Tuesday, 31 December 2013

North Yorkshire Christmas Markets 2

Following on from yesterdays posting we stayed overnight at the excellent Jury's Inn situated in the centre of Bradford. The passengers were ready and waiting for a 9.50 departure and we set off to the market town of Skipton, who were hosting a series of special Christmas market weekends.

 The coach awaits its final passengers before departure to Skipton.
 On arrival coaches were directed to a drop area in a car park. The mayor of Skipton was around to board the coach and welcome passengers, who were given a departure time to return to the car park.
 After dropping passengers coaches were directed out of town to the Auction Mart where there was ample parking for the 150 coaches that were pre-booked.
 Above & below there was impressive selection of coaches parked at the Auction Mart

In the meantime the bustling market provided a paradise for the 'shopaholics' and below, normality continued for the service buses.

 Also in normal operation was the coach park in the centre of the town and here, above & below are coaches that had simply turned up and paid the normal fee to park for the day.

 At the appointed time the coaches were called to the picking up point

 One of the oldest vehicles to appear in service was this Plaxton Paramount. 

I was called to the pickup point on time, my weary passengers were ready and waiting with their carrier bags, ready to board and we departed on schedule to head back to the north east. The organisation of this event from a coach point of view was excellent and the shuttle mini bus service to and from the coach parking area was very welcome. First drop offs in Sunderland were made around 5pm and I almost made 12mpg overall from the Volvo.

David Gambles

Monday, 30 December 2013

North Yorkshire Christmas Markets 1

Christmas Markets have become popular in recent years giving much needed business to local towns and villages and also coach operators who seize the opportunity to transport visitors to the many locations that are transformed for the Christmas period.
Grassington is a small village located just north of Skipton in North Yorkshire. The village welcomes thousands of visitors over three weekends for their Grassington Dickensian Festival and a well organised routine is put into place that deals with the demands placed on the road system and parking areas.
 Arriva operate shuttles between the village and the car parks.
 Coaches of all shapes and sizes arrive in the village and make their way to the small coach drop off area.

 The coaches squeeze their way through the narrow streets passing the Arriva shuttle buses en route to the car parks

 A York Pullman vehicle approaches the narrow bend in the village road system which is continually controlled by a marshall to ensure two buses or coaches don't meet on the tight corner
 So where do you park 50 + coaches when they have dropped their passengers? In a quarry of course, about a mile or so outside the village. Here we see a Thirlwell Plaxton Elite from Tyneside alongside a Newbury Coaches Volvo.
 Above & below, scenes from the quarry coach park

 The steady flow of coaches continues as a York Pullman Mercedes approaches the village
 More scenes from the quarry. It wasn't the best of days weather-wise, the parking area being  somewhat damp
 Note a glimpse of a police car on the far right of this shot. The officers were on hand to give support to the Vosa inspection staff who were giving vehicles the once over
 I drove one of the last coaches to arrive at the quarry (Henry Cooper Volvo Excalibur) before an overspill area had to be opened. All coaches had a a pre-booked arrival and departure time and we were called back to the village approximately 20 minutes before departure time. The system worked well and a mini bus shuttle was operated throughout the day to ensure that coach drivers could visit the village and all that was on offer to visitors.
After our departure from Grassington our next stop on the itinerary was Bradford where we booked into the Jurys Inn in the centre of the city. Day two would take us to ......another Christmas Market!

David Gambles

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Optare Spectras

With the news that Stagecoach have taken over Norfolk Green, we note that nine of the double deck vehicles are Optare Spectras. The large groups have tended to dispose of most of their Spectras but a few still hang on in service with other operators.
One Spectra has appeared in service with Arriva North East and is taking its turn on the wide range of services in and around Ashington and Newcastle upon Tyne.

The vehicle is registered V641 KVH and is numbered 7483 in the north east fleet. It is seen above picking up in Ashington on route 20 to Amble. The southern part of this route is numbered X20 and is a fast, limited stop service which is covered at flat out speeds so the V registered vehicle is certainly earning its keep.

The Spectra sets off for Amble as a sister vehicle DAF DB250RS Alexander ALX400 Y481 UGC arrives in Ashington on the southbound 20 service. The DAF will pull into the bus station and then become the X20 to Newcastle.

Martin Arrand has supplied pictures of other Spectras in service with Arriva, the ones below in service in West Yorkshire.

How many other Spectras are still in service with major operators? Please send us your pictures..

Saturday, 28 December 2013

'Classic Bus North West' Cease Operation of Services

Bus drivers from Blackpool claim they have been left "high and dry" after being told they no longer have jobs.
Classic Bus North West stopped the 80 service between Blackpool and Preston via Poulton last week.
Driver Richard Walmsley said half the 30 drivers and 15 administration staff had been sacked with no notice.
Lancashire County Council said it was trying to find out if Classic Bus North West had gone into administration. The company was unavailable for comment.

The service had been running seven days a week, with the county council subsidising evening and Sunday services between Poulton and Preston.
A council spokesman said: "Classic Bus North West has terminated the service without the required 56 days notice to the Traffic Commissioner.
"They have also broken their contract with Lancashire County Council to provide an evening and Sunday service, which would require 12 weeks notice.
"Lancashire County Council will inform the Traffic Commissioner of Classic Bus North West's actions."
Drivers claim that they were given no notice and the company still owes them thousands of pounds.
Mr Walmsley, who has been driving for the company for nine months, said: "We're absolutely gutted.
"(The company) owes us two months' money and many of us are behind on our mortgages and rent. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-25518788

The Red Rocket service which ran between Blackpool and Manchester has also ceased to operate.

From Classic Bus North West website

The website at http://www.classicbus.org.uk/ is still operational (left & below)and shows pictures of the fleet.

Local people who have followed the performance of this company over the last few years, have very little respect for the way that it has been run.

Following a series of business failures, a company called Oakwood Travel Services was taken over, complete with operators licence and discs and it is this company name that is currently used for the operation. None of the previous companies have been wound up and creditors have remained frustrated by this fact.
A company that comes along and offers cheap prices to run council contracts is a gift to the local council who is strapped for cash. Unfortunately it does no good in the end when passengers are let down. Local competitors who operate by the book and quote realistic prices loose out on the contracts resulting in their businesses being put at risk so everyone looses in the end. It will be interesting to see if those concerned re-appear under yet another name and whether they will be allowed to do so by the Traffic Commissioner and the local councils concerned.
Watch this space!

From Classic Bus North West website

Friday, 27 December 2013

Preston Bus Station Appeal Fails

A bid to call in the county council's decision to take over Preston bus station give it a multimillion-pound facelift has failed.

The building was earmarked for demolition but saved when it was given Grade II listed status in September.
Lancashire County Council (LCC) cabinet agreed to take it over from Preston City Council on 5 December and has set aside £8m to refurbish it.

LCC's scrutiny committee upheld the decision.
The leader of the Conservative group, Geoff Driver, one of the six councillors who have attempted to call in the decision, said he had concerns as the ruling Labour administration had "no business plan".
Mr Driver said: "The county council is proposing to purchase the bus station but they have no idea how much it will cost to repair and refurbish it and no idea how they will fund the cost.
"I'm not saying it should be flattened, but a proper business plan should be done [to] see what the options are and what can be afforded."
John Fillis, Labour cabinet member for transport, previously said the aim was to find something that "serves the people of Preston better".
Preston City Council, which was intending to demolish the building before it was granted listed status, said the bus station costs £300,000 a year to run and the estimated cost of getting it up to "modern-day standards" would be between £17m and £23m.

English Heritage said the Grade II listing would not prevent changes being made to the building, provided its architectural significance was protected.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Rail Passenger Figures

According to figures issued by the Office of Rail Regulation East Coast carries more passengers per train. They carry an average of 224 per train compared with 166 for Virgin, and 156 for c2c.
Arriva Trains Wales and Northern carry an average of 47.

East Coast Trains at Kings Cross in December 2013
On the downside East Coast carried 19 million passengers in the year, compared to South West Trains at 210.8m, Southern 171.4m, and Chiltern at 21.4m.

The total number of timetabled train kilometres in 2013-14 Q2 increased by 0.9% (1,133,695 km) compared to 2012-13 Q2. The largest increase in timetabled train kilometres for franchised operators was for London Overground (9.5%; 177,926 km).
London Overground's timetabled train kilometres have steadily increased since the opening of the Surrey Quays to Clapham line in December 2012 and the introduction of a new timetable in May 2011, which improved train capacity and frequencies on many routes. In 2013-14 Q2 First ScotRail’s timetabled train kilometres increased by 3.4% (378,415 km) when compared to 2012-13 Q2.
The introduction of additional train services, from 9 December, as part of their winter timetable (up to May), may have contributed to this increase.

The next largest increase was Chiltern, with an year -on-year increase of 3.0%. This is due to the introduction of additional Sunday services from Aylesbury to London Marylebone via Amersham in May 2013.
The largest reduction in timetabled kilometres was Greater Anglia of  -1.4% (123,490 fewer km). The reason for this is probably related to an on-going programme of rolling stock refurbishment


Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Seasons Greetings

The Focus Team send their Greetings to all viewers of this website. 
We wish you a Happy Christmas and New Year.
During the year the number of page views has remained impressive and we now approach a total of 500,000 since we first launched in May 2011. Also in November this year we launched our new Focus Features site which has already achieved over 4,500 page views and is growing in popularity.
We will continue to bring you news and views and cover a wide range of items of interest and if you would like to see coverage of particular vehicles or subjects please let us know. We can't promise to cover everything but will give due consideration.

The Focus Team

 Cumbria Classic Coaches operated on a Park & Ride contract for the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle on the 21st and 22nd December. Above is the 1955 AEC Regent UTC 672 turning into the gates of the museum on one of the many trips it carried out over the weekend.
 1959 Bristol Lodekka 627 HFM makes a departure from the museum on 
Saturday 21st December 2013
As an added bonus 1950 Leyland PS1 LFM 302 arrived on an excursion from Kirkby Stephen and carried out at least one run on Park & Ride duties whilst its passengers visited the Bowes Museum Christmas Fair.
 The buses worked hard over the weekend and above we see the Lodekka entering the museum with a healthy load of passengers.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


Contractor appointed to prepare London Overground network for longer trains

 Longer trains to provide a 25 per cent increase in capacity by end of 2015
  • Contractor will extend or modify station platforms on the Clapham Junction/Richmond to Stratford London Overground routes

Transport for London (TfL) today appointed leading construction and civil engineering firm Dyer and Butler as the contractor to lengthen and modify some of the station platforms on the Clapham Junction/Richmond to Stratford London Overground route.

The work is part of a huge upgrade programme to deliver an additional 25 per cent capacity to meet increasing demand on the capital’s fastest growing railway. Since TfL took over the network in 2007, London Overground has become one of the UK’s most reliable rail services and passenger numbers have quadrupled - from 2.5m in a typical 4 week period in 2008 to 11.2m.

The longer platforms will accommodate longer London Overground trains, which are being increased from four to five carriages. The first of these longer trains will run on the Highbury & Islington to New Cross/Crystal Palace/West Croydon/Clapham Junction routes from the end of 2014, followed by the Clapham Junction/Richmond to Stratford routes by the end of 2015.

The work is part of the £320m London Overground Capacity Improvement Programme (LOCIP), which continues TfL’s investment in this highly successful railway. TfL has already delivered more frequent and punctual services, a new fleet of air-conditioned, high capacity trains and most recently the completion of the London Overground orbital network around London – the first orbital rail network in the capital for 128 years.

TfL’s Director of London Overground, Mike Stubbs, said: “Although still in its infancy, London Overground services have proved to be hugely popular with passengers, with numbers quadrupling during the first six years of service. As London’s population continues to grow, so too will the demand on London Overground, which is why we’re carrying out vital work such as this to help provide the extra capacity that will be needed. We’re really pleased to be working with Dyer and Butler on this crucial project and will work closely with them to ensure the minimum of disruption to services.”

TfL will take over routes that run from Liverpool Street station to Enfield Town, Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters) and Chingford, which include 25 stations in total across six London Boroughs. This follows work by the Mayor and TfL to set out the benefits of devolution as demonstrated by the London Overground model.

Work at the first London Overground stations on the Clapham Junction/Richmond to Stratford route is expected to begin in February 2014 while work on the Highbury & Islington to New Cross/Crystal Palace/West Croydon/Clapham Junction routes will begin later this month.

·         Extensions or the refurbishment of disused platform space will be required at the following stations on the Richmond/Clapham Junction to Stratford route:

-          South Acton
-          Acton Central
-          Willesden Junction High Level/Low level
-          Kensal Rise
-          Brondesbury Park
-          Brondesbury
-          West Hampstead
-          Finchley Road and Frognal
-          Hampstead Heath
-          Gospel Oak
-          Kentish Town West
-          Camden Road
-          Caledonian Road and Barnesbury
-          Dalston Kingsland
-          Homerton
-          Canonbury
-          Highbury & Islington

All train images provided courtesy of Haydn Davies

·         The platform extensions on the Highbury & Islington to New Cross/Crystal Palace/West Croydon/Clapham Junction routes are being carried out under a separate contract with Cleshar Contract Services
·         With the exception of the works starting in late December, the exact timing and duration of works at each station is still being finalised. However they are likely to be scheduled during the following phases.

December 2013 – March 2014
Highbury & Islington and Canonbury (East London Line platforms), Surrey Quays
February – April 2014
Dalston Junction, Hoxton and Haggerston
February– July 2014
South Acton, Acton Central, Willesden Junction and Wandsworth Road
April – June 2014
Shoreditch High Street, Shadwell, Canada Water, Clapham Junction and Wapping
May– November 2014
Kensal Rise, Brondesbury Park, Brondesbury, West Hampstead, Finchley Road & Frognal, Hampstead Heath, Gospel Oak, Kentish Town West
September 2014 – April 2015
Camden Road, Caledonian Road & Barnsbury, Highbury & Islington (North London Line platforms), Canonbury (North London Line platforms), Dalston Kingsland, Homerton
·         As well as the platform lengthening, other works included in the London Overground Capacity Improvement Programme include:
-       Construction of a new stabling facility at Silwood in south-east London
-       Additional stabling in the north-west London area
-       Reconfiguration of the New Cross Gate and Willesden train maintenance depots
-       Signalling and power works associated with the platform extensions and depot/stabling modifications

·         Platforms on the Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction route will be extended by Network Rail under their 8-car works for Southern Trains by March 2014.

·         At stations where platform extension is not a viable option to accommodate the longer trains, we will introduce selective door operating which will be facilitated by the open walk-through design of the carriages. This will be required at Whitechapel (temporarily until Crossrail completes construction), Wapping, Rotherhithe and Canada Water as it is not possible to extend the platforms to the required length without completely rebuilding the stations. Train announcements will provide advance warning about which doors will not open once the longer trains are introduced.

·         *The Government’s commitment to electrify the Gospel Oak to Barking line will also allow for the introduction of higher capacity trains on this route at a later date.