifications and features. We look forward to continuing to work with First Glasgow on their journey to improve air quality in and around the city.”

Monday, 3 December 2018

Exeter Bus Station Cost Soars 30% to £52m

The projected costs of building a new bus station and connected leisure centre in Exeter have soared by 30% to £52m.

If the scheme is to go-ahead as planned, Exeter city council will have to back plans to find £12m of extra funding at a forthcoming key council meeting. But the option is also on the table to scrap the plan.

  Plans for the new bus station appear to shunt it to one small corner of the new development complex. As is normal when bus station sites are developed the bus station plays a minor role compared to other buildings on the site.

Kier is preferred contractor to deliver the scheme, which has seen the projected building budget rise due to construction cost inflation, cladding and site access challenges.

The project forms the centrepiece of a new £300m city centre vision from the council, which will also see housing, offices, restaurants and retail, as well as the possibility of a new multi-use entertainment venue.

Details of the vision, which also includes the potential to relocate the civic centre to the site to free up space for much-needed new housing, will be discussed at the council’s Leisure Complex and Bus Station Programme Board.
The potential for a multi-purpose performance venue, with a capacity of around 1,200 seated or up to 2,500 standing
250 housing units for sale on the current Civic Centre site, and 250 units of housing built to rent
A ten-storey, four star hotel with 175 rooms, and a budget hotel
Almost 40,000 sq ft of retail units fronting Sidwell Street
The potential to house the relocated Civic Centre
A new Office Quarter, with units over eight storeys
More than 15,000 sq ft of food and drink outlets
Flexible working space alongside the leisure centre
Public realm enhancements – a new square in Paris Street and new civic space

 The existing Exeter bus station is located on a prime site and  urgently needs re-development.

Chief Executive and Growth Director Karime Hassan said: “The development concept provides a mix of uses that will complement the High Street, supporting both the daytime and night time economy, and responds to the demand for housing and offices within the city centre.

“This is a major and vital investment in a key site, adding almost a million square feet of additional development. Everyone knows the difficulties retail is facing. We need to ensure Exeter city centre is viable, sustainable and continues to thrive, and this investment is crucial for the city.”

A report for councillors revealed the previously approved budget to build the leisure complex and new bus station would need to increase to deliver the flagship project in the new vision for the wider area.

Councillors will be told additional funding could be achieved without negatively impacting on the medium term financial plan, and would not increase the council’s already identified saving requirements and commitments over the coming years.

This would be achieved through income from the leisure centre operator and financial management measures, including restructuring of council-wide repayments of debt.

If councillors back the recommendations, it is hoped that final contracts for the main build programme will be signed in December.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Isle of Man horse tramway

Historic Douglas Bay Horse Tramway future secured

The future of one of the world's oldest horse drawn tramways has been secured after the Isle of Man's parliament pledged to continue funding the service indefinitely. Politicians voted to approve a £1.5m financial package for a new horse tram depot in Douglas.

The government took over the running of the service in 2016 and had committed to paying for it until 2018. The service had previously been operated by Douglas Borough Council.

The Department of Infrastructure's (DOI) plans for a new depot at Strathallan will see the existing structure demolished. It will be replaced with a modern building which will recreate the original 1896 facade of the first floor. Two thirds of the ground floor will house 13 historic horse tram cars.

Office accommodation and staff facilities to replace the existing temporary Manx Electric Railway depot at Derby Castle will also be added, at an additional cost of £483,108. The DOI said the extra funds would be found from its own budget.

Built and originally operated by Thomas Lightfoot from Sheffield, the tramway runs along Douglas promenade for 1.6 miles (2.6 km) from the Strathallan terminal to the Sea Terminal.

The heritage horse trams have been in operation for more than 140 years.

The 2019 horse tram season will run on a restricted timetable as work to refurbish Douglas promenade takes place.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Go Ahead Trading statement for the period 1 July to 28 November 2018

The Go-Ahead Group plc has announced its trading update for the period from 1 July 2018 to 28 November 2018. The next scheduled update is the Group’s half year results for the six months ending 29 December 2018 which will be announced on 21 February 2019.
  • Full year expectations unchanged
  • Growth in passenger volumes and revenues for the regional bus division
  • London bus continues to deliver strong Quality Incentive Contract income
  • Southeastern continues to perform very well; improved operational performance at GTR
  • Rail contract in Norway South awarded


Go-Ahead has a fleet of around 5,000 buses, carrying over two million passengers per day

During the period, revenue and passenger journey growth in regional bus have been ahead of recent trends helped by the better summer weather.
The rollout of contactless payment has continued. East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS), which was acquired in June, has been contactless-enabled since the end of October and Brighton since early November. It is anticipated that customers in East Anglia will also be using it by the end of the financial year.

 ‘Pick Me Up’ in Oxford has increased its registered users which have grown to over 15,000 since it started in June.

It is expected that regional bus profit for the first half of the year to be lower than the same period last year but that this will be offset by a stronger performance in the second half, reflecting a contribution from EYMS and the impact of the severe winter weather in the comparative period last year. Accordingly, for the full year, the company continue to expect regional bus operating profit to show a slight improvement over last year.


Transport for London (TfL) is carrying out a review of bus services in London. The stated intention of the review is to reduce mileage in Central London whilst affording the opportunity to re-shape the network in other areas.

Go-ahead's continued improvements in operational performance have resulted in strong Quality Incentive Contract income for the period. Mileage and peak vehicle requirement were down as expected because of contract losses during the last financial year.Th
is is expected to result in London bus profits for the full year being lower than last year. Capital expenditure will also be significantly lower than last year which will increase free cash flow generation.

The company continue to bid for new work with financial discipline and are satisfied with the current success rate.

Reported within the London bus division, the bus operation in Singapore continues to perform well, both operationally and financially. Operations in Dublin also began successfully during the period.

On 22 November, there was a fire at the Orpington garage. The garage is operational again and Go-Ahead are working with the authorities to investigate the causes of the fire.


The rail division operates the Southeastern and GTR franchises through the 65% owned subsidiary Govia.


Passenger journey and revenue trends have continued the improvement seen in the second half of last year. Growth has been supported by the resumption of full services through London Bridge station since January and by the good weather during the period.

The company continue to focus on delivering good operational performance and reliability for customers. Around 5% more trains ran on time than in the previous year and Southeastern is currently the most punctual major train operator in the country. The company have submitted a deliverable and economically sensible bid for the new South Eastern franchise.


Since GTR’s interim timetable was put into place in mid-July, operational performance has improved substantially whilst also operating an additional 200 services per day. Performance on Southern is the best since the start of the franchise and cancellations on Thameslink and Great Northern services have been significantly reduced.

Preparations for the addition of a further 200 daily services from December 9th are well advanced. Implementation of these will result in a boost to capacity for passengers with around 400 more services running every day and space into London for an extra 50,000 passengers in the morning peak compared to the levels available earlier in the year.

Constructive discussions with the Department for Transport (DfT) relating to the GTR franchise continue.

International Development

In October, Go-Ahead was awarded the Norway South package of rail services covering a mixture of long-distance and suburban routes. see here 

This is the first rail contract to be let in Norway and will run for eight years (with the possibility of a two-year extension) beginning in December 2019. This builds further on the Group’s international footprint. The eight non-UK bus and rail contracts that have been secured to date are estimated to deliver around £320m of annualised revenue.

Mobilisation of rail contracts in Germany continues ahead of the start of operations in June 2019.

Go-Ahead Group Chief Executive, David Brown, said:

“The Group has delivered revenue growth since the start of our new financial year.

“In bus, our London operations have continued to earn strong Quality Incentive Contract income through the delivery of good service performance. In our regional bus business, overall passenger volumes have grown although the trends remain mixed across the country.

“In rail, I am pleased that the past few months have seen a marked improvement in the operational performance of GTR. Southeastern has continued to perform very well and it has consistently been the best performing large train franchise in the UK in recent months.

“Positive momentum in our international strategy has been sustained with the award of a new rail contract in Norway, the start of bus operations in Dublin and a continuing good performance in Singapore.

“Our ‘Pick Me Up’ operation in Oxford continues to grow and now has over 15,000 registered users, providing a new convenient service for our customers.”

Friday, 30 November 2018

Refurbished and Reconfigured Class 444 Train Enters Service

South Western Railway’s first fully refurbished and reconfigured Class 444 train has entered passenger service, offering additional seating capacity and high-quality improvements to passenger accommodation.

The refurbishment and reconfiguration of the train is part of SWR’s £50m Desiro interior upgrade programme. The project is being delivered by the trains’ manufacturer, Siemens Mobility Limited and is designed to increase much needed seating capacity in standard class, and bring the interior accommodation up to date with some state-of-the-art features including enhanced Wi-Fi; inductive charging tables and at-seat power; and a full refurbishment of passenger accommodation using quality materials.

Neil Drury, SWR’s Engineering Director said: “Our customers have been enjoying the benefits of refurbished accommodation on our Class 450 trains since December, and this train marks the start of phase two of the programme which offers additional seats as well.“When the refurbishment programme completes, all 172 of our Desiro class trains will have new, high-quality interiors, and will be providing almost 5,000 much needed additional seats in standard class.”

Richard Carrington, Project Director, Siemens Mobility said: “Siemens Mobility is proud to refurbish the 172-strong Class 444 and Class 450 Desiro fleet for South Western Railway. The passengers will benefit from full interior refurbishment of all trains; including, more seats, at seat power points for mobile devices and real-time information displays and new carpets. Additional benefits for First Class customers include new leather seats and new tables incorporating innovative inductive charging.”

The refurbishment of the Desiro fleet is part of a £110m programme to refurbish five fleets in all by the end of 2020, equating to over 900 carriages. Currently, the first of SWR’s newly acquired fleet of 18 Class 442 trains is being refurbished before entering passenger service this December on the Portsmouth to Waterloo route.

A video showing carriage refurbishment can be seen here


The Leyland National was a major element in the history of public transport during the National Bus Company years, and with some is still revered today. Part II which covers the fleets of London Buses and London Country Bus Services during the 1970s and 80s, is featured in an album, which can now be viewed by clicking   here

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Leaves on the Line

Number of train delays caused by ‘leaves on the line’ have increased by two thirds in a decade due to trees not being cut back, study finds

  • Last year, more than 1,750 trains were cancelled by fallen trees on tracks
  • In 2009-2010, tree branches fell on lines on 11,500 occasions
  • Foliage on the line caused 3,261 hours of delays last year, a rise of 70 per cent in the last decade

It is an announcement seasoned commuters know means one thing: delays.

And the autumnal train misery thanks to ‘leaves on the line’ shows no signs of abating after a report revealed incidents have increased by two thirds since 2010.

Officials also found the failure of Network Rail to keep on top of foliage along the 20,000-mile network could ‘impact as much on safety and performance as on biodiversity’.

The autumnal train misery thanks to ‘leaves on the line’ shows no signs of abating

The report, commissioned by the Department of Transport, said the control of trees and other foliage by the tracks had been ‘under-resourced for decades’.

In 2009-2010, there were 11,500 occasions where tree and branches fell onto the lines. But by 2017-18 the figure had leapt to almost 19,000, The Times reported.

Last year, more than 1,750 trains were cancelled by fallen trees.

About 50 million leaves are said to fall on the tracks every autumn. Separate figures revealed that foliage on the line caused 3,261 hours of delays last year, a rise of 70 per cent in the last decade. Several train operators have already blamed leaves for rail chaos. Last month, Northern said excess wet leaves had damaged the train wheels, resulting in several carriages being taken out of service.

In order to counter the problem Rail Head Treatment Trains (RHTT) are employed over various sections of the network particularly susceptible to such problems. Class 20 engines 20303 and 20305 top and tail one such train as it passes through Kiveton during November on a run from Sheffield to Gainsborough and back (picture by Simon Kerry).

Greater London and Kent operator Southeastern introduced a reduced autumn timetable to cope with the issue, leaving commuters with longer waits and crowded services.

There are around six million trees on Network Rail-owned land within 10m either side of the track, but the report said they were considered an ‘afterthought’. Despite spending £40million a year over the past four years on vegetation control – an increase of £15million – Network Rail still has a large backlog of work, the report concluded. It also said the rail infrastructure company’s bosses could lose their bonuses for over-running engineering work.

Senior staff could be forced to hand over a part of their performance-related pay, which came to more than £52million last year, to pay for rail improvements.

Network Rail said it welcomed the report's conclusions.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Vote on ScotRail Franchise

THE Scottish Government was poised to consider exercising a break clause in the ScotRail contract in 2020, ending the Abellio franchise in 2022, but this depended on a crucial vote in the Scottish Parliament.
However, the proposal to cancel the contract in 2022 was thrown out by 85 votes to 34.
Labour wants to nationalise the train operator while the SNP Scottish Government said it would seek a public sector bidder for the next franchise.

Opponents to the franchise say ending the ScotRail contract in 2022 would provide a chance to "put passengers before profits" because the "failing" franchise had become a "shambles".

However, connectivity minister Paul Wheelhouse said ScotRail was making significant improvements, and nearly two-thirds of delays were caused by track owner Network Rail.

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman Jamie Greene also attacked the plans, which he said "makes little sense" because there was no way of knowing what ScotRail's performance would be like in 2020.

Dissatisfaction with performance has fuelled criticism from politicians as well as passengers.
Abellio, the overseas arm of Dutch Railways, has given a cash injection to Abello of £10 million, and has also been hampered by delays affecting enhancement plans. The Hitachi fleet ordered for the Edinburgh-Glasgow Queen Street electrification had curved windscreens which proved to distort drivers’ view of signals at night, and the trains had to be fitted with different windscreens before they could enter service.

Abellio ScotRail took over all of the services operated by First ScotRail on 1 April 2015, except for the Caledonian Sleeper services, which were transferred to a separate franchise operated by Serco

It was revealed last month that transport secretary Michael Matheson has allowed ScotRail performance targets to be waived until June 2019, in a bid to allow an interval for the franchise to recover. However, he was criticised for not informing Parliament, and the TSSA union called for his resignation.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘We know performance is not where it should be – that is why ministers can and do hold Abellio ScotRail to account within the terms of the franchise agreement. This includes the ability to end the contract if its terms are not met and it is in the public interest to do so.

ScotRail performance has remained consistently ahead of the GB average, but that GB average has got steadily worse since Network Rail moved timetable planning for Scotland to its Milton Keynes HQ in 2012. It is clear these essential railway functions must be devolved back to Scotland to allow any franchise operator to perform at its best.’


Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Driver-less Bus Developments in Scotland

Scotland's first self-driving bus trial will run between Fife and Edinburgh next year.
The pilot will include five autonomous single decker buses travelling across the Forth Road Bridge.

The pilot will include a fleet of five autonomous ADL Enviro 200 single decker buses
A driver will still be required to be present on the bus during the trial as a back-up for passenger safety and to comply with UK legislation.
Funding of £4.35m has been awarded by the UK government for the project, which aims to be operational in 2021.
Additional funding has been provided by operators Stagecoach, Transport Scotland, bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis, Fusion Processing Ltd, and ESP Group.

Revolutionise travel

The bus will initially only be fully unmanned within its depot, carrying out movements including parking and moving to the fuelling station and bus wash.
The autonomous buses will provide a service capable of carrying up to 42 passengers 14 miles across the Forth Bridge to Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange.
Scotland's Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: "This collaborative trial, using one of the country's most iconic transport corridors, shows Scotland is very much open for business in this innovative sector."
UK Business Secretary Greg Clark said autonomous vehicles would "revolutionise the way we travel."
He said: "The UK is building on its automotive heritage and strengths to develop the new vehicles and technologies and from 2021 the public will get to experience the future for themselves."

Monday, 26 November 2018

London bus running days

Two running day events took place in London over the weekend.

First up was on the 24th November when six RTL-class Park Royal bodied Leyland Titan PD2 ran on a private tour of some former routes operated by the type from the 1950s, in order to commemorate when the type last ran in revenue-earning service 50-years ago in November 1968. The buses all preserved ran over parts of route 2, 21, 25, 108, 176 and 226, the last tow being significant as the final routes operated by the type from Willesden Garage.

            Four of the five RTLs at Victoria on routes 2 and 25 by David Bowker

The following day on the 25th November nine RML-class AEC Routemasters with 30-foot long Park Royal bodies from the early batch (RML 880-903) re-created former routes 104/104A (Barnet/North Finchley & Finsbury Square, Moorgate/Golders Green). This to commemorate the introduction of the type in November 1961, plus the closure of their then operating Finchley (FY) Garage in early December 1993.

Three of the nine RMLs at Finsbury Square on route 104 by Keith Valla

A set of pictures have been placed into an album on the Focus Flickr site, kindly provided by David Bowker and Keith Valla. The late afternoon pictures are especially poignant in the gloom of a November day, but offer a chance to recall how the interiors of the buses were lit back in those days. The pictures can now be viewed by clicking   here

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Bus Services Again for Epping & Ongar Santa Specials

The special 339 bus service will be running again in connection with the Epping & Ongar Railway Santa Specials, every weekend leading up to Christmas.

The buses turn out even if it’s snowing, they are fitted with heaters to make sure passengers don’t get cold on the way. Tickets are selling out fast and can be obtained through the link here:

Starting from Ongar

Please park in Ongar Town Centre - parking is free in December. There is limited disabled parking at Ongar station, and this must be booked in advance. (

The bus will pick up from the stop opposite the library and from the top of the station approach road at the times shown below. There is no need to go to Ongar Station. There is a car park opposite the Two Brewers pub and buses will call here too - 5 minutes earlier than the times below.

Starting from Epping

The 339 heritage bus service operates from right outside Epping Underground station (Central Line, zone 6), picking up at any bus stop along Epping High Street and North Weald High Road to North Weald station. A large car park is available at Epping station (charges apply).