Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Optare Alero Limo

West Coast Franchise - Latest

First Group has lodged the highest bid for the west coast rail franchise, making it the frontrunner to take over the prestigious London-to-Glasgow route.
The bus, rail and coach group is believed to have pushed incumbent Virgin Rail into second place on price with an offer that is 15 to 20% higher than the nearest contender.
FirstGroup and Virgin had been vying for the contract after the other two shortlisted bidders, Dutch-owned Abellio and a bid backed by SCNF, the French rail group, slipped out of contention.
According to one rail industry rumour, the biggest bidder has offered the Department for Transport a premium – or excess profits – of between £6.5bn and £7bn over the 14-year span of the contract. While that far exceeds the premium paid by Virgin, industry observers believe £5bn would be a par bid for one of the most sought-after franchises on the British rail network.

FirstGroup, which has a strong reputation for cost management and owns three franchises including First Great Western, is believed to have looked closely at the running costs on the west coast service.
Last month the RMT trade union, the largest rail union, warned that bidders were considering severe cuts to onboard catering to achieve higher premium payments.
While Virgin pays about £160m per year to the DfT, a bid of up to £7bn would require annual payments of about £500m. FirstGroup is rumoured to have considered staff cost cuts of about 20% on west coast, which could include cutting catering numbers from approximately 800 people to 300, or the service outsourced.
A hefty premium profile is also likely to draw the scrutiny of investors, who are paying close attention FirstGroup's attempts to whittle down its £1.8bn debt burden. A plan to raise £100m from bus company disposals has hit a snag after Stagecoach withdrew from the purchase of FirstGroup's Devon bus business after the Office of Fair Trading raised concerns over the agreement. Although a small deal, it was viewed as a negative development by analysts because of the prospect of the OFT and Competition Commission intervening in every disposal.
According to City sources, there are also concerns among investors that FirstGroup will have to launch a rights issue to reduce the debt, a development that may be viewed dimly if it is perceived to divert shareholder cash into lending banks rather than into the business.
However, the share price does not indicate serious concerns over FirstGroup's debt with the stock trading at about six times earnings, whereas if there was genuine alarm the shares would be trading at two to three times earnings.
FirstGroup said: "We do not comment on speculation or market rumours of any kind. All decisions relating to the tendering of rail franchises are the responsibility of the Department for Transport."
Virgin Rail said: "We do not comment on our franchise bids."
If Virgin loses out to FirstGroup, it will be the first time that Sir Richard Branson, co-owner of the business, has been out of the UK rail business in 15 years.
Virgin Rail launched in 1997 and a year later was drawing record complaints from passengers. It is now a popular service and carried 30 million people last year.
A final decision on the contract is expected in August.


Royal Blue Run 2012

Ken Jones has sent us pictures of the 2012 Royal Blue Run

Monday, 30 July 2012

GO-Ahead, proud to be a key transport provider for 2012 Olympics

19 July 2012
Go-Ahead, one of the UK’s largest providers of bus and rail travel, will play a key role in providing public transport at the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympics Games.
Go-Ahead’s Southeastern rail franchise is a particularly important component of the Olympic transport plan. An estimated 1 in 10 of all ticket holders will travel at least part of their journey on a Southeastern service.
Southeastern is well prepared for the extra demand. It will be running 200 additional trains every single day over the Olympic Games period, equivalent to around 3.1 million extra seats. The seven-minute high speed Javelin® service from St Pancras to Stratford will transport around 25,000 people an hour to the Olympic Park at peak times.
Southeastern has employed around 1,000 additional staff who will be on-hand to provide assistance to spectators and regular customers, and all 3,800 Southeastern staff will be working around the clock to provide the best possible train service.
Go-Ahead’s other two rail franchises Southern and London Midland are also increasing capacity to accommodate the increased demand. Southern is running additional late night services along key routes such as London Victoria to East Croydon, Gatwick Airport and Brighton and is adding carriages to many off-peak services, providing over 300,000 extra seats. London Midland's west-coast mainline route - serving Euston and Coventry (a regional Games venue) - will have more than 150,000 extra seats during The Games, as well as later London Euston departures helping people to return home after the events.
In Go-Ahead's bus division, the London operation has been hard at work getting ready for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, organising transport and providing buses for officials, athletes and children, who will be taking part in the opening and closing ceremonies. More than 90 buses will be used for both events. Go-Ahead is also providing bus services for officials, athletes and media for the sailing event in the Weymouth area.
Go-Ahead Group Chief Executive David Brown said: "We’re proud to be playing our part in the world’s greatest ever sporting event and are looking forward to demonstrating the quality of our staff and services. We wish the British Olympic and Paralympics teams the greatest success."
The Olympic Games run from 27 July to 12 August, with the Paralympic Games taking place between 29 August and 9 September.
The official ‘Get Ahead of the Games’ website (www.getaheadofthegames.com) contains useful planning advice including anticipated “hot spots” on the transport network. For example, people will be advised to avoid interchanging at London Bridge station and to consider using other stations such as Charing Cross or Cannon Street instead.
For further information, please contact:
The Go-Ahead Group
Samantha Hodder, Group Corporate Affairs Director 020 7821 3928
Follow us on: 
Facebook (facebook.com/GoAheadGroupPLC)
Twitter (twitter.com/GoAheadGroup).

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Olympic Bus Artwork

Although described as a London bus; this is actually a Bristol Lodekka with an Isle of Wight registration, indicating it was new to Southern Vectis.

This link was suggested by Ian Moorcroft, Phil G, Martin Arrand.

EYMS chairman Peter Shipp celebrates 50 years in bus industry

Peter Shipp, Chairman of East Yorkshire Motor Services is celebrating 50 years in the industry. 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

National Express Olympic travel update

National Express has today highlighted the key travel trends for the Olympics, including the most patriotic towns, busiest dates for Brits escaping to the airport and European visitors arriving into London.
Key travel trends:
  • Bristol, Birmingham and Bournemouth top the patriotic list with the busiest services to London between 27 July - 12 August
  • Saturday 28 July will be busiest day for people escaping to UK airports
  • National Express' European coach service 'Eurolines' reports the busiest dates for people arriving into Britain will be 30 /31 July ahead of athletics
  • Eurolines has increased capacity into Britain by up to 45% per day to cope with demand for value travel
National Express has today reported that Bristol and Birmingham will boast the largest number of sports fans heading to London during the Olympic period. This is closely followed by Bournemouth, Cardiff and Manchester. 
The UK's largest coach operator has analysed services across the UK to reveal the top routes and key travel trends during the world's largest sporting event. National Express is currently offering one million fares from £4 which are available during the Olympics. They are also running services direct to Olympic Park from locations nationwide.
In contrast, the busiest day for people travelling to British airports to escape the Olympics will be Saturday 28 July, closely followed by the 27 and 29 July. Eurolines reports that the busiest day for European visitors arriving into London will be 30 and 31 July. The majority of continental coach passengers are travelling from Paris,
Amsterdam and Brussels and the company has increased capacity by up to 45% per day to cope with demand.
Andrew Cleaves, Managing Director, National Express coach comments: "It is great to see so many towns and cities across Britain and Europe getting excited about the Olympics by booking their travel in advance. We are currently offering fares from £4 to London throughout July and August, so there's still time to secure a bargain trip to watch the world's biggest sporting event."
He added: "Throughout the Olympic period our 24 hour control centre and station staff will work closely with the Highways Agency and Transport for London to keep our coaches moving on Britain's busy roads."
For more information visit www.nationalexpress.com and enter your journey details or call the National Express call centre 24/7 on 08717 818181
Britain's patriotic hotspots - according to advanced National Express bookings to London between 27 July and 10 August:
1.    Bristol
2.    Birmingham
3.    Bournemouth
4.    Cardiff
5.    Manchester
6.    Portsmouth
7.    Leeds
8.    Cheltenham
Notes to editors:
National Express provide Britain's only scheduled national coach network, serving more than 1,000 destinations with 21 million passenger journeys each year across the UK.

Friday, 27 July 2012

police seek man for eating part of bus seat

An unusual story hits the papers today about a yob that police are seeking for criminal damage to a leather bus seat in Torbay, after he was captured on cctv biting a piece out of the seat.

Thursday, 26 July 2012


25 Jul 2012

·        New and expanded services to deliver vital bus links in North Devon

·        Improvements to be launched in September, creating some new jobs

·        Pledge to build on track-record of investment and good value travel

Stagecoach announced today (25 July 2012) that it is to launch an expanded bus network in Devon in September, providing new services and creating a small number of additional jobs.

The new network will provide vital bus links in North Devon and build on the company's track-record of investment and good value travel in the south-west.

Stagecoach employs around 900 people and operates more than 320 buses on around 120 routes across Devon and Somerset, and in the past three years has invested more than £13 million in new buses for the region.

The new and expanded services will be operated out of the company's depot in Barnstaple, which currently employs around 120 staff and runs around 50 buses. Around a dozen extra vehicles will be added to the fleet and Stagecoach will also be recruiting new drivers.

From Monday 24 September, the following enhancements will be introduced:

·        Service X7, an express direct service, will run hourly between South Molton and Barnstaple Bus Station

·        Service X9 will provide a link between Bude, Holswothy, Okehampton and Exeter, with services running approximately every two hours.

·        Service 21 will now operate between Westward Ho!, Bideford, Instow Quay, Fremington, Barnstaple, Braunton, and Ilfracombe.

·        Service 21A will now operate between Appledore, Bideford, East the Water, Fremington, Barnstaple and Braunton.

The expanded network will bring a boost to people in North Devon, whose services are currently under threat after First announced the closure of its Barnstaple depot. Stagecoach will provide:

·        A 20min daytime service from Westward Ho!, Bideford and Barnstaple to Ilfracombe with a 30min evening and Sunday service.

·        More links from Ilfracombe to Barnstaple Rail Station, particularly during the evening and on Sundays.

·        A 10min service between Northam, Bideford, Barnstaple and Braunton, with a 30min evening and Sunday service.

·        A 20min daytime service from Westward Ho! Bideford, Barnstaple and Ilfracombe to Instow Quay and hourly during the evening and on Sundays.

·        A 20min daytime service from Braunton, Barnstaple and Bideford to Appledore and a new hourly evening and Sunday service which extends to Ilfracombe.

·        A 20min daytime service from Ilfracombe, Barnstaple, Instow and Bideford to Westward Ho! plus an hourly evening and Sunday service.

·        A 20min daytime service from Appledore, Bideford, East the Water and Barnstaple to Braunton and West Meadow Road.

Michelle Hargreaves, Managing Director of Stagecoach South West, said: "We have a long tradition of operating high quality services for people in the south-west of England and attracting people out of their cars and on to greener, smarter bus travel.

"It has been our ambition for some time to provide a more comprehensive network for passengers across the wider Devon region to improve services and connections for the local community. To that end, we announced in March that we had reached an agreement to acquire First Group's North Devon operations. This would have allowed us to deliver a range of improvements to the wider bus network.

"However, we decided we could not justify further management time and expense on pursuing the acquisition following the decision by the Office of Fair Trading to refer what was a relatively small transaction to the Competition Commission. Instead, we have now registered new commercial Stagecoach services that will extend our network in the North Devon area and provide more journey options for our customers.

"The new services, which have been registered with the Traffic Commissioner, will start in September. We look forward to providing local people on our new routes with a high quality bus service and value-for-money fares."

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

TfL denies driverless Tube train trial on London Underground

Transport for London has denied trialling driverless trains after a union accused it of a "secret agenda" to introduce the technology.
The RMT union says it has an internal document outlining a plan to introduce the trains on the Jubilee Line in three years. It claims the trains are unsafe.
But TfL said that no tests were taking place.
Conservatives called for the technology to be introduced, saying 25 cities already had driverless trains.
Tube drivers have repeatedly threatened strikes over recent years. The current starting salary for a driver is £44,000.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said driverless trains would "leave Londoners riding a daily death trap".

He said: "The proposals seek to rip up every safety rule in the book - having the trains run by remote control from signal boxes."
"RMT is demanding cast-iron assurances that this whole poisonous cocktail of proposals has been dumped for good and we will have no hesitation in taking the action required to stop this."
Gareth Powell, director of strategy at London Underground, said: "Given the technology now available it is very unlikely that London Underground will ever again buy a fleet of trains with conventional drivers' cabs.
"Safety will always be our top priority and we have made no secret that from the 2020s new trains could operate on the Tube without the need for traditional drivers."
London Conservatives welcomed the idea of a network of driverless trains.
Transport spokesman Richard Tracey called Mr Crow's comments an "alarmist rant", saying: "Driverless trains are a fact in 25 cities around the world and are perfectly safe.
"The public knows it, all those folk at Canary Wharf who travel on the DLR daily know it, Bob Crow knows it.
We have to make the best use of the most advanced technology to run the Underground as efficiently as possible - and that means driverless technology."


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

First to pull out of North Devon

First Devon and Cornwall have announced plans to discontinue its bus services in the North Devon area, including closure of the Barnstaple depot. The company also confirmed that it has started the collective consultation process with trade unions on the possibility of redundancies.

Firsts bus services in North Devon have underperformed for a number of years, despite the introduction of a variety of marketing and promotional initiatives. The company is now faced with extra cost pressures due to the economic climate and cuts in external funding and routes are now being discontinued in order to ensure the long term sustainability of operations elsewhere.

A range of alternative options including the potential sale and transfer of employees and assets to Stagecoach Group plc were fully explored. That option will no longer go ahead following the Office of Fair Trading's announcement on 10 July that it was referring the case to the Competition Commission.

Giles Fearnley, FirstGroup Managing Director, UK Bus, said: "We understand that this news will be distressing for employees affected by the decision and that it will similarly cause our customers in the area some concern. We apologise and will be supporting affected employees over the coming months, as well as working with Devon County Council on the future of bus services in the area. We will give customers ample notice of the date that services will cease to operate in North Devon.

"We will be working hard to minimise the extent of redundancies, trying to redeploy people where possible. We would like to take the opportunity to stress that the decision to close the North Devon operation is a business driven one and does not reflect on the effort or individual performance of the employees in North Devon.

"We are progressing our strategy to reposition and rebalance our UK Bus portfolio to restore operating margins and help facilitate improved growth and returns. The decision by the Office of Fair Trading to refer our proposed sale of our North Devon operations, where we had a uniquely high degree of overlap with Stagecoach, was disappointing. We are confident, however, of future successful transactions in the coming months as a number of potential bidders exist in the markets where we have identified other businesses for disposal.'

First Devon and Cornwall has begun its official consultation process with affected staff. This will include offering opportunities in other areas. The timescale for closing the business will be confirmed once the consultation with the affected employees has been completed.


Focus Comment. 
At the risk of stating the obvious, the Office of Fair Trading have done a great disservice to the employees of First North Devon and the passengers that use the buses in this area. Stagecoach were willing to take on the loss making services, but pulled out when the proposals were referred to the Competition Commission. Stagecoach were not prepared to invest the time and effort in dealing with the matter and as a result everyone will now loose. Jobs will go, passengers will loose their services and it demonstrates how, once again these 'vandals in suits' from the Office of Fair Trading and  the equally misguided Competition Commission can completely fail to appreciate basic business sense when it comes to the bus industry.

Megabus for the Middle Classes

According to a report in the Telegraph, Sir Brian Souter, co founder of Stagecoach, has commissioned a 52ft double-decker – believed to be one of the longest in the world – to carry passengers in luxury leather seats. By night the long-distance bus, which will come complete with hostess service, will have room for more than 40 fully-flat beds.

The £500,000 prototype will initially be tested in Scotland, but Sir Brian believes it could eventually fill a niche for middle- class travellers in the US – a market he believes has the potential to transform 31-year-old Stagecoach. An initial investment in 10 of the new buses could total £5m.
“It may be that on top of Megabus we could have Megabus Gold – it’s more of a middle-class product,” he said. “We have got a lot of modal shift. I’m not saying it will take people out of first-class train travel, but it might be people who buy saver tickets on the train.”
Sir Brian admitted Stagecoach has been very good at “stacking it high and selling it cheap” in recent years but it has been testing services between Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness, where passengers pay about £5 more for a single ticket and enjoy free tea and snacks.
Sir Brian said the service between Glasgow and Inverness is faster than rail.
A move upmarket would also represent a return to the company’s roots for Sir Brian, who in 1980 launched a Dundee-to-London bus service with his sister, Ann Gloag, where passengers were given sandwiches made by his late parents, Iain and Catherine.
Stagecoach expects the prototype luxury double-decker to operate from early 2013. It believes it will be the world’s longest non-articulated double-decker bus.
“The proposal would be to introduce the Scottish service initially,” he said.
“I have to say my eyes would go West with this one. That could be an interesting pipeline of products to put on top of Megabus.”
Megabus was introduced in the US in 2006, offering fares as low as $1 (65p). It now carries 18m passengers to 80 cities across North America.
Sir Brian said although there are some potential opportunities in Europe, the West is likely to be the source of future growth.
Stagecoach told investors that America – where it recently spent £99m buying back nine coach businesses it sold in the early 2000s – could transform its business.

Focus Comment. Does anyone know more about this? If you have any information  please get in touch with the Focus team.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Optare Excel 2 SC35005 destroyed by fire

It has been reported that SC 35005 has destroyed by fire. The 10 yrs old vehicle was one of seven Optare Excel 2s new to Stagecoach Yorkshire's Chesterfield Depot.

Here & Here 

Newbury 2012

As suggested on Saturday, most of the Focus team planned to travel to the bus rally at the Royal Berkshire Showground. This was an excellent day, we travelled to the event on the Chesterfield 123 group's Leyland Leopard PRA 109R. Arriving in brilliant sunshine, it was obvious that this was well laid out to enable photography of the attending vehicles. Services ran around the site perimeter allowing photographs to be taken with scenic backgrounds.

More Pics  Click Here,  Here and Here

Vehicles in Store at Aldridge

Ken Jones has sent these pictures of vehicles in store at Aldridge

Sunday, 22 July 2012

New London Bridge Bus Station Opened

New look London Bridge bus station unveiled in time for the London 2012 Games and beyond
·         London bridge bus station transformed into modern, spacious key interchange
·         Passengers to benefit from more direct route between buses and train platforms, better waiting facilities, and more spacious less congested pavement and road layout

Following a major upgrade London Bridge bus station is transformed and ready to welcome the millions of visitors expected in London for this summer’s London 2012 Games, and improve the journeys of Londoners for many years to come.

The bus station has been dramatically redesigned and rotated 45 degrees from its original position to enable a new row of bus stops to align with the Network Rail platforms. This makes the journey between the bus and rail station easier to navigate and more direct. In addition, a new road layout will reduce congestion for buses and taxis. 

Sun & 2 open toppers in Chesterfield 21/07/2012

It wouldn't normally be news but Chesterfield had a visit from the sun & luckily there were 2 open top buses on the road.
Titan NIB 5232

Fleetline MBE 613R
More pics on focusflickr  Click Here

Here's hoping that the sun makes an appearance for the event at Newbury today as most of the Focus team are hoping to be there. 

Saturday, 21 July 2012

East Midlands Trains Given £46m

East Midlands Trains has been given £46m of taxpayers' money to make the company profitable again.
Last year the train operator made a loss of £25m in six months and under the terms of it franchise agreement with the government was eligible for a revenue support grant.
The RMT Union said the pay-out was "corporate welfare".
The bail-out was revealed by the Department for Transport in a Freedom of Information request by the BBC.
'It's ridiculous' East Midlands Trains, which has been running local and London services in the region for five years, reported lower than expected passenger revenues and received £46,443,000 between last November and June.
The government provides subsidies to the rail industry to protect rail companies from the worst of their losses.
RMT regional organiser Ken Usher said: "We hear on a daily basis of various cuts due to austerity measures and quite clearly it's a case that this does not apply to big business. It's ridiculous."
The company said it and its sister operator South West Trains made a net contribution to UK taxpayers of more than £280m during last financial year.
An East Midlands Trains spokesperson said: "Rail franchises were let by the Department for Transport on the basis that the government accepted it would get high premium payments when the environment for rail was strong, but it agreed to provide contractual revenue support when tough conditions meant revenue growth was lower than expected.
"We have had several tough years during the economic downturn and East Midlands Trains was loss-making in 2010/11 and during the first six months of the last financial year.
"Despite this, we have continued to meet all of our franchise commitments to government and we continue to invest millions of pounds to improve our trains and stations to encourage more people to travel on our network."

Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South and a shadow transport minister, said: "Train operating companies across the country need to justify their receipt of taxpayers money at a time when too many services are overcrowded and the government is allowing fares to rise by up to 11%.
"The onus is now on the company to make sure that the money is spent on improving services for passengers, instead of bolstering shareholders' profits."
In its response to the BBC's Freedom of Information Act request, the Department for Transport said: "Under the terms of its franchise agreement with the Department for Transport, East Midlands Trains became eligible for revenue support on 11 November 2011.
"The amount of revenue support paid to East Midlands Trains up to 18 June 2012 is £46,443,000."
It said the figure was calculated and paid to East Midlands Trains based on information received about its revenue.

Friday, 20 July 2012

United 100th Livery

Steven Hodgson has sent us pictures of an Arriva vehicle that has been painted in United livery to celebrate the centenary of the company.
The bus was displayed in Darlington yesterday in company with other ex United vehicles.

 Volvo B7TL  Alexander-Dennis ALX400 7446  NK05 GWY 

 All pictures © Steven Hodgson

Thursday, 19 July 2012

All Manchester T68 Trams Will Be Replaced

 © Dan Sellers
Metrolink has celebrated its 20th birthday – with bosses revealing that the old blue and grey trams will be taken off the tracks within two years. The service was officially opened on July 17, 1992, and more than 300m journeys have been made on the tram system since then. Today transport chiefs have marked the anniversary by announcing that all of the remaining old T68 trams will be replaced with the new yellow-and-silver ones by 2014. Their phased withdrawal has already begun but an order for new trams to replace the remaining vehicles has now been approved by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Coun Andrew Fender, chairman for the TfGM Committee, said: “This decision signals the end of one chapter for Metrolink and the start of a new one. “Our T68 vehicles were the first of their kind in the UK and served the first modern light rail network of its kind in the country. The time has now come for them to enter a well-earned retirement. The new Bombardier trams have delivered significant improvements for passengers and I’m sure regular users of the network will welcome this announcement and the benefits it will bring to the services they depend on.”
Transport leaders agreed to replace 12 of the 32 original trams in September last year. There will be 94 of the new trams on the network when all the new trams have been delivered. They are four times less likely to develop a disruptive fault than the old vehicles. Work is continuing on the ‘big bang’ Metrolink expansion, which is expected to see the East Manchester Line opened to Droylsden later this year. It will be the country’s biggest tram system by 2016 when new lines to Ashton-under-Lyne, East Didsbury, Oldham, Rochdale, Wythenshawe and Manchester airport are built.

Read more at: http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/transport/public_transport/s/1583611_happy-birthday-metrolink-old-trams-axed-as-network-turns-20

London Bus Workers to Receive Olympics Payments

TfL welcomes resolution of Unite bus workers pay dispute
·         Bus workers will receive additional payments for working during the Games
·         Bus services will not be disrupted by summer strike action
 Transport for London has welcomed the news that Unite’s membership has accepted the pay offer from bus operating companies for bus workers affected by the London 2012 Games.

The pay deal, which has been accepted by Unite, was reached after the Mayor secured £8.3m from the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to give to the bus companies to help them settle the dispute. TfL has also agreed to share any additional bus fare revenue generated during the Games. This will be split 50:50 with bus operating companies, on the condition that it is passed on to bus staff, following the Games.

TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, Leon Daniels, said: “We welcome the news that Unite’s leadership has accepted this pay deal.  The pay of bus workers is, and will remain, a matter between them and the private bus operating companies that employ them.  However in this case, as the capital prepares to celebrate the biggest festival of sport and culture it has ever seen, TfL and the Mayor sought to bring Unite and the bus companies together and we are pleased that they have now resolved this dispute.”

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Stagecoach North East Loan Vehicles

Further pictures of the Stagecoach loan vehicles in Newcastle, covering for those being used in London for Olympic transport.

More pictures will be released this morning on FocusFlickr
Click Here

Olympic Lanes - Confusion and Chaos

Confusion reigned on some of Britain's busiest commuter routes as the first dedicated lane for Olympic visitors opened between Heathrow and London.
Drivers faced a £130 fine if they used the lane on the M4, which is reserved for the exclusive use of competitors and VIPs attending the Games.
But the new regulations led to confusion on the A4 and the A40, where Olympic driving restrictions are yet to come into force.


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Rail Investment

More than £9 billion of growth-boosting railway upgrades across England and Wales – representing faster journey times, more reliable services and capacity for 140,000 extra daily commutes by train – have been announced by Transport Secretary Justine Greening.

“Faster journeys and more train capacity from £240m of improvements along the East Coast Main Line from the North East down through Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire to London.

£800m electrification and upgrade from Sheffield – through Nottingham, Derby and Leicester – to Bedford, completing the full electrification of the Midland Main Line out of London St Pancras; and electrification of the lines from Nuneaton and Bedford to Oxford, Reading, Basingstoke and Southampton.

“The landmark decision to take electric rail beyond Cardiff to Swansea, completing the full electrification of the Great Western Main Line out of London Paddington at a total cost of more than £600m, and electrifying the Welsh Valley lines, including Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and the Vale of Glamorgan.

“Completion in full of the “Northern Hub” cluster of rail enhancements with the approval of £322m of outstanding track and capacity upgrades across Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport and across to Liverpool. 
“A new £500m rail link between the Great Western Main Line and Heathrow allowing direct services to the airport for passengers from the West Country, the Thames Valley and Wales.

Full details of the DfT announcement http://www.dft.gov.uk/news/press-releases/dft-press-20120716a/

Bus Drivers Lost in London

There have been reports of bus drivers getting lost on the way to the Olympic Village yesterday.
The opening of a special 'Olympic Lane' today was meant to help athletes and VIPs make the 45-minute journey from Heathrow Airport to Stratford in effortless ease.

US hurdler Kerron Clement tweeted his frustration this morning after he was  left stranded in traffic for four hours when his bus driver got lost en route to the Olympic Village.
Also a media shuttle bus had difficulty finding its destination. The double decker, travelling from Russell Square to the Olympic Park in Stratford, pulled over 30 minutes into its journey.
The driver said: 'Sorry about this'. He then got out a map, before performing a U-turn and quickly getting back on the correct route.

At a briefing in Westminster today, Transport for London commissioner Peter Hendy insisted arrivals for the Games were 'running smoothly', and expressed surprise about reports an athletes' bus got lost.
He said: 'If the drivers got lost it says nothing about the readiness of the city. I am very surprised to hear it took four hours. They'd be in Southend, never mind Stratford.'
And London mayor Boris Johnson joked: 'If they took four hours then they will have seen far more of the city than they might otherwise have done.'

Monday, 16 July 2012

FirstGroup and Virgin Battle for West Coast

FirstGroup has emerged as a frontrunner for the multibillion-pound west coast rail franchise alongside incumbent Virgin Trains, with the contest now a two-horse race between the experienced operators.
Aberdeen-based FirstGroup is vying with Virgin despite announcing last year that it is handing back its Great Western rail contract three years ahead of schedule, avoiding more than £800m in payments to the government.
The Department for Transport is expected to bank a considerable windfall from the new 14-year west coast contract, with Virgin currently paying an annual premium of about £150m to the state. Both bidders are expected to promise an even bigger number over the life of the new franchise. The winner is expected to be announced next month.
It is understood that FirstGroup and Virgin are still in talks with the DfT, but two foreign-owned bidders on the four-strong shortlist are no longer considered likely contenders. They are a joint venture between public transport operator Keolis and SNCF, the French state rail group, and a bid from Abellio, which is controlled by the Dutch national rail operator.
SNCF had been hoping to use west coast as a bridgehead into the UK rail market but is now expected to focus on the prestigious, if perennially troubled, east coast franchise that runs from London to Edinburgh.
According to one rumour circulating within the rail industry, the SNCF bid considered using extended Pendolino trains that would be longer than station platforms in some cases. This would require passengers to shuffle down the train in order to alight at certain stops – a process known as selective opening. It is not known, however, whether selective opening formed a serious part of SNCF's pitch for the route.
The west coast route, which runs from London to Glasgow via Birmingham and Manchester, is already undergoing an expansion. By the end of the Virgin contract in December, it will have 35 trains made up of 11 Pendolino carriages, with a further 17 trains made up of nine carriages.
The franchise carried 30 million passengers last year and the contest between FirstGroup and Virgin is thought to be close. Industry sources expect FirstGroup to offer a slightly higher premium number, based on its strong record on cost management, while Virgin is expected to emphasise passenger growth and service.
Both contenders have reportedly considered tough cost-cutting measures. According to the RMT trade union, some bidders have been mulling changes to onboard services, which could see the removal of catering and onboard shops, threatening up to 800 jobs, although Virgin is thought to be considering less severe changes.
RMT general secretary, Bob Crow, said: "It is disgraceful that bidders for the prestige west coast route are looking at ripping out catering and shop facilities to cram in extra seats so that they can jack up profits at the price of both jobs and passenger service, and we are calling for this scandalous suggestion to be killed off right now."
FirstGroup's chances have not been endangered by its early exit from the Great Western franchise, which runs from London Paddington to Wales, the West Country and the Thames Valley. The group had arranged a clause in the £1.1bn contract that allowed it to walk away three years ahead of schedule, ensuring it could end the franchise early without legal redress.
If it wins the west coast franchise, FirstGroup could become a dominant player in the UK rail industry. It already operates the First Capital Connect, Scotrail and First TransPennine franchises and is shortlisted for the Thameslink and Essex Thameside franchises, as well as the successor to the Great Western contract that it is relinquishing. The DfT, mindful of the plight of the east coast franchise, after National Express reneged on a £1.4bn contract, is understood to be seeking beefed-up insurance policies from west coast bidders. This could include a large "performance bond" that will be paid out if there is a default.
Another possibility is a cross-default clause, which would see an operator forced to hand over other rail contracts if their franchise goes sour.  Virgin Rail Group is co-owned by Stagecoach, the public transport operator, and Sir Richard Branson's Virgin empire.

Paris Commuter Trains

Paris commuter trains have been given a makeover using graphics from the palace of Versailles.

More pictures on http://uk.news.yahoo.com/photos/paris-metro-gets-a-royal-makeover-slideshow/versailles-photo-1341915341.html

link from Ken Jones