Saturday, 30 April 2016

Stagecoach Trading Statement

Stagecoach Group plc has provided a pre-close trading update in respect of its financial year ending 30 April 2016, ahead of a series of meetings with analysts.  The Group is on course to achieve expectations of overall adjusted earnings per share for year ending 30 April 2016.

Revenue growth
Like-for-like revenue growth for the financial year to date in each of the Group's main businesses is provided below.
UK Bus (regional operations)

- forty eight weeks ended 2 April 2016            0.2%
UK Bus (London)

- forty eight weeks ended 2 April 2016            1.1%
North America

  - eleven months ended 31 March 2016        (3.4)%
UK Rail

- forty eight weeks ended 2 April 2016            2.5%
Virgin Rail Group
- forty eight weeks ended 2 April 2016            4.6%
UK Bus (regional operations)
Trading at UK Bus (regional operations) is consistent with recent expectations.

UK Bus and Coach operations

Revenue growth in the UK over the last year has been low.  In light of that, the company plan to keep fare increases for the year ahead to a minimum and will look to stimulate demand through those low fare increases, enhanced marketing and the further development and promotion of digital offering.

European Coach Operations

As the inter-city coach business in mainland Europe has developed, Stagecoach have reported business within the results of the UK Bus (regional operations) Division.  At this early stage in its development, the mainland European business remains loss-making.  It is intended to report that business as a separate segment to provide a clearer view of its financial performance distinct from the UK businesses and will reflect that in the financial statements for the year ending 30 April 2016.

UK Bus (London)

The London bus operations continue to perform in line with expectations.  As previously reported, the company expect to see some decline in the operating margin of the Division but still aim to deliver long-term operating margins in excess of 7%.  

North America
The North America Division is trading in line with expectations.  The eleven-month like-for-like revenue decline of 3.4% reflects 6.4% decline for and 2.1% for the other businesses in North America. 

UK Rail and Virgin Rail Group

The outlook for the UK rail industry is more challenging than it was at this time last year.  Although growth trends continue to vary across the different parts of the rail industry, the overall industry rate of revenue growth has slowed in recent months.  Reflecting those softer trends, like-for-like rail revenue growth in the UK Rail Division (principally South West Trains and East Midlands Trains) was 2.5% in the forty eight weeks, revenue growth at Virgin Trains East Coast was 4.9% and revenue growth at Virgin Rail Group's West Coast franchise was 4.6%.  It is believed that the reduced rate of growth reflects the effects of weakening consumer confidence, increased terrorism concerns, sustained lower fuel prices, the related effects of car and air competition, slower UK GDP growth and slowing growth in real earnings. 
Stagecoach have said that they will take further steps to mitigate the effects of lower revenue growth, focussing on cost control and additional initiatives to grow revenue.  They continue to work constructively with the Department for Transport and other industry partners to meet their obligations, manage contract changes and ensure the continued stability and growth of the rail businesses.    

Preliminary results

The announcement of the Group's preliminary results for the year ending 30 April 2016 is scheduled for Wednesday 29 June 2016.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Arriva in talks to sell Burton bus services to Midland Classic

From the Burton Mail

BURTON's main bus company is in talks to sell the majority of its operation in the town – sparking fears that jobs could be under threat.

Bosses at Arriva have confirmed to the Mail that the company is talking to Midland Classic – the other firm which supplies routes across the town - to sell the 'majority' of its Burton operation.
The news has provoked fears of job losses in the town as the Wetmore Road base is all but now in the hands of Midlands Classic after the Traffic Commissioner granted permission for it to add the depot to its portfolio.

However, Arriva area managing director Simon Mathieson told the Mail he was 'confident' no jobs were under threat.He said: "We are currently in talks with Midland Classic about the potential sale of the majority of our Burton business to them.
"One of our key concerns when discussing this course of action was the protection of jobs for those who work at the Burton depot, and we are pleased to confirm that any deal would including the undertaking of staff over to the new operator.
Mr Mathieson added: "We are committed to working with all those involved to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible, and that under this new structure, not only will the employee's best interests be taken into full consideration, but that bus users throughout Burton will continue to benefit from affordable, quality transport services."

Thursday, 28 April 2016


FirstGroup, has announced that its bus division has ordered 305 new vehicles worth £70m.

·        All new vehicles fitted with free on board Wi-Fi
·        More customers to benefit from on board USB charging points
·        FirstGroup continues to be one of the largest operators of Low Carbon Emission Buses in the UK
·        87% of buses are DfT ‘Low Carbon Certified’ saving 4 million kgs of CO2 every year
·        98% of order to be manufactured in UK

The order by First Bus underlines its commitment to provide high quality services for its customers and partners and brings the company’s investment over the last six years to £455m in 2,500 new vehicles.

The order also consolidates First Bus’s position as one of the largest operators of Low Carbon Emission Buses in the UK. 87% of the new vehicles will be Department for Transport approved ‘low carbon certified’, which First Bus estimates will save 4 million kg of CO2 per year. The 2016/17 investment will bring the company’s fleet of low carbon certified vehicles to around 1,000, believed to be one of the largest in the UK, saving in total an estimated 14.5 million kg of CO2 annually.

All 305 new buses will be fitted with the latest Euro VI engines, which produce 95% less oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions compared to buses with Euro V engines and as a result will help improve air quality in the towns and cities in which First Bus operates.  

The order is good news for customers.  All the new buses will feature the latest technology, with complementary on board Wi-Fi providing passengers with free internet access, and by the end of the financial year around 60% of the 6,300 First Bus fleet will be Wi-Fi enabled.  Most passengers will also benefit from leather seats, while some of the new vehicles will be fitted with next stop audio-visual display screens and around 30% with USB charging points, allowing customers to charge their phones and tablets on the move.

The investment in technology to help keep customers connected on board reflects the commitment by First Bus to deliver a customer centric service that is simple, smart and seamless.  Many First Bus customers are already benefiting from smart ticketing options and Real Time Information, while all customers can use their mobile phones as bus tickets through the company’s m-Ticket option.  The company’s drive for innovative customer friendly improvements will continue through 2016/17.

With 98% of the order to be manufactured in the UK, the fleet investment by First Bus provides a big boost to British manufacturing helping to support hundreds of UK jobs.  Scottish firm ADL will manufacture 204 vehicles, while Northern Ireland’s Wrightbus has secured an order for 91 buses, and Volvo has won a contract to build 10 coach chassis in Sweden, with the bodies manufactured by ADL.  

Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First Bus, said the order, which comprises 204 double deckers (the largest ever First Bus order of double deckers), will help encourage more customers across the UK to use the bus: “This is great news for First Bus customers.  We are determined to make the bus a more compelling proposition, attract more customers and grow our business.  Ensuring that our customers travel in modern, comfortable, fit for purpose vehicles which provide added value such as free Wi-Fi and USB charging is pivotal to our customer engagement strategy and our future success.”

He continued: “In 2015, we announced the largest order on record in the UK for vehicles with Euro VI engines, complementing efforts from our partners in local councils to improve air quality in our towns and cities.  Our 2016 order again reflects our commitment to working with our partners to reduce emissions and improve the environment.”  

“First Bus is proud to continue supporting British bus manufacturers,” he added.  “Our manufacturing partners continue to lead the world in quality, innovation, fuel efficiency and value for money.  I’m pleased that we’ve again invested heavily in our fleet and our tradition of supporting the British manufacturing industry remains strong.”

Recognising the commitment by First Bus to its partnerships, by way of many examples 14 new buses will enter service in Doncaster this month (April) marking the start of the ‘Doncaster Bus Partnership’ in May.  The successful Sheffield Bus Partnership will benefit from a further 10 new vehicles. The strong developing partnership in Cornwall will see First Bus invest £7.1m in 30 new vehicles.  Meanwhile thanks to high profile partnerships in the West of England, particularly Bristol, 68 new vehicles worth £18.1m are earmarked for its operations.

Full details of the First Bus order:

Vehicle Model
ADL / Volvo
Plaxton (ADL) body / B11R (Volvo) chassis coaches
Enviro 200 MMC single decker
Enviro 400 MMC double decker
Enviro 400 MMC Gyro double decker
Enviro 400 double decker (exact spec to be confirmed)
StreetDeck double decker
StreetLite Max single decker

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Settle & Carlisle Railway update

From the Settle & Carlisle Trust
"The Trust held a regular trustees meeting at Network Rail in Manchester on 18th April 2016.
Paul Hodson, the responsible Project Director kindly updated us on progress fixing the major landslip at Eden Brows. Some diagrams and pictures will be available later.
The slip is approximately 150m x 250m with some 500,000 tonnes of material (or 10 QE2 Ocean liners) which is still moving. Unlike other major slips at e.g. Harbury Cutting in Warwickshire where material is falling onto the railway, this slip is taking the railway with it and it is not possible to divert the railway away from the slip. The root cause of the slip is the saturation of embankment fill over the red sandstone bedrock. The embankment fill was placed there by the Midland Railway during the construction of the line some 142 years ago. Investigation by geotechnical engineers has shown this fill to consist of rock and earth from tunnels and cuttings along the line which was brought after there was a major slip during construction, so the Midland Railway fix has lasted 142 years before failing. The failure has a technical name of 'rotational slump' . There are many images available by Googling 'rotational slump'. The wet weather over Easter has caused further movement.
The site is very difficult and dangerous to work, due to its remote location, the slope and presence of mature trees.
The red sandstone bedrock is some 20m below the surface – the whole of this 20m x 150m x 250m section of embankment fill is on the move, sliding over the bedrock. The proposed solution will be to construct a 150m long piled retaining wall and slab to support the railway – in essence a buried viaduct. The detailed design will take until June and then heavy piling and construction will take place over the summer and early autumn, with a view to having the line open for traffic in 2017.
A network of haul roads and a construction compound are now being built so the engineers are ready to go once the design has been completed and signed off. It is planned to bring in some material by rail in order to mitigate the effect of construction traffic on local roads.
It is anticipated trains will run to and from Armathwaite in May, so allowing passengers to travel most of the length of the S&C.
It will be a multi million pound project which has been approved to proceed by Network Rail – so we’ll be getting the S&C back in good order after all this disruption."

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

New buses for the Coasthopper

Twenty years ago in 1996, the Norfolk Green company introduced the 'Coasthopper' set of routes that still run today from King's Lynn to Cromer using midibuses. Originally run as three distinct routes CH1 (King's Lynn & Hunstanton), CH2 (Hunstanton & Wells) and CH3 (Wells & Cromer), with a once a day CH4 (Cromer & Norwich), through ticketing was available and passengers could on some occasions, use the same bus to run from end to end. The CH4 was more a positioning route for a bus at the beginning and end of the day during the peak hours.

As time progressed and the service flourished a distinctive livery was introduced with a fleet of 09-registered Optare Solos. And these have served the route well until the takeover by Stagecoach of the company during 2015. The route numbers CH1-4 appear to have since disappeared and been replaced by just the letters 'CH' in the destination displays. A nice touch about these current buses is they all feature the names of local Norfolk celebrities, as do most of Norfolk Green's buses. Included are the names of three of the bus drivers who commenced driving on the service back in 1996.

But as the New Year turned into 2016 and time progressed it was feared that the colourful pleasant livery would disappear and be replaced by Stagecoach's corporate nationwide livery of red, white, orange and blue. Especially as a selection of such liveried vehicles were making more and more of a presence on the route, including one or two larger buses.
However, fears can be allayed as a new fleet of nine Alexander Dennis E20D single-decks with Enviro200 MMC bodywork are due to be allocated to the route in the very near future. These carry an updated version of the 'Coasthopper' livery and as illustrated here, will be a welcome addition to the coast roads of North Norfolk.

Focus Transport is very grateful to Steven Knight Media who have provided this image of the rather nice livery applied to fleet number 37434.
The bus was posed up at various locations in Wells-Next-the-Sea recently, with little visible evidence to suggest that is owned and operated by Stagecoach. But full marks to them for recognising the value of this project and continuation of the efforts that Norfolk Green instigated.

In the meantime a selection of Stagecoach liveried buses will continue to provide service along the coast roads until the new buses have all completed their inspections along with driver familiarisation. A few images of the current operation complete this posting.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Additional Blackpool Traffic Lights Will Cause Delays

Traffic lights will be required to allow trams to cross a busy Promenade junction

Dedicated lights will be installed to ensure the safety of trams and road vehicles as part of the extension of the tram tracks from the Promenade to North Station via Talbot Road.
An extension from the upgraded tramway from the Promenade at North Pier to Blackpool North railway station will improve access to the UK rail network from Blackpool, Fleetwood and Cleveleys.

Now taxi drivers, who are opposed to the development and have already called for a re-think, are stepping up their claims the scheme will lead to congestion on that part of the seafront.
Bill Lewtas, secretary of the Blackpool licensed taxi operators association, said: “The new trams will not be able to cross a green light from Talbot Square onto the Promenade, and vice versa, with other road vehicles.
“Apparently the Office of Rail and Road Regulator has decreed the new trams will need a dedicated green light just for the trams.
“The Promenade is already congested due to the mistakes of the past, and this will make matters worse.
“And don’t tell me that trams will only cross once every so many minutes. Anything that stops the flow of traffic north and south along Blackpool’s main arterial route is bad for Blackpool.”
But transport chiefs say the additional signals would not impact on traffic flow.
Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for municipal assets, said: “The extended tramway will have to cross over the Promenade to get to Talbot Road and to do this safely it will require a traffic signal crossing.

“This will require the reinstatement of the Talbot Square signalled junction, replacing the current signalled pedestrian crossing on the Promenade, and isn’t expected to significantly impact on traffic flow.
“It is worth reminding people that this sort of junction, where the tram crosses over the road, already works successfully in Anchorsholme, Cleveleys and Fleetwood with no apparent disruption.” Blackpool Council’s executive agreed earlier this month to go ahead with the £22m tramway extension with work set to begin in 2018.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Shearings Sold

Shearings Leisure Group has been bought from its management team by Lone Star Funds,  a US private equity firm, previously a minority investor. The Wigan-headquartered company has also completed the acquisition of specialist holiday business Equalmatch.
The company said that the transaction, which will bring the property and operating companies together under common ownership and management control, would create greater flexibility in the group's operating model.
This change to the ownership structure sees former Travelodge chief executive and chairman Grant Hearn, already a non-executive director, take over as chairman. Hearn also has non-executive director roles at retailer Poundland and Scandic Hotels as well as being chairman of another Lone Star-owned business Amaris Hospitality.

As part of its long-term growth strategy, Shearings has also completed the acquisition of Chesterfield-based specialist holiday operator Equalmatch, which operates the Travelstyle and UK Breakaways brands. Equalmatch is a major UK coach tour operator, carrying more than 100,000 holidaymakers every year.
Shearings said that the deal consolidates its position as one of Europe's largest specialist holiday operators. It added that the acquisition would complement its fast-growing National Holidays business by expanding its regional presence in the UK.
Meanwhile, Shearings revealed that earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation climbed by 30 per cent to £9.1m in the 12 months to December 2015.
During the year, the group carried 1.1 million passengers, up by 2 per cent on the previous year, and increased revenues to £201m from £200m in 2014.
The group also made a pre-tax profit of £5m compared to a loss of £900,000 last year and had positive cash of £1.4m at the end of 2015 compared to net indebtedness of £4.5m at the end of 2014.
The group has also continued to invest in its infrastructure with increased spend on hotel refurbishments of £4.6m compared to £3.6m in 2014 and the largest ever UK order of Mercedes Benz Euro 6 coaches with 46 new, high-specification vehicles joining the 240-strong fleet this month compared to 38 in 2014.
Shearings said that strong demand for its UK holidays, together with margin improvements and operating cost reductions, contributed to the record performance.
Denis Wormwell, chief executive of Shearings, said: "This was another landmark year for the group, with a fourth successive year of improved financial results, continued investment in the business, new ownership and our first business acquisition since 2005.

"With the backing of a long-term investment partner, our best ever line-up of holidays and hotels, a well-invested estate and fleet and the loyalty of our fast-expanding over-50s audience, we're in the ideal position to continue growing our presence and position as the leading escorted tours operator."

Saturday, 23 April 2016

St.George's Day 23rd April 2016

The Focus Transport team wish all our readers and viewers a Happy St.George's Day.

To celebrate a few images of modern buses and coaches delivered over the past year or so to English operators. Images provided by a selection of photographers and we thank them for their usage. Keep up the good work guys.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Henry Cooper Routemaster Update

We reported in June 2015 that Henry Cooper Coaches had acquired seven Routemasters from TfL.

RM1204 204 CLT    RM1218 218 CLT   RM1562 562 CLT   RM1640 640 DYE 
RM1735 735 DYE   RM1776 776 DYE   RM1913 ALD 913B

Things have moved on considerably since then and the company are working through a major strip down and refurbishment programme including fitment of new radiators, new stainless steel exhausts, new hoses, stainless steel water pipes and new tyres. The undersides have been steam cleaned and painted silver and each vehicle has been individually assessed for any extra work, for example RM1562 has received a new staircase. The final stage of the refurbishment is to fit new new body panels, windows and window rubbers followed by a full re-spray.

ALD 913B and 204 CLT have been completed and sold on to the company that operates BB Tours. They are having their interiors converted for this purpose by South East Coachworks in Kent . The conversion involves reducing the number of seats and the fitment of tables and a servery area. Although the work is extensive the buses can be easily be returned to original condition.

RM 1562 has received the mechanical refurbishment and is awaiting bodywork treatment but in the meantime it is taxed and tested and available for private hire. As three Routemasters were booked out last weekend 1562 was pressed into service and I had the opportunity to drive the vehicle (562 CLT) on a wedding booking.

 562 CLT awaits passengers outside the Civic Centre in Newcastle. 
This bus is the only one ever fitted with a Cummins ISBe engine and when in service in London was renowned for being the fastest ever Routemaster. It was also fitted with an Alison World Series 2000 gearbox with the push button gear selector fitted to the left of the steering column.
The gear selector on other refurbished RM's is normally on the floor, to the left of the driver's seat.

 RM931 has been part of the Henry Cooper fleet for some
years now. Here it is seen in October 2015 with RM1640.
The bus is certainly very sprightly and climbed hills with a full load with no effort whatsoever. A Telmar retarder is incorporated into the braking system, which helped bring the bus to a smooth confident stop when needed.

640 DYE is complete mechanically and is half way through a complete bodywork refurbishment which involves new panels, new glass, new window rubbers and a full re-paint.

218 CLT has been refurbished inside and out and is mechanically perfect and was one of the three Routemasters out in service last weekend. Before the next outing for this vehicle Henry Coopers are experimenting by replacing the sandwich rubbers that hold the back axle to the B frame. This is being done in anticipation that these rubbers will by now be worn and the work is being done in order to guarantee future reliability. This is the philosophy of Graham Greaves, the owner of Henry Coopers who prefers to change any part that might cause reliability problems.

 735 DYE in company with HC04 BBB, the 'Plaxton Bus 2000'
vehicle that Graham rescued from the scrap line at Plaxtons.
735 DYE and 776 DYE have been through the maintenance programme and await their eventual turn for a full bodywork refurbishment. They are both MOT'd and have received new radiators, intercoolers, water pumps and hoses, as well as stainless steel water pipes.

 RM120 and RM1735 await their turn in the queue for
bodywork refurbishment. There is to be a new Routemaster
garage erected in the area where they are parked.
As well as acquiring the seven aformentioned vehicles Henry Cooper Coaches have also purchased RM 120 which was converted some years ago to open top.

The plan is to fit a roof to this vehicle and completely refurbish it.
A large amount of mechanical work has already been carried out, including oils changed, fuel pump refurbished, new injectors and gearbox seals replaced. It has an original AEC engine and gearbox and runs very well. The underside of the vehicle is extremely good and Graham considers it to be a good long term investment. It will probably jump the queue for bodywork and roof replacement and is likely be the next vehicle to be sent to Gardiners of Spennymoor who carry out all of Henry Cooper's bodywork requirements and who have done such an excellent job on the vehicles completed to date.

 above & below the underside of RM 120

We will continue to bring you updates on this refurbishment programme and will show you the results of RM1640 when it returns from Gardiners. In the meantime have a look at the
Henry Cooper Coaches - Routemasters facebook page where you will find an interesting range of pictures. Our previous articles about the Henry Cooper Routemasters can be found here and here.

David Gambles

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Mercedes Benz Sprinter City 45

The recently announced 2016/7 vehicle order by Stagecoach included 30 Mercedes Benz Sprinter City 45's. Great speculation has followed the Stagecoach announcement as to where these minibus vehicles will be allocated. Focus Transport can't help you on where they are going but we thought it would be useful to look at what the City 45 is all about.

It is a van based Euro 6 service vehicle powered by a 2.2-litre (2,143cc) OM651 four-cylinder unit fitted with a 7G-Tronic fully automatic gearbox.
The 45 designation means that the vehicles will be long wheelbase with a GVW of between 5.0 - 5.65 tonnes.
The City 45 has been designed to meet the needs of the UK market. The standard spec has 1,250mm double swing out doors leading to a flat low floor area between the axles with steps up to a seating area at the rear. Destination equipment is fitted as standard.

 An image of the similar City 65 taken from the Mercedes-Benz website
The exact specification of the Stagecoach versions isn't known but as soon as details are released we will let you know.

In the meantime the specifications and more information can be found on the Mercedes-Benz website here

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

New TfL Escalator Rule at Holborn

Customers at Holborn Tube station are being asked to stand on both sides of two 'up' escalators as Transport for London (TfL) launches a six month trial to ease congestion at the station.
New signs and customer information are on display to encourage customers to stand on both sides. The third 'up' escalator is also available for people who still want to walk up.

The six month trial follows a three week trial that took place last year, which found that standing on both sides of the escalator reduced congestion by around 30 per cent.
Peter McNaught, Operations Director at London Underground, said:
'I look forward to this new pilot starting today. The etiquette on London Underground is for customers to stand on the right of escalators, allowing others to walk on the left. However, few customers choose to walk on longer escalators such as Holborn, so much of the left-hand-side is unused. We hope that this can lead to improving congestion at Holborn, making journeys easier for all of our customers.'

First reports indicate that passengers are ignoring the new rules and are still walking on the left of the escalators as they have always done. There has been a strong reaction to the change on social media, with most correspondents encouraging passengers to continue walking.